Tag: Op-Eds

Daily Benefactor Columnists – The Solyndra Stonewall (Stephen Hayes) – More Op-Eds

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The Solyndra Stonewall – Stephen Hayes

About 24 hours after he recited the oath of office, Barack Obama addressed senior executive branch officials and cabinet secretaries at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The new president promised that his administration would bring a new openness to Washington, with strict ethics requirements and a presumption in favor of public disclosure of, well, almost everything. “For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city,” he declared. “The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, …this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.”

Think about that promise as you consider the Obama administration’s response to the congressional investigation of a $535 million loan guarantee to the bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra.

After the Department of Energy complied with an initial Solyndra document request from the House Energy and Commerce Committee in February 2011, the Obama administration became largely uncooperative. When there has been a defensible argument for not disclosing something, the administration has used it. Officials have withheld thousands of pages of documents. They have ignored requests for information as a matter of routine. In late June, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget did not show up at a congressional hearing for which he was the only witness. In late July, OMB failed to meet a deadline to provide documents that had been subpoenaed by the Energy and Commerce Committee. In October, after the head of the Department of Energy’s loan program resigned, the administration finally provided some of the requested documents—but did so late on a Friday of a three-day weekend and only after briefing select reporters in advance to spin the damaging materials.

These are the “old rules.” As questions surrounding the Solyndra loan grow more serious, the Obama administration is digging in. It’s not hard to see why.

Late last week, for instance, the administration muzzled a key figure in the developing controversy. The Department of Energy denied a request from the House Energy and Commerce Committee for a transcribed interview, under oath, with Susan Richardson, chief counsel to the Department of Energy program that granted the risky loan to Solyndra. Richardson is the author of two memos from earlier this year about the restructuring of that loan – changes which ensured that private investors, including several prominent Obama supporters, would be paid back before taxpayers in the event of a default.

The two memos are nearly identical except for their dates and, perhaps significantly, the addressees. The first, labeled “draft” and dated January 19, 2011, is a “Memorandum for the Secretary” – Energy Secretary Steven Chu – to be delivered “through Scott Blake Harris,” the department’s general counsel. A second version, dated February 15, 2011, is addressed directly to Harris, with no mention of Chu.

Why the difference? Perhaps Richardson, or someone in her employ, didn’t want to burden a busy Secretary Chu with more paperwork. Or maybe Richardson thought it was up to Harris to decide if the issue was important enough to be brought to Chu’s attention.

Those are the charitable explanations. Here’s another possibility: Richardson may have sought to protect Chu from the political fallout if an increasingly flimsy Solyndra collapsed. No one, after all, had been a bigger advocate for the Solyndra loan than Steven Chu. From the beginning, Chu sought to expedite the loan guarantee, even if that required changing the rules meant to protect taxpayers. In February 2009, for example, Chu complained to the Wall Street Journal that paperwork requirements were burdensome. “It might be too much,” he said.

A month later, Chu had apparently made some progress. The Solyndra loan application had been denied by the Bush administration in mid-January 2009. But the new rules yielded different results. “We’ve accelerated and streamlined the process and the loans are coming out,” he said. “We’re trying to streamline it so that the period of time will be reduced from a scale of four years to several months.”

Two years later, as Richardson was preparing her memo justifying the loan restructuring, the political implications of a Solyndra collapse were on the minds of top Obama administration figures. Officials at the Office of Management and Budget thought Solyndra so important, in fact, that they recommended having a top OMB representative raise the issue directly with Chu.

An email between OMB officials dated January 31, 2011, notes that an upcoming meeting about the loan program “might present an opportunity to flag to DOE [Department of Energy] at the highest level the stakes involved, for the Secretary to do as he sees fit (and be fully informed and accountable for the decision).”

The email further suggests that the OMB director “privately” point out the risks of restructuring and the potential political implications to Chu:

While the company may avoid default with a restructuring, there is also a good chance it will not. If Solyndra defaults down the road, the optics will arguably be worse than they would be today… [Q]uestions will be asked as to why the administration made a bad investment not just once (which could hopefully be explained as part of the challenge of supporting innovative technologies), but twice (which could easily be portrayed as bad judgment, or worse). In addition, the timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up, whereas a default today could be put in the context of (and perhaps even get some credit for) fiscal discipline/good government because the administration would be limiting further taxpayer exposure…).

Prescient words. The important question, however, is this: Did Richardson leave Chu off the February 15 memo to protect him? And if so, did someone tell her to do so?

We don’t know. Testifying under oath, however, would allow Richardson to answer those questions and others that might help shed light on the whole sorry mess. That the Obama administration is blocking her – and refusing to cooperate fully with congressional investigators – makes clear the president and his lieutenants are less interested in sharing the facts of the case than in hiding them. As President Obama put it in January 2009: “The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable. And the way to make government accountable is make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they’re being made, and whether their interests are being well served.” He was right.

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Our Libyan Adventure – Andrew C. McCarthy

“Are you suggesting that we would be better off with the Qaddafi dictatorship still in effect?” asked Chris Wallace, browbeating presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.

And why shouldn’t he? After all, the Fox News anchor had just gotten Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Lindsey Graham to perform the requisite “Arab Spring” cartwheels over the demise of Libyan strongman Moammar Qaddafi. Apparently, when leading from behind ends up leading to a vicious murder at the hands of a wild-eyed mob, even folks who once got the sniffles over fastidiously non-lethal waterboarding can feel good about pulling out their party hats.

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If I Were A Liberal… – Ann Coulter

If I were a liberal, I would have spent the last week in shock that a Democratic audience in Flint, Mich., cheered Vice President Joe Biden’s description of a policeman being killed. (And if I were a liberal desperately striving to keep my job on MSNBC, I’d say the Democrats looked “hot and horny” for dead cops – as Chris Matthews said of a Republican audience that cheered for the death penalty.)

Biden’s audience whooped and applauded last week in Flint when he said that without Obama’s jobs bill, police will be “outgunned and outmanned.” (Wild applause!)

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ObamaCare Declares War On Doctors – Dick Morris And Eileen McGann

The worst fears about Obamacare are now being realized in a decision on Monday by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MPAC) established by the law to supervise $500 billion in Medicare cuts. MPAC, whose decisions have the force of law, has voted to impose drastic pay cuts on all doctors under Medicare and, by extension, under Medicaid (which tends to follow suit).

The cuts will effectively reduce the real pay for specialists by 50% over the next ten years – including a 25% reduction over the next three years – and cut general practitioners’ pay by one-third over ten years (and that assumes that inflation stays down at 3% a year).

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The Media And “Bullying” – Thomas Sowell

Back in the 1920s, the intelligentsia on both sides of the Atlantic were loudly protesting the execution of political radicals Sacco and Vanzetti, after what they claimed was an unfair trial. Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote to his young leftist friend Harold Laski, pointing out that there were “a thousand-fold worse cases” involving black defendants, “but the world does not worry over them.”

Holmes said: “I cannot but ask myself why this so much greater interest in red than black.”

To put it bluntly, it was a question of whose ox was gored. That is, what groups were in vogue at the moment among the intelligentsia. Blacks clearly were not.

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Joe Biden: Beltway Bubble Boy – Michelle Malkin

Last fall, before the midterm shellacking, Vice President Joe Biden admonished rank-and-file Democratic voters to “stop whining.” Uncle Tough Guy should practice what he screeches. The 2012 campaign has barely begun, but Biden’s thin skin makes a spring roll wrapper look impenetrable.

Biden’s office is now calling for an official investigation of a young editor who dared to question His Highness. Jason Mattera of the conservative-leaning Human Events magazine confronted the veep last week on his hysterical claims that rape and murder would increase if Congress didn’t ram through the half-trillion-dollar White House jobs bill.

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American Imperialism? Please – Jonah Goldberg

And so it ends. The United States is leaving Iraq.

I’m solidly in the camp that sees this as a strategic blunder. Iraqi democracy is fragile, and Iran’s desire to undermine it is strong. Also, announcing our withdrawal is a weird way to respond to a foiled Iranian plot to commit an act of war in the U.S. capital. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong and President Obama’s not frittering away our enormous sacrifices in Iraq out of domestic political concerns and diplomatic ineptitude.

Still, there’s an upside. Obama’s decision to leave Iraq should deal a staggering blow to America’s critics at home and abroad.

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Daily Benefactor Columnists – The Solyndra Fraud (Andrew C. McCarthy) – More Op-Eds

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The Solyndra Fraud – Andrew C. McCarthy

The Solyndra debacle is not just Obama-style crony socialism as usual. It is a criminal fraud. That is the theory that would be guiding any competent prosecutor’s office in the investigation of a scheme that cost victims – in this case, American taxpayers – a fortune.

Fraud against the United States is one of the most serious felony offenses in the federal penal law. It is even more serious than another apparent Solyndra violation that has captured congressional attention: the Obama administration’s flouting of a statute designed to protect taxpayers.

Homing in on one of the several shocking aspects of the Solyndra scandal, lawmakers noted that, a few months before the “clean energy” enterprise went belly-up last week, the Obama Energy Department signed off on a sweetheart deal. In the event of bankruptcy – the destination to which it was screamingly obvious Solyndra was headed despite the president’s injection of $535 million in federal loans – the cozily connected private investors would be given priority over American taxpayers. In other words, when the busted company’s assets were sold off, Obama pals would recoup some of their losses, while you would be left holding the half-billion-dollar bag.

As Andrew Stiles reported here at NRO, Republicans on the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee say this arrangement ran afoul of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This law – compassionate conservatism in green bunting – is a monstrosity, under which Leviathan, which can’t run a post office, uses your money to pick winners and losers in the economy’s energy sector. The idea is cockamamie, but Congress did at least write in a mandate that taxpayers who fund these “investments” must be prioritized over other stakeholders. The idea is to prevent cronies from pushing ahead of the public if things go awry – as they are wont to do when pols fancy themselves venture capitalists.

On the Energy Policy Act, the administration’s malfeasance is significant, but secondary. That’s because the act is not a penal statute. It tells the cabinet officials how to structure these “innovative technology” loans, but it provides no remedy if Congress’s directives are ignored.

The criminal law, by contrast, is not content to assume the good faith of government officials. It targets anyone – from low-level swindlers to top elective officeholders – who attempts to influence the issuance of government loans by making false statements; who engages in schemes to defraud the United States; or who conspires “to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof, in any manner or for any purpose.” The penalties are steep: Fraud in connection with government loans, for example, can be punished by up to 30 years in the slammer.

Although Solyndra was a private company, moreover, it was using its government loans as a springboard to go public. When the sale of securities is involved, federal law criminalizes fraudulent schemes, false statements of material fact, and statements that omit any “material fact necessary in order to make the statements made… not misleading.” And we’re not just talking about statements made in required SEC filings. Any statement made to deceive the market can be actionable. In 2003, for example, the Justice Department famously charged Martha Stewart with securities fraud. Among other allegations, prosecutors cited public statements she had made in press releases and at a conference for securities analysts – statements in which she withheld damaging information in an effort to inflate the value of her corporation and its stock.

That’s exactly what President Obama did on May 26, 2010, with his Solyndra friends about to launch their initial public offering of stock. The solar-panel company’s California factory was selected as the fitting site for a presidential speech on the virtues of confiscating taxpayer billions to prop up pie-in-the-sky clean-energy businesses.

By then, the con game was already well under way. Solyndra had first tried to get Energy Act funding during the Bush administration, but had been rebuffed shortly before President Bush left office. Small wonder: Solyndra, as former hedge-fund manager Bruce Krasting concluded, was “an absolute complete disaster.” Its operating expenses, including supply costs, nearly doubled its revenue in 2009 – and that’s without factoring in capital expenditures and other costs in what, Krasting observes, is a “low margin” industry. The chance that Solyndra would ever become profitable was essentially nonexistent, particularly given that solar-panel competitors backed by China produce energy at drastically lower prices.

Yet, as Stiles reports, within six days of Obama’s taking office, an Energy Department official acknowledged that the Solyndra “approval process” was suddenly being considered anew. Eventually, the administration made Solyndra the very first recipient of a public loan guarantee when the Energy Act program was beefed up in 2009 – just part of nearly a trillion dollars burned through under the Obama stimulus.

For a while after Solyndra tanked, the administration stonewalled the House subcommittee’s investigation, but we now know that minions in the Energy Department and the Office of Management and Budget had enormous qualms about the Solyndra loan. They realized that the company was hemorrhaging money and, even with the loan, would lack the necessary working capital to turn that equation around. Yet they caved under White House pressure to sign off in time for Vice President Joe Biden to make a ballyhooed announcement of the loan in September 2009. An OMB e-mail laments that the timing of the loan approval was driven by the politics of the announcement “rather than the other way around.”

Why so much pressure to give half a billion dollars to a doomed venture? The administration insists it had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Solyndra’s big backers include the George Kaiser Family Foundation. No, of course not. George Kaiser, an Oklahoma oil magnate, just happens to be a major Obama fundraiser who bundled oodles in contributions for the president’s 2008 campaign. Solyndra officers and investors are said to have visited the White House no fewer than 20 times while the loan guarantee was being considered and, later, revised. Kaiser, too, made several visits – but not to worry: Both he and administration officials deny any impropriety. You’re to believe that the White House was just turning up the heat on OMB and DOE because Solyndra seemed like such a swell investment.

Except it didn’t seem so swell to people who knew how to add and subtract, and those people weren’t all at OMB and DOE. Flush with confidence that their mega-loan from Uncle Sam would make the company attractive to private investors, Solyndra’s backers prepared to take the company public. Unfortunately, SEC rules for an initial public offering of stock require the disclosure of more than Obama speeches glowing with solar power. Companies that want access to the market have to reveal their financial condition.

In Solyndra’s case, outside auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) found that condition to be dire. “The company has suffered recurring losses from operations, negative cash flows since inception, and has a net stockholders’ deficit,” the PWC accountants concluded. Even with the gigantic Obama loan, Solyndra was such a basket case that PWC found “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.”

The “going concern” language is not boilerplate. As Townhall finance maven John Ransom explains, it is a term of art to which auditors resort when there is an extraordinary need to protect themselves and the company from legal liability. Angry investors who’ve lost their shirts tend to scapegoat the loser company’s accountants. In truth, even if the accountants affixed a neon “going concern” sign to the company’s financial statements, investors would have no one but themselves to blame. But it is unusual: The language is absent from the statements of many companies that actually end up going bankrupt. Auditors reserve it for the hopeless causes – like Solyndra.

With no alternative if they wanted to make a play for market financing, Solyndra’s backers disclosed the auditors’ bleak diagnosis in March 2010. The government had thus been aware of it for two months when President Obama made his May 26 Solyndra speech – the speech Solyndra backers were clearly hoping would mitigate the damage.

As president, Obama had a fiduciary responsibility to be forthright about Solyndra’s grim prospects – in speaking to the American taxpayers whose money he had redistributed, and to the American investors who were about to be solicited for even more funding. Instead, he pulled a Martha Stewart.

The president looked us in the eye and averred that, when it came to channeling public funds into private hands, “We can see the positive impacts right here at Solyndra.” He bragged that the $535 billion loan had enabled the company to build the state-of-the-art factory in which he was then speaking. He said nothing about how Solyndra was continuing to lose money – public money – at a catastrophic pace. Instead, he painted the brightest of pictures: 3,000 construction workers to build the thriving plant; manufacturers in 22 states building an endless stream of supplies; technicians in a dozen states constructing the advanced equipment that would make the factory hum; and Solyndra fully “expect[ing] to hire a thousand workers to manufacture solar panels and sell them across America and around the world.”

Not content with that rosy portrait, the president further predicted a “ripple effect”: Solyndra would “generate business for companies throughout our country who will create jobs supplying this factory with parts and materials.” Sure it would. The auditors had scrutinized Solyndra and found it to have, from its inception, a fatally flawed business model that was hurtling toward collapse. Obama touted it as a redistribution success story that would be rippling jobs, growth, and spectacular success for the foreseeable future.

It was a breathtaking misrepresentation. Happily, it proved insufficient to dupe investors who, unlike taxpayers, get to choose where their money goes. They stacked what the administration was saying against what the PWC auditors were saying and wisely went with PWC. Solyndra had to pull its initial public offering due to lack of interest.

But fraud doesn’t have to be fully successful to be a fraud, and this one still had another chapter to go. As the IPO failed and the company inevitably sank in a sea of red ink, Solyndra’s panicked backers pleaded with the administration to restructure the loan terms – to insulate them from their poor business judgment, allowing them to recoup some of their investment while the public took the fall.

It should go without saying that the duty of soi-disant public servants is to serve the public. In this instance, the proper course was clear. As structured, the loan gave the public first dibs on Solyndra’s assets if it collapsed, and, as we’ve seen, the law requires it. There was no good reason to contemplate a change.

In addition, as Andrew Stiles relates, OMB had figured out that there was no economic sense in restructuring: Solyndra was heading for bankruptcy anyway, and an immediate liquidation would net the government a better deal – about $170 million better. The case for leaving things where they stood was so palpable that OMB openly feared “questions will be asked” if DOE proceeded with an unjustifiable restructuring. So, with numbing predictability, the Obama administration proceeded with an unjustifiable restructuring. In exchange for lending some of their own money and thus buying more time, Solyndra officials were given priority over taxpayers with respect to the first $75 million in the event of a bankruptcy – the event all the insiders and government officials could see coming from the start, and that hit the rest of us like a $535 billion thunderbolt last week.

The administration’s rationalization is priceless. According to DOE officials, the restructuring was necessary “to create a situation whereby investors felt there was a value in their investment.” Of course, the value in an investment is the value created by the business in which the investment is made. Here, Solyndra had no value. Investors could be enticed only by an invalid arrangement to recoup some of their losses – by a scheme to make the public an even bigger sap.

The word for such schemes is fraud.

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‘Pass This Jobs Bill!’ – Mark Steyn

The president has taken to the campaign trail to promote his “American Jobs Act.” That’s a good name for it: an act. “Pass this bill now!” he declared 24 times at a stop in Raleigh, N.C., and another 18 in Columbus, Ohio, and the act is sufficiently effective that, three years into the Vapidity of Hope, the president can still find crowds of true believers willing to chant along with him: “Pass this bill now!”

Not all supporters are content merely to singalong with the prompter-in-chief. In North Carolina, a still-devoted hopeychanger cried out, “I love you!”

“I love you, too,” said the president. “But…”

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So A Comatose Guy Walks Into A Bar… – Ann Coulter

Liberals are on their high horses about a single audience member at CNN’s Republican debate whom they believe wanted a hypothetical man without health insurance in a hypothetical coma to die – hypothetically.

(Democrats want people in comas to die only when they are not hypothetical but real, like Terri Schiavo.)

I concur with the audience member who shouted “Yes!” This has nothing to do with any actual people in comas – the people Democrats want to kill – it’s just a big “screw you” to the moderator.

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Obama Plagued By Democrats’ Ingratitude – Byron York

For generations, Democrats longed for a president who could enact national health care. Barack Obama did it.

For years, Democrats longed for a president who could massively increase federal spending, impose broad new regulations and fight for higher taxes. Barack Obama did it.

For much of the past decade, Democrats longed for a president who could pull American forces out of Iraq and redirect U.S. security policy toward al Qaeda. Barack Obama did it – and killed Osama bin Laden, to boot.

Obama did all that, and more. And now many Democrats are afraid to be seen with him. Some gratitude.

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You Can’t Tax The Rich – Thomas Sowell

Ninety years ago – in 1921 – federal income-tax policies reached an absurdity that many people today seem to want to repeat. Those who believe in high taxes on “the rich” got their way. The tax rate on people in the top income bracket was 73 percent in 1921. On the other hand, the rich also got their way: They didn’t actually pay those taxes.

The number of people with taxable incomes of $300,000 a year or more – equivalent to far more than $1 million in today’s money – declined from over 1,000 people in 1916 to fewer than 300 in 1921. Were the rich all going broke?

It might look that way. More than four-fifths of the total taxable income earned by people making $300,000 a year up and vanished into thin air.

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Obama’s Quiver Is Empty – Victor Davis Hanson

Ex-president George W. Bush with accustomed candor once shrugged after the end of his eight-year presidency, “People were kind of tired of me.” That ennui happens eventually with most presidents. But in the case of Barack Obama, our modern Phaethon, his fiery crash is coming after 32, not 96, months.

We can sense the national weariness with Obama in a variety of strange and unexpected ways. There is the self-pitying anguish of liberal columnists who scapegoat him for turning the public against their own leftwing agenda. The current silence of “moderate” Republicans and conservative op-ed writers who once in near ecstasy jumped ship to join Obama is deafening. A growing number of Democratic representatives and senators up for reelection do not want their partisan president to visit their districts in the runup to November 2012. Approval ratings hover around 40 percent.

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The Cash-For-Visas Program – Michelle Malkin

As part of his warmed-over jobs plan, President Obama is repackaging “Buy American” stimulus subsidies to help hard-hit homegrown businesses. At the same time, however, Congress is pushing to expand a fraud-riddled investor program that puts U.S. citizenship for sale to the highest foreign business bidders.

Call it the Buy America Cash-for-Visas plan.

As I first reported 10 years ago, the EB-5 immigrant investor program was created under an obscure section of the 1990 Immigration Act. The law allows 10,000 wealthy foreigners a year to purchase green cards by investing between $500,000 and $1 million in new commercial enterprises or troubled businesses.

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Daily Benefactor Columnists – The Imperial Presidency (Mark Steyn) – More Op-Eds

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The Imperial Presidency – Mark Steyn

Rick Perry, governor of Texas, has only been in the presidential race for 20 minutes, but he’s already delivered one of the best lines in the campaign:

“I’ll work every day to try to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.”

This will be grand news to Schylar Capo, eleven years old, of Virginia, who made the mistake of rescuing a woodpecker from the jaws of a cat and nursing him back to health for a couple of days, and for her pains, was visited by a federal Fish & Wildlife gauleiter (with accompanying state troopers) who charged her with illegal transportation of a protected species and issued her a $535 fine. If the federal child-abuser has that much time on his hands, he should have charged the cat, who was illegally transporting the protected species from his gullet to his intestine.

So eleven-year-old Schylar and other middle-schoolers targeted by the micro-regulatory superstate might well appreciate Governor Perry’s pledge. But you never know, it might just catch on with the broader population, too.

Bill Clinton thought otherwise. “I got tickled by watching Governor Perry,” said the former president. “And he’s saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to Washington to make sure that the federal government stays as far away from you as possible — while I ride on Air Force One and that Marine One helicopter and go to Camp David and travel around the world and have a good time.’ I mean, this is crazy.”

This is the best argument the supposedly smartest operator in the Democratic party can muster? If Bill Clinton wants to make the increasingly and revoltingly unrepublican lifestyle of the American president a campaign issue, Governor Perry should call his bluff. If I understand correctly the justification advanced by spokesgropers for the Transport Security Administration, the reason they poke around the genitalia of three-year-old girls and make wheelchair-bound nonagenarians in the final stages of multiple sclerosis remove their diapers in public is that by doing so they have made commercial air travel the most secure environment in the United States. In that case, why can’t the president fly commercial?

You’d be surprised how many heads of state do. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands flies long haul on KLM. Don’t worry, she’s not in coach all night squeezed next to the mom with the crying baby and the party of English soccer hooligans baying moronic victory chants all night. She rides up front and has so many aides that sometimes she’ll book the entire first class cabin! By contrast, the president of the United States took his personal 747 (a transatlantic aircraft designed to hold 500 people that costs a fifth of a million dollars per hour to run) to go from Washington to a Democratic party retreat in Williamsburg, Va., 150 miles away.

Queen Margrethe of Denmark flies commercial, too. For local trips she has a small Challenger jet. When she’s not zipping around in it, they use it for fishery enforcement off Greenland. Does that detail alone suggest that a thousand-year dynasty dating back to King Gorm the Sleepy (regnant 936–958) travels in rather less luxury than the supposed citizen-executive of a so-called republic of limited government? Undoubtedly King Gorm the Sleepy would have slept a lot better on Air Force One, yet the Danish royal family seems to get by.

Symbols are important. In other circumstances, the Obamas’ vacation on Martha’s Vineyard might not be terribly relevant. But this is a president who blames his dead-parrot economy on “bad luck” — specifically, the Arab Spring and the Japanese tsunami: As Harry S. Truman would have said, the buck stops at that big hole in the ground that’s just opened up over in Japan. Let us take these whiny excuses at face value and accept for the sake of argument that Obama’s Recovery Summer would now be going gangbusters had not the Libyan rebels seized Benghazi and sent the economy into a tailspin. Did no one in the smartest administration in history think this might be the time for the president to share in some of the “bad luck” and forgo an ostentatious vacation in the exclusive playground of the rich? When you’re the presiding genius of the Brokest Nation in History, enjoying the lifestyle of the super-rich while allegedly in “public service” sends a strikingly Latin American message. Underlining the point, the president then decided to pass among his suffering people by touring small town Minnesota in an armored Canadian bus accompanied by a 40-car motorcade. In some of these one-stoplight burgs, the president’s escort had more vehicles than the municipality he was graciously blessing with his presence.

By sheer coincidence, I happen to be writing a conspiracy thriller in which a state-of-the-art Canadian bus transporting Pres. Michael Douglas on a tour of Minnesota goes rogue and takes over the government of the United States. Eventually, crack CIA operative Keira Knightley breaks in the rear window and points out to the Canadian bus that it’s now $15 trillion in debt. In a white-knuckle finale, the distraught and traumatized bus makes a break for Winnipeg pursued by Chinese creditors.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Instead of demonstrating the common touch — that Obama is feeling your pain Clinton-style — the motorcade tour seemed an ingenious parody of what (in Victor Davis Hanson’s words) “a wealthy person would do if he wanted to act ‘real’ for a bit” — in the way that swanky Park Avenue types 80 years ago liked to go slumming up in Harlem. Why exactly does the president need a 40-car escort to drive past his subjects in Dead Moose Junction? It doesn’t communicate strength, but only waste, and decadence. Are these vehicles filled with “aides” working round the clock on his super-secret magic plan to “create” “jobs” that King Barack the Growth-Slayer is planning to lay before Congress in the fall or winter, spring, whatever? If the argument is that the president cannot travel without that level of security, I note that Prince William and his lovely bride did not require a 40-car motorcade on their recent visit to Los Angeles, and there are at least as many people on the planet who want a piece of Wills and Kate as do of Obama. Like the president, the couple made do with Canuck transportation, but in their case they flew in and out on a Royal Canadian Air Force transport described as “no more luxurious than a good motor home”: The shower is the size of a pay phone. It did not seem to diminish Her Royal Highness’s glamour.

I wish Governor Perry well in his stated goal of banishing Washington to the periphery of Americans’ lives. One way he could set the tone is by forgoing much of the waste and excess that attends the imperial presidency. Believe it or not, many presidents and prime ministers manage to get by with only a 14-car or even a four-car motorcade. I know: Hard to imagine, but there it is. A post-prosperity America that has dug itself into a multi-trillion-dollar hole will eventually have to stop digging. When it does so, the government of the United States will have to learn to do more with less. A good place to start would be restoring the lifestyle of the president to something Calvin Coolidge might recognize.

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History, Hardliners, And Humility – Andrew C. McCarthy

Liberty must always be exercised, and may only be maintained, “in a way of subjection to authority.” This sounds like it could have been written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the trailblazer of the modern Left, whose “social compact” decreed that any dissenter from “the general will” would be compelled to obey — meaning “nothing less than that he will be forced to be free.” Or it could be the handiwork of any of a thousand Muslim jurisprudents teaching that submission to Allah and His law is the essence of Islam.

But it is neither. Those are the words of John Winthrop, the legendary founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the man Paul Johnson, the peerless British historian, calls “the first great American.”

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For Whom The Bell Tolls – Thomas Sowell

The orgies of violent attacks on strangers in the streets — in both England and the United States — are not necessarily just passing episodes. They should be wake-up calls, warning of the continuing degeneration of Western society.

As British doctor and author Theodore Dalrymple said, long before these riots broke out, “The good are afraid of the bad, and the bad are afraid of nothing.”

Not only the trends over the years leading up to these riots but also the squeamish responses to them by officials — on both sides of the Atlantic — reveal the moral dry rot that has spread deep into Western societies.

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Murdoch, Hackgate, Climategate, The Guardian And The Vile Hypocrisy Of The Left – James Delingpole

The liberal-Left has many vices. But surely the most noisome one of all (in a crowded field) is its rank hypocrisy. If you’re going to take the moral high ground – as Lefties will insist on doing at every opportunity – the very least you owe the world in return if you have a shred of compunction, decency or intellectual consistency is to demonstrate more integrity than those you are impugning. And if you can’t do that, then bloody well shut up.

In the last few months, you can’t have helped noticing, the liberal-Left media, led by the BBC and the Guardian, have been dwelling on the News International phone hacking scandal with a shrillness and hysteria and foaming moral outrage out of all proportion to the nature of the offence.

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Smacking Down Progressives Of Pallor – Michelle Malkin

Is there anything more condescending than a porcelain-skinned Hollywood liberal who attempts to show her presumed solidarity with minorities by referring to them as “people of color”?

Yes, there is: Two porcelain-skinned liberals attempting to show their allegiance to “diversity” by attacking “people of color” who happen to disagree with their radical politics.

Such an exchange took place on a little-watched television show on Al Gore’s obscure cable network Wednesday night. I am spotlighting the diatribe for you not because the speakers involved hold any sway with the American electorate, but because paternalistic racism is so prevalent among the media-entertainment elite.

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The Adventures Of Captain America – Jonah Goldberg

Before President Obama headed off to his rented 28-acre retreat in Martha’s Vineyard, he spent a few days campaigning around the Midwest in his new million-dollar, Canadian-made campaign bus, paid for at government expense. He even unveiled what many believe will be his new reelection theme: “Country first.”

According to his new stump speech, if you oppose his agenda, then you don’t care about America as much as he does.

“There is no shortage of ideas to put people to work right now. What is needed is action on the part of Congress, a willingness to put the partisan games aside and say we’re going to do what’s right for the country, not what we think is going to score some political points for the next election,” Obama explained in Cannon Falls, Minn., in an event that the White House insisted had nothing to do with campaigning.

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The Crisis – William Kristol

In his Inaugural Address, President Obama quoted from Thomas Paine’s The Crisis: “Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.”

And so, ironically, it will be told to the future world that in 2009 and 2010, Americans from city and country, alarmed at the common danger of President Obama’s agenda, came forth to meet it. They repudiated his program, after he’d sought to take advantage of the crisis he inherited to move the country to the left, and after he’d enacted much of his agenda—and made the crisis worse.

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Daily Benefactor Columnists – A Post-American Planet (Mark Steyn) – More Op-Eds

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A Post-American Planet – Mark Steyn

That thoughtful observer of the passing parade, Nancy Pelosi, weighed in on the “debt ceiling” negotiations the other day: “What we’re trying to do is save the world from the Republican budget. We’re trying to save life on this planet as we know it today.”

It’s always good to have things explained in terms we simpletons can understand. After a while, all the stuff about debt-to-GDP ratio and CBO alternative baseline scenarios starts to give you a bit of a headache, so we should be grateful to the House minority leader for putting it in layman’s terms: What’s at stake is “life on this planet as we know it today.” So, if right now you’re living anywhere in the general vicinity of this planet, it’s good to know Nancy’s in there pitching for you.

What about life on this planet tomorrow? How’s that look if Nancy gets her way? The Democrat model of governance is to spend $4 trillion while only collecting $2 trillion, borrowing the rest from tomorrow. Instead of “printing money,” we’re printing credit cards and pre-approving our unborn grandchildren. To facilitate this proposition, Washington created its own form of fantasy accounting: “baseline budgeting,” under which growth-in-government is factored in to federal bookkeeping as a permanent feature of life. As Arthur Herman of the American Enterprise Institute pointed out this week, under present rules, if the government were to announce a spending freeze – that’s to say, no increases, no cuts, everything just stays exactly the same – the Congressional Budget Office would score it as a $9 trillion savings. In real-world terms, there are no “savings,” and there’s certainly no $9 trillion. In fact, there isn’t one thin dime. But nevertheless, that’s how it would be measured at the CBO.

Around the world, most folks have to work harder than that to save $9 trillion. That’s roughly the combined GDPs of Japan and Germany. But in America it’s an accounting device. This is something to bear in mind when you’re listening to the amount of “savings” touted by whatever triumphant bipartisan deal is announced at the eleventh hour in Washington.

So I find myself less interested in “life on this planet as we know it today” than in life on this planet as we’re likely to know it tomorrow if Nancy Pelosi and her chums decline to reacquaint themselves with reality. If you kinda dig life on this planet as you know it, ask yourself this: What’s holding the joint up? As the old gag goes, if you owe the bank a thousand dollars, you have a problem; if you owe the bank a million dollars, the bank has a problem. If you owe the banks 15,000,000,000,000 dollars, the planet has a problem. Whatever comparisons one might make with Europe’s soi-disant “PIIGS” re debt per capita or deficit-to-GDP ratio, the sheer hard numbers involved represent a threat to the planet that Portugal or Ireland does not. It also represents a threat to Americans. Three years ago, the first developed nation to hit the skids was Iceland. But, unless you’re Icelandic, who cares? And, if you are Icelandic, you hunker down, readjust to straitened circumstances, and a few years down the line Iceland will still be Iceland and, if that’s your bag, relatively pleasant.

That’s not an option for the U.S. We are chugging a highly toxic cocktail: 21st-century spendaholic government with mid-20th-century assumptions about American power. After the Battle of Saratoga, Adam Smith replied to a pal despondent that the revolting colonials were going to be the ruin of Britain: “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation,” said a sanguine Smith.

That’s generally true. Americans of a certain bent looking at post-war France or Germany might reasonably conclude what’s the big deal about genteel decline. The difference, of course, is that Europe’s decline was cushioned by America. Who’s around to cushion America’s decline?

If the IMF is correct (a big if), China will be the planet’s No.1 economy by 2016. That means whoever’s elected in November next year will be the last president of the United States to preside over the world’s dominant economic power. As I point out in my rollicking new book, which will be hitting what’s left of the post-Borders bookstore business any day now, this will mark the end of two centuries of Anglophone dominance – first by London, then its greatest if prodigal son. The world’s economic superpower will not only be a Communist dictatorship with a largely peasant population and legal, political, and cultural traditions as alien to its predecessors as possible, but, even more civilizationally startling, it will be, unlike the U.S., Britain, and the Dutch and Italians before them, a country that doesn’t even use the Roman alphabet.

The American economy has been “stimulated” to a bloody pulp by the racketeers in Washington, mostly to buy off approved interests. Meanwhile, as Nancy defends life on this planet today, the contours of life on this planet tomorrow are beginning to emerge.

Remember the Libyan War? Oh, come on. It was in all the papers for a couple of days. And then, oddly enough, the media lost interest in Obama’s war.

But it’s still going on, out there on the fringes of the map. “We are generally in a stalemate,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced to a roomful of chirping crickets the other day. At the start of NATO’s desultory bombing campaign, the French and the British were demanding that Qaddafi be removed from power, leave Libya, and be put on trial at the Hague. Last week, they subtly modified their position: He can remain in Libya, but he definitely has to step down from power. Expect further modifications in their next ultimatum: He can remain in the presidential palace, but he has to move to the poky guest bedroom under the eaves.

Meanwhile, the Lockerbie bomber has been appearing at delirious pro-Qaddafi rallies. Remember the Lockerbie bomber? He was returned to Libya because he was terminally ill and only had three months to live. That was two years ago. It’s amazing what getting out of the care of the Scottish National Health Service can do for your life expectancy. Likewise, back in the spring, NATO declared that Qaddafi’s presidency only had three weeks to live. Like his compatriot, he seems disinclined to follow the diagnosis.

The Libyan War never caught the imagination of the American public, even though you’re paying for most of it. But in Tehran and Moscow and Beijing they’re following it. And they regard it as a useful preview of the post-American world. Absent American will, even a tinpot desert drag queen can stand up to the great powers and survive. The lesson of Obama’s half-hearted little war isn’t lost in the chancelleries of America’s enemies.

For dominant powers in decline, it starts with the money, for Washington as for London and Rome before it. But it never stops there. The horizons shrivel. Two-bit provocateurs across the map pick off remnants of the old order with ever greater ease.

America has had two roles in a so-called “globalized” world: America’s government was the guarantor of global order; America’s economy was the engine of global prosperity. Right now, both roles are up for grabs. And there are no takers for the former. Pace Nancy Pelosi, “life on this planet as we know it today” is going to change, and very fast.

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It’s Obama’s Economy – Stephen Hayes

According to the Commerce Department numbers released Friday, the U.S. economy is growing at just 1.3 percent. Maybe. First quarter growth, initially reported as a disappointing 1.9 percent, was revised drastically down to just 0.4 percent. Those numbers are depressing enough. The downward revision of first quarter growth suggests that even the woeful second quarter number may be optimistic. And it comes after five consecutive quarters of a slowing economy – with growth of just 3.9 percent, 3.8 percent, 2.5 percent, and 2.3 percent before the economy stalled out at 0.4 percent in the first three months of this year.

That’s not all. Unemployment has risen for three consecutive months. It’s now 9.2 percent. Nearly half of the unemployed have been seeking work for longer than six months – the highest long-term unemployment rate since the Great Depression. And the GDP numbers out Friday suggest that many more American workers will be added to the unemployment rolls in the coming months.

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Against The Boehner Plan – Andrew C. McCarthy

House Speaker John Boehner has a plan that he touts as slashing about $900 billion in government spending – shy of his original claim, only two days earlier, that cuts would amount to $1.2 trillion. It’s nonsense, of course. In Washington, unlike the rest of the known universe, a “cut” is a reduction in the rate of increase. There are never real cuts. In reality, Speaker Boehner’s plan would add $9.1 trillion to the national debt. It is a “cut” only in the sense that the Obama Democrats have rigged matters so that, if nothing changes, autopilot would add $10 trillion.

You could call this a cruel joke on a country that is already well over $14 trillion in debt – a country in which every newly born child opens his eyes as a debtor, well over $30,000 in the hole. But that would be premature, because I haven’t gotten to the punchline yet.

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Obama’s Exclusive George Soros Waivers – Michelle Malkin

“Millionaires and billionaires,” President Obama says derisively, must make more “sacrifices” and live by the same rules the rest of America lives by. But there are seven little words that will never appear on the White House teleprompter: “And that means you, too, George Soros.”

For all his (and his wife’s) bashing of greedy Wall Street hedge-fund managers, Obama has shown nothing but love to the world’s most famous hedge-fund mogul. The feeling is mutual and deep(-pocketed).

Soros and his family shelled out $250,000 for Obama’s inauguration, $60,000 in direct campaign contributions and untold millions more to liberal activist groups pushing the White House agenda. While the class warrior-in-chief assails conniving financiers who exploit loopholes and corporate titans who imperil the planet, he lets the Soros exemptions to his attack-the-rich rules slide like butter on a hot plate.

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The Reagan Playbook No Longer Applies – Jonah Goldberg

The worst thing about the 2008 primaries – other than, you know, the result – was the huge amount of time wasted on what amounted to a Republican Spartacus re-enactment. Instead of each nominee yelling, “I’m Spartacus,” and, “No, I’m Spartacus,” we got, “I’m Ronald Reagan!” and “No, I’m the real Ronald Reagan here.”

The obsession with finding another Reagan was really a veiled slap at the Republican who actually occupied the White House at the time. Nobody was running to be another George W. Bush; nobody promised to give “four more years” of what they got for the last eight.

Everyone understood that running as Bush 2.0 was a bad idea from the outset, but the proof came in the general election, when then-senator Obama managed to paint John McCain as the reincarnation of Bush.

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Seven Types Of Troll: A Spotter’s Guide – James Delingpole

As we all know just because you’re away on holiday doesn’t mean you have to stop thinking about the nasty things in life. That s why I’m dedicating this post to the menagerie – or, if you will, infestation – of trolls which lurk below this blog and who seem to have grown even more active in my absence.

There’s an argument which goes that we bloggers need our pet trolls almost as much as they need us. I’m not sure I value them that highly myself but I do find them a fascinating case study. What intrigues me is their psychopathology. I mean, it takes a certain sort of mentality actively to seek out columnists with whom you disagree and lurk below their blog being spiteful and angry and disruptive. Maybe I’d respect them more if they weren’t cowering behind the mask of anonymity, or if ever for once in their sad, deficient lives they actually strove to engage with the arguments made. But they never do, for such is the nature of trolling.

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Behind The DC Slugfest – Victor Davis Hanson

About 50 percent of taxpayers don’t pay federal income taxes. Almost half of American adults receive either the majority of or all of their income in some form from government. They are naturally desirous of even more entitlements, in the sense that even higher taxes on the top 5 percent might ensure at least some of the needed revenue to pay for them. And if that echelon must pay 70 percent or 80 percent rather than the present 60 percent of all collected income taxes, it would still not be such a bad thing, inasmuch as the circumstances surrounding their earned income must be somewhat suspicious.

In the words of the president, the so-called affluent surely at some point must realize that they have made enough money and have hundreds of thousands in unneeded income that could easily be assessed with higher taxes.

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Daily Benefactor Columnists – RomneyCare Is A Problem, Not Part Of The Solution (Mark Steyn) – More Op-Eds

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RomneyCare Is A Problem, Not Part Of The Solution – Mark Steyn

Unless things change, the man (or woman) elected in 2012 will be the last American president to preside over the world’s leading economy. If things get really bad, he will find himself presiding over the early stages of American collapse.

Not “decline” but “collapse.” “Decline” is what happens when you’re Britain in the 1940s and you cede global dominance to a major ally that shares your language, legal system, cultural inheritance and broad geopolitical objectives. That deal isn’t on offer this time round.

Nor was the United Kingdom circa 1948 in thrall to anything like the same levels of spendaholic insanity. The current debate on the “debt ceiling” testifies to how thoroughly public discourse has flown the coop of reality.

Sure, Congress can vote to raise the debt ceiling – just as you and your spouse can reach a bipartisan agreement on raising your own debt ceiling. Go on, try it: Hold a vote in your rec room, come up with a number and then let MasterCard know what you’ve decided on.

In the real world, debt ceilings are determined by the lenders, not the borrowers. In March, Pimco (which manages the world’s largest mutual fund) calculated that 70% of U.S. Treasury debt is being bought by the Federal Reserve.

So under the 2011 budget, every hour of every day, the United States government spends $188 million it doesn’t have, $130 million of which is “borrowed” from itself. There’s nobody else out there.

In other words, however Congress votes, we’re rubbing up against the real debt ceiling – the willingness of the world to continue bankrolling American debauchery.

Barack Obama is offering us a Latin-American future – that’s to say, a United States in which a corrupt governing class rules a dysfunctional morass. He’s confident that, when the moat with alligators is put in, he’ll be on the secure side. If you figure you’ll be, too, you can afford to vote for him.

The rest of us would like a credible alternative. The Republicans have a habit of nominating the guy whose turn it is – Bob Dole, John McCain. This time the guy whose turn it is is Mitt Romney. Unfortunately for him, his signature legislation in Massachusetts looks awfully like a pilot program for ObamaCare. So in recent days he’s been out yet again defending his record.

If I understand him correctly, his argument is that the salient point about RomneyCare and ObamaCare is not that they’re both disasters, but that one’s local and the other’s national, and that Obama has a one-disaster-fits-all approach to health care whereas Romney believes in letting a thousand disasters bloom. Celebrate diversity!

If Mitt can make this fly, he’s some kind of genius. The problems with RomneyCare are well known:

Mitt argued that Massachusetts needed to reform its health care system because the uninsured were placing huge strains on the state’s emergency rooms and the rest of the population had to pick up the tab for the free-riders, and that was driving up Massachusetts health costs. So, as a famous can-do technocrat, he looked at the problem and came up with a can-do technocratic solution.

Three years later, everyone was insured, but emergency room use was higher than ever, and 70% of those newly insured were all but entirely subsidized by the state, and Massachusetts residents were paying 30% more for their health care than the U.S. average, and Boston had the longest wait time in the nation to see a new doctor.


Last year, I gave a speech to the American Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgery at its annual conference in Boston, and got a cheap laugh by telling the assembled ophthalmologists that just by flying in to the convention center they’d dramatically improved the city’s doctor/patient ratio.

American conservatives’ problem with RomneyCare is the same as with ObamaCare – that, if the government (whether state or federal) can compel you to make arrangements for the care of your body parts that meet the approval of state commissars, then the constitution is dead.

And Americans might as well shred the thing and scatter it as confetti over Prince William and his lovely bride, along with an accompanying note saying, “Come back. It was all a ghastly mistake.” For if conceding jurisdiction over your lungs and kidneys and bladder does not make you a subject rather than a citizen, what does?

I doubt Romney thought about it in such terms. In 2006, he was not a philosophical conservative. Like Donald Trump today, he sold himself as a successful business guy, a problem solver who knew how to make things happen. So he made things happen. And, as a result, he made things worse. How does that happen?

Because, to make things happen in a diseased polity such as Massachusetts, you have to get it past the lifetime legislative class and the ever-more-swollen regulatory bureaucracy. And, whatever theoretical merits it might have had when the can-do technocrats cooked it up, by the time it’s been massaged through the legislature and pumped full of steroids by the backstage boys, it will just be the usual oozing pustuled behemoth of drearily foreseeable unforeseen consequences.

The inflationary factor in Massachusetts health care was not caused by deadbeats using emergency rooms as their family doctor but by the metastasizing cost distortions of government intervention in health care.

Mitt should have known that. As he should know that government intervention in college loans has absurdly inflated the cost of ludicrously overvalued credentials and, in a broader sense, helped debauch America’s human capital. As he should know that government intervention in the mortgage market is why every day more and more American homeowners are drowning in negative equity.

So RomneyCare is not just an argument about health care. It exemplifies what’s wrong with American political structures:

It suggests that our institutions are incapable of course correction. It reminds us that Republicans are either easily suckered or too eager to be bipartisan figleafs in embarrassing kindergarten kabuki. It confirms that “technocracy” in politics is a synonym for “more” – more government, more spending, more laws, more bureaucrats, more regulations, more paperwork, more of what’s killing this once great republic every hour of every day.

In defense of Romney, one might argue that politics is the art of the possible. But in Massachusetts what was possible made things worse. That’s the situation the nation is in – and the message that America’s lenders are beginning to get.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. RomneyCare is not part of the solution; it embodies the problem. If Mitt Romney cannot recognize that, it’s unlikely that he’s the guy to pull American politics back into a passing acquaintance with reality.

To put it in Obama terms, America is a moat, and it’s filled with government spendaholics. You could toss a poor alligator in there, but they’d pick him clean in seconds, and leave what was left for Nancy Pelosi’s shoes.

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Demagoguery 101 – Charles Krauthammer

I’m going to do my part to lead a constructive and civil debate on these issues.” – Barack Obama, speech on immigration, El Paso, May 10

Constructive and civil debate – like the one Obama initiated just four weeks ago on deficit reduction? The speech in which he accused the Republicans of abandoning families of autistic and Down syndrome kids? The debate in which Obama’s secretary of health and human services said that the Republican Medicare plan would make old folks “die sooner”?

In this same spirit of comity and mutual respect, Obama’s most recent invitation to civil discourse – on immigration – came just 11 minutes after he accused opponents of moving the goal posts on border enforcement. “Maybe they’ll need a moat,” he said sarcastically. “Maybe they want alligators in the moat.”

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What Happened On AA Flight 1561 – Michelle Malkin

If you listen to the passengers and crew who flew on American Airlines Flight 1561 last weekend, there’s no doubt about what happened on their harrowing trip: A Yemeni man shrieking “Allahu akbar!” at the top of his lungs more than 30 times rushed the cockpit door twice intending to take down the plane and kill everyone on board.

The clammy, sweaty lone male passenger exhibited classic symptoms of what Middle East scholar and author Daniel Pipes has dubbed “Sudden Jihad Syndrome” – a seemingly random outbreak of threatening behavior or violence by a hysterical Muslim adherent who had not previously exhibited signs of Islamic radicalization. It took at least four men to tackle and restrain Rageh Ahmed Mohammed al-Murisi. “There was no question in everybody’s mind that he was going to do something,” passenger Angelina Marty told the San Francisco Chronicle.

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More Gutsy Calls From Obama! – Ann Coulter

Obama has been making “gutsy calls” all over the place!

In full campaign mode, he’s been deploying his administrative agencies to do favors for his big contributors, to the detriment of ordinary Americans.

Last week, Obama made the gutsy call to threaten public schools that are asking students for proof of residency. The memorandum warned school districts that it’s illegal to ask students for proof of citizenship or legal residency status.

Obama’s wealthy donors need illegals so they can get cheap nannies, cooks and pool boys.

On the other hand, illegals being paid off the books are not helping Americans find jobs.

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An Ill Season – Andrew C. McCarthy

Screaming “With our blood and soul, we will defend you, Islam,” jihadists stormed the Virgin Mary Church in northwest Cairo last weekend. They torched the Coptic Christian house of worship, burned the nearby homes of two Copt families to the ground, attacked a residential complex, killed a dozen people, and wounded more than 200: just another day in this spontaneous democratic uprising by Muslim hearts yearning for freedom.

In the delusional vocabulary of the “Arab Spring,” this particular episode is known as a sectarian “clash.” That was the Washington Post’s take. Its headline reads “12 dead in Egypt as Christians and Muslims clash” – in the same way, one supposes, that a mugger’s fist can be said to “clash” with his victim’s face. The story goes on, in nauseating “cycle of violence” style, to describe “clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians” that “left” 12 dead, dozens more wounded, “and a church charred” – as if it were not crystal clear who were the clashers and who were the clashees, as if the church were somehow combusted into a flaming heap without some readily identifiable actors having done the charring.

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Reasonable Suspicion – Stephen Hayes

In May 2010, in the aftermath of the attempted bombing of Times Square by a jihadist with ties to the Pakistani Taliban, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an interview to 60 Minutes and made a startling claim about the government in Pakistan. “I’m not saying that they’re at the highest levels, but I believe that somewhere in this government are people who know where Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda is, where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is, and we expect more cooperation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill, those who attacked us on 9/11.”

Why would Clinton say this? Did the U.S. government have intelligence – an inside source, communications intercepts – that Pakistani officials knew where bin Laden was hiding? Or was America’s top diplomat just engaging in idle speculation about a nation often described as a key ally in the war on terror?

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The World Turned Upside Down… Again – Victor Davis Hanson

Every once in a while, the world is turned upside down in just a few years, whether by ideological ferment or force of arms. We may be entering such a phase now – unsure whether the unrest in the Middle East, the rise of China, and the crisis in the EU will sputter and dissipate like the upheavals of 1848 or make the world unrecognizable in the way that Alexander the Great’s ten-year romp, the fall of Constantinople, World War I, World War II, and the collapse of Soviet Communism changed the very map of Europe and Asia.

The question is not whether Greece will default on its massive debt, but, rather, when it does, whether the inevitable default will spread to Spain, Portugal, or even Italy and unravel the European Union, or simply be confined to Greece, returning it to its genteel poverty of the 1970s. Either way, a much weakened Greece will watch an ascendant and Islamist Turkey exercise, in Ottoman fashion, its newfound influence in the Aegean, Cyprus, and the Eastern Mediterranean.

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Daily Benefactor Columnists – Road To Ruin Getting Shorter (Mark Steyn) – More Op-Eds

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Road To Ruin Getting Shorter – Mark Steyn

Congressman Paul Ryan, one of the least insane men in Washington, has a 10-year plan.

President Barack Obama, one of the most insane spenders in Washington, has a 12-year plan.

After hearing the president’s plan, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. Sovereign debt outlook to “negative.” Ah, the fine art of understatement. In 1940, after the fall of France and the evacuation from Dunkirk, presumably they downgraded Britain’s outlook to “spot of bother.”

At the world’s first “Presidential Facebook town hall meeting” on Wednesday, even Obama had a hard time taking his “plan” seriously. Sometimes he referred to it as a 12-year plan, sometimes 10 years, sometimes saving four trillion, sometimes saving two trillion. So will the Obama plan save four trillion over 12 years or two trillion over 10?

For the answer let’s go to next week’s first Presidential Twitter town hall meeting:

OMG!!! LOL!!!!!!! ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!!

Overly Massive Government!!! Legislating Official Largesse!!!!!!! Requiring Offering Foreign Lenders More American Ownership!!!!!!!!!

The president’s plan is to balance the budget by climbing into his Little Orphan Obammie costume and singing: “The sun’ll come out tomorrow/Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.” We’ve already bet our bottom dollar and it’s looking like total eclipse. But Obammie figures if we can only bet Daddy Warbucks’ bottom dollar the sun will shine. The “rich” don’t have enough money to plug the gap: As a general principle, whatever the tax rates, the Treasury can never take in more than about 19 percent of GDP. Since Obama took office, the government’s spent on average 24.4 percent of GDP.

That five-point gap cannot be closed, and it’s the difference between the possibility of a future and the certainty of utter ruin. Hence, outlook “negative.”

By the way, if you were borrowing (as the United States government does) $188 million every hour, would your bank be reassured by a 12-year plan?

That’s 2023. Go back 12 years. That’s 1999. Which, if any, politicians correctly identified the prevailing conditions in the America of 2011? Most of our problems arise from the blithe assumptions of the political class about the future. European welfare systems assumed a mid-20th century fertility rate to sustain them. They failed to foresee that welfare would become a substitute for family and that Continentals would simply cease breeding. Bismarckian-Rooseveltian pension plans assumed you’d be living off them for the last couple of years of your life. Instead, citizens of developed nations expect to spend the final third of their adult lives enjoying a prolonged taxpayer-funded holiday weekend.

What plans have you made for 2023? The average individual attempts to insure against future uncertainty in a relatively small number of ways: You buy a house because that’s the surest way to preserve and increase wealth. “Safe as houses,” right? But Fannie/Freddie subprime mumbo-jumbo and other government interventions clobbered the housing market. You get an education because that way you’ll always have “something to fall back on.” But massive government-encouraged expansion of “college” led Americans to run up a trillion dollars’ worth of student debt to acquire ever more devalued ersatz sheepskin in worthless pseudo-disciplines. We’re not talking about the wilder shores of the stock market – Internet start-ups, South Sea bubbles and tulip mania – but two of the safest, dullest investments a modestly prudent person might make to protect himself against the vicissitudes of an unknown future. And we profoundly damaged both of them in pursuit of fictions.

I don’t claim absolute certainty about what the world will be like in 2023, but I know what our governing class is telling us. At Tufts University, Nancy Pelosi urged her “Republican friends” to “take back your party, so that it doesn’t matter so much who wins the election – because we have shared values about the education of our children, the growth of our economy, how we defend our country, our security and civil liberties, how we respect our seniors. Elections shouldn’t matter as much as they do.”

The last line attracted a bit of attention, but the “shared values” – i.e., the fetid bromides of conventional wisdom – are worth decoding, too: “Education of our children” means more spending on an abusive and wasteful unionized educrat monopoly; “growth of our economy” means more spending on stimulus funding for community-organizer grant applications; “how we defend our country” means more spending on defense welfare for wealthy allies; “our security and civil liberties” means more spending on legions of crack TSA crotch fondlers; “how we respect our seniors” means more spending on entitlements for an ever more dependent citizenry whose sense of entitlement endures long after the entitlement has ceased to make any sense.

Nancy Pelosi fleshed out the Obama plan: More spending. More more. Now and forever. That’s what S&P understands. The road to hell is paved with stimulus funding.

The world has started to listen to what Obama is telling us. In that respect, let me make a single prediction for 2023 – that by then the dollar will no longer be the global reserve currency. Forty years ago, Treasury Secretary John Connally told Europe that the dollar is “our currency but your problem.” The rest of the world is now inverting the proposition: The dollar is our problem but, in the end, it’s your currency, not ours. In Beijing, in Delhi, in Riyadh, in Rio, the rest of the planet is moving relentlessly toward a post-dollar regime.

What will America look like without the dollar as global currency? My old boss Conrad Black recently characterized what’s happened over the past half-century as a synchronized group devaluation by Western currencies. That’s a useful way of looking at it. What obscured it was the dollar’s global role. When the dollar’s role is ended, the reality of a comatose “superpower” living off a fifth of a billion in borrowed dollars every single hour of the day is harder to obscure.

In the absence of responsible American leadership, the most important decisions about your future will be made by foreigners for whom fatuous jingles about “shared values” have less resonance. If you don’t want the certainty of a poorer, more decrepit, more diseased, more violent America, you need to demand your politicians act now – or there won’t be a 2023.

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Uncharitable – Andrew C. McCarthy

“In the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation,” President Obama claimed during his 2009 Cairo speech. “That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.”

This statement contained two falsehoods. One, as I’ve previously detailed, was obvious: There are, in fact, no American laws or rules that make it harder for Muslims to give to charity. What we have are laws against material support of terrorism – against using devices like charitable fronts to channel money to jihadists.

Those laws are not directed at Muslims. They apply to everyone but are applied most often to Muslims, because Muslims carry out most anti-American terrorism.

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Academic Rot – Walter Williams

The average American, as parent, student and taxpayer, has little idea of the academic rot at so many of our colleges. Save for a tiny handful of the nation’s colleges, what distinguishes one college from another is the magnitude of that rot.

One of the best sources of information about our colleges is the New York City-based Manhattan Institute’s quarterly Web magazine, Minding the Campus, edited by John Leo, former columnist for U.S. News & World Report.

The magazine’s Winter 2010 edition contains an article by Dr. Candace de Russy, former member of the board of trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY), titled “Hate-America Sociology.”

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Reagan Democrats: ‘Tea Baggers’ Or MSNBC Viewers? – Ann Coulter

Among the most preposterous claims being made on MSNBC about the fight over public sector unions in Wisconsin is that Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans are losing “Reagan Democrats” by taking on government employees.

The theory seems to have been concocted by Howard Fineman, editor at The Huffington Post, who said, back in February on Lawrence O’Donnell’s “The Last Word,” that the “whole idea of a Reagan Democrat” was that union families were voting for Reagan. But today, according to Fineman, they are shifting against Republicans because of Walker’s tough line on government unions. “That’s got to scare Republican strategists nationally,” he said.

Private sector unions are as similar to public sector unions as they are to gay civil unions.

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The Unhappy President – Jonah Goldberg

he president has always had a gift for self-pity.

The Oval Office, I always thought I was going to have really cool phones and stuff… I’m like, “C’mon guys, I’m the president of the United States. Where’s the fancy buttons and stuff and the big screen comes up?” It doesn’t happen. – Pres. Barack H. Obama

The list of people I feel sorry for is long. It includes not just all of the people I know personally who are suffering from one misfortune or another, but the billions around the world who’re having a rougher time than they ought: Japanese earthquake victims, targets of ethnic cleansing, etc. Then there’s the supplemental list, which includes everyone from fans of Lost who were ripped off by the series finale to the guy in the middle seat on a long flight.

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Donald Trump’s Eminent-Domain Empire – Michelle Malkin

Don’t be fooled by The Donald. Take it from one who knows: I’m a South Jersey gal who was raised on the outskirts of Atlantic City in the looming shadow of Trump’s towers. All through my childhood, casino developers and government bureaucrats joined hands, raised taxes and made dazzling promises of urban renewal. Then we wised up to the eminent-domain thievery championed by our hometown faux free-marketeers.

America, it’s time you wised up to Donald Trump’s property redistribution racket, too.

Trump has been wooing conservative activists for months and flirting with a GOP presidential run – first at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington and most recently at a tea party event in South Florida.

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Bull About Bullying – Thomas Sowell

There is a lot of talk from many people about bullying in school. The problem is that it is all talk. There is no sign that anybody is going to do anything that is likely to reduce bullying.

When politicians want to do nothing and yet look like they are doing something, they appoint a blue-ribbon committee or go to the U.N. or assign some cabinet member to look into the problem and report back to the president – hoping that the issue will be forgotten by the time he reports back.

When educators are going to do nothing, they express great concern and make pious public pronouncements. They may even hold conferences, write op-ed pieces, or declare a “no tolerance” policy. But they are still not going to do anything that is likely to stop bullying.

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Daily Benefactor Columnists – Hope, Change, And ‘Invest’ (Ann Coulter) – More Op-Eds

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Hope, Change, And ‘Invest’ – Ann Coulter

I missed the middle section of Obama’s State of the Union address when I took a break to read “War and Peace,” but I gather he never got around to what I was hoping he’d say, which is: “What was I thinking?”

The national debt is $14 trillion, the Democrats won’t stop spending, and President Nero gave us a long gaseous speech about his Stradivarius.

I feel so Southern whenever I watch a Democrat give a State of the Union address – and not just because it makes me want to secede. Consternating the rest of the family, my Kentucky mother always talked back to the TV. I do it only when a Democrat is giving a speech.

And if liberals didn’t like Samuel Alito mouthing the words “not true,” they should be really happy I wasn’t in the House chamber Tuesday night.

All I kept hearing was, “Ann pays more.” That’s all I ever I hear when Democrats start in with all that “investing.”

Apparently the government will be “investing” in education, “investing” in technology, “investing” in roads and “investing” in lots and lots of government workers. Ann pays more, Ann pays more, Ann pays more.

Obama compared “investing” in education to our sending a man to the moon after the Russians launched Sputnik. Say, who was the president who recently gutted spending on NASA? Oh yes, that was Obama.

So he reminded us of the glory days of the space program, but now he’s taking that money and funneling it to public school teachers. As the Democrats say: “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we hire another 10,000 public school teachers?”

Also, solar panels. Obama said the government was already “investing” in solar panels! That’s a total relief. This must be how the president who brought us “Recovery Summer” is going to dig us out of the second Great Depression.

But I do wonder why no private lender considered solar panels a wise investment, forcing solar panel manufacturers to turn to the government for loans, followed by endless tax credits just to break even.

I guess people who work for the government are just smarter. We’re so lucky to have them “investing” our money for us! Boy, egg must be on Warren Buffett’s face!

Remember how massive government “investments” gave rise to the telephone, the light bulb, the automobile, the airplane, the personal computer… OK, none of those.

But massive government expenditures did give us Amtrak and the TSA!

The only thing Obama vowed to cut were “earmarks.” Yippee! The guy with the ears is against earmarks. Yes, the same president who quadrupled our deficit by giving money away to his UAW pals, Wall Street cronies and government workers is now lecturing us about earmarks. This is a bit like being scolded by Charlie Sheen for ordering a second wine cooler.

You knew it was bad when John McCain leapt up and enthusiastically applauded. The last time I saw McCain applaud Obama like that was when he debated him.

Obama said, “We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook.”

And then the government outlawed Edison’s great invention, made the Wright brothers’ air travel insufferable, filed anti-trust charges against Microsoft and made cars too expensive to drive by prohibiting oil exploration, and right now – at this very minute – is desperately trying to regulate the Internet.

On the bright side, President Al Gore would have actually outlawed the cars in those driveways.

I especially enjoyed his pitch for high-speed trains where you “don’t have to receive pat-downs.” At least until one of those Muslims who is “part of our American family” blows one up – at which point they’ll be staffed with armies of genital-fondling, unionized TSA agents on the public dime.

Still, I can’t wait for Obama’s America. An America where I can use lightning-fast, high-speed Internet to file electronically for my unemployment benefits. Or better yet, I can ditch my old “oil-powered” car and take a “sunlight and water”-powered high-speed train to the unemployment office for a change.

And I hear CalTech is working on biofuels to power “Recovery Summer 2011.”

The big laugh line was when Nero said mockingly, “I heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about the health care law.” That’s called “60 percent of the American public.” It’s not a joke, and it’s not funny.

Here’s one: Hey, Obama! Guy walks into a bar in the Gaza Strip. The bartender says, “What’ll you have?” But the guy is killed instantly when an Iranian-made CT-28 missile strikes the bar, also killing a woman and small child next door. Get it, Obama? HA HA!

Synthesizing Karl Marx and Ronald Reagan, Obama said the government will soon be taking over every aspect of our lives, and Republicans can’t stop him – but gosh, isn’t America a great country! Teachers are great, we need to innovate, children are our future, we need paved roads, kids should do their homework, Labrador puppies are cute, I like apple pie, I (heart) Justin Bieber, and how about them Yankees! Now, here’s your 2011 tax bill – how would you like to pay for that?

Actually, I was glad to hear him say that “there isn’t a person here” – which presumably included Democrats – who would live anyplace else.

Then why are they always trying to turn us into Western Europe?

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Oh No, Not Another Unbiased BBC Documentary About ‘Climate Change’… – James Delingpole

The new president of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse has been crowing to the Guardian’s environment pages about how he bested me in a documentary for the BBC on Climate Change. This isn’t how I remember it.

Nurse came to interview me at my home last summer, ostensibly – so his producer assured me – as a disinterested seeker-after-truth on a mission to discover why the public is losing its faith in scientists. “Not scientists,” I replied. “Just ‘climate scientists.'” But as is clear from the Horizon documentary Nurse had already made up his mind.

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My State Of The Union Address – John Stossel

President Obama fulfilled his constitutional duty and gave his report on the state of the union last night. Here’s mine: We’re in deep trouble. You know why. Our debt has passed $14 trillion, and yet our current spending plans will make that worse. The U.S. debt will reach Greek levels in just 10 years.

But do not despair. If we make reasonable cuts to what government spends, our economy can grow us out of our debt. Cutting doesn’t just make economic sense, it is also the moral thing to do.

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The ‘HealthStat’ Seduction – Jonah Goldberg

If professional writing were the guild it often appears to be, Atul Gawande would be a scab. A surgeon and professor, Gawande also writes beautifully for The New Yorker about health care. His latest article, “The Hot Spotters,” focuses on what Gawande claims is a revolutionary approach to health care.

In Camden, N.J. – hardly a garden spot in the Garden State – just 1 percent of the people who used the city’s medical facilities accounted for 30 percent of the costs. One patient had 324 hospital admissions in five years. Another single-handedly cost insurers $3.5 million.

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Can Our Nation Be Saved? – Walter Williams

National debt is over $14 trillion, the federal budget deficit is $1.4 trillion and, depending on whose estimates are used, the unfunded liability or indebtedness of the federal government (mostly in the form of obligations for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and prescription drugs) is estimated to be between $60 and $100 trillion.

Those entitlements along with others account for nearly 60 percent of federal spending. They are what Congress calls mandatory or non-discretionary spending. Then there’s discretionary spending, half of which is for national defense.

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Cash For Education Clunkers – Michelle Malkin

“We’re going to have to out-educate other countries,” President Obama urged this week. How? By out-spending them, of course! It’s the same old quack cure for America’s fat and failing government-run schools monopoly. The one-trick ponies at the White House call their academic improvement agenda “targeted investing” for “winning the future.”

Truth in advertising: Get ready to fork over more Cash for Education Clunkers. Our government already spends more per capita on education than any other of the 34 wealthiest countries in the world except for Switzerland, according to recent analysis of data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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New Heroes Vs. Old – Thomas Sowell

When I mention that my family used kerosene lamps when I was a small child in the South during the 1930s, that is usually taken as a sign of our poverty, though I never thought of us as poor at the time.

What is ironic is that kerosene lamps were a luxury of the rich in the 19th century, before John D. Rockefeller came along. With the high price of kerosene at that time, an ordinary working man could not afford to stay up at night, burning this expensive fuel for hours at a time.

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