Saturday, September 01, 2012

Clint Eastwood's Finest Hour

By Claudia Rosett
PJ Media
September 1, 2012

Lucky for Clint Eastwood that he has a sense of humor. He’ll need it, if he tries to wade through some of the zanier criticism inspired by his appearance at the Republican National Convention. From the left, he’s being mocked as rambling, strange, and obsessed with empty chairs. The L.A. Times is wondering “Did Clint Eastwood tarnish his film legacy?” Among folks not otherwise dedicated to supporting Mitt Romney, Eastwood also seems to have aroused a lot of oddly charitable concern, that he distracted attention from the candidate, or detracted from the seriousness of the occasion, or wasted valuable Republican airtime.
So far, I’d say the standout bizarre critique is a New York Times piece by a professor of medical ethics, Jonathan Moreno, on “What the Chair Could Have Told Clint.” Moreno begins by claiming that Eastwood, in interviewing an empty chair as a stand-in for President Obama, was appropriating a psychotherapeutic technique developed by Moreno’s psychiatrist father, about a century ago. Moreno goes on to suggest that Eastwood, instead of lampooning the absent president, should have put himself in the chair, and tried to see things from Obama’s point of view. By not doing that, writes Moreno, “Mr. Eastwood wasted an important educational and therapeutic moment from which our deadlocked political system could benefit; putting himself in the role of the other person of whom he is critical and coming to understand that person’s point of view ‘from inside.’”
We can now entertain ourselves by imagining what Dirty Harry would say to that.
Which brings me to the main point. Clint Eastwood has built a film career in which the most iconic moments — those for which he is most often invoked, and acclaimed — involve a character who takes a beating for doing what he sees as the right thing, from Dirty Harry to Gran Torino‘s Walt Kowalski. When Dirty Harry defies the craven officials of City Hall to chase down a killer — “Do ya feel lucky?” — a lot of us cheer him on because with all his gritty, in-your-face unorthodox ways he appeals to something basic in the human instinct for justice. Likewise, when he points that gun and says “Make my day.”
Clint Eastwood’s appearance Thursday on the national political stage had many of those same elements. There’s no dearth of Hollywood celebrities willing to air their political views, but most of them are securely on the left. Surely aware of the opprobrium and ridicule that would come from a press corps that largely tilts left as well, an 82-year-old Hollywood legend steps up to the podium, and in his own way, with grit and (shock! horror!) humor, tells the country what he thinks is right.
He doesn’t have to do it. He’s a giant of the film industry, replete with a long, successful career. People from both parties have enjoyed his movies for decades. He could have stayed home. But he goes and does it anyway, because he believes there’s something important at stake. And in a country sinking under government spending and debt and ever more smothered in regulatory edicts, he reminds Americans of a basic verity — that it is we, the people, not the politicians, who own this country. “Politicians are employees of ours.” Were that a scene in a Clint Eastwood movie, it would be a good one.
But this wasn’t a movie. Unlike the fictitious Dirty Harry, who can walk off into the sunset as the credits roll, this was the real Clint Eastwood, speaking to the real world, despite the furies that were sure to descend. Make what you like of his improv comedy with the chair — a display of humor which in the no-holds-barred world of politics was actually pretty mild stuff, and something from which even the most traumatized members of the viewing audience will probably recover. In terms of a man standing up for his convictions, putting himself on the line, never mind the critics, this was his finest hour.

Remembering King Arthur

Remembering King Arthur
For a generation of Duke fans, Art Heyman was more than a basketball player. He was a force of nature.

King Arthur took Duke basketball to places it had never been. He breathed life into the Duke-North Carolina basketball series, igniting what would become the greatest rivalry in college basketball history. He led the Blue Devils to a perfect ACC season and to the first Final Four in school history. He became the first player in ACC history to win consensus national player of the year honors.

Heyman died Monday at the age of 71.

“Everybody talks about how good Dick Groat was,” Duke coach Vic Bubas said the day Heyman played his last game at Duke Indoor Stadium. “Groat was a great player. I guarded him. But Heyman is bigger and stronger. He’s got to be the best player to ever put on a Duke uniform.”

Of course, Bubas was speaking long before Mike Krzyzewski’s parade of great players – Johnny Dawkins, Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Shane Battier, Jason Williams and J.J. Redick.

You can debate where Heyman ranks among that pantheon. Two years ago, a panel of Duke basketball historians (Bill Brill, Jim Sumner, Barry Jacobs, John Roth and myself) voted Heyman as the second-best player in Duke history, just behind Laettner and just ahead of Dawkins.

But wherever Heyman falls on that list, I would argue that he is without a doubt the single most important player in Duke history.

Go back to the spring of 1959, when Bubas, who had been a star guard, then an ace recruiter for Everett Case at N.C. State, was hired to replace Hal Bradley as Duke’s basketball coach.

Bradley, who left to take a better job at Texas, had done a nice job in his nine years in Durham. He won two ACC regular season titles (although those titles were not recognized at that time – the ACC Tournament winner was the champ and represented the ACC in the NCAA Tournament). Bradley’s teams usually finished in the top half of the ACC, but never won a title and finished in the AP top 10 exactly once – a 10th place finish in 1958. North Carolina, which won the national title in 1957, and N.C. State, which won seven conference titles in the decade, were the big guns on Tobacco Road.

Duke was coming off a 13-12 season in 1959 when Bubas was introduced to the press. Moments after the press conference, athletic director Eddie Cameron whispered in his ear: “Don’t you think it’s time you go recruiting?”

Bubas was on the next plane to New York. He drove out on Long Island to see the nation’s best prospect, a burly Jewish forward named Art Heyman.

There was one problem – Heyman had already signed a letter-of-intent to play at North Carolina.

Duke had actually tried recruiting Heyman in the interim between Bradley’s departure and Bubas’ arrival. When the sophomore standouts of the ’59 team – Carroll Youngkin, Howard Hurt, Johnny Frye and Doug Kistler – escorted the Long Island phenom around the Duke campus, Heyman taunted them with boasts about what he would do to them when he played for Carolina.

He’s was already planning to hop on Frank McGuire’s Underground Railroad that had already delivered so many New York prep stars to Chapel Hill (including all five starters on the ’57 champs). He was scheduled to room with his Long Island playground rival, feisty Jewish guard Larry Brown.

But Bubas, who had tried to recruit Heyman for N.C. State before his appointment at Duke, knew something that many recruiters didn’t – that Heyman’s stepfather harbored a deep dislike for McGuire. Under the rules at the time, a signed letter of intent was not binding until July 1st and just before that deadline, Bill Heyman and McGuire got into a shouting match at the Carolina Inn.

“I had to step in between them,” Heyman said. “My stepfather called Carolina a basketball factory and McGuire didn’t like that. They were about to start swinging at each other.”

That incident helped Bubas win Heyman’s parents, if not the young star himself.

“He charmed my mother and stepfather,” Heyman said. “They made me go to Duke. All my friends from New York were at Carolina. If Duke had not picked me up at the airport, I would have gone down the road and started there.”

Heyman’s attraction to UNC didn’t last long.

His attitude changed early in his freshman season (freshmen couldn’t play varsity ball in those days) when the Duke freshmen faced the UNC freshman in high school gym in Siler City, N.C.

As the game started, Heyman was subjected to a line of vicious, anti-Semitic heckling – both from Carolina fans and the team. Bucky Waters, the Duke freshman coach, was certain the attacks were orchestrated. He warned Heyman before tipoff that it would get rough.

“Then the game started and they began this line of rhetoric, right in front of us ‘’ “Jew! Christ-killer!’ It was vicious.”

Waters called a time out and confronted Heyman. He told them they were trying to provoke the hot-headed star into a fight to get him ejected.

“I took two timeouts back-to-back, so I could continue talking to him,” Waters said. “I told him, ‘Play hard and kick their butts and when you walk off the floor, you can point at the scoreboard.”

Heyman did just that, leading Duke to a lopsided victory. But as the final seconds were ticking down, UNC freshman Dieter Krause walked up and cold-cocked Heyman from behind. Amazing, Heyman kept his cool, but Waters admits that he lost it.

“I was so convinced that it was all premeditated that I had [UNC freshman coach Kenny Rosemond] by the lapels and I was bouncing him off the scorer’s table,” Waters said. “I kept pushing him into the scoreboard controls and the scoreboard was going nuts. Here I worked so hard to convince Art to keep his cool and I lost mine.”

Heyman averaged over 30 points a game for the Duke freshman that season and keyed three victories without a loss over the Tar Heels.

A year later, he joined four senior starters from Bubas’ first Duke team – one that unexpectedly won the 1960 ACC title after finishing fourth in the regular season. Those were the same players that Heyman had taunted during his recruitment in the spring of 1959.

Despite the presence of the four veterans, there was never any doubt as to the team’s star. Heyman topped 20 points in six of his first seven games. He scored 27 points against Penn State and had 25 points and 23 rebounds at Georgia Tech. He added 34 points in 34 minutes against Florida, then burned Marquette in the semifinals of the Dixie Classic for 29.

Through nine games, Heyman was averaging 26.0 points and almost 11 rebounds. He was a unique player, who dominated almost by force of will, rather than skill. He was only a fair shooter, but nobody ever followed his own shot with more determination. He was just 6-5, but he dominated under the boards.

“He was so strong, you could hit him with an axe handle and he’d still make the three-point play,” teammate Fred Schmidt.

“He was a step above,” Waters said. “Nobody ever took over a game or put a team on his back like Art. And he was such a great, great passer.”

Indeed, Bubas usually used Heyman to bring the ball up when Duke was being pressed. Assists were rarely measured in those days, but the ACC Tournament was an exception. As a senior, Heyman recorded the first official triple double in ACC history when he had 21 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists in a tournament victory over Virginia.

“He is just like a king in a checker game,” Bubas told reporters. “I can move him anywhere and he gets the job done.”

From that point on, Heyman was celebrated as “King Arthur.”

The newly crowned king led Duke to a No. 6 national ranking by Christmas of his sophomore season – matching the highest ranking in school history to that point.

Duke took on North Carolina in the championship game of the Dixie Classic and at first it looked like the Blue Devil freshman would put up a another big number as he scored 11 points in the game’s first five minutes. But McGuire came out of his zone and assigned senior Doug Moe to guard Heyman. The veteran defender limited Heyman to just four points the rest of the way and UNC won 76-71.

His failure gnawed at Heyman. He ripped a picture of Moe out of the Durham newspaper and pasted it in his locker.

He would get his chance for revenge on Feb. 4, 1961, when UNC visited Duke. The Tar Heels were 14-2 and ranked No. 4 in the UPI (coaches’) poll and No. 5 in the AP poll. The Blue Devils were 15-1 with a No. 4 ranking in the AP poll and No. 5 in the UPI rankings.

Is it any wonder that Bubas called the game, “the biggest ever played in the South”? It was certainly the first time – although far from the last – when Duke and UNC would meet with both in the top 5. The game was televised regionally and an ice storm that blanked the state and kept people inside guaranteed the largest viewing audience in ACC basketball history.

Heyman stepped onto the stage and claimed the spotlight. He abused Moe early, hitting nine of his first 11 shots and getting the Tar Heel star in early foul trouble, despite a disgusting defensive tactic by the future NBA coach.

“Moe kept spitting on me,” Heyman said. “Every time I took a shot, he spit on me.”

There was an ugly atmosphere in Duke Indoor Stadium that night. In the freshman preliminary, the Duke frosh won a slugfest as UNC lost so many players to fouls and ejections that they finished the game with just three players on the floor

There was a near-brawl at the end of the first half of the varsity game as Heyman and Moe squared off and the infamous Dieter Krause came off the bench to join in before he was intercepted by Duke trainer Jim Cunningham.

There was another incident as the two teams left the court at halftime. A male Carolina cheerleader was slapping UNC players on the butt as they exited through the narrow passage between fans. When he also hit Heyman on the butt, Heyman turned and shoved him.

The incident became big news the next Monday when a UNC fan in the stands – a lawyer named Blackwell Brogden – swore out an assault warrant against the Duke star. To his credit, the UNC cheerleader didn’t want to have anything to do with the case – he had to be subpoenaed to appear in court. The charge was dismissed, but made national headlines.

“A lot of the stories failed to note that it was a male cheerleader,” Heyman said.”My mother was playing cards when she heard about it and she was really upset, thinking I had hit a woman!”

Heyman continued to dominate Moe and the Tar Heels in the second half, leading Duke to the brink of victory. He had 36 points (11 of 13 from the floor, 14 of 17 from the foul line) as Duke was up five with just seconds remaining. That’s when everything blew up.

It started when UNC’s Brown took a long inbounds pass and drove for a layup. Heyman wrapped his old playground rival up, giving up an intentional foul rather than the layup. Brown responded by throwing the basketball at Heyman. He then threw a punch that glanced off Heyman’s head.

The Duke star stepped back, stunned, but UNC’s Donnie Walsh – the future NBA executive – had jumped off the bench and slugged Heyman from behind, knocking him to the ground.

“It was right in front of their bench and before I knew it, everybody was hitting me,” Heyman said. “But I was strong and I fought my way back to my feet and I fought back. They were beating the hell out of me and I was just fighting back.”

The ensuing brawl – usually judged the worst in ACC history – lasted more than 10 minutes and took 10 policemen to quell. Amazingly, just one player was ejected – Heyman. Brown, who threw the first punch, was allowed to shoot his free throws.

Afterwards, referee Charlie Eckmann blamed Heyman for starting the fight in his official report to the conference. Bubas responded by calling a midweek press conference and rolling he gamefilm for the assembled reporters – slowing it down to show that Brown and Walsh had both thrown punches before Heyman started to fight back.

ACC commissioner Jim Weaver, who had been trying to stamp out a rash of fighting in the league, came down with severe penalties – suspending Brown, Walsh and Heyman for the remainder of the ACC regular season.

“That cost us a national championship,” Heyman said. “I really believe that. We lost our focus after that. Even when I came back for the tournament, it wasn’t the same.”

Even so, Heyman’s stardom was established. He averaged 25.9 points a game and 10.9 rebounds. He was a unanimous first-team All-ACC pick – he would be unanimous first-team in all three of his varsity seasons, a feat just one other ACC player (David Thompson) ever accomplished.

He was also the only returning starter the next season, when he teamed with three sophomore starters, including a brilliant forward from  Lexington, Ky. Bubas had stolen Jeff Mullins from under the nose of Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp.

The rambunctious Heyman and the gentlemanly Mullins appeared to be exact opposites, but they shared a mutual respect.

“Every other coach had stories about Art Heyman,” Mullins said. “That’s one of the reasons I made another visit to Durham in the spring. I didn’t meet Art on my first visit and I wanted to see what he was like. From day one, we hit it off.”

Heyman and Mullins would turn out to be the highest scoring duo in ACC history. In 1961-62, Heyman averaged 25.3 and Mullins added 21.2 for a 20-5 team that finished No. 10 in the nation. A year later, Duke dominated the ACC as Heyman averaged 24.9 and Mullins added 20.3. The Blue Devils stormed through the ACC undefeated – with an average victory margin of 17 points a game.

“I think that’s the most overall talent I’ve seen on one ballclub in our league,” N.C. State coach Everett Case said. “Carolina in ’57 didn’t have much depth. Duke’s got a lot of [talented players] and they can vary their lineup. Just take ‘em in and out – it doesn’t make much difference.”

Heyman capped his Duke homecourt career with a 40-point, 24-rebound performance against North Carolina. He then earned outstanding player honors as Duke swept Virginia, N.C. State and Wake Forest (the two-time defending ACC champ) to win ACC Tournament and earn what was only the school’s third ever bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“Heyman was slow to get started, but he finished great,” Bubas said after watching his star dominate the final minutes of the championship game.

In the layoff between the ACC Tournament and the start of NCAA play, the individual awards started to roll in. Heyman was a unanimous first-team All-American and won every major national player of the year award.

But he was determined to add team honors to his sweep of individual awards. Addressing a massive pep rally in front of the Duke Chapel, he told the crowd:

“We started practice on October 15, we won our first game on December 1 and we’re going to win our last game in Louisville on March 23!”

As it turned out, he was right, although it did not turn out exactly as he hoped.

He helped Duke beat NYU and St. Joseph’s in College Park, Md., to win the East Regional and earn its first-ever tip to the Final Four. In Louisville, the No. 2 ranked Blue Devils were matched against No. 3 Loyola of Chicago in the semifinals.

Duke got off to a terrible start against the Ramblers and almost – but not quite – came all the way back before faltering in the final minutes. Heyman had 29 points and 12 rebounds in the defeat. One night later, he scored 22 points to lead Duke past Oregon State in the consolation game.

As he predicted, Duke won its last game on March 23 – just not the game he wanted.

Still, third place was the best finish in school history and Heyman was so impressive in Louisville that he was voted the outstanding player in the Final Four – one of four winners of that award who didn’t play on the championship team.

Heyman should have enjoyed a long, successful NBA career. The No. 1 pick in the 1963 draft, he averaged over 15 points a game and made the all-rookie team for the Knicks. But his production soon tailed off. He takes the blame for that.

“I could have been something special,” he said. “Maybe I wasn’t mature and I didn’t grow up. I just wasn’t ready. It’s really sad, but I have no one to blame but myself.”

Heyman did enjoy a brief revival in the ABA. He averaged 20 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game for Pittsburgh in 1968, teaming with Connie Hawkins to lead the Pipers to the ABA championship.

Still, he will be best remembered for his three glory years at Duke, when he became the best player in college basketball and planted the seeds of Duke’s basketball greatness. His number 25 now hands in the Cameron rafters – thanks to Mike Krzyzewski, who teamed with Bubas in 1990 to honor the 1960s star, who played at a time when AD Eddie Cameron refused to retire any numbers (other than Dick Groat).

Heyman lived briefly in North Carolina, but returned to New York in the mid-1990s, when he operated a successful bar/restaurant.

It’s been a half century since he played and for many Duke fans, Heyman is just a name on a jersey in the Cameron rafters and a set of impressive statistics in the Duke record book.

But those who saw him play at Duke, know that he was one of the special players – and special people – in Duke history.

Racist Dog Whistles and the Men Who Hear Them

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
August 31, 2012

American racism is starting to remind me of American alcoholism. At the founding of the republic, in the days when beer was thought of as "liquid bread" and a healthy nutritional breakfast, Americans drank about three-to-four times as much as they do now. Today the United States has a lower per capita rate of alcohol consumption than almost any other developed nation, but it has more alcoholism support groups than any other developed nation – around 164 groups per million people. France, which drinks about 50 percent more per capita than America, has one-twentieth the number of support groups. The French and Italians enjoy drinking, the English and Irish enjoy getting drunk, and Americans enjoy getting drunk on ever more absurd stigmatizatory excess. At Walmart they card you if you "appear to be under" – what is it up to now? 43? 57? And the citizenry take this as a compliment: Well-preserved grandmothers return from failed attempts to purchase a bottle of wine with gay cries of, "I was carded at Costco! They've made my weekend!"
And so it goes with American racism: The less there is, the more extravagantly the racism-awareness lobby patrols its beat. The Walmart carding clerks of the media are ever more alert to those who "appear to be" racist. On MSNBC, Chris Matthews declared this week that Republicans use "Chicago" as a racist code word. Not to be outdone, his colleague Lawrence O'Donnell pronounced "golf" a racist code word. When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell observed that Obama was "working to earn a spot on the PGA tour," O'Donnell brilliantly perceived that subliminally associating Obama with golf is racist, because the word "golf" is subliminally associated with "Tiger Woods," and the word "Tiger" is not-so-subliminally associated with cocktail waitress Jamie Grubbs, nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel, lingerie model Jamie Jungers, former porn star Holly Sampson, etc, etc. So by using the word "golf" you're sending a racist dog whistle that Obama is a sex addict who reverses over fire hydrants.
While we're on the subject of GOP white supremacists, former Secretary of State Condi Rice spoke movingly of her rise to the top from a childhood in segregated Birmingham, Ala. But everyone knows that's just more Republican racist dog-whistling for "when's Bull Connor gonna whistle up those dogs and get me off stage?" Meanwhile, over at The Huffington Post, Geoffrey Dunn, author of "The Lies Of Sarah Palin" (St. Martin's Press, 2011, in case you missed it), was scoffing at Clint Eastwood's star turn at the convention – "better known as the Gathering of Pasty White People," added Mr. Dunn, demonstrating the stylistic panache that set a-flutter the hearts of so many St. Martin's Press commissioning editors. Warming to his theme, Mr. Dunn noted that Clint had been mayor of "the upscale and frighteningly white community" of Carmel, California.
To judge from his byline photo, Geoffrey Dunn is not only white but "pasty white." So, too, is Lawrence O'Donnell. If I recall correctly from the last time I saw his show (1978 – the remote had jammed), Chris Matthews is not just "pasty white" but "frighteningly white." I happen to be overseas right now, so perhaps that's the reason that all these "upscale and frighteningly white" American liberals seem even crazier than usual in their more-anti-racist-than-thou obsessions. To me, the word "Clint" is racist dog-whistling for "Play 'Misty' For Me," which is racist dog-whistling for "Erroll Garner," which is racist dog-whistling for "black pianist way better than Liberace." Clint took "The Bridges Of The Frighteningly White Madison County" and gave it a cool Johnny Hartman soundtrack. Clint introduced the world to Roberta Flack's killer song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."
But, as Geoffrey Dunn can explain, that's racial code for "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face I Was Pleasantly Reassured By How Pasty White It Was." Also, Clint starred in "The Eiger Sanction," a mountaineering thriller set on an Alp that was "upscale and frighteningly white."
On the matter of those racist dog whistles all these middle-age white liberals keep hearing, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto put it very well: "The thing we adore about these dog-whistle kerfuffles is that the people who react to the whistle always assume it's intended for somebody else," he wrote. "The whole point of the metaphor is that if you can hear the whistle, you're the dog." And a very rare breed at that. What frequency does a Mitch McConnell speech have to be ringing inside your head for even the most racially obsessed Caucasian NBC anchorman to hear the words "PGA tour" as "deep-rooted white insecurities about black male sexuality"? That's way beyond dog-whistling, and somewhere between barking mad and frothing rabid.
Still, now that "golf" and "Chicago" – along with "Clint," "Medicare," "debt," "jobs," "foreign policy" and "quantitative easing" – are all racist code words, are there any words left that aren't racist? Yes, here's one:
Not familiar with it? New York Assembly candidate Ben Akselrod used it the other day in a campaign mailer to Brooklyn electors, arguing that his opponent "has allowed crime to go up over 50 percent in our negrohood so far this year."
Like Messrs Dunn, Matthews and O'Donnell, Ben Akselrod is frighteningly pasty white, and a Democrat, and so presumably has highly refined racial antennae. Had a campaign staffer suggested that Mr. Akselrod's opponent was wont to wear "plus-fours" and had a "niblick," obviously such naked racism would have been deleted in the first draft. But the more subtly allusive "negrohood" apparently just slipped through.
Mr. Akselrod now says it was a "typo." Could happen to anyone. You're typing "neighborhood," and you leave out the "i," and the "h" and "b," and the "o" and "r" get mysteriously inverted. Either that, or your desktop came with Al Sharpton's spellcheck. And then nobody at the campaign office reading through the mailer spotted it. Odd.
It's only the beginning of September. So we've got two more months of this. I don't know how it will play in the negrohoods of Chicago – whoops, sorry, I apologize for saying "Chicago" – but let me make a modest observation from having spent much of the past few months traveling round foreign parts. When you don't have frighteningly white upscale liberals obsessing about the racist subtext of golf, it's amazing how much time it frees up to talk about other stuff. For example, as dysfunctional as Greece undoubtedly is, if you criticize the government's plans for public pensions, there are no Chris Matthews-types with such a highly evolved state of racial consciousness that they reflexively hear "watermelon" instead of the word "pensions." So, instead, everyone discusses the actual text rather than the imaginary subtext. Which may be why political discourse in the eurozone is marginally less unreal than ours right now: At least they're talking about "austerity"; over here, we're still spending, and more than ever.
Time's Mark Halperin wrote this week that "Obama can't win if he can't swing the conversation away from the economy." That's a pretty amazing admission. The economy is the No. 1 issue on the minds of voters, and, beyond that, the central reality of Obama's America. But to win the President has to steer clear. That doesn't leave a lot else. Hence, the racism of golf, the war on women, the carcinogenic properties of Mitt Romney. Democrat strategy 1992: It's the economy, stupid. Democrat strategy 2012: It's the stupidity, economists.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Film Review: 'Lawless'

Moonshiners, Shovin' and Lovin'

By Steven Rea
The Philadelphia Inquirer
August 29, 2012

Perhaps in 80 years they will be making beautifully crafted, beautifully acted movies - or iScreen optical implant apps - about hillbilly meth labs.

I know, cooking methamphetamine isn't the same thing as distilling whiskey in woodsheds - it's unlikely the government is ever going to legalize the stuff. And there has been a great film set in that world, although it hardly romanticizes the people living in it: Winter's Bone, which turned Jennifer Lawrence into a star.

But, in Lawless, a Prohibition saga based on the true exploits of the Bondurant brothers in Franklin County, Va., the life of mountain moonshiners looks mighty pretty, even when crime kings from the big city roll in, tommy guns a-blazin', demanding their cut.

If Bonnie and Clyde, likewise set in the hard times of the Depression, romanticized looting and shooting, then director John Hillcoat's grand but intimate adaptation of family chronicler Matt Bondurant's The Wettest County in the World can put an elegiac sheen on the task of producing and distributing grain alcohol. And then contending with corrupt cops and protection racketeers.

Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, and Jason Clarke are, respectively, Forrest, Jack, and Howard Bondurant, a close-knit band who grew up with pigs and chickens - and who grew into their legend of indestructibility. Survivors of the Spanish influenza epidemic, the Bondurants, it was said, could not be killed.

And they came to believe their own mythology. When special deputy Charlie Rakes (an enjoyably slicked-up, sinister Guy Pearce) rolls in with his badge-wearing goons - not to shut the Bondurants down, but to take control of their business - the boys don't blink. Forrest pummels a couple of the deputies with his fists, and Rakes' crew returns to exact revenge - by cutting his throat. But even with the blood gushing from his jugular, Forrest lives. (Hardy is more of a menacing physical presence in Lawless than he is, masked and maniacal, as Batman's nemesis in The Dark Knight Rises.)

Hillcoat, who turned Cormac McCarthy's The Road into a haunting apocalyptic nightmare, and also made the brilliant Australian western The Proposition, doesn't shy away from the violence and venom pushing this story along. But there is time for romance: LaBeouf's Jack, the youngest brother, woos the pretty Bertha (Mia Wasikowska), despite her father's disapproval, and Forrest lets his guard down when Maggie (Jessica Chastain), a woman with her own troubles, moves into town.

Lawless, which also stars Gary Oldman (a big-time gangster) and Dane DeHaan (Jack's boyhood friend), is a story of entrepreneurship, of family, of fighting for one's rights - the right to make white lightning, and money. It's as American as apple pie.

The Green War on the Poor

By Dr. Robert Zunrin
August 30, 2012

In a nearly full-page op-ed appearing in the business section of the August 25 New York Times, Cornell professor Robert H. Frank lays out the new green agenda for tax policy.

According to Professor Frank, stopping global warming may require carbon taxes of about $300 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted, and by implementing such taxes, we can also balance the federal budget. “If such a tax were phased in,” Frank says, “the prices of goods would rise gradually in proportion to the amount of carbon dioxide their production or use entailed. The price of gasoline, for example, would slowly rise by somewhat less than $3 per gallon. Motorists in many countries already pay that much more than Americans do, and they seem to have adapted by driving substantially more efficient vehicles. . . . many budget experts agree that federal budgets simply can’t be balanced with spending cuts alone. We’ll also need substantial additional revenue, most of which could be generated by a carbon tax.”
In addition to increasing the cost of American goods through carbon taxes, Frank recommends jacking up the price of imports through carbon tariffs, and he suggests that the U.S. government use such tariffs to force other nations to impose carbon taxes on their own citizens. “Some people argue that a carbon tax would do little good unless it were also adopted by China and other big polluters,” Frank says. “It’s a fair point. But access to the American market is a potent bargaining chip. The United States could seek approval to tax imported goods in proportion to their carbon dioxide emissions if exporting countries failed to enact carbon taxes at home.”

Let us consider the effects of this policy. A ton of carbon dioxide contains 248 kilograms of carbon, so a tax of $300 per ton of CO2 would be equivalent to taxing carbon at a rate of $1.21 per kg. Since there are about 2.5 kg of carbon in a gallon of gasoline, this would increase the cost of a gallon of gas by $3.02 per gallon, or just a little more than Frank says. The average American driver uses about 730 gallons of gasoline per year, so this tax would represent a cost of about $2,200 per driver. This would be a serious hit for the average American worker, whose before-tax income is about $45,000 per year, and devastating to those making less than this. But let us consider  the effects on the economy as a whole.

The United States economy currently uses about 2.3 trillion kilograms of carbon per year, comprising 1 trillion kg in its coal, 0.8 trillion kg in its oil, and 0.5 trillion kg in its natural gas. Taxing this at Frank’s recommended rate of $1.21 per kg would therefore raise $2.78 trillion, somewhat more than the $2.3 trillion that the federal government raises through the current tax system (assuming that the carbon tax did not crash the economy, which it probably would, but we’ll leave that aside for now).

But what would the effect on prices be? Currently, western bituminous low-sulfur coal has a cost of $0.01 per kg at the mine, or $0.03 delivered to most users. Coal is about 90 percent carbon by weight. The green tax would thus multiply the cost of coal by nearly a factor of 40. A thousand cubic feet of natural gas contains about 18 kg of carbon. Taxing its carbon at a rate of $1.21 per kg would thus increase the price of a thousand cubic feet of natural gas from its current level of $2.50 to about $24.30, a tenfold increase. A barrel of oil contains about 110 kg of carbon. The green tax would thus hike the price Americans pay for oil by $133 per barrel over the world price (i.e., to about $230 per barrel today). As coal and natural gas provide the energy to produce not only the bulk of the nation’s electric power, but also most of its steel, aluminum, fertilizer, pesticides, food, plastics, electronics, glass, and many other products, and as oil provides the fuel to transport them, the cost of all of these would soar as well.

So who ends up paying? Under America’s current tax system, the top 5 percent of income earners pay 59 percent of all federal income taxes, the next 45 percent pay 39 percent, and the bottom half pays next to nothing. But because basic commodities such as food, electricity, and fuel are bought in similar amounts per capita regardless of income (i.e., a working-class family living on $30,000 per year in Harlem uses about the same amount of electricity and food as the family of a money manager living on $30 million per year on Park Avenue; and rural Americans, of whatever class, spend much more on gasoline than either), the $2.78 trillion green tax would be spread nearly evenly on all Americans, not as a fixed “flat tax” percentage of income, but as a fixed cost regardless of income.
Divided evenly among 300 million Americans, the green tax works out to a burden of $9,270 imposed on every man, woman, and child. While this would be a pittance for the most affluent Americans, it would take away 40 percent of the total income of a family of four supported by twowage earners making the average U.S. salary of $45,000 each, and it would be a virtually fatal burden for the poor.

The Obama campaign is currently banging the class-warfare drum, demanding that taxes on those making over $250,000 a year be raised by about 4 percent. Assuming no ill effects on the economy, this measure would raise $80 billion in revenue for the federal government, which conceivably might use as much as half of it, or $40 billion, in various programs that transfer part of their funds to lower-income people. “He pays less. You pay more,” say the president’s ads, promising largesse to the masses from the pockets of the rich. At the same time, however, green ideologues on whose ideas Obama’s energy policies are based are putting forth a proposal that would double the tax burden on the lower-earning 95 percent of the American public, with the poorest 50 percent being hit for a full $1.3 trillion of the increase.

But that’s not all. Because the green tax targets carbon, rather than income, it would act as a dirigiste economic policy favoring businesses that make money trading in paper instruments over those that produce real value through industry, agriculture, transport, mining, and construction. This would impoverish society overall, once again hurting the vulnerable the most, and would destroy tens of millions of blue-collar jobs.

Was ever a more regressive tax policy proposed? And has anyone ever demanded that the United States launch a trade war to force other countries to impose such oppressive policies on their own people, most of whom can afford them even less? There was a time when the Democratic party concerned itself with the needs of poor and working people. Alas, those times are past.

The green tax plan is a declaration of war on the poor.

— Dr. Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics, a fellow with the Center for Security Policy, and the author of Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil. His latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was recently published by Encounter Books.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Voters, are you bluffing?

By George Will
The Washington Post
August 30, 2012

Now begins the final phase of this cognitive dissonance campaign. America’s 57th presidential election is the first devoted to calling the nation’s bluff. When Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan, Republicans undertook the perilous but commendable project of forcing voters to face the fact that they fervently hold flatly incompatible beliefs.

Twice as many Americans identify themselves as conservative as opposed to liberal. On Nov. 6 we will know if they mean it. If they are ideologically conservative but operationally liberal. If they talk like Jeffersonians but want to be governed by Hamiltonians. If their commitment to limited government is rhetorical or actual. If it is, as Daniel Patrick Moynihansuspected, a “civic religion, avowed but not constraining.”

This is the problem for uneasy Republicans. The Democrats’ problem is worse because they are not uneasy about their dissonance, being blissfully unaware of it.

In Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic” — a book more measured and scholarly than its overwrought title — Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard says that the party has succumbed to “clientelism,” the process of purchasing cohorts of voters with federal favors. This has turned the party into the servant of the strong.

Before Franklin Roosevelt, “liberal” described policies emphasizing liberty and individual rights. He, however, pioneered the politics of collective rights — of group entitlements. And his liberalism systematically developed policies not just to buy the allegiance of existing groups but to create groups that henceforth would be dependent on government.

Under FDR, liberalism became the politics of creating an electoral majority from a mosaic of client groups. Labor unions got special legal standing, farmers got crop supports, business people got tariff protection and other subsidies, the elderly got pensions, and so on and on.

Government no longer existed to protect natural rights but to confer special rights on favored cohorts. As Irving Kristolsaid, the New Deal preached not equal rights for all but equal privileges for all — for all, that is, who banded together to become wards of the government.

In the 1960s, public-employee unions were expanded to feast from quantitative liberalism (favors measured in quantities of money). And qualitative liberalism was born as environmentalists, feminists and others got government to regulate behavior in the service of social “diversity,” “meaningful” work, etc. Cost notes that with the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act, a few government-approved minorities were given an entitlement to public offices: About 40 “majority-minority” congressional districts would henceforth be guaranteed to elect minority members.
Walter Mondale, conceding to Ronald Reagan after the 1984 election, listed the groups he thought government should assist: “the poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the handicapped, the helpless and the sad.” Yes, the sad.

Republicans also practice clientelism, but with a (sometimes) uneasy conscience. Both parties have narrowed their appeals as they have broadened their search for clients to cosset. Today’s Democratic Party does not understand what one of its saints understood — that big government is generally a patron of the privileged, a partner of rent-seekers.

When vetoing the 1832 bill to recharter the Second Bank of the United States, Andrew Jackson said, “It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes.” When government goes beyond equal protection by law and undertakes to allocate wealth and opportunity, “the humble members of society — the farmers, mechanics and laborers — who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government.” As Cost rightly says, “With the exception of the tea party, there is no real faction out there making the Jacksonian case for an end to special privilege.”

Human beings, said one of the wisest of them — Aristotle — are political animals and language-using animals. Americans, as you do not need to be Aristotle to know, are complaining animals. They use language to complain about politics. Mitt Romney should remind them that one function of elections is to force most voters — the winning majorities — to forfeit the fun of complaining. For example, if the swing state of Nevada, which has the nation’s highest unemployment rate (12 percent), votes for four more years of current policies, it must henceforth suffer in silence. Actually, all those who vote to continue Barack Obama’s distinctive brand of clientelism — crony capitalism — must, if he wins, become political Trappists, taking a vow to keep quiet.

Yes, Romney's Welfare Ad is Accurate

By Ann Coulter
August 29, 2012

Poor Mickey Kaus. He’s the liberal intellectual (not an oxymoron — he’s the last known living “liberal intellectual”) lefties on TV are usually stealing from, but now that this welfare reform maven has concluded that Romney’s welfare ad is basically correct, liberals refuse to acknowledge his existence.

The non-Fox media have formed a solid front in denouncing Romney’s welfare ad for daring to point out that Obama has gutted the work requirements of the 1996 welfare reform bill.

The New York Times claims that Romney’s ad “falsely” charges Obama with eliminating work requirements. CNN rates the ad “false.” Underemployed hack Howard Fineman says Romney’s ad “is just flat out wrong on the facts” and “that every fair analyst, every fact checker” has said it’s “just factually wrong.”

When a campaign ad induces this much hysteria, you know Romney has struck gold. On closer examination, it turns out that by “every fair analyst,” Fineman means a bunch of liberals quoting one another.

This is how the media’s “fact checkers” operate when it comes to a Republican campaign ad. One not very well-informed person (or a heavily biased person) announces that Romney’s welfare ad is false, and the rest of the herd quote him, without anyone ever bothering to examine the facts, much less citing anyone who knows what he’s talking about.

It is striking that everyone who actually knows something about the 1996 welfare reform law says that Romney’s ad is accurate.

One of the principal authors of the 1996 welfare reform, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, and Douglas Besharov, who advised Hillary Clinton on the 1996 welfare reform law, say Romney’s ad is accurate.

Andrew Grossman, also of Heritage, produced something the MSM “fact checkers” avoid: a specific and detailed explanation of how the new waivers will allow states to evade the work requirements.

Even Ron Haskins, one of the reform bill’s authors now at the liberal Brookings Institution — cited far and wide for “blasting” Romney’s ad — doesn’t deny the Obama administration plans to waive the work requirements. He just says he supports waivers for “job training.” That’s not disputing the accuracy of Romney’s ads.

A lot of Americans don’t support waiving the work requirements, even for “job training.” Mitt Romney thinks they should know that that’s what Obama is doing.

And liberal Kaus — whom liberal hacks are usually plagiarizing from — has written a series of blog posts explaining in detail why the Times is wrong and Romney’s ad is not incorrect. True, he says the ad is “oversimplified,” but I think most people grasp that a 30-second ad will not provide the lush analytical detail of a Kausfiles blog posting.

We know liberals are reading Kausfiles; why aren’t they stealing from him this time?

As Kaus explains, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius has interpreted the welfare law to allow her to waive work requirements “subject only to her opinion” as to what will serve the purposes of the law.

By viewing the work requirements as optional, subject to her waiver, Kaus says, the law has been “altered dramatically”: “Old system: Congress writes the requirements, which are … requirements. New system: Sebelius does what she wants — but, hey, you can trust her!”

Sebelius is not a laid-back, third-way neoliberal who can be expected to interpret her waiver authority honestly. She’s the doctrinaire feminist loon who “interpreted” Obamacare to require every insurance policy in the country to provide full coverage for birth control.

Kaus points out that the HHS memo announcing that Sebelius could allow waivers from work for “job training,” “job search” or “pursuing a credential” unquestionably constitutes “a weakening of the work requirement.” He adds that it’s also “unfair to the poor suckers who just go to work without ever going on welfare — they don’t get subsidized while they’re ‘pursuing a credential.’”

In a follow-up post, Kaus pointed out that the Times’ own editorial denouncing the Romney ad inadvertently revealed that Sebelius was proposing a lot more than “job search” exemptions from the work requirement.

Both the Times and an HHS memo cheerfully propose allowing hard-to-employ “families” — which are never actual families, by the way — to be “exempted from the work requirements for six months.” Or more than six months. It’s up to Sebelius: “Exempted.”

The work requirements were one of two central features of the 1996 welfare reform law, along with time limits. They were heatedly opposed by the Democrats’ left-wing base at the time, and have been met with massive resistance in some of our more Greece-like states ever since.

A 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office found that some states were accepting such non-work substitutes from welfare recipients as “bed rest,” “personal journaling,” “motivational reading,” “exercise at home,” “smoking cessation,” “weight loss,” and “helping a friend or relative with household tasks and errands.”

(Under Sebelius, the work requirement will also be satisfied with “playing Xbox and eating Doritos.”)
Many liberals, such as those who write for The New York Times, agree that “bed rest” and “personal journaling” should count as a work substitute for welfare recipients. But that’s not what the law says. And it’s certainly not what liberals tell us when they proclaim Romney’s ad “false.”

What “every fair analyst” and “every fact checker” means when they call Romney’s ad “false” is: We, the media, don’t consider exempting welfare recipients from the requirement of having to work “gutting” the work requirements.

“Thoroughly debunked” is the new liberal code for “blindingly accurate.”

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

If last night's GOP convention seemed to have a stunning lack of diversity...

**Written by Doug Powers were probably watching MSNBC:

When popular Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz, the GOP nominee for Senate, took the stage, MSNBC cut away from the Republican National Convention and the Hispanic Republican from Texas’ speech.

MSNBC stayed on commercial through former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis’ speech, as well. Davis, who recently became a Republican, is black.

Then, when Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuno’s wife Luce’ Vela Fortuño took the stage minutes later, MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews opted to talk over the First Lady’s speech.

And Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval? Noticeably missing from MSNBC, too.

Mia Love, a black candidate for Congress in Utah, was also ignored by MSNBC.

Hey, if it doesn't fit the talking points, just don't show it. Voilà!

If you happened to have been stuck in a place that only had MSNBC on, The Right Scoop has the speeches of Davis, Cruz, Love, etc. posted here.

While we ponder how MSNBC will manage to avoid showing tonight's speeches by Condoleezza Rice and Governor Luis Fortuño in order for Chris Matthews to have more time to discuss the GOP's dog whistle racism, enjoy this headline at the Washington Post.

Update: Via Instapundit, have a look at NBC's section featuring Tuesday night's RNC speeches. The people mentioned above have been erased from history.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

Fast and Furious: Prosecutions Coming?

By Bob Owens
PJ Media
August 29, 2012

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa indicated on August 23 that the five Department of Justice officials the committee held responsible for Operation Fast and Furious may face criminal charges.
Speaking with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News, Issa discussed allegations that Deputy Assistant ATF Director William McMahon was “double-dipping,” drawing both a full-time salary from the ATF and a second full-time, six-figure salary from J.P. Morgan. The arrangement is suspicious, considering the controversy over McMahon’s role in Fast and Furious and the ATF’s persecution of whistleblowers who sought similar arrangements. J.P. Morgan was one of the Obama administration’s top donors in 2008 and was shielded by President Obama when it lost two billion dollars through poor investments. The close relationship between the administration and the concurrent salary for McMahon is a significant ethical conflict: it presents the appearance of the Obama administration using a prominent donor to funnel “hush money” to a highly placed official involved in a scandal, one which threatens President Obama and several cabinet officials.
While speaking of the controversy, Issa indicated that McMahon and other Fast and Furious co-conspirators would be referred for criminal prosecution:
“This is somebody who our reports said perjured himself before the Congress,” Issa charged. “We don’t understand why J.P. Morgan would hire somebody who’s lied to Congress, that will probably be referred for criminal prosecution.”
That could be taken as a good indicator that four other officials identified along with McMahon as culpable in a July 31 Joint Congressional Staff Report are also being looked at with legal action in mind, and a better indicator that what they can exchange in terms of information about higher-ups could mitigate their risks.
In addition to McMahon: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix field division William Newell, Assistant Director for Field Operations Mark Chait, Deputy Director William Hoover, and Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson could face criminal charges for the operation, which sent more than 2,000 guns to violent Mexican drug cartels and has been blamed for the deaths of more than 300 Mexican citizens. U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE Agent Jaime Zapata also were murdered with Fast and Furious guns. ICE Agent Victor Avila was seriously injured but survived the attack that killed Zapata.
The families of Terry and Zapata have filed wrongful death suits against the government because of the gunwalking operations, and Avila has joined the Zapata family’s suit.
Interestingly, the Zapata/Avila weapon was not technically a “Fast and Furious” weapon; it originated in one of two alleged Texas-based gunwalking plots. The two Texas gunwalking plots join other alleged gunwalking plots from across the country: the West and Southwest, Florida, the Carolinas, and the Midwest (where a plot dubbed “Gangwalker” based in Indiana may bear much of the blame for the out-of-control gun violence in Chicago) were all possible locations of other operations.
The goal of Fast and Furious and the other alleged plots was to manufacture evidence of gunrunning to justify more and stricter gun-control laws, which some Democrats called for during the Oversight Committee hearings.
If McMahon, Newell, Chait, and Hoover are charged, former Acting Director Ken Melson may also be charged, or perhaps his secret July 4, 2011, testimony without DOJ lawyers present could be used against the other ATF officials. Some have speculated that Melson’s testimony and documentation could be damning enough to catch his fellow ATF officials and Department of Justice higher-ups in lies that could result in additional charges against them. This could perhaps force them to plea bargain their knowledge of the details of the case in exchange for reduced charges or a reduced sentence.
The news of pending criminal charges and ethical violations comes at an interesting time. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz has completed his internal review of Operation Fast and Furious after taking over from acting Inspector General and former Eric Holder colleague Cynthia Schnedar. Horowitz has reportedly turned his findings over to Department of Justice “shot callers,” including Attorney General Holder.
Justice will reportedly “review” the report well into September, in what appears to be yet another instance of the Holder Department of Justice holding itself above the law.

Liberal Chickens

By Victor Davis Hanson
August 29, 2012

It could not last — the attendee of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church sermonizing on tolerance; the practitioner of Chicago politics lecturing on civility; the most partisan voting record in the Senate as proof of a new promised bipartisanship; earlier books and speeches calling for hard-core progressivism as evidence of a no-more-red-state-blue-state conciliation. And in fact the disconnect did not last, and Barack Obama finds himself dealing with assorted chickens coming home to roost.

In the summer of 2004, Michael Moore released a crude propaganda film, Fahrenheit 9/11, full of distortions and half-truths, and yet passed off as a documentary — all designed to help swing the election to Democratic challenger John Kerry. Hollywood, the media, and the Left in general did not worry about the film’s inaccuracies or the mythology that the infomercial was a disinterested documentary. Instead, liberals deified Moore. Indeed, he was an honored guest at the Democratic Convention, and liberal luminaries paid him obeisance at various showings of the film.
The goddess Nemesis took note, and this year Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan followed Moore’s model. The result is a blockbuster “documentary,” 2016: Obama’s America, that does more to Barack Obama than Michael Moore once did to George W. Bush. The Left is perturbed, unappreciative that its own methods and objectives have been turned against itself, and in a more sophisticated and far more effective manner than Moore’s buffoonery.

The Left in the era of Barack Obama established other ends-justify-the-means precedents. In 2008, Obama surmised that no one else would ever raise the sorts of gigantic sums that he was then amassing (in toto nearly $800 million, more than twice the amount raised by John McCain), and so was the first candidate to renounce public financing of a presidential campaign in the general election since the law was passed. But, of course, Obama never imagined that four years later his approval ratings would be less than 50 percent, or that he would be running against a financier who could match his efforts dollar for dollar.
Nor did Obama think that a mesmerized Wall Street, from which he raised more cash than any prior candidate, would object all that much to his populist boilerplate against “1 percenters,” “fat-cat bankers,” and owners of “corporate jets.” So now what exactly will he do? Appeal to Romney to abide by public-financing rules? Blast Romney for raising too much money? Damn Romney for courting Wall Street?

Beneath the folksy veneer and the serial calls for “civility,” Obama proved vicious in his denunciations of George Bush, at one point calling him “unpatriotic” for adding $4 trillion to the national debt over eight years. Obama offered two general arguments: that the chief executive is solely responsible for economic hard times, and that four years is easily long enough to right the ship. Obama scoffed at the Bush defense that politically driven interventions by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — hand in glove with congressional overseers — had distorted the real-estate market and contributed to the subprime-mortgage collapse, which destroyed an otherwise strong economy.

Obama boasted further that he would cut the deficit by half during his first term, and asserted that he would rather be a successful president than a two-term one. And he added that he should not be reelected if the economy was not restored to health. Apparently Obama assumed that after every recession (this one ended in June 2009) there is a natural recovery, the latter all the more robust when the former is severe. For all the right-wing scare talk about Obamacare, federal takeovers, more taxes, and too many regulations, Obama also took for granted that the cry-wolf private sector would bounce back — no matter how much his policies threatened it — and would almost magically continue to make so much money that an ever-growing government could redistribute ever more of it.

Yet now Romney is echoing Obama’s exact arguments: Yes, the chief executive is responsible for things like 43 months of 8 percent–plus unemployment, $5 trillion in new debt, and anemic GDP growth; and, yes, if things do not improve after four years, then it is time to change the president.

Obama established a wink-and-nod type of negative attack. As he called in sonorous tones for hope and change and a new civility, he negatively stereotyped a stunning cross-section of Americans: The white working class became “clingers,” the police “stereotype” minorities and act “stupidly,” small-business owners “didn’t build” their own businesses, doctors lop off limbs and yank out tonsils, bankers are “fat cats” — apparently on the premise that such groups would never take all this invective seriously. At various times Mitt Romney has been reduced to a dastardly financial pirate, a killer of innocent cancer victims, a veritable racist, and now a misogynist. After the class-warfare card and the race card, we await only Obama’s use of the Mormon card. Yet the polls remain roughly even, and Obama is about to be the target of a no-holds-barred assault fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars. Ethically speaking, what possible Romney sin might Obama object to? That super-PAC ads are unfair? That Romney has gone negative? That Romney stereotypes entire groups? That Romney’s inner staff are ethically compromised? This, after Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, was paid $100,000 for two speeches in Nigeria in December 2010, to a company that was eager for influence and whose affiliates did business with an embargoed Iran; Plouffe made the trip to Nigeria about a month before he joined the administration as a senior adviser. Just this month, deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on national television asserted something demonstrably false — that she did not know the facts about the woman Mitt Romney supposedly caused to die of cancer.

During the Bush administration, the Left established another caricature: the gaffe-prone, golf-playing elitist George Bush. Did they ever imagine that they were ensuring like caricature for the leftist academic Barack Obama, who quite unexpectedly would play golf four times more often in four years than Bush did in eight years? Or that for every Bushism there would be a “corpse-man”? Or that the small ranch house in Crawford, Texas, would be trumped by First Family jaunts to Martha’s Vineyard, Costa del Sol, and Aspen? I would like to think a slip like “57 states” is just a slip, or that golf is valuable presidential relaxation, but I was taught by the Left that such garbled speech is a window into a confused mind, and that presidential golf is elite recreation that betrays class privilege.
In 2008, there was a lot of sloganeering on energy policy. Obama assured us that we could “not drill” our way out of a spike in gas prices. “Millions of new green jobs” was heard at almost every rally, along with shouts about wind and solar this and that. In less guarded moments, Obama assured us that he would pass cap-and-trade legislation, “bankrupt” coal companies, and allow coal-based energy prices to “skyrocket.” These were the heady days of “peak oil” and the liberal attack against “oil men in the White House” — on the eve of the Chevy Volt and breakthrough new companies with names like Solyndra.

At the very time when well-connected crony capitalists were squandering hundreds of millions of dollars in federal wind and solar subsidies, a quiet private-sector revolution in horizontal drilling and fracking vastly expanded America’s gas and oil reserves — despite, not because of, Obama’s energy policies. The paradox finally become so absurd that Obama was reduced to bragging that the United States was producing more gas and oil under his watch than ever before, apparently on the logic that oil men were so adept that they could find vast amounts of new sources of energy on private lands without worrying about the Obama administration’s efforts to virtually cut off all new leasing on federal lands. The result is that our first green president is facing $4-a-gallon gas while he brags that what he tried to stop proved unstoppable.

Nemesis, remember, is not just karma, but payback with an absurd twist.

 NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Rich Don't Pay Enough?

By Walter Williams
The Washington Examiner
August 28, 2012

If you listen to America's political hacks, mainstream media talking heads and their socialist allies, you can't help but reach the conclusion that the nation's tax burden is borne by the poor and middle class while the rich get off scot-free.
Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal (and, I'm proud to say, former George Mason University economics student) wrote "The U.S. Tax System: Who Really Pays?" in the Manhattan Institute's Issues 2012. Let's see whether the rich are paying their "fair" share.
According to 2007 Internal Revenue Service data, the richest 1 percent of Americans earned 22 percent of national personal income but paid 40 percent of all personal income taxes. The top 5 percent earned 37 percent and paid 61 percent of personal income tax. The top 10 percent earned 48 percent and paid 71 percent of all personal income taxes. The bottom 50 percent earned 12 percent of personal income but paid just 3 percent of income tax revenues.
Some argue that these observations are misleading. There are other federal taxes the bottom 50 percenters pay, such as Social Security and excise taxes. Moore presents data from the Tax Policy Center, run by the liberal Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, that takes into account payroll and income taxes paid by different income groups. Because of the earned income tax credit, most of America's poor pay little or nothing. What the Tax Policy Center calls working class pays 3 percent of all federal taxes. The middle class pays 11 percent. The upper middle class pays 19 percent, and the wealthy 67 percent.
President Obama and the Democratic Party harp about tax fairness. Here's my fairness question to you: What standard of fairness dictates that the top 10 percent of income earners pay 71 percent of the federal income tax burden while 47 percent of Americans pay absolutely nothing?
President Obama and his political allies are fully aware of IRS data that show who pays what. Their tax demagoguery knowingly exploits American ignorance about taxes. A complicit news media is only happy to assist.
Aside from the fairness issue, 47 percent of taxpayers having no federal income tax liability is dangerous for our nation. These people become natural constituents for big-spending, budget-wrecking, debt-creating politicians. After all, if you have no income tax liability, what do you care about either raising or lowering taxes? That might explain why the so-called Bush tax cuts were not more popular. If you're not paying income taxes, why should you be happy about an income tax cut? You might even view tax cuts as a threat to various handout programs that nearly 50 percent of Americans enjoy.
Tax demagoguery is useful for politicians who prey on the politics of envy to get re-elected, but is it good for Americans? We're witnessing the disastrous effects of massive spending in Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and other European countries where a greater number of people live off of government welfare programs than pay taxes. Government debt is 160 percent of gross domestic product in Greece, 120 percent in Italy, 104 in Ireland and 106 in Portugal.
Here's the question for us: Is the U.S. moving toward or away from the troubled EU nations? It turns out that our national debt-to-GDP ratio in the 1970s was 35 percent; now it's 106 percent. If you think we're immune from the economic chaos going on in some of the EU countries, you're whistling Dixie. And when economic chaos comes, whom do you think will be more affected by it: rich people or poor people?
Examiner Columnist Walter E. Williams is nationally syndicated byCreators Syndicate.