Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Foreign Policy, Military, National Security, Progressivism, Russia, The Constitution, The United States
The United States is sending ground troops to Poland, the Polish defense minister says after meeting with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. But not to worry, this is not a major escalation. Supposedly they are sending a company, about 150 soldiers, for exercises with the Polish military for a short stay, or something like that.
The Ukrainians asked for military aid, we denied them weapons, but sent MREs and military style socks, and reportedly helmets as well. They were trucked into Ukraine as it was thought a military cargo plane might be too provocative.
President Putin, on the other hand has something like 40,000 troops massed on the Ukrainian border, but says they are just there as a precaution since there is so much unrest in the Ukraine. The officers above the rank of Major in the Ukrainian military all came up through the Russian military, and they aren’t going to fight Russians.
The Russian President denies that the militants in the Ukraine have anything to do with Russia, and he is quite helpless to stop them. Although the pro-Russian activists seem to have had military training, their weapons and equipment are all Russian, and their use of tear gas and stun grenades is inconsistent with a spontaneous local militia. Last Thursday Mr. Putin referred to Ukraine as part of “New Russia.” Even when Mr. Putin openly declares his goal, Mr. Obama prefers to ignore it. The Wall Street Journal said:
The larger problem is that Mr. Obama can’t seem to admit that his assumptions about the world are being repudiated by the week. He came to office believing his own campaign rhetoric that the U.S. was unpopular mainly because of President George W. Bush. He would end these misunderstandings through diplomatic engagement, especially with our adversaries, who would respond in kind to our good will and moral example. Nowhere in the world has that happened.
Diplomacy in Geneva has come up with about what one would expect. After seven hours of negotiations they agreed that “all parties including separatists and their Russian backer, would stop violent and provocative acts, and all illegal groups would be disarmed. A joint statement made no presence of what the U.S. has said are 40,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders. Kerry said that Russia is “absolutely prepared to begin to respond with respect to troops,” provided the agreement is observed.
The U.S. has sent 12 F-16 fighters and 200 support personnel to Poland. NATO’s secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the alliance would fly more air patrols over the Baltic region and allied ships would deploy to the Baltic.
Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said the United States, having announced a “pivot” to Asia, needs to “re–pivot” to Europe, and European countries that have cut back on defense spending need to reverse the trend.
The idea until recently was that there were no more threats in Europe and no need for a U.S. presence in Europe any more. Events show that what is needed is a re-pivot, and that Europe was safe and secure because America was in Europe.
According to the New York Times, Mr. Obama has concluded that he will never have a constructive relationship with Mr. Putin. As a result he will spend his final two and a half years in office trying to minimize the disruption Mr. Putin can cause, and otherwise turn to other foreign policy area where progress remains possible.
The White House is preparing to nominate John Fl Tefft, a career diplomat who previously served as ambassador to Ukraine , Georgia and Lithuania. Administration officials were leery of sending Mr. Tefft because of concern that his experience in former Soviet republics that have flouted Moscow’s influence would irritate Russia.
Obama is less concerned with irritating Russia now, and is reportedly pivoting to the George F. Kennan strategy of containment.
The more hawkish faction in the State and Defense Departments has grown increasingly frustrated, privately worrying that Mr. Obama has come across as weak and unintentionally sent the message that he has written off Crimea after Russia’s annexation. They have pressed for faster and more expansive sanctions, only to wait while memos sit in the White House without action. Mr. Obama has not even imposed sanctions on a list of Russian human rights violators waiting for approval since last winter.
Mr. Obama says that Ukraine is not a major concern for Americans. He has concentrated his public schedule around “important” issues like job training and the minimum wage. Since Mr. Putin is not interested in a partnership, Mr. Obama is not interested in the Ukraine or Russia. But then, he’s not much interested in foreign policy at all—though it’s the major part of his job description.
David P. Goldman, writing as “Spengler” says Americans are playing Monopoly, Russians are playing chess. Ukraine is a basket case with a per capita income a tenth of that of the European Community. They are deeply in debt to the Russians and dependent on Russian energy. Putin will let the West take charge of the Ukrainian disaster until it festers, and then pick and choose what he wants. And what he wants is a “new Russia.”
Filed under: Foreign Policy, History, Russia, The United States | Tags: Crisis in Ukraine, Russia's Vladimir Putin, Russian Militants
This was not Ukrainian government’s doing, but the source is unknown. The Ukrainian government is trying to find the source.
Pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Jews emerging from a synagogue there were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee — “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” according to Ynet News, Israels largest news website.
The leaflet was written in Russian and had Russia’s two-headed eagle on it, and distributed by masked men outside the Donetsk synagogue after Passover prayers. the region is home to about 17,000 Jews. It was signed by Denis Pushilin, as chairman of Donetsk’s temporary government. Pushilin has reportedly denied responsibility for them. The leaflets are not any official order, but they weren’t just scrawled on a sign either.
Ugly. The White House should respond in the harshest terms. The president said “there will be consequences,” and went on to claim another million for ObamaCare.
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Health Care, Law, Regulation, Taxes, The United States | Tags: Cause and Effect, The Great Regulation, The Weakest Recovery Ever
President Obama has liked to emphasize the depth and general awfulness of what he calls “the Great Recession”— a term that pleases him because it associates his recession with Franklin Roosevelt’s Great Depression. Roosevelt cheerfully tried to tackle the Great Depression with constant experimentation. Obama has confronted his recession with regulation without end, in the unfortunate delusion that more control would fix things.
Washington set a new record in 2013 by issuing final rules taking up 26,417 pages in the Federal Register. The rules came from various agencies, but Obama remains at the helm and leadership matters. By sheer numbers, President Obama stands at the pinnacle for numbers of rules. The federal Register contained 3,659 “final” rules (which mean you have to obey them), and 2,594 proposed rules on their way to join the others.
Neither politicians nor the media regard this effort to control as anything out of the ordinary, nor important. Yet if you wonder why the recovery has been so far below average —there it is. The bulk of this year’s regulation comes from ObamaCare—a 2,700 page law that has metastasized into a 7 foot tall stack of documents, and Dodd-Frank. Things don’t get done because nobody has the authority to make them happen.
I wrote about the pressing need to protect and update our electrical grid, vital and essential to all life in America, but there is no active plan to rebuild the grid, because the government cannot make the decisions needed to approve it. The average length of environmental review for highway projects, according to a study by the Regional Plan Association, is over eight years. Eight years!
The results and costs of the legal system are not just monetary, everything is too complicated. There are rules in the workplace, rights in the classroom, and government is bogged down in bureaucracy. Responsible people do not feel free to make sensible decisions. We are pushed around by lawsuits, and unable to move for fear of punishment for barely understood regulation.
The point of regulation is to try to make things run smoothly, make sure things work in a crowded society, but rules have consequences, and not always those intended. We now have a court system where even referendums voted on by the public have been taken over by the court system in which judges now feel free to decide these matters. The objections to “judicial activism” are richly deserved, and now even judges are mistrusted.
Consider the case of a fictional Pasquale’s Pizza chain. The typical restaurant has their pizza menu on a large lighted sign behind the counter where you place your order. The federal government has decided that nutritional values for each ingredient must be listed on the menu. Impossible on the customary lighted sign. What to do? How much will it cost? The profit margin is already slim. Pizza chains have dozens of ingredients, and changing featured recipes to entice customers. ObamaCare requires a restaurant to provide health insurance for full-time workers. The cost of policies has gone up sharply. Cut back all employees to 30 hours? Female employees and male employees must work the same number of hours for the same wage.
The requirement for ethanol in gasoline has raised the cost of pizza ingredients. It has also raised the cost of transporting supplies. Requiring a portion of power to come from wind and solar has raised the cost of electricity. Fuel-efficiency regulations have raised the cost of trucking. And all that is before regulations and taxes at the local, state and national levels.
You end up with schools that make fools of themselves over zero-tolerance regulations that do nothing to prevent violence, school lunches that kids won’t eat. You have armed federal agents raiding the Gibson Guitar Company and confiscating their guitars and their materials ostensibly because the wood used for guitar frets violated and environmental law. The wood was legally imported, meeting all the standards of the country of origin, but the costs to Gibson were huge. You not only cannot fight city hall, but you must surrender even though you are in the right, just to avoid further financial damage. There is case after case of people subjected to an armed SWAT raid, accused of violating a regulation they’ve never heard of, and ruined financially.
What business is going to take a big risk, invest a lot of money in a new venture, expanding, hiring new workers in such a climate? There is risk in everything we do. Trying to legislate risk out of our lives just leaves us with rules that keep people hunkered down, trying to avoid bureaucratic attention. In this climate, politicians cannot even get the big things done, let alone attempting to undo the web of regulation that is crippling society.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Foreign Policy, History, Military, National Security, Politics, The United States | Tags: Bill Whittle Explains, Mistreating Our Military, The Need for National Defense
We are defanging our military. What’s more, is that we are taking away their basic human rights to defend themselves, their Second Amendment rights to bear arms in their own self-defense, while asking them to volunteer to defend us. Moreover, we are choosing time and time again to deny them the mental health and veterans’ benefits, while giving more money to entitlements for other communities. Meanwhile, shootings on bases have occurred now multiple times, and 22 people in our armed services commit suicide daily. This is unacceptable–hear why in this Afterburner with Bill Whittle.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Islam, National Security, Politics, Progressivism, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: The Nation's Electric Grid, The Need for National Defense, Thwarting Terrorist Attacks
Today is the day of the Boston Marathon, and the terror and the victims of last year’s bombing are being solemnly remembered. Oddly enough, the terrorists—Chechnyan radicals allied with al Qaeda—are not mentioned. We seem to have a strange reluctance to say the word terrorism or terrorists in this country.
The massacre at Fort Hood is still classified as “workplace violence,” we have the TSA at the airports to check into a long list of supposedly dangerous things and to abuse old ladies and small children, but they may not “racially profile” nor mention the fact that their job is to search for potential terrorists. Journalists fall all over themselves to avoid the use of the word terrorism, the federal government simply does not acknowledge such events nor the intent of the perpetrators.
What’s the deal? Is terrorism to be considered just an aberration of the warmongers George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and only mildly unpleasant things occasionally happen during the Obama administration, which never ever overreacts? Relegated to the old-news department.
Did you know that last April 16, the day after the Boston bombing, a group of terrorists attacked the Metcalf transmission substation, just outside of San Jose, in a military action aimed at disabling a part of America’s electrical infrastructure? The operation began at 1:00 a.m., when the attackers cut underground fiber optic cables, disabling communications and security systems. Thirty minutes later using high-powered rifles, they began a 20 minute assault on the substation’s extra-large transformer and the the cooling system that supports it. Police arrived at 1:50, but the shooters disappeared into the night. There has been no trace of them.
The political response to the attack ranged from an immediate dismissal by the FBI of the idea that it was a terrorist act—to recognition by a bipartisan but small group of U.S. Senators and Representatives that defending America’s electrical grid is an urgent priority. Although there are over 100,000 transformers of all sizes throughout the grid, the destruction of less than two dozen key large transformers—which weigh hundreds of tons, are transported on special rail cars, and are mostly produced in Korea—would cause a catastrophic failure that would blackout the United States. Such is the vulnerability of the system.
This was a professional operation by skilled marksmen—two to six gunmen— trained in reconnaissance, stealth and evasion, and with careful planning. The damage forced electricity to be rerouted to maintain the integrity of power transmission to Silicon Valley, and repairs took several months. One would think the politically connected in Silicon Valley might want to do some serious lobbying about protection of the grid.
We have heard about the potential of an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack—a nuclear explosion in the high atmosphere, which would create a pulse that destroys electrical wiring and hardware across the affected area. This phenomenon has been well understood since the 1960s. It has recently been discovered that a massive solar storm could cause similar damage, but possibly less extensive. Those who think through the potential devastating consequences of failing to defend our sophisticated electrical grid might well wonder why the government is spending billions on frivolous projects but pays no attention to America’s physical vulnerability.
Do read the whole thing. This is a serious matter. The author, Brian Kennedy is president of the Claremont Institute, and the article is adapted from his speech at Hillsdale College, and reprinted in Imprimis, the monthly free publication from Hillsdale (sign up here).
Brian Kennedy outlines practical steps to be taken, and what we are currently doing to solve our vulnerability. (Not much). The attack on the Metcalf transmission substation was brushed aside by the media by the Boston Marathon bombing, and the extended search for the Tsarnaev brother perpetrators.
We really can’t depend on the media any more to keep Americans informed. But we also need to stop fooling ourselves and stop acceding to administration attempts to downplay anything that might interfere with the Obama administration’s efforts to avoid any negative publicity.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Foreign Policy, Iran, National Security, Russia, The United States
The White House on Monday said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Russia is stirring the unrest in eastern Ukraine, but President Obama hasn’t yet decided if further sanctions are warranted. …[T]he juxtaposition is a perfect summary of the current state of U.S. foreign policy.
Vladimir Putin uses Russian special forces to cow a neighbor and steal territory , while Mr. Obama agonizes about what to do.
That was the Wall Street Journal. The White House dithers about what response they may choose. The U.S. has refused to send Ukraine military aid, but offered MRIs, and military type socks.
The Journal adds “We know Mr. Obama didn’t run for President to engage in great power politics, but it is still part of the job description. Is he still interested in doing his job?
In the Weekly Standard, Ruel Marc Gerecht asks:
Is Barack Obama’s threat of preventive military action against the Iranian regime’s nuclear program credible? Would a one-year, six-month, or even three-month nuclear breakout capacity at the known nuclear sites be acceptable to him? Is he prepared to attack if Tehran denies the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, entry into undeclared facilities that may be hiding nuclear-weapons research or centrifuge production? Is he prepared to strike if the regime denies inspectors access to the personnel and documents that would allow the West to see whether—how much—the regime has been lying about weaponization?
Again in the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol:
The Obama administration has scheduled a deputies committee meeting this week—tentatively set for Tuesday—to resolve a bitter inter-agency dispute over a request from Russia with respect to the Open Skies program. Informed sources believe the White House is likely to side with the State Department, which wants to accommodate Russia, over the objections of the Obama administration’s Defense Department and intelligence agencies.
The Open Skies treaty allows the United States and Russia to fly over each other’s territory with planes loaded with certain agreed-upon sensor packages, in order to ensure compliance with arms control agreements and to provide assurance against preparations for various military surprises. Russia has asked the U.S. to agree to an upgrade in the sensor package their planes can carry…The request would apparently result in a significant increase in Russian spying capabilities; the first response from Pentagon was, according to one government official close to the situation, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But the State Department has been making the case for acceding to the Russians’ demands, and the White House seems to be on State’s side. The White House has also stonewalled requests for information from the congressional intelligence committees.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Law, Politics, Progressivism, Regulation, Taxes, The United States | Tags: Lois Lerner To Be Charged, Partisan Political Treatment, The IRS Scandals
The IRS scandal is heating up again. Darrell Issa’s committee has released emails that show Democratic staffers from the House’s Government Oversight and Reform Committee communicating with the IRS about True the Vote, an anti-voter fraud organization that the Democrats wanted to suppress. It appears that Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, to whom these staffers reported, may have lied during a committee hearing when he denied that his staffers had put the IRS on the trail of True the Vote.
The emails show the Democrats calling True the Vote to the IRS’s attention and requesting records about that organization. Lois Lerner was anxious to provide for them. The staffers do consistently refer to “publicly available” information, so there is no evidence that the IRS shared confidential taxpayer information with the Democrats.
House Republicans are closing in on Lois Lerner. The Department of Justice under Eric Holder has failed to do anything about the IRS scandal, or any other scandal involving the Obama administration. It is clear that Lois Lerner has broken the law. The House is threatening to hold her in contempt. If Eric Holder refuses to act, they can, if necessary, arrest and imprison her.
There is no evidence that the IRS pursued any progressive group at any time. Documents show that Ms. Lerner actively corresponded with liberal campaign-finance groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center which had asked the IRS to investigate if conservative groups including Crossroads GPS were violating their tax-exempt status. After personally meeting with those groups, Ms. Lerner contacted the director of the Exempt Organizations Examinations Unit in Dallas to ask why Crossroads had not been audited. “You should know that we are working on a denial of the application,: Ms. Lerner wrote in an email.
The Ways and Means Committee disclosed that in January 2013, Ms. Lerner asked her staff to examine five conservative groups that the website ProPublica had called “controversial dark money groups,” including Americans for Responsible Leadership, Freedom Path, Rightchange.com, America is Not Stupid, and A Better America. Four of those groups eventually got the full IRS super-scrutiny treatment and three were audited.
It is particularly interesting that the groups that had to undergo extra examination from the IRS were those who wanted to prevent voter fraud, and those who expected to donate to Republican candidates. Democrats have been aggressive in trying to block any attempt to require photo ID to assure voters are who they say they are and entitled to vote. Kinda’ makes you thing that Democrats depend heavily on voter fraud to win elections, doesn’t it?
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Freedom, Politics, Regulation, Statism, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: Excessive Regulation, Excessive SWAT Teams, Militarization of Federal Agencies
The proliferation of federal SWAT teams is troubling. In late February four armed federal agents with a drug-sniffing dog descended on the Taos Ski Valley in what was called a “saturation patrol.” The agents were working on tips of possible drug selling and impaired driving in the ski resort’s parking lot and surrounding area. The armed agents were from the U.S. Forest Service.
Did you know that the Department of Education has SWAT teams? They can invade your home at gunpoint and hold you and your family in custody for hours. In 2011, federal “education” agents busted down the front door of Kenneth Wright’s Stockton home at 6 in the morning. Wright’s terrified children— 3, 9, and 11 were forced to sit in a patrol car for two hours, Wright was in custody for six hours.
The Education Department had a broad search warrant and seized paperwork and a personal computer. The agents, 13 from the Education Department and a couple of police officers — told him they were investigating his estranged wife’s use of federal aid for students. She didn’t even live in the house.
Are you obeying all the thousands of regulations in the Federal Register? Are you prepared for early-morning break-ins by the USDA, Railroad Retirement Board, Bureau of Land Management, Tennessee Valley Authority, Office of Personnel Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, EPA, Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Park Service, and NOAA— the folks who monitor the atmosphere and forecast the weather have 96 special agents and 28 armed enforcement officers.
An armed EPA raid in Alaska sheds light on 70 federal agencies with armed divisions. The incident that sparked the raid was last August when a team of armed federal and state officials descended on the tiny Alaska gold mining town of Chicken, Alaska — looking for possible violations of the Clean Water Act. This is not the first time the EPA has descended on citizens with a SWAT team, but it is clearly excessive. Violating the Clean Water Act indeed.
We’re getting into Fourth and Fifth Amendment territory here.
Filed under: Capitalism, Conservatism, Domestic Policy, History, Liberalism, Politics, Regulation, Statism, The Constitution, The United States | Tags: $1.7 Billion Maintainance Costs, Empty and Abandoned Buildings, Federal Government Property
“The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate, but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists.”
A Google search suggests that most articles have picked up on a 77,000 number, as the number of empty or underutilized buildings owned by the federal government—as a proxy for you and me. The “federal government” is simply the representative of us—a fact that is worth remembering.
Other numbers range from 45,000 to 100,000 and 300,000 which really points out that they have no idea how many empty, underutilized, abandoned buildings or properties there are across the whole country. Missile sites are included, as are buildings so abandoned that trees are growing through the roof. Taxpayers own them, and even when they are vacant—they are still expensive.
The Office of Management and Budget estimates that these buildings could be costing taxpayers $1.7 billion a year. Even empty, someone has to mow the lawns, keep the pipes from freezing, maintain security fences, or pay for some basic power, except when it doesn’t. The only known centralized database that the government has is the inventory maintained by the General Services Administration called the Federal Real Property Profile and it’s not reliable.
Doing something with these buildings is complicated—even when an agency knows it has a building it would like to sell, bureaucratic hurdles limit what they can do. No federal agency can sell anything unless it’s uncontaminated, asbestos-free and environmentally safe. Expensive fixes.
Then the agency has to make sure another agency doesn’t want it. Then state and local governments get a crack at it, then nonprofits—and finally a 25-year-old law requires the government to see if it could be used as a homeless shelter. No wonder many agencies just lock the doors and say forget it.
These publicly owned properties are managed by the federal government for the benefit of the people. There are also enormous amounts of public lands. Military bases: Fort Hood, Texas, now sadly in the news, is 340 square miles in size.
There are National Parks and National Monuments, National Forests, and land ‘managed’ by the Bureau of Land Management. Trillions of dollars worth of land. And I am undoubtedly neglecting other jurisdictions. My brief Google search made it clear that we are not alone. It is a common governmental problem. I did find one article on “how to squat in abandoned property,” (probably British) and of course, reference to the empty cities of China.
I emphasize taxpayer ownership because President Obama, for political reasons, chose to shut down what he thought of as “government land” under his purview, during the “government shutdown.” The Constitution clearly says “We the People.” Bureaucrats, far too often, forget just who is the boss. They may prefer to think of themselves as enlightened public servants. They are the hired help.
This is one reason why Republicans believe in smaller government, but they aren’t much better at property management. It’s bipartisan.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Economy, Freedom, Law, Regulation, Taxes, The United States | Tags: All is Political, Failure of Freedom, Untrustworthy Government
Victor Davis Hanson had an important column this last week on “Untruthful and Untrustworthy Government,” that digs into what distinguishes democracies from tinhorn dictatorships and totalitarian monstrosities.
It’s not just the scandals: Benghazi, the Associated Press, the NSA scandal which are troubling enough, but the doubt about the honesty of the permanent government itself. Does anyone still believe in a non-partisan and honest IRS? Our system of voluntary tax reporting rests on trust. If we can’t trust the IRS to treat us fairly, to what extent will the compliance from taxpayers cease to be honest.
Is the report from the Department of Labor statistics on employment accurate? Is inflation really as low as we are told? Nobody knows how many Americans have bought and paid for ObamaCare policies. We don’t know how many were previously uninsured. We don’t know whether we still can see our doctor and the local hospital, nor whether our medication is acceptable.
We don’t know how many foreign citizens have entered the U.S. illegally who were arrested and deported to their country of origin. ICE now counts as deportations those foreign nationals whom the Border Patrol immediately stops or turns away at the border. The Department of Homeland Security caught and then released—back into the U.S. population—68,000 aliens who had previously been convicted of a serious crime, when they could have been deported. In San Antonio, 79 percent of criminal aliens were released back into the general population in 2012. In Washington D.C. 5,558 criminal aliens were released—64 percent of the 8,688 who were apprehended.
When everything is politicized, what the agencies of the government tell the people can’t be counted on. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has factored research and development costs of business into statistics on investment growth. Is the report on Gross Domestic Product growth honest? It is a vital measure of how the economy is doing. Politically it might be useful to make it look a little better that the numbers show. The government reported an unexpectedly high 2.8 GDP growth in the numbers last year.
Is inflation really as low as we are told? They have changed the way they calculate that as well. Inflation and unemployment numbers are lower, economic growth is higher. Problems disappear behind a screen of Freedom of Information Act requests that drag on for years instead of the prompt response the law demands.
If all is political, we are indeed in deep trouble.