February 17, 2011

The "Hair On Fire" Presidency

Hatched by Sachi

This post is a collaboration between Sachi and Dafydd.

It seems that whenever the administration of Barack H. Obama implements a new policy, it always fits one of two modes:

  1. Either another radical, revolutionary, leftist assault against traditional America, intended to transform us into a Euro-emulating, liberal-fascist, internationalist State;
  2. Or a belated, unplanned, spasmotic reaction to some "unexpected" event, giving clear indication that the issue has never before come up in cabinet meetings, and on which the administration is an utterly blank slate.

Since we and everybody else have beaten the "transformative" policies to death, let's talk about Mode 2, for a change. Let's call them Unpremeditated Policies, or UPsies (pronounced "oopsies"); they play out in an easily detected pattern:

  1. A major, game-changing event occurs that catches Barack H. Obama and his entire administration completely by surprise. (This is not difficult to do.)
  2. Exasperated at the interruption to the smooth transmogification of America that he evisions, his first step is to completely ignore the rhinoceros in the Jacuzzi. ("Nothing to see here, folks; just step lively to your left.")
  3. When ignoring the best fails to make it slink away, when things go from bad to worse to worst, Obama panics. He makes an instantaneous decision -- and mandates the first policy response that pops into his smooth and unwrinkled cerebral cortex. ("Quick, somebody -- get a brush and paint that rhinoceros green!")

He (Obama, not the rhinoceros) doesn't bother to debate the situation; consult experts; formulate a plan; determine if there already is a plan from "the previous administration;" caculate how to make disparate special-interest groups follow the plan; or even mentally work through the event step by step, envisioning the response and the likely consequences or counter-responses; those activities he reserves for his Grand Transformational Strategy. He simply issues a decree off the top of his rapidly graying head and turns his attention back to the next element of the "vision."

  1. When the "instacision" turns out to be even worse than ignoring the crisis, as is invariably the case, he digs in his heels ("no more Mr. Nice Guy!")

Since Obama is the smartest man in the room -- every room, every day, a legend in his own mind -- he cannot be wrong. As he is the Right Man, dissenters must necessarily the be wrong men. The enraged, half-painted rhino can only be rampaging through the pool party due to either treachery from Republicans, non-assimilated Democrats, Big Capitalism, unreconstructed Christians, the Jewish Lobby, or embittered people clinging to God and guns; or else (b) rank stupidity on the part of everybody in America except the Obamunist himself (appease be upon him).

Exasperated, befuddled, in a pet, President B.O. sets out to resolve the most urgent element of the crisis: fixing blame:

  1. He sends his surrogates out, and he himself hits the airwaves, to lecture America on why his decision really ought to have worked, and how the rest of us let him down.

If the situation finally resolves itself in a way that can be spun positively:

  1. (a) He triumphantly announces that his brilliant plan worked, thus vindicating his original decision.

But if the situation finally resolves itself in a way that not even Obama can pretend to like:

  1. (b) Then he hands it off to one of his many spokesmen, top aides, advisors, czars, czarinas, or czardines; and the surrogate makes a stealth reversal. ("As we warned Republicans from the very beginning, rhinos hate being painted green... you should have listened to us!")
  2. See option 6 (a) above.

Obama's instincts are generally very bad; so every snap reaction quickly morphs into a wild overreaction, without any consideration for the consequences. The administration more and more resembles a drunk driver veering wildly left and right with his foot pushing the accelerator practically through the floorboards in the mistaken impression that it's the brake. Let's shake out a few recent incidences, just to give you the flavor of this pattern...

The Sphinx spheax

One very good example of a presidential UPsie has been the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. We run through the pattern:

  1. The protests, strikes, and mounting rage throughout Egypt catch Obama totally off guard. It's foreign-policy stuff, which he doesn't do well under the best of circumstances; and in this case, he had no plan what to do in the event that the Mubarak regime was threatened.
  2. For more than a week, he utterly ignores what's going on. Complete radio silence while he hopes the angry mobs with torches and pitchforks just fade away naturally, allowing the great man to return to destroying the fossil-fuel industry, mandating union membership for every person in America (especially children), driving private health insurance out of the country, and all his other plans to create paradise on Earth.
  3. When his lofty refusal to recognize that the peons are revolting, Obama makes the snap decision to give a speech (his favorite solution for everything!) democracy Democracy Now!; the vox populi must reign supreme throughout the land. Immediately. Yesterday.
  4. Soon it becomes clear that the Muslim Brotherhood has become a major player in the revolution. Things appear to be going downhill rapidly, in despite of the leader's speech. So Obama doubles down, announcing (through selective leaks) that his administration is now working with the Brothers to incorporate them into a new government. After all, they've "renounced violence" and become completely "secular." ("Who are you to argue with me? Can you unionize Leviathan by a fishhook?")
  5. The administration announces that Obama's brilliant speech and devilishly clever diplomacy is working: Mubarak is about to resign and hand over power to his new Vice President, Omar Suleiman, in an orderly succession. Suleiman and the parliament -- with help from the Muslim Brotherhood -- will then immediately meet to implement all the demands of the Egyptian community organizers protesters, and real democracy will prevail... a much greater achievement than anything the previous administration did in the Middle East.
  6. (a) But Mubarak unexpectedly refuses to leave. Whirling like a Dervish, the administration tells reporters that it was betrayed by Mubarak, by Suleiman, and by the incompetent intelligence officers of the United States.
  7. (b) The next day, when the Egyptian army executes a coup d'état against Mubarak (at the behest of the Egyptian protesters), the administration flacks triumphantly announce that in response to Obama's speech -- and just as Obama predicted -- the army had ousted Mubarak, seized control, shut out Omar Suleiman, and now proposes to overthrow the entire regime that has lasted since Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956 and replace it with a "democratic" government.

Obama stands atop a gilded pillar, arms akimbo, with rainbow-colored light radiating from behind his head. Greatness has triumphed again!

Come and listen to a story 'bout a man called Barack...

Here is another UPsie to ponder; by now, the pattern should be familiar:

Consider the British Petroleum spill in the Gulf of Mexico. For ten days following the deadly April 20th explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, the president and his administration did -- nothing. Absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, an underwater oil gusher was pumping millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf.

Besides doing nothing, they went to great pains to ensure that nobody else did anything either. In this case, the brain freeze typical to UPsies was so severe, every other body, public and private, that could have done something constructive was ordered to freeze as well.

We normally don't quote from WikiPedia, but this summary is so succinct, it's hard to top it:

Three days after the oil spill began, the Netherlands offered to donate the use of ships equipped to handle very large scale spills.

The Netherlands also offered to prepare a contingency plan to protect Louisiana marshlands with sand barriers and a Dutch research institute developed a strategy to begin building 60 mile-long (100 km) dikes within three weeks. According to Geert Visser, Dutch Consul-General, the U.S. government responded to the Dutch offer with "Thanks for your help, but at the moment we can manage ourselves", despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch equipment. [Note that by "manage ourselves," the president meant "do absolutely nothing while watching the Gulf ecology die". -- Big Lizards] US regulations require that oil-contaminated water must be stored onboard in US waters. The Dutch vessels continuously extract the majority of the oil, but the water that returns to the ocean does not comply with the U.S. standard. [So we would rather all the oil remained in the Gulf, rather than extract most of it and allow a tiny dribble to be squirted back into the ocean. American environmentalism strikes again! -- Big Lizards].... The US later relaxed its requirements and took the Dutch up on part of their offer, airlifting Dutch equipment to the Gulf and retrofitting it to U.S. vessels, where as of 10 June, it had not yet entered service. To avoid using Dutch ships and workers, the U.S. government asked them to train American workers to build the sand berms. [I suppose they were more thoroughly unionized. -- Big Lizards] According to Floris Van Hovell, a Dutch spokesman, Dutch dredging ships could complete the Louisiana berms twice as fast as the U.S. companies.

Then on April 30th, all hell broke loose. The Obamunist ordered an immediate and absolute "moratorium" on oil drilling in the Gulf; despite the fact that, since most of the Gulf is international waters, that snap decision had the net effect of banning only American companies (and a few foreign companies with significant American assets, including BP) from drilling... but leaving the underwater oil fields wide open to everyone else, from Mexico to Venezuela to Iran.

Obama later doubled down, defying a direct court order to lift the illegal moratorium. And now, as the Gulf recovers (and finds that some damage was not as great as the administration claimed), the Obama spokes-offices cite their leader's genius as having once again saved the world.

No load network

But let's talk about a third example, the WikiLeaks scandal; one of the authors of this post, Sachiko Yamada, has personal knowledge of the fallout from this fiasco.

LeaksGate follows the same pattern as the Mubarak ousting and the Gulf oil spill: a deer-in-headlights freeze up, followed by a thoughtless snap decision, hysterical overreaction, then triumphant self-aggrandizement that turns reality on its head.

In July of 2010, WikiLeaks posted over 90,000 highly sensitive diplomatic and military cables about the Afghanistan War, obtained (it seems at the moment) from an American traitor of the lofty rank of private first class. Then three months later, WikiLeaks leaked another 400,000 sensitive cables and documents, this time from the Iraq War.

For literally months, the administration had no reaction whatsoever, none. But then in December, after a third batch of leaks on November 28th, 2010 -- about which see below -- federal offices all over the world, including military facilities, received orders from the top of the chain: Effective immediately, nobody is allowed to download any data at all from the classified government internet.

To understand the impossibility of obeying such an ill-considered order, we need a little background:

The federal government has its own computer networks, both unclassified and classified. The classified network, SIPRNET (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network), is used to transmit classified information and host classified websites.

For security reasons, not all secret computers are physically connected to the SIPRNET; many offices have stand-alone secret computers which may be connected to a local area network (LAN), but are not connected to SIPR.

Until this order was promulgated, employees on classified projects did most of their work on their own stand-alone secret computers. When they needed to share files, as they often do (projects include many engineers, managers, and support personnel from several facilities), they had a secure protocol to follow:

  1. The sender copies the files to an authorized removable hard drive;
  2. He then uploads the relevant files to a computer that is attached to the SIRP network;
  3. Then he e-mails the files to another authorized SIPRNET user at some other facility;
  4. The recipient would then download the files from the SIPR computer onto an authorized external hard drive;
  5. Then the recipient uploads them to his own stand-alone computer.

Then, out of the blue, came the new orders... and now the vital Step 4 is forbidden: No longer can any file, whether classified or un-, whether attached to e-mail or downloaded from a secret website, be downloaded from the SIPRNET computer to a removable drive, thus to be transferred to a stand-alone machine.

You can imagine the stunned confusion this order creates. Suppose an employee needs to give a classified PowerPoint presentation to a meeting in a classified room which has no networked computers (that's true of most meeting rooms). Therefore, he must use a stand-alone secret computer to run the presentation.

Many different team members are working on pieces of the presentation all across the country, submitting their contributions via SIPRNET. Our employee's job is to collate and consolidate all these files to a single project -- which he must somehow transfer to the stand-alone in the meeting room.

But how? You can't disconnect the SIPRNET computer and lug it into the meeting room to show your presentation.

The order is absurd, self-defeating, and impossible to obey while still carrying out the very function it was designed to safeguard. It's like trying to stop drunk drivers by forbidding anyone to operate a motor vehicle within 20 miles of a building that contains liquor. You may as well just forbid all automobile travel; or in the present case, you may as well forbid all projects whose members are unable to personally carry their physical computers to the same meeting room.

Scrambling to make sense of the senseless, somebody somewhere offered a provision for exceptions; but the exception protocol is so larded down with a lengthy series of required permission slips that it doesn't help:

  • For urgent operational requirements, the exeptions protocol requires a digitally signed e-mail to be sent via SIPR by the unit commanding officer detailing why an exception to the order must be issued in the particular case.
  • If he or she isn't available, then the digitally disnged e-mail must be sent by the next officer up the chain of the rank O-6 or higher, or the civilian equivalent. (O-6 is a colonel in the Army, Marines, and Air Force or a Navy captain.)
  • For non-urgent operational requirements, Command must send a digitially signed e-mail through SIPR, filling out a lengthy exception form identifying the precise workstation computer from which the employee will download.
  • Then eventually, some technician will get around to going to that workstation and specifically resetting the machine's ability to download to removable media.
  • After which that employee can download the necessary files from that particular computer. But if that computer is unable to handle the files, the process starts all over again with a different SIPR networking station.

As anyone who has ever worked within the federal government understands only too well, this procedure can take days or even weeks, if it ever happens at all; the request form can also wind up buried on somebody's desk until the stars grow cold. So in reality, many if not most requests for exceptions, no matter how vital, will either be rejected or more likely simply disappear into the void, with nobody having a clue where they went.

Meanwhile, what happens to project meetings, many of which are called on a day's notice or even less, is anybody's guess.

But what cosmic stimulus triggered the Obama administration to issue the order in the first place? As the WikiLeaks meltdown ran its course, what caused the Obamacle to shift from stage 2 (ignore everything) to stage 3 (order the first "solution" that springs to mind)? Why after the November leak, but not after the leaks in July and October?

The earlier leaks outed sources and secret American agents, surely endangering hundreds of our military personnel and Afghan and Iraqi allies. Yet the Obama administration didn't seem concerned enough to react to leaks that merely undermined our war effort: It certainly didn't order any changes in the downloading of classified materials in July, August, September, or October.

So why did it fly into a tizzy in December, after the third leak? Why did the nomenklatura suddenly run wild in the streets with their hair on fire?

Perhaps this has something to so with it: Unlike the two earlier data dumps, November's leak exposed diplomatic cables, embarassing the administration and Barack H. Obama himself. The third set of leaks directly affected diplomats that Obama had appointed and even his own cabinet members; it was their e-mail conversations that went public. Returning to Wikipedia -- occasionally, for some purposes, it is the best source -- we get an excellent description of what must finally have moved the administration to try to "do something":

The contents of the U.S. diplomatic cables leak describe in detail events and incidents surrounding international affairs from 274 embassies dating from 28 December 1966 to 28 February 2010. The diplomatic cables revealed numerous unguarded comments and revelations: critiques and praises about the host countries of various U.S. embassies, discussion and resolutions towards ending ongoing tension in the Middle East, efforts for and resistance against nuclear disarmament, actions in the War on Terror, assessments of other threats around the world, dealings between various countries, U.S. intelligence and counterintelligence efforts, U.S. support of dictatorship and other diplomatic actions.

The leaked cables expose that British official revealed that diplomats of the U.S. and Britain eavesdropped on Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, even though international treaties prohibit spying at the UN. Further, they reveal that U.S. diplomats told an Afghan government official to keep quiet after they learned that a major U.S. government contractor firm was pimping little boys to be auctioned off to be raped by Afghan policemen in parties organized by the contractor.

(That last cable was dated June 24th, 2009, and the event itself occurred on April 11th, 2009 -- and who was President of the United States then?)

The panic was entirely avoidable, because the crisis of a severe leak was entirely forseeable. Rules were already in place to prevent that private from stealing classified data in the first place, since he certainly had no authorization or legitimate reason to download anything onto a removable drive. The security procedures specifically forbid using any removable hard drive except those maintained by the base itself, and there is an elaborate procedure for checking out a removable drive; had the existing rules been followed, the command would know that the private was misusing his access (which he shouldn't have had in the first place).

The problem wasn't in the rules themselves; the problem was inadequate supervision of personnel with security clearances, improper and ineffective security checking, and allowing completely open access to classified files that had nothing to do with the duties of that private, or of anybody else at that base, for that matter.

Again, Obama's "hair on fire" reaction to the WikiLeaks scandal led him to enunciate a rule that had nothing whatsoever to do with the crisis (which he had not forseen), had no possibility of solving it (because the rule doesn't get at the root of the problem), and in fact will only make things worse. But once the Obamacle hath spake, it becomes holy writ that cannot be changed or modified.

Impulse engines on full ahead

In every UPsie example above, the fundamental error is not the snap decision itself; those are merely symptoms of Obamunism. The underlying problem is Barack Obama's attitude towards decision-making: He's both a revelator and a defender:

  • Obama begins with the assumption that he is so brilliant, so far-sighted, so beyond all mortal ken, that any idea of his is a revelation that will astound the masses and cut the Gordian Knots that have bedeviled presidents and prophets for centuries. He is, in a nuthouse, full of himself to bursting.
  • Then, once having issued his commandment, he is so thin-skinned that even a hint that he might have been wrong elicits a towering rage, and induces a vicious and bloodthirsty defense of every last jot and tittle of his pronunciamento. He digs in and defends his original impulsive policy like a gambler calling an all-in bet with a jack-five offsuit.

As witness for the last, ponder Obama's response to what he himself called a "shellacking" in last November's election. Having been told in no uncertain terms by voters that we need to cut the budget drastically and lay off the "transformative," revolutionary policies, he has since then:

Issued a new budget that increases spending and taxes and assumes staggering new deficits as far as the eye can see;

  • Refused even to consider any serious changes to ObamaCare;
  • Ordered his EPA to ram through "cap and tax" by regulatory fiat, and to hell with Congress;
  • Pushed hard to unionize the TSA;
  • Denounced Israel for building houses in its "settlements" (by which Obama means Jerusalem, Israel's capital);
  • Pressed the Federal Communications Commission to start "regulating" the internet, beginning with so-called Net Neutrality rules;
  • And applauded his wife's crusade to promote federal regulation to tell ordinary Americans how much to eat, how much salt to consume, what kind of cooking oil we can use, and what beverages we can drink.

In other words, he doubled down on every last piece of the nanny-state that voters rejected just three months ago.

Revelator and defender: It's a potent combination for a man who, whatever his faults, has been elected leader of the free world; and it has become a nightmare for we the people. Even if Obama is defeated in 2012, he will have had four years to mire us so deep in the muck that we might not be able to escape for a decade... during which an awful lot of ordinary people will either die outright -- in war zones, our soldiers, agents, and allies; here at home, those left to the tender clutches of ObamaCare -- or at the least, will see their lives ruined, their fortunes obliterated, and their sacred honors defiled.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama himself will truck blithely along, by and large insulated from the consequences of the laws, orders, and rules he has crafted for the "little people," and immune even to the slightest self-doubt or sober reflection. After his presidency ends -- whether he wins, loses, or even refuses to stand for reelection next year -- he will move on to greater power, prestige, and corrupt payment.

The tremendous blows he continues to strike against traditional American exceptionalism and America itself endear Obama to the army of envious, anti-American power brokers throughout the world; in return, they will shower him with laurels and accolades and dine him on milk and honey the rest of his life, just as they do his comrade in arms from the late 1970s.

Indeed, Obama has wrought himself into a successful Jimmy Carter, version 2.0. Will we ever recover this time?

Hatched by Sachi on this day, February 17, 2011, at the time of 11:59 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Dishman

"Your life is not worth the reversal of a Custer Obama Decision."

More seriously, his OODA is broken, detached from reality.

The above hissed in response by: Dishman [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 18, 2011 11:26 PM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

He speaks in a commanding way, but rarely has command of the facts. He loves to couch his arguments within strawman, and yet I think he doesn't even know they are straw man. He just makes up facts to suit his arguments, then begins to think they are real. He seems insulated and oblivious at times. Impatient and impulsive. He often seems just...bored with the work of the presidency.

I remember his speech on NASA - he said that frequent directional changes in our space program cause unnecessary disruptions and delays...then proceeds to announce a complete directional change in the program. Whether the change is good or bad is beside the point...he seems immune to the concept that he himself is doing anything wrong.

His idea of leadership is to pronounce some lofty goal, then berate others for not achieving it. And by others, I mean people who never bought into the goal, and actively opposed it from the beginning.

Really, he's about the weirdest president I can remember. Clinton had a need to be liked, so would negotiate and co-opt his opposition. Bush didn't seem to care if he was liked, and would go forward once he had 50%+1. Obama just assumes he is liked by everyone, that every utterance is 100% supported by everyone all the time.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2011 11:38 AM

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