Sunday, January 15, 2012
In the final scene of Thelma & Louise, when Detective Hal Slocumb realizes that the two desperate demoiselles are about to drive off the edge of the Grand Canyon, he runs after them in a futile attempt to stop their senseless suicide. When I first watched that scene, twenty years ago, my primary emotion involved the tragic loss of that '66 Thunderbird. Now I think I finally understand the impotent despair the film's screenwriter, Callie Khouri, was attempting to convey when she sent Slocumb on his hopeless sprint. Witnessing the GOP contests in Iowa and New Hampshire has been much like watching Louise stomp on the accelerator of that beautiful car. It's so easy to foresee the slow-motion descent into the electoral abyss and so seemingly impossible to prevent what should be an unnecessary tragedy.
There is a reason that this type of manual is not being written by veterans of Special Operations units. It’s simply not necessary. The arguments concerning caliber and weapon selection are, ultimately, nothing more than gun tabloid marketing nonsense. An 18Bravo, Special Forces Weapons Sergeant learns to operate, maintain, and train others to operate, a broad variety of individual small arms from around the world (as a personal example, over the course of my career in SF, I worked with the M9, P35 BHP, 1911A1, Glocks, SIG-Sauers, Makarovs, Tokarevs, and several variations of different revolvers; Uzi, Skorpion, M3 “Grease Gun,” Thompson, M12, PPSh41, MP5, and other sub-machine-guns; and HKG3, FN/FAL, M14, AK-variant, M1/M2 carbine, Enfield .303, and 1903 Springfield rifles, amongst a host of others). When conducting UW or FID missions, an 18B will learn, quickly, that the caliber of individual small-arms really does not matter. The manufacture and model of the weapon can make a difference, but ultimately, the only thing that matters is the man holding the weapon and his level of training.
Tad DeHaven is a *budget analyst at the Cato Institute.
* As was I, once upon a time.
Vietnam Babylift, My Story
Contrary to what various news outlets are reporting, President Obama is NOT proposing to cut government. The administration is proposing to take four independent federal agencies that specialize in corporate welfare – along with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative – and combine them with corporate welfare programs at the Department of Commerce to form what would I would argue should be called the Department of Corporate Welfare.
According to reports, this rearranging of the deck chairs would save $300 million a year. That’s peanuts. Worse, those alleged savings will be of no consequence to taxpayers as there is nothing to suggest that the president intends to cut overall spending for the agencies comprising the new bureaucracy. That portends bigger government, not smaller. The president is trying to sell the American taxpayer a false bill of goods.
The president’s proposal is also an attempt to counter the perception – an accurate one – that the administration’s policies are detrimental to commerce. But corporate welfare is detrimental to commerce because the market distortions it creates hinder economic output. Making it easier for select businesses to help themselves to taxpayer-financed subsidies would only perpetrate the same sort of crony capitalist schemes that gave us Solyndra and the Chevy Volt.
Of course, no transparent attempt to appear “business friendly” would be complete without a bone toss to the Small Business Administration. The “bone” this time is the president’s intention to elevate the head of the SBA to the Cabinet. As I discuss in a Cato essay on the SBA, rather than helping small businesses compete against big businesses, the SBA’s loan guarantees mainly help a tiny share of small businesses compete against other small businesses. In reality, the biggest beneficiary of the SBA is the banks, which reap the profits from the loans guaranteed by the agency.
Finally, Republican policymakers talk a good game about cutting government, but they often hide behind calls for making the federal government “more efficient.” Now that the president has seized a political opportunity to sing from the GOP’s hymnal, it’ll be interesting – if not entertaining – to see how Republican policymakers respond. To avoid embarrassment, I recommend offering specific spending cuts.
President Barack Obama refusal to admit that America’s real enemy isn’t al-Qaida but radical Islam legitimizes groups that believe there is a conspiracy against Muslims, leading terrorism and national security expert Steve Emerson tells Newsmax.TV.
Emerson charged that Obama had taken the easy path by identifying al-Qaida and not confronting the larger issue.
“Mr. Obama, before he was president and as president, only says that al-Qaida is the enemy that’s it,” the Newsmax contributor said. “Al-Qaida isn’t the enemy. Al-Qaida is a subset of the enemy. Radical Islam is the enemy and they won’t admit that. There’s a big issue here.
“What they’re doing is essentially legitimizing the whole spectrum of Muslim Brotherhood groups that dominate the radical world that believe that there is a conspiracy against Islam. … This delusional notion that somehow the West is involved in a war against Islam since 1095 the year of the first Crusades.”
Emerson noted that while al-Qaida remains a major threat overseas, it has not been involved in the majority of attempted attacks in the United States, something the administration refuses to acknowledge.
“There’s been an exponential growth in the number of individual attacks — planned attacks — not orchestrated by al-Qaida or any group, but people who are what they call lone wolves or radicalized, whatever,” he said. “The real bottom line is that al-Qaida is really no longer the major issue in terms of … the United States. Seventy percent of all planned Islamic attacks in the last 5 years have not been orchestrated by a-Qaida. And yet this administration won’t utter the term radical Islam. It says the only problem’s al-Qaida.”
Emerson rejected arguments by some in the Islamic community that many of the threats should not be taken seriously and that the perpetrators are troubled individuals.
“It’s funny,” he said. “If the United States does something like four soldiers urinate on Taliban corpses, it’s exemplary of the entire U.S. military by these same Islamic leaders,” he said. “But if a militant Muslim terrorist plans an attack here, somehow he’s deranged and not motivated by radical Islam. These people are apologists.”
“When you say Muslim pushback, pushback is by the Muslim Brotherhood front groups’ infrastructure in the United States. They dominate 99 percent of the leadership here, unfortunately. So they disenfranchise a lot of moderates. Unfortunately, as is the case overseas, they’ve got the money, the organization, they were here first in 1963, set up organizational front groups, grew all around the country, and now they under the cover of being Islamic civil rights groups like CAIR: the Council on American Islamic Relations.”
Ron Paul is a dangerous man. He is many things to many people. There is the very real suspicion that Paul is something more than what he seems. He is not to be trusted.
Ron Paul changes minds. He is a confounder of the worst sort. People who call themselves Republicans hear him and approve. His silver tongue likewise deceives people who would classify themselves as Democrats. Those who denote Libertarian on their identification cards flock to his clarion call. So too the unaffiliated and independents. Paul has the strange ability to coalesce seemingly disparate philosophies. He is the bane of clerks in states from east to west, as people supposedly settled in their parties switch and alter and reorder their beliefs and their registrations. He holds a dangerous power.
Ron Paul makes political “independents” meaningless. For the past thirty years Americans have been informed that independents are vital to modern electioneering. Variously termed “soccer moms,” “NASCAR dads,” and “Reagan Democrats,” this steadily enlarging group has proved itself crucial to success—except in Ron Paul’s case. When the Des Moines Register recently reported that 42% of Paul’s Iowa supporters described themselves as “independents,” this class of voters became worthless. Every pundit said so, from Fox News to MSNBC. Paul effectively made the most essential political assemblage in modern history meaningless overnight. Astonishing.
Ron Paul controls the airwaves. Whenever a US soldier who has a positive impression of Paul is interviewed live on television, the signal will automatically encounter difficulty. If the anchor is a former reporter for The Jerusalem Post such as Wolf Blitzer and the soldier is a decorated corporal who states that “Israel is more than capable of taking care of itself,” the feed will immediately go dead. There will be no ready explanation for this occurrence.
Ron Paul can alter comedy’s principles. Should a single supporter who is not officially affiliated with his campaign in any way create a humorous satire of a rival candidate who was once the US Ambassador to China, this is not merely a joke, it is a hate crime worthy of a special United Nations tribunal.
Ron Paul mystifies otherwise intelligent people, especially college-educated people, and they immediately go wistful and quiver with empathy as they think of long-passed family members of the “eccentric uncle” variety. Such voters are not moved by Paul’s message of fiscal responsibility nor his mantra that civil rights, so long as practiced with civility, are none of the government’s business. No, these voters are all agog with nostalgia. They are unconcerned the nation is rapidly approaching bankruptcy. Theirs is a simple reverie for long-gone relatives of whom Paul reminds them. They are led by their hearts and we must pay no attention to whatever facts and figures they give to justify their enthusiasm for Ron Paul, as these genuine folk are merely masking the emotional hold he has over them.
Ron Paul is a verbal magician. By his very use of otherwise ordinary words he transforms vocabulary into a strange tool which speaks in code to the land’s moral trolls and fifth columnists. When Paul advocates “responsibility,” it means “racism.” When Paul says “defense,” it means “isolation.” When Paul recommends “constitutionalism,” it means “anarchy.” It is little wonder his message seduces so many easily obfuscated souls.
Ron Paul is a trickster, a chameleon, a veritable familiar if you will, modeled after the Salem type of old. He confabulates and stupefies and befuddles. He alters all, and one is well advised to be through with him before making the grave mistake of listening to a single concept he has to convey.
Besides, come November there will be ample alternatives. Voters may then choose a presidential candidate who believes in a military budget which is roughly two-fifths the entire world’s, who thinks it is the state’s province to compel its citizens to purchase a historically voluntary service under pain of imprisonment, and who’s confident that whatever the Federal Reserve (AKA Goldman Sachs) dictates is precisely what America and the world needs to do.
That both candidates will agree on these precepts is in no way detrimental. Such a condition is actually better for voters, as it serves to make their selection all the easier absent any true distinction between the two. As long as things don’t change, one could say the choice will be as simple as black or white.