President Obie

In 1967, folk singer Arlo Guthrie played a song on a left-wing New York City radio station that was supposed to sum up the cultural difference between the culture and the counterculture.

On one side of the moral equation in Alice’s Restaurant you had Officer Obie and the nameless army officers who were rulebound fascists and on the other side you had the easygoing hippies who believed in community, hanging out and letting things slide. Culture would drag you into court for littering with twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs as evidence while counterculture would shrug and invite you to dinner.

Culture was bureaucratically and violently absurd. Counterculture was humanely lovingly absurd.

That's still the image that the left likes to wear like an old pair of jeans. It's still just a bunch of easygoing fellows out to build community and take on Officer Obie’s senseless repressive rules. But then the counterculture became the culture and the left became Officer Obie.

Or President Obie.

If there's anyone who's going to drag you into court with twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs as proof; it's going to be the Officer Obies of the EPA. Except that a straightforward thing like littering would be much too sensible for environmental enforcement groups to bother with.  They're more likely to arrest you for collecting rainwater on your own property, making a guitar out of unfinished wood or cleaning up trash from your own property.

EPA Administrator Al Armendariaz, whose fiefdom included five states, told staffers that his philosophy of enforcement was borrowed from the Romans."They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them."

Compared to the Officer Obies of the ruling counterculture, the original model seems like a humanitarian and the soul of reason. If you ran afoul of Officer Armendariz, or Caesar Armendariz as he liked to be called, you would be very lucky to come away with nothing more than a twenty-five dollar fine and a few hours in jail.

A mere two decades after Arlo Guthrie began singing about being arrested on Thanksgiving for littering by Officer Obie, John Pozsgai was sentenced to three years in jail for “discharging pollutants into waters of the United States" for the crime of adding topsoil to his land.

And you can be sure that the evidence for the legal case which went on in varying forms for twenty years consisted of a lot more than a mere twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with a paragraph of text on the back.

There's a folk song in there alright, but it's not one that a liberal would listen to because every  progressive who grins when hearing Arlo joke about a federal case being made out of throwing some garbage off a cliff would want to hang him in real life.

Bill Ellen, a Vietnam veteran and conservationist who ran a shelter for injured wildlife, spent six months in jail for making duck ponds based on a 1989 reinterpretation of environmental law which stated that land which had water on it for seven days was considered Federally protected wetlands.

"That's as close as you can come to restitution for them, the ducks," the judge in the case declared. The judge has since retired to a more fitting post as a member of the Governor's Advisory Panel on License Plate Reader technology. There's probably a folk song in that, but no one would ever air it.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane F. Barrett called it "a premeditated environmental crime" and declared victory even though Ellen was only sentenced to six months in jail instead of three years.

"It might be true that five years ago Ellen wouldn't have to go to jail. But we're living in a different world now," she admitted.

And that different world is the world that progressives have made. They have made America into a nightmarish place that would horrify even Officer Obie. A place where you don't just go to jail for trashing public property, but for cleaning up your own.

Ellen's own Officer Obie has moved on to be the Director of the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Maryland. Despite donating a few thousand dollars to Obama, she has yet to get the US Attorney gig that she had her eye on.

Doubtlessly though President Obie is sure to find a place for any legal eagle who can try to send a Marine Corps vet with two young children to jail for three years over a duck pond. 

But the final Officer Obie touch was yet to come.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reviewed the case and declared; "That Ellen believes that an offense of this magnitude is trivial or unimportant ironically exemplifies the need not to foreclose punishment by imprisonment."

The need to sentence a man to prison for a trivial offense because he believes rightly that it is a trivial offense is the definition of irony only behind the Iron Curtain. But in a more fitting definition of irony, the judge responsible for writing that decision lost his shot at a Supreme Court spot because he couldn't stop talking to the New York Times about being considered for the Supreme Court.

The justice of the Officer Obies, Judge Obies and President Obies may be blind, deaf and dumb; but sometimes a higher court than the Supreme Court intervenes with its own judgement.

The different world that U.S. Attorney Jane F. Barrett gleefully inhabits where a man may be sent to jail for a duck pond wasn't made by Officer Obie and the culture, but by the counterculture. If the laws of the culture made sense but were guilty of overreach, the laws of the counterculture are all overreach with no sense. The laws of the counterculture are every bit as addled as its art and its literature.

Seven years after Gibson Guitars worked with Arlo Guthrie to reconstruct Woody Guthrie's guitar and sell reproductions of it, a gang of Officer Obies burst into its Nashville factory with guns drawn looking for wood. And they did it again two years later accusing Gibson of making guitars out of wood that was not finished by Indian workers.

Both times the raids happened under the regime of President Obie who is the living culmination of everything that the counterculture hoped for. And what they hoped for was Officer Obie writ large with a teleprompter in one hand and an infinite rule book in the other.

The laws of the culture were rational. The laws of the counterculture are emotional. They exist because someone demanded them vehemently enough.

The pursuit of that humane and caring system instead gave us a system that sends men to jail for the unrepentant manufacture of duck ponds. It turned every Federal employee into Officer Obie and made Officer Obie in his various guises as environmental crusader, financial regulator and political activist with revolving door roles in government agencies into a progressive superhero.

The counterculture heroes aren't rebels anymore. They are the protectors of the values of the counterculture who suppress opposition by dissenters who don't want to buy health insurance, uppity photographers who don't want to take pictures at gay weddings and free spirits who build duck ponds without the proper permits.

In the culture, laws were made by men and carried out by professionals who understood the laws they were executing. In the counterculture, laws were made by activists and then modified by regulators and bureaucrats so many times that both the aforementioned trials involved extensive debates over what law was broken, whether it was broken and whether the law that may have been broken even existed.

In the counterculture the sheer morass of laws, regulations and interpretations of both means that there really is no law, only whim. No one ever knows what the law is. They only know whom they want punished and why.

Ridicule a law enough and it stops applying. Demonize a defendant enough and he is guilty. Truth is nothing. Emotion is everything. The humanitarian creativity of the counterculture was egotism dressed up in philosophy. It wanted what it wanted. And what it wanted, it got.

ObamaCare or ObieCare is based on a million regulations that no one understands holding up an oppressive system based on wishful thinking that can't work. President Obie is the perfect leader for an ideology that wants its fascist overreaches and abuses of power cloaked in cheerful grins and empty talk about sharing and community whose practical implications are defined in implementable legalese on Page 2809, subparagraph 81b, footnote 311 which no one has read.

Under the liberal Officer Obies, you can't get what you want at Alice's Restaurant. Not unless it meets State and Federal regulations, has listed calorie counts and doesn't contain any transfats. You can't get the health plan you want under ObieCare and you can't get much of anything else either except a lecture, a reeducation program or a prison term.


  1. Anonymous8/1/15

    Well, Daniel Greenfield knows how to describe horror. Eventually this cultural shift ends up with people receiving bullets in the backs of their heads for writing articles like this. We're not there yet, but we have gone far enough. Sadly, I don't see the political tools there to change this state of affairs. Boehner "The Great Pumpkin" will continue as our main political leader, which means that the last election was pointless. Like the Europeans refusing to face the monsters they have created, we in America refuse to admit that we have created a monster here and are unwilling to look evil in the face and call it what it is. Except, perhaps, for Daniel.

  2. Uber alles's restaurant.

  3. Anonymous8/1/15

    If we don't do"something"somehow,someway.....sometime soon it's going to be Allah's restaurant.Thank you Mr.Greenfield. I love this one.

  4. The problem is that the really sincere guys, the ones who really mean it, do not rise to power. Instead the true power seekers, those who latch onto the movement as a means of self empowerment, do rise to power, and woe to those who have to live under them.

  5. As anon said, what now?

  6. Walt Kelly's comic characters in Pogo famously summed it up:

    We have met the enemy and he is us.

  7. Look for Agenda 21, the sequal at bookstores, by Glenn Beck!

  8. Anonymous8/1/15

    Thank you Mr. G. Spot on as usual.

  9. Anonymous9/1/15

    Why does frontpagemag pop up 2 new pages on my ipad every time I try and open a link to,that site? If I close the additional tabs, two more pop up. Basically, front pagemag is unusable on my ipad. I'm only writing this here as I can't do anything on that other site.

    Anyway, prescient article. It's liberalism meets napoleonic law, and deemed that it was good. Like ALL political movements, it's only against the criminalization of liberty if that particular party isn't in charge. Once their Joe is in charge, all that was bad is now good, because of our good intentions don'tcha' know.

  10. Anonymous9/1/15

    As Johnny stated, the people who are truly worthy of political office would never enter that morally corrupt circus. The corelary (sp?) is that those who aspire and hold office are just the immoral thugs who,absolutely shouldn't be in control of anything. Regardless, these thugs have lost the will of the people, quite a while ago actually. The press won't touch on that though. I don't see how anyone can approve of the actions of national politicians, save those on the receiving end of,massive handouts, which are still a minority of the populace.

  11. Anonymous9/1/15

    The John Pozsgai story, or the Bill Ellen story, ought to be made into a major motion picture. Don't hold your breath for Hollywood to make such a movie, even though the David & Goliath story is right up their alley.

    King Western Man

  12. Anonymous9/1/15

    "Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against - then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt. Now, that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with." - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

  13. meggy886810/1/15

    He gets greener and more corrupt looking everyday. I think he needs a portrait in the attic.

  14. I wonder if the First Wookie limits his diet to only one Italian stuffed-dough entree at a time.

    That would make him Obie-One-Canole. (the only hope-and-change of Progs everywhere)

  15. Anonymous18/1/15

    I saw a video of Arlo G. reprising the song at some festival a couple years ago,
    and all the liberals in the crowd were smugly sniggering at all the salient "uptight"
    points in the song. For more insight into Guthrie's mindset, just listen to him talking
    between songs during his set at Woodstock, not just the released stuff but the unreleased stuff, too. It's on YouTube. Pure leftist whackadoodle.

  16. I long ago gave up trying to obey stupid laws. I start every day assuming I am a criminal for breathing.

    Yesterday, the FCC requested permission to arm some of their agents. They will need many SWAT teams to enforce what they plan to do once they take control of the internet.

  17. Anonymous30/1/15

    Thanks for the Alice's Restaurant storyline. Great grade school memories listening to my older brothers records. The Alice house was a Church turned into a home, as I remember.
    Now days that home is a virtual prison for anyone near any sort of "navigable waterway"


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