With the US trapped in depression, this really is starting to feel like 1932

People queue for a job fair in New York. The share of the US working-age population with jobs in June fell from 58.7pc to 58.5pc. The ratio was 63pc three years ago. Photo: EPA

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

The US workforce shrank by 652,000 in June, one of the sharpest contractions ever. The rate of hourly earnings fell 0.1pc. Wages are flirting with deflation.

“The economy is still in the gravitational pull of the Great Recession,” said Robert Reich, former US labour secretary. “All the booster rockets for getting us beyond it are failing.”

“Home sales are down. Retail sales are down. Factory orders in May suffered their biggest tumble since March of last year. So what are we doing about it? Less than nothing,” he said.

California is tightening faster than Greece. State workers have seen a 14pc fall in earnings this year due to forced furloughs. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is cutting pay for 200,000 state workers to the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to cover his $19bn (£15bn) deficit.

Can Illinois be far behind? The state has a deficit of $12bn and is $5bn in arrears to schools, nursing homes, child care centres, and prisons. “It is getting worse every single day,” said state comptroller Daniel Hynes. “We are not paying bills for absolutely essential services. That is obscene.”

Roughly a million Americans have dropped out of the jobs market altogether over the past two months. That is the only reason why the headline unemployment rate is not exploding to a post-war high.

Let us be honest. The US is still trapped in depression a full 18 months into zero interest rates, quantitative easing (QE), and fiscal stimulus that has pushed the budget deficit above 10pc of GDP.

The share of the US working-age population with jobs in June actually fell from 58.7pc to 58.5pc. This is the real stress indicator. The ratio was 63pc three years ago. Eight million jobs have been lost.

The average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks. Nothing like this has been seen before in the post-war era. Jeff Weninger, of Harris Private Bank, said this compares with a peak of 21.2 weeks in the Volcker recession of the early 1980s.

“Legions of individuals have been left with stale skills, and little prospect of finding meaningful work, and benefits that are being exhausted. By our math the crop of people who are unemployed but not receiving a check amounts to 9.2m.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill are filibustering a bill to extend the dole for up to 1.2m jobless facing an imminent cut-off. Dean Heller from Vermont called them “hobos”. This really is starting to feel like 1932.

Washington’s fiscal stimulus is draining away. It peaked in the first quarter, yet even then the economy eked out a growth rate of just 2.7pc. This compares with 5.1pc, 9.3pc, 8.1pc and 8.5pc in the four quarters coming off recession in the early 1980s.

The housing market is already crumbling as government props are pulled away. The expiry of homebuyers’ tax credit led to a 30pc fall in the number of buyers signing contracts in May. “It is cataclysmic,” said David Bloom from HSBC.

Federal tax rises are automatically baked into the pie. The Congressional Budget Office said fiscal policy will swing from
a net +2pc of GDP to -2pc by late 2011. The states and counties may have to cut as much as $180bn.

Investors are starting to chew over the awful possibility that America’s recovery will stall just as Asia hits the buffers. China’s manufacturing index has been falling since January, with a downward lurch in June to 50.4, just above the break-even line of 50. Momentum seems to be flagging everywhere, whether in Australian building permits, Turkish exports, or Japanese industrial output.

On Friday, Jacques Cailloux from RBS put out a “double-dip alert” for Europe. “The risk is rising fast. Absent an effective policy intervention to tackle the debt crisis on the periphery over coming months, the European economy will double dip in 2011,” he said.

It is obvious what that policy should be for Europe, America, and Japan. If budgets are to shrink in an orderly fashion over several years – as they must, to avoid sovereign debt spirals – then central banks will have to cushion the blow keeping monetary policy ultra-loose for as long it takes.

The Fed is already eyeing the printing press again. “It’s appropriate to think about what we would do under a deflationary scenario,” said Dennis Lockhart for the Atlanta Fed. His colleague Kevin Warsh said the pros and cons of purchasing more bonds should be subject to “strict scrutiny”, a comment I took as confirmation that the Fed Board is arguing internally about QE2.

Perhaps naively, I still think central banks have the tools to head off disaster. The question is whether they will do so fast enough, or even whether they wish to resist the chorus of 1930s liquidation taking charge of the debate. Last week the Bank for International Settlements called for combined fiscal and monetary tightening, lending its great authority to the forces of debt-deflation and mass unemployment. If even the BIS has lost the plot, God help us.

Citizens or Subjects?

Robert Morrison

Not since Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died–both on July 4, 1826–have we had such a stunning development. It took days, sometimes weeks, for Americans then to learn that the two great Signers of the Declaration of Independence had died on the same day–exactly fifty years after that document brought forth a new nation.

Now, we have the discovery of Thomas Jefferson’s changing a single word in his draft. Through hyperspectral imaging, the Library of Congress announces that we can clearly discern the word “subjects” expunged by Jefferson’s own hand. In its place, he wrote the word “citizens”

The media is all abuzz. Is it a mistake? A goof? A Freudian slip before Freud was born? What is the meaning of all this? Is it simply a Fourth of July coincidence?

No. It is the Great Emendation. It is Jefferson’s mentally moving himself and all of us from subjects to citizens. We can see in his own handwriting the progress of his thought and the forming of a new identity for Americans.

Dr. Fenella France of the Library of Congress’ Preservation, Research, and Testing Division says she felt a “spine-tingling moment when I was processing data late at night and realized there was a word underneath ‘citizens.'” Compare this spine-tingling with the tingling sensation that went up and down Chris Matthews’ leg. Can anyone recall a single line of the Obama speech that thrilled Matthews so?

Could there be a more important time for this message from Jefferson? It is providential. This Year of Decision for the American people all comes down to this: Shall we be subjects or citizens?

ObamaCare does not simply change our health care delivery system; it changes our relationship to the government. Unless ObamaCare is repealed, we will become subjects once again. We will no longer be citizens. Unless this unconstitutional act is repealed, the government will no longer derive its just powers from our consent. Instead, our continued enjoyment of life and liberty, our very pursuit of happiness will depend from this year forward on government’s consent.

More than this: The advancing tsunami of debt will engulf us and our posterity. We will no longer be able to make decisions through our elected representatives on taxing and spending. Those decisions will be locked in for us by a profligate Congress and a heedless administration. Discretionary spending–that portion of the federal budget not already committed and commanded by law–will shrink and disappear. Not even hyperspectral imaging will be able to find it.

Jefferson dreaded debt-his own and the country’s. He believed passionately that the “dead hand” of the past had no right to rule the lives of future generations.

Thomas Jefferson was never able to enter the Promised Land of freedom for all. Unlike Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and John Adams, he never disentangled himself from slavery. Like Moses, he pointed the way but perished along the path.

Still, Jefferson’s words inspired Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. “The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society,” said Lincoln. He claimed he never had a political idea that did not come from Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.

We live in perilous times. We can reaffirm what our Founding Fathers taught us and recur to their basic principles, or we can mouth the mindless inanities of “Yes we can” and turn our backs on all that has made America exceptional.

The principles of Thomas Jefferson inspired a slaveholding people to advance into freedom for all. The principles of Barack Obama will lead a free people into bondage.

That is the choice before us this year: Citizens or Subjects?

ROB FISHER FILES WITH MD BOARD OF ELECTIONS

(Salisbury) – Republican Rob Fisher today filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections, officially entering the race for Maryland’s First Congressional District seat. A small businessman, veteran and Eastern Shore native, Fisher is looking to bring real leadership to Washington that puts the needs of Maryland residents first.

“Like many Marylanders I am outraged by career politicians in Washington who are turning a deaf ear to their constituents while deficits balloon out of control and our economy continues to stumble,” said Fisher. “It’s clear we need to change the kind of people we send to Congress in order to get our country back on track and stop the reckless spending that threatens to bankrupt America for decades to come.”

Fisher, a small businessman with six generations of roots on the Eastern Shore, wants to tear down the barriers to success imposed on small businesses by Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats.

“This Congress and this President are more interested in rewarding the special interests that got them elected than in helping small businesses grow and prosper,” said Fisher. “It’s clear that Democrats’ long-term goal is the drastic expansion of government at the expense of the private sector. Government should be businesses greatest cheerleader, not its biggest detractor, and my policy toward small business will be based on one simple question: ‘How can we help you succeed?'”

Fisher has been running an issues-based, grassroots campaign focused on bringing an entrepreneurial spirit to Congress to help jump-start America’s economy and rein in out-of-control spending.

“Career politicians have had their chance. The First District deserves a representative who understand the needs of his constituents and will Put Maryland First.”

Learn more here.

Arizona Candidate: Cut Off Power to Illegal Immigrants

Shown here is Barry Wong, candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission. (BarryWong.com)

Fox News

Ratcheting up the debate over immigration in his state, a candidate for the Arizona utilities commission is threatening to cut off power and gas to illegal immigrants if he’s elected.

“It is not a right. It is a service,” Barry Wong, candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission, told The Arizona Republic.

The Republican candidate argues that the policy would be a cost-saving measure for consumers.

Though it would cost money for power companies to check immigration status, he said it would ultimately save money because power companies would not have to build new plants to serve the illegal immigrant community, presumably passing on that savings to consumers. His plan, if elected to the five-person commission, would be to require utilities to check immigration status.

“There is a cost ratepayers shouldn’t have to bear because of the illegal immigrant population,” he said, while acknowledging the idea would probably attract “criticism about human-rights violations.”

Though Arizona has drawn praise and criticism alike from all corners of the country for its new law making illegal immigration a state crime, support was hard to come by for Wong’s proposal.
None of the other candidates for the commission would endorse his idea. The CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry also blasted Wong in a column in the Republic, accusing him of trying to “score cheap political points” while marking a “new low” in the state’s immigration debate.

“To deny someone access to electricity based on his or her immigration status is not only a wrongheaded policy proposal, it’s just cruel,” Glenn Hamer wrote, calling the candidate’s economic argument “absurd.”

Wong, who was born in the United States, is the son of Chinese immigrants. He previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives.

It’s not the first time the issue of Arizona’s power supply has come up in the immigration debate.

After the Los Angeles government decided to boycott Arizona in May over its law, Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce wrote a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa threatening to cut off power to the city. Los Angeles and Arizona officials later acknowledged that the state could not unilaterally sever those power contracts.

1300 words that shook the world

It was the ultimate act of defiance of its time, a statement to a presumably divinely-appointed monarch from his supposed subjects that they had decided to reject his authority. The world had seen rebellions against monarchy before, but usually on the basis of rival claims to the throne, or on religious principles more than political.

On July 4th, 1776, Great Britain’s colonies united not to depose a king but to declare him irrelevant to their land, and to make the clearest declaration in history of the right of a people to self-governance. It not only argued that the abuses declared in the document gave the 13 colonies the right to cut ties to their mother country and its monarch, but also made an argument against all monarchies and dictatorships in its explicit reliance on the natural rights of all people for freedom. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence made the point almost immediately that the entire notion of divine appointment to hereditary rule had no basis, as all men are created equal. And not just monarchs either, but also tyrants, despots, and those who put any class of people above another without the consent of the governed.

While many of the founders of the new nation that affixed their names to this document failed to consistently live up to that ideal, they lit a flame that burns to this day — and that still makes tyrants quake with the implication of these 1300 words from the 13 colonies.

Happy birthday, America. May these words continue to ring in all the corners of the world with the same force.
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Reclaiming language on the right

Harry Beadle

It has been said those who control the language of a nation control its culture. And if conservatives want to save America, it is time for us to wrest control of its language from our friends on the Left. I propose we begin the process by redefining ourselves as well as our political and cultural opponents.

First, conservatives must change the language we use to describe liberals. Yes, I know they prefer to be called “progressives.” What most modern liberals truly are, are socialists. The term progressive was adopted by socialists of the early 20th century once people began to understand what “socialist” meant and it essentially became a four-letter word. Sadly, most rank-and-file liberals today, those who blindly accept and follow the liberal line, are not aware of that.

But back to my point: conservatives constantly refer to liberals as “elites.” I am sure the term originally was intended to be an insult, a pointed reference to those on the Left as the self-described, self-anointed intellectual and social upper-crust. Conservative economist and philosopher Thomas Sowell even makes light of liberals’ high opinion of themselves in the title of his book: The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. The problem, of course, is liberals have taken the word to heart and now consider it an accurate description of their place in the world. To paraphrase a quote attributed to several different sources, liberals consider themselves “self-made, and worship their creator.”

Of course, using “elite” to describe liberals not only is a misuse of the term but an insult to conservatives. The online American Heritage Dictionary defines elite as: “a group or class of persons or a member of such a group or class, enjoying superior intellectual, social or economic status.” Obviously, the writer of that definition was thinking of conservatives – at least insofar as the intellectual and social references are concerned – and we certainly should claim those designations for ourselves.

Concerning economic status, a simple examination of Census and Federal Election Commission data show clearly that, despite liberal claims, (a) the true “fat cats” of American politics are members of the Democratic Party, (b) most major corporations in the U.S. donate the majority of their political cash to Democratic candidates, and (c) the wealthiest Congressional districts almost always send Democrats to Washington. It also is ironic that of those in the Republican rank-and-file, most have demonstrably less income than their Democratic counterparts but give much more of their money, both in percentage and in real cash, to their church and to charity.

At any rate, I would argue there are many other words which better describe the true nature of our liberal friends. One I would propose is “effete.” The same online American Heritage Dictionary defines the word this way: “marked by self-indulgence, triviality or decadence; as in an effete group of self-professed intellectuals.” I am sure you see the relevance. Another definition from the same online source is: “unable to produce, sterile.” Liberals surely do not produce original ideas; as for sterility, we can but hope.

Thus it is obvious effete is a much more accurate term than elite when used to describe those on the opposite end of the political and cultural spectrum from ourselves. I especially like the reference to “self-indulgence, triviality or decadence,” and find it ironic it parallels the original definition of the term “democrat.” According to historian Joseph J. Ellis in his book Founding Brothers, the word originated as an epithet, referring to “one who panders to the crude and mindless whims of the masses.”

Iran says they will ‘rescue’ America from Obama ‘dictatorship’

Rick Moran

Demonstrating a cluelessness beyond anything previously imagined, Iranian President Ahmadinejad announced that he will save the American people from the dictator Obama:

“All the anti-human plans in the world are carried out under [Obama] and his administration. All the occupations, massacres, and human rights violations are perpetrated under his administration, yet along he comes with complaints about our nation.” “Today, the harshest dictatorship is the one operating against the American nation….The American people do not have the right to demonstrate freely or to oppose the crimes of their politicians….From now on, one of the main demands of the Iranian nation is to rescue the American people from its non-democratic, bullying administration.”

Not quite sure whether to thank him or sock him in the mouth. Surely, we’re not responsible for the massacre of Iranian dissidents following the election last summer, although one wonders if Obama had responded with passion in favor of the regime’s opponents if Khamenei would have dared sent the religious police into the streets to go after the rioters.

Anyway, here’s Ed Lasky:

Such are the fruits of engagement, endless praise of Islam (including fictionalizing its history to glorify it – see Cairo Speech, for example), calling Iran the ‘Islamic Republic of Iran; endless turning of the other cheek; somnolence towards Iranian human rights abuses and election fraud (where protesters plaintively and ineffectually asked-“Obama, are you with us or with them?); apathy towards missed deadlines on its nuclear weapons program; shipping of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah and Syria (violating UN embargoes on export of weapons-but hey, who cares?); allowing Iran to become a member of UN Women Rights Commission; abolishing funding for a Boston-based Iran human rights group; etc.

And for all that “engagement,” this is the thanks Obama gets?

I think we need a reset of Iranian relations with the US…

Lockerbie bomber could live another 5-10 years

Phil Boehmke

On August 20, 2009 Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was released from prison in Scotland and allowed to return to Libya where he was expected to die within three months. According to the UK Telegraph, one of the physicians who examined Megrahi last summer has recently said that the infamous Lockerbie Bomber could live for another 10 or even 20 years.

Professor Karol Sikora who serves as the dean of medicine at Buckingham University may have had a much larger role in Megrahi’s release than was previously thought.

The Scottish government insists Kenny MacAskill, the justice minister who took the final decision to release Megrahi, based his ruling on a medical report by Dr. Andrew Fraser, director of health and care at the Scottish Prison Service (SPS).

However.

A report in the Sunday Times said Libyan authorities, keen to secure Megrahi’s release, asked several experts to put a three-month estimate on the bomber’s life but Professor Sikora was the only one to agree.
.
In a revealing statement Professor Sikora said.

“It was clear that three months was what they were aiming for. Three months was the critical point. On the balance of probabilities, I felt I could sort of justify [that]”

Both the Libyan and British governments appear to have been looking for a way to justify the return of Megrahi to his home and sought to use compassionate grounds as the means to accomplish their objective. The requirement for such an early release on medical grounds is that the prisoner must be terminally ill and expected to die within three months.

Jack Straw, then Justice Secretary at Westminster , admitted last year that trade and oil agreements were an essential part of the British government’s decision to include Megrahi in a previously planned prisoner transfer agreement with Libya.

He wrote to his Scottish counterpart to say it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Megrahi eligible to return to Libya.

Last February in American Thinker I wrote about how Kenny MacAskill had discussed the release of the Lockerbie Bomber with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder prior to making his final decision. The official reaction of the Obama administration was merely to express their displeasure that Megrahi was given early release.

Several members of the U.S. Senate including John Kerry, Richard Lugar and Frank Lautenberg called for a senate hearing into the matter, but nearly a year later no hearing has been convened. The friends and families of the 270 persons (189 of whom were Americans) who were murdered in the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland have been victimized once again, but this time the perpetrators are the very people who should have seen to it that justice was done on their behalf.

Obama should heed the Black Swan in foreign policy

By: James Jay Carafano

Why are we so shocked by implausible events of massive consequence?

Nassin Nicholas Taleb explores that question in his bestselling book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

Taleb is Lebanese. As a child, his world seemed like paradise. His parents told him war was impossible. When war came, they said it wouldn’t last. Yet violence wracked Lebanon for decades. In retrospect, the spiral of destruction seemed inevitable not inconceivable. How could they have not seen it coming?

It was a question the mathematician and scholar pondered throughout his adult life.

Taleb uses black swans metaphorically. From time immemorial, he writes, Europeans believed all swans were white. They never expected to see anything else. But, when Europeans landed in Australia, they found black swans galore.

The lesson of the black swan—you don’t know what you don’t know.

Disasters are unimaginable because we don’t imagine them. Taleb argues we “overvalue” factual information, pretending like Old Europe that this is all the information that is out there. Worse, we sometimes ignore facts we don’t like because they might lead to conclusions we don’t want to make.

Taleb’s book offers plenty of lessons for thinking about future disasters. Unfortunately, the White House seems oblivious to all of them.

On the one hand, the president acts as though he can prevent future disasters simply by eliminating risk and controlling everything. Yet no nation can be “child-proofed.”

The Obama administration is living a black swan fantasy if it thinks they can know it all—and that only they know what is best.

Case in point: Obama’s knee-jerk response to the spill. His suspension of deepwater drilling did nothing to stop the leak or clean up the spill. It just put more people out of work. He then doubled-down, pressing for climate control legislation that will cost trillions and kill millions more jobs while lowering temperatures by a mere fraction of a degree. In his quest for environmental utopia, he ignores the enormous economic risks he creates.

Or consider the president’s push for ratification of the New START treaty. Again, his utopian quest for a world without nukes leads him to ignore the obvious facts that 1) Russia continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal, 2) that the pace of nuclear proliferation is accelerating and 3) the treaty addresses neither of these realities. Meanwhile, the Pentagon crafts plans for spending cuts and troop withdrawals, despite evidence that the world is becoming less—not more—stable and secure.

All these initiatives can be justified only by a belief that the president has mastered knowledge of world events, present and future: that the black swans are not out there; that a series of improbable events won’t combine to produce the next catastrophe; or that the once-in-hundred-year event won’t happen tomorrow.

Those comfortable assumptions didn’t work out for Lebanon and they won’t serve America well, either. The White House must start dealing with the facts it now ignores and admitting there is a lot it can’t know.

The best way to prepare for future shock is to build up strength now. On defense, Obama should drop the New START “peace through palaver” approach and follow Reagan’s proven model of “peace through strength.”

Likewise, rather than hamstring the economy with job-killing regulations and taxation, the White House should cut it loose. The occasional bad bank or irresponsible oil company is no excuse to put the government boot on the neck of free markets.

Facing the unknown with a pack full of guns and butter is better than sauntering into the wilderness hungry and unarmed.

Obama Immigration Speech Draws Complaints on Both Sides, May Not Move Needle

If President Obama was hoping to light a spark under immigration reform, he’d better get more matches.

The president’s speech last week outlining the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the system for processing both legal and illegal immigrants has been met with a collective yawn on both sides of the debate.

Republicans resistant to any national overhaul before the borders are better secured accused the president of playing politics with the speech and gave no signs of budging in this election year.

Latino leaders in Congress, meanwhile, praised Obama for finally delivering a high-profile speech on the issue, but other supporters of a national overhaul expressed disappointment that the president didn’t go further and skepticism that it would move forward the stalled debate in Congress.

“I think the president was right to speak up — let’s be honest, I wish he made the speech a few months ago. I wish he had made it a higher priority,” Frank Sharry, director of immigration reform advocacy group America’s Voice, told Fox News. He said Congress might be able to move on a bill after the elections but for now nothing is likely to happen.

Related Links
Obama Pushes for National Standard on Immigration, Urges GOP to Back Overhaul
Philly Mayor Wants to Block Immigration Officials Full Access to Arrest Records

In the midst of a highly competitive campaign season, Congress is still grappling with ways to tackle the sputtering economy. The Obama administration is distracted from its legislative agenda by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and is trying to place renewed focus on the Afghanistan war after installing Gen. David Petraeus to lead U.S. forces. Congress still needs to vote on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and bring up a financial overhaul bill for final passage.

Obama’s immigration speech may have been more of a reminder than a call to action.

Sharry was among those who said Obama was merely rehashing ideas from former President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, in the eyes of those trying to revive such a package.

But Andres Oppenheimer, a Latin American author and syndicated columnist who backs an immigration overhaul, said the president missed the opportunity to build on those ideas and signal that he was serious about pursuing them.

In a column Sunday in The Miami Herald, Oppenheimer noted that Obama did not announce a bipartisan stakeholder meeting at the White House, as he did for the health care bill.

“My opinion: Obama’s speech was an effort to maintain the support of U.S. Hispanics,” he wrote. “But Obama did not offer any carrots to Republicans nor any new ideas to sway public opinion toward much-needed immigration reform.”

The president also did not mention any deadlines, as he did during the health care debate – though those deadlines were frequently seen whizzing by.

The language Obama used in his speech seemed to only embolden Senate Republicans who have all but rejected an immigration bill this year. Obama, saying last Thursday at American University that he would not “kick the can down the road,” blamed “demagoguery” for Washington’s inability to deal with the problem and pressed Republicans who supported a bill under the Bush administration to get back on board.

One of those Republicans, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., told Fox News after the speech that he wasn’t basing his resistance on “demagoguery” and described the president’s address as “very political.”

McCain, speaking on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, again called for stronger border security and defended his resistance to a comprehensive bill that would include a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants.

“It is not the same as it was in 2007,” McCain said, citing the rash of kidnappings in Phoenix and the level of violence in Mexico. “The situation has dramatically changed, and the statistics absolutely back that up.”

Congressmen who have been pleading with the Obama administration to make immigration a priority, though, praised the president for using the bully pulpit to try to steer the debate.

“I am very encouraged. … This was a hard-nosed argument for why reform will benefit America,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said in a written statement. “Now we need to move it forward. We have been waiting for the president to lean forward and push with us on the immigration issue the same way he did as a presidential candidate. We hope this is the start of a sustained push.”