"The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry." -- Scottish poet Robert Burns, "To a Mouse" (1786)
CAIRNRYAN, Scotland -- For Americans whose knowledge of this beautiful land is limited to kilts, whiskey, bagpipes and the film "Braveheart," the forthcoming referendum on whether Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom or become an independent nation will come as a curiosity at best.
With his approval numbers sinking to 39 percent a week ago, according to the Gallup tracking poll, President Obama isn't alone in having a bad summer. So isHollywood.
Entertainment Weekly calls gross receipts for what should have been a blockbuster July 4-6 weekend "downright terrifying." Writes EW, "Not only were grosses down 45 percent from last year's holiday, according to Boxofficemojo.com, but it was Hollywood's worst July 4weekend since 1999. (And that's not taking into account inflation. In fact, this was the worst July-holiday weekend for ticket sales since the summer of Dragnet in 1987.)"
At last, an Obama administration official has come out in favor of a fence. He promises it will bring security to people on both sides of the border.
Unfortunately, Philip Gordon, National Security Council coordinator for theMiddle East, North Africa and the Gulf, was not speaking of a border fence between the United States and Mexico, but a fence between the West Bank and the 1967 Israeli border. That fence, he said, would be built after Israelrelinquishes the territory in exchange for an empty promise of "peace" with the Palestinians.
President Obama appears to have forgotten -- or ignored -- why we have elections. One reason is to stop, or slow down, an agenda the public doesn't like.
When polls began reflecting buyer's remorse about Mr. Obama in 2010, voters elected a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and might well have done the same in the Senate in 2012 were it not for some weak GOP candidates, especially in Nevada and Delaware.
People who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid known as global warming-climate change are not just "deniers"; we are guilty of a "nihilistic refusal" to address the issue. So says a Washington Post editorial commenting favorably on Monday'sSupreme Court ruling that allows theEnvironmental Protection Agency, under certain limits, to proceed under the Clean Air Act to regulate major sources of greenhouse-gas emissions.
The actual nihilists are those who refuse to accept any scientific information that undermines their claim that the globe is warming and humans are responsible for it. Cults are like that. Regardless of evidence contradicting their beliefs, cultists persist in blind faith.
It is a line I have used to open speeches on the lecture circuit for years and it never fails to get a laugh: "I'm happy to be here tonight from Washington, D.C., where the only politicians with convictions are in prison."
That's only partially true. Democrats have convictions. They know what to do with power when they get it and how to isolate, even punish, any member of their party who dares to take a different position on an issue. Republicans seem to constantly react to the policies of Democrats or slam each other instead of making a case for the superiority of their ideas. It doesn't help Republicans that they lack the Democrats' uniformity.
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain..." (The Gettysburg Address)
Euphoria over the Taliban's release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was quickly tempered by media reports that Bergdahl had abandoned his post and that his father made comments opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bergdahl's father tweeted, "I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child."
Does that include those children killed while being used as human shields by the Taliban? Where is Bergdahl's concern for women who die from "honor killings" and for girls who are denied an education?
BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- In the 1970s, while working as a low-paid cub reporter in Houston, Texas, I always looked forward to the annual Christmas catalogs from Neiman-Marcus and Sakowitz, a local luxury department store. Both contained outrageously expensive things that only the super-rich could afford -- his and hers Thunderbirds stick in my memory. My wife and I couldn't wait to thumb through them and we frequently laughed at how much some of the items cost, wondering if even rich Texans would spend so extravagantly.
Another tribute to conspicuous wealth comes in the annual "Rich List," a guide to the 1,000 richest men and women in Britain, published in a special edition of The Sunday Times Magazine. A fat feline sits proudly on the cover with the symbol of a British pound (in gold) around its neck.
PORTSTEWART, Northern Ireland -- President Obama Wednesday replayed a familiar scenario when dealing with scandal, in this case delays for treatment, deaths, alleged cover-ups and other acts of malfeasance reported at Veterans Administration hospitals in the United States: first express outrage, next announce an investigation and then say he won't comment on the scandal until the results of the investigation are in, promising people will be held "accountable," if they violated the law. Good luck with that.
Meanwhile, critics are using the VA scandal to indict Obamacare. They believe what is occurring at VA hospitals is a preview of coming destruction should the U.S. government move beyond meddling in health insurance into a full-scale takeover of the entire health care system.
These critics need only look across the Atlantic at the United Kingdom's crumbling National Health Service (NHS) as a glaring example of the dysfunction that results when government runs health care. For years, as is the case with VA hospitals, NHS horror stories have abounded, reported dutifully by the British press. These include neglect of elderly patients, long waiting times (like the VA) to see a doctor and longer waits for necessary surgery, which the government in some cases denies based on cost, age of patient and unusually high numbers of deaths at some hospitals.
The VA could learn from what occurred at Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire, England. As reported by the Daily Mail, as recently as two years ago, Hinchingbrooke had a deficit of $16.8 million a year; it ranked 102nd in the country in admission waiting time; charged $67 to park, with fines for overstaying, and in what sounds like the punch line to a joke, took one week to change a light bulb.
Today, the hospital is due to break even. A surplus is expected next year. Hinchingbrooke has zoomed up in ranking to number 20 in the country in waiting time. Parking now costs $4.21 with fines scrapped. Minor maintenance problems are dealt with in one day.
How was Hinchingbrooke, an NHS hospital, miraculously transformed? It was turned over to a private firm. Once described as a "basket case," the hospital is now ranked number one in patient satisfaction.
A key to its healing, reports The Daily Mail, was "loosening the grip of managers and accountants." A majority of board members, once bean counters and bureaucrats, are now clinicians. "Doctors, nurses and admin(istrative) staff have also been put into small groups which have representatives who meet senior managers twice a month" to discuss problems. Patients are promised any complaints will be resolved within three weeks.
The Hinchingbrooke example should teach the VA something about privatization and what can happen when government tries to run a nation's entire health care system. Veterans who face long waits, or suffer from life-threatening conditions, should receive vouchers so they can be treated at private hospitals. Since, according to the White House, President Obama only "learned about" the VA scandal from TV news reports (though he spoke about them during the 2008 presidential campaign and was critical of President Bush for not fixing them), Congress must take the lead in offering treatment alternatives to veterans. Again, lack of money isn't the problem. Bureaucracy and incompetence are the problems.
Reforming VA hospitals should be a 2016 campaign theme all presidential candidates must address and they must then offer specific solutions. A quasi-government-private approach might work. It couldn't be worse than the current system.
The phrase uttered by President Abraham Lincoln, which is the motto of the Veterans Administration, must always be uppermost in our minds: "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."
Sadly, that goal is not being met. It must be. We owe veterans (and those we memorialize next Monday) our freedom. Perhaps what happened at Hinchingbrooke Hospital can guide the VA and veterans to a better future.
Ever since the Supreme Court ruled organized prayer and Bible study in public schools unconstitutional in the early 1960s, conservative Christians have been trying to re-enter the secular arena.
Take Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971). The case, The New York Times wrote last year, "...challenged a 1968 Pennsylvania law that reimbursed religious schools for some expenses, including teachers' salaries and textbooks, so long as they related to instruction on secular subjects also taught in the public schools. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger ... said the law violated the First Amendment's prohibition of government establishment of religion. The ruling set out what came to be known as the Lemon test, which requires courts to consider whether the challenged government practice has a secular purpose, whether its primary effect is to advance or inhibit religion, and whether it fosters excessive government entanglement with religion."
You know things are bad when you can't wait for the return of a TV character to demonstrate what resolve and leadership really look like. Yes, after a four-year hiatus, the show "24," featuring Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland), returns May 5 to the Fox network.
Bauer displays many of the traits once found in, or at least expected of, American presidents and top military leaders. He doesn't waffle or wiggle; neither does he negotiate. He wins. If you think I am about to draw a contrast between Bauer and the current president of the United States you are right.
Honestly, unless you are a big government liberal, how many people think the federal government should have more power than it already exercises over its citizens?
Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, 94, thinks the Constitution needs at least six amendments in order to bring the country more in line with what he believes is good for us. He outlines them in his new book, "Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution." It is a revealing look into liberal thinking and the ideological opposite of radio talk show host Mark Levin's book, "The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic." More about that in a moment.
The cult centered on "global warming" alarmism is getting hot under the collar. People seem to have stopped paying attention and polls show "climate change" barely registers on a list of voters' concerns.
This can only mean, as losing politicians like to say, that their message isn't getting through. What to do? Why shout louder, of course.
Dictionary.com offers two definitions for scapegoat: "1. A person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place; 2. Chiefly biblical. A goat let loose in the wilderness on Yom Kippur after the high priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on its head. Lev. 16:8,10,26."
Both definitions seem to fit last week's announcement of the "resignation" of Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, who presided over the disastrous rollout of the government's website, healthcare.gov, which was supposed to provide easy access for people who wished to sign up for Obamacare.
"Well, then," Jesus said, "give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God." (Mark 12:17 Living Paraphrase)
When considering what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God, what happens when the federal government seeks to replace God by defining "church" and when life begins to have value, the latter having been done in Roe vs. Wade and subsequent court rulings?
What is it about Western leaders from Neville Chamberlain to George W. Bush who want to find good in men of bad character?
Acting as if he were endowed by special insight bestowed upon no one else, President George W. Bush declared in 2001 that he had looked Vladimir Putin in the eye and "was able to get a sense of his soul."
What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may eventually be discovered, but there is something else that has been missing for much longer and its "disappearance" has far greater implications for America. It is our foreign policy. Can anyone say what it is?
With Russia's Vladimir Putin behaving like a modern Catherine the Great in his efforts to annex Crimea and possibly all of Ukraine, what is our policy toward Russia, which is behaving increasingly like its former, supposedly dead, communist self?
OXON HILL, Md. -- The first "people" I recognized on arriving at last week's Conservative Political Action Committee gathering just outside Washington were two "stormtroopers" and a Wookiee from the 1977 film "Star Wars."
Some of the speeches also expressed sentiments from the past, though not as cleverly as those in costume: Obama is a bad president, even a bad man. America looks weak before the world. Government is too big and taxes too high. "The Force" seemed to have left the building, or perhaps it never arrived.
Kathleen Willey is back. For people who have forgotten, she is the former volunteer aide to President Bill Clinton who claims he sexually harassed her 20 years ago. She wrote a book about it called "Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton."
What, you say you didn't read it? Neither, it seems, did most of America, which long ago yawned at Bill Clinton's exploits and Hillary's apparent enabling of his extramarital liaisons.
With less than a year left in her fourth and final term in Congress, it's a little early for an exit interview, but not too early to get the views of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) on issues dear to a "founding mother" of the Tea Party movement and on how to beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, if the Democrat decides to run.
Bachmann remains confident and resolute despite many political setbacks. We met in her office while much of Congress was fleeing the Capitol Building ahead of a major storm that eventually dumped a foot of snow on Washington. The snow was a big deal to residents of the nation's capital, but little more than flurries to a Minnesotan like Bachmann.
In a world where Woody Allen can get a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes at the same time his adopted daughter accuses him of sexually abusing her when she was a child (Allen has repeatedly denied it), and where a film "The Wolf of Wall Street" sets a record for use of the F-word, it is a wonderment that an obscure, low-budget film called "Alone Yet Not Alone" has had its Best Original Song Oscar nomination withdrawn for allegedly violating ethical rules.
Everyone "knows" it is conservatives who are mean-spirited, intolerant, censors of speech with which they don't agree, anti-gay, anti-black and anti just about everything else, right? We know this because the left keeps telling us so.
Which is why in this era of increasingly corrosive language -- note the overuse of the f-word in the film "The Wolf of Wall Street" -- and acidic political discourse, recent comments by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), ought to shock and outrage everyone, regardless of party affiliation or ideology.
BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- While the Obama administration offers life support to its Affordable Care Act, in the UK a growing number of people are asking whether it's time to pull the plug on the National Health Service (NHS), which is in critical condition.
For many years the UK media have carried stories that not only bode ill for the future of government-run health care, but also continue to serve as a "code blue" warning to the U.S. as to what might be in our future if we decide to go down that road.
Select the scandal(s) that affects the most people and has long-term implications for the country in a time of war, a country with a struggling economy that last month produced the weakest job growth in decades. (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 92 million Americans are no longer in the labor force.)
In his State of the Union address on Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared a "war on poverty." Today, with roughly the same number of people below the poverty level as in 1964 and with many addicted to government "benefits," robbing them of a work ethic, it is clear that the poor have mostly lost the war.
In 1964, the poverty rate was about 19 percent. Census data from 2010 indicates that 15.1 percent are in poverty within a much larger population.
In his classic novel "1984," George Orwell warned about the evils of a totalitarian state dominated by a single ruling party with total power over its inhabitants. Oceania, his fictional superstate, is under complete surveillance by the authorities. The character known as "Big Brother" reminds everyone he is constantly monitoring the citizens of Oceania, mainly by "telescreen."
At the end of 2013, the federal government may not yet have telescreens, which in Orwell's imagination had the ability to eavesdrop on people's conversations and broadcast propaganda, but it does have the nonfiction equivalent -- data collection, drones and other technological invasions of privacy. Our government does have the National Security Agency.
"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace." -- John Lennon
"Black Friday" was a metaphor beyond the merchants' bottom line. Headlines on last Friday's Drudge Report reflect a culture that is being trampled by the greed and me-only attitude of a growing number of us: