Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain

Saul Alinsky, Barack Obama and George Orwell

Stephanie Gutmann brings up something I’ve noticed. She starts with an Orwell quote:

“The program of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor…All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies, perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters perhaps even — so it was occasionally rumoured in some hiding place in Oceania itself.” 

1984 by George Orwell

She then says:

In the passage above, and throughout 1984 and Animal Farm, George Orwell illustrates how regimes with tentative hold over beleaguered populations deflect anger away from their own corruptions and mistakes with the deployment of a greatly embellished, even invented, external enemy.

There are many things that bug me about Barack Obama — the insane laundry list speeches, the silly rhetoric, the hostility to the free market — but these are all talked about. He has another habit that hasn’t been talked about so much and, of all the things he does, it makes me the most queasy.

It’s pretty subtle, but I think it’s worth keeping an eye on because, if it were to become full-blown, it has the potential to be the most socially damaging element of his presidency.

I’m talking about what I’m going to call his Goldstein-ism, his tendency to make veiled, dark allusions to a recently vanquished “other”, an evil being (he is never specific) who is, he always implies, the real cause of all our problems.

His references to his “inherited” problem, to bankers, greedy Wall Street and his “predecessor” are all too common, not to mention Limbaugh and Hannity.

So why this tendency to attempt to deflect criticism by blaming it on others? Well, consider the Obama march to the presidency. His entire campaign was based on how bad George Bush was and how necessary it was to replace him. Bush was Obama’s “Goldstein”. And Obama used Bush to deflect attention from his own paper thin resume and lack of experience. He managed to make Bush so bad that those things didn’t matter to most Americans who bought the characterization.

But Bush is gone now. And Obama has no specific “Goldstein” with whom he can shift blame and/or deflect attention. But Gutmann points out, he still tries to use Bush when possible. For example:

Monday was full of terrible economic news. It was another day of “unstoppable selling on Wall Street,” according to AP, a day in which Foreign Policy said ” the markets were sending an unambiguous signal that the U.S. economy is now headed in the wrong direction.” How did the administration respond?

I do not think it a coincidence that late in the day the administration “threw open the curtain on years of Bush-era secrets” as the ever in-the-tank Associated Press put it, with the release of memos “that claimed exceptional search-and-seizure powers…”

Soooo, what was in these scary-sounding memos? Midway down the article AP explains that the memos detailed possible legal rationale for tactics the Bush admin was considering using in its anti-terror program. You’d have to read further still to see that the “Bush administration eventually abandoned many of the legal conclusions.” Nevertheless, AP harrumphs, “the documents themselves [about stuff that had been discussed] had been closely held.” But who cares what the article actually said: It generated a nice headline — “Obama releases secret Bush anti-terror memos” — during a day the populace might have been thinking disloyal thoughts about the their president’s direction.

Of course this gets harder and harder for Obama to do, and besides, it’s unseemly if a president does it – that’s what minions are for. And as Bush fades, a new Goldstien is necessary. Enter Robert Gibbs, Rush Limbaugh, and others:

Jim Cramer. Rush Limbaugh. Rick Santelli.

What do they all have in common? Most likely, none of them is getting invited to the White House Christmas party.

All three media personalities have been singled out by President Obama’s press shop in the course of less than two weeks. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, in doing so, has shown an unusual willingness to spar with cable and radio hosts who take shots at his boss.

The rebuttals have ranged from playful ribbing to disdainful scolding.

One of the things we didn’t see, for the most part, was these sorts of assaults on people who weren’t the political opposition during the Bush years. And, in fact, few assaults on those that were in the political opposition. Never once was Keith Olberman or a host of others called out from the White House Press Secretary’s podium. In fact, they were mostly, if not completely ignored. But obviously the same can’t be said of the Obama White House.

It’s personal.

So, you have to ask, “why”?

Try Rule 12 from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals“:

RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

As you recall, Mr. Bi-partisan, “heal the nation” Obama did have one thing on that thin resume – he was a community organizer from the Saul Alinsky school of organizing.

And as for the attacks coming from the White House Press podium? Rule 5 covers that:

RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

After watching the man for two plus years, I’ve come to realize this is more than a tendency, it’s his modus operandi. And one should assume his administration will reflect the bosses MO when dealing with criticism. The difference is Obama has himself under pretty tight control. I’m not so sure that can be said of some others. And that’s where Rule 6 comes in:

RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.

The danger with Rule 6 as it is now being executed gleefully by Gibbs (“There are very few days that I’ve had more fun,” Gibbs said.) is that he (and others) will overreach. They always do. And it certainly came as no surprise to me to find out Rahm Emanuel was involved in the Limbaugh attacks. So my prediction is this new and advanced “politics of personal destruction” campaign that this administration has embarked on will blow up in their face at some point.

But that doesn’t detract from Gutmann’s point about Obama’s tendency to need and rely on a “Goldstein”. I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but it seems to indicate, at least to me, a deep-seated sense of insecurity. If I had no more experience than Obama has, I might be looking for such a scape-goat myself.  Knowing that, however, damn well doesn’t make me feel better about it though.  But we shouldn’t be surprised when a Saul Alinsky trained community organizer acts like a Saul Alinsky trained community organizer, should we?

~McQ

Health Care Is Next – Will We Heed The Warnings?

As the Obama administration prepares to hold a health care summit, a reminder about involving the government too deeply in your health care decisions:

Thousands of patients with terminal cancer were dealt a blow last night after a decision was made to deny them life prolonging drugs. 

The Government’s rationing body said two drugs for advanced breast cancer and a rare form of stomach cancer were too expensive for the NHS. 

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is expected to confirm guidance in the next few weeks that will effectively ban their use. 

Note the bold term. Government rationing body. Doesn’t matter what you want or need or are even willing to pay for, does it? Denied with no recourse except to get on an airplane, fly to the US and pay for it yourself … if you can afford all of that. And what if there were no US to fall back on?

When the government owns the problem, rationing will be the result. Take a look around you and tell me what you see going on economically. What do you suppose, then, will be the case if the same sort of system exists here? How can it be any different?

And a side note about unintended consequences. If you were the CEO of the drug company that developed these drugs, would such development be a priority in the future? Right now you have the relatively free market of the US to sell such products in. And as they’re used and studied, even better drugs will result. But if that market dries up because government is unwilling to pay the price for newly and expensively developed drugs, what’s the incentive for you and your company to do so?

~McQ

[HT: Below The Beltway]

The Coming Tax On Everything

Over the past few days, I’ve been highlighting the fact that the promise of tax cuts for 95% of Americans is illusory at best. If your bottom line is net spendable income, then despite the Obama promise, you’re going to have less of it when all his plans for your income are passed into law. Or, as I’ve been pointing out, while he’ll make a big deal of the tax cut for the 95% on the one hand, he’ll be taking what he’s cut back and more with the other.

The Detroit News editorial board seems to have figured that out:

President Barack Obama’s proposed cap-and-trade system on greenhouse gas emissions is a giant economic dagger aimed at the nation’s heartland — particularly Michigan. It is a multibillion-dollar tax hike on everything that Michigan does, including making things, driving cars and burning coal.

Tell me – who is it that has been whining for years about losing manufacturing jobs to overseas competitors? Who has thumped the podium about “outsourcing”? Who has claimed to be the champion of the working man?

The same crew that wants to enact draconian taxes which will affect the very companies and jobs they claim they want to save or create. And while the companies will do all they can to pass on the cost to the consumer (thereby negating any tax cut), they will have to absorb some of the cost to stay competitive.

Doing so will drive up the cost of nearly everything and will amount to a major tax increase for American consumers.

Or companies can go to countries who don’t have cap-and-trade laws such as China and India and set up there. Of course if they do, they’ll be called “unpatriotic” and the government who forced the issue will declare them the problem.

And the net result?

The proposed tax would take effect in 2012 and has the very real potential to throw the nation back into recession, if indeed the expected recovery has arrived by then. It’s impossible to raise costs for such basics as manufacturing and energy production by more than half a trillion dollars over a decade and not have the effects felt across the economy.

Economic common sense. But you see, the 2012 effective date is a result of political calculation. If we are seen to be climbing out of the recession by 2011, most likely the Obama administration will get a second term. After that they couldn’t care less how they or their policies are viewed. And it is far enough from 2016 that they think it may be politically survivable for the Democrats.

However it also means that if the GOP starts hammering on this now and making the same sense the Detroit News editorial board is making, there’s a chance they can use it as an issue to try to recapture power. That assumes, of course, they have the smarts and the spine to stand up, make the consequences known and ensure they frame the argument instead of letting the Democrats spin it away.

How likely is that?

Oh, and just for the record:

A similar program in Europe hasn’t worked. European automakers complained about carbon dioxide limits the European Union proposed in 2007 as damaging to the economy.

Ya think?

~McQ

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs …

Or not.

What is something you probably shouldn’t do if you want to see an industry “save or create” jobs?  

Increase their costs?

U.S. oil and natural gas producing companies should not receive federal subsidies in the form of tax breaks because their businesses contribute to global warming, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Congress on Wednesday.

It was one of the sharpest attacks yet on the oil and gas industry by a top Obama administration official, reinforcing the White House stance that new U.S. energy policy will focus on promoting renewable energy sources like wind and solar power and rely less on traditional fossil fuels like oil as America tackles climate change. 

Got that? They shouldn’t get tax breaks because they “contribute to global warming”. Freakin’ incredible. An ideological reason given to deny tax breaks. Here’s government again picking winners and losers.

The Obama administration’s budget would levy an excise tax on oil and natural gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico, raising $5.3 billion in revenue from 2011 to 2019.

And in a time of financial crisis, that cost will be passed on to whom?

Obama’s budget would also place a $4 per acre annual fee on energy leases in the Gulf that are designated as nonproducing. The budget proposal projects the fee would generate $1.2 billion from 2010 to 2019.

Of course, they’re talking millions of acres out there. As Sen. Cornyn points out, it won’t be the ExxonMobile’s or the Chevrons which will be hurt by this:

Senator John Cornyn of Texas criticized the tax increases, saying they would hurt independent energy companies that provide a large share of U.S. oil and gas supplies.

“My view is that higher taxes on small and independent producers here in America will make us more dependent on imported oil and gas while we transition to cleaner energy alternatives, a goal we all share,” said Cornyn. “And it will also hurt job retention and job creation in the energy sector, which provides an awful lot of jobs in this country.”

Pure brilliance.

Yup – it’s all about “saving or creating” jobs – if government approves.

~McQ

When “Waste” Isn’t Waste

When it comes to military procurement, President Obama says:

“I reject the false choice between securing this nation and wasting billions of taxpayer dollars,” Obama said on a day when he signed a presidential memorandum reforming the contracting system across the entire government.

But when it comes to a spending bill with 9,000 earmarks?

*crickets chirping*

Democratic Senator Evan Bayh calls it what it is – wasteful spending.

Where’s the presidential leadership on this?  If there’s waste in the procurement system and that’s a target, why isn’t waste in the spending bill also a target?

Petard. One Each. Hoist When Ready …

Do you like the thought of “pollution free power?”

Yeah, me too. That’s why I like nuclear power and processing the waste as France does (yeah, yeah, even a blind pig finds an acorn, ok?).

But I also want my “pollution free power” to do two things – be consistent in its output and not kill thousands of bats and birds.

Heh … yes friends the latest obstacle the “wind power” advocates have to overcome are -wait for it- environmental activists.

Wind-energy programs in New York – including a developer’s plan to build the city’s first wind farm at Staten Island’s mothballed Fresh Kills landfill – are tied up in red tape because their projects will endanger bats, birds and other wildlife, The Post has learned.

The nocturnal flying mammals are getting slaughtered because they have a strange habit of flying into the blades of wind turbines during the warm spring and summer months, operators and wildlife advocates said.

“An energy source simply cannot be ‘green’ if it kills thousands upon thousands of bats,” said Bat Conservation International.

Moonbat Dream Killers

Moonbat Dream Killers

Uh, no, it can’t. So, if fish can hold up dams and marsh rats can hold up developments, certainly the lives of “thousands upon thousands” of bats are worthy of saving.  We have to stop this unmitigated slaughter by those brutish wind turbines. – I mean if everyone is going to be consistent about all of this.

[As an aside, can you think of better spokes person for the Bat Conservation International than Gotham’s favorite bat?]

Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro blasted a city Parks Department report that raised objections about the proposed Fresh Kills wind farm. The study warned of “significant adverse impact to birds and bats.”

Molinaro said the city study even complained the 460-foot turbines would impact insects.

“Can you imagine that? They’re worried the turbines would kill too many mosquitoes,” he fumed. “We want to kill mosquitoes! The city spends lots of money each year to kill mosquitoes because they carry the West Nile virus.”

Er, Mr. Molinaro, can you guess what bats and birds feed on? In fact the bats ingest about 600 mosquitoes an hour.

There are those who say bats and windmills can coexist:

He conducted a study that found that lowering the speed of wind turbines or shutting them down during “low-wind” nights reduced bat fatalities by 82 percent at a Pennsylvania facility.

Shutting them down, eh? You sure generate a lot of power when they’re in that state don’t you?

But the bats, and activists, are happy.

The point? Getting solar and wind power on-line isn’t going to be any easier than any other power source the environmentalists take a dislike too. If you think, for instance that the enviros are going to let someone carpet the Mojave Desert with solar panels, you’d probably believe that Tim Geithner made a “mistake” on his taxes.

And even if you can get past the enviros and their law suits every step of the way, there are right of ways to attempt to purchase, permits, regulations, etc all of which have to be met and/or accomplished before the first kilowatt of power courses from any of these facilities (providing its a windy day and the bats are asleep). Anyone who thinks this is a quick and easy process on the road to pollution free energy independence just hasn’t been paying attention.

~McQ

Quote Of The Day

Who said:

“Over the next several months the President will propose a series of legislative and enforcement measures to reduce such U.S. tax evasion and avoidance.”

Why that would be tax cheat and now Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Heck, if they could just get half the Democrats in the administration to pay their taxes, they could probably put a big dent in the deficit.

Brits Not Happy With Obama’s Treatment Of Brown

And I have to wonder, given some of the comments, whether this isn’t an indication of his overall disinterest in foreign affairs.

Anyway, a raft of British writers are not happy with Obama’s treatment of them or of British PM Gordon Brown.  Some samples:

Tim Shipman, Telegraph:

A Washington Post colleague just called me and said that the White House press corps cannot think of a single previous occasion when a British Prime Minister was treated in this way.

British Embassy staff, irritated themselves, had to twist Robert Gibbs’ arm to get even two questions per side in a quick oval office doorstep.

Alex Massie, Spectator:

Indeed, for a President who wants to “renew” America’s relationship with the rest of the world, Obama is strikingly reluctant to actually, you know, speak to the rest of the world.

Benedict Brogan, Mail:

If Downing Street was expecting the kind of love-in that marked the first Blair-Clinton gala at the White House or the Blair-Bush Colgate and video moment at Camp David, this new administration has proved it wrong. There never was going to be a press conference, despite what No10 said. And there is no couple time planned. No Stevie Wonder, no Meet the Parents, no burgers.

Daniel Hannon, Telegraph, combines a couple of shots:

Incidentally, did you notice that the president silkily downgraded us? Britain, he said, was “one of our closest and strongest allies”. Well, fair enough. US Presidents have to be sparing with their superlatives lest they irk the Canadians or the Israelis or some other favoured people. Still, Dubya never had any problem with describing the United Kingdom as “our closest friend and strongest ally,” adding, on the day Baghdad fell: “America has no finer ally than Great Britain”.

Some will see Obama’s vocabulary as a calculated snub. The forty-fourth president, they will say, has never been keen on Britain. He’s resentful about the way our colonial officers treated his Kenyan grandfather. He was dismissive of us in his autobiography. But I think there is a simpler explanation: he just doesn’t think much of our Prime Minister. Neither do we, Mr President; neither do we.

One of the first things Obama did on taking office was send a Winston Churchill bust, given by the British to President Bush, back to the British. And now this bit of embarrassment.

I’m sure this will be remembered when the Obama administration asks the Brits, our most solid ally and contributor of troops in Afghanistan, to up their commitment.

Iain Martin of the Telegraph sums that sentiment up best:

We get the point, sunshine: we’re just one of many allies and you want fancy new friends. Well, the next time you need something doing, something which impinges on your national security, then try calling the French, or the Japanese, or best of all the Germans. The French will be able to offer you first rate support from their catering corps but beyond that you’ll be on your own.

When it comes to men, munitions and commitment you’ll soon find out why it pays to at least treat the Brits with some manners.

Ceremony and press availability are expected parts of these sorts of events. And precedent is very important as well. Any deviation which makes the event less than the last one is seen as a diplomatic snub. Diplomatic snubs are not well received and payback is indeed always calculated.

Much of what you’ll read is press hacks whining about not getting the expected and anticipated access. But they do have a point as Tim Shipman describes. True or not, these are now the leading meme’s emerging in the wake of yesterday’s decidedly fumbled diplomatic event:

Why does this matter? Three reasons:

– Major British hack involvement in a full blown press conference has always been regarded as useful by the White House press corps. We ask different questions from them, usually more aggressively and get answers they could not. There were several spiky and revealing moments between President Bush and the BBC political editor Nick Robinson. It is bizarre that Mr Obama is less willing to answer questions than Mr Bush. It reflects very poorly on his tendency towards control freakery, which has been in evidence since his campaign.

– It’s discourteous to Mr Brown, who was desperate for his big moment with the podiums. On his two set piece trips to see Bush there were proper pressers at Camp David and then in the Rose Garden. Why gratify him with the first European trip and then snub his big PR moment? There will be no private relaxation time for Mr Brown with Mr Obama, a given on previous prime ministerial trips. I know he’s busy but it shows that he is not really that interested, as my sources were telling me last week.

– Obama has been running scared of the international media and the British press in particular since the start of his campaign. He didn’t give a single interview to a British outlet even when he was in the UK. This is very unusual, particularly from a man who so desperately wants to be loved on the world stage. We know we’re not special, given Obama’s general contempt for beat reporters (as opposed to his schmoozing with editors), but it is still peculiar.

We’ll see how it goes the next time Obama shows up in the UK or asks for British cooperation and help. Given this little show, however, I’d say Obama’s diplomatic skills need some sharpening. Additionally, the British press is now going to be laying in wait for an opportunity to embarrass Obama. As you can tell, this really PO’d them and he’s not going to be able to avoid them forever. For someone who so masterfully manipulated the domestic press, this is a pretty ham-handed performance. And as we’ve all come to understand, the press will get its revenge.

~McQ

About Those Tax Cuts (Update)

So, 95% are going to get a tax cut are they?  Well, that’s great.  But what the government gives on the one hand, it will find a way of taking with the other.  It needs money folks, and it will get what it needs one way or the other:

A senior Senate Democrat said Tuesday he would consider taxing U.S. workers on their employer-sponsored health insurance to help pay for extending coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

“I think that tax provision should be on the table,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who will play a major role in writing the legislation to revamp the U.S. healthcare system as promised by President Barack Obama.

“It’s too aggressive. It skews the system,” he said of the tax benefit.

Most U.S. workers with health insurance get it through their employers — 160 million of them — although recent surveys have shown that number is declining as businesses try to cope with the rapidly rising cost of insurance.

The employer-provided benefit is not taxed as income and critics say the tax break encourages workers to seek a more generous benefit package than they might want if it was taxed.

You shouldn’t be getting as “generous” a benefit as you now have, you see – government decrees it and will remedy the “problem” with a tax. You skew their cobbled together system as if it is “the” system, not your welfare, which is most important.

Result – more money out of your pocket at the Doctor’s office (as you scale back the benefit to reduce the tax) and more money out of your pocket to the government.

And you wondered what you’d spend that $13 a week windfall on didn’t you?

This may never come to pass, but understand that when it comes to taxes, the “tax cut” promised is mostly smoke and mirrors – whatever income it preserves will be gotten some other way, mark my words.  The government wants revenue and there’s only one large pool available too it.  It may not be income, per se, that’s taxed, but government will manage to find a way to get what it needs from  you in the coming years.  It has bridges to build and signs to make.

UPDATE: If you need more proof of this, here it is:

Despite President Obama’s promise that “If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increase a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime,” his new budget raises 45 percent of its revenue from energy taxes that will be paid by everyone who fills a gas tank, pays an electric bill, or buys anything that was grown, shipped, or manufactured.

Who in the world do you think will actually end up paying the “cap-and-trade” bills?  It’s the “excise tax” of the ’30s and will have the very same effect.  Read the whole article.

~McQ

The New “O”

Coming to a bridge abutment near you, uh, someday:

The Big "O"

The Big "O"

Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that the new NRA Eagle is in the shape of an “O”. Jake Tapper reports:

President Obama announced today that his administration will begin stamping an emblem on projects funded by the economic stimulus package so that people can easily recognize the effects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

All projects will be stamped with the ARRA logo (short for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and lists the recovery.gov website on the emblem.

The Blue Bird Of Happiness

The Blue Bird Of Happiness

There truly is nothing new under the sun – just uglier.

And if the new “O” hasn’t made you slightly nauseous, try the new “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery”, or TIGER logo on for size.

From Disney World To Vegas

From Disney World To Vegas

One thing you can say for these folks, from the “Office of the President Elect” to “TIGER”, they have the trite sign deficit licked.

~McQ