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:: Saturday, February 28, 2009 ::

Uncle Obama Wants You 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 11:46 AM

When I finished reading and marking up a transcript of President Barack Obama’s address to the joint session of Congress on February 24, there was possibly as much of my own ink on the pages as in the speech itself. Numerous triple question marks highlighted blatant lies, half-truths, fallacies, ambiguities and generalizations pregnant with unspecified meanings. Several “Huh?’s” were linked to statements that made no sense at all. And sixty-one checkmarks were penned over bracketed instances of applause by Congress.

That was the result of just one pass at the speech. The experience was much like editing a James Joyce novel, which would also be an oxymoronic task, because no rules of grammar or logic or clarity would apply to that task, either. As I had remarked in another post, an Obama speech is yadda-yaddaism elevated to a high art. It is appropriate that his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, is an equivocating ignoramus with all the charisma of Elmer Fudd, and that his thuggish chief-of-staff, Rahm Emanuel, is staying out of sight.

It was the number of checkmarks for the applause that was scary. Listening to and watching Hitler rant shrilly in front of thousands of cheering and saluting Nazis never fails to send shivers up my spine. But Hitler never frightened me as much as did the mob entranced by his messianism and in gestalt with his message. Listening to and watching Obama speak to crowds, however, does not affect me personally. I know that he is a power-luster imbued with far fewer oratorical skills than had FDR, JFK, or even Hitler, and that he wishes to complete the job begun by his “progressive” predecessors over a century ago and transform the country from a republic into a national socialist state. There are plenty of such creatures around, in and out of office. But listening to Obama speak bores me to distraction, almost as much as having listened to former president George W. Bush stumble through a speech or trip over words and contradictions during press conferences.

What scares me more than Obama are his worshippers, his supporters, and anyone else who would approve of putting a gun to my head, picking my pockets, and marching me to a make-work program to assemble solar panels or smoking-cessation kits or to lay track for Harry Reid’s Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas magnetic rail line.

As was Hitler, George Bush and Barack Obama are nonentities, mediocrities. As was Bush, Obama is in a position of power not for any special talent for reaching it or for out-maneuvering his competitors for it. He is simply the most accommodating zero willing to echo the wishes and intentions of lesser power-seekers, such as George Soros, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, to name but a few. Obama is the beneficiary of the collapse of philosophy and the implosion of political pragmatism.

“Now is the time to act boldly and wisely -- to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity…..That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that is what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.” (Applause)


What is the nature of that “foundation”? There was no answer, except the implication that it is the government and the Democrats who will be laying that foundation along fascist/socialist lines, leaving a “tired ideology” behind, one that belabored “trivialities” such as property rights and freedom. And, it is a measure of Obama’s own ignorance of economics and history that “prosperity” has never been the hallmark of any police state or any collectivized nation or of any command economy.

His ignorance and arrogance notwithstanding, Obama stated:

“I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity,” Obama declared, echoing generations of American progressives before him. “For history tells us a different story. History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas.”


Which resulted in vast expansions of government power over the economy. As for the history of the role of the Industrial Revolution, of freedom of thought and action, of free minds and free markets, of the prosperity those things made possible, that history Obama is utterly blind to. That history doesn’t fit his vision of what America must become for him to be seen as its “savior.”

E.J. Dionne Jr., writing for The Washington Post on February 25, fervently endorsed Obama’s vision and revealed that Obama’s “faith-based initiative” has little to do with religion:

"Like Franklin Roosevelt, Obama sought to restore the public’s faith that the private economy would recover by bolstering confidence in government’s capacity to act rationally, creatively and efficiently.”


I will go out on a limb here and credit Obama and the Democrats with the repressed knowledge that the best way to “stimulate” the economy is to suspend all income and excise tax collection for a year or so, freeze all federal regulatory enforcement by cabinet and non-cabinet departments and agencies, fire all “non-essential” federal employees -- in short, to paraphrase John Galt in Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, to get the hell out of the way and allow the economy to function rationally, creatively, and efficiently. Those actions would certainly “stimulate” economic recovery beyond any politician’s comprehension. But that would mean a relinquishment of power, and that is the last thing Obama and the Democrats want to do. After all, the temporary suspensions might become permanent, once enough Americans realized they didn’t need the government to “jump start” the economy or to give purpose to their lives.

And, one must wonder: Is he so ignorant of economics and history? Are the Democrats?

“Now, I’m proud that we passed a recovery plan free of earmarks -- (applause) -- and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.”


Whose priorities? Not those of any individual with a shred of self-esteem, a nominal commitment to reason, and a desire to live his own life in freedom guided by his own values. No, when Obama said “our most important national priorities” he meant his and those of virtually everyone’s in that chamber, which are the impoverishment of America and its dependence on and compliance with government priorities.

Obama is not changing the course of the country. He is following it. In this sense, nothing he has ever said is “radical.”

Nearly all of the sixty-one instances of ovation were led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It was odd the way she was repeatedly the first to shoot up and begin clapping, and odd as well what she thought merited applause, although Obama in most instances had said nothing remarkable. It was a cue to the rest of the chamber to rise and join her. It was almost as though she was trying to stop people from thinking about what Obama had just said by drowning his words with the noisy sanction of applause.

It explains why, for example, Obama was able to get away with the lie that the bill was “free of earmarks.” I kept imagining that the instant, hurried applause stopped most Democratic Congressmen from ribbing each other in ribaldry, or scoffing up their collective sleeve, or just sitting quietly in the stony-faced denial of a liar invoking the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. The applause was in the nature of a combination of a triumph of the statist manifesto and repeated blank-outs of what it would actually accomplish, which, in virtually every goal, will be precisely the opposite of what Obama claimed it would.

As though to answer the volume of criticism of his “plan” to “revive” the economy and command it to regain “prosperity,” a volume that must have been monitored by his staff and the Democrats, Obama felt it necessary to state:

“Now, I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. And I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we’ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.” (No applause here; why draw attention to the contrary?)


Skeptical is hardly the adjective to describe the anger and incredulity of the criticism in the press, in some segments of the news media, on political blogs, and on talk radio. Skepticism, in Obama’s and the Democrats’ lexicon, is a synonym for reason. In this instance, reason recognizes that the $787 billion “stimulus” bill is a testament to broken promises and wasteful spending. So, he said, let’s pooh-pooh reason and believe it is not those things.

But, enough of the speech before Congress and the “stimulus” bill. Both have been exposed as the frauds they are here and elsewhere. What also deserves attention is Obama’s next economic “plan.” Of all the newspaper coverage of Obama’s proposed $3.6 trillion budget, The Washington Post of February 27 was the most straightforward about how that budget plan meshes with the “stimulus” plan:

“President Obama delivered to Congress yesterday a $3.6 trillion spending plan that would finance vast new investments in health care, energy independence and education by raising taxes on the oil and gas industry, hedge fund managers, multinational corporations and nearly 3 million of the nation’s top earners.”


Further on, the Post lets the cat out of the bag:

“With its immense scope and bold prescriptions, Obama’s agenda seeks to foster a redistribution of wealth, with the government working to narrow the growing gap between rich and poor.”


Remember Obama’s patronizing assurance to Joe the Plumber during the campaign, that he just wants to “spread the wealth around”? The Post, however, was merely the first to admit that Obama’s plan is one of “redistribution” (without employing the qualifying term socialist). Now the news media sense it is safe to repeat the term. It is only a matter of time before Congress and the news media feel arrogant enough to use the term socialist. Perhaps not. But the consequences will be the same. The "rich," or those earning over $250,000 annually, will be punished, looted, and vilified. We, the lower middle classes, will be expected to cheer and throw rocks at limousines.

In his new website announcement, “Organizing for America,” Obama condescended to release this message to his followers and supporters:

“The budget isn’t just a reflection of President Obama’s priorities. It’s a reflection of yours. This is the change you worked for and Americans demanded. But to make sure it succeeds, the President will need your help.”


Of course. Just submit to his will, like a Muslim, like a feudal serf, like a selfless manqué. Too many Americans are ready to heed his “call to prayers,” too many who believe that all one needs is faith to make sure Obama’s plan succeeds. These are the gnomes who worry me the most.

This is “democracy” in action -- against me.

:: Permalink | 21 Comments ::

 

:: Saturday, February 21, 2009 ::

Our Government “Confidence” Men 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 2:34 PM

It is noteworthy that in all the glaring headlines and TV news media’s Pecksniffian commentary about Bernard Madoff’s $50 billion scam and now R. Allen Stanford’s multi-billion dollar gold brick, not one word has been heard about the federal government’s own ongoing confidence scheme. The recent “bailouts” of banks, mortgage companies and automakers, together with the $787 billion “stimulus” legislation and the $75 billion home mortgage “rescue” plan signed by President Barack Obama last week, share the same attributes and methodology as Madoff’s and Stanford’s, and differ from them only in scale. Compared to Congress, the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the myriad perpetuated entitlements such as Medicare, Social Security, the Federal Employees Retirement System, confidence men Madoff and Stanford are mere small-time grifters.

Some economic consultants of the major networks have even dared concede that the $787 billion commitment to “saving” the economy by spending the country into “prosperity” (but no mention of the solvency on which any prosperity is actually based) will balloon to over $3 trillion in a few years, allowing for whatever occasional expenses are dreamed up and sanctioned by Obama and a Democratic Congress.

What, other than an ignorance dulcified by an altruistic and collectivist bias, can account for an epistemology that can grasp a Madoff style scam, but not a government scam? It can see trees, but not the forest. What causes analysts, consultants, and columnists to fail to make the connections? Why do so many believe that the government is intrinsically capable of “managing” the economy, when the record of government intervention demonstrates the opposite? When Obama and Congressmen harp on the urgency to reestablish “confidence” in the economy, should one assume that they are true “confidence men” and have actively engaged in bilking Americans?

Frankly, yes. As in all political action taken in the name of altruism and collectivism, there are givers and takers -- and the ones who are forced to foot the bill in the name of the “public good.”

At the moment, for example, the news media are reporting unhappiness with Obama’s $75 billion home mortgage “rescue” plan, one expressed by homeowners who feel they are not only invisible to the government but penalized by it as taxpayers, as well, in favor of those who took advantage of the subprime legislation and could not or cannot make their payments. The solvent homeowners and the news media can be heard flailing about in confusion, seeking explanations, reaching some right conclusions. No one is telling them that the chief driving force behind the new “rescue” plan is: altruism. It is the nature of altruism that it will always penalize or ignore the responsible, the virtuous, the thrifty, and the morally and financially solvent, and reward the irresponsible, the amoral, the reckless, and the morally lame and halt.

Although there are differences between pyramid and Ponzi schemes, the key elements are the same. The Ponzi or pharaoh at the top receives the lion’s share of money that works its way up to him, while the incautious and foolish at the very bottom receive little but mostly nothing for their “investments.” The Ponzi or pharaoh is a creature whose chief task is to instill confidence in a “sure-fire,” “safe” means of investing and making money. Pyramid and Ponzi schemes work differently and have variations, but at the bottom of them are countless “recruits” or investors who have entrusted their money to the scheme, hoping for extravagant or better-than-average returns.

“Recruits” at the bottom of a pyramid scheme pay money to belong to it, which they are told is a form of fee or investment, but who have nothing to sell but the same kind of incentive to even lower strata of “recruits.” Investors at the bottom of a Ponzi scheme fall victim to the mere illusion of stability and legitimacy: a flamboyantly maverick, but respectable-looking CEO, lush corporate offices, in-house account managers, regular but fictive account statements, glossy marketing materials, conferences in exotic locales, and so on.

“A pyramid scheme is a non-sustainable business model that involves the exchange of money primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, often without any product or service being delivered….Pyramid schemes exploit greed and gullibility. A successful pyramid scheme combines a fake yet seemingly credible business with a simple-to-understand yet sophisticated-sounding money-making formula.”


Both types of schemes must, by their nature, reach a “saturation” point; in the pyramid scheme, when there are more “recruits” than there are buyers of products or services to sell (if any); in the Ponzi scheme, when investors call for their money or attempt to close their accounts but learn that their money was never invested at all but siphoned off to the Ponzi’s personal accounts which pay genuine interest or dividends. Pyramid schemes crash when reality catches up with them because the frauds are too successful; Ponzi schemes crash when their victims exercise their volition by either wanting to cash in on their investments or when they suspect that their investment performance is too good to be true.

Unlike the government scheme, however, pyramid pharaohs and Ponzis are not motivated by altruism, but by a desire for the unearned.

The primary motive behind the government’s scheme, which is a vast, seemingly opaque combination of the Ponzi and pyramid models, is not greed, avarice, or even the “quick buck” (the latter except through inflation of the currency, when a government takes advantage of prices before it causes them to rise), but rather power. As the pyramid pharaohs and Ponzis fake reality in order to steal from their duped victims, politicians strive to keep reality at bay, that is, to postpone or delay the consequences of their past and current policies. They fake reality by blaming any financial crisis on anyone but themselves, usually on “unfettered“ capitalism (and there has never been a time in American history when it wasn’t fettered). Their role as “confidence men” is to persuade everyone else of it and to call for an expansion of the scheme, to assume more powers in an attempt to correct a crisis of their own making, literally with their fingers crossed. (“I need wider powers!” demanded Wesley Mouch in Ayn Rand’s prophetic novel, Atlas Shrugged.)

The magical incantation largely responsible for it is the phrase the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. “Faith,” of course, is not a means of cognition or a vehicle of rational certitude. From the first time I read that phrase, I distrusted it because of the term faith. As for the term credit, in fact, the government has no such thing, since rarely has it been able to meet all its fiscal obligations, legitimate or otherwise. Originally, in Article IV of the Constitution, the phrase applied to the interstate relationships regarding “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings.” Section 2 of that Article declared that all citizens would be protected in all states by the same federal but presumably objective laws.

But the phrase has, over time, come to apply to any debts the federal government contracts, as detailed in Article I, Sections 1 and 2:

“The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States….

“To borrow money on the credit of the United States….”


The only “credit” the government of the United States should have theoretically is a balanced budget, a genuine surplus, and no outstanding debt. But, it hasn’t met the first two conditions in decades, if one applies the literal meaning of the term credit. One investors’ site says that the phrase full faith and credit is used:

“…to describe the unconditional guarantee by one entity to back the interest and principal of another entity’s debt….It is generally accepted that the U.S. government will never default on its loan obligations. The full faith and credit of the U.S. government essentially confers risk-free status to securities such as U.S. Treasuries.”


The first entity is the taxpayer; the second, the federal government.

It is hard to communicate the magnitude of the government’s debt and the scale of what it has committed itself to in terms of what it owes and will owe in the way of welfare state legislation, and what it must control, smother and destroy to even attempt to fulfill the commitment. The U.S. government has, in fact, repeatedly defaulted on its loan obligations, that is, has been unable to pay out the principal and interest on all its debt instruments. Congress has solved the problem by faking reality and regularly raising the official debt limit. In doing so it has merely perpetuated the debt and indefinitely mortgaged the productive sector over the course of generations.

“The United States total public debt, commonly called the national debt…is the amount of money owed by the federal government…to holders of U.S. debt instruments. Debt held by the public is all federal debt held by states, corporations, individuals, and foreign governments, but does not include intergovernmental debt obligations or debt held in the Social Security Trust Fund….As of February 12, 2009, the total U.S. federal debt was $10.76 trillion.” (Italics mine.)


U.S. debt instruments are Treasury bills, bonds and notes, considered to be “risk-free.” And the key thing to grasp, but which has not been grasped by any president, Federal Reserve chairman, or Secretary of the Treasury, or by any politician or news anchor that I know of, is that it is the productive private sector that gives any value to the fiat money printed and minted by the government. Because the government can simply print more money when it believes it is necessary, by implication it grants itself more baseless credit. That is the secret, unnamed belief and mystique behind the current usage of the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

And if the government grants itself credit, then it is giving itself what doesn’t really exist. I could just as well arbitrarily say, with only $1,000 in the bank and $3,000 in credit card debt, “I’m giving myself a $1 million line of credit; think I’ll go out and buy myself a Jaguar and a bungalow in Antigua.” Well, I wouldn’t get very far with the car dealer or the real estate agent; I haven‘t the power to fake reality. But if the government does the same thing by being billions in debt and then by granting itself a higher line of credit in trillions, that action is beyond question.

Money “invested” -- or “borrowed” by the government -- in various government securities is money that could have been invested in the creation of productive goods and services, but instead is used to help fund the constant, unending cycle of indebtedness of the federal government, which always counts on the private sector to “do something.” It asks that sector to work and produce unceasingly as an indentured servant of debt.

Another element in this “confidence game” is that foreign governments have bought the same Treasury securities as have American citizens. Servicing the debt represented by these securities not only increases U.S. indebtedness, but keeps foreign governments, most of them operating the same Ponzi/pyramid schemes on their own citizens, in power and creates for them the illusion of solvency, as well, and allows them to continue their own irresponsible fiscal and domestic policies. They have always been able to count on the strength of these Treasury bills to offset their own indebtedness. Now they are feeling nervous.

As of February 17, according to the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board, Mainland China holds the largest amount in U.S. government securities, some $696 billion. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently assured the Chinese government that the U.S. intends to honor those securities. The grand total of U.S. securities held by foreign governments comes to over $3.12 trillion. What is worrying these governments now is the possibility that, just as individual owners of Treasury bills are subject to the risk that our government may default on its obligations and concede bankruptcy, they also run the same risk.

A further peril in this practice is that the ownership of such securities allows such governments to exert an influence on U.S. policies. For example, there is a growing symbiosis between the U.S., which is becoming fascist, and Mainland China, nominally communist but fundamentally fascist, whose government, especially its military, is also deeply invested in its “capitalist” economy. In terms of policy influence, the next biggest group of governments holding U.S. securities, totaling $197 billion, is most OPEC members, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, outspoken enemies of the U.S.

So, where are all the $787 billion and $75 billion and federal intragovernmental billions to come from, not to mention the money needed to service the billions in Treasury instruments? From the productivity of America’s private sector, such as will survive the regulations, controls, inflation, and other government interventions and actions, and now the current onslaught on it by an overtly fascist administration. And when the private sector, at the bottom of the Ponzi/pyramid, is utterly prostrate and unable to produce, when the law of diminishing returns reaches zero, then what?

That is when things will grow ugly. Choose your own scenario, but keep your powder dry.

:: Permalink | 5 Comments ::

 

:: Thursday, February 19, 2009 ::

Objectivist Blog Round-Up 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:51 PM

Welcome to the February 19th, 2009 edition of the Objectivist Round-Up. This week presents insight and analyses written by authors who are animated by Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. According to Ayn Rand:

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

"About the Author," Atlas Shrugged, Appendix.

So without any further delay (and in no particular order), here's this week's round-up:

Rituparna Basu presents A Tribute to Darwin posted at The Undercurrent, saying, "On his 200th birthday, we should recognize Darwin’s immense contribution to science."

Ryan Puzycki presents High Crimes and Michael Phelps posted at The Undercurrent, saying, Prosecuting Michael Phelps—or anyone—for marijuana use is a rejection of the American conception of law and government."

Kendall Justiniano presents Strikes Two and Three – Time for a New Batter posted at simply Capitalism, saying, "Commentary on the "stimulus" bill and TARP II from the newest Objectivist Group blog, simplyCapitalism.com"

Khartoum presents Religion Versus Valentines Day. posted at Philosophy, Law and Life., saying, "This post deals with the opposition of valentines day by the three religions I have encountered in India -- Hinduism, Islam and Christianity."

Paul McKeever presents Paul McKeever’s Minimal Maxims and Bon Arrows, volume 1, issue 3 : Paul McKeever posted at Paul McKeever, saying, "one day, people will realize these statements aren't so weird after all."

Non Talbot Wels presents Averting a Crisis or Causing One? posted at The Undercurrent, saying, "Last year California passed a law meant to decrease man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Considering the enormous impingement on our personal freedom such measures bring about, shouldn't we at least be certain that greenhouse gas emissions are in fact as lethal as the law's supporters claim?"

Myrhaf presents Stealth Tyranny posted at The New Clarion, saying, "Hidden in the bowels of HR1 is a provision that will begin the rationing of health care in America."

Grant Jones presents Ayaan Hirsi Ali: There Is No Moderate Islam posted at The Dougout.

Diana Hsieh presents 1 in 7 Americans Functionally Illiterate posted at NoodleFood, saying, "America's government education system functions as well as the Post Office. Don't miss the excellent comments on this post."

Brian Phillips presents Mayoral Preview: Brian Phillips posted at Houston Property Rights, saying, "Over the past few months I have previewed some of the potential candidates for the Houston Mayoral election in 2009. I have even fantasized about my ideal candidate. But rather than continue to wait in vain for my ideal candidate to emerge, I am now declaring my virtual candidacy for Houston Mayor. (By virtual candidacy, I mean that I am not literally running for Mayor. But I will address the issues as if I were.)"

Daniel presents I Award You No Points posted at The Nearby Pen, saying, "This is a humorous quote that's worth committing to memory for those moments when somebody says something so stupid or so irrational, that you merely want to state your disapproval and move on without wasting any time on a lost cause..."

Rational Jenn presents The Art Of War For Parents posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "In this parenting post, I talk about whether it is ever appropriate to use force to get a child to do something against his will, and offer some techniques for handling conflicts with children."

Roberto Sarrionandia presents Making Waves posted at Tito's Blog.

Michael Labeit presents On the Origin of the Mentality that Endorses Obama and His Legislation posted at Philosophical Mortician, saying, "The rotten and unsophisticated propensity to yield oneself before the altar of President Obama has its origins within the schools."

Jim Woods presents My Strike posted at Words by Woods, saying, "What happens when Congress imposes its irrational whims upon business? Consequences."

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of objectivist round up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Update: Removed non-Objectivist link.

:: Permalink | 7 Comments ::

 

:: Saturday, February 14, 2009 ::

Who “Owns” the Economy, “Owns” You 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 2:39 PM

Several of President Barack Obama’s supporters, inside government and outside of it, are suffering from a severe, contagious bout of foot-in-mouth disease. The one who contracted it and passed it on was Chuck Todd, NBC’s White House correspondent.

“On MSNBC just now, Chuck Todd frames the ‘blame Obama’ narrative while interviewing Obama economic advisor Austan Goolsbee: ‘You guys (Team Obama) own the economy at 12 o’clock eastern time today, correct? When Senator Obama announces his Treasury Secretary, announces the Larry Summers position. It is now Barack Obama’s responsibility on the economy, is that not correct?’”


Goolsbee’s answer is irrelevant. Todd repeated, and George Stephanopoulos, ABC’s White House reporter, modified the “ownership” metaphor to “He owns the economy.” Stephanopoulos has repeated it more often than has Todd or any other reporter. When the “stimulus” bill has been passed and is signed by Obama, it won’t be entirely true that he will “own” the economy. He will share that possession with Congress and with every federal bureaucrat and employee. The assertion will undergo a transmutation from metaphor to “fact.”

Stephanopoulos has been caught red-handed acting as Obama’s shill to sell the plan to the American public, having had numerous personal phone discussions with Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s White House chief-of-staff, on what and what not to report. ABC has denied the allegation, claiming that Stephanopoulos’s sub rosa calls to and from Emmanuel were in the way of legitimate contacts. Charles Gibson, Dianne Sawyer and other ABC anchors are complicit in the fraudulent reporting, usually introducing Stephanopoulos to present his rhapsodic “reporting and analysis” as though he had fresh intelligence and insight to offer on what is really going on in the White House, when in fact it is nothing but disingenuous rationalizations about Obama’s difficulties.

Further, Stephanopoulos has compounded his fraudulent representations on his own website by handing Obama a “Report Card on Obama’s First Presidential News Conference” (February 10) whose wholesale theatrics and rigging were mentioned in “Rolling Out the Barrels” (February 11). One glaring tip-off of its phoniness was the teleprompter used by Obama. If the questions were authentic and not prescreened, and if Obama’s replies to them were genuinely spontaneous and extemporaneous, why would he need a teleprompter, unless it was flashing answers to prescreened questions?

First, he awards Obama an “A” for selling the stimulus package. Well, he might have sold it to the White House press corps, gagged as they were during that conference except for those privileged to ask a question. But both Obama and Stephanopoulos must know that most members of Congress have been swamped -- nay, deluged -- with protests by Americans against the package or its contents, so the notion that Obama has successfully “sold” the public on the virtues and necessity of the package is pure, unmitigated fantasy. Stephanopoulos, with his special, direct line to the White House and thence to Congress, surely must have this startling and unwelcome information but has simply brushed it off as unimportant.

Then he gives Obama a “B” for “reaching out” to the Republicans to enlist their bipartisan support for the stimulus package. Doubtless Obama, as well as George the Insider, are upset with the Republicans because most of them have, to date, obstructed passage of the package because of their objections to many of its contents. These objections were mostly arbitrary, non-objective, and rooted in partisan obstinacy -- there is too much in this pet project or too little in that specific earmark, or the earmark or set-aside is divorced from any honest idea of an economic stimulus -- but we should be thankful there were objections. Obama on February 6 called the delay “inexcusable and irresponsible.” What Stephanopoulos meant by his “B” is that he thought Obama wasn’t deceptive enough to win over the Republicans, so they could share credit for the stimulus package’s purportedly unknown consequences.

Stephanopoulos’s “report card” on Obama’s first presidential press conference is as bogus as was the conference itself. By contrast, conservative columnist Larry Elder, on February 12, in his column, “Obama in Prime Time: 7 Questions Left on Cutting Room Floor,“ helped to confirm the rigging of the press conference, and followed up with seven questions he would like to have seen posed. Obama would not have been able to answer those questions, which contrasted facts with Obama‘s fictive appraisal of the crisis. His mind would have shut down in a total blank-out, or he would have refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the questions by calling them irrelevant or hostile or instances of “fear-mongering” or of “ideological nit-picking.” The reporter or journalist asking any of those questions would have been barred from future press conferences. Obama and Joe Biden, during the campaign, blacklisted reporters who asked them “unfriendly” questions.

“He owns the economy.” A very poor choice of words. Hitler “owned” the German economy. Dictator Hugo Chavez “owns” the Venezuelan economy. The Castro brothers “own” the Cuban economy. Vladimir Putin “owns” the Russian economy. One would think that it would occur to Stephanopoulos that this is hardly a flattering thing to attribute to a man he earnestly wishes to be perceived as a “man of the people,” that “owning” an economy is the sign of a dictator.

Of course, “owning” a nation’s economy is simply a crude metaphor for commanding it. No one can “own” an economy. A primitive society whose economy is based on the barter of beads or stones is governed by the same laws of private trade or government intervention or expropriation as an advanced society’s economy whose medium of exchange based on gold, silver, copper or fiat paper. The economy is autonomous and will serve out its own justice. As King Canute of legend could not command the tides to cease, dictators cannot command economies to defy reality and fulfill their wishes, not even when they employ brute force and not stealthy fraud. Reality will always out. A major “drag” on Nazi Germany’s economy, for example, was the cost of exterminating six million Jews together with using slave labor in its war industries, aside from the cost of conquering countries it intended to loot.

Nevertheless, Stephanopoulos and his ilk in and out of government want Obama to command the economy, that is, to tell Americans to behave in ways that will accomplish their fascist ends, to compel them to make decisions and take courses of action they would not otherwise choose to take. By implication, a tyrant who claims to “own” an economy, “owns” you, the private citizen. The contempt which Obama and Congress exhibited for the American people is unbounded but disguised in the alb and cassock of “care” and “concern.”

Conservative writer Michelle Malkin on February 13, in her article “The ‘Tiny’ Trillion-Dollar Turbaconducken You Don’t Care About,” reports an instance of that contempt in Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer’s derogatory remarks in the Senate on February 10 about Americans who opposed the stimulus package. “The American people really don’t care,” he complained, about those “little tiny, yes, porky amendments,” and sneered at conservative and other unconvinced and un-corrupted political observers, calling them “chattering classes.”

And, to pour salt into the wound, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, reported Malkin, released a “fact sheet” on the 12th about the stimulus package, in which she claimed there were “no earmarks or pet projects.” Obama, Schumer, Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of our “social managers” in government are confident they can get away with such brazen behavior because the news media are largely on their side. Neither incident was reported by any of Stephanopoulos‘s colleagues, except perhaps on talk radio, the bane of and threat to the Democrats.

Arguably the most frightening aspects of the stimulus package not mentioned once by the news media are the socialized medicine provisions buried in the 1,100-page stimulus bill, as reported in Bloomberg News by Betsy McCaughey on February 9. Scattered throughout the package are appropriations for the establishment of controls on physicians, hospitals and patients. They are the natural end of Medicare and all the other federal, semi-socialist medical programs. In short, if you are elderly and require serious medical treatment, a Federal Council will decide whether or not that treatment is “cost effective” and a potential drain on Medicare resources. If some faceless bureaucrat decides it is not “cost effective,” you will be sentenced to endure the malady, or to “die quietly.”

Does this policy differ in any fundamental from, say, the Nazi policy of “thinning out the herd” by denying the elderly and disabled Germans medical treatment, or by cleaning out sanitariums of the mentally ill for “cost effectiveness” reasons? No.

I have dwelt on George Stephanopoulos here simply because he is the most obvious and noisome symptom of the betrayal of the news media. I do not know where he learned the basic principles of journalism, but it certainly could not have been at the Columbia School of Journalism, on whose gateway is inscribed Joseph Pulitzer’s warning:

"A cynical, mercenary, demagogic, corrupt press will produce in time a people as base as itself.”


Too many Americans have welcomed Obama and his fascist agenda, have cheered on a compliant Congress, and look forward to hearing the likes of Stephanopoulos hand in his report cards on the Obama administration. These Americans do not mind being “owned,” commanded, and given their marching orders. They are our carnivorous adversaries, as well.

I can only quote Francisco d’Anconia from Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged:

“Brother, you asked for it!”

:: Permalink | 21 Comments ::

 

:: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 ::

Rolling Out the Barrels 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 9:40 AM

It is almost amusing to watch President Barack Obama and Congress squabble over the contents of the “stimulus“ bill (a.k.a., the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), almost as amusing as an episode of “Yes, Prime Minister,” except for two things: the posturing, chicanery, and logrolling apparent in Obama and the Congressional oligarchy are not as entertainingly stylized as the language, manners and decorum in the TV series, although the results will be the same in reality as they are in that satirical recreation of British politics -- the taxpayer will foot the bill and the economy will be effectively nationalized. The consequences will be real, regardless of what is kept in and cut from the biggest legislative earmark in American history, which will consume big chunks of productive wealth and redirect other chunks of it to programs favored by senators and representatives who secured their pork in committee rooms or during off-the-record caucuses in both Houses of Congress.

The machinations dramatized in “Yes, Prime Minister” have the character of a minuet, or of a game of musical chairs between conniving, cordial devils; the behind-closed-doors deal-making and arm-twisting in Washington elicit the visceral repellence of watching rival kennels of pit-bulls let loose on each other. Obama’s saccharine, hands-across-the-aisle tone has grown testy, impatient and too imperious to be populist; Congressmen have become querulous, sanctimonious, and transparently venal.

“My pork is more important to recovery than your pork!”
“Says you! My pork will employ more people than yours and perform a necessary and important public service! Yours just throws bad…I mean good money after bad!”
“Horse apples! Your pork will just get you more votes for reelection!”
“And yours won’t? Who are you kidding?”
“Tell you what, friend: I won’t vote to cut $150 million from your pork, if you don’t vote to cut $250 million from mine.”
“Well….Why don’t we hit the Foggy Bottom Bar and discuss this over drinks? You bring your pals and I‘ll bring mine. We gotta come to some kind of arrangement. We gotta please the Big Guy.”
“Yeah. And we don’t want Vlad the Impaler knocking on our doors again, either. He‘s scary.”
“You mean Rahmrod? Yeah, he’s a genuine Chicago strong-arm.”


The reader may fill in the names of the Congressmen and the nature and sizes of their pork barrels. It doesn’t matter whose names or which pork. There are perhaps one or two items in the stimulus bill that are arguably Constitutional, that is, the legitimate venues of government authority. Perhaps the Coast Guard really does need a polar ice-cutter. The rest are all either of an economically fascist nature or are generously boosted fiscal steroids for programs initiated or perpetuated by past administrations and Congress.

“The Senate bill greatly expands welfare spending. There are $13.3 billion earmarked to raise health insurance for unemployed workers, $27.1 billion for increased unemployment benefits, and $11.1 billion for ‘Other Unemployment Compensation.’ Another $20 billion will go to raise maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assurance Program benefits (i.e., food stamps).”


And if you thought former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Congress were Constitutionally out of line by instituting faith-based federally funded programs which intentionally undermined the church-state separation, Obama, ever shovel- and pickax-ready, plans to perpetuate the idea by creating his own faith-based “outreach“ office.

“Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast at the Hilton Washington yesterday, Obama said the goal of the initiative ‘will not be to favor one religious group over another -- or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line our Founders wisely drew between church and state.’”


That is the height of doublespeak. Obama‘s rhetoric has often invoked the Founders, as though he wants to assure Americans that he is not advocating a departure from the principles that animated them (not that many people or politicos today know what they were, including Obama), and that he is not advocating the destruction of what they argued and fought for -- which was a constitutional republic with a government established to defend individual rights. He has not once enunciated what those principles were, nor identified what it is he intends to replace the republic with, which is a state committed to economic fascism.

“The office will be headed by Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal who worked on religious issues for Obama’s campaign…DuBois said the faith-based office will employ about 50 people.” So, taxpayers will be paying the salaries of DuBois and his staff to administer federally financed faith-based “outreach” programs. This is the Left appropriating the religious fervor of the Right with a union of religious and secular organizations, a phenomenon many observers justifiably expected in a John McCain/Sarah Palin administration (Palin is also a Pentecostal). This does not merely further “blur” the line drawn between church and state; it chops it into several pieces. It is a certainty that much of the “stimulus” money (or a chunk of the $750 million reserved for nonprofits) will go to ACORN, the “community activist” organization being investigated for voter fraud and in which Obama took his basic training in political action.

While banks, mortgage companies, and the auto industry have monopolized the bailout headlines, the cultural establishment also wants a cut of the trillion dollar loot.

“We wanted to make sure arts were not left out of the recovery,” said Robert L. Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, a national lobbying group. “The artist’s paycheck is every bit as important as the steelworker’s paycheck or the autoworker’s paycheck.”….In Congress the [stimulus] bill, approved last week by the House Appropriations Committee, includes a $50 million supplement for the N.E.A. [National Endowment for the Arts, which already has a $145 million budget] to distribute directly to nonprofit arts organizations and also through state and local arts agencies.


Among the demands of various government subsidized arts and “culture” groups asking for more money, is one that Obama create a cabinet-level position such as Secretary of Arts and Culture, and another that “culture” would be better served if the Department of Education assumed a greater role in arts education (and was appropriated an even larger budget). Either way, taxpayers would be forced to subsidize more mangled monstrosities that pass for sculpture, more “experimental“ theater, more multicultural festivals, more atonal compositions of noise, more Robert Mapplethorpe and John Cage caliber rubbish, all in the name of “free expression” liberated from the marketplace of ideas, values, and risk. And from money.

But even if the government promoted and subsidized art worthy of the name, it would still be a matter of coercion. What would a “culture czar” do? For one thing, become the object of petitioning beggary and the dispenser of money, favors and doles to individuals, organizations, and state and local governments. For another, help to further entrench and enlarge an already entrenched and suffocating “cultural” establishment.

The cited New York Times article is accompanied by a photograph of three musicians performing presumably a classical work for the Obama inauguration on the stage in front of the Capitol Building. It is known is that they were only going through the motions; the cold weather compelled them to “lip sync” to a recording. One of the musicians, Yo-Yo Ma, had difficulty restraining his laughter at the sham.

What is not well known is that Obama’s press conferences are just as phony and are essentially rigged. His press secretary draws up a list of favored reporters who on cue ask expected questions. Obama, after blathering vagaries in answer to one question for a few minutes, calls out the name of a reporter or nods to one he recognizes, then answers that person’s question with another mix-and-match selection of catch-phrases, colloquial gibberish and macaronics from his campaign rhetoric. And say absolutely nothing that the press hasn’t heard before. It is yada-yadaism elevated to a new rhetorical high, but journalists remain in awe.

This dishonest policy is aided and abetted by the White House press corps, and further abetted by the news media, which broadcast the press conferences as genuine news. It is a continuation of George W. Bush’s policy of fixing presidential press conferences to avoid too much embarrassment. So much for Obama’s “openness” and bringing “participatory democracy” to the people. What no member of the news media dares state, concede, suggest, or insinuate in public is that Obama has reneged on most of his “revolutionary” promises and that he has been mercilessly mauled by the pit-bulls of Congress.

If the country were not to suffer greatly from Obama’s moment-to-moment pragmatism and from the craven deference paid him by the news media, if the criminally fraudulent character of the entire picture were not so repellent, I would be genuinely amused. Unlike “Yes, Prime Minister,” however, Obama’s and Congress’s theatrics leave me numb with contempt and determined as ever to expose them.

:: Permalink | 7 Comments ::

 

:: Friday, February 06, 2009 ::

Mending the Fabric 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:52 AM

A respondent to "An Inauguration of Tyranny" (January 20) chided me for writing so much about current political trends and events, such as Barack Obama's election and his and Congress's plans to "socialize" the country by hook or by crook -- chiefly by crook.

"What possible gratification can you find in following, articulating, and decrying the decline and possible fall of the United States of America under Bush...and now Obama?"
What gratification, indeed? Some "gratification" occurs when I have identified something that imperils my life and that of the country. It occurs also when I am able to articulate my observations and concerns. Writing about such matters is an invaluable aid to grasping the fundamentals of any issue. I do not envy the many individuals I encounter who share my awareness and concerns (not only about Bush, Obama, Islam, etc.) but who are unable to articulate them. The only alternative to focusing on such matters is to install a governor in one's mind and to say nothing.

There is another value to dwelling on the ubiquitous sordidness, political folly, and venal conspiracies in our culture: catharsis. If I could not or did not actively identify and articulate my concerns, I should go mad. Therefore, I purge myself of frustration, helplessness and anger by pointing fingers and saying that the king wears no other clothes but a swastika armband or a hammer-and-sickle toga.

Or, I write fiction. In the Sparrowhawk novels, I set out to do justice to the pre-Revolutionary period, to better dramatize why the American Revolution happened. The series is also an allegory on our own times. I have been told by parents, teachers, and students that there is more history in the series than what is being taught in schools today, and this is aside from the literary value they see in it. Just the other day I was informed that Book One: Jack Frake of the series has been chosen for an eighth-grade English class of 75 students. I have lost track of where else the series is being used in schools.

Sparrowhawk is making its mark on countless minds, all seven million words of it. It is making a difference.

However, one may as well scold any commentator or columnist for discussing the state of things, whether he be Left, Right, or rational. For example, a regular reader of Rule of Reason will know that the Social Security system was a fraud from its inception. Walter Williams on February 4th addressed this subject in "The National Ponzi Scheme," brilliantly and succinctly explicating the mechanics of the system. He values the truth about it and wishes to communicate it to his readers. That truth is not forthcoming from the federal government, of course, nor will it be reported by our patronizing, Sesame Street news media. Who would take up the lamp of knowledge for any reason other than for wanting to know? Williams seeks to debunk all the propaganda about Social Security and let his readers know exactly how they are being cheated, defrauded, and chained.

It does not matter that Williams' revelations have not sent Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Frank and all their ilk scurrying for cover all the while stammering denial. Williams has added titanium-jacketed dumdums to the arsenal of those who choose to lock and load their arguments for freedom.

The respondent went on to say:

"Your clarion calls in defense of national ideals are inspired and melodic, but such noble efforts seem wasted given the apathetic, deaf and decadent context of the times; indeed, I have an impression of you valiantly, but foolishly, trying to pitch a tent in an avalanche."
Such a compliment inadvertently puts me in the company of Cicero, Galileo, Patrick Henry and many others in history who pitched their tents, if not on an avalanche, than in its path. Would we be better off today if they had remained silent about the growth of tyranny or the suppression of the truth? Or judiciously taciturn about how such a crime can be committed? Wallflowers do not ignite revolutions. Nor do they save them. Cicero lost his fight and his life by indulging in such "foolishness." Galileo was forced to recant. But Henry won his fight, twice, first by uniting the colonies for the first time in a common cause with his Stamp Act Resolves to oppose Crown authority, and then by campaigning for the inclusion of a Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

"Why dwell on and deplore the frayed American fabric? I say: disburden yourself now and bide your time to mend it."
If I had disburdened myself long ago, would I have anything to say at all, or any talent to say it? Practice makes perfect, and if I had not practiced I would be hard put to identify and articulate my likes and dislikes, contentments and concerns, pleasures and fears, the is and the ought. Would I have written fifteen novels and innumerable dozens of published essays, book reviews, and articles?

An element of bitterness and despair redounds throughout the respondent's advice, which I have often felt in my career, perhaps more poignantly than he has experienced, for I have been in the front lines for decades. I have been rebuffed, ignored, and derogated more times than he could imagine. The antidote to such bitterness and despair is to act, regardless of the expected outcome. The only action open to me in today's circumstances is to write. To allow apathy, deafness, and decadence to discourage and silence me would be to surrender existence and my life to them without a fight.

Why should I bide my time to mend the American fabric, when I need to teach myself how best to baste, sew, and stitch that fabric? At the eleventh hour, could I count on the Muses of Declamation and Exposition to suddenly inspire me to speak? Doubtful. The Muses do not bother to disturb those lost in the resignation of quietism.

The respondent asserts that only physical coercion by the government will cause Americans to revolt.

"Yes, I think American government MUST sink THAT low before widespread public alarm and indignation will blaze up, inspiring legions of individuals to reclaim, champion, and demand their fundamental American rights."
Who and what will alarm the public? Who and what will move it to indignation? Who and what will inform the public that "now is the time"? Who and what will inspire legions to rise up, not only against the oppressors, but against the philosophy that sanctioned their power? Are not Americans being coerced now? Why do they tolerate it? Taxation, regulation and prohibition are all indirect but legalized forms of coercion. Who and what are to remind Americans that this is theft by stealth, and that it has the same consequences as undisguised armed robbery, serfdom and penury? Who and what will tell them that it is a republic they have lost and must reclaim?

Writers, and their words. Or, as John Milton put it in Paradise Lost:

"Thus Belial with words clothed in reason's garb counseled ignoble ease, and peaceful sloth, not peace." (Book 2, line 226)
Now, what could Milton have meant by those words?

:: Permalink | 21 Comments ::

 

 

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