Obama

His Imperial Highness Emperor Barack I, the Lightbringer, Has So Ordered

As with Putin, one has to admire the chutzpah.

And expect the Left to argue that this isn’t that big a deal. That the order only applies to those who’ve been here already. That the order only applies to those who meat the “strict conditions” of deportation relief. That deportations have been up. That no one is being granted citizenship.

All of which is true, and none of which matters. The President is here deciding what the law is, and who the law applies to.

He doesn’t get to do that.

He doesn’t get to decide what the law is. He doesn’t get to ignore the divisiveness of the issue and force Congress to act.

He is not the superior of Congress. He is its equal.

Progressives are pretending not to care about this, because Democrat.

Friday Linkfest: This, That, and T’other

It’s not the post that Friday needs, but the post the Friday deserves:

Peace out, cub scouts. Have a great weekend.

Why Government Bureaucracies are Un-Fixable

Megan McArdle gets the nature of the problem, in a very sensible article on the VA.

  1. You can’t fire government bureaucrats – especially not en masse, so matter what you do, old patterns re-emerge.
  2. Every “reform” just adds a new set of directives and rules without trimming or significantly changing the old ones.

What that means in plain English is that when you put reforms in place, you can’t just rip out the stuff that’s not working and do something different. What you’re actually reforming is the process, and because many of the current elements of the process are functionally mandated by other government rules, or court rulings, or bits of legislation that your reform effort didn’t amend, you have to layer your reform on top of the system you wanted to reform, rather than in place of it. Many of your reforms simply stack another layer of bureaucracy on top of the bureaucracy that was already causing problems. This is a problem that CEOs don’t face, unless they’re in some heavily regulated business such as banking or oil refining.

Most important, it is easier to change some parts of the system than others, and much easier to give something than to take something away. So it was relatively easy for Barack Obama to tell the VA that they had to do more to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. It seems to have been very hard to change the claims process to make it move faster or to hire more staff to help things move more quickly. The result was an even bigger backlog — and, since the reforms commanded the staff to move more patients, more quickly, the temptation to “juke the stats” to make the waiting lists appear shorter than they were.

So, while fully intending to make the VA work better, the Administration made it even worse.  And to a certain extent, this isn’t Obama’s fault. It’s not a question of having people who care more or are smarter – this is how bureaucracy functions. George W. Bush made a serious effort to make the VA work better, too. It did not.

So if every good-faith effort to fix a bureaucratic system just makes the thing more complex and counterproductive (Hi, No Child Left Behind!), what is to be done?

bureaucracy-cartoon

The Discreet Charms of the New Class

I first read Ayn Rand in college, and enjoyed her insofar as she expressed things I had previously pondered but never fully articulated. Her philosophy attempted to wed Aristotle with dialectical materialism, and I’m not entirely sure how well she pulled it off.

But she did hit upon some under-spoken truths in her major works, of which I have always appreciated the line that kicks of Francisco d’Anconia’s speech in Atlas Shrugged: the one that posits an “aristocracy of pull” which would replace the old naughty aristocracy of wealth. And it is that idea which analogizes into the New Class that Matthew Continetti captures in his look at the upcoming nuptuals of Sam Kass and Alex Wagner in “Love in the Time of Obama” (h/t Ace and Instapundit, which should give you an idea of how significant New Class range-finding is in the wingnut blogosphere).

Both Kass and Wagner, let it be said, are talented. Or at least Wagner is. I haven’t had dinner at the White House. Wagner is pretty, bubbly, and informed, and though her show reminds me of an interminable seminar on theories of representation in the West, I’d rather watch an hour of her than any of the other MSNBC hosts. Yet I cannot help being struck by the disjunction between her attitude toward conservative elites and her attitude toward herself, toward her own part of the upper crust. I cannot help being struck by the unknowingness with which she and her guests establish categories such as “rich” and “elite” that exclude everyone they know.

Both of them are where they are because of who they are and who they know. Now, this has always been true. Knowing the powerful is always better than not knowing them. But in the New Class, that’s the first of the only two criteria for membership. The second is a sycnophantic devotion to the State as such, to the power of Institutions to Do Amazing Work. Matt Yglesias can snark merrily about income inequality and such from his tony DC rowhouse that costs more than the yearly salaries of everyone at my workplace, combined, because his work provides endless justifications for Leviathan. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, went to Harvard but is a pariah in the circles Kass, Wagner, et al. move in. Going to the Right Schools makes you one of the Right People only if you have the Right Opinions.

And it strikes me that ideological devotion and credential makes a frightfully weak foundation to build a fortress on. Traditional aristocracies, ancient and medieval, rested on control of productive land and military prowess. As technological advancements spread both wealth production and lethality around in the Early Modern period, the medieval nobility gradually lost power.

The Senate of Rome followed a different path. Senators in the Republic held their positions for life so long as they owned sufficient land, and held prestige insofar as they demonstrated other aristocratic virtues, of which the chief was the ability to command soldiers in war. With the coming of the Empire, senators switched from being statesmen to synchophants, playing a Game of Gossip with the Emperors for Caeser’s favor. By the end of Caligulia’s reign, most of them were dead, replaced by new families from the minor nobility and provinces.

So building an aristocracy on Opinion and discreet tax-farming seems destined to fail. But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the real source of the New Class’ strength is their ability to control What can and cannot be said. Obama is a moderate and a statesman, because our masters who went to the right schools and learned the right way to say the right things say he is ad nauseam.

All of which is another way of saying that Orwell was at least as much of a prophet as Ayn Rand.

George Will Explains it Very Slowly to Barack Obama

The true believer truly believes.

Obama, startled that components of government behave as interest groups, seems utterly unfamiliar with public choice theory. It demystifies and de-romanticizes politics by applying economic analysis — how incentives influence behavior — to government. It shows how elected officials and bureaucrats pursue personal aggrandizement as much as people do in the private sector. In the public sector’s profit motive, profit is measured by power rather than money.

Obama’s tardy epiphanies do not temper his enthusiasm for giving sauropod government ever-deeper penetration into society. He thinks this serves equality. Actually, big government inevitably drives an upward distribution of wealth to those whose wealth, confidence and sophistication enable them to manipulate government.

Now, my fine progressive friends, argue the contrary. Demonstrate that a powerful government does not become a plaything for the wealthy’s game of thrones. Show how Leviathan doesn’t primarily benefit those who already enjoy the fat of the land.

katt

 

The Triumph of Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin seized, or received, or something, power from Boris Yeltsin on the last day of the 20th century. The 1990’s had been a dreadful time for Russia, and Putin has seemed hell-bent on restoring power and strength to the Motherland. While it may be overstating matters to claim that his New York Times Op-Ed (published on 9/11, no less) represented a capstone in that grand strategic goal, it’s hard not to take note of a President of Russia disputing the President of the United States directly in  America’s most prominent newspaper. Who, on New Year’s Eve, 1999, would have predicted that?

Reading the article, it’s hard not to admire the cheek of the thing. Putin casting Russia as the defender of international law, as though the 2008 South Ossetia War had not happened, brings a grin. But best of all may be that the last paragraph, which Ace speculates was added in response to President Obama’s speech.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Attacking American exceptionalism while referencing our own Declaration of Independence.

well-played-sir-well-played-indeed

 

HEH: Roger Simon declares that the New York Times finally has a columnist worth reading.

But it shouldn’t end here. The Times should open up more space to President Putin. Perhaps he should be featured in the sports and travel sections. He is known to be a great hunter and fisherman. As recently as this year he apparently caught the biggest pike on record. Who knows? He may out swim Mao yet, or even Diana Nyad.

The New York Times has a sports section?