A few short observations regarding the shutdown *UPDATED*

Unlike past shutdowns, which were indeed quibbles about this or that, the current shutdown is a big deal.  The question posed is a fundamental one about the very nature of this nation:  Is the federal government the servant or the master of the American people.  Our Constitution says the former; sixty-years of federal expansion says the latter.

The WWII Memorial showdown in Washington makes concrete this abstract battle.  It forces us to ask whether a government separate from and dominant over citizens owns that open air memorial, or whether a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has gotten too big for its britches and needs to be knocked down a peg.

There can be no doubt that what the House is doing is constitutional.  Having said that, they are doing a terrible job of selling it, and that’s separate from the fact that the drive-by media is doing its best to tar and feather them.  It’s a reminder of something I’ve learned in the 12 years since I crossed the Rubicon and changed political affiliations:  Republicans are the party of smart ideologies and poor strategies.  Democrats/Progressives, while their ideas may be disastrous, as is proven by every time and place in which they been put into effect, are master strategists.  (And in that regard, Saul Alinsky is definitely their Sun Tzu.)

This problem is, in part, built into the system.  To the extent there are still conservatives in the Republican party, their individualism makes them as easy to herd as angry cats.  Democrats, on the other hand, find meaning in collective action.  Even when their ideas are bad, their monolithic front gives them power.

UPDATE:  James Taranto notes that, in this go-round, the usually tactically disciplined Democrat party  has been unusually maladroit.  Hubris or something else?

UPDATE 2:  David Stockman sees also sees what’s happening as a determinative moment, but for different reasons.

Petty Obama administration tries to bar Honor Flight veterans from access to the WWII Memorial in D.C.

The Obama government is small, spiteful, and petty. There are no other words for it. Case in point: The WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., which is an outdoor memorial. There are no tickets sold, no doors to open or close, and no staffers. It is not an open air museum. It is, instead, a giant outdoor structure. It is scenery, pretty much like a drive by the Capitol or the White House. You just look at it – and the people most interested in looking at it are the ever-dwindling number of WWII veterans who fought in the war it commemorates.

The Obama administration knew that an Honor Flight was arriving in Washington, D.C., with the veterans on that flight scheduled to visit the war memorial erected in honor of their courage and sacrifice during WWII. With that in mind, the Obama administration went out of its way – and expended a great deal of federal employee time and money – to wrap tape around the Memorial so that the veterans would be denied access to it.

WWII veterans visit the WWII memorial 2

What the Obama administration forgot is that men who stared down the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese Army would be utterly unimpressed by some yellow tape strung up by a man who hates them almost as fiercely as the Nazis did. Aged though they were, the veterans stormed the WWII Memorial, tearing down and cutting away the tape – aided by help from Republican members of Congress.

WWII veterans visit the WWII memorial 1

Nothing could better illustrate that the budget fight in Washington is not about service to the people; it’s about maintaining power within the political class, most notably the Democrat political class, which has the most invested in Big Government. Moreover, if the government cannot control people, it will make them suffer.

(This post originally appeared in somewhat modified form at Mr. Conservative.)

ADDENDUM:  Earl was good enough to send me this information, from the federal government’s own website:

Operating Hours & Seasons
The public may visit the World War II Memorial 24 hours a day. Rangers are on duty to answer questions from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily and to provide interpretive programs every hour on the hour from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.

Government shutdown open thread

Maybe it’s the anarchist in me, but I like the idea of a government shutdown.  Just as the sequester proved to be a non-issue (although I’m really sad about Fleet Week’s cancellation), I suspect that a federal government shutdown might reveal to a lot of people that our federal government, in addition to providing essential services (which will not be shutdown), also provides innumerable non-essential services that we can permanently do without.

The hardest hit — and I do feel for them — are federal employees.  I think many of them are union bullies, but the vast majority are ordinary people who got a job in the federal government and simply want to keep their job and their lifestyle.

What’s your opinion?

The case for higher speed limits

There are many roads on which there is a speed that just feels “right,” even though it’s not the posted speed. This video says this feeling is legitimate. The video is also fact-filled, funny, well-produced, and the narrator has a great voice (not to mention a non-socialist spirit). I don’t often watch videos that are longer than five or six minutes, but every minute of this one was enjoyable.

Is Edward Snowden a hero or a stinker?

I’ve commented often enough here that why someone fights is as important as the fact that he fights at all. I’ve always made this point in connection with the Left’s habit of likening the “insurgents” in Iraq to the Minute Men in America.  Yes, both were fighting against the power structure, but the insurgents were and are fighting to enslave their country men and, eventually, have world domination, while the Minute Men were fighting to advance individual liberties.  It is the thought that counts.

And so we come to Edward Snowden….

People on both the Left and the Right are lauding him as a hero — on the Right, because it allows them to say “We told you so” about the dangers of Big Brother government, and on the Left because it allows them to say “We told you so” about the dangers of being in a war against those poor misguided, root-caused-damaged Muslims.  The former group desperately wants to protect Americans from their government; the latter group desperately wants to protect the world from America.  Snowden falls into the latter group.

From the Glenn Greenwald interview with Edward Snowden, it’s clear that Snowden did not releases the information he did because he cared about Americans and their liberties.  Instead, Snowden was protecting the world from America.

I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.

And:

I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.

Snowden, in other words, is not a freedom fighter. He’s a garden variety pro-Obama Leftist who believes that America is a danger to the world.  I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that, thanks to him, we know about the scope of government surveillance.  I’m just saying that Snowden is no hero because, in a world where motives matter, his motives are all wrong.

********

Slight change of subject here, but since it’s still about Snowden, I’m including it in the same post.  James Taranto relays an interesting point from a reader about the fact that the NSA should have let us know about this a long time ago because having people know about does not impair their program’s efficacy:

There is something to be said for the idea of selectively declassifying information about the NSA programs. The information revealed by the Guardian and the Post is general enough that it’s difficult to imagine how it could be of use to terrorists. Reader John Scott makes the point in a perceptive email:

The administration tells us that Prism and the collection of data on every call made by Americans were classified secrets because government did not want to give information about our operations to our enemies. This justification is flimsy because of the pervasive nature of the programs. These programs have remained secret in order to prevent public outrage, not to thwart terrorists. Here is why.

If the mayor puts an undercover cop on 2% of the street corners every day, it is important to keep the daily assignments secret. In addition, it may be important to hide the fact that only 2% of the street corners have a cop, since a potential criminal may realize that his odds are good. But if the mayor has an undercover cop on every street corner, the need for secrecy is virtually nonexistent.

If the government monitored all emails, but not phone systems, the terrorists would use phone systems, and vice versa. Similarly, if government monitored all calls made from Yemen, terrorists in Yemen could relay messages through their comrades in France. But the pervasive measures that are in place prevent terrorists from designing their communication systems to exploit holes. In fact, any holes in our systems could be more easily hidden than the entire systems could be hidden. Hence, the reason for keeping these programs secret from the public is to make us compliant, not to make us safer.

John Scott’s point is entirely correct. While it doesn’t address whether, in a free society, it’s okay for the government to have computer networks reading all of our communications, it does point to the fact that, at the very least, we should have been allowed to have had a debate about trading privacy and liberty for a somewhat greater degree of protection against terrorist attacks. I say “somewhat greater” because, while the government claims to have foiled some terrorist attacks with PRISM and the NSA’s phone dragnet, and I’m willing to accept that as true, the federal government dropped every single ball related to the Boston Bombers.

When it came to Boston, it wasn’t just that this vast, intrusive spying program didn’t capture the planned attack. That the system missed the actual terrorist attack makes sense because the actors were able to communicate the old-fashioned way, by talking to each other face-to-face. It was that the same government that feels entitled to spy on our every phone call and keystroke, completely missed the fact that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had massive terrorist connections. He was waving red flags everywhere and our government gave him welfare instead of the boot.

The NSA thinks that it can bring some scientific algorithm to bear on the problem.  Get the right algorithm and then capture enough data and then — voila! — perpetual security.  But that’s not how it works.  When a system places too much reliance on non-human factors, it effectively blinds itself to the randomness of humanity.  Add to that the fact that our government, in thrall to political correctness, deliberately refuses to look at known indicators for terrorism, and you have a system that’s definitely intrusive, that’s questionably effective, and that sucks resources away from the human intelligence and real-world (as opposed to politically-correct-world) knowledge that must drive all security programs.

 

Mark Steyn tackles the administration’s game of “I spy” on the American people

The one good thing about bad news is that it brings out the best in good writers.  You really must read Mark Steyn’s whole column about Obama’s East German spy state, but I can resist cherry-picking for the best of it:

So we know the IRS is corrupt. What happens then when an ambitious government understands it can yoke that corruption to its political needs? What’s striking as the revelations multiply and metastasize is that at no point does any IRS official appear to have raised objections. If any of them understood that what they were doing was wrong, they kept it to themselves. When Nixon tried to sic the IRS on a few powerful political enemies, the IRS told him to take a hike. When Obama’s courtiers tried to sic the IRS on thousands of ordinary American citizens, the agency went along, and very enthusiastically. This is a scale of depravity hitherto unknown to the tax authorities of the United States, and for that reason alone they should be disarmed and disbanded — and rebuilt from scratch with far more circumscribed powers.

[snip]

Holder had another great contribution to the epitaph of the Republic this week. He went on TV to explain that he didn’t really regard Fox News’s James Rosen as a “co-conspirator” but had to pretend he did to the judge in order to get the judge to cough up the warrant. So rest easy, America! Your chief law officer was telling the truth when he said he hadn’t lied to Congress because in fact he’d been lying when he said he told the truth to the judge.

[snip]

When the state has the power to know everything about everyone, the integrity of the civil service is the only bulwark against men like Holder. Instead, the ruling party and the non-partisan bureaucracy seem to be converging. In August 2010, President Obama began railing publicly against “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity” (August 9th, a speech in Texas) and “shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names” (August 21st, radio address). And whaddayaknow, that self-same month the IRS obligingly issued its first BOLO (Be On the Look-Out) for groups with harmless-sounding names, like “tea party,” “patriot,” and “constitution.”

Read it all.  Post it on your blogs.  Email it to your friends.  Distribute it through social media.  Steyn is right about something fundamental here which is that, even if what the administration did is legal, it’s still profoundly wrong and the laws are badly drafted if they can allow government to listen in on the minutiae of every American’s life.

Eric Holder’s newly discovered sense of remorse

Rhett and Scarlett

One of the best lines in Gone With The Wind isn’t “I’ll think about it tomorrow” or “Frankly, my dear. I don’t give a damn.” Instead, it’s “You’re like the thief who isn’t the least bit sorry he stole but is terribly, terribly sorry he’s going to jail.”  Rhett offers the immortal gem to Scarlett when she’s weeping over the fact that her un-womanly role running her second husband’s business led to her husband’s getting killed when he took part in a KKK raid against some men who tried to assault her.

I love Rhett’s line because it goes to the heart of true remorse and repentance.  If your only concern is that you got caught, you don’t care about the crime, you worry only about your punishment.

What brought that classic line into my head is a line that appears in a Daily Beast article about the beleaguered Holder, whose finger has been caught in way too many cookie jars and, if you’ll excuse a flying leap into another metaphor, whose chickens are now coming home to roost:

But for Attorney General Eric Holder, the gravity of the situation didn’t fully sink in until Monday morning when he read the Post’s front-page story, sitting at his kitchen table. Quoting from the affidavit, the story detailed how agents had tracked Rosen’s movements in and out of the State Department, perused his private emails, and traced the timing of his calls to the State Department security adviser suspected of leaking to him. Then the story, quoting the stark, clinical language of the affidavit, described Rosen as “at the very least … an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in the crime. Holder knew that Justice would be besieged by the twin leak probes; but, according to aides, he was also beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse.  (Emphasis mine.)

Yup, a “creeping sense of personal remorse.”  Remorse that he committed so many acts of wrong doing?  I doubt it.  I think Holder’s just “terribly, terribly sorry” that his sins have finally caught up with him.

A little of this and a little of that

Still working on coordinating my stiff, unresponsive brain this morning, so I have nothing interesting to say.  I mean, my dog is perfect, and that’s always of interest to me, but it makes for very limited blog posts.

Fortunately, as is always the case with the internet, even when my synapses are moving as slowly as maple sap in the winter, there’s other stuff there.  For some reason, today’s National Review Online was the one that just riveted me.  The site had three posts that I think are worth sharing with you:

Charles C.W. Cooke talks about the fact that Jill Biden, who has a very Lefty type of PhD in education insists on going by the honorific “doctor.”  This is kind of peculiar on its face, because people with PhD’s in education usually go by professor, but never mind that.  Cooke’s real point is to highlight the American class system the Left has created with its emphasis on doctorates.  With all due respect to those who worked hard to earn doctorates (and I hold one myself, in law, as does every other lawyer in this degree inflated world), the doctorate does not make for a better or more knowledgeable person.  Indeed, one of the problems with doctorates is that they narrow ones knowledge.  We have more and more people who wave around an obscure doctorate in puppetry or a subset of fruit fly cell reproduction and then claim based upon the letters after their names that they have all the answers.  That’s just so not true . . . except perhaps in my case.  In future, please feel free to call me Dr. B.

John Fund points out that, after its initial bout of navel gazing when Kirsten Powers excoriated the media for ignoring the Gosnell trial, the media is right back to ignoring the Gosnell trial — as well as two other trials in which abortion clinics are accused of putting women’s health and life at serious risk.  This adds that little bit of extra irony to the wrap-up to Obama’s speech before Planned Parenthood:

As long as we’ve got to fight to make sure women have access to quality, affordable health care, and as long as we’ve got to fight to protect a woman’s right to make her own choices about her own health, I want you to know that you’ve also got a president who’s going to be right there with you, fighting every step of the way.  Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you.  (Emphasis mine.)

Repeat after me:  “It’s not about health care.  It’s about abortion.”  Until we acknowledge that, we will never have an honest debate about abortion — and its limits — in this country.

Congress awarded posthumous Congressional Medals of Honor Gold Medals to the four little girls who died in a Birmingham, Alabama church in 1963, the victims of a horrific extremist bombing.  Looking at that event and comparing it to the Boston bombing, Mona Charen makes an excellent point:

As Americans, we are not confused about the morality of what happened in Birmingham that September morning in 1963, nor during the Jim Crow era in America generally. We do not hesitate to condemn utterly the behavior and the beliefs of the Ku Klux Klan (the perpetrators of this bombing and others) and their white-supremacist fellow travelers. We do not worry that reviling white supremacists and their grotesque deeds will somehow taint all white people. (Though some on the left won’t mind if you generalize about white people.)

But when it comes to other groups and other motives for the same kind of terrorism — we lose our moral focus. Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and Kathy Boudin have become honored members of the faculties at leading universities. Ayers is even a friend of the president of the United States. Regarding his own record of setting bombs that kill and dismember innocent people, Ayers told the New York Times on the ironic date of September 11, 2001, that “I feel we didn’t do enough. . . .  [There’s] a certain eloquence to bombs, a poetry and a pattern from a safe distance.” So says a retired “distinguished professor” at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Today, American liberals are obsessed not with terrorism but with the color and ethnicity of terrorists.

How’s that for moral clarity?

Andrew Breitbart was right all along about the massive Pigford scandal, one that saw a reparations law turn into a major scam to rip off American taxpayers.  To give credit where credit is due, the New York Times has reported the details of this fraud.  I’d like to believe there’s a conscious afterlife, simply so that I can also believe that Andrew Breitbart is up there, somewhere, pumping his fist with glee.  Perhaps the New York Times will become inspired by this effort and turn to real reporting, rather than spending 90% of its time serving as a propaganda arm for Leftist politicians and activists.

And finally, speaking of newspapers, over at the WaPo, an opinion piece says that the way to destroy the Koch brothers’ proposed LA Times purchase is for all the reporters to walk out!  That’ll show them.  I had to laugh.  First, why would the Koch brothers want to keep a staff that has been responsible for purveying such horrible Leftist claptrap, the paper is seconds away from bankruptcy.  Second, this assumes that there are no good conservative writers, which reveals a level of bias so enormous as to be almost incomprehensible.  And third, does Steven Pearlstein really think that, in a tight economy, hundreds of reporters are simply going to abandon their jobs?

Yesterday, I blamed Obama for causing a problem; today, I echo Pamela Geller’s complaint that federal agencies are useless

My head is spinning.   I just wrote a post for Mr. Conservative based upon the most current news stories saying that an arrest had been made.  From the time of those stories to the time I published the post, it was about 10 minutes.  Within one minute after the post went up, all of the major news sites were recanting the story, saying a suspect had been identified, but not arrested.  (See here for an example of the swift turnaround in news reports.)  Breitbart has given up on specific headlines and just says “Chaos in Boston,” which is about as accurate as anything I’ve seen today.  CNN still has its stand-by fallback position, which is that it’s the Tea Party’s fault, while Fox reminds everyone that pressure cooker bombers are commonly used in such Islamic war places as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

That last point — about the differing CNN and Fox News stories — highlights one of the two truths we know with certainty amidst this swirl of rumors.  The first is that Obama lied through his teeth when he promised in 2008 that his election would heal divisions within America and that his presidency would further smooth the rift, once again creating a truly United States of America.  Instead, using his bully pulpit to demonize half of America (something no president has ever done before), Obama has deepened the rift between Blue and Red America to a point probably not seen since 1860.  Obama, therefore, is easy to blame for the bombing, because a truly united America would not be a good target for this type of attack, no matter who launched it.

The other thing we know with certainty is something that Pamela Geller highlights — we’re not getting any bang for the buck from the alphabet soup of federal law enforcement agencies we taxpayers support.  After commenting derisively on reports that law enforcement describes the terrorism attack investigation as “wide open,” and is begging media outlets to help, Geller points out how embarrassing this is:

This is where the status of the investigation is.  In Europe, and in Israel, whenever there is a terrorist attack, they have someone or some group in their sights or in custody every time.  Take 3/11 in Madrid, 7/7 in London, the Glasgow jihad plot — every jihad attack and jihad plot in Europe, European authorities are right on it, identifying and apprehending the perpetrators.  They know exactly who the bad guys are.  They know exactly where to go.  This is a historical first: that America is not dramatically ahead of the curve, but dramatically behind the curve.  So American citizens are now considered expendable, just the way our soldiers are in Afghanistan.

It should bother every American that Europe and Israel are so far ahead of us in intel that we’re begging CNN and Fox for clues — and apparently detaining people who have nothing to do with the bombing, raiding their homes, taking bagfuls of evidence out, and then saying, “Never mind.”

Really?  The billions that Americans spend for the CIA, FBI, DHS, NSA, JTTF, and all the other various counterterrorism agencies, and they don’t have a clue?  All they have for us is 1-800-CALL-FBI?  This is unconscionable.  If that’s where we are, disband these incompetent, inane agencies that call jihad “workplace violence” and name Atlas Shrugs as a “domestic hate group,” when in fact Atlas Shrugs is battling violence and mass murder across the world.  How did this happen eleven years after 9/11?

In 1995 (Oklahoma City) and 1998 (Atlanta), we didn’t have a multi-armed federal law enforcement infrastructure that, in return for tax dollars and vast, often unconstitutional powers, promised to keep us safe.  Just as Obama broke his promise to heal the rifts in American society, the federal alphabet soup has broken its promise to keep us safe and/or to bring wrongdoers quickly before the law.  Indeed, I seem to remember that it’s been more than half a year since the FBI jetted out to investigate what happened in Benghazi.  So far . . . nothing (although with Hillary screaming “what difference does it make,” investigators may have lost their momentum).

I guess we should all resign ourselves that for at least the next three years, the best we can hope for from our administration is “What difference does it make?”  Unless, of course, the difference is about emasculating our once robust Constitution.  But that’s another story for another post….

Disability claims — the new welfare

I knew back in 1990 that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was going to be a disaster.  Why did I know that?  Because I was a lawyer and I immediately started to spend my time doing defense work for employers who were being sued by every employee who had a backache (illegally bad chairs), a phobia (I must have an office with an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean to combat my claustrophobia), or any other junk claim you can imagine.  I only saw the cases that went into litigation.  For every case I saw, there were undoubtedly 10, or 50, or 100 times as many cases in which the employer instantly caved when confronted with the employee’s demands.

And of course, once a person gets that “disability” diagnosis, suddenly the person qualifies for SSI (social security payments, not for retirement, but for disability).  I never did government work, but I can’t count the number of hale, hearty people who were suing their employers for ADA discrimination, collecting SSI payments, and living the lush life, with government subsidized housing and lots of free time for fun and travel.  Please understand that I’m not complaining about SSI payments for those who are genuinely unable to care for themselves.  (Although there are people who, despite what others think might be a handicap, are more competent than most people you’ll meet.)  A moral society helps those who can’t help themselves.  It has no obligation, however, to help those who won’t help themselves.

Handicapped claims are expensive in other areas too.  I’ve written before at this blog about the insanity that is bureaucratic control over handicapped access.  I agree generally that handicapped access is a good thing.  It benefits mothers with strollers as well as handicapped people.  I’m grateful that, when I’m with my Mom who’s quite disabled, I can grab a handicapped parking space and and have her totter up a ramp under her own steam, rather than having me lift her up the stairs.  Having said that, the notion of handicapped access becomes insane when a city spends tens of thousands of dollars to install a wheelchair ramp within two feet of a wide driveway, or forces a school to spend a quarter million redoing a wheel chair ramp because the bureaucrat’s tape measure reveals that the ramp, as built, is a quarter-inch narrower than the building code demands (but still wide enough for the widest wheelchair).

As with Prohibition, ADA was another over-the-top case of legislating morality.  A decent people make an effort to accommodate handicapped people, elderly people, and even young mothers.  An insane legislative mentality creates a world in which employers have to give mail room clerks corner offices if they claim claustrophobia, cities are forced to build ramps next to ramps, and schools have to spend hundreds of thousands over quarter-inch deviations.

In a very surprising move, the latest attack on the insanity that is modern disability law and welfare comes from, of all places, the Left.  Channa Joffe-Walt spent months investigating disability claims around the United States and concluded that it’s the scam what am.  Her conclusions first appeared on the Left-leaning radio show, This American Life, and she followed that with an NPR article:

In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government.

The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. Yet people relying on disability payments are often overlooked in discussions of the social safety net. People on federal disability do not work. Yet because they are not technically part of the labor force, they are not counted among the unemployed.

Read the article or listening to the radio show.  Joffe-Walt’s findings are eye-opening for those who, unlike me, haven’t had a front row seat for this costly, inefficient, discriminatory Big Government bureaucratic travesty.  It’s a reminder that when we substitute government mandates for private morality, everything goes out the window.  How much better it would have been to create a moral culture that sees people voluntarily providing access for people who have true disabilities, but who nevertheless have gifts, energy, enthusiasm, and abilities that would make it morally criminal to prevent them from engaging in the world.

American royalty on parade

Here’s another pure Bookworm post that got published first at Mr. Conservative:

Biden's London stay

Imagine that you’re the vice president of a nation that’s slowly going bankrupt. Your president has been traveling around the nation saying that, with the economy poised so delicately on the verge of disaster, any spending cuts will destroy elder care, education, and the military, to name just a few groups that the president says will suffer if any cuts are made to America’s spending patterns.

Now imagine that you, as vice president, travel for one night to London. How many people should you take with you and where should you stay? You, being a sensible person, take a bare-bones entourage and stay at a sturdy, middle-of-the-road hotel that can cope with your security needs.

But you’re not the vice president — Joe Biden is. And despite President Obama’s Chicken Little “Sky is Falling” shtick about an economy so delicate that even minor spending cuts will destroy it, nothing is too good for you. That’s why, if you’re Vice President Joe Biden spending a bit of time in London, you require 136 rooms at the Hyatt Regency for your team, resulting in a total of 893 room nights for the stay. Oh, and you charge the American people $459,338.65 – or a little more than $500 per room for these public servants.

Biden's Paris stay

Then, if you’re a member of the Obama administration, you do the same thing all over again in Paris. This time you stay at the Hotel Intercontinental Paris Le Grand. You bring the full entourage and end up costing the taxpayers $585,000.50. After all, nothing is too good for public employees in the Obama administration.

Even the fact that these hotel contracts are not open for competitive bidding for security reasons does not justify these expenses. It’s time for people in Washington to remember that we’re not their employees. The opposite is true – they work for us.

Taiwanese video takes on Michael Bloomberg’s Nanny-state New York

New Yawkers used to have a reputation for being tough.  They didn’t take sh*t from anybody.

In Mayor Bloomberg’s New York, though, the citizens have allowed themselves to be turned into mewling babies (although not formula-fed mewling babies).  Our favorite Taiwanese animators have now taken on Bloomberg’s reign of . . . well, not terror precisely.  It’s more like he’s a Puritan, determined to ensure that he saves all souls, regardless of how they suffer and lose joy along the way:

Bloomberg’s lust for “it’s for your own good” power got a temporary check today, when a New York Supreme Court justice (the equivalent of a trial court judge in other states) issued an injunction against Bloomberg’s ukase against giant sugary drinks, which was to have gone into effect tomorrow. That’s one tiny step for freedom. Of course, New Yorkers have become so infantilized, one has to wonder if they’re capable of breaking free and running away from this parental bully.

Guns don’t kill people; governments kill people

Wonderful, wonderful video:

Incidentally, apropos the fact that government agencies are stockpiling weapons and ammunition, Charles Cooke explains that the numbers aren’t that scary when one considers how many people serve in the various agencies, along with the fact that sometimes the agents have to confront people angered by agency tactics or engaged in criminal acts under agency purview.  He has a point.  There’s probably not a scary conspiracy theory going on.  But there’s still something scary going on, and Cooke nails what it is.  Indeed, he nails it so precisely that I’m going to quote him at some length here:

Fair enough. But here one starts to sympathize with the malcontents. There is a world of difference between the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, or Forest Service and the Department of Education, and that there is no grand clandestine plan for the subjugation of America should by no means be taken to imply that every government action is acceptable. Questions do still abound: Whether it is in possession of one bullet or 1 million bullets, should the federal Department of Education be armed in the first place? If so, why? Should its OIG be investigating external fraud rather than handing it over to the police or the DOJ or the FBI? For those federal departments that play no role in combating domestic and foreign threats — such as the DoE — what would constitute a threat requiring armed confrontation with malefactors?

In 2011, a story about a Department of Education raid went the rounds. Initial versions suggested that the department had commissioned a SWAT team to break into a California home and arrest the estranged husband of a woman who had defaulted on her student loan. Mercifully, this was incorrect. There was no SWAT team involved, nor was the target being investigated for unpaid loans. But the reality was not necessarily much better. Instead, the DoE announced that it had conducted the raid itself, in pursuit of an American citizen that it suspected of “bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student aid funds.” It was a disaster; the suspect no longer lived in the house, a fact that special agents eventually discovered after they had smashed in the doors at dawn, thrown the occupant’s children into a police car, and kept the suspect’s (innocent) husband in handcuffs in a hot squad car for six hours.

As the local ABC affiliate reported, in an attempt to clear up the confusion, “police officers did not participate in breaking [the target’s] door, handcuffing him, or searching his home.” Instead, the Department of Education did. Judging by their ammunition purchases, the Social Security Administration and the IRS could have done so, too. That, and not fantasies about a plan to counter phantom civil unrest, is what should concern Americans.

Exactly.

 

 

Sadie has a question about drones — Do you feel lucky?

Sadie sent me an email:

Would you post this and ask your clever and knowledgeable readers to answer mine or Dirty Harry’s question: Well, do you feel Lucky. Well do ya, Punk?

I am not feeling warm and fuzzy. Admission: I am warm enough, but very fuzzy on details about internal drones because DHS hasn’t explained the purchase of 450 million hollow-point bullets (they’re the type of bullets that expand after entry). Show and tell video below.

California is searching for Christopher Dorner, who has murdered 3 people already and has a “kill list”. The administration has a “kill list” as well, which is only geared towards Americans on foreign soil, along with foreign jihadists/Al Qaida. Add to the mix that Congress approved the use of 30,000 drones by 2020 within our borders.I can see the program’s usefulness in apprehending Dorner, but ….

It’s not as if the electorate was asked if an internal drone program is a good/bad idea. Is it?

The Federal Aviation Administration has finally released a new drone authorization list. This list, released in response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, includes law enforcement agencies and universities across the country, and—for the first time—an Indian tribal agency. In all, the list includes more than 20 new entities over the FAA’s original list, bringing to 81 the total number of public entities that have applied for FAA drone authorizations through October 2012.

California Department of Education fights school district for daring to spend money on children’s education.

Boy eating lunch

I wrote a few days ago about the fact that the State of California Department of Education has gone after the Kentfield School District in Marin County, because the District’s food program relies on PTA volunteers, rather than on paid union members.  Our local paper has an update on the story say that, for the time being, the School Board has decided to continue with business as usual, rather than acceding to the State’s demands.  What I love about the most recent report is a single sentence.  Look upon it and marvel:

One of the state’s concerns is that the extra revenue from the lunches are used to fund school programs, books and equipment. The letter said that it’s the district’s responsibility to oversee food service, employ staff and use cafeteria revenue for expenses only.

Think about it:  the State of California Department of Education is appalled that a school district would spend money on education, books, and classroom equipment.  How dare they!

I also learned one new thing from the story update:  the Kentfield PTA actually provides the food itself.  In my children’s’ elementary school district, the PTA was never more than a facilitator.  It did charge a slight premium, and the parents who paid for hot lunch knew that the premium would go to PTA activities supporting education.  In our case, though, when the state protested, the district caved immediately, kicked out the PTA, and started sending all the money (more than the PTA charged) to a third-party provider that didn’t give any residual profits back to the school.

The PTA president, who seems like a conservative in the making (if she isn’t one already), spells out the whole situation with great clarity:

PTA President Karen Loebbaka said what makes the program different is that instead of having a company come in and make profits, the PTA gets to put its profits toward education.

“We’re able to channel tens of thousands of dollars back to our district,” Loebbaka said.

She said the program is voluntary and doesn’t require students to participate.

“If you don’t like it, it doesn’t serve the needs of your family, pack a lunch,” she said.

School supplies

I am irresistibly reminded of the bad old joke:

First man: Come the Revolution, we’ll all drive Rolls Royces.
Second man: What if I don’t want to drive a Rolls Royce?
First man: Come the Revolution, you’ll have to.

In a failure of Progressivism, San Rafael allows people to smoke in their single family homes

I hate the smell of cigarette smoke.  Hate it!  Hate it!  Hate it!  That hatred is entirely separate from hating the way cigarettes harm people’s health. Even if they were healthy, the smell would disgust me.

Having said that, I hate even more ordinances that prevent people from smoking cigarettes in their own homes.  The town of San Rafael, just north of San Francisco, has gone ahead and passed just such an ordinance.  If the news story is correct, the only serious exception to the new ordinance is for single family homes.  Otherwise, if you’re a smoker (and you really shouldn’t be, because it’s bad for you and rude to others), you are seriously out of luck:

San Rafael officials approved the county’s toughest anti-tobacco ordinance to date on Monday, banning smoking from all apartments and condominiums, in addition to parks, bus stops, restaurant patios and many other outdoor spaces.

The measure is aimed at protecting people from secondhand smoke, officials said.

“What we are really considering is the impact of others,” Mayor Gary Phillips said Monday before voting with his four city council colleagues to approve the ordinance.

The ordinance includes special restrictions for the downtown area, banning smoking from sidewalks and plazas except while smokers are “actively passing on the way to another destination.”

The new rules are similar to those adopted by the city of Larkspur, the county Board of Supervisors and other Marin agencies. However, San Rafael is the first to ban smoking in all apartments and condos; others allow designation of some units for smoking.

In San Rafael, landlords, condo boards, employers, public event organizers and the city manager could still designate some outdoor smoking areas, with restrictions. The areas would have to be 20 feet away from places where smoking is banned and 100 feet away from children’s areas or recreation areas such as playgrounds and swimming pools.

The San Rafael ordinance spells out some indoor areas where smoking would still be allowed including single-family houses, vehicles, up to 20 percent of hotel rooms and tobacco shops that are not attached to other structures. Actors in theater productions may smoke onstage if “smoking is an integral part of the story and the use of a fake, prop, or special effect cannot reasonably convey the idea of smoking in an effective way to a reasonable member of the anticipated audience,” according to the ordinance.

Let me say again that I hate smoking.  If I was a landlord, I’d include in my lease a clause prohibiting tenants and their guests from smoking on the premises.  Then I’d willingly face the marketplace, which might favor my smoking prohibition (so that I could charge higher rents) or might leave me with vacant units.

I also don’t have a problem with designating certain areas in public spaces as smoking or non-smoking.  Just as smokers should be able to smoke (despite the fact that it’s a foolish and costly habit), non-smokers in public areas should have a chance to be free of smoke.

What I don’t like is having a police state tell me what I can do in my home — and during the term of my lease, that apartment or whatever else is mine.  If the landlord doesn’t want smoking going on, that’s one thing.  For the government to interfere is an unconscionable intrusion on freedom.

As for smoking’s harm, the best we can and should do is to keep educating people.  More importantly, make it socially unacceptable, especially amongst teens.  Right now, because adults are so anti-smoking, more and more teens seem to be smoking to prove how cool and rebellious they are.  And as we know, all the regulations in the world won’t stop a teen determined to break the rules.

I’m not sure that those demanding government efficiency had this in mind

One of the things that unites conservatives is an abiding dislike of government inefficiency. Government is just about the only entity that can take two of your dollars (not two of its dollars, but two of yours) and then make them do the work of one, or maybe none. Every government project seems to be a vast sinkhole, sucking money up with little return on investment.

Well, word is out that the Obama government finally did something efficient, insofar as it got double bang for its buck. Yes, the Obama administration managed to take taxpayer money and both fund the instantly bankrupt Solyndra and channel money into an arts project:

The missing Solyndra tubes have finally turned up — in a modern art exhibit at U.C. Berkeley:

One of the great mysteries of the 2011 Solyndra bankruptcy was: What happened to all that money? After the United States government “loaned” Solyndra $535 million, the money quickly vanished; the bankruptcy court later found that the company had essentially no cash on hand. They had spent it all on equipment and inventory.

Zombie uncovered that mystery simply by going to the museum.

Far be in from me to criticize even a modicum of government efficiency, but I wonder how many Americans are going to feel good about the fact that their hard-earned money was wasted, not once, but twice.

Chick-Fil-A postscript

I left for vacation a day or two after the whole Chick-Fil-A/free speech matter arose.  I was aware of it, through my minimal contact with the internet, but obviously couldn’t comment upon it.  The one goold thing about waiting so long, though, is that others provide the perfect commentary.  In this case, the “other” providing commentary is Bob Owen:

Clearly, this is more than a “buycott” over gay marriage. If the smattering of people I’ve talked to are representative, homosexuality is a side issue.

This strikes a much deeper, more foundational chord.

The massive crowd reaction locally and nationwide are driven by a loathing of arrogant politicians like those in Boston, New York, Chicago and San Francisco who feel they have the power and the authority to tell a businessman like Dan Cathy what personal opinions he can and cannot hold if he wants to do business in “their” towns.

They trampled on his religious beliefs. They trampled on his freedom of speech. They attempted to deny him and his franchisees the rights to start small businesses, merely because a free American dared to share what he believed.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

(H/T:  JKB)

They trusted their welfare to the Government

I am standing Hwy 2, passing through the Blackfoot “Res” in Montana. What I see before me doesn’t look like much, a scrubby field under low hills and Montana’s incredibly beautiful big sky.

Where I am standing is the former site of the Badger Creek Indian Agency, where the Blackfeet Indians gathered after their buffalo had been slaughtered and the government promised them food and support in exchange for having given up their independence and self reliance.

By the winter of 1883-1884, however, the government had really, really screwed up. The Indians’ own source of meat (buffalo, deer, elk) had been destroyed. Their limited crops had failed. Their limited livestock was depleted. They were running out of food.

Since 1881, Indian agent John Young’s repeated requests to the government for more food aid had been met with bureaucratic indifference. Frankly, the “government” didn’t care very much and there were budget constraints that had to be met.

Then, in the winter of 1883-1884, the inevitable happened: starvation came. By the time the world outside the reservation heard about it, one quarter of the population (600 Indians) had already starved to death. The surrounding Montana communities responded immediately, sending relief trains of emergency food, livestock and blankets to the Blackfeet survivors. The government, by contrast, did nothing. After the fact, they held hearings, absolved themselves of responsibility and, finally, blamed Indian Agent John Young for gross negligence.

This is a story to keep in mind for all those that believe that it is somehow a good idea to surrender their independence and self-reliance to a faceless entity called “government”. Whether it is welfare, social security, Medicare or Obamacare, I can guarantee this: the government will screw up through indifference and people will die. Not because government is “bad” or that the people in government are “bad”, but because people are people and government can never be better than our collective human nature. And, once stripped of our independence and self-reliance, there will be no recourse. We will not be able to rely upon surrounding communities to rush to our aid.

Why does the Left love Mom and Pop stores, but hate Mom and Pop medicine?

Gay Patriot posted the other day about yet another anti-Walmart protest.  His point was that the protesters, rather than being excited about real paying jobs coming to L.A., insisted that they would be better off with some hypothetical Mom and Pop jobs that might arise if they protested Walmart with sufficient vigor:

Last week, when watching TV news footage of people protesting a Walmart being built in LA’s Chinatown, I caught sight of a sign which seemed to define contemporary American liberalism, “Good Jobs/not Walmart jobs.”

[snip]

These protestors, however, prefer these abstract “good jobs” to the very real “Walmart Jobs.”  They favor, that is, something that exists in the abstract, in theory, to something very real — and well, like most real things, (at least) slightly imperfect.

Gay Patriot is, of course, correct, about the illogic driving the protesters.  But think too about their claim that large, impersonal employers aren’t “good.”  The assumption underlying this claim is that multiple small businesses better serve the community by ensuring choice and by preventing people from having a single Leviathan-esque employer beaten them down (in the form of “union busting” and “low wages”):

“This historic neighborhood will be utterly gutted if Walmart comes here,” Morello told the Associated Press.

Others said they were worried that the retail giant will drive smaller stores in Chinatown out of business.

“We hope that Walmart will hear us loud and clear and stop the construction and get out of Chinatown,” said King Cheung, an organizer with the Chinatown  Coalition for Equitable Development. “So that we in Chinatown, the stakeholders, can talk about what is best for Chinatown.”

[snip]

Sarah Tseng said her nonprofit had collected signatures for 80 local small businesses in opposition to the planned store. She said the majority of Chinatown residents oppose it, but are “afraid to say so publicly.”

To summarize, the protesters are appalled that a large entity will move in and squeeze out the diversity offered by multiple small providers, because doing so harms the worker and the consumer.   Pretty clear, right?  Right.  Except….

Except that this principle collapses completely when it’s the government that wants to move in and despoil Mom and Pop concerns (i.e., small providers).  In deconstructing Fareed Zakaria’s liberal defense of the government takeover of medicine, Yuval Levin points out the Left’s hostility to small providers:

Zakaria then contends that the inefficiencies of the American health care system—and especially the frequent disconnect between costs and outcomes—are a function of there just being too many different players in the system, each with his own goals. This is the classic liberal complaint: disorder causes inefficiency. Citing a conversation with Daniel Vassela, the chairman of Novartis, Zakaria writes:

“In America,” he said, “no one has incentives to make quality and cost-effective outcomes the goal. There are so many stakeholders and they each want to protect themselves. Someone needs to ask, ‘What are the critical elements to increase quality?’ That’s what we’re going to pay for, nothing else.”

And from this, Zakaria does not conclude that we need to rearrange the financial incentives in our health-care system so that, like in other parts of our economy, providers of services have a powerful incentive (called the profit motive) to make quality and cost-effectiveness their goal. Instead, he concludes that government must take over decisions about how to provide coverage and organize the system because presumably government is very good at making quality and cost-effectiveness its goals.

In other words, the protesting Left isn’t really interested in Mom and Pop, whether Mom and Pop are selling shoes or health care. Instead, Leftists are simply interested in destroying large capital and elevating Big Government.

Judge Roberts’ decision forces Americans to stand on their own two feet — and that’s a good thing *UPDATED*

[UPDATE:  Since I wrote this post, there is now reason to believe that Roberts issued his opinion for the wrong reasons, not the right ones.  If I were to rewrite this post today, I would be less charitable to the man.  Nevertheless, putting aside Roberts' motives, I stand by the substance of my post, which is that it forces conservatives to recognize that they cannot look to any branch of the government for succor from Big Government.]

Now that the first shock of the Roberts opinion is over, many conservatives are very busy digging through the pile of manure, confident that there’s a pony in there somewhere.  In this, we are distinct from our Progressive/Democrat counterparts, who would be busy rioting in the streets and sending death threats to John Roberts.

Having had more than 24 hours to come to terms with the decision, I’m beginning to think that there may indeed be a pony (or several ponies) hiding in there somewhere.  Moreover, I’m also realizing that Roberts, despite the apparent wackiness of his decision, stayed true to his constitutional roots.

As is always the case with me, I build my argument slowly, so please bear with me.  I’ll try to maintain some tension and excitement as I go.

Speaking of tension and excitement, my first point involves a screaming fight some colleagues of mine got into yesterday.  Because they’re nice folks, it wasn’t a vicious, personal, ad hominem fight.  They just kept making the same points over and over again, at ever-increasing volume.  They seem to have locked into the same line of reasoning that says that, if you speak really LOUDLY to someone who doesn’t understand English, you will make yourself understood.

The topic my friends were debating was whether heroin should be legal or not.  One side staunchly opposed legality because heroin is so dangerous; the other side equally staunchly advocated legalizing the drug, because it has benefits that go beyond the medicinal.  (I’ll take the other side’s word for it, since recreational heroin seems merely self-indulgent to me.)

What was fascinating was that both sides laid claim to the government to support their argument.  Those who feared heroin’s risks felt that only the government could protect Americans from the drug’s dangers.  Those who believed it should be legalized, after pointing out correctly that making heroin illegal doesn’t stop either its use or the societal downsides, believed that only government could manage heroin.  These people envisioned corner dispensaries, apparently along the line of the DMV.

At a facetious level, I have to agree with the guy who wants to put heroin in government hands.  Can you think of anything that would make heroin less appealing than having to deal with government functionaries a la your local DMV?  I can just see it now:  Long lines, rude clerks, poor quality service, mountainous bureaucracy and, to make it worse, you’ve got the joneses the whole time.

At a more serious level, both sides were right and both were wrong.  Making heroin illegal hasn’t stopped heroin use, just as it hasn’t stopped marijuana use, or underage drinking.  Putting it in government hands, however, is a recipe for corruption and still won’t stem abuse.  It will just make the government the pusher, which is a sleazy and awful idea.

Perhaps the smartest thing is to legalize heroin and put it into the free market.  Then, as we do with alcohol, we punish behaviors that stem from the abuse, such as driving under the influence or, less directly, any robberies, assaults, etc., that results from someone’s need for the drug or use of the drug. Let individuals make their choices.

Of course, some individuals aren’t in a position to make a choice.  They get the burdens, not the benefits.  Which leads me, inevitably, to Prohibition.  (Believe it or not, I’m still on track to a rip-roaring conclusion about Justice Roberts’ opinion.)

Prohibition was not the result of whacked out Church ladies, anxious to destroy all joy in the world.  Instead, it arose in response to an alcohol-soaked culture, one that saw working men instantly spending their paychecks at the local saloon.  “Father, dear Father, come home with me now,” wasn’t just a maudlin song; it was real life for tens of thousands of children, begging their father to leave the saloon and bring what little remained of his week’s pay home to the family.  Of course, when father came home, there was always the risk that he’d beat the living daylights out of Mama and the kids, but as long as he brought some money with him, what could you do?

The Dry Movement was a direct response to America’s sodden state.  But here’s the thing:  the reason Prohibition passed was because the culture changed so radically that a critical mass of Americans could force a change to the Constitution.  By 1920 — and this is something no one at the time realized — the paradigm shift in American culture was probably sufficient to change its drinking habits without coercive pressure from the federal government.  Drinking was no longer morally acceptable in many communities, which were already dry by 1920.  Local values controlled.  People who hated alcohol could move to a Dry town or they could agitate to change things within their own communities.

Once the government stepped in to control alcohol (and it was controlled, rather than completely prohibited, as certain religious or “medicinal” brews were still allowed), all Hell broke loose.  We became a nation of scofflaws, organized crime, and corrupt law enforcement.  Yes, drinking did continue to diminish, but it had already been diminishing before the Feds stepped in.  All that happened with government-control is that bad things happened too.

You can see an analogous situation with Johnson’s Great Society.  In the years leading to it, two things happened in America:  The Civil Rights movement, which focused on the serious wrongs done to black Americans, and which was a topic that dominated America’s intellectual airspace; and the rise of the black middle class, which happened behind the scenes as the culture changed.

Laws banning discrimination rightly addressed the Civil Rights crimes.  However, the Democrats added to the mix huge changes in welfare, i.e., Government-involvement in black lives.  As is so often the case with the government good intentions, the massive legislative intervention into American life — and, specifically, into black American’s lives — reversed black folk’s economic advancement.  If the government could just have stopped itself with leveling the playing field, it’s questionable whether today blacks would consistently rank among America’s poorest, least educated, and crime-ridden population.  The problem was that, in the 1960s, as in the 1920s, Americans, especially educated Americans, couldn’t conceive of an organic solution to a visible problem.  Government had to “fix” things.

Which, at long last, gets me back to health care and Justice Roberts’ decision.  (And you doubted that I would ever loop back to my main point.  Oh, ye of little faith!)  Roberts wrote the decision at the end of a 90 year continuum holding that Government fixes problems and the Supreme Court fixes Government.  This approach makes “We, the people” unnecessary.  Rather than elections being the corrective, the Court is the corrective — except that the Court’s make-up is controlled by the Government.  (Remember the Bork debacle?)

Roberts refused to play this game.  He slapped back the Democrats’ hands when it came to the Commerce Clause, telling them that the federal government cannot legislate inactivity.  And he held — quite correctly — that if there’s any possible way for the Court to salvage a law, it must do so.  His salvaging was to say that, this particular law, written in this particular way, with these particular controls over the people, can be salvaged by calling it a tax.  It’s an ugly decision, but probably a correct one.  And then he tossed the whole thing back to the American people.

I can just see Roberts’ thought-process (although he might have thought in more polite terms):  You idiots elected a Congress and president that used every kind of political chicanery known to man in order to pass the biggest tax in American history and one that, moreover, completely corrupts the free market system.  It’s not the Supreme Court’s responsibility to correct that kind of thing, provided that the judges can, as I did, find a smidgen of constitutionality in it.  There’s an election coming up in November.  Let’s hope you’ve wised up enough to figure out that my Supreme Court is returning power to “We, the people.”  We will not pull your chestnuts out of the fire.  We will not legislate from the bench.  We will construe things as narrowly as possible.  If you, the people, don’t like it, you, the people, elect different representatives.

In the short run, this is an enormously painful pile of manure for American conservatives.  In the long run (a run that, I hope, includes November 2012), if we Americans are smart and genuinely believe in our liberties, we’ll find so many ponies in that manure we’ll be able to have a pony parade right up to the steps of White House and both Houses of Congress.

 

The forgotten lunch tab and what it says about personal responsibility in the age of Big Government

ABC reports that President Obama treated two service men and two local barbers to a high-fat Father’s Day lunch (high-fat, at least, for Obama), and then left without paying the tab:

Amid the bustle of President Obama’s surprise stop for barbecue Wednesday the White House apparently overlooked one key detail: the bill.

Celebrating Father’s Day early, the president had lunch with two service members and two local barbers at Kenny’s BBQ on Capitol Hill.

As the group chatted about fatherhood, the president enjoyed a steaming plate of pork ribs with hot sauce, collard greens, red beans and rice and cornbread.

The bill for the president and his four guests was $55.58, but was left unpaid at the point of sale, according to pool reports.

The White House corrected the oversight and settled up the tab by the end of the business day.

I don’t for one minute blame Obama for forgetting to pay the tab.  That’s not his job.  But it’s apparent that in the swirl of government employees constantly circling around him, no one felt that it was his or her responsibility.  Isn’t that whole scenario a perfect paradigm for government?  Obama, the service men, and the barbers were all happily dining on someone else’s tab — and then the person who was supposed to pay didn’t.

(It’s ironic, really, that this happened within a couple of days of Obama’s sudden obsession with paying the tab at a restaurant:

“I love listening to these guys give us lectures about debt and deficits. I inherited a trillion dollar deficit!” he said. Obama compared Republicans to a person who orders a steak dinner and martini and then, “just as you’re sitting down, they leave, and accuse you of running up the tab.”

I mean, isn’t this better than a film script?  Within a week of accusing the opposing political party of hypothetically stiffing the American people at a restaurant, Obama actually stiffs an American restaurant owner.)

Although not directly on point, to the extent we’re talking about personal responsibility, this whole scenario is analogous to Hillary Clinton’s “It takes a village to raise a child” shtick from the 1990s.  The expression is true, of course, if there’s a real village.  I live in a very tight neighborhood where I know all the kids and all the parents, and they all know each other.  If a kid does something wrong — drinking, drugs, etc. — he can be assured that his parents will know within a day or two.  The children know that every parent in the neighborhood is watching out for them.  The kids also watch out for each other.  We are a genuine, organically grown community, based upon proximity, shared values, and social connections.  We all look out for each other, because we all know each other, and we know what matters to the other families.

Hillary, though, wasn’t envisioning a network of small communities that take care of their own.  That world view smacks of conservative thinking.  Instead, she pretended that an impersonal, distant government was precisely equivalent to that village.  Her promise was that, if we paid enough in taxes to create the Nanny state, we would get the “village” without the effort of looking after our own. Almost daily stories out of England about horribly abused children who slipped through the cracked network of social services tells us just how well that “government village” works.

The Democrat desire to avoid personal responsibility goes all the way up the ladder to the top man, the guy in the White House.  Obama avoids personal responsibility like the plague and is beginning to get mocked for that, even by his own party.  But why are his compadres surprised?  The entire Democrat ethos is based upon eating the food and having someone else pay the bill — and then expressing surprise when the bill goes unpaid.

To skip to another scenario (this is the scenario equivalent of mixed metaphors), think back to the last CPR class you took.  I always forget the number of pumps and breaths (and understand that they’ve now simplified it down to a Bee Gees song).  What I do remember, though, is that the one thing you should never do is holler out a generic “Call 911!”  This makes everyone responsible for making that call and experience has shown that if everyone is responsible then no one is responsible.  Instead, you have to tag someone.  “YOU, the guy in the black shirt, call 911.”

The same principle of failing to invest specific people with responsibility — and thereby creating a responsibility vacuum — holds true when the government sucks responsibility away from people and distributes it into its vast machinery.  Suddenly, individuals aren’t responsible — and you can’t find the clerk with the cash when you need him.

My sister once worked with a secretary who felt put upon.  No matter what one asked her to do, she came back with a single answer:  “That’s not my job, man.”  Since she was working for a private company, she was fired as soon as the company felt that it had protected itself against a potential wrongful discharge lawsuit.  In the federal world, this same gal would not only have lifetime employment, she’d be teaching taxpayer-funded seminars on avoiding direct responsibility for anything.

It starts at the bottom, with Barack Obama’s minions in the restaurant saying “That’s not my job, man.”  And it ends at the top with Barack Obama, speaking of the American economy and saying, “Bush started it.  That’s not my job, man.”

Americans hunger to take on the job of creating work and wealth.  Isn’t it time to let them?