Contempt

In recent months, Barack Obama has crossed an important threshold. He has always shown contempt for his opponents; now he shows contempt for his supporters. He has quit pretending to be a leader, and more or less quit pretending to be a president. On the right and the center, he has become a joke. Click to enlarge:

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But that isn’t the worst of it. No doubt there are a few liberals who still defend Obama, but they are the ones who haven’t been paying attention. Miss Weathervane, Maureen Dowd, exemplifies the larger group of liberals who are heading for the exits:

First the president couldn’t work with Republicans because they were too obdurate. Then he tried to chase down reporters with subpoenas. Now he finds members of his own party an unnecessary distraction.

His circle keeps getting more inner. He golfs with aides and jocks, and he spent his one evening back in Washington from Martha’s Vineyard at a nearly five-hour dinner at the home of a nutritional adviser and former White House assistant chef, Sam Kass.

The president who was elected because he was a hot commodity is now a wet blanket.

The extraordinary candidate turns out to be the most ordinary of men, frittering away precious time on the links. Unlike L.B.J., who devoured problems as though he were being chased by demons, Obama’s main galvanizing impulse was to get himself elected.

The same trend is under way internationally. Thus, from Israel’s liberal Haaretz, formerly a staunch Obama backer: “Will the Middle East ruin Barack Obama’s summer vacation?”

It isn’t very hard to pretend to be president: Obama did it for five years or so. But now, he can’t be bothered. He leaves his allies with no ammunition with which to defend him, thereby showing, one might argue, even more contempt for them than for his enemies. There is an adage, Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned. If that is true, Obama is in for a long two years.

On James Foley, Compare and Contrast

Scott noted earlier today President Obama’s “appalling” statement on the murder of journalist James Foley by ISIL. There is also this:

Shortly after delivering a statement denouncing the execution of American journalist James Foley by Islamist militants in Iraq, President Obama hit the golf course on Wednesday.

Obama completed the statement at a school in Martha’s Vineyard where he is vacationing, before arriving minutes later at a local golf club.

The president planned to play a round with former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning, private equity investor Glenn Hutchins, and longtime friend Cy Walker‎, according to the White House.

Obama Golfing

Whereas, on the other hand, we see this report from Great Britain:

David Cameron has condemned the murder of a US journalist by a British jihadi as “shocking and depraved” and broken off his holiday to lead the government’s response to the crisis.

The Prime Minister is expected to chair a meeting with officials from the Foreign Office and Home Office to discuss the actions of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Mr Cameron said: “If true, the murder of James Foley is shocking and depraved. I will today chair meetings on the situation in Iraq and Syria.”

The Prime Minister has broken off his holiday in Cornwall after just a day, having previously said that he would return “immediately” if the situation in Iraq deteriorated.

God only knows what Cameron would have done if Foley had been British.

Anti-police leftists take control of Ferguson shooting investigation

Eric Holder’s Justice Department is in Missouri, some 50 strong according to Megyn Kelly, to investigate the shooting of Michael Brown and to decide whether to charge police officer Darren Wilson with civil rights crimes. The investigation and decision is in the hands of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division.

How much confidence can Americans have in the fairness and objectivity of this unit? The answer, I submit, is little if any.

Christian Adams at PJ Media has been covering the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division for years. PJ Media had to file a lawsuit to obtain the resumes of the lawyers Holder has brought into that group. According to Adams, it turned out that every one of his hires is a left-wing activist, and that some have histories of anti-police activity.

For example, Saeed Mody clerked for the Texas Civil Rights Project, where he assisted the NAACP in suing the Austin Police Department for alleged brutality. As an undergraduate, Mody was co-chair of the campus Palestine Solidarity Committee.

Tona Boyd interned for the ACLU National Racial Justice Project and served as the Racial Justice Chair of the Black Law Students Association at Harvard. As an editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, she wrote an article titled “Confronting Racial Disparity: Legislative Responses to the School-to-Prison Pipeline.”

In that article, Boyd argued that tough law enforcement policies against violent youth should be abandoned because they tend to “cast too wide a net, failing to differentiate between gangs and other group criminal activity, and could exacerbate the problem of disproportionate minority contact.”

Chiraag Bains interned at left-wing Vera Institute of Justice, where he wrote a report criticizing the conditions of confinement at “supermax” prisons for the most dangerous criminals. He also helped organize something called the “Inequality Summer Institute” where he was involved in the Juvenile Rights Advocacy Project, which aims to educate high school students about their rights in interactions with police.

As an undergraduate, Bains interned at the liberal Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, where he co-wrote a guide to assist convicted felons in gaining the right to vote.

You can read more such bios here. If you do, you will surely conclude that Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown, is extremely unlikely to get a fair shake from this ideologically driven lot.

But one needn’t rely on the bios of Holder’s cadre of anti-police lawyers to see where things are likely headed in Ferguson. The track record of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division is proof enough.

Adams notes that “the anti-police biases of lawyers in this unit have resulted in gross prosecutorial misconduct against police officers.” U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt issued a blistering 129-page opinion documenting prosecutorial misconduct by DOJ lawyers who tried to convict New Orleans police officers of civil rights violations. These lawyers, says Adams, are still employed by the Criminal Section at the Civil Rights Division.

Among the abuses committed by Holder’s charges found by Judge Engelhardt was this:

Prosecutors acting with anonymity used social media to circumvent ethical obligations, professional responsibilities, and even to commit violations of the Code of Federal Regulations.”

In fact, DOJ lawyer Karla Dobinski wasn’t content just to post her own anonymous blog entries about the trial. According to Hans Von Spakovsky, she also encouraged other anonymous bloggers who, the judge found, “repeatedly posted vigorous pro-prosecution statements strongly condemning the defendants, their witnesses, and their entire defense.”

To make matters worse, Dobinski was the supervising “taint” attorney assigned to the New Orleans case. (A taint attorney is a government lawyer separate from the prosecution team who is entrusted with searching files and identifying material that their colleagues who are handling the case should not see.)

It seems to me that any investigation of events in Ferguson conducted by Eric Holder’s crew of hand-picked leftists is tainted before it begins.

Community Action @50

LBJ signs the EOA.

LBJ signs the EOA.

As Roger Simon has observed, the events playing out in Ferguson, Missouri right now are a distinct echo of the failures of the Great Society of the 1960s, and today happens to be the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s signing of the Economic Opportunity Act, which set in motion the infamous Community Action Program and was the cornerstone of much subsequent Great Society legislation.  The idea of “maximum feasible participation” was at the heart of the whole scheme.

For the genius planners behind Community Action, “maximum feasible participation,” as Pat Moynihan observed, “was taken to sanction a specific theory of social change.”  “The apparent function of many of these programs as they actually came into being,” Moynihan reflected later, “was to raise the level of perceived and validated discontent among poor persons with the social system about them, without improving the conditions of life of the poor in any comparable degree.  Can it be that this had nothing to do with the onset of urban violence?”  Poverty activists saw “community action” as an opportunity to organize poor people to challenge and transform local political authority—the city “machines” that were the backbone of the Democratic party in many urban areas.  Sargent Shriver even described it at one point as “the business corporation of the new social revolution.”  Indeed, it was the Community Action Program that provided government funds for some of Saul Alinsky’s antics.

Well, looks like we have plenty of “maximum feasible participation” in Ferguson right now.  And by some odd coincidence, some liberals are suggesting that we need to try the Great Society all over again, because the first one worked out so well. . .

Appalling

President Obama gave a statement this afternoon on the beheading of James Foley by devotees of the Islamic State yesterday. Obama referred to him throughout as “Jim Foley” and “Jim,” seeking for some reason to convey the impression that he was on intimate terms with him, although I would like to think he would have been a little more upset than he was if he had been. The White House transcript of Obama’s statement is here; the video is below.

Foley’s publicized beheading by the bloodthirsty devotees of the Islamic State is certainly an event that signifies and calls for a response by the president. Yet this is another of the many times and instances when Obama would better have remained silent and been thought a fool than opened his mouth and removed all doubt.

Obama purports to speak for “the entire world” in observing that the entire world “is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group, ISIL.” It would be nice if he would deign to speak on behalf of the United States, which is in fact his responsibility as president. Obama not only speaks on behalf of the world as a detached observer, he pronounces the timeless historical laws that are the fruit of his observation.

Obama provides a non sequitur for the ages: “So ISIL speaks for no religion.” Obama asserts in his accustomed sophomoric style that “one thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.” And like a bona fide ignoramus he declares “people like this ultimately fail. They fail, because the future is won by those who build and not destroy and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley, and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him.”

Descending to his worldly office, Obama vows: “The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done. And we act against ISIL, standing alongside others.”

“Act[ion] against ISIL” is a pathetically thin promise.

Obama assures us that “we will continue to confront this hateful terrorism, and replace it with a sense of hope and civility.” Where once was “audacity” is now “civility.” We have a rendezvous with pallor.

Heading via Bill Kristol/Weekly Standard.

Risk? Did You Say Risk?

One of my favorite financial axioms is that about every ten years or so we experience the worst financial crisis in the last 50 years.  And for the last couple of years there has been no shortage of predictions from clever and successful financiers that we really haven’t solved the banking problems that contributed to the meltdown of 2008—just postponed them for another day, or, worse, building up trouble for possibly an even worse crash down the road.

I’m no forecaster, but two things are always certain to me: uncertainty, and that most forecasters can’t.  After all, who foresaw the 2008 housing bubble/crash?  None of the usual oracles of economic wisdom.  It was only a handful of cranks out on the margin, like John Paulson, who saw it coming (and made billions by going short).

That preface out of the way, today’s financial news seems to have a lot of curious stories worth following.  Such as:

1.  Germany yesterday auctioned $5.3 billion in short-term (2-year) government notes, at an interest rate of . . . 0.00%.  That actually represents a slight increase; in the summer of 2012, Germany actually paid a small negative interest rate on 2-year notes.  Deflation anyone?

2.  Headline: “Profit Rises at Bank of China, But So Do Bad Loans.”  Does anyone have confidence in China’s banking sector?

3.  “U.K. Currency Gets Pounded.”  Did they really think they could sneak that headline about the Pound past us?  Go pound sand, headline writers.  Anyway:

Sluggish inflation is complicating investors’ plans on the British pound.

Slower-than-expected growth in consumer prices on Tuesday forced fund managers to dial back their bets on an early interest-rate increase by the Bank of England, sending the currency to a four-month low against the dollar.

Unexpectedly low inflation is the latest in a series of setbacks for the pound, which hit a six-year high in July as a burgeoning economic recovery had cemented the view that the Bank of England would be the first major central bank to raise interest rates. Higher interest rates make a currency more attractive to investors.

“Sluggish” inflation?  Sheesh.  What a world we live in nowadays.  Still, I wonder if gold isn’t better than sterling (heh) these days.

4.  Argentina is in default.  Maybe you’ve seen their amazing full-age ads in major American papers that appear to have been written by a degree holder from the Chomsky School of Financial Public Relations or something.  Yesterday Argentina said they intend to pay domestic bondholders, in defiance of a U.S. court order.  If they go ahead with this it will mean that Argentina has decided it no longer wishes to have access to American capital markets.  Is this a sign of weakening American economic strength in the world, or just a sign of Argentine socialist stubbornness?  Will China step into the breach as a lender?  (Seems doubtful.)  And if the Argentine economy fall sharply because it this, will it spread to the rest of Latin America, and trigger a new regional or even global slowdown?  I have no idea, but all of this is worth watching.

From the Wall Street Journal story today:

The plan to pay the bondholders in Argentina could be taken as evidence the country has no interest in obeying Judge Griesa’s order and it could lead the judge to declare Argentina in contempt of court, said Mr. Secco. Argentina has said it cannot obey the order because doing so could spark demands from other bondholders for similar treatment, potentially putting the government on the hook for around $120 billion.

“After this, it will be very difficult for Argentina to issue debt again in the U.S.,” said Mr. Secco. “Even if another government comes in and remediates this and Argentina reaches a deal with the holdouts, a couple of years may go by before Argentina can issue debt again in another jurisdiction without it being very expensive.”

Last month’s default has at times seemed to overwhelm some officials in the Kirchner administration. Top officials, led by Mrs. Kirchner herself, have lashed out repeatedly at the U.S. court system and the vulture funds that sued it. All the while, administration officials have denied the country defaulted at all. Officials have also denied predictions from economists that the default will significantly affect the economy.

Even so, with the economy in recession, unemployment on the rise and annual inflation thought to total around 40%, the president seemed a bit rattled.

Socialism will do that to you when you run out of other people’s money.

Dan Sullivan wins Alaska Senate primary

Dan Sullivan, former Alaska attorney general and director of natural resources, won the Republican Senate primary in Alaska yesterday. He will face incumbent Mark Begich in November.

Alaska is a Republican state, but Begich is an excellent politician and won’t be easy to defeat. Indeed, Begich leads Sullivan by 2.8 points in the Real Clear Politics average. Perhaps, this small gap will disappear now that Sullivan is the nominee.

Sullivan survived a tough primary in which he was opposed by Joe Miller, the Tea Party favorite whom the Republicans nominated four years ago, and Mead Treadwell, the Lt. Governor who had considerable conservative support. In the end, Sullivan captured 40 percent of the vote compared to 32 percent for Miller and 25 percent for Treadwell.

Sullivan had the support of the Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads, and The Club for Growth. Some viewed his outside support as evidence that he is insufficiently conservative. My impression, however, is that most of the outside support was based on perceptions of electability.

The Democrats seemed to share this perception. According to John Fund (and I’ve heard this from other sources too), their activists tried to tilt the campaign in favor of Miller and against Sullivan. Compared to Miller, who lost as the Republican Senate nominee in 2010, it seems clear that Sullivan is more electable.

A major attack on Sullivan during the primary was that he’s a newcomer to Alaska. The Begich campaign has already sounded this theme. Some of the attacks have understated Sullivan’s connection with Alaska.

Sullivan was born in Ohio and attended Harvard College and Georgetown Law School. He joined the Marines in 1993 and went to Alaska with his battalion. He became an Alaska resident in 1997 when he left active duty in the Marines.

Since then, the Marines have called up Sullivan several times, including a tour in Afghanistan. He also served in the Bush administration, first as head of the International Economics Directorate of the National Economic Council and National Security Council staffs, and second as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs.

Sullivan’s military service and his jobs in the Bush administration have taken him outside of Alaska. Some of the attacks on Sullivan as, in effect, a carpetbagger, have refused to count this time in computing his years in Alaska.

This seems unfair to me. Sullivan has been an Alaskan for nearly 20 years and has served the state in two key posts, in addition to serving in the military and the national government.

In any event, Sullivan is vastly preferable to Begich who votes with President Obama 96 percent of the time. With Joe Miller making it clear he won’t run as a write-in candidate, the choice now is between Sullivan and Begich. Control of the Senate may hinge on that choice.

You can help Sullivan by contributing here. I just did.