Wednesday, October 14, 2015

With Friends Like These...

From October 1 through early yesterday 7 Israelis have been attacked and killed by Arabs, with dozens more wounded. The attackers frequently walked up behind people and started stabbing them with knives. Whether it was an older person or a 13 year old victim, it made no difference to these animals. They believe that all Jews should be killed. The 7 dead Israelis is the equivalent of 278 Americans stabbed to death in under two weeks, and as if the attacks occurred all across the country. How long would Americans tolerate that?

Then along comes Secretary of State John Kerry, essentially justifying the murder of innocent Israeli civilians, with this: "And there's been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years, and now you have this violence because there's a frustration that is growing."

In the world occupied by the left, there is always an excuse for evil - because the left has a problem with acknowledging that evil even exists. So, the Arabs are frustrated. Many blacks in this country are frustrated because of the number of black deaths at the hands of the police. I guess that would justify blacks going out and randomly killing whites, in the eyes of John Kerry. After all, they are frustrated - just like the Arabs are.

The State Department attempted to back off the apparent link made by Kerry with this comment by spokesperson John Kirby: "The secretary wasn't saying, well now you have the settlement activity as the cause for the effect we're seeing."

Nice try, because Kirby added: "Is it a source of frustration for Palestinians. You bet it is, and the secretary observed that. But this isn't about affixing blame on either side here for the violence..." It's not? The Arabs started what may be the beginning of a third intifada. The Israelis reacted in self-defense. But in the eyes of the left we never affix blame. Rather, the left lives in the world of moral equivalency. No side is right and no side is wrong.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream media and various world leaders have adopted that viewpoint; simply stating that the violence by both sides has to stop, with no mention of who started it. And certainly no mention of who's at fault. They just condemn "violence," as if violence is the perpetrator.

The State Department spokesman continued talking out of both sides of his mouth, first stating that "the Israeli government has a right and a responsibility to protect its citizens." But then he added this: "We've certainly seen some reports of what many would consider excessive use of force, obviously we don't like to see that." I take it that Israelis can defend themselves - as long as no Arabs get hurt.

Isn't it nice to know that in the worldview of people like John Kerry, and the left generally, frustration can justify not only criminal behavior, but murder. When someone is rushing at you with a knife intending to stab you to death, I think you're going to want a gun to stop the attacker dead in his tracks - so that you're not stopped dead in yours. The moral idiots of the left be damned!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

He Was Practiced at the Art of Deception*

There were two very interesting opinion pieces regarding Obama's policy outlook in the 10/6/15 Wall Street Journal. One was by William McGurn, former speechwriter for George W. Bush. McGurn was comparing Obama with Jimmy Carter.

McGurn: "...toward the end of his tenure, President Carter proved himself capable of something that still eludes President Obama: a willingness to learn from mistakes and reconsider options." McGurn then goes on to note how Carter finally realized he needed to do something about the runaway inflation, and so appointed Paul Volcker who agreed: "Inflation certainly is the priority."

McGurn then discusses how the realities of Soviet behavior (the invasion of Afghanistan) made Carter reconsider his foreign policy. The US boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, we imposed embargoes on certain Russian goods, and we supported the Afghan resistance. Carter even withdrew from the Senate "the one thing he had devoted his presidency to, his beloved SALT II treaty."

McGurn concludes: "Is there any any intrusion of reality that could ever persuade Mr. Obama to do the same" (and change course)? The other opinion piece was by Bret Stephens, who writes a regular column on foreign affairs for the Journal. Stephens has a much better understanding of Obama.

Stephens: "Mr. Obama believes his Syria policy - the one that did nothing as 250,000 people were murdered; the one that did nothing as his own red lines were crossed; the one that allowed ISIS to flourish; the one that has created the greatest refugee crisis of the 21st century; the one currently being exploited by Russia and Iran for geopolitical advantage - is a success."

In this writer's opinion it is not necessarily that Obama is happy with all the consequences of his inaction; he would probably view those things as unavoidable (if not desirable in some cases) consequences of his approach. Stephens explains Obama's "...fundamental conviction about American foreign policy is that we need less of it - less commitment, less expense, less responsibility."

In a further WSJ opinion piece by Niall Ferguson (in the 10/10-10/11/15 edition), he discusses some of the other consequences of Obama's foreign policy. "Since 2010, total fatalities from armed conflict in the world have increased by a factor of close to four," citing data from the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Then, citing a study from the University of Maryland, Ferguson says: "total fatalities due to terrorism have risen nearly sixfold."

Currently, both Russian and Iranian troops are in Syria - on Israel's northern border. The 10/12/15 IBD reports that Chinese warships are also en route to the Middle East. If there is one region of the world that would be most likely to set off another world war it would be the Middle East.

Obama's take on this is that Russia is acting out of weakness, not strength. Obama gave an interview to Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, which is to air later today. Kroft to Obama: "He's (Putin) challenging your leadership, Mr. President." Obama's reply: "...if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in, in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we've got a different definition of leadership."

You have to hand it to Obama. He is indeed practiced at the art of deception. Whether it's keeping your health insurance policy, or keeping your doctor, or drawing a red line and then claiming he did not draw that line, Obama can lie with a straight face better than most who have preceded him. But when the ends justify the means, and truth is not a value - only the agenda is, then it is fairly easy to lie and not think anything of it.

I give Obama credit for this latest lie. Putin taking action is not true leadership; Obama doing nothing with turmoil swirling all around him - that's leadership. Putin taking the Crimea and part of Eastern Ukraine? Not leadership. Meanwhile, Obama's lackey, John Kerry, is practically begging his Russian counterpart to stand down, telling him that Russian involvement in Syria will only make things worse.

As Charles Krauthammer states in the 9/18/15 IBD, Russia's involement in Syria does not make things worse for Russia. Russia extends their power and influence to the Middle East, in a way that they have not been able to do since the 1970s when they were kicked out of Egypt.

Krauthammer: "Obama has given short shrift to the Kurds, shafted America's allies with the Iran deal and abandoned the Anbar Sunnis who helped us win the surge." Now that is what Obama would call leadership.

(*Apologies to the Rolling Stones.)

Does This Make Any Sense?

Remember a time when government workers got excellent benefits because they were paid less than those in the private sector? Government work at least meant job security. The 10/9/15 IBD reports on a wage comparison of earnings between federal government and private sector workers, based on a study by Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute.

According to the study, government workers average $84,153 per year. The private sector employees average $56,350 per year. Add in employee benefits and the results are truly shocking: $119,934 for government employees versus $67,246 for private employees. If you have ever dealt with a federal agency my bet would be that you do not believe those workers are worth 78% more than workers in the private sector.

This study by the Cato Institute is a perfect example of what is wrong with public employee unions. The unions spend large sums to back candidates who support their never-ending pay and benefit increases, and attack those who do not. Congressional members give in with taxpayer money (your money and my money) in order to protect their seats.

So, while private employers during this recession had to cut payroll, and even entire departments, the Feds were adding employees and increasing salaries. What a system.

Rand Paul has a solution. It is a solution that a more liberal friend and I have discussed and agreed on previously: zero-based budgeting. Far too frequently our government is faced with having to raise the debt limit. A large part of the problem is that each new budget assumes whatever was spent by each federal agency the prior year is the floor from which they begin to argue for more money.

With zero-based budgeting, each department of government would have to justify their very existence, and how much money they should get. If this is too big a task for yearly review, then make it a two year budget. But do it. It is the only approach that has the ability to shrink the size of the federal bureaucracy. All other efforts have only slowed the rate of growth of the federal government. The benefits are manifold. Less need for taking taxpayer money. Less competition for money between government and the private sector. And, of course, a lesser ability of government to try to control ever increasing aspects of our lives.

The lobbying pressure on Congress would be enormous. But at least the public would get to see who cares about their money and who does not; and what agencies are so important that government chooses to fund them over letting people keep their hard-earned money. Which brings up another topic.

Donald Trump has unveiled a tax plan that will allow 50% of Americans to not pay taxes. Bobby Jindal has a plan in which all Americans pay taxes. It is often said that about 46%-47% of Americans already do not pay taxes. The rebuttal is that many do still pay payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare). While that money is not put into any special "trust fund," it is paid with the expectation of getting it back at retirement age. Federal income tax is what funds day to day government operations, and yes, I believe everyone should contribute to that.

Which brings me to my final topic: Bernie Sanders. The self-professed Democratic-Socialist wants to see an ever-expanding government. Government paid healthcare, government paid child-care and preschool, and "free" tuition at public colleges, among other things. Then there are the mandates he wants to place on employers - $15 minimum wage, mandatory medical leave, sick leave and vacation pay. (Per 9/16/15 IBD.) He is also a friend of unions. Who will pay for all of this? Get ready for a lower standard of living. Greece anyone?

You have to love how the mainstream media consistently portray the Republican party as a bunch of extremists when they stand up for what were always considered to be traditional American values. But now that the Democrat party is supporting an avowed Socialist in large numbers? Not a peep about that real sea change.