The Wising-Up of a Country

In such strange times as these we were heartened to read that 61 percent of America of thinks the president is a liar. Ordinarily we would find this a worrisome development, but in these extraordinary circumstances we consider it good news that the suckers are wising up.
The poll was conducted on behalf of the Fox News network, so feel free to dismiss it as just another fabrication by the vast right-wing conspiracy. There’s lately been a conspicuous lack of polling that indicates widespread trust in the president’s honesty, however, and we’re inclined to think the 61 percent figure sounds suspiciously low. Only a plurality of 37 percent of the poll’s respondents believe the president lies “most of the time,” with another 24 percent who will only go so far as to say he lies “some of the time,” and we’re left wondering what the rest could possibly be thinking.
Just off the top of our head we can recall the president assuring Americans that they if they liked their health care plans that they could keep them under Obamacare, that the average American family would save $2,500 a year on his premiums, and that all Americans would be covered. We remember a campaign promise that his health care reforms would not include an individual mandate, along with promises that no one making less than $250,000 a year would see any sort of tax increase, that the irresponsible and un-patriotic deficits of the Bush administration would be halved with four years, and that after too many years of drone strikes and interventions America’s international standing would be restored by smart diplomacy. There was that whopper on the late night comedy show about the murderous attacks on America’s consulate in Benghazi being a spontaneous reaction to some obscure YouTube video, and the whole bit about al Qaeda being on the run, the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative groups being the work of a few rogue agents in Cincinnati, and talk of the “most transparent administration ever,” and if we were inclined to spend the next several days on Google we’re sure we could come up a long list of other things that can be described as blatant lies.
Die-hard apologists for the administration could probably come up with numerous examples of the president being more or less honest, and if you count all his idle chit-chat about the weather and sleeping time they might even make a case that his lies don’t fill “most of the time,” but it’s hard to fathom how anyone could think they don’t take up at last “some of the time.” Another 20 percent allowed only that the president lies “now and then,” which seems overly generous, and 15 percent insist the president “never” lies, which seems downright worshipful and ridiculous. It’s been a couple of millennia since there was anyone on Earth who never lied, and the president clearly is not the second coming of that fellow.
The same poll shows the president’s approval rating at 42 percent with only 51 percent disapproving, so apparently there is a large number of Americans who believe he is a liar but don’t mind. We’ve even met a few earnest liberals who have offered apparently sincere explanations that the lies were told in the service of some greater good, such as foisting a health care reform law on the country that doesn’t keep any of its promises but screws things up badly enough to make an even worse single-payer system possible, and they clearly believe they are justified in telling further lies. They are acting out of deeply-felt affection for the average working American, as they explain it, and apparently the poor fellows are just stupid to handle the truth.
The latest poll shows that 39 percent of Americans haven’t yet figured out that the president lies somewhere been “most” and “some” of the time, so maybe those earnest liberals are on to something.

– Bud Norman

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Happy Equal Pay Day

Tuesday was “Equal Pay Day,” by presidential proclamation, but we did not mark the occasion an appropriate observance. By habit we try not to pay anybody for anything, and on those occasions when we find it unavoidable we seem to wind up shelling out at least as much to women as to men, so there was no opportunity to address the sexist economic inequality that the president hoped to address with the holiday. We could have baked a cake, we suppose, but at the moment we don’t know any sufficiently put-upon women in need of the gift.
Still, we enjoyed watching the president make a fool of himself with his ostentatiously designated day. The day was so designated as a way to hype the president’s signing of an executive order to address a supposed gap in the pay between women and men, as the distaff side is supposedly making only 77 centers for every dollar earned by the more brutish sex, but even the ost reliably news outlets were disinclined to play along.
That hackneyed 77 cents statistic has been thoroughly debunked, for one thing, by numerous commonsensical economists who immediately noticed that it does not take into account the typically longer years that tend to be worked by men or the other relevant factors. Worse yet, the White House’s hapless spokespeople were forced to admit as mud when even the likes of The New York Times and The Cable News Network were asking about an American Enterprise Institute study that found the White House was paying its women only 88 cents to the dollar earned by its is menfolk. The sputtering responses are priceless bits of political humor, and probably not at all what the president intended.

They could boast that least they were better than that nasty old private sector, but the stench of hypocrisy was still easily divisible. The president had earlier given a speech about how the pay gap is “not a myth, it’s math,” but underlings with the unenviable chore of answering questions couldn’t rely on such catchy turns of phrase. The same math that yields the 77 percent figure for the economy at large yields the 88 percent figure for the White House, leaving the press secretary to protest that you need to take into account all those other factors that render the 77 percent figure absurd.

All of this was impolitely acknowledged even in the mainstream news reports, where it was also noted how neatly it plays into the “Republicans’ War on Women” theme that has served the Democratic party in recent years, but we’d like to get a few more far-right kicks in. It should be noted that sexual discrimination in pay has been illegal since Mary Richards griped about it to Lou Grant on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” way back in the ’70s, and that the president’s bold executive order does little more than nibble at the edges of the statute of limitations on job-killing lawsuits. Any put-upon women in need of our cakes already have plenty of legal recourses.

– Bud Norman

Politics on the Playground

A prominent member of the House of Representatives has offered a budget proposal, and the President of the United States has publicly called it a “stink burger.”
There’s much to be said about the budget proposed by Wisconsin’s Rep. Paul Ryan, as well as the alternative put forth a few weeks back by President Barack Obama, but we’ll happily leave it all unsaid. Neither proposal has any chance of becoming law, so we find it far more interesting and worrisome that our political discourse has devolved to the point of “stink burger.”
Obama was once widely lauded as the greatest orator since Demosthenes, but surely even his most awe-struck admirers will admit that “stink burger” is not quite eloquent enough to justify that reputation. There were kids on the playground at Kistler Elementary School who could come up with more creative insults, and by the time they had graduated to Brooks Junior High and foul language they didn’t sound nearly so juvenile. We have no idea how taunting is done on the playgrounds of Honolulu’s ritzier private schools or at Columbia University and Harvard Law School, but we had hoped for something a little more high-brow. We certainly expect more of a President of the United States, as we can fondly recall a time when even a relatively low-brow Vice President could come up with something as alliterative and snappy as “nattering nabobs of negativism.”
The “stink burger” slur reportedly went over well with Obama’s audience at the University of Michigan. This does not speak well for the state of higher education, where a higher-toned sort of malicious slander once prevailed, but perhaps they were just grateful to be spared all the boring details of the budget debate. Obama also called Ryan’s budget proposal a “meanwich,” which seems to imply that he finds it parsimonious, which is almost an actual argument, and even a modern-day college student can understand why the president preferred to avoid any specifics.
Ryan’s allegedly radical right-wing proposal is rather tepid stuff, after all, at least by the standards of we actual right-wing radicals. The plan would take ten years to reach a balanced budget, must less begin to eat into $17 trillion of debt, and is mean only the sense that your parents were mean when they wouldn’t give you a pony. You’d probably get that long-awaited pony if the Obama budget proposal were passed, but it is based on the equally fanciful notion that a nation can live happily ever after on trillions of dollars of indefinitely continued debt. That’s a hard argument to make, even to a student full of empty-headed college students, and is best expressed in terms of “stink burger.”

– Bud Norman

The Write Stuff

Back in our newspaper days we watched the typesetters, inserters, many of the pressmen, and even much of the clerical staff gradually fade away from the industry, all victims of the relentless progress of automation. We were especially saddened to see the departure of the typesetters, whose painstakingly learned sleight of hand was as entertaining to watch as any of those plate-spinners who used to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, but we always reassured ourselves that a flesh-and-ink-stained-blood human being would always be required to write the stories.
Now we learn that even the all-too-human art of writing news stories can be mastered by mere machines. The Los Angeles Times has already run a story written by what is ominously called a “writer-bot,” and according to the chief technical officer of a company called Narrative Science, another ominous coinage, as much of 90 percent of all news stories will be computer-generated rather than human-written by 2030. This is after our hoped-for retirement date, but the apparent advent of the automated reporter is still a sobering enough development to make us reconsider our career path.
It seems a shame to leave so many decades of journalistic experience unused, however, so we’re thinking of getting on this computer-generated news racket. The classical economists’ answer to automation has always been that it creates a new job for every one it destroys, as people as required to design and build and maintain the machines doing the work, so we’ll simply get involved in the program-writing end of the biz. How hard can it be, after all? There’s something to do with algorithms, we’re told, and so far as we can tell that has nothing to do with Al Gore, but we’ll just get some unemployed computer geek to take care of that gobbledygook while we provide the necessary instructions. Many decades of being reprimanded by mainstream news editors have taught us all the rules of modern journalism, and it should be a relatively simple task to get a machine to obey them.
At the risk of revealing proprietary information, we’ll share with any potential investors out there a few of the stylebook entries we’ll have programmed into our machines. By following these few simple rules our computer-written copy should meet all the requirements of modern journalism.
First of all, any political story with the word “scandal” should omit any mention of the subject’s party affiliation unless he is a Republican. Any economics story bearing bad news should include the word “unexpectedly,” unless a Republican occupies the White House, in which case the words “dire” and “cataclysmic” will be added. All reports of Islamist-inspired terrorism must include a reference to the “religion of peace,” as well as some vague allusion to Israeli intransigence. Stories regarding the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative activist groups will not be written at all, but immediately replaced with the salacious details of the Kardashian clan’s most recent sexual exploits. Partial-birth abortions will described as “what opponents call partial-birth abortions,” at least until proponents can decide what to call it. All stories making reference to the Koch brothers must include the phrase “billionaire businessman, while those mentioning George Soros should use “philanthropist” and “social activist.” Crime stories must omit any mention of race or sex, unless the suspect is white and male, and just to be safe the neighborhood in which the crime occurred should also go unmentioned. Any mention of President Barack Obama should be free of any unflattering adjectives, and any accompanying photographs should be altered to include a suitably hagiographic halo effect.
There are lots more rules, as we have learned through hard experience, but that just means plenty of lucrative work for the aspiring journalistic programmer. The rules keep changing, too, depending on who’s in office, so this scam might yet get us over until the hoped-for retirement date.

– Bud Norman

Politics, Hoops, and the Politics of Hoops

March madness has descended over the globe, and we don’t mean the mess in Ukraine and the South China Sea and all over the Middle East and at the Federal Reserve Board or any of the rest of the world’s reigning insanity. We’re talking about the excitement attending the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s championship basketball tournament, a matter that is arguably of less importance but generates far more wagers and press coverage. At least the president’s priorities are in order, as he has once again found time in his presumably busy schedule to fill out his brackets.
The presidential picks have become a much-ballyhooed annual event over the past five years, and are always presented with appropriate pomp and circumstance on the almighty ESPN cable network. So far the president’s picks haven’t proved more prescient than any other office-bound amateur’s, but ESPN takes them seriously enough to have come up with some fancy “Barack-etology” graphics and a nauseatingly fawning program featuring the president himself, and the rest of the media are obliged to take note. No one ever notes that the president seems to be watching an awful lot of college basketball while the world comes apart at the seams and the economy continues to sputter, so the White House can assume with some confidence that enhancing the president’s basketball-watching regular guy image compensates for any damage to done to his reputation as a serious statesman.
Our main interest in the story was that the president did not predict our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers squad would prevail, despite their thus-far- unblemished record and number one seeding, but this did not surprise us. The ‘Shockers are lightly regarded by many experts because they play in the lightly-regarded Missouri Valley Conference rather than one of those fancy-schmantzy football-playing conferences, and their impeccable underdog credentials are offset by their undeniable political incorrectness. Our boys play in the Charles Koch Arena, named for the local half of the billionaire businessmen brothers who are the Democratic party’s favorite boogeymen, the defensive-minded coach makes his recruiting trips on corporate jets loaned by the local corporate jet-makers, another popular whipping post of the progressive movement, and the team is whole-heartedly embraced by the God-and-gun-clutching denizens of this old-fashioned town smack dab in the middle of that vexing red splotch on the electoral map. There’s no political point in the president pandering to Wichita or anywhere in Kansas except perhaps Lawrence and the more, ahem, “urban” portions of Kansas City, Kansas, so most ‘Shocker fans were not expecting his endorsement.
The president apparently prefers the Spartans of Michigan State University, which is also unsurprising. Michigan is a bluer state than Kansas, although the unions have recently been on the run there and it seems in danger of growing purple, and the Spartans are  a good team who also play in one of those fancy-schmantzy football-playing conferences. Just as the pridefully egalitarian types tend to insist on Ivy League credentials for high public office, they also tend to be downright elitist in their basketball prognasticating. While perusing the comment boards on the latest college basketball news the other day we saw a posting by a fellow we happen to know who was dismissing our beloved ‘Shockers as the equivalent of Cowley County Community College, and we found it amusing because we happen to know him as a self-professed Marxist professor of some sort at at some prestigious College Back East. He went to the University of Kansas, where James friggin’ Naismith himself once coached and Wilt Chamberlain once roamed the lanes and there are more storied basketball stories than you can bear to hear to a KU alum recount, and we think it a hoot that our friend learned both his Marxism and his basketball snobbery there.
As is our strict policy here, we offer no predictions regarding the outcome of anything. Such prudence ensures that we’ll have a better track record than the president, whose picks from the Baltics to the brackets have proved questionable, and we don’t claim his expertise in these matters. We certainly can’t say we have the spare time to devote to scouting every team in the field that the president apparently enjoys. Even so, we’ll admit to a faint hope that a politically incorrect underdog from that God-and-gun-clinging red splotch in the middle of the U.S.A. will do well.

– Bud Norman

The Sweet Taste of Freedom

If you know anyone in need of a pastry chef, we can heartily recommend the services of Bill Yosses. Although we’ve never met him nor had the opportunity to taste his work, Yosses has an excellent reputation and is obviously a most conscientious sort of pastry chef.
Yosses was previously the executive pastry chef at the White House, serving both the Bush and Obama families with his famous cookie plates and elaborate sugar sculptures, but has recently resigned in protest against administration policies. We’ve been expecting other high officials to take a similarly principled stand, given the administration’s disastrous policies on everything from the economy to education to foreign affairs, but thus far Yosses has been the only one with sufficient self-respect. He might not disagree with the rest of the nonsense emanating from the White House, but he draws the line at the First Lady’s insistence on using fruit puree and honey and agave and other fashionably healthful ingredients in his heartfelt creations, telling the press that “I don’t want to demonize cream, butter, sugar, and eggs.”
News stories about Yosses usually mention that he is openly homosexual, which strikes us as a rather extraneous detail, unless it is meant to explain the kind words the First Lady sent out after his departure, but he has an admirably old-fashioned understanding that dessert is not supposed to be good for you. Whatever liberalism Yosses’ homosexuality might have instilled in him, his steadfast defense of such bedrock values of western civilization as cream, butter, sugar, and eggs is downright Burkean to our thinking and deserving of conservative praise. The administration’s annoying nutritional authoritarianism is typical of its approach to almost everything, and is as good a point as any to draw a sugary line in the sand.

– Bud Norman

Monday Blues

The latest headlines have induced in us a severe case of nostalgia for those heady days of ’08, when hope and change and all that jazz were ascendant. Things were so much simpler then, as it was widely understood that getting rid of all that cowboy capitalism and foreign policy of the previous administration and following the simpler and kinder path of community organizing by a new and darker one would surely set things right, while the latest batch of news has brought nothing but despair and importance and complexity.
One would be hard-pressed to describe a simpler and kinder path than the one America has followed since that hopeful year, yet the resulting change doesn’t seem to have set things at all set right. The economy has not yet roared back to its pre-bubble-popping expansiveness despite the inflation of new bubbles, the world seems as dangerous a place as ever, and at best the elections of ’14 only offer less of the same.
There’s not much point in reciting the glum economic statistics, which will be made all the clearer at your next fill-up, bit it might be worth noting that the Russians are laughing at America’s efforts to counter its recent annexation of the Crimean region of Ukraine’s old borders. Pulling missile defense out of Poland and the Czech Republic and offering nuclear reductions and otherwise “re-setting” relations with Russian has somehow failed to prevent this unfortunate turn of events, any better than tossing around printed-up money to Democratic constituencies did in reviving the economy, and if except for the occasional green shoots in the economy there’s little reason for optimism out there.
We’re told that the Republicans will do well amidst the gloom and intractability of ’14, which provides some hope of a sor-of change, but there’s always a likelihood that they’ll blow that so we’re left thinking of those good days of ‘-08. It was all so simple then.

– Bud Norman

With All Due “R-S-P-E-C-T”

We long ago lost track of Dan Quayle’s whereabouts, but we hope he’s on a golf course enjoying a cocktail and a slight chuckle of sweet vindication.
For the benefit of younger readers, we should explain that Quayle served as Vice President of the United States during the late 20th Century and was best known for having once misspelled the word “potato.” The incident occurred at a public school spelling bee, where Quayle affixed an extraneous “e” to the end of the word when reading it off an incorrect card provided by the professional educators who had organized the event, and it was endlessly replayed in the news, on late night comedy shows, and in countless conversations. Ensuing widespread ridicule, much of it coming from people who would go on to spend the internet age calling one another “loosers” on astoundingly illiterate comment boards, effectively ended Quayle’s career in public life. A few apologists for Quayle argued that it could have happened to anyone whose every public utterance is being videotaped for posterity, but they could not dissuade the public from the media’s aggressively promulgated view that Quayle was the dumbest person who ever lived.
This vaguely-remembered chapter in American history was brought to mind last Thursday when President Barack Obama, once touted by the very same media as the most brilliant person who ever lived, publicly misspelled the word “respect.” The incident occurred at a White House tribute to the great soul singer Aretha Franklin when Obama made reference to her classic hit “R-S-P-E-C-T,” leaving out the same “e” that Quayle had inadvertently added to “potato.” Lexicographers will find both errors equally objectionable, although we think Obama’s is more egregious because it not only got the title of a fine soul song wrong but left out of the mnemonic notes..
Obama’s many apologists will argue that it could have happened to anyone whose every public utterance is being videotaped for posterity, and they will have a point, but there’s no need for it. The gaffe will not be endlessly replayed on the news, the late night comics won’t heap on ridicule, the internet conversationalists will concede they don’t know how to spell the word, and the president’s critics will find more substantive examples of why the president is the dumbest person who ever lived. Like the president’s numerous other comic malapropisms, ranging from the 57 states that he’d claimed to have visited to his apology to Austria for not speaking Austrian to his morbid pronunciation of “corpsman,” and other similar non-teleprompted howlers uttered with a frequency George W. Bush himself could not keep up with, this inconsequential error will be politely overlooked.
Still, the incident is worth at least briefly noting. There’s the galling double standard regarding how such gaffes are treated when made by a Democrat such as Obama rather than a Republican such as Quayle, for one thing, and this should be more widely recognized the public. That same double standard applies to the news and entertainment media coverage of far more important matters, and the public has often fallen for similar unfair accounts of who is stupid and who brilliant.
Former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was even more effectively ridiculed to the margins of public life than was Quayle, and her public prediction that Obama’s weakness would provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade the Ukraine was offered as proof as her extraordinary stupidity. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s claim that Russia was a “geo-political foe” elicited the same sort of snickers, along with the sneering conclusion that the right was still stuck in an outdated Cold War mindset that had been oh-so-jingoistic and gauche in the first place. Contrasted with sophisticated and nuanced view that all the world’s problems had been Bush’s fault and that electing a more apologetic person of a darker hue would immediately set things right, the Republicans naturally seemed quite ridiculous to an electoral majority in the past two presidential elections.
The consequences of this deception are now clear even to such formerly reliable Obama supporters as The New Republic, which has come around to warn that Obama must “respond intellectually” to Putin’s predicted incursion into Ukraine. The magazine’s criticisms are carefully phrased, but basically it argues that Obama should stop regarding Putin as an insufficiently placated potential friend and start regarding him as a geo-political foe. A headline writer at The Boston Herald goes even further, conceding that “Romney was Right.” Meanwhile, over at The New York Times, which once reacted to Obama’s habit of saying “you and I” even when “you and me” is called for by attempting to re-write the time-honored rules of grammar on his behalf, their snarkiest columnist is even making snide reference to the “R-S-P-E-C-T” blunder to launch into the bigger blunders on the world stage. When a Democratic president’s mistakes are so catastrophic that such sympathetic media are forced to acknowledge it, something is seriously awry.
Excuses will eventually be made, of course, and in the end it will all be nothing more than an opportunity remind a forgetful public how that stupid Dan Quayle once misspelled the word “potato.” Here’s hoping that somehow things work out in the Ukraine and Iran and the islands of the Pacific and the American economy and all the other places where the American public was assured of who’s stupid and who’s brilliant, but we also hope that Palin and Quayle can share a cold cocktail on a warm golf course somewhere and share that satisfying chuckle of vindication.

– Bud Norman

A Presidential Wish List

One of the non-stories we most look forward to every year is the ceremonial unveiling of President Barack Obama’s annual budget proposal. None of Obama’s budget proposals have ever won even a single vote in Congress, and this one also isn’t likely to do any damage, but it’s always instructive to see what’s on the president’s wish list.
This year’s yearnings were trotted out Tuesday at a Washington elementary school, presumably because the tykes there would be more likely to take them seriously than any adult, and they are predictably expensive. The plan calls for spending $3.9 trillion next year, adds an extra $791 billion of spending over the next ten years, and winds up ballooning the national debt from the current $17 trillion-something to a nice round $25 trillion by 2024. Just the interest payments on all that debt would amount to $812 billion a year, making the hopelessly optimistic assumption that rates don’t rise, as well as assuming Obama’s less-than-rosy prediction of 2.6 percent annual growth in the economy, and the sum far exceeds planned defense spending but will pay for the lion’s share of China’s military.
Such profligacy “enables us to meet our obligations to future generations without a mountain of debt,” the president said with a straight face. Even the most innumerate urchin at an elementary school in the District of Columbia will immediately wonder how high debt has to be pile before it is considered mountainous, but the wizened reporters at the event were mostly unfazed by the statement. The Washington Post gave the proposal a more respectful hearing, noting approvingly that it “also aims to tame the national debt by raising taxes on the rich, squeezing payments to health-care providers and overhauling immigration laws.” Politely setting aside the sorry history of soaking the rich, the unsettling likelihood that squeezing payments to health-care providers will result in less health care being provided, and the inevitable economic and social costs of overhauling immigration laws along the lines Obama would prefer, the Post preferred to spend several paragraphs on the proposal’s supposed benefits to pre-school programs and the National Institutes of Health and climate research, “much of it aimed at providing support to a struggling middle class.”
There is reason to hope that the Congress won’t be so gullible. The most weak-kneed of the Republicans won’t dare go along with such nonsense, and even the safely-seated Democrats have yet to cast for such fiscal insanity. The recent budget agreements have been disagreeable to conservative tastes, to the point that they’ve provoked a much-needed insurgency within the Republican party, but at least they’re a darned sight better than what the president is wishing for.

– Bud Norman

Enemies Foreign and Domestic

The Obama administration has offered an “open hand” to the mad mullahs running Iran, a friendly “re-set” of relations with the kleptocracy in charge in Russia, and F-16s to the Muslim Brotherhood, but warned those pesky Republicans that “If they bring a knife to a fight, we bring a gun.”
We can’t recall the last occasion when any Republican brought a knife to a political dispute, or even any rhetorical sharpness, but such an unaccountable inconsistency is a peculiar characteristic of the modern progressive movement. In the properly progressive view of things any foreign foe is merely a insufficiently placated friend, no matter how theocratic or kleptocratic or female-genital-mutilating it might be, while anyone who espouses certain ideas about balanced budgets or individual liberty or the advisability of letting Kathleen Sebelius micro-manage America’s health care system is to be regarded as a dangerous lunatic and treated accordingly. This is a common refrain of our liberal friends and fellow bar patrons, who will wax poetic about the sincere religious convictions and ancient cultural authenticity of the fellow who is swinging a scimitar around his head and shrieking “Allahu Akbar” but worry that the lawn-mowing Baptist down the street is plotting a fascist conspiracy, and for the past five years or so it has been a consistent policy of the government.
Lately the administration has been talking tougher to America’s geo-political foes, but only because it has become necessary given the failure of all that open-handedness and re-setting friendliness to sufficiently placate them into friendship, and we don’t expect that our foes are any more impressed by the bluster than we are. Secretary of State John Kerry just assured the Israeli-American Public Affairs Council that “We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb, period,” but even the Iranians are well aware that his boss used the same emphatic “period” to assure Americans that if they liked their health plan they could keep their health plan, and that it turned out to be as reliable as his declaration of a “red line” against Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Similarly tough talk has been deployed against Russia after its annexation of a large chunk of Ukraine, which has re-re-set relations with that old adversary to Cold War days, but it’s all about standing with the international community and imposing sanctions and ignoring the reality that the relevant members of the international community won’t go along with sanctions because they’re more reliant on Russian natural gas than on America’s gaseous promises. There’s no longer any talk of supplying the Muslim Brotherhood with advanced military aviation, Allah be praised, but only because a military coup has conveniently removed them from power in Egypt.
However weak the Obama administration might seem in foreign affairs, however, any domestic opponents should remained warned that it is far more ruthless in domestic matters. There are no rhetorical open hands or offers of a re-set to the Republicans, who are routinely derided for wanting dirty air and water an the worst possible outcomes for the poor, and of waging a war on women that stops just short of clitoridectomies but will go so far as to withhold subsidies for contraception. Although the administration eschews any of Nicolo Machiavelli’s pragmatic prescriptions for foreign affairs it eagerly embraces Saul Allinsky’s even more ruthless “Rule For Radicals” when dealing with domestic matters, and anyone who makes a sizeable donation to a Republican candidate or reports a story unfavorable to the administration is likely to soon hear from the Internal Revenue Service o the Department of Justice or some suitably scary regulatory agency.
The IRS operative who has invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid nosy questions about her agency’s harassment of Ocala’s political opponents is being called back to a congressional hearing this week, and although we’ll be interested to hear to what she will or won’t say we expect it will be largely overlooked by a media suddenly interested in events abroad. This seems a shame, as her testimony or lack thereof will likely shed light on how very imposing the administration can be when it puts its mind to it. When Obama unleashes the IRS on Vladimir Putin or the Iranians or any of the other increasingly troubles regimes abroad it will suggest that he’s at last ready to rumble.

– Bud Norman


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