Obama's Thought Police
The trouble with the White House's "Attack Watch" initiative
To whatever high school intern probably came up with the idea, the White House's "Attack Watch" website and Twitter account must have seemed a spark of genius. After all, they yoked together two trendy ideas—rapid response and crowd-sourcing—in service to the president. Give people the opportunity to report false and malicious things others are saying about Obama, so the administration and its supporters can fight back. What could possibly go wrong?
The intern—whoever it was—must have been too young to remember the left's Bush-era motto: "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."
But some adult in the West Wing ought to have stepped in. He or she should have pointed out that encouraging Americans to inform on their fellow citizens carries a whiff not just of Nixonian creepiness but of totalitarian menace.
Police states routinely rely on citizen informants; dungeon cells from Cuba to Saudi Arabia are full of political prisoners arrested for "insulting the president and the regime," "disrupting internal order," and other dysphemisms for speaking your mind.
Fortunately, Attack Watch inspired little more than a "national fit of giggling," as Reason magazine put it. Enemies of the People—i.e., conservatives—immediately began denouncing all manner of offenses against Our Beloved Leader: Someone was squeezing the Charmin in aisle six, reported one. Wrote another: "There's a new Twitter account making President Obama look like a creepy, authoritarian nutjob."
Funny. But also not funny. Because this is not an isolated incident. It is only the latest in a string of episodes in which the administration has made itself look creepily authoritarian.
It started even before the administration was an administration, with a campaign that depicted Barack Obama as The One—the savior who would lead a broken people out of darkness. That isn't sarcastic exaggeration. Obama himself described his capture of the Democratic nomination as "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Not even Chairman Mao promised that much.
Scarcely had the planet-healer been sworn in before the public learned that the White House's Office of Public Engagement had teamed up with the NEA's Yosi Sargent to mau-mau artists into cranking out agitprop. "I would encourage you to pick something, whether it's health care, education, the environment," Sargent said in an August 2009 conference call with various artists. "Then my task [to you] would be to apply your artistic, creativity community's utilities" to advancing the cause. "We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government," he said.
And for those who don't "speak with the government," there could be Consequences. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made that clear last year when she sent a letter to the president of AHIP, the national Association of Health Insurance Providers. "It has come to my attention that several health insurer carriers are sending letters to their enrollees falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act," Sebelius sniffed. "There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increase," she went on, warning that those who did not come to heel might be shut out of the new government-run exchanges.
There have been other episodes, too—the EPA employees ordered to take down a video critical of cap-and-trade legislation, for instance. When the Bush administration silenced NASA scientist James Hansen, Rep. Henry Waxman fumed that "Democrats are not going to sweep [censorship of scientists] under the rug." By the time Obama's EPA started silencing dissent, he had found his broom.
HHS Secretary Sebelius isn't the only one who objects to "misinformation." In the first chapter of On Rumors, Cass Sunstein, the president's regulatory czar, writes: "As we have seen, false rumors can undermine democracy itself." But as others have noted, we have "seen" no such thing. (Was Sunstein trying to start a false rumor?) Nevertheless, Sunstein numbers among the apparently numerous administration officials who think the government should be managing people's thoughts and ideas much more closely. He has even suggested government agents should "cognitively infiltrate" groups that promote ideas of which the government disapproves.
One doesn't want to strain analogies too far. Albert Einstein and Josef Stalin both wore mustaches, but the similarities end there. Nobody expects the Obama administration to start hauling dissidents off to the Lubyanka. Still, let us not forget Naomi Wolf's most popular essay from the Bush years. In "Fascist America in Ten Easy Steps" (later expanded into a book), she noted: "In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China—in every closed society—secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours."
Liberals worried about our government doing that kind of thing, once upon a time.
Ponzi, yes, but is it a lie?
By Walter E. Williams
During the recent GOP presidential debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that Social Security is a "monstrous lie" and a "Ponzi scheme." More and more people are coming to see that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, but is it a lie, as well? Let's look at it.
Here's what the 1936 government pamphlet on Social Security said: "After the first 3 years -- that is to say, beginning in 1940 -- you will pay, and your employer will pay, 1.5 cents for each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year. ... Beginning in 1943, you will pay 2 cents, and so will your employer, for every dollar you earn for the next 3 years. ... And finally, beginning in 1949, twelve years from now, you and your employer will each pay 3 cents on each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year." Here's Congress' lying promise: "That is the most you will ever pay."
Another lie in the Social Security pamphlet is: "Beginning November 24, 1936, the United States government will set up a Social Security account for you. ... The checks will come to you as a right." Therefore, Americans were sold on the belief that Social Security is like a retirement account and money placed in it is our property. The fact of the matter is you have no property right whatsoever to your Social Security "contributions."
You say, "Williams, you're wrong! We have a right to Social Security payments." In a U.S. Supreme Court case, Helvering v. Davis (1937), the court held that Social Security is not an insurance program, saying, "The proceeds of both (employee and employer) taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like internal revenue taxes generally, and are not earmarked in any way." In a later Supreme Court case, Flemming v. Nestor (1960), the court said, "To engraft upon the Social Security system a concept of 'accrued property rights' would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands."
Belatedly, the Social Security Administration is trying to clean up its history of deception. Its website says, "Entitlement to Social Security benefits is not (a) contractual right," adding, "There has been a temptation throughout the program's history for some people to suppose that their FICA payroll taxes entitle them to a benefit in a legal, contractual sense. ... Congress clearly had no such limitation in mind when crafting the law." That's the SSA's dishonesty. After all, it was the people in that administration who said, in their 1936 pamphlet, that "the checks will come to you as a right."
There's more deceit and dishonesty. In 1950, I was 14 years old and applied for a work permit for an after-school job. One of the requirements was to obtain a Social Security card. In bold letters on my Social Security card are the words "For Social Security Purposes -- Not For Identification." According to the SSA's website, "this legend was removed as part of the design changes for the 18th version of the card, issued beginning in 1972."
That's a shameless, unadulterated lie. Because we're idiots, we're asked to believe that the sole purpose for the removal of "Not For Identification" was for design purposes. The fact that our Social Security numbers were going to become a major identification tool had nothing to do with getting rid of the statement.
Aside from these lies, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. The major difference between Social Security and Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme is his was illegal. Three Nobel laureate economists have testified that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Dr. Paul Samuelson called it "the greatest Ponzi game ever contrived." Dr. Milton Friedman said it was "the biggest Ponzi scheme on earth." Dr. Paul Krugman predicted that "the Ponzi game will soon be over."
Three cheers to Gov. Rick Perry for having the guts to tell us that Social Security is a monstrous lie and a Ponzi scheme.
Another Obama disaster unfolding
Corrupt, of course
If you thought the half-billion-dollar, stimulus-funded Solyndra solar company bust was a taxpayer nightmare, just wait. If you thought the botched Fast and Furious border gun-smuggling surveillance operation was a national security nightmare, hold on. Right on the heels of those two blood-boilers comes yet another alleged pay-for-play racket from the most ethical administration ever.
Welcome to LightSquared. It's a toxic mix of venture socialism (to borrow GOP Sen. Jim DeMint's apt phrase), campaign finance influence-peddling and perilous corner-cutting all rolled into one.
The company is building "a state-of-the-art open wireless broadband network." Competition in the industry is a good thing, of course. But military, government and civilian aviation experts have long objected to LightSquared's potential to interfere with the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network. As the government's own Positioning, Navigation and Timing agency explained:
"The GPS community is concerned because testing has shown that LightSquared's ground-based transmissions overpower the relatively weak GPS signal from space. Although LightSquared will operate in its own radio band, that band is so close to the GPS signals that most GPS devices pick up the stronger LightSquared signal and become overloaded or jammed."
Two high-ranking witnesses -- Air Force Space Command four-star Gen. William Shelton and National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Director Anthony Russo -- have now blown the whistle on how the White House pressured them to alter their congressional testimony and play down concerns about LightSquared's threat to military communications. According to Eli Lake of The Daily Beast, both officials were urged to express confidence in the company and endorse its promise to address any technical concerns "within 90 days."
Gen. Shelton had noted earlier this year: "Within three to five miles on the ground and within 12 miles in the air, GPS is jammed by (LightSquared's) towers. ... If we allow that system to be fielded and it does indeed jam GPS, think about the impact. We're hopeful we can find a solution, but physics being physics, we don't see a solution right now."
Despite industry-wide protests, the firm somehow received fast-track approval for a special FCC waiver that grants LightSquared the right to use wireless spectrum to build out a national 4G wireless network on the cheap. Ken Boehm, of the conservative watchdog National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) in Washington, D.C., summed up the deal earlier this year: "LightSquared will get the spectrum for a song, while its competitors (e.g., AT&T and Verizon) have to spend billions."
The current "fix" LightSquared proposes to address the interference problems is a costly, conceptual pipe dream that could require massive retrofitting of millions of handheld GPS devices. GPS expert Eric Gakstatter scoffs: "I've been pretty open-minded about LightSquared proposing a solution, but this really insults our intelligence. (A)s we've seen previously with LightSquared, it's not about finding a practical solution for the GPS user community; it's all about selling an idea to the FCC. The problem is that the FCC doesn't have to live with LightSquared's half-baked 'solution'; we do."
So, what's greasing LightSquared's skids? Hint: It used to be known as "Skyterra." In 2005, Obama put $50,000 into the speculative firm -- raising eyebrows even among his water-carriers at The New York Times. The paper noted that Skyterra's principal backers at the time of the investment included four Obama "friends and donors who had raised more than $150,000 for his political committees."
One of those pals who urged him to buy stock in Skyterra was George Haywood, a major Skyterra investor and campaign donor who chipped in nearly $50,000 to Obama's campaigns and to his political action committee along with his wife.
Coincidentally, Obama bought his Skyterra stock the very same day the FCC "ruled in favor of the company's effort to create a nationwide wireless network by combining satellites and land-based communications systems." The Times reported that immediately after that morning ruling, "Tejas Securities, a regional brokerage in Texas that handled investment banking for Skyterra, issued a research report speculating that Skyterra stock could triple in value."
Coincidentally, Tejas and its chairman, John J. Gorman, were also major backers of Obama -- flying him in a private plane for political rallies and pitching in more than $150,000 for his campaign coffers since 2004. Obama sold his stock at a loss in November 2005, but his political relationship with the company was cemented. In 2009, shady billionaire hedge-fund manager Philip Falcone -- whose firm Harbinger Capital Partners is reportedly under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for market manipulation abuses -- acquired Skyterra.
Coincidentally, Falcone, his wife and LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja have contributed nearly $100,000 between them to the Democratic Party during critical White House meeting periods and negotiations over LightSquared's regulatory fate.
Oh, and coincidentally, there's $6 billion earmarked for a "public safety broadband corporation" buried in the Obama jobs proposal just as LightSquared pushes into that market, too.
It's all just one strange quirk of timing, Team Obama shrugs. Except, as we all should know by now: There are no coincidences in Chicago on the Potomac. Just an endless avalanche of quids, quos and taxpayer woes.
Another view of the Boston Tea Party: "In 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act, which allowed the East India Company to import tea to the colonies duty-free. Suddenly, all the people who imported tea to the colonies, legally and illegally, were priced out of the market by a competitor that received special government favors. Some of the people on the boats in Boston Harbor the night of December 16 were concerned about overreaching government authority and a pattern of abuse, but lots of them were smugglers or legal shippers who were rebelling against the loss of their livelihood to a government policy that favored one business at the expense of others"
How to make legal advice, services more affordable without taxpayer subsidies: "At Truth on the Market, I discuss how to make legal advice and legal services more affordable at this link. I also discuss the extent to which the legal profession should be deregulated to reduce the cost of legal services and increase their accessibility to people of modest means, and what kinds of regulation need to remain in force to protect the public."
Obama the Greek: "Greece is in economic meltdown. Its economy has become so biased towards the public sector that it is now literally unsustainable. It cannot afford to pay its bills and will surely default soon, unless Germany can be persuaded to bail it out. Unfortunately for America, the principles that got Greece into this mess are the same ones that President Obama wants to use to supposedly get America back to work."
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)