If the ACLU has it’s way, there will be link, if somewhat distant, between James Madison and Boston crack dealer Brima Wurie. Yes folks, this is about the Fourth Amendment and this Tuesday the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether your cell phone is like your home, and thus sheltered from unreasonable search and seizure. The two cases to be heard involve a drug dealer and gang member in San Diego and our drug dealer in Boston. Their defense will argue that any search of their client’s cell phones should have been accompanied by a search warrant and their subsequent convictions — information on the cell phones in question led to the finding of drugs and guns belonging to the suspects — should be thrown out. We’ve come a long way from the protections demanded by citizens of the 13 Colonies against the invasive general searches they suffered under the British Monarchy, whose officials were usually looking for goods they could tax. Prohibitions against general warrants were written into state law in Virginia and Massachusetts and other states before Madison framed the Fourth Amendment.

So is checking out the cell phone of a suspected crack dealer unreasonable search and seizure? The answer would seem, obviously not. One fears, however, that whatever the Supreme Court rules — or more likely because the Supreme Court likely will leave the door open for the Legislature to adapt laws to changing technology — this issue is going to return to the courts, (and Congress perhaps), at some point in the near future. How high would the bar be raised for probable cause to apply? Imagine a pedofile deleting images on his smart phone as law enforcement officials frantically do the paperwork. For those in the legal profession who worship at the altar of process, especially defence lawyers, search warrants for cell phones with rigorous protections would surely seem to be justice. For members of the law enforcement community, they would be another shackle on their ability to fight crime.

Last week, Vice President Biden was talking tough in the Ukraine. He called on Russia to get the pro-Russian militias in East Ukraine to leave the buildings that they are occupying. Otherwise, Russia might find itself “isolated”. Is Putin shaking in his KGB boots? Hardly. When not making harsh statements about possible military action in the neighboring state, where Russian forces are already at work by all indications, he’s on the phone with President Obama. So as the VP gets as blunt as a European diplomat during the Balkans War, the President negotiates with Putin, or at least chats on the phone with him. In this political theatre — There are real deaths occurring in Donetsk as this theatre plays out — does anyone believe that Russia will adhere to the frayed, if not collapsed, Geneva Accord?

One is sorely tempted to ask: what would President Reagan have done? But perhaps we need to turn to another leader that Reagan surely admired. What would Churchill have done? What is happening in East Ukraine seems to resemble the late forties and the Soviet occupation of Europe, all over again. Donetsk is not Berlin or Prague, but it is a sovereign state under siege if not yet invasion by Russia, where Putin’s ambition to recreate some form of the Soviet Union if not the Warsaw Pact is fairly clear. By the late forties Churchill was out of power and had lost the battle with Roosevelt over whether to confront their former wartime ally. The Iron Curtain had fallen and Operation Unthinkable, the British code name for a planned war with the Soviets, had been shelved. It would have been costly in life and treasure and would have prolonged the war, but might have freed Eastern Europe from Soviet occupation. Does 2014 resemble 1946? That would be dramatic, but Europe’s willingness to stand up to Putin seems to depend on how much gas flows from East to West. In other words, no one wants to confront Putin. There is no Churchill, or Pope John Paul II, or Thatcher, and the best we can hope for is that the ties of commerce and trade that bind Russia with her neighbors to the West will ultimately force Putin and his wealthy backers to show some restraint. And for that, we have President Reagan to thank, who turned the world back towards freedom and achieved what most at the time had believed impossible: he took on the Soviets and won.

Last week, a New Jersey woman named Susan Morgan sued the state for not permitting a vanity plate reading 8THEIST but allowing one reading BAPTIST. She said the state was discriminating against atheists.

Like many things in life, the incident reminded me of a South Park episode. Not everyone is fan of the show, so bear with me, but conservatives should be, since the creators take more jabs at runaway liberalism than anything else. On one episode, a rabidly radical mother decided a school’s Christmas decorations were offensive, so the town eliminated all references to religion in its Christmas decor. Eventually the Christmas pageant became children on an empty stage, dressed in monochrome costumes and chanting Happy happy happy happy. A strangely prophetic view of the U.S.

Whatever opinion you have of the show, its writers make a good point: eliminate everything considered “offensive” and the world’s going to become a pretty drab place.

I won’t argue with Shannon Morgan’s right to have the 8THEIST plate, but what exactly are her motives? Her lawsuit is making a point, and in doing so, she’s willing to chip away at the happiness of the vast majority of the country. She simply wants to make a stand for her atheist beliefs (ironic, isn’t it?).

Whether she wins or loses, it’s a slippery slope the U.S. is already sliding down. No religious license plate. No “Under God” in the Pledge. No Nativity scenes. No mention of God on our currency. It goes on and on. Every year, I hear “Merry Christmas” fewer and fewer times. Now it’s “Happy Holidays” everywhere. Public depictions of Christianity, because of frivolous lawsuits from the likes of Shannon Morgan, are now subtle and timid. In a decade or two, I’ll be attending my son’s Winter Solstice play, listening to him chant generic Winter songs and wondering what the holiday is all about. Even Santa Claus will become taboo.

Thanks, Shannon Morgan.

Jeb Bush is already feeling the media heat from both sides and he’s barely put a toe in the water. Conservative reaction to his “act of love” interview on immigration was not one of overjoyed approval but perhaps much more telling about what he might face if he really does decide to enter the race is a New York Times piece on his post-governor business ventures. It delves into the business “empire” Jeb has put together since occupying the governor’s office in Tallahassee. There is a directorship in a company that engaged in less than transparent activities in their accounting — How much directors knew is always an issue here but a news item like this doesn’t help — and the money is flowing in. $3 million in fees and stock grants … over almost seven years. Let’s see that would be, less than $500,000 a year? That’s an empire? Is this the sacrifice he would have to endure to have a go at the White House?

Perhaps Jeb Bush has read another NY Times article, helpfully pointed out by Bill Kristol, that talked about a recent White House confab for the truly wealthy. Thomas Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy — Perhaps we could abbreviate it as WHOSIT? — organized a conference/symposium for a hundred or so young heirs to billionaire fortunes where their idealism would have plenty to think about and their checkbooks would of course be more than welcome. With the help of Nexus, a group that wants to work with the next generation of philanthropists and their trust funds, they discussed issues like water quality in Puget Sound. I’m not sure Jeb Bush’s son, who is part of his “empire”, was invited to the event. Not only that, it was closed to the press, save for the article written by a member of the Johnson family; yes, the ones who founded Johnson & Johnson, who was naturally enough, an invited guest. No, the tough press scrutiny is reserved for those who slug away in the $50,000 a speech bracket. And that’s fine, but it seems Jeb Bush is a long way from empire as he decides if it’s worth it to run in 2016.

In Maryland, the rollout of Obamacare has people rolling up their sleeves and swinging, verbally, at each other. Both people in this case happen to be Democrats, contenders for Governor in the state’s Democratic primary at the end of June. Apparently the rollout was way less than smooth in Maryland where they decided to replace the technology with that used in Connecticut. Douglas Ganser, the state’s Attorney General, derided his opponent, the state’s Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, as not having had a “real job” and presumably not being up to the task of running Maryland and its troubled rollout of Obamacare. The fact that the Lt. Gov. is an attorney wasn’t what got Ganser all fussy and in a fingerpointing mood; Anthony Brown is also an Iraq veteran who, despite serving his country in a war zone, has never had an honest job according to the Attorney General who attacked Brown’s ads where his service is mentioned.

Veteran’s groups are not impressed; Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org called on Ganser to “stop smearing those of us who served in Iraq as not having had a ‘real job'”. Behind the indefensible attack by Ganser is a desperation to prove that he can successfully manage the botched rollout, which the Lt. Gov. was in part responsable for, and prove to his state that Douglas Ganser is the one to bring them Obamacare. Rather than think about changing the act itself, we have ugly smear tactics by the Attorney General. Doing so, he can then win the primary, win the vote, and tinker with Obamacare once safely in office. Having served the country in a warzone, often performing highly complex tasks in an environment that goes way beyond stress, however, is not an asset apparently. Not when wrestling with botched rollouts in Maryland.

Eric Sanderson has it all worked out with plenty of statistics — from exactly what studies and under what assumptions would be interesting to see — to back up his view that all you need to do is lose your car to provide the nation with green and pleasant cities. Well, not quite everyone: farmers, rural dwellers — How rural would that be? Groceries available ten miles away? Or less? — and others like emergency services are allowed to keep their cars under the conservation ecologists plans; and they are big plans indeed. But first he wants to convince you that owning a car is not just bad for the planet, it’s inefficient! Traffic logjams, hunting for a parking space when you get where you’re going, filling up your tank with expensive gasoline. The list of time-devouring sins a car seduces you into commiting seems impressive, until one thinks about having to do a Saturday’s worth of shopping without your car. Put together a typical to-do list and imagine doing it all by public transport; or better yet on a bicycle or just walking. Unless you live in Manhattan, I suspect that your Saturday shopping would be longer, more exhausting and end much later than if you had done it by car.

But of course, Eric Sanderson knows that. It isn’t that he thinks we’re all dumb and only choose the most efficent option to get us from point A to point B because we love the sound of a 69 Chevy with a 396, fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor. We’re just a little confused and only need to imagine a brave new world with very few cars and a whole lot of public transport; perhaps like Prague in 1968. We just need more frequent and extensive, and cleaner, public transport which of course would be cheaper according to Sanderson. The elderly and disabled would love waiting for the streetcar and subways could be refitted to carry freight at night … I’m not making this up. In our just-in-time economy such schemes would likely cripple growth by disrupting supply lines and throwing inventories out of whack leaving stores with the wrong product at the wrong time. Unless you believe in a command and control society — whether Green or Red — then it’s consumers who will make the choice to use their cars less — if they do so — at some point. Unless you live in Manhattan, where you can always hail a cab.

North Korea is what Stalin and Mao Zedong dreamed of creating, only in the case of the “Hermit Nation”, it worked. Millions of people working only for the good of the state, and the state boiling down to a single despotic ruler. No Roman ruler ever exerted such autonomous control. The rule of Kim il-Sung’s dynasty is so absolute, it’s almost a living cartoon. And, of course, it’s a living cartoon that is now preparing for yet another nuclear test, according to recent reports from South Korea.

It’s amazing to me that we have allowed North Korea to exist as long as it has, considering it is a country bent on the destruction of the U.S. That is not opinion; that is North Korea’s national policy. Just take a look at the country’s website. Equally amazing is the fact that we allow this brainwashed mass of Marxist zombies to reside within a literal stone’s throw from one of our closest allies, South Korea. I appreciate the technological products of South Korea, especially since I am using one of their intuitive products right now: a Samsung Chromebook. Our best opportunity to topple the nation, after the death of Kim Jong-il, came and went (with no move by President Obama) and with each passing day, his baby-faced son, Kim Jong-un, grows more dug in.

This is not like Russia or China, where the attraction and prosperity of capitalism eventually eclipsed the rhetoric of capitalism. North Korea’s leaders created such intense isolation with the Juche philosophy that there will never be a flood of capitalism, only a trickle.

With improved technology and a young leader that needs to prove himself to his obedient masses, the next few years with North Korea should be filled with more than rhetoric, and unless the U.S. steps in to silence the constant threats and lies of the nation, the cost may be our greatest Asian ally, South Korea.

Mark Snowden is a self-promoting figurehead of delusional Internet-based ethics. He flaunts NSA security policy secrets like a pop-up ad. Snowden leveraged his notoriety into celebrity, and he’s kept himself most recently in the news as a anti-surveillance guru by asking Putin for advice.

People have differing views of what America is, which is part of the First Amendment, but Snowden’s view is a democracy, it’s anarchy. Strangely enough, he found refuge in the exact opposite of an anarchist state.

I’m not a big fan of Mark Snowden. National security aside, I don’t like him because I see him as the most prominent symbol of a generation that mistakes tech savviness for wisdom, and we all know common sense is in short supply in cyberspace. Anyone over the age of 35 knows that the last country on Earth that should be touted for its open-minded with media is the former Soviet Union.

I will not bother dragging out the skeleton of the Soviet Union for this one. There’s no need. After beginning his second marathon as the executive arm of the Soviet Union–excuse me, I mean Russia–Putin has done his best to ensure citizens stay in line with Mother Russia, and began building the new Berlin cyber-Wall. So here’s a few modern examples of government censorship and surveillance?

– The Russian government has blocked several sites critical of their current intrusion into Ukraine, calling these sites “extremist.”
– Russia has shut down several TV stations after they aired programs critical of Vladimir Putin.
– Russia has an entire department dedicated to the interception of ALL electronic communication; tourists visiting Sochi for the Olympics this year known about firsthand.

That Mark Snowden would somehow consider Russia a bastion of free speech and openness is beyond absurd. Of course, for a guy who traded his oaths to the U.S. government for fame, I guess it makes perfect sense. Anything for a headline.

Nihilism Is a Laugh

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Filed Under General, Latest News on Apr 21 

Michael Barone recently pointed his readers to a website where a science communicator wishes for the destruction of Cairns, Australia, with 150,000 inhabitants, to get us all panicked about global warming. In fact, the article suggests that an event as horrific as the wiping out of 150,000 folks would not even be sufficient to ensure the “conversation” the writer so desperately wants. Fortunately, that writer — one Brad Keyes apparently — and his website, Climate Nuremberg, seem to be an elaborate joke. With coy references to The Onion, what we have is a very sharp satire of the fanaticism and hostility that dissenting opinions provoke in the climate debate. So yes, it’s funny, but it’s also uncomfortable reading that perversely reflects the tone of said debate, especially from the righteously alarmist side.

A documentary a few years back asked the viewers to imagine Earth without any human life; it stated explicitly that it didn’t matter how, just imagine our planet without a single human on it and how the remaining life might adapt. Does misanthropic even come close to describing this attitude? It opens the door to the type of environmental terrorism that posits the complete disappearance of the human race as the only solution that would enable Planet Earth to exist in harmony once again. One could define it as environmental nihilism: a negation of mankind’s civilizing role if you will. Does the hostility which seethes throughout the alarmist side of the climate debate share this nihilism? There seems to be very little doubt over the results of the modellling that produces this righteous, hostile, apocalyptic anger. It is natural, however, even rational, to display a little skepticism in the face of their predictions of doom, even as one may have concerns about local issues concerning the environment. And that skepticism provides a necessary counterweight to the overarching programs of control and proscription that flow from such doomsday outcomes. So if Climate Nuremberg bothers you a little even as it makes you laugh, that’s a good thing.

Everytime I hear it, I cringe, the same way I cringe when I think of chewing aluminum foil: “The problem of income equality.” What on Earth does that mean?
There are rich people and there are poor people. A good Christian (or Jew or Muslim or Hindu) offers a portion of their money for charity, helping those in need. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the declaration of “income inequality” as a global problem makes me cringe. I have the image of bureaucratic fingers digging into our bank accounts, angry that we were able to manage and save our money well over the years.

As far as a global problem, I can understand that. You have countries with per capita income of less than $100 a year in Africa, and the despotic leaders lounging in gold bathtubs. That’s wrong, but that’s also a problem for the UN. My money has nothing to do with that scenario. But in the U.S.?

The phrase itself conjures differing mindsets of money. When I think of my savings account, 401k, 403b, pension fund and checking account, I consider the time and effort I put into building them up. Reading books on finance, advice from my father, even attending a workshop by Dave Ramsey…It’s not simply an account but a construction of patience and forward thinking. Those who believe that all people should have equal income see it as a fattened sow waiting to be butchered. THAT makes me nervous.

I don’t mind helping the poor. Really, I don’t. Show me commercials, solicit outside the grocery stores and Walgreens, that’s all fine. I’ve never been able to pass up a Humane Society stand without dropping in at least a $10.

Categorizing my financial stability as a problem tells me that if I happened to pass a Salvation Army stand and don’t drop in my change, they have every right to stop me, yank open my wallet and take the money. The oddest thing is that’s not an exaggeration. That’s exactly what liberals want as a solution for “income inequality.” If you don’t donate as much as we think you should, we’ll just take it.

First off, I am not keen on supporting a group that wants to have a 1880s era showdown with the federal government using shotguns and rifles. That’s both brave and stupid. There’s no deserted street in frontier towns anymore (although some paramilitary groups think there are). Courtrooms are the place for duels today.

That said, I do support cattle rancher Cliven Bundy’s desire to bring attention to his plight in Nevada, and perhaps the threat of violence was the only way to do it. His family had used the land for cattle grazing for over a hundred years and, frankly, it was scrub land no one wanted. Somehow he made it work, and only now had the federal government decided to pursue him actively. The Feds say Bundy owes $1 million. Bundy says $300,000, which he will gladly pay…to the state of Nevada. The Bundy clan claims the issue is state’s rights and the intrusion of the U.S. government, and they gathered family and friends to defend their property with all the firearms the 2nd Amendment allows.

Honestly, I don’t think guns or violence or even sovereignty are the issues. What I see in all this is the lack of oversight by the federal government, and the complete waste of our money in going after Mr. Bundy. I see incompetence bordering on epic.

For a century his family used the land without a word from Uncle Sam. After the Feds claimed some kind of sovereignty over the land, Bundy used it for another twenty years. THEN the government decided to round up his cattle, taking 400 head before backing down to prevent violence. I see this as a shining example of bureaucracy at it’s worst. It takes the Feds twenty years to do something about an apparent “theft” and when they do, they spare no expense in destroying the man’s livelihood. No wonder why Bundy decided to pack a shotgun. I probably would as well.

Friday morning, embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced she would step down from her post. In response President Obama lauded her accomplishments and claimed due to her work with the ACA, she’s earned the right to retire. Hmm, in the private sector she would’ve been canned months ago.

True Sebelius has done some beneficial things in the healthcare field but her tenure as HHS Secretary will be remembered for one thing, the botched rollout of the ACA. Now she did lead up the roll out of the ACA and oversaw it so one can say the blame for its numerous problems can be placed squarely on her shoulders. I for one disagree to a point on that. The blame should be shared by those subordinates who failed to fulfill their duties, her for failing to run a tighter ship, and the President for failing to further reign in what is the hallmark of his administration.

Sebelius is credited with helping to rectify the problems initially encountered with Healthcare.gov but the problems initially faced should never have been of the magnitude they were. It is unfathomable how the ACA, a sweeping government program that is costing so much and effects so many can be so poorly implemented. I’m not even talking about the actual substance of the ACA which is another story, instead the actual public unveiling. If the government can’t even effectively unveil a series of websites and state exchanges for a program of such great importance and set to cost trillions, imagine how haphazard lesser programs are handled.

And then to hear the President go on about how he will miss her advice and friendship. Oh really. From summer 2010 to two months after the rollout of the ACA, November 2013, the two failed to meet even once for a one-on-one discussion according to the White House calendar. Now I understand when leaders place faith in people and leave them to their own devices. The problem though is this is not just some government program, it’s the Presidents hallmark law. Where was the interest? Furthermore, the President waits until two months after its initial roll out to have a personal meeting. Yes communication was had through different mediums but in all honesty, this required the down to earth discussions that can only be had, through one-on-one meetings.

Rightfully so, much blame has been and will continue to be placed on Sibelius for the disastrous roll out of the ACA. But remember one thing, just as much blame should be placed on her superior, the President for allowing this to happen. Instead of doing the right thing and listening to his advisors, he chose to keep her on so as to not have the Administration appear to be in the midst of a civil war. My memory of this debacle will not be of the mistakes of Sibelius but of the lack of leadership.

It’s amazing what a polar vortex – or you can call it just a really cold spell in midwinter – can do. It can make Al Franken, Minnesota Democratic Senator, realize that grid security is no laughing matter. And staying warm and keeping the lights on when it’s below zero is far from a laughing matter. At issue is the EPA’s enforcement of emission standards that already have shut down around 20% of coal-fired power plants and could easily shutter another 20%. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admits “it is an increasing challenge to maintain a reliable energy supply.” Is she backpedalling in the face of criticism from both sides of the aisle in Congress? Joe Manchin, Democratic Senator form West Virginia — where coal creates jobs — worries “how do we keep the lights on so people’s lives won’t be in danger?”

In other words, how important to the national grid are the coal-fired power plants? According to Lisa Murkowski, Republican Senator for Alaska, almost 90% of coal electricity that backed up the grid during the frigid weather this winter is due to be shut down. How would the grid cope with another cold snap without the current capacity produced by coal? It seems from Minnesota to West Virginia and parts elsewhere, people aren’t too eager to find out. Legislation in 1990 helped bring about reductions in coal power plant emissions but what worried environmentalists a few years back in 2008 was the contribution to global warming those same plants apparently make. “No coal plant can control its emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide,” Blan Holman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, stated back then. We now have Climate Change rather than Global Warming and the former conveniently includes subzero weather in its worldview. Yes, coal-fired power plants need to continue to invest in clean technology – someday carbon capture and sequestration might even be a workable solution – but a significant shutdown of coal electricity generation will hopefully have to wait until the USA’s grid has enough reliable power to enable voters to keep their heaters and lights on in the middle of winter.

James Moran, Democratic representative for the Commonwealth of Virginia, has got the government’s role regarding the economy quite clear. “The fact is that this is the Board of Directors for the largest economic entity in the world.” Did you believe that people like James Moran were your elected representatives? Sorry, they are the board, or The Board if you will; and not just any of the multiple committees and boards that populate the beltway. No, he means The Board that apparently runs the economy. That’s right, Congress runs the economy. Not individual citizens choosing what to build and what to buy. Not business: small, large and medium. No, Congress does. Naturally enough with this worldview, he wants a raise. It seems a $174,000 salary doesn’t make ends meet. Never mind that $174,000 will get you a home – a very reasonaable home at that – in South Carolina, Wisconsin and a couple of dozen other states, including West Virginia if not in Virginia. It almost gets you one in Texas, based on the average selling price. But it’s not enough when you’re running the world’s largest economic entity.

Mr. Moran’s plan – he is not running for reelection – is to introduce a measure that would provide members of Congress with a per diem to supplement their pay; a legacy for his legislative colleagues if you will. So how much might this allowance amount to given the base pay is almost two hundred thousand dollars? Well, how much wealth does Congress create? No one can deny that they redistribute wealth, preferably back to their own district, but that’s another matter altogether. If you believe Locke’s notion that good government provides just enough law to enable each of us to pursue our interests in freedom and security, then Congress has come a long, long way from the founding father’s conception of the republic they were forging. Government’s spreading zeal has clearly destroyed far more wealth than any it may have created by providing clear and concise rules that allow us to get on with our lives. Locke’s conception of a rational contract between citizens and their government, to whom they cautiously relinquish powers and rights, must be kept in mind with each advance that governments make. Whether immense or less so; like a daily allowance.

On April 2nd, 54-year-old Steven Utash struck a 10-year-old boy as the child stepped into a busy road. Horrified, Utash stopped the car and got out to check on the child. As he did, a dozen observers surrounded him and dragged him away from the boy, beating him nearly to death. The group would have beat him to death had a nearby nurse not intervened to stop the crowd. The incident itself isn’t what made headlines. It was race. Utash, white. Boy, African-American. Crowd, African-American. Nurse, African-American. That’s why it made news.

In an incident that harkens back to the L.A. Riots of the early 90s, civil rights groups are inflamed by the incident, noting the implied double-standard. Since it was a white man as the victim, the story has a different context. Had he been African-American, the outcry would choke media outlets. The long-term implications of this incident as far as race relations and the future of Detroit have been speculated (to death) in thousands of articles.

For me, I wonder about Utash himself. He could easily have simply driven away. Or, when he saw the crowd of people watching, decided to stay in his truck and drive away. He would have been well within his rights since the angered mob presented a threat to his life. But he did none of that.

Whether it was his fault or the boy’s isn’t essential. He was trying to be a decent person by checking on a wounded child, rather than worry about his liability or personal safety first. For that, a group nearly beat him to death. Five people were arrested in connection to the beating, all of them facing charges of assault with intent to murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm. They wanted to kill the man.

Even as this blog is being written, Utash remains in a coma, attended to by doctors, family and friends. He only woke once in nearly two weeks and asked a single question: “Is the boy dead?”
Decent human being.

Earlier today I attended the launch of the new Asia Society Policy Institute in New York. Among its speakers were two ambassadors to the U.S., a former Pakistani Prime Minister, several prominent foreign affairs scholars and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Several things were mentioned that provoked further thought but most important was a statement by Kissinger that struck me. He said the power the U.S. had in the 20th century can’t be repeated in the 21st century. One need only look at a newspaper today to see how right he is.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the U.S. and its allies faced off against the USSR and it set of allies while the majority of the world’s nations tried to stay out of the fray. Today the world is different. We don’t have an “enemy” as we did in the Cold War. No foreign sovereign nation today poses an immediate existential threat to us. The lines are blurred thanks to globalization and economics and today an enemy on one issue is a friend on another. Truth be told, the Soviet Union wasn’t an economic threat but solely a military threat. Today though, we are facing countries that aren’t solely military threats but economic threats as well. But these same countries, such as China aren’t true enemies of the type we squared off against just two and a half decades ago.

Now this isn’t to say we are in the clear. The world is different today and we are moving from a unipolar to a multipolar world. No single country will be able to exercise the power the U.S. did in the world following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. True, the U.S. itself will never be able to replicate its 20th century power in this century. Though this doesn’t mean we should become a nonentity and it’s this that I fear we are moving towards under the current administration.
If you want to believe that the Bush Administration damaged our world reputation, fine. Understand though that the Obama Administration is damaging our actual power in the world. Opponents of Obama will cite “leading from behind” in Libya as an example but it shouldn’t be. That was a UN mandated operation that if anything provided our allies such as France with leadership and combat experience and training for their military forces. The U.S. had no reason to be the absolute leader in military operations against Libya as other nations were far more vocal about involvement than we were.

If you want to see the true examples of the damage done by this administration in the realm of foreign policy, then look no further than Syria and the Ukraine. A foreign policy which sets limits, dictates lines for action, and then fails to follow up on them is dangerous. What’s of greater concern is that events in these two countries occurred just months apart, long enough for the Administration to learn from its mistakes. Obviously it didn’t. In either situation, it’s debatable just what the U.S. would’ve been capable of doing. What isn’t debatable is that establishing foolish limits and consequences were set that failed to be acted upon.

Strong words don’t make a strong foreign policy unless others see a country act upon their words. In Syria, the world saw us fail to live up to our threats and we repeated the same mistake just a month ago. This Administration has showed the world the limits of American resolve. Behind our bluster is a country that is losing its weight in the world. The U.S. can’t return to its position of power it held at the end of the 20th century. The world has changed and not only is it impossible but for various reasons we shouldn’t and should embrace shared power. But in no way does that imply that we should willingly surrender what power and recognition we have due to an Administration whose foreign policy is naïve, toothless, and foolishly idealistic.

When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel steps aboard the Liaoning, China’s Soviet-era aircraft carrier, one wonders what exactly the captain and crew and other assorted dignitaries will show off to him. China must be proud of their not quite new flagship carrier; it took ten years and a whole heck of a lot of Yuan, one imagines, to bring the former Ukraine vessel up to scratch. The problem is, how much of the embedded weapons systems aboard that ship have an uncomfortable similarity to those made in the USA?

Nearly a year ago, China reacted angrily to a leaked US Science Board report that suggested that Chinese cyber spying had compromised two dozen major US weapons systems and thus gained considerable “combat advantage” for the communist regime’s military. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yangsheng huffily dismissed the report because, in his words, “it both underestimates the Pentagon’s defensive security abilities and the Chinese peoples’ intelligence.” This is hardly a vigorous denial of possible – make that likely – hacking by the Chinese security apparatus. So the question remains, how much of the Liaoning’s weapons systems are, in fact, made in the USA?

National Security requires accelerating technological innovation and, yes, massive investment to ensure America maintains a competitive advantage where such an advantage can mean life or death for its citizens as well as many others around the globe. How does the USA play its cards in East Asia where allies like Japan and South Korea, not to mention Taiwan, are more than a little concerned over China’s geopolitical ambitions? One imagines that Secretary Hagel clearly understands that his visit is political and diplomatic theatre but one hopes that President Reagan’s words to Gorbachev in 1985 – Let me tell you why we don’t trust you – are not far from his mind as he views America’s main rival’s prized navy vessel. Let’s also hope that somewhere else in this Administration, those words are still remembered as well; as unlikely as that may seem.

It’s a long way from Missouri to Maine, but the EPA has a way of uniting voters across all sorts of distances, whether geographic or political. The agency in January proposed a dramatic tightening of emmision requirements on all new woodstoves, with a grandfathering clause, if you will, on existing ones. After one of the coldest winters in decades, the proposal is raising more than just eyebrows, especially in remote rural areas where a woodstove is a reliable and sustainable source of heat for far flung homes isolated from any urban infrastructure. Once again, a one size fits all approach is to be brought to bear across the whole country rather than one that takes into account local needs.

In South Dakota, for example, one in four homes rely on a woodstove or fireplace to help get them through what even in a mild year is a severe winter. Missouri fought back with legislation defending voters’ right to heat their homes as they see fit. And Democratic and Republican legislators from Montana as well as Maine and Missouri joined together in stating their worries about the EPA’s proposed regulation. Congress – that would be your elected representatives – want in on the debate. Paul Lepage, Maine’s Republican governor as well former General Manager of Marden’s Surplus and Salvage, and a former city councilor and former mayor of Waterville, has concerns. This is someone who really understands local, from a business as well as a municipal perspective. Governor Lepage worries that the intended regulation will make woodstoves prohibitively expensive and in fact worsen the problem as people hold off purchasing new, more efficient ones. In other words, why not let the market continualy adjust to buyers’ needs which includes cleaner stoves as well as not freezing in winter? Might the EPA listen to Congress on this one? By, for example, providing broader and more flexible guidelines that can be adapted to local needs? Heating a home in Washington DC is not quite the same issue as heating one on the northern edge of the Great Plains after all.

Have you even had time to bunker down and start filling out all those forms? And do you have a soft little spot in your heart for those “career civil servants who are dedicated to serving the American taxpayer in a fair and impartial manner” in the words of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen? The commisioner was facing an angry Congress, angry House Republicans to be exact, who are investigating the possibility that conservative political groups like the Tea Party were deliberately targeted for tax audits. So we have the possiblity that the IRS is politicized and uses its long arm to seek out political opponents and Commissioner Koskinen was desperately trying to assure us all that once the half-dozen or so investigations are done we’ll all feel warm and trusting towards our hard working tax men and women.

Pardon me if I don’t react with shock. The question seems more to be when has the IRS not been politicized in the last 50 or 60 odd years? Or in other words, who in which administration has succumbed to the temptation to use such a powerful weapon like the IRS with its endless banks of data on just about every citizen in the country? So yes, there is ample opportunity for finger pointing but it seems that all pointed fingers, if you will, lead back to 1111 Constitution Avenue NW. As William Buckley wrote several decades ago, “the trouble with policing tax-exempt organizations is that it simply cannot be done with justice.”

Think of it this way; from who is the IRS really independent? The powers that be in Washington or the taxpayers? How close do you live to 1111 Constitution Avenue NW? It is helpful to recall the rather severe wording of the Sixteenth Amendment, “the Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on income, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” Now that’s rather shocking in its blunt display of power. Do we need taxes? Unfortunately, yes. Do we need a system for imposing – and taxes are always an imposition – and levying them that sits a little closer to the millions of taxpayers around the country? This latest scandal seems to suggest a big yes. So, how are your taxes going?

Of the entire Bush clan, I admit Jeb Bush has never been my favorite. George H. W. Bush should have been a two-termer. World War II hero, ambassador, director of the CIA (my personal favorite) and eight years under the tutelage of Reagan. George W. Bush was a decent, hard-working man who fell victim to bad circumstances and never earned the loathing liberals love to heap upon him. Jeb Bush, though, eh… I would vote for him, but with a little caution. And his recent comments on immigration in a Fox News interview are exactly why.

During the interview at his brother’s presidential library, Fox News correspondent Shannon Bream asked about Bush’s policy toward immigration. His statement was a watery appeal to please immigrant voters, no doubt. “Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family,” the former Florida governor said. Obviously, he wasn’t talking to the interviewer. He was speaking to potential voters.

Running for president does mean compromise. That’s understandable. The smartest summary I ever heard of a presidential bid was Get half the vote. Plus a little more. To gather that nationwide support, you need to compromise a little. But Jeb Bush’s comments are such a bleeding heart appeal to immigrant voters that it sounds like a pamphlet from Ralph Nader, not someone of Bush blood. Compromise legislation is one thing, but compromising beliefs is another.

If he runs, he plans on racing spreading a “hopeful, optimistic message.” Nothing wrong with a little optimism, but our incumbent president ran under the same philosophy and while the entire country waited for change, the change never happened, at least not for the better. For the last six years the Republican party has done little more than spin its tires in Congress, and it’s time for less optimism and more realism. George H. W. Bush took a realistic approach to Iraq, and his son took the same approach to terrorist threats and both made the world safer, albeit with a little controversy.

If he’s looking for blind optimism and wishful thinking, then maybe Jeb needs to switch political parties.