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Posted in politics by dingodonkey on April 7, 2010

Now, one way to hear this is as an accidental admission that Obama was born in Kenya. Okay, I think a reasonable person, watching just this video, could conclude that. However, that’s now how it sounded to my ears — it sounded more like she was identifying him with an ancestral homeland. I’ve seen this before, back at college, when everybody wanted to claim to be of the ethnicity of their most exotic grandparent. It’s a lefty thing, what can I say. Anyway, the point is that people who do that, such as Michelle Obama (and it’s fair to say her husband as well), do not primarily identify themselves as American, and clearly do not have any deep personal emotional attachment to America above, say, their “home country”.

As an aside, I’m not a “birther”. I think Pres. Obama was probably born here in the United States, although I’ll admit I’m not confident of that. It seems perfectly reasonable to me, upon examination of the evidence, to question the matter. People who do are well within their rights, and it would seem that as U.S. citizens they ought to have standing to demand proof. And the fact that it is repeatedly denied to them, at great cost to those denying it, is strange. And the idea that, say, a New Yorker should take the word of another state’s official on the matter, seems a bit contrary to our system. So I’m sympathetic to the so-called “birthers”, because I think their position is justifiable, and also because most of their vocal detractors are so despicable (a variant of that latter argument also makes me sympathetic to George W. Bush and Sarah Palin).

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Connecting the Dots on Financial Reform

Posted in economics, liberty, politics, USSA by dingodonkey on January 22, 2010

Let’s take just one paragraph from a recent speech by Pres. Obama, beginning with the line:

Banks will no longer be allowed to own, invest, or sponsor hedge funds, private equity funds, or proprietary trading operations for their own profit, unrelated to serving their customers.

Forget for a second about whether this is a good regulation or not, because what’s way more interesting is the way our president described it.  Read that again, with some emphasis added:

Banks will no longer be allowed to own, invest, or sponsor hedge funds, private equity funds, or proprietary trading operations for their own profit, unrelated to serving their customers.

Hoo-boy.  So the problem, in Pres. Obama’s eyes, is not that there is some grave systemic risk posed by banks running “hedge funds, private equity funds, or proprietary trading operations” (many reasonable arguments that this is true have been advanced), but rather that it is wrong for them to do so unless they are acting on behalf of their customers (i.e. “the people”) instead of for their own profit (i.e. “themselves”).  I know a word to describe this way of thinking:

Collectivism: Personal or social orientation that emphasizes the good of the group, community, or society over and above individual gain.

Don’t buy that interpretation?  Well, here’s the president’s very next line, seeming to confirm it:

If financial firms want to trade for profit, that’s something they’re free to do.  Indeed, doing so — responsibly — is a good thing for the markets and the economy.

Who decides whether they’re responsible with their money?  Doesn’t this ring of “well if you want to do [insert discouraged action here], you’re free to do so, but….”?

This president could not wait to force public bailouts on even those banks that didn’t want them (he voted for it), and then refuse to allow them to repay as soon as they could (in his capacity as president).  Why would he do that?  So he can justify direct government control of the financial sector with statements like what he said next:

But these firms should not be allowed to run these hedge funds and private equities funds while running a bank backed by the American people.

This is effective nationalization, and nothing less.


Posted in liberty, politics, USSA by dingodonkey on September 6, 2009

With all this talk and controversy surrounding the “czars” appointed by Pres. Obama, I thought it would be a good time to talk about technocracy, which Wikipedia (the fount of all knowledge) characterizes as “a form of government in which engineers, scientists, and other technical experts are in control of decision making in their respective fields”.  Man that’s a horrible way to start a blog entry, like when little kids write papers and quote Webster’s Dictionary in their opening sentence.

Anyway, what’s wrong with technocracy?  For one, it is incompatible with the ideals of republican government.  In our system, democratic principles are applied to choose individuals that we deem appropriately wise and tempered to temporarily represent our interests in a large and intentionally inefficient government.  It is intentionally inefficient in order to prevent it from becoming too powerful, and in turn from becoming as oppressive as the monarchy we violently escaped.  In a technocracy, the real decision-makers are appointed based on their specialized skills and knowledge, their expert status.  They are not representatives of the people, they are servants of an ideal of a government that efficiently and powerfully administers their fields of expertise.  This is clearly incompatible with our system.

On a totally unrelated note, here’s a list of Obama’s appointed czars:

  1. Afghanistan Czar
  2. AIDS Czar
  3. Auto Recovery Czar
  4. Border Czar
  5. California Water Czar
  6. Car Czar
  7. Central Region Czar
  8. Climate Czar
  9. Domestic Violence Czar
  10. Drug Czar
  11. Economic Czar
  12. Energy and Environment Czar
  13. Faith-Based Czar
  14. Government Performance Czar
  15. Great Lakes Czar
  16. Green Jobs Czar
  17. Guantanamo Closure Czar
  18. Health Czar
  19. Information Czar
  20. Intelligence Czar
  21. Mideast Peace Czar
  22. Pay Czar
  23. Regulatory Czar
  24. Science Czar
  25. Stimulus Accountability Czar
  26. Sudan Czar
  27. TARP Czar
  28. Technology Czar
  29. Terrorism Czar
  30. Urban Affairs Czar
  31. Weapons Czar
  32. WMD Policy Czar

The link above explains what all of these positions are actually responsible for.  Many of them relate to areas the federal government has no explicit or even implicit constitutional authority to be involved in, but neither of our major parties cares about that (look up Bush’s czars to see proof).  What concerns me is not so much the size of this government, but its extent.  It has shown no restraint in expanding into more and more areas of our lives.  This is, of course, expected under technocratic government — the experts can organize our lives better than we can.  That’s why we have mandatory Social Security and unemployment insurance, for example.

It’s a natural progression toward dystopia.  Taking away the rights of individuals and associations of individuals (families, corporations) to manage their own finances, make their own decisions, use their private property as they see fit, etc.  Increasing surveillance and passing vague laws to be interpreted and applied by the judgment of the expert elite.  This is a possible future, and when folks like me begin to worry about czars and such, it is this eventuality that we are seeking to avoid.  But make no mistake, this is a path that we have already traveled far down.

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Obama’s Fraud: Calm, Cool, and Brilliant

Posted in politics by dingodonkey on August 31, 2009

Pres. Obama has a manner of speaking that gives a strong impression of depth, thoughtfulness, and a calm and steady intellectual air.  I believe it is this, his manner of speaking, far more than the content of his speeches, that led so many to conclude he was so smart.  Speaking in broken fragments, with frequent pauses and slurring of speech to suggest a mind busy at work, his style betrays both great breadth and depth of thought.

I have several work-in-progress theories about why he speaks as he does, and I’m not yet convinced that I know which is right.  A growing body of evidence favors one theory over the others, but until I am convinced, I will not declare myself for any of them.

Theory I: He’s Faking It

This was my initial theory.  I believe that a careful observer of Washington could now conclude that my early suspicions were right.  I thought Candidate Obama was faking his intelligence. I’d believe they had some focus groups and decided to run with it. It could have started when the campaign noticed that his natural bumbling seemed to actually be helping him somehow, if it wasn’t something he had already learned in his academic career.

He seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about basic policy and worldview questions that anybody running for or occupying the office of president would have to know and believe so deeply as to need no deep and penetrating thoughtful analysis.  This is what made me suspicious — I just can’t believe he’s actually figuring out his views on things as he goes.  The simplest explanation is that it was all already there, with this speaking style that he had somehow discovered to be effective acting as a veneer.

Theory II: He’s Actually Thinking On-the-Fly

A scarier possibility, that I’m less inclined to believe, is the one that the “Obama is a very smart man and he won’t lead us astray” crowd made: if he really was thinking so hard, about such basic and obvious questions, it would seem like somehow, after years of public service and months of campaigning, he hadn’t settled upon clear views on basic issues. Was that supposed to give me comfort?

There is plenty of evidence out there that he isn’t walking around with a broad base of knowledge in his head, that he has trouble with orders of magnitude, that he is ignorant of milestone events in American history, that he does not understand how business works, etc.  The problem here is that presidents prepare for all of their speaking engagements quite vigorously, and those gaps could be concealed for the sake of a speech or a question and answer session.  So despite some evidence for this theory, the theory that he’s actually not very smart at all, I’m not committing to it.

Theory III: He’s Deceiving Us

This is a theory with a growing body of evidence, incorporating elements of both of the above theories but with an added twist: the faking is on his views and the on-the-fly thinking is on how to conceal them.  I’m talking about the president using Rules for Radicals as his Elements of Style here.  If he really does have a deep personal commitment to state power and collectivism, which he certainly did quite openly in his not-so-distant youth, then this is a possibility that should be very seriously entertained.  Saul Alinsky’s ideas in Rules for Radicals have undoubtedly had their influence on this president, as a quick Google search will reveal.

Alinsky’s Rule #2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”  The idea here is that people are uncomfortable with strange and unfamiliar ideas, and that makes them a much harder sell.  The ideas of Alinsky and Obama are undoubtedly discomforting to very large portions of the American population.  Maybe these are well-formed and clearly understood and deeply held ideas, as the thinking of any president ought to be.  If this is the case, perhaps the thoughtful-sounding bumbling is because he has to use language with which he himself is uncomfortable, and believes he is tiptoeing through a minefield when he’s doing it.  This is a view growing in popularity on the right, and, like the other two above, is consistent with observation.


I don’t know if any of these theories are right.  They are all reasonable conclusions to draw, but as we collect more and more evidence, one in particular is becoming more and more harmonious with the facts.  This is a subject that fascinates me, and that I believe is important to understand, so I will update periodically as significant new evidence emerges.

Of course, I don’t necessarily think that an analysis of how our president speaks needs to lead to a negative conclusion about him, just that all of the reasonable explanations I have found do work out that way when considered alongside what we know from his short history of governing.  I’d love to be wrong, and am open to arguments.

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