Throwback

Oh the horror.  Amazon, a high performance company, pushes its employees hard to accomplish some not so easily attainable goals.  News flash: despite what the New York Times might want you to believe, Amazon’s success in a dynamic landscape—one in which they are simultaneously challenging, redefining, and transforming the world of commerce–simply does not  happen if a day-to-day priority of the organization is a concern for everybody’s feelings.  The expectation is, and should be, when you’re hired by a company striving to be the best in a hyper-competitive industry, that your feelings be checked at the door.  Otherwise, don’t let that same door hit you in the ass on your way out.

And please spare me the pabulum about how happy employees make for a more successful company.  In the high technology world where disintermediation is a constant threat and today’s high-flyer can easily be tomorrow’s Chapter 11 filing, there are two types of happy employees.  Many a company has crashed and burned unable to differentiate between the two.

If your employees are happy because they’ve been allowed to fit their work lives very neatly into a box—a box with relatively low stress and few lifestyle infringements, your company’s longer-term viability is likely not promising.  On the other hand, if your employees are happy because they derive satisfaction from being constantly challenged and mixing it up in an environment that values and rewards accomplishment, and accomplishment only, you’ve got a chance to be competitive.

My favorite part of the Times piece: “…workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are ‘unreasonably high.’”

As someone whose opening statement to every team of which I have ever been a part has included the following, “I expect and insist that we challenge one another’s ideas in a vigorous, but respectful way,” Amazon’s approach resonates.  Unfortunately, for the New York Times and many in today’s me-first world, that approach is viewed as anachronistic and offensive.

When Jeff Bezos steps down, at least there is someone waiting in the wings who can carry the torch.  Another throwback…

harrison

No participation trophies!

Hot Tub Time Machine…Trump Style

Is there anything more simultaneously pathetic and entertaining than watching wannabe Jackass-n-Chief, Donald Trump respond to perceived slights? It’s at its comical best when he believes he has a good or neutral relationship with the person prior to learning of the affront.

Let’s step into the time machine…

Interviewer: Mr. Trump, what are your thoughts about Jesus:

Trump: He’s a good man. I’ve got a lot of respect for the sacrifices he’s made.

Interviewer: I understand he’s not too pleased with your marital record.

Trump: What the hell does he know about marriage? The guy’s never even been with a woman…well, unless you count that whore, Mary Magdalene. So he can turn water into wine. Big deal. If you’re interested in a real miracle check out Trump Plaza in Jersey. Yeah, that’s right; God himself couldn’t have done anything with that crap hole. Now it’s a billion dollar luxury condo complex.

Another twist of the time machine dial…

Interviewer: You’ve been highly critical of the United States’ government’s ability to deal with China. In fact, you’ve often said that the Chinese are eating our lunch.

Trump: That’s right. The Chinese are killing us. We’re playing checkers, while they’re grand masters at chess.

Interviewer: I recently sat down with President Xi Jinping and asked him what he thought about you. I’m paraphrasing here, but he characterized your world view as very unserious and naïve.

Trump: Tell that commie when he wants a lesson in real estate development to come and see me. My properties are nearly 100% occupied. He’s overseen the build out of entire cities that are complete ghost towns. By the time I’m done with the Chinese they won’t be eating our lunch; they’ll be eating cat.

Interviewer: Mr. Trump, isn’t that racist?

Trump: I’m worth $10 billion. I can afford to be racist.

One thing this country cannot afford…a Trump presidency.

This Tragedy Is No Myth

In what must certainly be the longest 11th hour in history, Greece’s fate continues to hang in the balance. A new chapter in the tragedy begins tomorrow with the banks reportedly set to stay closed so as to avoid, or at least postpone, a run on deposits.

The Siren song of social democracy has crashed the Greek economy onto the rocks and left its future prospects tied in a Gordian Knot. Alexander the Great and his bold stroke is nowhere in sight.

Greek Prime Minister, Tispras, true to the Socratic method of endless conversation, is finding that his interminable words are falling on deaf ears.

So, the next several days promise to be fascinating theater.

The situation really looks to be a classic Prisoner’s Dilemma—the branch of Game Theory that explains how two purely “rational” parties might not cooperate, even if it appears in their best interests to do so. Despite the fact that nobody would mistakenly identify either the Greeks or their European creditors as “rational,” politics will most probably drive each side to pursue an outcome antithetical to the common wisdom.

Currently, there is little wisdom common among the Greek people. Without a hint of appreciation for the absurdity, it is their position to reject austerity and debt repayment, but also to stay in the euro. You’d think they could do the math. They did invent it, after all.

If the Greeks hope to ever reclaim even a fraction of their past greatness, it would probably behoove them to be mindful of one of their past greats.

In the words of Aristotle, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

As such, get out of the Euro (where you never belonged in the first place), take responsibility for your future, and go about implementing the changes necessary to get there.

Would be quite an Odyssey.

The Pope of Politics

Pope Francis has been getting considerable attention for his so-called agenda of change. In many ways it’s quite refreshing to see a pontiff who is not afraid to break the mold. He has spoken passionately about globalization and his perception of how it has resulted in massive inequality. And even though I believe he’s dead wrong on the causes, and more importantly the solutions, I respect what he’s attempting to do as a spiritual leader.

His inequality arguments, however, would carry more weight if he were not presiding over perhaps the largest organization in the world to have institutionalized discrimination. A clear violation of the 11th commandment—Thou shalt not be hypocritical. Kinda like Al Gore admonishing us for our carbon footprint, or President Obama lecturing on transparency. One shouldn’t throw stones in a glass popemobile.

To his credit, though, he has demonstrated a more tolerant tone on the sensitive social topics (to Catholics) of homosexuality and divorce. But make no mistake, if you’ve committed one or both of those “sins” you’re still going to burn in hell insofar as the church is concerned. But hey, at least Pope Francis will give you a soothing pat on the behind before you’re sent on your way to eternal damnation.

Of course, let us not forget the proverbial elephant in the room—the Catholic church’s prohibition on female priests. Unfortunately, the proselytizing on inequality rings a bit hollow when the evangelist’s organization is shutting out half the population from its top jobs.

So, while this Pope has proven to be unafraid to mix theology and politics, it didn’t take long for the marriage of the two to show which one carries the dominant gene.

The ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ approach was a dead giveaway.

I’m Winston Wolfe. I Solve Problems.

We are less than two weeks into the Hillary 2016 campaign and every day, it seems, brings with it another, “Oh man, I shot Marvin in the face” moment.

Hillary’s Secret Service code name might as well be “Vincent.”

No worries, though. The Clinton’s have a Winston Wolfe around every corner, ready and willing to clean up the mess…or at least try. First and foremost, of course, is chief campaign flack, John Podesta. Harvey Keitel has nothing on this guy. Podesta’s close partner in Democrat political skullduggery, Paul Begala, says, “He believes in and uses power in a way that many Democrats are too pusillanimous to do. He’s not afraid to use power, and ruthlessly if necessary.”

In other words, “And I (John Podesta) will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers (Hillary). And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

The only thing Begala left out is that Podesta doesn’t have an ounce of shame.

He knows he’s lying, as does everybody who’s paying attention. Better yet, you can watch him, other Clintonites, and their media enablers all openly discussing and debating the methods by which the lies are to be constructed, focus-group-tested, and ultimately sold to the American people.

It’s actually quite a remarkable spectacle.

If only this were a Tarantino movie rather than real life.

God help us.  We may all need a giant needle full of adrenaline pounded into our hearts before November 8th, 2016.

Or worse yet, on November 9th, 2016.

 

Falling Off The Soapbox

The road from principled stand to politically correct sideshow is often travelled in the blink of an eye. Supporters and opponents of Indiana’s religious liberty legislation just made the drive in record time. There’s nothing like an opportunity to flaunt one’s self-anointed enlightenment to uncover hypocrisy of the first order. Legitimate concern, criticism, and confusion has quickly taken a back seat to grandstanding, buffoonery, and shameless political opportunism.

Speaking of shameless, Governor Daniel Malloy of Connecticut just put an exclamation point on the term. Yes, the same Governor Malloy whose state has a religious freedom law many believe to be even more prone to discriminatory interpretations has called Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, a bigot. So much for comity between colleagues.

Personally, I have zero affection for social conservatism (e.g. I’m a religious agnostic, supporter of gay rights/marriage, pro-choice, etc.), but do have an affinity for people’s rights–whether they are aligned with my libertarian beliefs or not…until they infringe on somebody else’s.

As such, I have no issue with honorable efforts by government to ensure believers can practice their faith without interference—again, with the proviso that they do so without negatively impacting others. Of course, determining what may or may not be negative impact is nowhere near as clear as most ideologues would have you believe.

For example, can or should the government compel a private business to provide a service, or is it better to let the market sort it out (via various methods of pressure)? By no means a simple matter. Fraught with many complexities and consequences.

Malloy and others who are quick to impugn might benefit from a bit more thoughtfulness. Wonder what the Connecticut Governor would think about a national movement to brand him a baby killer for his stance on abortion? I’m guessing he’d claim his position to be a principled one…kinda like those who feel convicted about religious liberty.

In the eloquent words of the late British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

Governor Malloy and others need to be a little less cocksure…if you know what I mean.

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me The News

As the general electorate has become increasingly frustrated with the political establishment over the past twenty plus years, many dream of that perfect outsider—someone intrepid, fresh, and unsoiled by the never-ending mudslinging that’s become such a fundamental and tedious part of party politics. All it takes is for somebody to show the slightest promise, to be perceived to have a little twinkle in his eye, to happen to say something with a bit of panache that resonates with the faithful, and it’s off to the races. A grassroots movement is launched to convince the masses that our savior has arrived.

In 2013 many on the Right believed their prayers were answered after seeing Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, give the keynote address at the National Prayer Breakfast. The speech and its significance were magnified because it touched on numerous conservative themes, was given by an African American, and delivered with President Obama sitting just feet away. During the ensuing two years, both Dr. Carson’s profile and level of support have grown.

Sorry Carson fans, but you may want to jump off the bandwagon, a cliff is just ahead.

The good doctor said in a recent CNN interview that prisons prove people choose to be gay. “Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight–and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”

A more pertinent question might be, when the hell will Republicans wake up?

I’m no “expert” like the doctor, but I bet prison sex has a little to do with stuff like domination and submission, sexual release, etc., rather than simply good ole romance.

Nevertheless, If you’re too stupid to realize this is third rail material, you’re probably not qualified to be president.

More importantly, when two adults of the same sex want to have a loving, committed relationship, who exactly does that harm? Is it not in fact good for society? Aren’t strong families supposed to be a conservative value and a cornerstone of economic vitality? Does any rational human being actually think procreation will cease and civilization will be threatened? Who cares if it’s nature or nurture?

Apologies to my religious friends, but I refuse to believe a just God has an issue with a couple in love.

On second thought, perhaps the doctor is right. It’s just like when I was stranded on that deserted island and left with no alternative but to catch fish in order to survive. Now, I can’t even look at a steak.

Pass the sushi.

 

Sorry for the duplicate emails, but my blog provider has yet to solve the problem.

Obama The Grouch

Hello, my name is Chuck and I’m here to tell you about the word, “hypocrisy.”

According to Wikipedia, hypocrisy is the “claim or pretense of holding beliefs, feelings, standards, qualities, opinions, behaviors, virtues, motivations, or other characteristics that one does not actually hold.”

To better illustrate we’ll use today’s Democrat reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress.

House Minority Leader, Pelosi, called the speech “an insult to the intelligence of the United States.” Ms. Pelosi also told us “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.”

Kentucky Congressman, John Yarmuth, described the speech as “condescending.” Ironically, he found no condescension in the Democrats’ attempt to shield the American public from an opportunity to draw its own conclusions.

Yarmuth added, “Don’t lecture us on how to negotiate.” This from a politician who would have no compunction lecturing a foreign government on any number of topics, and from the party who regularly lectures its own citizens on what to eat…and virtually every other aspect of daily life.

Numerous Democrats stated that the Netanyahu address set a “dangerous precedent.” Many of those same Democrats take no issue with the president’s unilateral action on immigration, his stance on domestic surveillance, or his support for the non-enforcement of various laws. Apparently, one man’s dangerous precedent is another’s reasonable course of action.

That concludes today’s lesson on the word, “hypocrisy.”

Tomorrow’s word of the day is “transparency.” Your instructors will be Barack and Hillary.

Coincidently, it will also serve as lesson #2 on hypocrisy.

Lightening On His Feet

Once again the Obama administration is two steps ahead of everybody else. While all the haters just wanna hate, hate, hate, the President and his team are off solving the world’s most vexing problem.

Yes they can!

State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf–the one who looks like LensCrafters’ customer of the year, spilled the beans regarding Team O’s strategy for eradicating the Islamic State. As it turns out, it’s not about boots on the ground, but rather boots at a fair…a Jobs Fair. That’s right, it’s going to take a massive works program to ultimately stamp out ISIS. Think WPA…but for radical Islamists. Move over FDR.

Shovel-ready jobs—the cure for all the world’s ills. Who knew…except Barry, of course?

While the jobs initiative is ramping up, the Big O will most certainly want to pump some quick cash into the hands of those poor, misunderstood extremists. And, if a blow can simultaneously be struck against global climate change, all the better. The likely solution: Cash for Clunkers. A perfect twofer. Take those carbon-footprint-unfriendly pickup trucks and tanks that are so popular among young Jihad i’s on the go, and replace them with subsidized Smart Cars. Environmentally friendly, and unable to pack massive amounts of explosives. A true win/win.

So, as you can see, the President has the situation well under control. Have a little faith, will ya.

It’s all quite simple. According to Mr. Obama, “Efforts to counter violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies.”

The airing of grievances.

An Islamic Festivus. Absolutely Brilliant!

But please, whatever you do, no Frank Costanza cartoons.

Pants On Fire

Poor Brian Williams. He’s gotten himself into a slow jam…and not the Jimmy Fallon kind.

So he misremembered. Not being shot down in a helicopter can be traumatizing.

Hell, it was only a couple years ago that I was forced to stop claiming to be the 2001 Masters champion. As it was pointed out to me…repeatedly, I was AT the 2001 Masters; I did not WIN the 2001 Masters. Certainly you can see how the confusion might have arisen.

Upon further review, it turns out that Brian is quite the story teller. He’s produced more fiction than an Obama State of the Union address. But, like a character in a Shakespearean play, a tragic flaw has led to his demise.

Don’t fret for Brian, though. He and Hillary are going to be the subjects of a new Oliver Stone biopic—Natural Born Liars, the story of two civilians who come under heavy fire in a war zone. The setting is still being debated. Iraq or Bosnia?

I apologize if you receive this more than once.  There appears to be a bug in the blog software.

It’s The Candidate, Stupid

The last week has shone a light on the minefield that lies between the 2016 GOP field and the White House.

In the best of circumstances, the Republican nominee will have to thread an Electoral College needle that will not be easy. That difficult task might as well be attempted with fogged goggles if social issues are allowed to be brought to the fore.

The Righties should look to the 2014 midterm for guidance. The Republican National Committee and party faithful were largely spot on in terms of backing candidates who were less likely to be marginalized because of outmoded social views. As a result, near-certain victories were realized rather than sacrificed as in the prior two cycles.

Putative 2016 contenders Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie and Rand Paul, thanks to their recently expressed anachronistic and/​or ideologically rigid opinions, probably just did the party a service by providing a necessary reminder as to the importance of the right candidate.

Ideology is a good thing. It’s important to stand for something. But one can easily go too far.

There is a fine line between ideological purity and moronic inflexibility. Lost on the purists is the notion that no side can possibly have a monopoly on what’s right. The world is much too complex for all issues to fit neatly within the confines of a particular dogma. Sometimes common sense simply shouts otherwise.

You know you’ve got a bad candidate when he or she insists on jamming an ideological square peg into a pragmatic round hole. Nothing says untenable pretender more than slavish, irrational adherence to a doctrine.

I apologize if you receive this more than once.  There appears to be a bug in the blog software.

The Right To…

Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch stated in her confirmation hearing that a “right to work is shared by everyone in this country regardless of immigration status.”

Ponder that for a moment.

It’s quite remarkable, even for those of you, who like me, are for reasonable and bipartisan immigration reform.

If that statement in and of itself isn’t disqualifying for the country’s prospective chief law enforcement officer, I don’t know what is. I have nothing against Ms. Lynch. Honest. She appears capable on paper, and at a minimum, would likely be an enormous upgrade over the current AG. But what the hell is going on when this type of politically correct pabulum is allowed to go largely unchallenged except by partisans. To be fair, it isn’t new. In fact, it’s the perspective of almost all Democrat politicians—despite the fact that roughly 60% of the populace thinks otherwise.

Again, we’re not talking about ignoring some obscure and arcane sodomy law in Tennessee that’s been on the books since the late 1800’s. This is about something fundamental to any sovereign nation—a secure and controllable border.

And, is there a word more over/misused by the president and his minions than “right?” Thank goodness Obama wasn’t around in 1789 or we might have 1000 rather than 10 enumerated “rights” as amendments to the constitution. The irony of course is that the founding fathers intended the Bill of Rights to guarantee personal freedoms and limit government power—the exact opposite of what we get every time Team Obama invents another “right.”

Words just don’t seem to matter anymore. It’s now a “right” for individuals who have entered the country illegally to not only stay here, but to have jobs and be entitled to all of our various benefits and services. A head can explode trying to process the implications of that rather grand assertion.

By extension, if one were to sneak into Ms. Lynch’s home would he/she have the right to stay there…eat her food…sleep in her bed…perhaps even take her job?

How about if you’re able to penetrate security at the Super Bowl? Surely that should earn you the “right” to a seat for the game?

It’s all nonsense and unfortunately will continue as long as we have a media that’s in the tank and a citizenry that’s large parts apathetic and gullible.

In law a man is supposed to be guilty when he violates the rights of others.

That said, President Obama, you have the “right” to remain silent.

No pun intended.

Newton’s Third Law

Democrats are very fond of proclaiming that they are the party of science. Frankly, their claim is difficult to refute. Supporting evidence will be on display tomorrow evening when Mr. Science himself, Barack Obama, will further demonstrate his command of Newtonian physics. By all accounts the president will be doubling down on his six-year economic and foreign policy experiment–proving that every action does indeed have an equal and opposite reaction.

Yes, our intrepid crusader for the middle class and world peace can report to the nation that his actions have left said middle class in tatters and the geopolitical landscape at its lowest ebb in decades.

During Mr. Obama’s first six years, average middle class family earnings have declined a staggering $6,000 and net worth has plunged a devastating 19%. The labor participation rate is at or near an all-time low. And millions have been forced out of their homes and onto public assistance.

On the global front, his feckless “leadership” has set the stage for possibly the most destabilized international situation in 70 years. While many world leaders, remarkably including Egypt’s, begin to wake up to the threat posed by Islamic extremism, Mr. Obama continues to fight a battle with semantics, rather than against jihadists.

So, those of you who have managed to hang on to middle class status, pay close attention tomorrow night and be sure to buckle up; the president has a host of new and recycled policy initiatives that would, if enacted, be certain to have an equal and opposite reaction.

To date, the only known way to reach middle class status under an Obama administration is to start out in the upper middle class.

There’s A New Chief In Town

Elizabeth Warren’s anti-Wall Street speech on Friday has reinvigorated speculation about her potential challenge for the Democrat nomination for President. Moreover, it has fired up the far left wing of the party. A group of former Obama staffers numbering greater than 300 have drafted a letter urging Warren to throw her Indian headdress into the ring. Who better qualified to recognize a presidential empty (pant)suit in waiting? Another liberal law professor with zero real world business experience. Yep, that ought to be good. At least you’ve got to give them points for consistency. In the words of Jonathan Gruber, “Never underestimate the stupidity of the American voter.”

There’s no doubt that income inequality would be the sine qua non of her prospective campaign…and, if recent history’s an indicator, expect it to get a whole lot worse under a Warren regime. How much more can the underprivileged take? They should be screaming, ‘PLEASE, NO MORE HELP!’ Time to wake up, rise up, and wise up to a better way. When does it become clear that the medicine is killing the patient?

Of course, to be fair, a Warren presidency would be historic in a couple respects. She’d be the first woman and also the first fake Native American. Glass ceilings would be shattering all over the place. Hell, I bet there’s time between now and 2016 for her to find some Hispanic blood in the ancestry. Warren family lore is a mighty powerful thing.

So far, the extent of the proof she’s been able to offer up as to her Cherokee heritage has been two statements. “These are my family stories.” And, “This is what my brothers and I were told by my mom and dad.” Good enough for me. There’s got to be a tale in there about being raised by a Mexican nanny? Whatever it takes.

The only question remaining is, will we call her Madam President or Sitting Bull(shitter)?

Don Pardo, Tell Him What He’s Won

After less than two years Chuck Hagel is out as Secretary of Defense. There is little doubt that Hagel served his country with honor and dignity over these past many decades—from his heroic service in Vietnam, through his time in the Senate, and up to the last couple years as boss of the Department of Defense.

But make no mistake, President Obama did not select him because he was looking for another piece in a modern day assemblage of the Best and the Brightest. Hagel’s strengths have never included intellectual heft or verbal acuity. Check out his embarrassing confirmation hearing performance for proof.

Hagel was chosen because he shares a world view compatible with the president’s. And because he was perceived as malleable. Whether or not that world view is correct is beside the point. Mr. Obama was not in search of another Edwin Stanton. His team is not one of rivals, but rather of sycophants. How many weak safeties can one team draft?

So, who’s next to step into the Obama echo chamber? Hard to say, but the interview list will likely be comprised of those who correctly answer the following screening question. True or False. Global climate change is the single biggest threat to our national security.

Nevertheless, it probably doesn’t matter because President Spock will simply apply the Vulcan Mind Meld and complete synchronicity will ensue.

Franklin Roosevelt’s advisors were frequently referred to as the Brain Trust. Although the jury is still out, the two leading potential appellations for Obama’s inner circle are…the Stepford Cabinet, and my personal favorite, the Not Ready For Primetime Players.

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad President

It’s Wednesday morning, November 5th in post-apocalyptic Denver, Colorado. The Obama presidency is in tatters.  A mutating virus of out-of-control government and staggering incompetence has wreaked heretofore unfathomable devastation.  The Greek columns from 2008 are in ruins, as are the middle and working classes.  Roaming the landscape are bands of marauding deposed Democrat Senators and Congress people, horrified at the possibility the oceans have ceased receding and the planet has stopped healing.  Their former leader is so toxic that most deny having ever supported him.  Defense of the Obama legacy is left to a modern day Cerberus—the three-headed (Reid, Pelosi, Wasserman-Schultz) Greek mythology dog (“hellhound”) with a mane of serpents, and the tail of one, too.

The movie starring Will Smith will be out in the Spring.

Working title…I Was Legend.

Eric The Not So Great

How appropriate that perhaps the single most political Attorney General in history has decided to step down by making an utterly political calculation. Trust me; it wasn’t about fatigue, or getting on with his life’s work, or spending more time with family. Two factors coalesced to drive this decision. First, a federal judge just denied a DOJ request to further delay the release of documents relating to the Fast and Furious scandal. Second, the prospects for a Democrat-controlled Senate post November are looking increasingly bleak. Holder simply determined that he cannot risk being around for the scrutiny directed his way by a largely unchecked GOP-led congress.

Obama’s media enablers and political hacks are going to have to redouble their efforts now that the Attorney General–who looked the other way more than an OCD school crossing guard–is on the way out.

Holder’s roughshod run over the rule of law makes Robespierre’s Reign of Terror in revolutionary France look inconsequential by comparison. Rather than guillotining heads at the neck, the Attorney General cut the constitution off at the knees.

Most troubling, though, is the activist precedent he has established. Should we ever elect another Republican chief executive, it will take remarkable discipline for his/her Attorney General not to replicate Holder’s unadulterated partisanship.

From watching the President and Attorney General (and all politicians/operatives for that matter) we are reminded that there is no such thing as ideological purity. It is almost always trumped by personal interest.

Democrats are appalled by the thought of using drones against American citizens…until some of those citizens are purported to be terrorists. They are mortified by the suggestion that personal property can be seized by the government without due process…until they need it for “national security” reasons. They are gob smacked by the notion of voter suppression…until the Black Panthers show up at the polls with billy clubs. They are hot and bothered about transparency…until it’s them who needs to be transparent. They hate fossil fuels…unless said fuels happen to be critical to their states economies.

Wipe those smiles off your faces Righties; you’re guilty, too.

Republicans aren’t so keen about Gay marriage…until they find out their daughters are lesbians. They’re for family values…until they’re caught pants down with a prostitute. They are steadfastly against pork barrel spending…until a juicy project in their district/states needs funding.

Bottom line, when you start with common sense rather than ideology, you’re less likely to be whiplashed by reversals in position.

Barry had better hope that Valerie Jarrett isn’t going anywhere, or he’ll have to test the old Truman axiom, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

The French Connection

With all the turmoil percolating around the world something transpired today that got lost in the shuffle. French Socialist President Francois Hollande dissolved his government. Unfortunately for the Frogs, it’s the cabinet that’s being vanquished, not Hollande.

Coincidently, today is also the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris. So, while the United States and the Allied powers were able to free France from Nazi Germany, it’s going to be up to the French themselves to get out from under the thumb of Socialism. Regrettably, the country doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to putting up a fight.

On the plus side, Hollande’s approval rating IS only 17%–roughly 3% below that of stale baguettes. Of course, when the French finally do oust Hollande, it remains to be seen exactly how keen they’ll be about replacing him with someone inclined to lessen the role of government. They do, afterall, remain the worldwide leader in social spending as a percentage of GDP.

The great difficulty in affecting such change is not a lack of recognition of its necessity, but rather the unyielding nature of a very deeply engrained ethos.

The United States will face a similar hurdle when it elects its next non-Democrat president. Although we don’t have France’s decades long history of social democracy, our current six-year “experiment” has been quite unsettling to the country’s cultural underpinnings. Returning to the old norms will not be simple.

Confidence would be easier to come by if Obama had a Hollande-like approval rating. At least the French are demonstrating an ability to recognize a bad thing. Apparently, we’ve got a whole bunch of people who are not only incapable of identifying a bad thing, they want to wrap their arms around it and take it home to meet mom and dad.

France’s path forward is littered with minefields.

For example, French companies have an enormous obstacle in the 104-year-old Code du Travail, a 3,200 page rule book that dictates, in painful detail, what can and cannot be done—from job classifications to specific procedures for hiring and firing. Much of the “fun” begins when a company hits 50 employees. Once the threshold is breached, among other things…three worker councils must be created, profit sharing must be introduced, and firings must be council-approved. Needless to say, this has had a debilitating effect on the creation and growth of French businesses, and relatedly, the welfare of the French workforce.

Ring a bell?

Those French…always the trendsetters.

Speaking of, Louis XVI ascended to the throne during a financial crisis. Coincidence?

We storm the voting booth on November 8, 2016.

Ferguson, Missouri

Isn’t it interesting that the most ardent hypocrites also happen to be the most oblivious to their hypocrisy?

The Ferguson, Missouri situation is a perfect example. The very people who are hyperventilating with respect to the release/exposure of disparaging information about Michael Brown are the same folks who will be screaming from the rooftops if/when such information about Darren Wilson comes to light.

Of course, the jurisprudence system has very specific rules of evidence that must be adhered to–both in a court of law, and in the process proceeding a potential legal action. The court of public opinion is another matter entirely. Common sense tells us that certain acts, behaviors, and/or associations paint a picture of one’s character. Character alone does not determine guilt or innocence, but in the absence of incontrovertible facts, it does influence perceptions. Verdicts, for better or worse, often hinge on those perceptions.

Is it unreasonable that some have formed an opinion that Michael Brown possibly/probably has culpability after seeing the convenience store video? I don’t think so. Concomitantly, would it be wrong for those or other people to assume Wilson’s guilt if he were found to have ties to a white supremacist group, or be a regular utterer of the ‘N’ word? Not at all.

Quixotically, we’d like to believe a court can get beyond tangentially damning details and determine actual guilt or innocence based on facts and reasonable assessments of circumstantial evidence. Is that possible in this instance? Perhaps. But when politics, prejudice, and political correctness all coalesce, the prospect of justice becomes much less likely.

In some respects, both sides have a high bar to hurdle. The Brown camp has to overcome a not insignificant amount of race-related baggage. Wilson’s team, on the other hand, must swim against a very strong riptide of political correctness. Innocence alone (if in fact he his) may not be enough. It’s difficult to get a lynch mob to pause, reflect, and see the light.

Certainly, no group should recognize that more than the black community.

One Is The Loneliest Number

So, the President may act alone on immigration reform.

Don’t be so hasty in your judgment. Perhaps we are selling the man short. He is smarter than us, after all.

Apparently, Madison had it wrong in Federalist 10. It is ok to destroy liberty in order to limit a faction. Forget about diversity of opinion being the backbone of our republic. Congress is just getting in the way. Co-equal branches? That’s so 18th century. Constitutional “enthusiast” versus framer.  You make the call.

A chief executive should run the show, right? Sink or swim.

Now, if a Republican were ever to win the White House again, he or she, one would assume, should also have free reign when faced with an intractable Congress.

From a GOP perspective, maybe a loss on immigration reform today is but a small price to pay for major victories tomorrow. It could be the quickest path to a major corporate and individual tax overhaul; term limits; the elimination of the Department of Education; legitimate entitlement restructuring; hassle-free Supreme Court confirmations; no-holds-barred energy exploration; etc., etc., etc. The possibilities are limitless.

Back at the beginning of June, White House aides described the Obama foreign policy doctrine as, “Don’t do stupid shit.” His domestic doctrine may be equally basic, “No means go.” Admittedly, it does have a simple elegance. So much so that it might be adopted outside the political sphere. The man is a trend-setter, you know.

Sorry ladies.  Finally, a real war on women.

Sorry About That Chief!

New York Times columnist and author, Thomas Friedman, he of the mixed metaphor, the paint-by-numbers analysis of geopolitics, and simultaneously sweeping yet comically simplistic pronouncements yesterday (7/12/2014) offered up another inane breakdown of what’s helping to drive increasing unrest around the world.

At various points in his piece (The World According to Maxwell Smart), he cites drought, a wheat crisis, globalization, Mother Nature, and Moore’s Law as the sine qua non’s of various international hot spots.

My favorite:  “You can’t understand ISIS or the Arab Spring without the relentless advance in computing and telecom—Moore’s Law—creating so many cheap command-and-control Internet tools that superempower small groups to recruit adherents, challenge existing states and erase borders.”

Classic Friedman; grandiose…and not worth a damn. Technological advances are improving communications and making some things easier. Thanks, Tom for the brilliant insight. Keep an eye on the computer club at your local high school. They might be plotting an uprising. Maybe, just maybe there are deeper societal/cultural issues at play?

Not surprisingly, he ends with, “So, please spare me the ‘it’s all Obama’s fault.’ There are plenty of reasons to criticize Obama, but everything is not about what we do. There are huge forces acting on these countries, and it will take extraordinary collaboration by the whole world in order to contain them.”

Excuse me, but when haven’t there been “huge forces” acting on these or any countries?

Perhaps the difference is that the ramp up in turbulence (scope and scale) is coincident with a time period when America’s foreign policy effectiveness is arguably at an all-time low?

Friedman didn’t even fully develop the Maxwell Smart metaphor. After all, who more so than Obama to associate with Smart’s two main catchphrases:

“I asked you not to tell me that” and “Missed it by that much.”

Also, don’t forget the President can use his pen and shoe phone to legislate from the White House.

POLI-NOMICS is Back Online

To the MANY of you who have inquired, my blog is back online.

On June 25th, I found out that GoDaddy was discontinuing its blog product.  Since then, I’ve been scrambling to reconstitute it with another tool.   As you might expect, the process has not been smooth.  Nevertheless, it is now back up and running in a somewhat rudimentary fashion (as I learn the intricacies of a new tool).  It is accessible at http://chuckdietrick.com (no longer http://blog.chuckdietrick.com).

Hope to have things in better order in the not-too-distant-future.

I am not 100% confident that my subscriber list has survived the transition.  As such, if you’re receiving this and would prefer not to in the future, just email me at chuck@dietrick.net.

For the uninitiated, the blog has been in existence since 2008.  It typically gets in the neighborhood of 10,000 hits per month and has been published in a variety of newspapers.  It is intended to be an opinionated yet factual and often satirical commentary on the political/economic landscape.  On occasion, it’s random and off-the-wall.

Hopefully it’s provocative and causes you to think about your views and/or challenge mine.  I welcome and encourage any and all perspectives.

I generally look at the world through the lens of a limited government fiscal conservative and social libertarian.

Many of you will read my work and instinctively label me a conservative.  That would be a mistake.  Although I hold numerous clear-cut limited government beliefs typically associated with conservatism, my leanings are decidedly non-conservative on matters social in nature.  I have just as much disdain for those on the Right who attempt to foist their social “values” on us as I do for those on the Left who continually and imprudently want to expand the size and scope of government.

Below, I’ve included the links to a random sampling of my 300+ past blogs (all of which are available at http://chuckdietrick.com).  Give them a read.  Hopefully you’ll find them interesting and entertaining.

http://chuckdietrick.com/2010/04/rethinking-things/

http://chuckdietrick.com/2009/10/press-246-if/

http://chuckdietrick.com/?s=supply+siders

http://chuckdietrick.com/2012/09/advocacy-versus-idiocy/

http://chuckdietrick.com/2012/09/maury-povich-moment/

http://chuckdietrick.com/2012/10/godfather-iv/

http://chuckdietrick.com/2012/10/climb-aboard-the-dreamweaver-train/

http://chuckdietrick.com/2012/10/and-the-2013-nobel-prize-for-economics-goes-to/

http://chuckdietrick.com/2012/12/american-diplomacy-franklin-to-wintour/

http://chuckdietrick.com/2013/03/deja-vu-all-over-again/

http://chuckdietrick.com/2013/09/operation-shutdown/

http://chuckdietrick.com/2013/11/mama-always-told-me-not-to-look-into-the-eyes-of-the-sun/

http://chuckdietrick.com/2014/01/the-state-of-the-union-is/

http://chuckdietrick.com/2014/03/was-it-over-when-the-germans-annexed-crimea/

Brother Can You Spare A Dime

I found out something very disturbing today.  Hillary is not well off!  Bad for her.  Catastrophic for me.  Why the hell am I retired?  It may be time to head down to Home Depot and don the orange smock.  Hope they’re hiring.  If only we had a $15 minimum wage.

Who knew Hillary had it so rough financially?  Too bad she doesn’t make cookies; a bake sale could really help the family dig itself out of a hole.

If she’s your gal for 2016, buckle up; it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Her gaffe rate, well before the heat of an actual campaign, is off the charts.  Billy Beane may have to invent a new statistical category.  Dan Quayle’s presumed to be untouchable record could well be within striking distance.  Please don’t ask her to spell potato.

The Dems have spent so much time and effort trying to convince people that money is a disqualifier, it’s comical to witness Hillary attempt to unhitch the presumed millstone.  Unfortunately, she/they don’t realize that money is not the problem—sincerity is.

I don’t know about you, but I want a politician I can believe when she’s lying to me.  With Hillary, her every word and action elicits questions of genuineness.  Imagine four or eight years of the Clinton reality distortion field.  Frightening.

If that concerns you, I’ll bet your fears are a distant second to those of President Obama.  Hillary will be backpedalling from his policies faster than a speedster cornerback at the NFL Combine.

We’re seeing some early examples.  Her acolytes are supposedly claiming she was “stunned” when she heard the President and others in the administration push the video story as the reason for the Benghazi attack.  Apparently not so stunned that it prevented her from promulgating the fiction herself.

It’s almost as if she doesn’t realize that her previous utterances were recorded.  Stupidity, arrogance, or faith in a complicit media?  You make the call.

It has been commonplace for elites on the Left (and some on the Right) to matter-of-factly state how qualified Hillary is to be President.  Given the multitude of blunders and the fact that Hillary and her supporters have been unable to point to any significant/tangible accomplishments, will the resolve about her qualifications and the fervor for her candidacy remain intact?

Ann Richards famously said about Bush 43 that he was born on third and thought he hit a triple.  If that’s the case, Hillary is sitting in the dugout believing she just hit for the cycle.

Master Of The House?

The facts certainly are not all known on the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange matter, but my god, it once again does not look good for the President’s judgment.  And given Mr. Obama’s track record on a myriad of controversies, the inevitable release of additional facts ought not engender hopes of exculpation among his supporters.

Of course, should Sergeant Bergdahl turn out to be some undercover Jack-Bauer-like character, inserted purposely by the U.S. government/military into the Taliban, I will be the first to issue an Emily-Litella-inspired, never mind.

Was it not just last week, though, under pressure over the perceived fecklessness of this administration’s foreign policy, that aides to the President revealed the true Obama Doctrine:  “Don’t do stupid $hit?”  Well, it looks like it didn’t take long for stupid to hit the fan.

Speaking of stupid, what the hell was Susan Rice thinking when she dove headfirst—AGAIN– into the Sunday show waters with this equivocation-free gem, “Bergdahl served his country with honor and distinction?”  Seriously?  Benghazi, Schmenghazi.  Either she has asbestos fingers or a short-term memory disorder.

Ms. Rice had better look into caller ID for the next time an administration flak rings her up to represent His Eminence on a Sunday show.  Either that or learn how to fake a cough.  I haven’t seen learning this slow since Roy McAvoy went for the green in Tin Cup.  At least McAvoy finally made the shot.

Wake up little Susie!

Perhaps I’m being a tad harsh.  After all, one could make the case that she’s simply being the loyal employee.  An ideal team player.  The administration’s Mikey.  Give it to Mikey, she’ll do anything.

The interrogation lamp really should be pointed at the President.  It’s his policies and decisions that are in question.  Has a Commander and Chief ever been this out of his league?  I don’t recall witnessing anyone so overmatched since John Kruk stepped to the plate against Randy Johnson in the ’93 All Star game.

It’s actually painful, not to mention embarrassing, to watch him throw one irrational reason after another against the wall in an attempt to explain the inexplicable.  The hits keep on comin’.

“Regardless of circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity, period.  Full stop.  We don’t condition that.”  Huh?

Or, more to the point…

“We saw an opportunity.”

The reason for the six year economic morass is beginning to come into focus.  He seemingly has no clue as to the meaning of ‘opportunity.’

But, I’m probably wrong again.  Perchance we shouldn’t blame the President either.  He is who he is.  His incompetence and ham-fisted handling of the economy and foreign policy was there for all of us to see in November of 2012.  And what did we do?  Look the other way.

Shame on us.

I imagine the people who voted Obama in 2012 are same folks who thought Russell Crowe was fabulous in Les Mis.

Master of the House?

Everybody raise a glass

Raise it up the master’s arse

Everybody raise a glass to the Master of the House

Enormously Capable?

If you follow politics, you know the Democrats have a very simplistic yet effective approach toward communicating a message.  Say something so frequently that the masses, or at least a meaningful percentage thereof, ultimately believe it to be true.  To be fair, the Republicans try to do the same.  Unfortunately for them, they don’t have the benefit of near total mainstream media complicity.

‘It’s Bush’s fault.’  ‘Republicans are racist.’  ‘The Right doesn’t care about the poor, the old, the sick, etc.’  No doubt you’re quite familiar with these and many others.

Well, there’s a new one that’s getting a lot of air time among Dems and their media enablers.

‘She’s an enormously capable candidate and leader.’

The “she,” of course, is Hillary Clinton.

Expect to see the above statement and assorted variants made with remarkable regularity over the next couple years, because when you have a standard bearer (and her most ardent supporters) who can’t name her proudest achievement, or any achievements for that matter, you know it’s time to turbo boost the spin machine.

Let those words marinate for a moment to gain a fuller appreciation of their significance.

E-n-o-r-m-o-u-s-l-y  c-a-p-a-b-l-e…

Perhaps this is what “enormously capable” looks like when propped up next to six years of abject ineptitude?  What better time in which to be graded on a curve?

E-n-o-r-m-o-u-s-l-y  c-a-p-a-b-l-e…

Maybe she’s being awarded the mother-of-all Liberal participation trophies?  Those frequent flyer miles have to be worth something?

E-n-o-r-m-o-u-s-l-y  c-a-p-a-b-l-e…

Leader?  I wonder what Susan Rice really thinks of Hillary’s leadership?

In any event, if Hillary is an example of “enormously capable,” lookout below…

American Exceptionalism comin’ through!

Shameless

When I started this blog back in 2008 one of my objectives was to point out the outrageous disingenuousness on both sides of the aisle and in the media.  Not surprisingly, there was and is a never-ending source of material–whether it be a family values conservative caught with his moral outrage up and pants down, or a limousine liberal with a carbon footprint 100 times the average Joe lecturing us on climate change.

A couple priceless examples came to the fore today.  First, Media Matters (MM), the self-proclaimed “media watchdog” focused exclusively on attempting to discredit conservatives and promote the Progressive agenda, was exposed yet again for a duplicitous “do as I say, not as I do” stance.  Yep, the same Media Matters that is a faithful partner of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and a mouthpiece for unions in general and SEIU in particular, not to mention demonizer of any and every organization that pushes back against unionization, was discovered…wait for it…to be pushing back against unionization.  That’s right, Media Matters is not so keen on SEIU’s efforts to organize MM’s workplace.  Imagine that.  The hell with its poor, defenseless personnel operating under the thumb of a cold-hearted, oppressive, and inherently evil employer.

Gem number two involved Liberal commentator, Juan Williams.  When pressed on John Kerry’s very impolitic and widely panned private comments on the danger of Israel becoming an Apartheid state, Juan unapologetically stated, “He didn’t say it in public,” thus taking looking the other way to an entirely new plane.  By the way, this was the same Juan Williams who moments earlier was not shy about taking LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, to task for his highly inappropriate and racially charged diatribe–also uttered in private.  Ideology does have a way of turning one’s head.

There were no remarks from Congress on either matter—apparently they were too busy submitting insider trades before the market opened, getting their kids ready to be whisked away in large SUV’s to private schools while under the protection of armed security, and spending the afternoon at their non-ACA healthcare providers.

If only there were a pill for shamelessness.

The Unvirtuous Lifecycle Of An Obama Policy

Well, here we are at a critical juncture four years into what is likely the most ill-conceived, partisan-driven, and poorly implemented piece of legislation in the non-illustrious history of government ineptitude.

What do we know?  One, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is wildly unpopular.  26% approval rating in the latest poll.  Two, it has done virtually nothing insofar as accomplishing its primary goal (insuring the previously uninsured) is concerned.  By most credible estimates, only 1 million of the modest number of people who have signed-up to-date were previously without insurance.  Furthermore, the young people who are necessary to make the ACA’s dubious economics slightly less abhorrent are staying away in droves.

Of course, all of this was quite knowable to those who understand the unvirtuous lifecycle of an Obama policy initiative.

It always begins with an erroneous assuming of what the problem is (if indeed there is one) and/or how it might be addressed.

That is quickly followed by pretentious asserting, odious pontificating, and sanctimonious crowing.  All three are designed to first, expose the opposition as troglodytes for their contrary view, and second, demonstrate to the masses the compassion and brilliance of our protector.

When the great unwashed inevitably fail to see the wisdom—much to the dismay of our benevolent king—a solicitous retooling of the message is hurriedly undertaken, immediately followed by partisan cajoling.  The former is intended to roll out furiously poll-tested responses to the negative reaction, while the latter seeks to put Obama and his minions in front of the base to try and lock down the only support available.

Despite failing to garner anywhere near the level of backing necessary to move a major policy initiative forward, the president soldiers on with the strong belief that he is doing God’s work, and the ignorant multitudes will ultimately fall in line and see the light.  Predictably, that leads to an atrocious flubbing of the implementation, an unceremonious drubbing in the polls, and acrimonious finger-pointing.

And, if all holds true to form, it should also result in a conscious uncoupling of Democrats from the Senate in November.

 

Was It Over When The Germans Annexed Crimea?

Can somebody tell me why the U.S. should be anything more than a quasi-interested bystander in the Russia/Crimea situation?  Perma-hawks need not respond–I recognize that you firmly believe every unpleasant geopolitical event is a step on a slippery slope toward a global conflagration of apocalyptic proportions.

Exactly which of our vital interests are being threatened?  Someone?  Anyone?  No, I haven’t become an appeaser.  I do think what happens in places like Iran, and Syria to some extent, have implications that are potentially quite catastrophic and difficult to mitigate if allowed to proceed unchecked.

It appears the President is having a hard time answering the question himself.  If vital interests are truly at stake, I hope he’d be able to come up with sanctions a bit more stinging than ostensibly telling seven Russian bureaucrats they can’t go to Disney World.

Hell, Dean Wormer came down harder on Delta House.

Barry’s leading the marching band into an alley with no exit while Putin is driving an “Eat Me” float through Red Square.

Go big or just stay home.  Please.  Weak, ill-prepared, and vapid is no way to go through life…or conduct foreign policy.

Mr. Obama, your grade is in…ZERO POINT ZERO.

Five years of the presidency down the drain.

Barry, You’re Doing A Heck Of A Job

Last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report stating, among other things, that the Affordable Care Act would over the next decade result in a work-hours reduction equivalent to 2.5 million lost jobs.

Never missing an opportunity to demonstrate their lack of shame and propensity to spin, Democrats on Capitol Hill and Obama administration officials positioned the unfortunate news as a godsend (or should I say Obamasend) to worker freedom and family values.

When Democrats are reaching for family values, duck and cover.

“We need a better work-life balance.  Ask a working mother if she could use a few more hours in a day to take care of her family,” said Minnesota Democrat Representative, Keith Ellison.

Will Ellison also be asking that now jobless mother how she’ll be feeding her family?

I’m still trying to figure out what Chuck Schumer had to say on Meet the Press…and why he wasn’t challenged by helmet-headed David Gregory.  “The single mom who’s raising three kids (and) has to keep a job because of healthcare can now spend some time raising those kids. That’s a family value.”  Apparently the Senator doesn’t understand the “single” part of single mom.  I’m sure she can work out a way to deal with that pesky zero income situation.

Unquestionably, Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, had the most entertaining attempt at applying lipstick to the pig.  His interview on CNBC was priceless.  I haven’t witnessed such disingenuousness since Cox customer service told me that my call was important to them.

I understand former Bush officials, in an effort to bolster the administration’s historical standing, are attempting a similar tact.  They now claim that the housing meltdown was purposely engineered to re-establish the nuclear family.

And, that when the President said, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” he was actually referring to little Suzie Smith from Independence, Missouri who had just sold her one-thousandth box of Thin Mints on behalf of Brownie troop 2807.

See, when you know the true story, it’s really all quite understandable.

The State Of The Union Is…

If ever there was a State of the Union address that required no opposition party response it was last night’s.  Letting it marinate in its own special blend of small ball prescriptions for the future and ample reminders of five years of unimaginable failure would have been more than adequate.  No stirring necessary.

It was actually difficult to watch, but like the train wreck it was, hard to turn away.

Instead of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, or Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech in 1941, or even Bush 43’s “Axis of Evil” address in 2002, we got Obama’s Top Ten Trifles in 2014.  The really loud clapping wasn’t coming from the House Chamber; it was China.  They’ve got to be laughing out loud.  Raise the minimum wage; close tax loopholes; increase fuel efficiency standards for trucks; and reform unemployment insurance?  Year of Action…seriously?  When you’re this pathetic, at least go big.  No time for pusillanimous pussyfooting.

If Obama were half the constitutional scholar he claims to be he would have taken the 5th.  Instead, he incriminated himself more than a stumbling drunk during a field sobriety test.

Unfortunately, it’s the middle class and less fortunate who continue to take the rap for his crime.

The Opposite

Many of the headlines about the recent appointment of John Podesta as presidential counselor characterize his hire as an effort to ‘reboot’ the Obama presidency. The metaphor is certainly apt because reboot is typically what one does to a computer when absolutely clueless about what’s wrong with it or how to fix it.

Anybody who follows this president knows that the only counsel he keeps is his own and that when he seeks to bring people into the fold it is when he’s absolutely satisfied they will endorse his opinions.  He’s like a prescription drug addict shopping for a diagnosis to feed his dependency.  The doctor, like Barry’s trail of feckless counselors, are nothing more than enablers.

Clearly, what Mr. Obama actually needs is a twelve step program, or at least step one anyway, ’cause this train ain’t goin’ nowhere until he admits there’s a problem.

When every instinct you have and every action you take has the exact opposite consequence of what was intended, isn’t it time to take a step back and reevaluate your assumptions?

He wanted to enhance government transparency.  But his actions have made the situation worse.  He wanted to reduce income inequality.  But his actions have made the situation worse.  He wanted to expand and boost the middle class.  But his actions have made their situation worse.  He wanted to better the effectiveness of and faith in government.  But his actions have made the situation worse.  He wanted to bolster our international standing.  But his actions have made the situation worse.  He wanted to improve racial harmony.  But his actions have made the situation worse.  The examples go on and on.

Although the advisers have frequently changed, the policies and results have not.  The problem is quite evidently the host organism, not the bacteria in its inner circle.

Time for a Costanza-like moment.  “My name is George, I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.”

It’s his last best chance to impress us.

It’s The Time Of The Season For Gov…ing

So, about a week or so ago I logged on to Healthcare.gov to get a sense of what the cost might be for coverage comparable to what my wife and I currently have.

The good news…I got in on the first try.  The bad news…it was about 2AM Arizona time.  For Barry’s sake, let’s hope there are a lot of night owls among the uninsured.

It’s the time of the season
When GOV runs high
In this time, give it to me easy
And let me try with pleasured hands

But wait, more good news…the browser feature is now available without having to first delve deep into the registration process.  Oh darn…it was immediately evident why they buried it the first time around.  Sticker shock!

To take you in the sun to promised lands
To show you every one
It’s the time of the season for GOV…ing

Hold on…I did find plans with a monthly premium similar to what we currently pay.  Crap…the deductibles and yearly expenditure caps for those plans are roughly 250% greater than what we’ve got now.

What’s your name?
Who’s your daddy?
Is he rich like me?
Has he taken any time
To show you what you need to live?

But maybe…yes, there are plans with deductibles and yearly expenditure caps in the ballpark of our current plan.  Damn, screwed again…the monthly premiums for those plans are upwards of 250% greater than our current plan.  At that point, I didn’t even want to know if we could still access our doctors and hospitals.

Tell it to me slowly
Tell you what I really want to know
It’s the time of the season for GOV…ing

Only the Obama ZOMBIES can think this is good for the country.

At least the website has a good soundtrack (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc7b62El_fk&noredirect=1).

 

 

Mama Always Told Me Not To Look Into The Eyes Of The Sun

The hits keep on comin’.

Today we learned that somewhere between 30% and 70% of the federal healthcare exchange has not been built.  That’s right; the massively flawed and limited system that launched seven weeks ago—even if it had performed perfectly—would still have been a monumental disaster because integral components necessary and fundamental to completing a transaction have yet to be coded and tested—let alone implemented.  Not that this administration gives a damn about testing anyway.

And for good measure, we also discovered strong evidence that a memo detailing “high risks” to the Obamacare website and the personal information contained therein was kept from the guy responsible for determining whether or not the system was/is ready for prime time.

So, exactly when does the national narrative change from gross incompetence to cold and calculated fraud?

And when will the tingle up my leg crowd start to grow a pair and recognize this administration and law for what they are—utopian pipe dreams antithetical to the fabric of this country?

It’s time to stop being blinded by the light and actually see the light.

A brimstone baritone anticyclone rolling stone preacher has sold us a bill of goods.

Forget the silicone sister with a manager mister who told Barry he’s got what it takes.  They were wrong.  Dead wrong.  Period.

The calliope has crashed to the ground.

Shampoo Bottle President

Proving the old axiom that nothing in politics is new, President Obama is single-handedly reviving the 1850’s Know Nothing movement.  The Know Nothings, whose name was derived from the response (“I know nothing”) its members were instructed to give when questioned about the party’s activities, are alive and thriving in the 21st century.

When questioned about his familiarity with 20 years of Reverend Wright sermons; his relationships with Bill Ayers and other radicals; and his knowledge of Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS targeting of conservative groups, DOJ seizure of Associated Press phone records, NSA collection of data on U.S. citizens, spying on allies, and the ability to retain your doctor and healthcare plan under the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Obama’s response has simply and consistently been, “I know nothing.”

Nobody has been this clueless since Miss Teen South Carolina was asked why one in five Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a map.

If nothing else, it is entertaining to watch Barry and his surrogates unpack one wondrously elaborate excuse, deflection, and rationale after another.  Apocryphal does not begin to describe it.  Baron Munchausen is your boring uncle at Thanksgiving compared to these guys.

Of course, 42 percent of the population still believes in the guy.  Evidently, they’re the same folks who send money to Nigerian Princes.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the 2014 and 2016 elections. I understand the Democrats are trial ballooning a possible mid-term slogan: BO Knows…Nothin’!

Is it too late to rename the Peter Principle?

No doubt, though, despite unfathomable incompetence, somewhere down the road, the ‘our man can do no wrong’ pro O crowd will be pushing for his enshrinement on Mt. Rushmore.  If it happens, let’s hope he’s depicted in a historically accurate fashion—wearing a blindfold and earplugs and with the Obama Doctrine boldly inscribed:

Wreak havoc.  Deny.  Repeat.

Operation Shutdown

Denying the obvious isn’t supposed to be a GOP thing.  Republicans have generally been able to see the writing on the wall and act accordingly.  Sure, there have been exceptions, but typically when those on the Right have found themselves in an untenable position, they’ve mustered the good sense to back away with minimal turmoil for the good of the party.  The longer-term view has almost always prevailed.

This time appears different.  Perhaps the righties will come to their senses before it’s too late and won’t shoot themselves in the foot over funding the government and the raising the debt ceiling?  Unfortunately, even if they back away at the eleventh hour, the tactic is seriously flawed.  And they need look no further than President Obama for an example as to why.  On virtually every issue of significance to his program, Mr. Obama has led with bluster and intransigence only to be humbled, humiliated, and weakened by his inability to secure a victory.  Excuse me.  Please scratch humbled.

We get it.  The President has been an abject failure.  For the most part, you (the Republicans in congress) have done yeoman’s work to prevent, to the extent practically possible, even more of his economy- and culture-killing agenda from being adopted and implemented.  Pat yourselves on the back.  But recognize that you are standing on a precipice ready to take a dive.  This is a battle that very well could help turn the tide in the next two major political wars (2014 and 2016).

Step back.  Figure out a message that resonates…and some able messengers to deliver it.  You lost in 2012.  That’s been a damn shame for the country.  But elections have consequences.  Go win some in 2014 and 2016 so YOU can shape the consequences.

To paraphrase Hemingway:  You know what makes a loser?  Practice.

 

Stop practicing, GOP.

Love Hurts

Several days ago on MSNBC Dana Milbank, liberal Washington Post columnist, said something, perhaps unwittingly, that very likely pinpoints why Barack Obama has had such a failed presidency.

“I think if you’re a supporter of the president, you should be critical of him. You’re not doing him any favors by just sitting silently when he’s screwing things up.”

Yeah, I know, when are Dana and his paper going to follow that advice?  And I don’t mean the type of pinprick (to use the President’s favorite new word) criticism that’s been their style heretofore.

As we’ve observed over the past five years, Obama demonstrates, despite his protestations to the contrary, very little appetite for the ideas and concerns of those on the other side of the isle.  On the flip side, he’s had rabbit ears (no pun intended) for the negligible mainstream media criticism experienced to-date.

Unfortunately for him–and the country–that sporadic disapproval has never crescendo’ed to the point where he’s likely believed his hold on the media to be threatened. As such, he has continued to put forward an agenda that’s devastated the middle and lower classes and unprecedentedly (in the past 80 years) negated a post-downturn robust economic recovery.

You might wonder why he hasn’t altered course as a result of his very poor poll numbers?  That, in my estimation, is simply a byproduct of a general disdain for the populace and strong belief in his own superiority.  It is evident that he thinks it is only a matter of time until the great unwashed masses recognize the brilliance of his plans.  How many times has he reminded us that it’s not the policy, but rather how it’s being explained?  Of course, you know that inside he really thinks it’s our inability to comprehend—not his scholarly elucidation.

The mainstream media, however, is a completely different animal.  First, they are his ideological brethren.  Second, and more importantly, they have been and are his enablers.  He certainly recognizes that fact.  It was, after all, the mainstream media that identified him, elevated him, lionized him, and to our collective detriment–refused to vet him.  Regrettably, it was us who elected him.

In politics and in life, when one believes he/she is acting with impunity, one’s actions often tend toward the extreme or impractical.  Undoubtedly, that’s been the case with Mr. Obama.

Look no further than the 90’s for an example of how when the media is more willing to modulate the excesses on both sides and the parties in question are disposed to bending a little, we end up in a much better place.  Republicans start softening/reversing their antiquated positions on social issues and Democrats become less strident on the economic justice front.

Please, somebody get Obama an intern.

It’s for all of our good.

President Einstein

Tuesday’s the big day; another major Obama address to the nation, and relatedly, his latest effort to convince the populace to trust him.  Of course, when one is seeking trust, it’s always a bit dicey to initiate the dialogue with a blatant lie.  Hey, we all lie.  But what separates politicians is their ability to unequivocally tell you X…even though they’ve been previously recorded vigorously stating Y.

The flap did reinforce one point, though.  The only red line the President consistently refuses to cross is the one that divides the unaccountable from the accountable.

If Obama history is a guide, there’s a darn good chance his initiative will garner less support post speech than it had pre speech.  His only hope rests on the American public’s traditionally strong tendency to rally around the Commander-n-chief in matters of national security.  Unfortunately, that’s part of his conundrum.  He has yet to convince many that the Syrian situation has a material impact on U.S. interests.

His words while in Russia at the G20 certainly didn’t help to advance the ball.  Never missing an opportunity to remind us of his ineffectiveness, he said, “I was elected to end wars, not start them.”

Can a Nobel Peace Prize be clawed back?

If memory serves me correctly, Mr. Obama was also elected to:  close Guantanamo; halve the deficit; put more people to work; increase our powers of persuasion with the international community; bridge the partisan divide; reduce healthcare costs; improve government transparency; defend the constitution; and improve racial harmony.

Oh, that’s right…he got Bin Laden.  My bad.

Should he fail again at swaying public opinion, at what point will the media stop promulgating the myth of his superb oratory skills?

The President may have missed his calling.  He should have been a Physics, rather than Law Professor.

Every speech he gives has an equal and opposite reaction.

Land Of The Free (Stuff)

Steve Ballmer’s forthcoming departure from Microsoft and the chatter about his tenure got me thinking about culture.

I’ve always believed that the single most important aspect of any organization is its culture.  Concomitantly, leadership’s most critical responsibility is the establishment and maintenance of an environment that helps to sustain an ethos that fosters success.  An unambiguous, strong, and positive culture is an invaluable watchdog.  It sets a tone, defines expectations, polices performance, ensures accountability, and determines level of collegiality.  Of equal importance, culture can assist in the ability to handle significant bumps in the road.

All of the above is true regardless of organizational type or size.  The same goes for a giant, complex corporation like Microsoft as it does for a fledgling start-up.  Culture is crucial in a private club and a public university.  It is also vital within government, and it’s absolutely indispensable within the most important organization of all—a country.

Southern Europe’s supreme difficulty in righting its ship is not because it lacks potential or opportunity, or even the requisite talent, but rather because there are enormous cultural roadblocks.

Microsoft achieved unprecedented levels of growth and acclaim for over twenty years in large part because it had developed one of the strongest, success-inducing cultures in the history of corporate America.  In the late 90’s when the culture began to erode (“we” became less important than “me”…among other issues) the company’s dominance and relevance began to wane.

Once a viable, affirmative culture is in place, it has considerable stickiness—largely because of the self-sustaining elements I described above.  It typically takes some time and doing to unravel.  On the flip side, a bad culture is exceptionally difficult to turn around because those within don’t face significant enough (if any) consequences for acting in a fashion that’s not necessarily aligned with the organization’s best interests.

Unfortunately, the United States, in my estimation is beginning to show signs of cultural erosion.  The culture and its underpinning principles that have made us so historically great are losing their stickiness.  In the past when we veered off course, the self-healing nature of a hyper-strong culture assured a correction.  Common sense and an understanding of who and what we are as a country used to prevail.  If/when we became too conservative or liberal for the masses, we’d find a way to instinctively nudge back closer to the center.

Something feels different this time, though.

There are no doubt a multitude of contributing factors, but the most noteworthy in my estimation has been a fundamental change in the media.  The fact that it leans in a particular direction is not news.  What is news, however, is its abject unwillingness to ever (emphasis on ever) hold the party that shares its ideology to account in any meaningful, sustained way.  The administration and party have ostensibly been given carte blanche to pander to its constituencies without consequence.  The media has enabled them to create and push a compassion-centric narrative.  Anybody who opposes is harshly criticized in very pejorative and personal terms.  Every issue and every debate is framed transactionally with no attempt to contextualize within a bigger picture.  Group 1’s got to have X.  Group 2 must be given Y.  Group 3 can’t live without Z.  What nobody in the media seems to want to point out is that if Groups 1, 2, and 3 are given X, Y, and Z–Groups 1, 2, and 3 are going to suffer because they are being turned into a dependent class—essentially wards of the state, and Groups 1 thru 3, as well as every other group (i.e. the country), are going to lose when the bills comes due.

See ya later initiative and personal responsibility.  Hello reliance.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that if the other side was capable of crafting and effectively promulgating a compelling counter message, the media’s power could be blunted.  Until that happens we will continue to head down a very dangerous path.

Last week there was yet another example of the out of control compassion narrative.  The President made some proposals on higher education.  Of course, it contained items we can’t afford, particularly when you consider the tens and hundreds of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities represented by Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Nevertheless, that didn’t deter Congressman Charlie Rangel from going a step further.  Not one to bypass an opportunity to propose a new entitlement, Mr. Rangel, in his infinite wisdom, said college should be free.  Yep, that’s right, free.  The quote:  “There is no reason why a young person should have to pay for a college education…”  No reason?  Genius.  As expected, the mainstream media reacted with nodding approval.

Also last week, during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech, speaker after speaker and commentator after commentator cited a litany of additional programs the government needs to fund to improve the lot of African Americans.  Largely missing in action was any meaningful discussion of what the African American community needs to do to get its house in order.  The few moderate/conservative blacks who made the point were either marginalized or ignored.

Who needs personal responsibility when there are government initiatives to be had?

I get it now.  There’s no reason why we should have to pay for healthcare or college.  Why in the world do we have to pay for food?  Isn’t eating a necessity?  And what about clothes?  Everybody needs a shirt on his/her back.  Of course, in the name of fairness, we should all  have a right to the best labels?  Wouldn’t want anybody to feel slighted.  How about recreation?  Isn’t it essential for a healthy body and mind?  When are my greens fees going to be picked up?

Well, that’s enough for now…gotta get to my twerking class.

Culture, smulture.

Bye, bye, bye (Thanks ‘N Sync for briefly reminding us of simpler times).

 

Zimmerman Part II

On 7/17/2013 I posted a blog entry (http://blog.chuckdietrick.com/2013/07/17/fiasco.aspx) on the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin situation.  In it, I made the point that much of the pre- and post-trial commentary has been ignorant and irresponsible—virtually devoid of objective consideration of the evidence, understanding of the law, and juror obligations under our system of jurisprudence.

Now that the dust has had a chance to settle, the narrative seems to be changing a bit.  Grudgingly, more and more people are concluding that that the verdict was not irrational, and may actually have been reasonable given the evidence, law, and legal system requirements.

But, the controversy has not abated.  An entirely new line of attack has come to the fore.  Among the things we are now being told is that the law simply was not constructed adequately to convict a perpetrator who is so clearly guilty of something.  Or, the prosecution overreached by going for second degree murder.  Zimmerman most certainly would have been found guilty had they focused their efforts on manslaughter.

Not surprisingly, the prevailing “wisdom” is often arrived at rather reflexively and conveniently, without an examination of its implications.

What changes as a society are we willing to institute that will lead to someone being found guilty of second degree murder or manslaughter with the evidence set from the Zimmerman case?

Should the right to carry a gun be restricted in some fashion?  How about no guns at all?  Maybe disallow concealed carry?

Had Martin seen the gun initially, might he have been more hesitant to engage Zimmerman?  Perhaps.  But what about all the potential negatives associated with requiring external carry?

Is there something inherently wrong with a neighborhood watch?  Should we be dissuading or restricting communities from zealously protecting themselves?  If so, what are the limits?  Should you not be able to approach someone?  What repercussions would that produce across a whole host of scenarios in everyday life?

What about Stand Your Ground laws?  Repeal them?  Modify them?

In general, I find it superfluous to create a law to deal with an issue that is addressed by something already on the books (e.g. already have a right to self-defense).  Having said that, I do believe that requiring a supposedly threatened person to flee, if the opportunity exists, is sensible.

A State Senator in Florida is proposing to delete the provisions in its Stand Your Ground law that make justifiable use of force available to an aggressor who initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself.  First, would or should Zimmerman’s actions be legitimately construed as aggression?  Second, does that mean you should forfeit your right to try to save your life because you might have been more aggressive at the outset of an encounter?  If somebody insults my wife (an act of aggression) and I respond by beating the person to death, is that what he had coming?  He shouldn’t be allowed to defend himself to the fullest?

When you strip away all the good intentions, platitudes, and political correctness, there are very real and complicated implications associated with making the changes insinuated by those who see the Zimmerman trial outcome as unjust.  Conceivably, there may be balanced arguments for such alterations, but, do not for one second believe they can exist in a vacuum.  Their reverberations will be felt quite broadly.

Unfortunately, it’s super difficult for most law makers to recognize that additional legislation can often be counterproductive.  It takes discipline to accept imperfection when action only worsens the problem.

By the way, Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin should ignore that last sentence.

Fiasco

It’s hard to know where to begin when remarking on the George Zimmerman trial and its aftermath.

As a lay person on the sidelines, it’s difficult to know with certitude guilt or innocence. What one can develop a sense of, however, is degree of doubt. Whatever your assessment of the case, it’s hard, in my view, not to concede the considerable ambiguity surrounding the circumstances. As such, I certainly wouldn’t want our justice system to devolve to the point where we convict when such a high level of doubt is present. It’s an imperfect system, but intended to err on the side of freeing the guilty, rather than incarcerating the innocent.

What has struck me most, though, is the sheer ignorance and irresponsibility of much of the commentary, particularly from the media and those in the media spotlight.  One really has to search for reasoned, intelligent thought.  Too much of what I’ve heard and read has been poisoned by ideology, agenda, unchecked emotion and/or the need for approbation from the enlightenment police.

The most clear, concise, straightforward, no BS opinion that I’ve seen actually came in the form of a tweet by rapper Lupe Fiasco.  He said:

“Rub your face in it! Swallow down that hard pill! Black blood spills in the streets of America nightly at the hands other blacks  Yeah gimme that anger…once again that rage…that misguided angst when you <sic> true enemy is your own complacency and cowardice.  Curse kick scream yell tweet unfollow. Don’t matter to me if y’all don’t start valuing yourselves. N*****S will be in the same boat tomorrow.  Nobody knows what really happened except trayvon and Zimmerman. The justice system relies on reasonable doubt not our emotions.”

His last two sentences in particular are the essence of the matter.  The evidence, by any rational standard, has reasonable doubt written all over it.  Regardless of whether your sympathies skew toward Martin or Zimmerman or neither, ignoring that simple fact has rather grave implications for us as a society.  Those who state directly or imply that the jury reached an unfair verdict do so without an appreciation for the context of the law and the evidence threshold dictated by our system of jurisprudence.  Or, they have ulterior motives.

Does the black community have reason to be skeptical and perhaps even emotional?  Absolutely.  African American representation at the defendant’s table has historically been quite disproportionate.  And one wouldn’t have to look long or hard to find examples of injustice.

But is that a legitimate rationale for the imposition of another misguided decision?  Do we want to attempt to balance the scales with an eye for an eye approach?

If the goal, as some have stated, is consistent application of the law, let’s make said application consistently appropriate, not inappropriate.

One of the grand ironies of the unfair decision narrative (i.e.  Convict.  Reasonable doubt be damned) promulgated by the media and others is that it will ostensibly erode protections needed mainly by those who are most disadvantaged.

So what has become of our media?  Apparently, abdicating its role as government watchdog was not enough.  Ginning up racial unrest and weakening the justice system is now in its sights.  They tell us repeatedly of rampant racism and growing tension between blacks and whites.

Is that the case?  Not the way I see it.  From my perspective, the vast, vast majority of blacks and whites do and want nothing more than to get along.  More importantly, the institutional vestiges of racism that have made it unnecessarily difficult for African Americans to succeed and prosper have largely been eliminated.  Those who control the levers of power are now not only willing to let minorities into the tent, they’re actively and aggressively recruiting them.  Opportunity is there for those who are able to take advantage.

Unfortunately, in too many cases, that is a lot easier said than done.  Encumbrances still exist that make grabbing those opportunities very challenging for some.  The good  news, I believe, is the majority of the remaining roadblocks are, as Lupe Fiasco seems to intimate, largely within the control of the black community itself.

Quite a Fiasco…in more ways than one.

The “R” Word

A story about Soledad O’Brien and her CNN documentary series, “Black in America,” just caught my attention.  In a recent talk at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, she’s quoted as saying “some people have told her that the documentaries are ‘divisive,” and that they think black Americans should stop differentiating themselves from white Americans.”

She adds, “First of all, it’s only white people who ever said that—if we could just see beyond race.  If only people didn’t see race, it would be such a better place, and you are responsible for bringing up these icky race issues, Soledad, you should just let sleeping dogs lie.”

Expounding, she continues, “I was like, again, OK white person, this is a conversation you clearly are uncomfortable with, and I have no problem seeing race, and I think we should talk about race.”

I do not doubt for a second she has no problem seeing race.  In fact, I’m curious if she sees anything else.

Despite what strikes me as a condescending tone, there is certainly an element of truth to her point that race should be discussed.  She neglects to mention, however, that we should also listen to and allow a variety of perspectives—both from the Left and the Right.  Unfortunately, instead, it seems that the race dialogue is frequently dominated by individuals and groups who oftentimes have a vested interest in stirring the racism pot, if not promoting its actual perpetuation (although I do not believe that characterization applies to Ms. O’Brien).  Her very words, though, hint that she’s indifferent to and dismissive of opposing views.  Conversation is great, apparently…as long as it is one-sided.

I just wonder when we’ll know that the issue has largely gone away given the frequent marginalization of those who hold the position (and others) that Ms. O’Brien has ostensibly caricatured as that of a naïve white person.  Is it really only white people who wish we didn’t see race?  Were the white people she cartoonishly depicted uncomfortable talking about race (after all, they approached her, didn’t they), or is she uncomfortable with their opinions?

As I’ve written on numerous occasions in this blog, I come to the race matter as a long-time supporter of Affirmative Action.  But, the question remains, what must happen on the race relations front for the “professional race arbiters” to send the all clear that we no longer need to view the world through a racial prism?  I’m for the continuation of Affirmative Action, but that, in my view, is for reasons that are separate and distinct from whether or not Ms. O’Brien’s perception of race is correct.

It seems to me that if the race arbiters have set the bar at total eradication, then victory will never be achievable.  Outliers can always be found—no matter what the subject.  But, if the objective is the cessation (for all intents and purposes) of bias among those individuals, institutions, and corporations who are (or can be) the gatekeepers to success, we may be well down the road and possibly even at the destination–albeit an imperfect one.

I’ve always given credence to the view that it is difficult to fully understand another’s plight unless you’re able to walk in his/her shoes.  As such I have great empathy for those touched by racism, be it overt or subtle.  Concomitantly, it would be nice if those engaging in race discourse did not ascribe certain beliefs/prejudices to various individuals/groups to whom they very likely do not apply.

The grand irony in all of this, I fear, is that a relatively small faction of influential people are attempting to paint a picture of conflict between two groups that may be largely non-existent.

All the educated, power-wielding gatekeepers I come across have no time for or interest in bias.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  And, although I can’t speak for them, I’m pretty confident that the preponderance of the mainstream black community has little difficulty dealing with whites.

But, perhaps I’m just one of those naïve, quixotic white guys.

The Day That Leadership Died

April 8th, 2013—the day that leadership died.

One of our last remaining links to a time of liberty, freedom, limited government, accountability, and a steadfast belief in Anglo-American exceptionalism has passed.

What a shame.  In a little over thirty years we’ve gone from Iron Lady to Teflon Baby.  Union busting to endless prevaricating. Fighting communism to killing capitalism.

Oh, how the world could benefit from the return of Thatcherism.  Her belief in the interdependence of economic freedom and individual liberty, in smaller government, in personal responsibility and sweat equity as the only path to national prosperity, in the need to rein in public sector unions, and in the importance of free-market democracies standing tall against aggression is the perfect prescription for what ails us today.

As Mrs. Thatcher was so fond of saying in reference to capitalism and its inherent imperfections, “There is no alternative.”  Unfortunately, as we’ve witnessed over the past several decades with country after country, including our own, lurching toward social democracy, there is an alternative, but its consequences are self-destructive.

Although he was singing about Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper, Don McLean’s words ring just as true today…

“And, there we were, all in one place – a generation Lost in Space.  With no time left to start again.”

April 8th, 2013–the day that leadership died.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Even though our current president fancies himself as somewhat of a modern day Lincoln, in reality, his tenure appears increasingly comparable to that of a man who came to power a little over one hundred years later.

You be the judge.

One was an aloof control freak who operated exclusively within the confines of a small, like-minded inner circle.  The other—a detached political loner who rarely accepts any counsel but his own.

One used listening devices to deal with enemies.  The other–their modern day equivalent–drones.

One kept a black book filled with the names of foes.  The other—a simple kill list.

One had an abysmal record on privacy.  The other collects more information on private citizens than an Internet phishing scam.

One used executive orders/privilege to expand the powers of the presidency and block investigations.  The other issues rules faster than a TSA Administrator with a Red Bull addiction.

One famously exclaimed, “I am not a crook.”  The other, “I’m not a Socialist.”

One’s policies helped drive gas prices around the corner and down the block.  The other’s—up well over 150%.

One instituted wage and price controls.  The other just wants to control everyone’s wages.

One launched a secret war in Cambodia.  The other–ill-conceived and poorly executed interventions in a host of locales.

One opened the door to a then completely unknown China.  The other has attempted to extend an olive branch to an even more mysterious far eastern Communist nation.

In the former instance, Henry Kissinger broke the ice.  In the latter, it was Dennis Rodman.

One’s presidency was brought down by Bob Woodward.  The other’s…

Welcome back, Bob.  What took you so long?

Live From Saint Peter’s Square…

The Catholic Church is missing an enormous opportunity.  Its process for naming the next Pope is nowhere near the media event and recruiting vehicle it could or should be.  Why is a religion that’s facing a tidal wave of secularism not more proactive in engaging the faithful and potentially faithful in the choice of its next leader?

The possibilities are infinite.

How ‘bout a glitzy Selection Special–chock full of self-anointed experts, slick graphics, and B-roll–broadcast live from Saint Peter’s Square?

And why not a pre-Selection-Special combine to identify and showcase the talent pool?

Of course, there would be 24/7 Christian Broadcasting Network coverage starting months in advance, focused on the perceived strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.  Poignant human interest profiles would be featured on topics ranging from:  growing up preaching on the mean streets of Rome…to washing out of altar boy school at the age of nine.

The combine would be an enormous attention magnet.  It would spawn mock selections, betting lines, and Fantasy Pope Leagues.  Cardinals would be rocketing up or tumbling down selection boards.

Everybody would want to know who interviewed best.  Was it the smooth talking American, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, or the firebrand Italian prelate and sentimental hometown favorite, Gianfranco Ravasi?

Character issues would be widely discussed.  Who is soft on molestation?  Who has an addiction to sacramental wine?  And who skims a little out of the collection basket?

Should potential be the key criterion, or is the safe choice best?

Who is substantive, and who is all pope hat, no congregation?

How much flash is tolerable?  Should the hopeful out of San Francisco with the Old Testament full-body tattoo be disqualified?  What about the aspirant who pimped his ride with spinning rims, a Jesus bobble head, fuzzy rosary beads, and premium Bose speakers blaring Amy Grant?

Who can fire a Hail Mary deep so it’s heard clearly in the last pew, or be the lead blocker at a Pro Life rally?

Which participants dominated the one-on-one Bible drill?

Who looks great in a skull cap and red papal shoes but can’t bring it when it counts?  What about the phenom out of Central America who served up Communion in 4.2 seconds…on a slick marble floor, upwind in a drafty chapel?  Impressive.  But can he do it on Sunday?

Who all is ducking the combine?  Are they hiding something?  Will they show their stuff at a local church on an individual pope day, or gamble that past performance will suffice?

Just imagine the buildup to, and audience for, the release of the white smoke.

Now stepping to the podium with the first and only pick the Cardinal Dean selects, out of the College of Cardinals…

Da da da.  Da da da.

American Diplomacy: Franklin to Wintour

So, the President is considering nominating Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, as the next ambassador to the U.K. or France.  That’s right, Anna Wintour—the inspiration for Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada.

Our leader is clearly a visionary.  Many of us underestimated him.  Any concerns we may have been harboring about the country’s future were plainly misguided.

Who better to convince Francois Hollande not to block us in the U.N. Security Council?  Brilliant.  What a shame Bush 43 didn’t have this kind of foresight.  The Iraq War might have been averted.

One trip through the Vogue closet to grab some choice items for his girlfriend and old Francois will be putty in our hands.  Hell, for a Hermés bag, Chanel gown, and Louis Vuitton valise Ambassador Wintour could probably convince him to deploy troops.  He might even lead them into battle himself.  A 21st century Lafayette–fighting side by side with America.

This is truly inspired leadership by Mr. Obama.

A small army of celebrity superhero diplomats representing our interests across the globe.  Eva Longoria in Mexico.  Clooney in Italy.  Harry Belafonte in Venezuela.  Jay Z reopening relations with Cuba.  Katy Perry in Vatican City to smooth things over with the Catholics.  Natalie Portman in Russia.  Alec Baldwin as Middle East envoy.  And obviously, Oprah as Secretary of State.  The possibilities are limitless.

Anna Wintour could very well be our most important diplomat since Benjamin Franklin was sent to Paris in 1776.

Crazy?  Or, crazy like a fox?

Most Trusted Name In News?

Let me see if I have this straight.  The latest CNN poll of the presidential race has Romney and Obama in a dead heat, yet Romney is +22 among Independents.  Additionally, the internals reveal a sample skewed toward Democrats by 11 percentage points, despite the fact that in 2008 when Obama was at the height of his popularity he only drew 7 percent more Democrats.

Why the discontinuity in this and so many other polls?  How is it that the race is supposedly even when Independents are breaking in a major way toward Romney; when the enthusiasm gap favors the Republican by a considerable margin; when the gender gap has narrowed materially; when comparative early voting results are favorable toward the GOP; and when young people are significantly less enthralled with the Democrat ticket?  This is a different quantitative analysis than I was taught at Carnegie Mellon.  Maybe I’m just missing something.  Perhaps it’s that the Dems will do anything and everything to hold onto power?  Might that be worth a few points?

Of course, if moderate Democrats (emphasis on moderate) were honest with themselves, this race would be anything but close.  All they’d need to do is honestly answer the question of whether or not they would tolerate the performance and results of the past four years from a Republican.

Well, they are the party of tolerance—or selective tolerance, anyway.  Apparently they can tolerate massive debt and deficits; declining take home pay; dramatically increased dependence on government; record unemployment; burgeoning poverty; and a fraying social safety net.  But they can’t tolerate a good and decent man with a lifelong record of delivering results and working across the aisle to find common sense solutions.

Notwithstanding the fact that Obama himself said he’d be a one-term president if he couldn’t get the economy fixed in three years, the Dems keep insisting that good things are just around the corner.  Yeah, that’s what I thought  at Space Mountain.  Unfortunately, those corners just kept on comin’.

And ultimately, the ride was a MAJOR disappointment.

Clueless

President Obama just provided a glimpse of what a second term might look like.  His grand idea for jumpstarting the economy and getting us back on the road to prosperity is the creation of another cabinet level position.  That’s right—more government.  When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  And boy, have we been nailed.

According to Barry, the position will be called Secretary of Business.  If it wasn’t so sad, you’d have to laugh.  Can you imagine a bigger admission of economic cluelessness?

Ben Dreith, the old NFL referee, just threw a flag.  15 yards for givin’ us the business.

Of course, the position would ostensibly be ceremonial.  Everyone knows that the only economic counsel Obama seeks is his own.  If a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, what does that make a redistributionist president who is his own Chief Economist?

Who would even take such a position?  It would have to be someone used to being ignored more than a Obama administration cover-up.  Joe Biden’s speech tutor, perhaps?

Maybe I’m just cynical.  Barry could be on to something.  If you really suck at something, why not bring in another party to help?

Can’t wait for the Secretary of Leadership.

Big Bird, Binders, And Romnesia

If the past week or so hasn’t convinced you that Barry and his reelection efforts are shrinking before your eyes, you haven’t been paying close attention.  America’s first nano President.  It’s Moore’s Law—Obama style.  Every week he doubles pettiness and halves compunction.

The campaign has inadvertently invented the crap boomerang.  Every time they fling it, it circles back and hits them right between the eyes.  Who says Obama’s killed innovation.

What a long road it’s been from Hope and Change to Big Bird, Binders, and Romnesia.  Sad, actually.

Even more sad is watching their adherents on Facebook, Twitter, the blogs, and in the media at large try to pump life into each and every inanity. They’re outraged that Romney had the audacity to proactively seek qualified women for his administration, but unfazed by the destruction Obama’s policies have wrought on the middle class and less fortunate.  Accountability’s for suckers…and Republicans.

Rather than choosing to run on big ideas, they diminish themselves by desperately playing juvenile word games.  Romnesia.  Yep, that’s their ticket to another term.  Quite transformational.  Ironically, it’s the rest of us who are trying to forget the past four years.

What Axelrod and his not-so-merry gang of distorters have failed to appreciate, though, is that the general public has increasingly come to recognize Romney as a good and decent man. Certainly not perfect, mind you–but probably the straightest arrow to have ever run for major public office.  As such, the misdirection tactics and dirty tricks from their playbook simply don’t ring true.  In fact, they end up reflecting negatively back on Team Obama.

Quite the conundrum.  No record to run on.  No fresh, big ideas.  And a greatly diminished capacity to make hay with outlandish charges.

Fear not, Obama and company will soldier on. Their attacks will get nuttier and nuttier.  And the president will get tinier and tinier. I understand their new campaign theme song is, It’s a Small World.

Unfortunately for them, the magic has left the kingdom.

And The 2013 Nobel Prize For Economics Goes To…

If Oslo, Norway was watching last night, we may have gotten a glimpse of the front runner for the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics.  Move aside Classicists and Neoclassicists.  Take a step back Keynesians and Marxists.  Think again Austrian Schoolers.  There’s a new economic sheriff in town—Barack Obama.  In a stunning exposition, Mr. Obama just turned two plus centuries of economic thought right on its head.

To be accurate, the ideas are not Obama’s alone.  He draws from many, including the works of noted theorists Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer whose groundbreaking analysis demonstrated that food stamps and unemployment checks are the most stimulative, pro-growth measures a government can undertake.

Mr. Obama has also been shaped by the economic erudition of Barney Frank and Maxine Waters and their seminal research on the positive effects of home ownership among those of unsuitable financial means.

Make no mistake, though.  Obama is the Svengali.  He synthesizes a hodgepodge of disparate viewpoints, suppositions, and actual results into a comprehensive doctrine on what it takes to jumpstart and grow an economy, both near- and long-term.  Boldly, it is the exact opposite of what we’ve learned from examining societies across the globe over the course of multiple centuries.

He explains that four years of policies leading to anemic economic activity, a record period of sustained high unemployment, an unprecedented poverty level, lower take home pay and net worth among the middle class, exploding debt and deficits, rising healthcare costs, and a dangerously frayed and fraying social safety net is the prescription for future prosperity.  He elucidates that taxing income and capital formation at higher rates will not, in fact, disincentivize entrepreneurship and job creators.  And, he forcefully makes the case that the government, not the private sector, is our first best option for economic revitalization.

Because this doctrine is so far-removed from the mainstream of economic scholarship and everything we’ve known to be true for so long, one might call its proponents, Backasswardists, and the movement, Backasswardism.  Of course, in deference to the originator of this school of thought, its acolytes may more appropriately be categorized as Ba(ra)ckasswardists.

Engrave the trophy now.  As the Nobel committee has proven once in regard to Mr. Obama, results are not necessary.

Climb Aboard The Dreamweaver Train

I just had a dream that reminds me of something. Can’t put my finger on it, though. Maybe you can help.

A supposedly over-the-hill and outclassed fighter steps into the ring with an intimidating, seemingly unbeatable and toplofty heavyweight champion—a champion so dominating that he actually killed his previous opponent several years earlier. The champ’s supporters, including members of the government and media, are all there to cheer him on. As is his wife, a very statuesque and muscular beauty.

The media trivializes and dismisses the challenger, and extols the virtues of their practically superhuman fighter–a man they believe to be the byproduct of a highly progressive and advanced system.

The early rounds go according to script. The challenger is clumsy and awkward. He stumbles out of the gate and is pummeled by the menacing champion. But, as the conflict moves into the later rounds, the challenger slowly finds his footing and begins to land some body blows. They’re not much at first, but eventually they inflict damage. Gradually, the champ is exposed for what he is, a plodding and inflexible one-note fighter with a number of vulnerabilities. Yet, still quite dangerous.

Unfortunately, I awoke right before Act III unfolded.

Oh yeah, the champion’s name was Drago, and the challenger’s sounded something like Rocky, but with another syllable, I think.

Any idea what this might mean? I’m not great at interpreting dreams.

Godfather IV

JP Morgan CEO and former Obama supporter, Jamie Dimon, was ostensibly just rowed out to the middle of the East River and shot by Obama consigliore, New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman. That ought to teach Fredo to disrespect the Don.

In what has to be one of the more puzzling, political, and brazen anti-business moves by a Democrat (among a long list), the New York AG is suing JP Morgan for alleged acts committed by an independent Bear Stearns as part of the 2008 financial meltdown. In case you forgot, it was the government who came hat-in-hand to JP Morgan, strongly “suggesting” that it acquire a “too big to fail” Bear Stearns in order to prevent the country from falling off an economic cliff.

In return for his cooperation, Dimon and JP Morgan are now being held to account for supposed Bear Stearns misdeeds done well prior to JPM’s acquisition. That’s like your mother telling you to take out the garbage, then grounding you for going outside.

Hmm, no wonder the business community is retreating faster than the Pittsburgh Pirates after the All Star break.

Dimon and company, in their efforts to complete the Bear transaction, dotted the “I,” but didn’t cross the “T.” They secured an indemnification against subsequent action by the feds, but didn’t get one from each of the fifty states. Not surprising given the government was telling them that the collapse of the entire financial system was imminent. Time was of the essence. And who in their right mind would have thought possible such an absurdly ridiculous suit?

Well Jamie, now you know…when you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.

All The News That’s Fit To Ignore

What’s more striking about the 2012 presidential campaign than the differing economic and geopolitical philosophies of the two candidates is the way in which their perceived missteps and shortcomings are processed by the chattering class.

Any truly objective analysis would have to conclude that Obama and team are committing every bit the number of errors as Romney and company.  More importantly, many of Obama’s are governing in nature—with real, deleterious consequences.  But that never seems to be the story.  Why?

Democrat pundits just appear to possess an uncanny ability to remain focused on the prize.  They have no compunction about how the prize is attained, only that it IS attained.  Bernie Madoff’s auditor is astounded by their ability to look the other way.

Many Republican commentators, on the other hand, have this nasty and destructive habit of insisting that their man reach a level of intellectual purity and verbal perfection that is simply unattainable, particularly during a campaign.  They’d rather assail him for not bowing to some ideal than focus on what’s good about their guy and wrong with the opponent.There’s less backstabbing on the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Our economy can grossly underperform and the world can come apart at the seams.  Change the subject.

Al Gore can have a carbon footprint bigger than a ranch full of flatulent cows.  No problem.

Liberal darlings like Apple and celebrity clothing designers can operate third-world sweatshops.  Who cares?

The president can be in bed with General Electric and its CEO while simultaneously making outsourcing a centerpiece of his presidency and campaign.  So what.

Lefty politicians can sexually harass women, send their kids to private schools, and suck out  tens of millions of dollars as executives at Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  Your point?

Time to wake up, folks…or you’re really going to have something to complain about.

 

Maury Povich Moment

There’s something very enthralling about the Bad Boy.  He’s confident; some might say cocky.  He’s indifferent–kind of too cool for school.  He’s mysterious. You know practically nothing about his background.  And, he really understands how to sweet talk the ladies.  They have a palpable feeling of power when they’re around him.

Yep, the Bad Boy and the Bad President share many characteristics.

Deep down you know he’s going to break your heart.

Yet, you’re still drawn toward him.

He’s totaled your car, drained your bank accounts, caused you to lose your job, and left you pregnant.

Yet, you wait anxiously by the phone for his call.

There’s a nice Mormon boy down the street who your parents think would be just perfect for you.

He’s clean cut, a go-getter, and he helps little old ladies cross the street.  He promises you a great life and you’re pretty sure he’d deliver.

Yet, you’d rather live on the edge.  You think you can change him.

Wake up America!  This ain’t the Breakfast Club.  Throw away that earring.

Don’t you forget about Mitt.
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t.
Don’t you…forget about Mitt.

Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling.

Great Communicator Or Dissembler?

Get ready.  The media and the Left are ratcheting up the hype machine.  Can’t wait for their post-game analysis of another Obama speech.  They’ll be blowing more hot air than Chuck Schumer at a high school reunion.

I understand the English department at Berkeley was given stimulus money to concoct new adjectives to more eloquently describe its expected stupendiosity. Consider that one a freebie from me.

Comically though, like most Democrat supposed beliefs, there’s an enormous disconnect between words and reality.

Isn’t a great communicator actually supposed to be convincing?  Shouldn’t people on the fence or with differing views be expected to see the light?  In what world does support actually drop (e.g. Obamacare debate) every time the Great Communicator steps to the microphone?

Has a moniker ever been more blatantly misapplied? Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong.  Maybe it’s meant to be ironic–like when guys refer to their 6’8” 350 pound friend as Tiny?  No, that can’t be it; Democrats don’t have a sense of humor…unless you count electing Pelosi and Reid to leadership positions.

In any event, Republicans really need to get in on the game.  From this point forward I’m referring to Mitt Romney as The Natural.

Game winning homer to follow on November 6th.

Advocacy versus Idiocy

That dark cloud moving in isn’t the remnants of Isaac, it’s the incredibly cynical slash and burn tactics of the hard Left.  Have you noticed the change in tone the last few days?  It’s striking how ad hominem the attacks have become.  And I’m not talking about from the outer bands, but rather from the eye–party leaders and the candidates themselves.  Make no mistake, the Right has some elements that are out there, but the Left has more fringe than a vintage flapper dress.

How horrible it must be to spend your time crafting a message targeted at the most ignorant.  To take advantage of the woefully ill-informed.  To try to gin up raw emotion intended to turn one group against another.

From this point forward I’m drawing a line between advocacy and idiocy.

If you’re trying to tell me that the Tea Party is the American Taliban, or there’s a Republican War on Women, just go away.  You’re intellectually vapid.  You’re incapable of understanding issues and what the other side is about.

On the other hand, if you want to debate with facts, or in their absence–reasonable, supportable opinions–have at it.; I’m ready to engage.

You see, I happen to be Pro Choice (with reasonable restrictions), but I’m not obtuse enough to believe that those who hold the opposite view are women-hating Nazi’s.  Why?  Because I can see that it is perfectly sane for one to consider, whether for religious reasons or otherwise, that the sanctity of a human life trumps all.  Again, it’s not outrageous to want to protect a completely helpless and vulnerable fetus.  In fact, it’s pretty noble.

Similarly, I fully support one’s right to contraception.  But, I don’t deem those who might have a less liberal view on the matter to be misogynist.  Why?  Because I recognize that some are informed by their mainstream religion which happens to hold such a belief.  It’s not my cup of tea, but I understand that the conviction is rooted in something decent.

So, if you’re a parroter of this brand of nonsense, liberal or conservative, go away.  You’re part of the problem.

If you’re a believer in Big Government and think you can support that view, terrific.  I respect your opinions and am ready to hear your thoughts and share mine.

But, if you think Mitt Romney, the guy who has been a tireless, lifelong giver to his community and church, the person who has consistently put women in positions of power, and the man who believes strongly in lifting up the lower and middle classes through pro-business capitalism is anti-women or out to get the less fortunate, don’t waste my time or yours.

You shouldn’t be worried about voter ID laws, you need to be deeply concerned about a voter IQ law.

Sine Metu

Poor Joe Biden.  You know you’ve stepped in it as a Lib when the Boston Globe calls you out.

Once again, besides a dramatic dissimilarity in the role and scope of government, the biggest difference between Liberal and Conservative pols lies in their capacity to feel shame.

Republicans are only willing to go so far in the pursuit of power, then embarrassment takes over.  With Dems, power always trumps shame.

Sure, now and then you’ll get a GOP congressman or senator out there on Crazy Island, but his colleagues will generally and en masse be quick to rebuke and disassociate.  Not the Dems, baby.  They push their chips to the center of the table.  It’s all aboard the crazy train.

Perhaps I’m giving too much credit to the GOP.  It’s possible that they are every bit as inclined to be shameless, but are reined in by a hyper-partisan mainstream media?  Nah.

When the media almost never admonishes the Left’s outlandishness, it’s easy to see why they get even more ridiculous.

How else can one explain Harry Reid’s repeated comments on the Senate floor?  “Some guy” told him that Romney hadn’t paid any taxes in 10 years?  Way to let that go unchallenged, media.  Guess Harry has a job waiting for him after his Senate career is over.  Fact checking like that makes him a shoo-in at the Times.

The latest Biden incident demonstrates that even when there is a modicum of media disapprobation, the Left still doesn’t feel compelled to back off.

Stephanie Cutter, the President’s deputy campaign manager, said just today, unapologetically, that Biden’s remarks were “simply a distraction from the larger point he was trying to make.”

Yeah, and Ahmadinejad’s recent statement, “The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor,” diverted attention from his primary point that the Jews are a really swell people.

A Boob Too Far

Have you seen the latest?  Mayor Bloomberg declared eminent domain on New York City women’s breasts.  Yep, it’s now strongly encouraged that Big Apple babies suck on the government’s teat right out of the womb.

Cigarette smoke, salt, trans fats, sugary drinks, and now baby formula.  Bloomy is fighting on more fronts than the third century Roman empire.  Gaius Bloomberg Maximus.

Apparently, in the world of New York’s emperor, pro choice means the government’s choice.

One thing, though, has become abundantly clear insofar as the good Mayor is concerned.  Thank goodness he eschewed that pesky term limit law.  Hallelujah mega ego and messiah complex.  Better in City Hall than the White House.

Just imagine a President Bloomberg.  The 3AM call wouldn’t be concerning some erupting Middle East crisis, but rather the purchase of a Big Gulp at a 7-Eleven just outside DeMoines.

Release the hounds…er…launch the drones.

The Ass-Backwards President

In case you still weren’t convinced that Barack Obama is an avowed government-first statist, his speech in Roanoke, Virginia should have removed all doubt.

“If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.”  

Translation:  You’re nothing without the government…and by extension, those of us who pull the strings and dole out the largesse on which we’ve made many of you come to depend.

Now, if Romney were smart, he’d emphasize that the President has it exactly wrong.  It’s not us who couldn’t thrive without government; it’s the government and its millions of bureaucrats that wouldn’t exist without us.  Yep, your tax dollars and mine enable those in the professional political class to suck on our collective teat.  Their power and wealth is derived completely from us.  Everything the government “provides,” to themselves and back to us, is paid for out of our checkbook.

All of those precious entitlement programs are made possible because of our initiative, sweat equity, and perseverance.  The more Obama and his Democrat brethren squelch our instinct to achieve, the less we’ll be able as a society to give a hand up to those in greatest need.  Buh bye entitlements.  Hello Greece.

Romney must more effectively make the case.  He needs to remind those who require a refresher exactly what it is that made this country able to provide boundless opportunity, as well as a robust safety net for the truly needy–without threatening the nation’s long-term viability (prior to 2008 anyway).  For starters, it wouldn’t hurt to point out in some detail why Europe is imploding, and illustrate why California is in debt up to its eyeballs and a number of its cities have filed for bankruptcy.

But hey, the primary responsibility is with us.  We’ve gotta smarten up.  All the signs are there that we’re on a path to disaster.  There’s less writing on the wall of a Kindergarten art room.

Forget fat, drunk, and stupid.  Uninformed is the worst way to go through life.  Especially in an election year.

President Obama, you’re Delta Tau Chi name is Flounder.

50 Ways

With each passing day it’s becoming clearer and clearer that We The People are on the bad end of a dysfunctional relationship.

The latest Hill poll lays it out rather succinctly.  It finds that a sizeable majority of Americans believe the President, as per his campaign promise, has changed the country…but for the worse. 

Couple that with the fact a consistent two thirds of the voting populace consider the nation, under the auspices of this President, to be on the wrong track.  Then, layer on strong majorities in opposition to virtually every one of his pursued or considered domestic and international policy initiatives.  Finally, add in a complicating factor—collectively, we still have some affection for the guy.  His personal approval rating, while not high, is respectable, despite the fact most of us disagree with just about everything he’s done.

Confusing, huh?

I love you honey, but despise everything you’ve done to me.

Is that the foundation on which to continue a relationship?

Hey, it’s not like we didn’t give this thing a chance.  We jumped in head first.  Gave him opportunity after opportunity.  Only to be disappointed at every turn.  Unfortunately, that sweet talker we dated for over a year did a 180 immediately after saying, I do.  Why is it that the bad ones are always the most seductive?

Time to cut the cord.  Staying in a bad relationship never ends well.

There must be 50 ways to leave…

Vote for a new Sen, Jen,

Toss out your (congress)Man, Stan,

Time for a new Boss, Hoss.

And Barry…

Don’t forget to drop off the key, B.

Betting on America

I was amused to see that the Obama team has named the President’s campaign bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania, “Betting on America.”

Their honesty is refreshing, because nothing would be a gamble quite like another four years.

We really haven’t had to bet on America in some time.  Perhaps the prohibitive favorite status we’ve enjoyed for the last 160 years or so has gotten a touch boring.  Thanks Mr. President for spicing things up.

Maybe a new national lottery is in order?  It is compatible with the betting theme, and could take the excitement level to an entirely new realm?  And anything to help fund massive government expansion.

The Obama campaign described the intent of Barry’s day in Ohio thusly: “He’ll spend the day […] campaigning on his commitment to economic growth and job creation.”  In an unrelated matter, Lindsey Lohan announced her commitment to clean living.

Team Obama kicked off the tour on a negative campaigning note by claiming that Romney’s economic prescription would be a deficit disaster.  Romney responded by saying that Obama’s plan “blows a hole in the deficit.”  Mitt, you had me at “blows.”

Unsurprisingly, the national media has not inquired as to how the President is “Betting on America” by simultaneously betting against:  business, domestic energy, personal responsibility, and the rule of law.

Film at 11.

Roberts’ Rules of Order

Many may not like it, but Chief Justice Roberts got it right.  Importantly, he did so without legislating from the bench.

Despite the President’s protestations to the contrary, Obamacare, is and always was a tax.  Of course, Mr. Obama didn’t have the courage, ability, or intellectual honesty to sell it as a tax.  Instead, he and the Democrats in Congress, for political expediency purposes, attempted to obfuscate via the manufacture of a constitutional right that doesn’t exist.  Thankfully, Roberts affirmed that the Commerce Clause permits Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not compel one to participate in it.

Don’t get me wrong, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is probably the single worst piece of legislation in my lifetime.  Unfortunately, abominable law making is within the purview of Congress.  Now it’s up to the electorate to exercise its prerogative at the ballot box.

One thing our Golfer-n-Chief should have learned from his 100+ forays to the links the past four years is that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.  He just ricocheted one off the out-of-bounds stake right back into the fairway.  Bad swing.  Good result.  But, the hole and round are not over.  There’s a lot of golf left.

Romney now has to step up to the tee.  Heckling and hectoring from outside the ropes isn’t enough.  His message must include replacement specifics.

Luckily, there are far superior alternatives.  Romney’s ability to articulate one will be a test of his presidential readiness.

The four basic tenets of a free-market-centric substitute are, in my view, catastrophic coverage, health savings accounts, competition across state lines, and subsidized plans for the poor and those with pre-existing conditions.

Health savings accounts assign the critical cost management responsibility to insurees.  Interstate competition unlocks the powerful market forces necessary to drive prices down.  And subsidized plans ensure access for the disadvantaged and uninsurable without forcing prohibitive increases in private insurance premiums, but do so by only utilizing the government for 10 or 15 percent of the population, rather than the inverse.

Mitt, it’s time to be good.  Stripe one down the middle.  Luck is way too unpredictable…and fleeting.

You da man!

 

Jeb Bush, You’re Dead To Me

You committed the cardinal sin…blathering that Reagan ““would have a hard time in today’s Republican Party.”

You just had to say something to ingratiate yourself to the media elites and self-proclaimed “enlightened” class.

You had to lend credence to the nonsensical Democrat narrative of GOP intransigence and extremism.

Yeah, the narrative that tries to convince us that annual spending equal to 25% of GDP, instead of the standard 18% to 20% is A-OK.  The narrative that attempts to persuade us that a yearly deficit greater than 10% of GDP, rather than the traditional 2% to 4% (or less) is okey dokey.  The narrative that efforts to sway us into believing that a national debt greater than GDP is but an inconvenience.

Yep, today’s GOP is really extreme for standing firm against those who are driving us toward fiscal suicide.
We’re speeding toward a brick wall and the Democrats yell, HIT THE ACCELERATOR.  The wall is not so far off in the distance any more.  It’s right in front of us.  But the Republicans are extreme for insisting that we hit the brakes?
Reagan wouldn’t survive and thrive in such a climate?  He wouldn’t be able to use his legendary pragmatism in our present day partisan environment?
Jeb, your mom must have had you in timeout back in the 80’s when Reagan (and your Dad) took the top income tax rate from 70% to 28% and dramatically slashed the capital gains and dividend rates—doing so, mind you, while only agreeing to a couple handfuls of minor increases in relatively inconsequential taxes and user fees.  And in case you forgot, revenue doubled, too.
What’s that?  You say today is different.  The other side is simply immovable.
Well then, guess what?  Reagan would use his incomparable charm, communication skills, common sense, and powers of persuasion to take his case to the American people.  Their pressure would compel the Democrats in Congress to move.  After all, there’s nothing a pol fears more than being voted out of office.
You see, Reagan was adroit at defining and simplifying the big issues of the day, then gathering support for his solutions.  Quite the opposite of Mr. Obama who ignores the important, elevates the trivial, then leaks support every time he opens his mouth.
Yeah, poor old Ronnie.  He’d be lost in today’s Republican Party.

About as lost as Barry at a Hollywood fund raiser.

Rubber And Glue

The Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney are comically ironic. Every stone they throw bounces off Mitt and sticks to Barry. In the process, they’re serving to highlight their own laundry list of shortcomings. It does demonstrate just how bankrupt they are of any positive agenda or real accomplishment.

It is near impossible to hear or read one of their jibes without instinctively reacting, my God, that’s the POT(US) calling the kettle a hack.
On the Sunday talk show circuit last week Obama campaign advisor, David Axelrod, was quoted as saying about Romney, “When he left office state debt had increased, the size of government had grown, and over his four years, Massachusetts’s record of job creation was among the worst in the nation.”
Might have been a salient point had Romney not left the state with a 4.7% unemployment rate and balanced budget…and done so in an environment where he was the lone Republican in a Liberal haystack. And oh yeah, if Obama weren’t the biggest spending, job killing, government expanding President in our lifetime the jab could have had a bit more resonance.

Hey Axe, thanks for shining a light on your boss’s record of failure.

Then, in another head scratching over-reach, Team Obama started questioning Romney’s association with Donald Trump. Priceless. Yep, the guy with a documented history of consorting with radicals, domestic terrorists, and felons gets a pass, while the person who did a fundraiser with somebody whose downfall is that he’s an attention-seeking, obnoxious, self-promoter should be deemed unfit for office. Rich.
On Romney’s one term as Governor, Axelrod remarked, ”He was the drive-by Governor on the way to running for President of the United States.” Hysterical. No mention of Obama being clocked at 120 in a school zone on HIS drive to the presidency.
There’s no shame in Liberalville.
Obama and team are the obese, unsightly husband in a mustard-stained wife-beater continually berating the looks of their attractive, well-put-together wife.
Romney’s Rubber. Obama’s glue.

Those not for change in November, don’t have a clue.

 

 

Precious

Democrats are so precious.

When the country is heading south and they are at the wheel, stuff that’s forever been in their crosshairs suddenly doesn’t matter anymore.  It’s all simply beyond anyone’s control.

Deficits?  Inconsequential.  Debt?  Irrelevant.  Oil and gas prices?  Immaterial.  Unemployment?  Inconvenient.  GDP?  SchmeeDP.

And let’s not forget the big one:  Things will still be difficult post November no matter the President.  That’s right.  Our problems are just too monumental.

All this is supposed to convince us that Barry is blameless, now and in the future, and that we’re experiencing a “New Normal (i.e. permanent structural change).”  The fallback excuse for all of Obama’s and the Dem’s policy failures.

Classic Democrat spin.  Accountability is for other people.  Suckers.

Yes, the same belief of ignorant, delusional, and historically unaware investors regarding stock bubbles is also subscribed to by the Democrat faithful.  Things are different this time.

Well, guess what?  They’re not.

The economy is not different.  Newsflash:  It still reacts to the same positive and negative stimuli. 

Good policy begets good economy.  Obamanomics begets fiscal disaster.

Yeah, the President doesn’t matter.

And, it doesn’t matter if…

Your quarterback is Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf, or your CEO is Jack Welch or Ken Lay, or your Chef is Lagasse or Boyardee.

It just doesn’t matter.

Yeah, right.

Faux Pas At The Polls

Sarkozy and his Center-Right government are out.  Francois Hollande and his “moderate” Socialist party are in.

In case you’re as perplexed by the “moderate” descriptor as I was, allow me to enlighten.  It was only after examining Hollande’s platform that it became clear.  You see, one of his planks is to tax those making over 1.3 million dollars at a 75% marginal rate.  Were he not “moderate,” he’d actually want the entire 100%.  Thank goodness for temperance.

Au revoir bourgeoisie.  Bonne chance proletariat.

Bid adieu to whatever tax base France still had.  Millionaires will be fleeing the country faster than the French army.  Apparently Hollande didn’t see this movie when it first played in California, New York, and New Jersey.

Oh, and if that’s not enough to wreak fiscal havoc, Hollande also wants to roll back the retirement age for a good portion of the population to 60 from 62.

Vive la France!

They’re calling Hollande’s brand of socialism, free-market social democracy.  Free-market?  Interesting.

In his victory address, he stressed that more emphasis needs to be placed on economic stimulus, and that growth and unemployment would be given equal weight with balancing budgets.

Problem is, I’m guessing he sympathizes with that great free-market social democracy theorist, Nancy Pelosi, that nothing creates jobs like food stamps.

Who needs the Occupy movement when the Bastille has just been stormed and a 21st century Robespierre is ready with a new Reign of (Economic) Terror?

God help the French.

If only they believed in a higher power.

Almost forgot; they do.  Only his name is Jerry, not Jesus.

The next Jerry Lewis telethon…Live From The Champs-Elysees.

Let’s go to the tote board and see how much has been raised…

Throwing Stones

Over the last few weeks both government and the church have demonstrated, rather clumsily, why they should stay out of one another’s business.

First, it was President Obama’s ill-advised assault on the Catholic Church and its belief set regarding contraception.  Not to be out done, the Chairman of the Catholic bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development waded into the economic policy debate by declaring that Republican Paul Ryan’s budget “fails to meet [the Church’s] moral criteria” because it doesn’t require “shared sacrifice.”

Fails to meet the Church’s moral criteria?

Talk about throwing stones in a glass chapel.

Big assertion from a representative of an organization that institutionally discriminates against gays and women.

And could his point about shared sacrifice be anymore off base?

It’s Ryan after all, more than virtually anyone else, who recognizes that the out of control spending that’s been inflicted upon us by government “hurt[s] the poor first and worst.”  In fact, a stated goal for the budget is to “lift this crushing burden of debt, and repair our broken safety net.”  Yes, the safety net about which Bishop Blaire is surprisingly so ignorant.  Surprisingly because churches have been on the front lines of trying to lend a helping hand to the multitudes devastated by Obamanomics.

Does Bishop Blaire actually believe that a badly fraying safety net is going to withstand the weight of millions more people and tens of trillions more in obligations?  Perhaps, instead of condemning Ryan, he should be lauding him as a champion of the truth—one with the moral courage and intellectual honesty to do something about a disaster in waiting that, if unattended, is going to wreak unprecedented devastation on society’s most vulnerable.

Then maybe the good Bishop can say a few Hail Mary’s and a couple Our Father’s for supporting an orthodoxy that relegates gays and women to second class status.  Better yet, how about a prayer for the audacity to do something about it?

Can I get an Amen?

Hillary 2016

The Hillary hype regarding 2016 has heated up over the past several months.  Longtime Clinton insider, Paul Begala, stoked the fires in his April 14th piece in the Daily Beast.

It’s understandable that the Dems are trying to lay some groundwork for four years from now.  They are either going to be running against an incumbent Mitt Romney or an exceptionally strong GOP bench.  In either event, they’ll need to put their best candidate forward.

Of course, the 2016 speculation, in my view, is a bit premature.  The real and much more immediate question regarding Hillary is will she be on the ballot in 2012?  Do not be surprised if Obama taps her as his running mate.  As the Republicans coalesce around Mitt Romney and direct their fire exclusively at an already weak President, expect BO’s dropping poll numbers to cause widespread panic in Liberal Land.  That will result in the win-at-all-costs Dems to reach for the one ace up their sleeve.

The pressure will likely be intense, but, Hillary won’t be a pushover–particularly if she believes her 2016 chances are better if not encumbered by a potentially losing 2012 ticket.  The Clinton’s do have a way of looking out for number 1.  Barry will need to persuade her that he and the Democrat Party are 1A.  Promises to be very interesting.

Whether or  not the GOP runs against Hillary in this election cycle or the next, they’ll need to climb out of a small hole they’ve dug for themselves.  Because Obama and the Democrats have generally been so disastrous, and the Republicans have been hammering them incessantly, many on the Right have fallen into the trap of praising Hillary as a means of enhancing their fairness bona fides and mitigating the charges of hyper-partisanship.

The Dems have been effective at using their favorite tactic with respect to selling us on Hillary Clinton…namely, say something often enough and long enough until people think it’s actually true.

Begala, true to form, writes, “Hillary is widely recognized to have done an excellent job,” referring to her tenure as Secretary of State.

Now, I’ll concede that Hillary is one of the more competent members of the Obama administration, but that’s like being the skinny kid at Fat Camp.  My money’s on Hillary and Leon Panetta in the three-legged race.

Ain’t much competition for employee of the month in this inner circle.

My mind is open, but I’m having a hard time figuring out what is so “excellent” about the job she’s done.  Do we have better relationships with Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Syria, Egypt, the Palestinians, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, China, or Russia?

Perhaps she received a nice letter from Liechtenstein’s ambassador?

Or, maybe being a Democrat Secretary of State is like Liberal Little League…forget results, just bring home the participation trophy.

Way to go Brownie…er…Hillary.

Newt And Newtier

Just when you thought Newt couldn’t get any Newtier, he goes and throws his size 10 hat back in the ring—right after Santorum’s exit, and ostensibly subsequent to conceding on Fox News Sunday.  Damn near Obamaesque.  Makes Barry’s 2008 promise to accept federal matching campaign funds kinda quaint.

Yet another reason Newt’s not fit for the presidency…although, he does have the shamelessness thing nailed.

One more ‘smartest guy in the room’ who can’t see the writing on the wall.

I have it on good authority that Newt’s decision to wade back in went something like this:

Newt:  What do you think the chances are of a guy like me and an electorate like you ending up together?

Electorate:  Well, Newt, that’s difficult to say.  I mean, we don’t really…

Newt:  Hit me with it!  Just give it to me straight!  I’ve come a long way.  The least you can do is level with me.  What are my chances?

Electorate:  Not good.

Newt:  You mean not good like one out of a hundred?

Electorate:  I’d say more like one out of a million.

Pause…

Newt:  So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance!  YEAH!!!

Newt and Newtier.

Spare us.  Please.  You’re not all that you think you are…and certainly not what we need.  Time to move on.

Ring a bell?

The Old Gray Lady Is At It Again

Get ready.  The Left is cranking up its demonization machine.  Over the next few months there will be an all out assault on the conservative-leaning Supreme Court justices.

The New York Times editorial board just fired what will certainly be one of many salvos (The Roberts Court Defines Itself.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/opinion/sunday/the-roberts-court-defines-itself.html?ref=politics). 

Facts and logic be damned.

The Times asserts that if Obamacare, or some portion thereof, is overturned, it will be proof positive that the principle of judicial restraint is out the window.  In their not-so-balanced view, there is irrefutable evidence regarding the applicability of the Commerce Clause.  Yep, despite the fact that nowhere in the Constitution does it specify that the federal government can compel one to affirmatively engage in commerce (i.e. purchase a product or service), nor is there precedent that clearly indicates same, the New York Times wants to convince you and me that the conservative faction of the court is acting ideologically and is thus delegitimized.

Apparently we’re supposed to set aside the fact that the Commerce Clause, as clearly articulated in the writings of both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, was specifically intended to protect freedom of trade–specifically by ensuring the regularity of interstate commerce through the prohibition of state tariffs.  It was never meant to be used by activist judges to justify bad law.

Madison wrote that Congress’s regulatory authority “grew out of the abuse of the power by the importing States in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventative provision against injustice among the States themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government….”

With remarkable historical obliviousness, the Times says, “If the conservatives decide that they can sidestep the Constitution to negate Congress’s choices on crucial national policies, the court’s legitimacy […] will pay a very heavy price.”  Wonder if they felt the same about Brown v. Board of Education.

The Left has a hard time understanding that the federal government has enumerated powers.  They frequently want the courts to do what Congress is incapable and/or unwilling to do legislatively.  Or, as in this instance, they expect the court to fabricate and extrapolate a right through creative interpretation, as it did in Roe v. Wade.  For the record, I support abortion rights (with reasonable restrictions), but believe strongly that the matter should have been left to the states, rather than justified via linkage to a non-enumerated “Right to Privacy” power.

To be fair, the many abuses and attempted abuses of the Commerce Clause are not limited to the Left.  Conservative Justice and icon, and supposed strict constructionist, Antonin Scalia, has his own checkered past with the Commerce Clause.  In the 2005 case, Gonzales v. Raich, Scalia infamously ruled on the federal conviction of a California man who grew marijuana for use in his home (allegedly for medicinal purposes).  The Commerce Clause was used as supporting evidence in his opinion.  How interstate commerce came into play is a mystery.

“A split court striking down the act will be declaring itself virtually unfettered by the law,” so says the New York Times.  As opposed to a court that is willing to allow the government to compel virtually anyone to do anything?

That’s a world that will require some revamping of the Statue of Liberty…

Out with the torch.  In with a Taser.

 

What Would Sasha And Malia Do?

Have you noticed the President’s latest rhetorical device?

Despite his plea upon entering office to keep daughters, Sasha and Malia, out of the media spotlight, Obama is increasingly using them as props to explain his thinking on a host of prickly national issues.  Apparently he believes we’ll be disarmed by the poignant references…and see his side–the supposed human side–as the right side.

If only politics were as tidy as an ABC Afterschool Special.  Sasha and Malia, you’re good…but you’re no Lance Kerwin.

No matter the topic, BO has a Sasha and Malia angle.

So far, their names have been drawn into the debates on:  public access to contraception; Rush Limbaugh’s inappropriate comments; the availability of the morning after pill to those 17 or older; the rescue of an American aid worker from Somali pirates, and the campaign against childhood obesity.

What’s next?

Middle East peace process–Similar to when Sasha and Malia fought over who first called dibs on the bigger White House bedroom.

Massive stimulus–Reminiscent of when Sasha and Malia asked to have their allowances raised.

Keystone pipeline–Kinda like when Sasha and Malia wanted to ride the giant water slide at Six Flags.

Healthcare reform–Akin to the time Sasha and Malia had to see the school nurse.

You know, I’m starting to be persuaded.  The President’s arguments are much clearer when viewed through the Sasha and Malia prism.

No more will I need my Magic 8-Ball to figure out what the hell he’s trying to communicate.

It must have been defective, anyway…

Kept saying, “Reply hazy, try again.”

The President’s Gas Problem

The gas price narrative that’s unfolding in the Obama camp and liberal circles is fascinating.  Administration officials and their enablers are scrambling more frantically than Fran Tarkenton on a double espresso high.  Yep, the guy who told us he’d lower the oceans, now can’t even figure out how to lower the price of gas.

It’s gotten so bad in Obamaland that after sending his minions out for weeks to tell us that gas prices are out of the President’s control, the White House just announced that ‘ole Barry is going on a field trip to an actual oil and gas field.  YeeHaw!  Apparently the photo-op is supposed to convince us gullible folk that BO (guess that now stands for Big Oil) has his hands on the wheel and is doing everything possible to ease our pain.  I bet Axelrod already has a stunt staged.  I can see it now…Obama swings a giant pickaxe and hits a gusher.  Problem solved.  Our hero.

You see, “no control” is a one way street.  If the price happens to go down, I’m sure it will be due to the President’s sage stewardship.

Gotta love our blame-shifter-n-chief.  Is it possible to be any less accountable?  I mean, really!

George Orwell was right, “Enlightened people seldom or never possess a sense of responsibility.”

Poor Barack, the story goes…one man, even the President of the United States, is powerless to impact the price at the pump in the short/medium term.  It’s the fault of those evil speculators.  They’re holding us hostage.

Hmm.  Speculators, huh?

You mean the speculators who speculate how future circumstances and events might impact the price of gas?  The same circumstances and events that are driven or at least greatly impacted by presidential policies?  The very policies that are making it as difficult as possible to exploit our own natural resources?  The exact natural resources whose more abundant supply would enable us to put downward pressure on the price of gasoline?

Yeah, those speculators.

Do you think a more coherent energy policy might sway said speculators?

Perhaps one that calls for an aggressive conversion to a ground transportation infrastructure powered by liquefied natural gas?

Or, how about a policy that’s focused on creating supply that materially outstrips demand?  Rather than living in a world where demand for oil is around 87 million barrels a day and supply is roughly the same (perhaps as high as 90 million barrels), imagine if supply were materially greater?  Wouldn’t we be better able to absorb short-term shocks, and more importantly, wouldn’t the effort to sell excess supply put meaningful downward pressure on price?

I suspect the speculators’ tune would change pretty quickly if we put ourselves on a clear path to greater energy flexibility and less dependence.

If you think gas prices are high now, imagine what they’ll be in 2030 when demand is conservatively estimated to increase by 21%?

To not act now would be downright…dare I say…Orwellian.

Bubble Boys

George Will and Joe Scarborough really need to get outside the beltway more often.  Their recent declarations that Obama is a virtual lock for reelection demonstrates just how out of touch the D.C. “intelligentsia” is with the real world.

This could be the worst prediction since Ken Olsen, the founder/CEO of Digital Equipment Corporation said, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”

Now I understand the term idiot savant.

Ya think that in 1999 Will and Scarborough were also touting a worldwide Y2K meltdown?  If you need to borrow a generator or case of toilet paper, I suspect they’re your guys.

What is it that drives many on the Right to seek the approval of the Liberal media?  It invariably comes off as insincere.  It never results in support from the Left.  And it frequently leads to a loss of credibility on the Right.  Just ask Newt about Right Wing social engineering.
Let me see if I have this straight.  We’re supposed to accept that a guy widely believed to have been capable of walking on water, yet who still only won by razor thin margins in a host of red and purple states, is a shoe-in for reelection when most now recognize that he not only doesn’t walk on water, but probably can’t even keep his head above it while wearing a couple floaties and a lifejacket?
That’s first rate political punditry.
Oh, right, they tell us it’s the mythical power of incumbency that’s going to propel him to a second term.

Yep, the same power that wasn’t able to save Carter from being tossed out on his keister, or LBJ from throwing in the towel.  Guess that doesn’t fit the elite media’s narrative of the general public as a gaggle of idiots incapable of recognizing a failed presidency when they see it.
And, if incumbency is not enough, they remind us of the huge bounce Obama’s going to get from an “improving” economy.  227,000 new jobs last month!  That’ll seal the deal, they proclaim.  Disregard the fact that said jobs are coming over two years after the time period in which all post WWII recoveries have kicked into high gear…and the number of jobs is one third to one fifth what would be expected in the aftermath of a significant downturn.  The Reagan recovery, by comparison, was creating upwards of 1.1 million jobs in a single month.
Apparently, we’re also supposed to look beyond the unimaginable deficits, wildly unpopular healthcare legislation, skyrocketing gas prices, unprecedented right track/wrong track poll numbers, enormous defection of independent voters, and muddled (to say the least) foreign policy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Pollyanna.  I wrote extensively about the GOP not having a prayer in 2008.
Can the Republican candidate lose in 2012?  Absolutely.
But, to not recognize that Obama is VERY vulnerable and a 50/50 bet at best is to ignore the facts (economic, electoral, and other) and to be common sense free.
Steve Jobs left his fortune to his family, but it seems that he bequeathed something much more priceless to George Will and Joe Scarborough…his reality distortion zone.

 

Open And Honest?

Vladimir Putin characterized his landslide victory in March 4th’s presidential election as “open and honest.”  Wink.

The shirtless wonder flexed his muscles at the ballot box, where he won an “impressive” 64% of the vote.

His superpowers were on full display in Chechnya’s Precinct 451 where he took a rather astonishing 1,482 out of 1,483 votes.  Man, he’s gotta be kickin’ himself for blowin’ the shutout!

Still, 1,482 to 1 is pretty damn impressive…perhaps not as remarkable, though, as the fact that the precinct only had 1,389 registered voters.  Yep, Vlad the Great managed to snag an extraordinary 107% of the vote.

Jack Valenti, the late LBJ aide and long-time Motion Picture Association of America president used to say, “When I die, bury me in Texas because I want to remain politically active.”  Didn’t realize he had so many followers in Russia.

Chechens, whose separatists were massacred multiple times by Putin forces, apparently are more forgiving than a confessional priest with a plane to catch.

Putin’s campaign manager, Dimitri Axelrodov (), attributed the formidable showing to a strong ground game…and the team’s successful fight against a voter-ID requirement.

The only guy who had a worse day than Vlad’s opponents was the poor schlub who voted against Putin in Precinct 451.

Well, at least he won an all-expenses-paid trip to Siberia.

Petri Dish Politics

There is no doubt that the general electorate is excruciatingly clueless about economic policy and its effects on their welfare, but it’s hard to beat the GOP leadership and Republican presidential field for sheer ineptitude when it comes to utilizing available and incontrovertible facts to paint a compelling and broadly appealing picture of the benefits of Conservative economic doctrine.

Seriously, is there any easier way to teach than through examples?

For the sake of argument, I’ll even set aside the European example that I’ve detailed time and again.  Heck, most Americans can’t name the Vice President of the United States, so it’s probably wishful thinking to believe they can draw a parallel between Europe’s failed forty-year experiment with Social Democracy and Obamanomics.

Let me even ignore the voluminous historical data associated with fiscal and monetary responses to past recessions that I’ve described painstakingly in previous blogs.  Admittedly, it’s likely a fool’s mission to get today’s instant gratification, zero-attention-span public to appreciate the finer points of Keynesian versus supply side economics.  Hell, 99 percent of them couldn’t pick Milton Friedman out of a lineup with Milton Berle and Milton Bradley.

So, why not use the most basic example of all, namely, what’s happening TODAY in states with newly elected Republican governors?

Simple cause and effect.

Can it get any more obvious?

Vote out Democrat Governor.  Elect Republican Governor.  Bad stuff (e.g. deficits, unemployment, lost population) diminishes/disappears and good stuff (e.g. surpluses, jobs, etc.) appears.

I mean, c’mon.

Of course, if you’re one of my many Democrat friends, I know you much prefer biting off your nose to spite your face (see Jerry Brown).

Eighteen new Republican Governor’s were elected in the last cycle—many of whom replaced Democrat incumbents.  Not surprisingly, virtually every one of them is dramatically outperforming his/her counterpart in states with a Dem at the helm.

Look at six states in particular that switched to a GOP Governor—New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  All are experiencing robust turnarounds and far outpacing national averages in the rate of improvement and/or absolute performance.

Virginia eliminated a $6 billion shortfall left by Democrat Tim Kaine, and did so by reducing spending to 2006 levels, instituting a hiring freeze in state government, and not raising taxes.  As a result, the state is now generating a surplus, and it has slashed its unemployment rate from 7.2% to 6%.

Wisconsin turned a $3.6 billion budget gap into a projected $300 million surplus without massive layoffs, increased taxes, or cuts to Medicaid.

Ohio is in the process of closing an $8 billion budget deficit and doing so without hiking taxes.

Michigan is enjoying a revival as a result of cutting $1.2 billion in spending and eliminating its economy-killing business tax on gross receipts.

New Jersey is experiencing a remarkable turnaround as a result of Governor Christie’s fiscal prudence (and courage)—paring an enormous budget deficit and substantially reducing some of the most perniciously high taxes in the nation, helping to stem the mass exodus of its wealthiest citizens and save the tax base.

These successes are but a handful of those rung up by Republican Governor’s across the country, including those in more traditionally Red states like Indiana, Utah, and Texas.

HEY REPUBLICANS!  Ya think it might be time to start touting this record?

Either that or get ready for four more years of the Hawaiian Jerry Brown.

Aloha America.

P.S.  Hello means goodbye.

EZ Pass President

Perhaps you’ve heard about a recently released book from a former 19 year old JFK intern who describes in great detail her extended affair with the former President. It is incredibly lurid and adds color to what is already accepted as fact about Kennedy’s exceptionally prurient behavior.

Old thrill up his leg Chris Matthews was just asked if the new revelations would change his opinion of his hero, Jack Kennedy…even if the intern had been Matthews’ own daughter? Tellingly, but not surprisingly, he replied, no. That’s right, with one simply posed question and single word response, Chris Matthews pulled back the curtain on how the Left thinks. There is virtually no misdeed, no level of incompetence, no outrageous behavior they won’t overlook in the service of their ideology. Of course, that’s why the National Organization for Women ignored Bill Clinton’s misogyny, and other liberal-leaning groups disregard the missteps of those who share their world view.

Well, the grand liberal tradition of calculated apathy marches on. At least Republicans have the good sense to eat their own.

Barack Obama is just the latest Democrat beneficiary of media sponsorship.

Our EZ Pass president keeps on whizzing right by the toll booth.

He’s gotten more free passes than Barry Bonds with runners on 2nd and 3rd.

The subject is irrelevant. The liberal media can ignore or rationalize away anything—BO’s various Chicago associations, his unkept promise to accept public campaign funding, unprecedented and elongated unemployment, an anemic economic recovery, exploding debt and deficits, the Obamacare cost-containment fallacy, one failed housing fix after another, sophomoric and dangerous policies with respect to Libya, Israel, Iran, and the Middle East. And, let’s not forget the latest free pass, hyper-escalating gasoline prices.

Democrats and their media enablers look the other way more than a crossing guard with a nervous tic.

I can sense the protestations of my liberal friends. They’re thinking, whaddaya mean…Obama is getting grilled on all this stuff. Yeah, like a cop questions a hot blonde he just stopped for speeding. I’m going to let you off with a warning this time, Mr. President.. Take it easy now…and have a nice day.

To a Dem, a perfunctory query so as to not appear totally in the tank is tantamount to the full body cavity search a Republican president would receive if he/she were presiding over any (let alone all) of the aforementioned leadership disasters.

Slight difference between a sheepishly asked question with little/no follow up and the relentless furor of a rabid pack of media hounds hell bent on your destruction. Just sayin’.

Almost forgot. He’s gotten one other pass. Contraception.

Who figured that if Obama said, “free at last, free at last”, he wouldn’t be quoting Martin Luther King?

“Just Give 2012 A Pass”

Good old Thomas Friedman is at it again.

In his latest column he chastises the Republican party for letting “itself become the captive of conflicting ideological bases:  anti-abortion advocates, anti-immigration activists, social conservatives worried about the sanctity of marriage, libertarians who want to shrink government, and anti-tax advocates who want to drown government in a bathtub.”

If that’s his definition of captive, the Dems must be shackled, beaten, and caged by unions, pro-choicers, environmentalists, and anti-globalists?

Also, when did it become extreme to insist that people who cross our borders should do so legally?  Or, that government focus on what it’s intended for—national defense, ensuring opportunity, and providing a reasonable social safety net?  Also, is it outrageous to believe that some might be quite concerned about the vulnerability of the unborn?  After all, aren’t Democrats supposedly advocates for society’s most defenseless?

Guess it’s hard to see the whole picture when your head only turns to the left.

Friedman adds that the current crop of GOP presidential candidates are ill-suited to address America’s three greatest challenges:  globalization, huge debt and entitlement obligations, and climate change.

Apparently those are better left to a community organizer.  Yeah…one with protectionist, big spending instincts.

He states that we just can’t handle these difficulties with such an “incoherent mix of hardened positions.”  And here I thought it was the donkey that’s stubborn.  Who knew it’s actually the elephant?

Hmmm.  Think he’d include the following among those intractable ideological positions….

-Mitigating some of our energy independence issues by approving the Keystone pipeline, or allowing safe and responsible domestic drilling, or not making the approval of new nuclear facilities a near impossibility, or

-Dealing creatively with our education ills without allowing the teacher’s union to be a showstopper, or

-Attacking the root cause of many of our local, state, and national debt and deficit problems—public sector unions?

The world is not only flat…it’s pretty damn one-sided, too.  At least to Tom Friedman and the New York Times.

Friedman goes on in his usual pontifical way to assert that the aforementioned challenges would be eminently addressable if only the folks on the right side of the aisle would be willing to compromise like their willing Democrat colleagues.

He must have been hibernating during the healthcare “debate.”  I could be wrong, though.  Perchance he’s privy to some Obama magnanimity of which the general public is unaware.  It’s possible that Barry gave the Republicans a choice of font for all 2074 pages?  Or perhaps he offered to bind the bill on the right, rather than left side?

Most comically, Friedman wonders, because the GOP is “struggling to agree on a presidential candidate,” whether they “shouldn’t just sit this election out—just give 2012 a pass.”

Tom and his media buddies do know about passes…

-Like the one they gave Obama during the 2008 campaign.  Who needs a pesky vetting process?

-And the one he’s gotten the past few years.  Accountability is for Republicans.

-And the one they’re giving him now.  Why govern when you can campaign?

Instead, let’s give America a pass.

Elect a Republican.

He Was Practiced At The Art Of Deception

He…

Really wanted to serve his full six year Senate term…but didn’t.

Really wanted to allow five days of comment before signing bills…but hasn’t.

Really wanted to accept public campaign funding…but didn’t.

Really wanted to close Guantanamo Bay…but hasn’t.

Really wanted to prohibit lobbyists from joining his administration…but didn’t.

Really wanted to ban earmarks…but hasn’t.

Really wanted to negotiate healthcare reform on C-SPAN…but wouldn’t.

Really wanted to change the tone in Washington…but hasn’t.

Really wanted to reduce the deficit…but couldn’t.

Really wanted to reject Super PAC money…but won’t.

Ah, you can’t always get what you want.

But if you try sometimes

You just might find

It’s time for some change.

You know the kind.

The type you can count on.

Really.

I’m tellin’ the truth, babe.

Don’t get fooled again (Whoops, wrong band).

 

The Jobs Way

When asked what type of market research went into producing Apple’s iconic products, Steve Jobs famously responded, “None.  It’s not the customers’ job to know what they want.”

I get the feeling the same may be true of the most conservative faction of the Republican electorate.

If that includes you…

Have you scratched even one millimeter beneath the surface?

Are you done being swayed by snarky debate rhetoric and glib remarks?

Do you think it might be time to stop acting like a cat chasing a beam of light on the carpet?

Do you want an excuse maker to replace a guy you despise for trotting out every excuse in the book?

Do you want a morally suspect individual now when you considered the President’s morals then (back in the 1990’s) to be disqualifying?

Do you want a leader with zero executive and/or real world experience when the one we currently have is so clearly in over his head?

Do you want to trade a guy who hinted he could stop the oceans from rising and the earth from warming for one who’s promising the moon—literally?

You may be confused about what you want.  That’s understandable.  But, you’re going to like what you get.

So wake up.  The iMitt is here.

It doesn’t have the flashiest user interface, and it’s not something you thought you needed, but it’s going to bring a sea change.  Count on it.

Sorry, it won’t put a thousand songs in your pocket.

But it will make the economy take off like a rocket.

Think Different.

 

One Idiot At A Time

Are you the hapless moron the Left considers you to be?

Do you believe the wealthy are not paying their fair share?.  Are individuals with an effective tax rate of 15% a drag on society?  Should investments be taxed at the same rate as income?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above, hustle back to your village; it’s missing its idiot.

Don’t fret, though.  Understanding a few simple facts can elevate you to respected elder status.

First, wealthy people often have a lower effective tax rate because the bulk of their earnings tend to come from investments.  As a nation, we’ve chosen to tax investment at a lower rate—not because of a devious bias toward those with available capital, but because investing has risks and attracting investment dollars is VERY beneficial to society–particularly to the middle and poorer classes.

Let me address the risk element first.  An investment is often taxed differently than earned income (e.g. salary) because one, you don’t have to invest so inducements help, and two, its value can decrease.  In fact, it can go to zero.  So, in order to get individuals and businesses to voluntarily risk their capital, it is advisable to reward them with a lower tax rate (should the investment increase in value) to compensate for the risk that it might very well decline.  That’s common sense.  Rational people/businesses are willing to jeopardize their capital when they perceive the potential gain to be worth risking the possible loss.  It can be hard to justify putting money into a chancy endeavor when even if it makes money (often a long shot), half the gains or more will be taxed away.  That’s normally not a bet for the prudent.

So, what about the ‘VERY beneficial to society’ part?

I said that investment is good, and others say it all the time.  But why?  Can’t we just work hard, collect our salaries, and go home?  Sure, but doing so en mass would have catastrophic consequences for our culture and standard of living.  A few examples are in order.

Consider municipal bonds.  Municipal bonds are the way in which local communities, cities, and states acquire the capital necessary to fund various essential services and large projects (e.g. water/sewage treatment plants, roads and bridges, schools, etc.).  These types of undertakings are hugely expensive and almost always not able to be paid for out of available funds.  They frequently need to be completed now, but paid for over time via debt instruments (i.e. bonds)—not unlike the way most people purchase cars and homes.  If there was not a vibrant market (properly incented) for municipal bonds, these towns, cities, and states would have to pay orders of magnitude more to attract the capital necessary to fund their projects.  What does that mean in simple terms?  Instead of paying a  4, 5, or 6% interest rate on a loan, a city might be forced to pay 10, 15, or 20%.  Why?  Because when there are fewer interested buyers of a municipal bond (lower demand) due to less favorable tax treatment, the cost (i.e. interest rate) of reducing the bond supply is increased considerably.  Such a dramatic increase in the cost of capital would obviously have a devastating impact on the locale in question–likely manifested in a material reduction of services and infrastructure improvements.  And concomitantly, a substantial cutback in jobs tied to the provision of said services and infrastructure improvements.

How about corporate stocks and bonds?  Corporate stocks and bonds are generally the ways in which companies, particularly those in the expansion phase, fund growth.  And growth means more jobs–up and down the supply chain.  Just like with municipal bonds, if the market for corporate instruments is not robust, then the cost of acquiring the necessary expansion capital for companies rises substantially.  Elevated costs translates into fewer/smaller investments in new plant and equipment and/or a reduction in hiring.  The bottom line is a net negative impact to the economy through higher product/service prices and scarcity of jobs.

The story is just the same for mortgage securities.  If banks and other holders of mortgages can’t get them off their books (i.e. sell them), they have less capital available for additional lending and other GDP-enhancing activities.  So, when the supply of a good/service (i.e. money available to loan in the form of a mortgage) is constrained, steady or increasing demand will drive up its price (i.e. mortgage rate).  In case you’re still confused, that means higher mortgage rates and all of its economic activity reducing consequences.

Got it?

Try to see through the moronic populism of the Left and politically motivated and destructive nonsense of Newt Gingrich and others on the Right.

Actions have consequences.

You think you might want to stick it to the rich (despite the fact that the top 1, 5, and 10% account for 40, 60, and 70% of tax revenue)?  Well, the least affected people will be the rich.  Instead, you’ll be crushing everybody else–the folks who need government services, new and better schools, a mortgage, a car loan, a small business line of credit, or a job.

And oh by the way, you’ll be hurting unions and the elderly, too—whose pensions are levered to all of the aforementioned investment vehicles…and some others I neglected to cite.

Next time someone tries to hit you with the ‘fairness’ argument, KO him/her with the facts.

There are a whole lot of “villages” out there.  Educate one idiot at a time.

Don’t worry; they’re not endangered.  There are still 535 of them in the Capitol…and a bunch more on Pennsylvania Avenue.

 

Back To Basics

Time to take a step back boys.  Yeah you, GOP presidential candidates.

You are misguidedly, whether of you own volition or because of media prodding, spending a ridiculous amount of time focused on each other–and the completely insignificant.

As I recall, this election was supposed to be a referendum on Barack Obama’s abject incompetence, his lack of leadership, and his efforts to turn the United States into a European-style social welfare state.  Your job was simply to make the case for limited government fiscal conservatism as the best/only path back to prosperity.

Got it?

Stop diddling as home burns!

You missed another opportunity tonight.  Two stories that hit the wire today could have been used quite effectively to draw the contrasts necessary to put your party in the White House come November.

It was reported earlier (and of course ignored by the mainstream media) that Illinois is falling farther and farther behind on its debt.  More importantly, their situation has become increasingly precarious subsequent to a 67% increase in the state’s personal income tax rate and a 45% bump in the corporate rate.  The Dems, needless to say, promised these hikes would be a panacea for the state’s budgetary ills.  And oh by the way, the Illinois powers that be ostensibly refused to cut spending, too.

So, let me see if I have this straight.  Illinois raised taxes, didn’t cut spending, and things got a whole lot worse.  Funny, that’s exactly what fiscal conservatives say will happen each and every time the Left beats the drum for higher taxes and more spending.  One more concrete example of a Liberal policy proven dead wrong.

Ya think that might have been a worthwhile debate topic?

How about Moon Beam Jerry Brown’s call for higher taxes in California?  Yep, the Governor of the state with the highest or second highest tax burden (and one of the highest debt loads) wants another pound of flesh…and guess who he wants it from?  You figured it out–the wealthy.  Hmm, do you think that people worth a boat load of money will have much of a problem picking up and establishing a primary residence in Nevada, or Washington, or Florida, or one of the many other zero state tax states?  Or perchance Arizona…where the rate is less than half that in California?  And how about California-based businesses?  Think they’re all going to want to stick around?  What do you suppose will happen to the tax base then?  Debt explosion anyone?

Would it not have made sense to point out that Obama is using and wants to continue to use the toxic byproduct from the Illinois/California petri dish that happens to be killing Europe and has been infecting liberal orthodoxy here for decades?

What the hell, let’s spend more time tearing down capitalism.

That should do the trick.

Burnt Toast

You just can’t go there.

Forget the third rail.  Newt just licked his finger and stuck it right in an electrical outlet.

He’s toast in my book…burnt toast.

The nature of his criticisms of Romney’s actions while at Bain Capital are disqualifying.  No self-respecting fiscal conservative can possibly take him seriously now.

When Republicans start recklessly and maliciously tearing down Private Equity (PE) it’s game over.

It’s bad enough that such a small fraction of Americans understand the importance of PE, let alone how it operates, and its considerable benefits to our economic well-being.

In a world where President Obama’s class warfare rhetoric is one of the most dangerous and destructive elements to emanate from a presidency full of nonsensical bombast, it is outrageous for Gingrich to feed that beast.

On the bright side, Romney does have an opportunity to use the attacks as a means to clearly demonstrate the absurdity of the entire Private Equity/class warfare argument from Newt and the Left.  He should put it in terms that every American can comprehend, and expose the mendacity of his critics and those stoking the class warfare embers.

First, cut the knees out from under media proponents of, and adherents to, the ostensible notion that it’s wrong to restructure businesses and fire people in the process.

Should the New York Times, Boston Globe, and other major newspapers not have let go of thousands of employees when the market dynamic for print media changed dramatically over the past decade or two?  Would it have been better to march their full staffs right over a cliff than to save the businesses and the many thousands of remaining jobs represented therein?  Ones that would have otherwise gone away.

What about the electronic media?  The major networks have had dramatic downsizings–closing domestic and foreign bureaus and consolidating operations.  Should they have allowed their businesses to run into a brick wall, or was it better to steer away from the crash and salvage all the jobs possible?

Aren’t all of these ‘saved jobs’ anyway (using the Obama lexicon)?

How about the Post Office and its over half million employees?  Everybody knows it’s headed for disaster.  Would it be better to restructure it and save tens of thousands of jobs, or let it collapse under its own weight?

Without Private Equity and business restructuring in general, the big will get even bigger.  They’ll be able to absorb the assets of bankrupted companies and easily take over the weak.  Intelligent reorganizations at least give growing and/or troubled companies a fighting chance to remain independent or at least become vibrant parts of healthier organizations.

Romney should explain that if you don’t make large sums of money on the winners it makes no sense to take risks–because you’ll never make up for the inevitable and costly losers.

The businesses typically targeted by Private Equity have a high probability of failure (or being absorbed) if something isn’t done to reinvigorate and recapitalize them.  The companies that Romney was involved with at Bain Capital only went bankrupt at a 22% clip.  That’s a remarkably low failure rate and likely represents a very significant number of saved jobs.

Romney should seize this opportunity to point out Gingrich’s argument for what it is–a desperate Hail Mary from a guy who knows better, or certainly should.  More importantly, he can use this as a teachable moment (Barry’s not the only one who can have one) on why businesses and governments must adapt if they don’t want to become extinct.  It’s simple economic Darwinism.

That should appeal to the Left…after all, they do prefer evolution over miracles.

Caveat Emptor

A little over three years ago I saw a commercial for a used car dealership.  I wasn’t necessarily in the market for another vehicle, but the ad was so flashy and clever that it caught my attention.  As it turned out, the dealer was a relative newcomer to the business and was working hard to gain a foothold.

One of the cars highlighted in the spot was a classic american sports car–one that I had admired my entire life.  The problem, though, was that the car was in significant disrepair.  Its previous owner had been careless with maintenance and had damaged it rather substantially in a bad wreck.  But fortunately, it wasn’t totaled.  The dealer was selling it “as is” at a next-to-nothing price, with the understanding that considerable repairs would be necessary.

I was intrigued and went to see the dealer.  He told me that if I bought it, he’d get it fixed up and make it better than new.  I’d been around the block before and wasn’t prone to being fooled by a sweet talking car salesman, but there was something different about this guy.  I knew he didn’t have a track record, but he talked a really good game and seemed awful darn sincere, to boot.  And, he said everything with such confidence that it was hard not to trust him.

So, I bought the car and gave the dealership the go ahead to give me an estimate of the repair costs.  The amount nearly blew my socks off.  The dealer, however, assuaged my concerns to the best of his ability.  He convinced me that something worthwhile hardly ever comes cheaply.  Plus, he told me that his repair shop used parts that were far better than the originals.  In essence, he guaranteed me that the car would come back better than new–transformed, if you will.

It took a while, but the car was finally ready.  The dealer even personally delivered it to my home.

I was giddy with excitement.

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm quickly waned.

I hopped in and took it for a ride.  Much to my chagrin, it was riddled with problems.  The front-end was mis-aligned; the gas mileage was about one third what it was supposed to be; and the tail pipe was blowing some incredibly noxious fumes…just to name a few of the issues.

Needless to say I took it back to the dealership and complained vigorously.

The dealer said, “…Let us take another shot at the repairs, but you should also really think about purchasing an extended warranty.  Vintage cars like this can be fickle and very costly to maintain.  It will cost you a little more in the short run, but over time, it will more than pay for itself.”

I’m thinking…now he tells me, but I’m all in at this point, might as well go with the extended warranty, too.  I walked away with a bad taste in my mouth, but hoped it would all work out for the best.

Well, a week or so later the car was ready again and delivered to my house.  It shook a little less.  The mileage was marginally better.  And, the smoke was not quite as black and billowy.  But, it was nowhere near right.

This back and forth to the dealership has gone on for the past three years.

Finally, I decided that enough is enough and marched into the dealer’s office.

He says, “What’s the problem?  The car’s running better now; isn’t it?”

I said, “Indeed it is, but it’s nowhere near the car I know it can be, nor is it the one you promised it would be.  Plus, even if the next set of repairs happens to make it run as you swore it would, I just had to endure 3+ years of hell to get to that point when a competent dealership could have made everything right much, much sooner”

He said, “I don’t know about any of that, but the important thing is that the car is running better now.”

I replied, “You clearly haven’t heard what I’ve been telling you.  The car still doesn’t operate properly and it has been an enormous expense and inconvenience to me and my family over the past three years.”

He responded, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I don’t feel responsible; I’ve done everything I know how to do.  Tell you what, though…let’s talk about trading you up to this sweet baby right over here.  I am really excited about this car!  It’s the 2013 model, but can be ordered come November.”

Moral of the story:  Be really damn careful in November.

Resolve To Use Common Sense

January 10th, 2012 will be the 236th anniversary of the initial publication of Thomas Paine’s seminal pamphlet, Common Sense–inarguably a chief catalyst for the American Revolution gaining support from the colonial masses.

Paine provided a simple and easy-to-understand rationale for freedom from British rule.  His straightforward approach brought average Americans into the political debate.

In 2012 who is going to free us from an overly oppressive government?

Well, more that two centuries post Common Sense, it’s time for each and every one of us to take responsibility and channel some Thomas Paine.  A little common sense would go a long way, particularly given the current state of the country and world.

Sounds like a pretty good New Year’s Resolution.

Let’s make ourselves the final arbiter of what’s right and wrong.  We have the capacity to strip away the biases of the media, politicians, their operatives, and others–to look at the facts, then apply a basic reasonableness test to partisan arguments.

Forget about the who and focus on the what.

Is it common sense to believe that continued U.S. government spending at European or near-European levels won’t have the same catastrophic consequences?

Is it common sense to believe that soldiers trained to put country ahead of self and handle the most dangerous circumstances imaginable with calm and balance can’t tolerate colleagues who have a sexual orientation different from their own?

Is it common sense to believe that the government, rather than private sector, is going to be the answer to our economic woes?

Is it common sense to believe that programs and departments whose funding has increased upwards of 100% over the last 3+ years can’t have their budgets cut by 50% or more?

Is it common sense to believe we cannot safely expand the production of our vast domestic energy resources while simultaneously attempting to explore the viability of various alternatives?

Is it common sense to believe that “entitlement” programs that have one person collecting for every two or three paying in, as opposed to the 30 or 40+ that used to pay in for each recipient, are sustainable without reasonable reforms?

Is it common sense to believe we are better off as a country with a leader (and movement) who cynically and irrationally looks to divide us, rather than one who understands we all flourish when there is optimism and a respect for what has made us great?

Is it common sense to believe that a nation can prosper with a government that believes it is the first best option to fix everything that ails us, down to the most minute detail (e.g. 40,000 new rules and regulations took effect on 1/1/2012)?

I resolve to make sure that facts and common sense always determine my positions.

How about you?

Have a happy and rewarding New Year!

Time To Call Bullshit

We’re all really, really stupid.  At least that’s what Fox News appears to think.  Why else would they keep forcing Donald Trump on us?

Trump knows damn well he’s not going to run for President, and so does Fox.  I guarantee you Roger Ailes considers the odds of a Trump candidacy to be prohibitive.  And, in the very off chance he did decide to throw his hat in the ring, do caricatures automatically warrant extensive and serious coverage?

C’mon Fox; you’re supposed to be better than this.

Apparently, their perception of what drives ratings is now more important than honest analysis.  It’s offensive to be played for a fool.  I feel like a Democrat.

Don’t get me wrong, Fox has always been about the ratings, but the stories they’ve pushed and the angles they’ve pursued have typically had a certain authenticity.  Sure, they were frequently overdone and/or overhyped, and maybe even cherry picked, but at least they seemed rooted in the truth.

Let’s be honest; FNC is rarely balanced (hard to deny the slant); however, it has consistently been fair.  I’m ok with that…as long as the facts are well-supported and the opinions honest.
But now it’s time to call bullshit.  I’m not putting up with the Trump nonsense any longer (and haven’t been for a while).  For the past few weeks, as soon as Trump appears, or his “possible” candidacy is mentioned, I change the channel and keep it changed for the remainder of the day.
Yeah, I know; I’m not exactly lighting myself on fire in the town square, but some protests have humble beginnings.  Hopefully it will catch on.  If you agree, feel free to pass this along.
Fox, right now you’re on probation.
Get your act together, or…
You’re fired!

 

Rain On The Scarecrow

Just when you think Eric Holder can’t sink any deeper, he does a swan dive right into the “controversy” surrounding voter-identification laws.

You see, the Dems are ginning up all the phony outrage they can over the fact that a number of states have had the audacity to pass laws requiring voters to show identification.  Imagine that.

In Liberal land such laws are nothing more than a GOP voter suppression tactic meant to make it more difficult for the poor and elderly to get out to the polls.  Forget about the fundamental importance of fair elections.

Sure, it can be challenging for some to secure proper identification, but that doesn’t lessen the criticality of protecting the integrity of the voting process.

Integrity, in this context, has two characteristics–each vote cast must be legitimate, and every qualified person who wants to vote should be free to do so.

The poor, of course, are free to vote, and their potential difficulty in getting proper identification is relatively easily mitigated in a couple ways–via political parties, with their sophisticated get-out-the-vote initiatives, and/or with various government-sponsored programs.

We don’t stop licensing drivers because it’s disproportionately taxing for a relatively small percentage to get to the testing location.  There’s an overriding safety concern that trumps any such inclination.  The solution, just like with elections, is to help those in need gain access, not expose the entire public to unsafe/unfair conditions.  Common sense.

In making his not-so-subtle case against the Right, Attorney General Holder employs the standard issue Obama administration strawman argument.

Holder says, “The beauty of this nation, the strength of this nation, is its diversity, and when we try to exclude people from being involved in the process we weaken the fabric of this country.”

Try to exclude people?

Of course, this is a specious argument meant to pit minorities and the poor against Republicans.  Legitimate and reasonable safeguards against fraud have nothing to do with excluding qualified voters.

As usual, the scarecrow has no brain.

Holder makes another curious argument.  He says, “You constantly hear about voter fraud, but you don’t see huge amounts of fraud out there.”

Setting aside the fact that there are innumerable documented cases of fraud and that we’ve seen an increasing number of elections decided by slimmer and slimmer margins (making them ripe for manipulation), is this really the argument our Attorney General is making?  Wow.

You read about murder, but the actual percentage of people murdered is so small….

Anybody else find it odd that the Democrats want to regulate virtually every aspect of our lives, but are ambivalent (at best) when it comes to issues fundamental to what it means to be a sovereign nation–secure borders and legitimate elections?

When Holder is finally bounced out of office, he should expect a call.

Hello, Eric.  This is Vladimir Putin.  I’ve got a big election coming up; how would you like to be my….

Pitbull With A Perm

Ya gotta love DNC Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, she of the poodle perm and pitbull persona.

Today on Fox News she had the balls (trust me, she has them) to deny that unemployment has risen precipitously under President Obama.  In fact, her exact response was, “That is simply not true.”

Perhaps she should be cut some slack?  It’s quite possible Wasserman-Schultz was confused by the use of the word ‘precipitously.’

After all, she’s probably unaccustomed to hearing it used in conjunction with the verb ‘risen.’  Subconsciously, she might have been associating the adverb with sentences she hears regularly, where it modifies a verb that is an antonym for ‘risen,’ such as:

– Obama approval rating drops precipitously, or
– Consumer confidence plunges precipitously, or
– United States’ standing in the world plummets precipitously, or
– Housing prices decline precipitously.

So, you can see the potential source of her confusion.

Wasserman-Schultz has been prone to so many absurd statements it’s a wonder the Dems keep her around.

Well, at least she doesn’t shed.

And oh yeah, she, like all Democrats, holds a Get Out of Jail Free card.

Hmm, wonder where I can get Mitt one for Christmas?

A Square Deal?

The president will be in Osawatomie, Kansas tomorrow in an effort to hitch his wagon to Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy.  It was over 100 years ago, in Osawatomie, that TR delivered his most famous speech, calling for a “New Nationalism”–where everyone gets a “square deal,” a fair chance, and an equal opportunity to succeed.

Well, we ain’t in Kansas anymore, BarackO.

‘Cause in Obama’s Oz, a square deal has very little to do with equal opportunity and a whole lot to do with guaranteed outcomes.

Tomorrow’s campaign speech will most certainly be another march down Class Warfare Lane.  You can count on a giant dose of pontificating and podium pounding about the wealthy not paying their fair share.

Forget speaking softly and carrying a big stick.  With Barry, it’s more about talking often with a scripted shtick.

And set the facts aside.  They matter not in Obamaland.  In his alternate universe, the reality that the top 1, 5, and 10 percent account for 40, 60, and 70 percent of federal tax revenue is meaningless.

Also, who cares that according to IRS data the effective tax rate for those making over $1 million is 23.3%, but only 12.7% for those with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000.  Let’s not even mention that those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 are only federally taxed at an effective 8.9% rate.  And, oh yeah…shhh…around 50% pay no federal income taxes at all.

You can also count on the speech being full of rhetoric about how we just need to stay the course…that Obama’s policies are gradually digging us out of an enormous hole.  Just look at the latest unemployment numbers as evidence.  Great news, right?

Not so much.

That seemingly significant four tenths of one percent drop (down to 8.6%) that he’ll no doubt be highlighting was due, almost exclusively, to a precipitous exodus of people from the labor force–something he won’t be mentioning.  Yep, 315,000 people were so discouraged that they completely dropped off the labor grid.  Moreover, the labor participation rate is now at its lowest level in forty years or so–64%.

Yep, Obamanomics is really doin’ the trick.

Of course, let us not overlook a definite centerpiece of tomorrow’s speech–an extension of the supposedly temporary payroll tax cut (proving once again that the only thing harder to get rid of than an STD is a Washington give-away).  That’s right, the same payroll tax cut that’s been of virtually no benefit to the economy…the cost of which, if it had been directed toward pro-growth initiatives could have had a materially positive structural and systemic impact on employment and GDP.

What a speech it promises to be.  Oh to be so unapologetically disingenuous.  Apparently it helps when your constituency is comprised of the ignorant and faux enlightened liberal elitists.

Who needs the Bull Moose Party when we have the Bull Shit Party.

Just remember, on November 6th, 2012 click your heels and repeatedly chant, THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE AMERICA.

At least the one I remember, anyway.

OWS Symbiosis

In biology, symbiosis is the term for two organisms living in association with one another.  When the relationship benefits both, it’s called mutualism.  When there is no detriment or benefit to either, it’s referred to as commensalism.  But, when one organism profits from its connection to a host organism while contributing absolutely nothing to the host’s survival–often actually damaging it in the process–that is labeled parasitism, or, in layman’s-speak, Spitzerism.

Yep, things just got a whole lot worse for the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement.  Eliot Spitzer has implanted his seed.  Look out host organism!

Oh those poor OWS bastards.  If they only knew what’s growing inside.

Ripley, where are you?

Ever notice that when when a politician claims to be out for the ‘little guy’, he’s really out to increase his power…and the “little guy’s” dependence on his largesse.

OWS is nothing more than the latest pawn of the political parasites; their plight made worse by Spitzer et al, and his/their efforts to curry favor via advocacy of superficially attractive, yet ultimately big government, dependence-inducing policies deleterious to the long-term benefit of those they are “intended” to benefit.

Unfortunately (for the OWS folks), income inequality will not be abated by attacking corporations, eroding capitalism, putting more and more people on the government dole, and making it ever-harder to do business in the United States.

Therein lies a major difference between OWS and the Tea Party, and those from the political class who support each group.  OWS, if successful, would shift more power to the government in order to create/maintain the redistributionist infrastructure supposedly necessary to narrow the income gap.  In contrast, the Tea Party wants to transfer power to the people/marketplace in order to fashion an environment that is conducive for all to prosper–recognizing that equal opportunity, not increasingly equal incomes, is the only practical goal.

Reagan almost had it right.  The actual scariest words in the English language are, “I’m Eliot Spitzer and I’m here to help.”

Bain In The Rear

The professional Left, led by its primary attack dog, the New York Times, is off and running in an effort to discredit Mitt Romney’s business/management credentials.

As expected, they’re going after Romney’s record while at the helm of private equity firm, Bain Capital.  To the capitalist eye, while not perfect, it’s a record filled with one success after another, including the likes of Staples, the multi-billion dollar office supply retailer that used Bain and other funding as the catalyst for expanding from one store in 1986 to over 2000 today.

Not surprisingly, the Times conveniently ignores Staples et al and chooses to focus its liberal wrath elsewhere.  More specifically, their sights are currently set on a Bain investment from the early 1990’s–an Illinois medical technology company by the name of Dade.

You see, to the capitalism-ignorant Left, Bain committed a mortal sin.  In its crafting of a turnaround of a failing company, it, according to the Times, “destroyed” some 1700 jobs.   And…get ready for it…made a rather substantial return on its investment in the process.

In Liberal land, if you haven’t noticed, a job, especially one under the auspices of a Right-leaning person or entity, must be protected at all costs, literally.  That’s right, literally…even if hundreds, thousands, or millions of other jobs will be compromised as a result.  Apparently, the Left has no concept of “saved” jobs outside the context of its failed stimulus.  Yep, better to let a business fail and wipe out all jobs, than to streamline it and save some substantial percentage.

Further proving its bias and ignorance, the Times neglected to point out that Dade, purchased for $442 million in 1994, was sold in 2007 for about $7 billion.  And oh by the way, the company’s workforce ultimately grew by about 7400 in that timeframe.

The Times, with its liberal blinders on, sees only the initial, restructuring-related job losses and the large financial return to Bain.  It neglects to appreciate that sometimes a few have to be sacrificed in order to protect the many.  Moreover, the Times cannot comprehend that a large return on investment, in addition to padding the bank accounts of the wealthy, also drives considerable tax revenue to the government, and provides major dollars that will be recycled into other job creating/saving ventures (e.g. the next Staples).  In a word, it’s called capitalism.

A grand irony in the Times’ reporting is its failure to recognize its own hypocrisy.  The Times is only viable today because it had no rational choice but to cut, over the past decade, a large percentage of its workforce due to a dramatically different economic reality in the newspaper business.  To do anything else would have been suicidal.  Unfortunately, they use a different lens when scrutinizing the actions of corporations and private equity firms.

Not surprising though when your world revolves around the one organization that’s never been streamlined–the federal government.  The very federal government weighted down by the inverse of Moore’s Law–a doubling of stupidity and spending every two years.  God forbid that the Times ever see the parallel between bloated, non-competitive, and inefficient government and the similar circumstance in which it and the entire newspaper business found itself in the recent past.

That’s probably asking too much.  Just like it’s asking too much for the Times to acknowledge that the Solyndra’s of the world (and their investors) should have been so fortunate as to have an outcome like Dade’s.

Reputational Kryptonite

Add Bill Daley’s name to the long list of those inside or closely associated with the Obama administration who have had their reputations seriously compromised.

In case you missed it, Mr. Daley, while retaining his Chief of Staff title, has apparently been asked to give up many of his primary responsibilities.  Yep, another Obama-assisted suicide.  So much for the palpable enthusiasm in Lib-land ten short months ago when Daley was brought in to be the panacea for all that led to the Dems mid-term annihilation.

Insofar as I can tell, there are three categories of insiders orbiting the Obama sun, each with a pre-destined reputational outcome:  1) Staunch Lefties (e.g. Van Jones, Eric Holder, etc.) who have unwittingly been given the opportunity and rope necessary to hang themselves with the absurdity of their policy positions and/or sheer ineptitude.  2) Moderates and quasi-moderates (e.g. the economic team, Bill Daley, etc.) who have had to present/defend Obama’s social justice programs as their own.  And 3) The Clinton’s, who emerge unscathed and possibly stronger…like cockroaches, able to survive an Ice Age, an asteroid hit the equivalent of thermo-nuclear war, and worst of all…Obamanomics.

If only Icarus were a Clinton.

Take solace Mr. Daley; you (and your reputation) are but one of many left in Obama’s wake (see: Geithner, Summers, Romer, Zandi, Sebelius, Chu, Holder, and Buffett to some extent, just to name a few.

Don’t worry; Obama’s dragged more people down than the Killington Ski Patrol.

Hillary, don’t forget to turn out the lights.

Imagine

If you’re still on the fence regarding our president, while you sit back over the next twelve months and observe what promises to be among the most cynical and destructive reelection campaigns in modern times, simply contemplate what four more years would be like.

That’s right; four more years…without the constraints of having to run for re-election.

Can you imagine……the further destabilization and erosion of our market-based system; the freshly accumulated debt; the decline in productivity and competitiveness; the percentage of the population that’s government dependent; the depth of class division; the general loss of initiative; and the implications of a couple more Obama-nominated Supreme Court Justices?

Just imagine.

More importantly, picture what way too few people seem to–namely, what it would be like to be Greece, Italy, Spain, or Portugal…and why those countries find themselves in the predicament they’re in.

The Democrats are extremely fortunate.  So lucky that their constituents and a large slice of the populace in general, when formulating their world/economic view, have virtually no historical frame of reference or interest in relevant data points.

How fortuitous to be able to count on abject obliviousness–to have followers not capable of or unwilling to recognize the near perfect analog between Obamanomics and European Social Democracy.

And Democrats accuse Republicans of being anti-science?

It’s time for the Dems to ditch the donkey and replace it with an ostrich.  After all, the jackass is implied.

Next time you’re at a party, try to spot the liberals.  They’re the ones with third-degree-burn scars on their hands.  Never could figure at that hot stove lesson.

Imagine there’s no Obama
It’s easy if you try.

Existentialism For Dummies

As the saying goes, there are only two things in this world you can count on–death and taxes.

But there are a whole host of things you can’t.

Moving from left to right and up the unreliability continuum you have…a Chrysler, any Windows-based computer, Lindsay Lohan, Lucy holding a football, and the gold standard of all that is undependable–an Obama promise.

Well, step aside Barry, there just may be a new unreliable sheriff in town.

Yep, the elusive Eurozone bailout deal is charging hard on the outside and could nip Obama at the wire.

How many times are we going to be told one day that all parties have reached agreement (major market rally) followed the next day by disavowal of any such accord (big market sell-off)?

Has the absolute unreliability of items at the top of the continuum, such as an Obama promise or a Eurozone bailout deal, in essence made them ultra-reliable?

I’m no Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, or Sartre, but can something reach the point of being so knowably unreliable that it is actually reliable?

If so, does that mean that unreliable and predictable are not mutually exclusive?

This is mind-blowing stuff.

I’m going to run outside and into the woods to see if I hear anything when a tree falls.

Oh wait; I can’t be there when it happens.  Damn!

Hmm.  What if I see a bear while I’m there and he craps?  Boy, this is confusing.

And what If the Republican presidential nominee falls in 2012, will the country still be around to hear it?

Death, taxes…and Obama.

The Laws Of Physics Do Not Apply To Me

Back in the 90’s a young man by the name of Hugh Gallagher won a national writing contest with a very creative college essay.  Over the years it has popped up in numerous email chains.  You’ve very likely seen it at one time or another.  Here are a few excerpts to jog your memory:

“I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.”

“I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail.”

And my favorite line of all:

“The laws of physics do not apply to me.”

This got me thinking.  If essays are necessary to get into college, why not the presidency?

And because I’m feelin’ a little guilty about not supporting the president, I’m going to lend him a hand by taking a first cut at a draft essay.  That’s the kind of giver I am.

Here it is…

Barack Obama
Application Essay for the position of President of the United States

I am an effete intellectual, skilled in condescension.  I build model bridges to nowhere out of toothpicks lifted from Air Force One.

 

 

 

I excite constituents with my jaunty jogs to the podium, and take over entire industries with the swipe of a pen.  I can bowl a 37…left-handed.

 

 

 

I bow down to dictators and persecute allies.  I’m loved in third-world countries…and in all 57 states.

 

 

 

I give healthcare waivers to unions and the shaft to corporations.  My Attorney General is Fast and Furious.

 

 

 

I’m a uniter who divides; a role model who smokes; and an environmentalist with an enormous carbon footprint.  I look awesome in a bicycle helmet.

 

 

 

I’ve been known to throw out the first pitch…and get it almost halfway to the plate.  I can beat Sarah Palin three out five falls.

 

 

 

I give a 10 minute speech in an hour, and answer three press conference questions in 90 minutes.  I read a teleprompter with one eye tied behind my back.

 

 

 

I can change the tone in Washington.  Acoustical engineers marvel at my genius.

 

 

 

I walk on water in Hollywood and eggshells in Israel.  My administration has more czars than a Romanov family reunion.

 

 

 

I can golf after a tsunami, and down a large cone on Martha’s Vineyard while the economy is burning.

 

 

 

I’m cool as a cucumber and smart as a whip.  Just ask anybody and MSNBC.  I’ll send a thrill up your leg and a shiver through your wallet.  Fat cats tremble in my presence.

 

 

 

I can’t go to my right on the basketball court, and won’t in the court of public opinion.  In college, I dated Warren Buffett.

 

 

 

The Laws of Economics do not apply to me.

 

 

 

I’m your boogie man.  That’s what I am.

Sincerely,
Barack Obama

No ‘G’ Man

Did you happen to catch President Obama’s animated speech at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner on Saturday?

Obviously, the message from the Left got through. Goodbye dispassionate professor. Hello fire and brimstone preacher.

Sincere? You be the judge. It was the style and tone that I found intriguing.

Apparently, so did Maxine Waters, who said, “Some of his words were not, I think, appropriate and surprised me a little bit. I was curious about it.”

In what could be the first sign of the apocalypse, I concur. The Congresswoman is right.

No doubt one of the “curious” parts to which she referred was, “Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marchin’ shoes! Shake it off! Stop complainin’! Stop grumblin’! Stop cryin’! We are goin’ to press on!”

Is it possible for a black President to be racist toward a black audience? Again, you (and Maxine) can be the judge.

Minimally, it sure was condescending.

Only thing missing was Barbara Billingsley walking out on stage to say, ‘Excuse me; I speak jive.’ How else was the Fox News audience supposed to understand?

And just when we’re trying to extricate ourselves from wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, Obama has to go and start a fourth one…on the letter ‘G’.

No wonder the Left is so disappointed.

He can be entertaining, though.

I’m sure it’ll be standing room only when he addresses AIPAC in Yiddish and JFK Elementary in Pig Latin.

So, you think you’ve got problems? Oy vey!

The Mayor’s Too Damn High

New York City Mayor, Mike Bloomberg, warns that if Washington doesn’t do something to improve the economy there may be rioting in the streets.

Jimmy McMillan was wrong. It’s not the RENT that’s TOO DAMN HIGH.

Bloomberg says, “We have a lot of kids graduating college who can’t find jobs.  That’s what happened in Cairo.  That’s what happened in Madrid.  You don’t want those kinds of riots here.”

Insightful economic and geopolitical analysis like that has to be catching the eye of the Obama administration.  Winter’s around the corner; they’ve gotta have room for one more nut.

Listen to Carville; shake things up.

And what better way than with a made-to-order Obama cabinet secretary?  Don’t let him slip through your fingers.
Because, the one human who has less faith in the American people than Barack Obama is Mike Bloomberg.

If you’re going to help run a nanny state, it can’t hurt to have cut your teeth in a nanny city.

Fresh off his wars on smoking, salt, fatty foods, guns, and religion…to name a few, nobody would be better prepared to serve our 44th president than Michael Rubens Bloomberg.

The ‘Church Lady’ goes to Washington.

His ‘Superior Dance’ is done on Broadway.  Get ready for the national tour.

“Isn’t that special?”

The ‘Give The Economy A Fish’ President

For the sake of argument, let’s give the President the benefit of the doubt and assume that his “jobs” plan is not a political maneuver designed to gin up his base, throw bones to various liberal constituencies, or outflank the Republicans in the run-up to the 2012 election.

If that’s the case, we’re only left with one inescapable conclusion–pure, unadulterated incompetence.

How else can one explain the regurgitated hodgepodge of discredited stimulus measures, all temporary in nature, with no lasting structural impact on economic growth?  My goodness, has he learned absolutely nothing from history, including the relatively short history of his own administration?

Welcome to Cash for Clunkers Part 2:  This Time It’s Personal.  Instead of old cars, the clunkers are now broken down heaps of left wing transfer payment programs and bad tax policies.  Same cast; same bad movie.

I’ll give Obama credit for one thing, though…he’s proving that not all tax cuts are good.

Could somebody please clue him in that once the money for his myriad of ephemeral measures runs out, sustainable economic growth is not the result.  Rather, in their wake are the identical inefficiently taxed, over-regulated, and uncertain universe of individuals and businesses–with no real incentives/rewards to take growth-inducing risks, or to believe that the landscape looks less threatening going forward.

Who are the politicians, pundits, and economists who sincerely believe that giving people a little extra money via a payroll tax holiday (almost certainly to buy staples) is going to put us back on the path to prosperity?  That’s supposed to spur hiring and/or new business formation?  Seriously?

Are businesses going to jump at a $4K or $5K tax credit per new hire when the price tag on each of those hires can be 10, 20, 30, or 50 times that amount?  Moreover, if businesses can get beyond the high and unpredictable cost (due to uncertain healthcare and regulatory environments) of a new employee, won’t they generally be dissuaded by the Obama administration’s heretofore chilling effect on risk taking and history of demonizing numerous industries?

What might be most ridiculous, however, is Obama’s method of trying to sell the package.  He’s telling us that each and every item has previously been supported at one time or another by both Democrats and Republicans.  Yep, I took an aspirin for a headache a while back.  It really didn’t work, but I think I’ll try that again even though this time I’ve got a fractured skull.

Obama is the ‘give the economy a fish’ president.  Well, we’ve run out of damn fish.  Time to figure out how to go catch some more.

I’m certain there’s a boat load of them over in Comprehensive Tax Reform lake.

Somebody PLEASE get Obama a rod.  FAST!

Big Night

The anticipation; the spectacle; the drama.

Cue Hank Williams Jr.

NFL opening night?

Nope, the President’s speech before a joint session of Congress.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME OBAMA???!!!

The excitement is palpable.  The number one overall draft pick in 2008, big man on campus, and gunslinger out of Harvard by way of Columbia is coming back after three stunningly disappointing seasons.

Phenom.  Unprecedented talent with immeasurable potential.  Heralded by tens of millions.  A stud who, just a few years ago, delivered a combine performance never before seen is now a shell of the formerly assumed-to-be future Hall of Famer.

His contract is up in 2012 and he’s in danger of becoming the biggest draft bust since Ryan Leaf.

What in the world happened to the wide-eyed kid who could inspire enormous crowds in under 4.2 seconds; sling an ethereal utopian proclamation 80 yards down field; and do a standing broad jump right over the competition?

Even the media is scratching its collective head.

No doubt, though, it’s a major blow to the Ivy League.  Their players have frequently looked enticing on paper, but routinely failed miserably on the playing field.  It could be a long, long time before someone spends another number one pick on a Crimson QB.

A series of self-inflicted injuries have decimated a once oh-so-promising career.  Who can forget the tragedy of Obama’s slip on a TARP back in 2009 when he knocked himself silly after banging his head hard on the turf.  Some claim he has yet to fully shake out the cobwebs.

Undeterred, he valiantly tried to come back, only to be felled again by a rare malady, hyper-sluggishness-disorder (or H-Slug)–an abnormally low red blood cell count.  Unfortunately, the prescribed STIMULUS actually exacerbated the problem–nearly shutting down his entire circulatory system.  Inexplicably, he and his doctor’s opted to eschew a well-understood and historically 100% effective treatment, triggering a highly distracting HEALTHCARE debate within the organization.

Well, here we are nearly three years after it all began and a battered and bruised Barack Obama is looking for a fresh start and “fighting” his way back onto the field.  Will he be able to recapture some of the old luster?  Will those long bombs stop being intercepted?  Will his diminished skills still be able to wow?

Or, will his many travails prove to be simply too TAXING?

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME OBAMA???!!!

Weird Al

I was just reading with great amusement Al Gore’s latest screed on climate change in which he decries meat eating, and by extension industrial agriculture, as significant contributors to global warming.

Funny, by looking at jolly old Al, one would have thought that he’s connected to a meat IV 24/7.  Apparently not.  Perhaps he’s actually being fattened up with 55-gallon sacks of cornmeal like a prize pig in the Tennessee State Fair?

On second thought, how stupid can I be?  This is certainly just another classic ‘do as I say, not as I do’ Goreism.

I’m getting a clearer picture now.

<begin wavy line sequence>

The guy with the carbon footprint of a small republic is wolfing down a 48 ounce porterhouse on board his private jet while in transit to a lecture on responsible global citizenship somewhere in the South of France.

He did purchase carbon offsets, though, albeit odd ones–volunteering to nurse a large litter of newborn goats with his ample man-teats.  How organic of him.  Take that industrial farming complex.

<end wavy line sequence>

Leadership begins at the top, you know.

Be careful industrial farming industry, or Al and his liberal buddies are going to do for you what they’ve done for the financial, healthcare, and energy sectors.

On the bright side, I do see millions of green jobs in our future.  Yep, once there are no more giant agriculture corporations producing all that nettlesome food, each and every one of us is going to be forced to plant a backyard garden in order to feed ourselves and those who are starving in third world countries.  Very progressive.

Don’t worry, if that doesn’t work, I’m sure food stamps can be produced from reprocessed cornstalks.

The picture is becoming clearer, yet.

<begin wavy line sequence>

To demonstrate that he is somewhat in tune with our current dire fiscal situation, Al, in a conciliatory nod toward increased government efficiency, suggests that the same IRS department that ensures we each have healthcare coverage also police our backyard gardens.  Clearly, a Tea Party Patriot in the making.

<end wavy line sequence>

All of the aforementioned pales in comparison to the best part of Gore’s philippic–where he criticizes climate change skeptics and essentially compares non-believers/doubters with those who didn’t see the light on racism in decades past.

He says that when racist comments were uttered years ago, “There came a time when people said, ‘Hey man, why do you talk that way?  That’s wrong; I don’t go for that, so don’t talk that way around me.  I just don’t believe that.'”  He wants believers to do the same when people express doubt about global warming.

Besides the fact that nobody has said ‘Hey man’ (or ‘Hey bro’ for that matter) since Beverly Hills 90210 went off the air, isn’t it so very typical for Gore and others of his ilk to suggest censoring those with opposing views rather than substantively debating the facts?

Obama is the worst president in history, hands down  Case closed.

Hmm, must be catchy.

New York Times Columnists Say The Darndest Things

Did you happen to see New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on CNN’s Reliable Sources?  He was asked by host Howard Kurtz if the media blew it vetting Obama during the 2008 presidential race.

Friedman, self-important windbag and long-time president of the Know-It-All club, responded, “Way too soon to tell that kind of thing, I think.”

Is it?  Really?

Should we have been surprised that an academic and community organizer without a day’s experience in the private sector or even as a party leader steeped in legislative deal-making might not be equipped to handle the biggest, most difficult job in the world?  A backbencher with an indisputable penchant for voting present on vexing issues was somehow going to magically morph into a Churchillian-style leader?

Maybe that’s what they meant by “transformative figure?”

Actually, the unwillingness or inability of Friedman and others to see the truth explains an awful lot.  When some don’t find the obvious…er…obvious, is it any wonder why the same failed economic policies keep getting proposed time and again?

I’m guessing that Friedman also thinks it’s way too soon to know who the New York Times is going to endorse in 2012.

Warren, Warren, Warren

In a New York Times editorial publish today, Warren Buffett is back up on his high horse lecturing the great unwashed about how he and his super rich buddies should be paying higher taxes.  It’s outrageous, he pontificates, that his effective tax rate is substantially lower than that of those pulling down a small fraction of his enormous income.  I know, I know, you’ve seen this movie before.  Ole Warren relishes the opportunity to do this roughly every six months or so to demonstrate to his effete friends that he is not only a swell guy, but the undisputed king of the oh-so-enlightened Left.

The implication, of course, is that our financial woes would largely go by the wayside if he and his uber-wealthy friends would simply be required to kick in a little more.  What a patriot.

Unfortunately, there’s a fly in the snake oil that Buffett is selling.  But, if you’re going to be Obama’s top economic b*tch in the private sector, I guess that’s how the game is played.

You see folks, the numbers just don’t add up.  The feckless, lapdog mainstream media won’t tell you this.  They’re out spreading the Buffet gospel as proof that there is little/no need to veer off the social democracy path Obama and his acolytes have placed us on.  We can fund all their Utopian ideals on the backs of the “wealthy.”

Sorry.  Wrong.

Here’s the part where fiscally liberal eyes glaze over.  The facts are just so troublesome to the quixotic.

In 2008, the federal government collected roughly (before refunds) $1.175 trillion from individuals and couples filing jointly.  The top 1% (those making over $380,000), accounted for 38% of the $1.175 trillion total.  If their tax rate was raised to 100%–that’s right; if the top 1% paid every cent of what they earned–the government would only collect an additional $938 billion.  That’s about 56% of this year’s Obama deficit.  That assumes, absurdly I might add, that the top 1% would be motivated to earn at the same clip even though they’d be required to give it all to the government.

Furthermore, the amount collected would be even more insignificant given that Buffett is suggesting higher taxes “just” for those making over $1 million and $10 million, rather than the $380,000 threshold represented by the top 1%.

Still think it’s not a spending problem?

Shamefully, Buffett, Obama, the mainstream media, and the professional Left continue to inflict this canard on the masses—people who generally don’t have the time, inclination, or wherewithal to dig up the facts.

Their shamelessness doesn’t stop there.  They also tell us that job creation was strong and deficits were lower during the Kennedy and Clinton administrations when taxes were higher.  Again, they rely on specious arguments targeted at an economically ignorant general populace.  They neglect to point out that Kennedy dramatically decreased taxes, making them substantially lower than those of competing economic powers (i.e.  England and other Western European countries); thereby attracting capital and stimulating growth.

With respect to Clinton, they fail to acknowledge that he benefited from three of the largest bubbles (Internet, Telecom, and Y2K) in the history of the world, and more importantly, that globalization had yet to fully take flight—so the options for deploying risk capital were still ostensibly limited to the United States and a few other not-so-enticing countries.

Finally, they don’t comprehend that investment capital is taxed at a lower rate than incomes because it is at risk—meaning it can go down…all the way to zero in some cases.  If we don’t properly incent people to take the chances necessary to grow our economy and create jobs, where would we be as a nation, and what kind of social safety net could we possibly provide?

Today, geo-political/economic demographics are dramatically different.  There are a myriad of global alternatives insofar as the deployment of investment/risk capital is concerned.  What fiscal liberals consistently fail to understand is the mobility of money in a global economy.  One can simply look within our own country to see that dollars flow to where they are treated most favorably (e.g. businesses, as well as hundreds and thousands of mega and not-so-mega rich moving out of high tax states like NY, NJ, and CA to the sun belt states that offer a much, much lower tax burden).

If the media were not slanted, the real story resulting from Buffett’s Op-Ed would be the need for the type of tax reform I’ve been advocating—a two tier “flat” tax with rates of 10% and 25% (exempting the first $40,000 of income) that eliminates all deductions (with the possible exception of charity).  Such a structure would greatly simplify the system, substantially broaden the base, and be a boon to growth.

And, it would increase Warren Buffett’s  17.4% effective tax rate to 25%.  A win-win.

Of course, Warren, if that doesn’t work for you, just cut a check…and make it out to ‘Cash.’

A Deal With The Devil

Is there any more evidence necessary that the economy is going to hell in a hand basket than today’s 6.66% decline in the S&P.  That’s right, 666; The Number of the Beast.

Coincidence?  You make the call.

Just to be safe, I’d keep the President away from thin ice.  And somebody should shave Tim Geithner’s head, pronto.

If the reaction to the ongoing debt crisis is any indicator, the devil is not just in the details, but apparently also in the thought processes of those calling for more Keynesian stimulus (i.e. another payroll tax holiday, an extension of unemployment benefits, and subsidization of infrastructure projects).  Yep, more government spending to cure a spending problem.  Brilliant.  Exactly how many times does the medicine have to fail before its prescribers realize they’re killing the patient?  I mean, c’mon.  It’s crapped out three times since 2008 alone.  Pro-growth anyone?

To paraphrase Churchill, a nation that thinks it can spend itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

It’s just hard to fathom.  How do people keep clinging to something so clearly wrong?  Why can’t they realize they’re in an abusive relationship and simply cut the cord?  Big Government is beating the hell out of them…and by extension, all of us, too.

Paging Dr. Phil!

On second thought, get an exorcist.  They just might need the Hell (capital ‘H’) beat out of them.

Don’t snicker.  It may possibly be the last resort, and it could provide the President with the one excuse he’s yet to trot out–“The devil made me do it.”

What a day!

I bet the President’s head is spinning.  Let’s hope anyway.

P.S.  Note of caution to Paul Krugman’s New York Times colleagues:  Beware of projectile green vomit.

Spitballin’

If you want to see liberal “logic” exposed, check out the disinformation campaigns being waged by the Left in states where newly elected Republican governors have initiated major economic turnarounds.

States such as Wisconsin, New Jersey, and New Hampshire are thriving.  Their pro-growth, limited government agendas are eliminating deficits, creating jobs, lowering rates of unemployment, attracting new businesses, and discouraging existing ones from fleeing.

But, if you listen to the apoplectic Left, desperate to explain away the not-so-surprising successes of conservative economic orthodoxy, it’s all come at much too high a cost.

That’s right, the laid off bureaucrats and pared-back programs are a pox, not to mention an inequitable trade-off for the orders of magnitude more people/programs helped and/or spared a similar fate.  Forget about the millions benefiting from renewed economic vitality–the businesses not forced to close; the homeowners not driven to foreclosure; and the citizens able to find gainful employment. Yep, none of that matters. It’s better for all to suffer.  The whole class has detention because the weaselly kid won’t cop to hitting the teacher in the back of the head with a spitball.  A new Lib gets his wings.

The Left thinks that by pointing out certain casualties (e.g. a particular impacted program, etc.), it can call into question not only the efficacy of each relevant GOP policy, but more importantly, the morality of the entire agenda.  Because, in Liberal-land, there can be no casualties, at least none that are Democrats.  No individual or group can suffer, even if their adversity is an unfortunate consequence of preventing something similar or worse from happening to a thousand times more people.

So, the 2012 election will most certainly be determined by how people evaluate such situations.

If you believe it’s reasonable to think we can and should attempt to prevent/disallow all economic suffering, and that we can do so in a vacuum–one where there is little or no impact on anything else, then you’ll most assuredly be pulling the lever for Obama.

If, on the other hand, you’re pretty confident that perfect is the enemy of the good, and that there are material, deleterious economic consequences for pursuing the “perfect”, you’re probably going to vote for Obama’s opponent.

Have you ever thought about why economists consider 4% to 6% unemployment to be full employment?  Could it be that the cost of securing a job for every last person, including those who really don’t want to work (and therefore require outrageous incentives), might be so enormous that the unintended outcome would be spiralling joblessness?

See the parallel?

Sorry, just spitballin’.

Confessions Of An Extremist

Me:  Hi, my name is Chuck and I’m an extremist.

Crowd:  Hiiiiiiiiii Chuck!!! (loud applause)

Yep, after years of denial, I’ve finally seen the light.  That great Sage of the Senate and orator extraordinaire, Harry Reid, has helped me to understand the error of my ways.  With his guidance, I’m on the road to recovery.

-Old Chuck was extreme for believing it’s disastrous to give congress and the president a blank check.
-New Chuck says, “More of everything!!!”

-Old Chuck was extreme for pointing out that a constitutional amendment is necessary to bind future congresses.
-New Chuck says, “Of course I trust you Mr. Congressman.”

-Old Chuck was extreme for insisting on actual, rather than illusory cuts…and not just to the rate of growth, but to raw spending levels.
-New Chuck says, “Cuts?”

-Old Chuck was extreme for positing that the only way to preserve a legitimate and necessary social safety net is through intelligent reforms that reflect dramatic demographic shifts and new economic realities.
-New Chuck says, “Like hell you’ll touch my Medicare!!!”

-Old Chuck was extreme for suggesting that Obama’s redistributionist policies are hurting most of the people they’re intended to help.
-New Chuck says, “We’ll never run out of other people’s money!!!”

-Old Chuck was extreme for thinking a stimulus should stimulate.
-New Chuck says, “Keynes rules!!!”

-Old Chuck was extreme for mentioning that the economic collapse of Western European social democracy is a warning shot across the United States bow.
-New Chuck says, “Viva la Greece!!!”

-Old Chuck was extreme for implying that the President’s efforts to jumpstart the economy are like a golfer trying to fix a slice.  The more he aims to the left, the worst the result.
-New Chuck says, “FORE!!!”

Come to think of it, that might also be the Obama 2012 campaign slogan.

See, I knew there was a good reason he was hitting the links so much.

That’s New Chuck speaking, by the way.

It’s All About Value, Baby

It’s always interesting to observe how the Republican position on matters of great import is portrayed in the media, and the way in which the GOP attempts to respond to what is typically a negative slant.

So far, both sides have been true to form in the ongoing debt debate.  The media has depicted the Republicans as intransigent and blame-worthy, while the GOP has shown itself to be fairly inept at playing what should be a super strong hand.

Take the issue of  Democrat insistence on “increased revenue” as a prime example.  Republicans have largely, particularly early in the debate when many opinions were being formed, allowed that term to become synonymous with tax hikes.  As we know, most people (especially Republicans) conflate tax hikes with an elevation of income tax rates and/or a boost in user fees–both anathema to conservative orthodoxy (because they generally slow economic activity).

From the get go, Republicans should have embraced, co-opted, and properly defined (conservative style) the “increased revenue” mantra of Obama and the Dems.

Increased revenue is about economic growth/expansion.  And that, as history has repeatedly shown, is always the byproduct of major tax reform–the kind that simplifies the system, lowers rates, broadens the base, and provides substantial incentives for investment and entrepreneurship.

Despite the media’s best efforts to split Republicans by associating “increased revenue” with things taboo to those on the Right, thinking conservatives/Republicans need to recognize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with more revenue when it is derived the correct way.

There’s a very simple value argument.  People/business are much more willing to provide incremental labor/goods and services when, for example, they can keep a much larger percentage of what they earn.  Ultimately, many more taxpayers and tax-paying entities result–each paying a somewhat lesser percentage of total income.  The bottom line, though, is substantially more dollars to the government.  Classic win/win.

If you prefer, forget the macro/micro-economics and think of it in more simplistic terms.  We constantly make decisions in our everyday lives to pay more/less money for one thing over another because of perceived value.

Say I typically allocate $500 per month to feed my family and $500 to savings.  If presented with an opportunity to spend an additional $100 for another $200 worth of groceries, I may very well do so because the chance to upgrade the quality and/or quantity of groceries for the family for such a relatively small amount might be more valuable than another $100 of savings.

How about leisure?  Perhaps I’d be willing to spend $2,000/year on golf greens fees, but only if the value is right.  If my only choice was to play four rounds at $500 per, I might very well decide to allocate zero dollars toward golf; however, if I could play 40 rounds at $50 per, I could be easily convinced to use the entire $2,000.

People and businesses across the economic spectrum apportion resources all the time based on perceived value.  When incentives (e.g. tax policies) are properly structured, all parties–individuals, businesses, and government–can be satisfied.

The propensity to spend and invest is greatly enhanced when the perceived value is high.  The great error in judgement continually made by Dems is that the “wealthy” will continue to spend and invest at similar or greater rates when the value of doing so has been diminished by higher taxes and inappropriately onerous regulations.

Conservatives, remember, the issue is limiting the size and scope of government, not the number of dollars it collects.  When we expand the economy, the government collects much more revenue, but that revenue represents a considerably smaller percentage of GDP.

The republic remains viable as long as that percentage, not raw dollars to the Treasury, is managed assiduously.

Expectations

Expectations are a funny thing.  For some, they’re highly motivational–driving incredible work ethic and catalyzing stellar performance.  For others, they become an albatross–the impetus for perpetual excuse-making and obfuscation.  It can be damn hard, after all, to hide the fact you’re an enormous disappointment.

It’s rather unambiguous that President Obama finds himself (well, actually he’s put himself) in the latter category.

His and his campaign’s efforts to lower the re-election bar have become oh-so-entertaining, and illustrative of his precipitous fall.

I was particularly amused by his comments yesterday to KMBC-TV in Kansas City.  When queried about his 2012 prospects, he said his re-election “would be based on voters’ belief that I’ve been on their side and working as hard as I can.”

Really?

No doubt he hopes the general electorate lives in his liberal utopia where everybody gets a trophy just for participating.  Somebody may want to clue him in that this is the big leagues now, not a Little League field in Hawaii.

So, sorry Barry, we may have to hurt your feelings and cut you from the team.  Don’t worry though; it’ll be a character builder.

What’s most amazing of course is how he got to this point.  This was a guy, just three short years ago, ostensibly elected on the Miss America platform…‘I’m going to cure all know diseases, eradicate world hunger, and save the polar ice caps.’

Now, he just wants to get through the day without someone being mean to him.

Goals change.

And so have our expectations.

Forget “Hope and Change.”  The 2012 campaign slogan might as well be, “I can still fog a mirror.”

Not particularly soaring, but at least it doesn’t mis-set expectations.

Let Me Be Clear

Excuse me for borrowing one of the President’s oft-repeated phrases. The only difference with my usage is that I WILL actually be clear–and accurate.

There are only a handful of simple facts you need to know to understand the absurdity of Obama’s position on the debt ceiling negotiation.

In 2007, the deficit for the entire year was $161 billion dollars. Since Obama took office, he has taken spending from its historical average of around 18% – 20% of GDP to almost 25% in 2009 and north of 24% (estimated) in 2011.

Revenue, despite the President’s continual claims, is NOT increased via tax hikes, particularly coming out of a major downturn. Obama’s call for such “enhancers” is antithetical to our experiences from major recessions in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s (and others, too). To boost taxes now would only further stunt economic growth and therefore lower total receipts to the government.

Post every major downturn since WWII (except this one), pro-growth policies (i.e. tax cuts/reform and other incentives to the jobs-creating class) have driven prolonged periods of robust economic expansion–typically upwards of 10% for a couple years (which then became the new baseline).

In a $15T economy, two years of 8% growth (an attainable level given such a protracted period of repressed activity and pent-up demand) would deliver nearly $2.5T (times the weighted average tax rate) to the U.S. Treasury.

Before even touching one entitlement we could quickly be back to budget surpluses with two simple moves–1) ratcheting spending back down to 20% of GDP (the high end of the historical range). That will save north of $.75T a year. 2) Reforming the tax code to lower rates across the board for individuals and corporations (ideally a single corporate rate of 25% or less and a two-rate structure for individuals somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% and $25%). Additionally, broaden the base further by killing virtually all deductions (you know…the ones Dems say only benefit the rich).

The resultant boost in economic activity would likely swell government coffers by well over $1.25T per year for the succeeding two years, and set a new revenue baseline going forward. The combination of the two could bring about sustained balanced budgets or even surpluses.

So, next time you hear Obama yammering on about raising taxes on the “wealthy” or closing the budget gap by eliminating tax breaks to the oil and gas industry and corporate jet owners (which incidently amount, in total, to less than 10 days of current Obama deficit spending–and could be removed as part of comprehensive tax reform), you’ll appreciate the fallaciousness of his argument.

Under President Obama, revenues have collapsed to $14.8 of GDP, well below our historical average of 18.1%. That is no coincidence. It’s the direct result of his government-expansionist and growth-inhibiting policies.

The historical blueprint is clear. Will Obama follow it or continue to push an agenda proven time and time again to be a recipe for disaster.

Ironically, his life preserver (i.e. a fighting chance in 2012) is the Republican plan. Clinton was smart enough to recognize that if he wanted to live to fight another day, he needed to co-opt the GOP agenda for a period of time.

So far, Obama has not demonstrated similar survival instincts.

Get him a swiss army knife and some duct tape, stat!

Modern Day King Lear

On March 14th, 2010 I posted a blog entry (http://blog.chuckdietrick.com/2010/03/14/babbling-brooks.aspx)  titled, “Babbling Brooks,” in which I described “Conservative” columnist and author, David Brooks’, penchant for tearing down the Right in order to gain credibility and praise from the Left.

Well, the leader of the Faux Enlightened is at it again.  One can only imagine how many people he’s impressed on the Manhattan cocktail circuit with his latest missive, “The Mother of All No-Brainers,” where he not-so-shockingly tries to pejoratively paint the GOP as ideological in its fight with the Dems over the debt ceiling.

The guy that stands for everything that’s wrong with compromise simply doesn’t understand principle, particularly when said principle is rooted in historical fact.

Ideology, properly focused, is often a damn good thing.  Would Brooks begrudge the people who have fought bravely and tirelessly for racial, gender, and sexual preference equality?  They were and continue to be ideological.  Was there something wrong with their desire to right gross injustice and want it done quickly and in-total?  Should they have been berated into accepting something damaging to their and the country’s best interests?

GOP intransigence on out-of-control government spending is an ideological battle worth fighting, and every bit as important as those previously mentioned.  The little matter of our republic’s viability hangs in the balance.  If the Republican leadership is smart, they will embrace, rather than run from the appellation (as it applies to fiscal conservatism).

Brooks writes (regarding the GOP), “The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms.”

Sweet terms?  Reigning in spending by a fraction of what is actually appropriate/necessary?  Believing, counter to all historical evidence, that revenue will be raised by increasing taxes on the investing and job producing classes?  Not supporting legislative and/or constitutional amendment provisions to lessen future government’s ability to spend us into oblivion?

Brooks lambastes the Republicans for not agreeing, as part of the debt negotiation, to rollback various tax advantages targeted at large corporations.  Sure, that’s populist red meat and  sounds swell and oh so enlightened for a “conservative”, but of course, if fails to appreciate the nuance of such a concession.  I, and I believe the vast majority of fiscal conservatives, would enthusiastically sacrifice every special tax provision/deduction for corporations and individuals alike if it were done as part of a sweeping tax reform package.  Such necessary reform will become exceedingly more difficult though if the Republicans push all of their chips to the center of the table as part of the debt debate.

I have no evidence (hmm, maybe I’m a Democrat after all), but Mr. Brooks must have had some issues in his formative years.  His constant desire to seek approval and flattery hints of a void shaped during adolescence. 

The modern day King Lear is weaving his own Shakespearean tragedy.  He’s descending into madness (i.e. journalistic irrelevance) by soliciting flattery from his three “daughters”–the Left, the media, and the GOP.  Like Lear, he’s gotten it from the first two, but been spurned by the third.

Hopefully, the current version will have a slightly different ending.  Cordelia (i.e. the GOP), as in the original, will fight the power grabbing of her two sisters (the Left and the media); however, she will not die for her convictions in the end, but rather gloriously ascend to the throne in 2012 and bestow her prosperity-inducing policies on the kingdom.

The rich, the poor, and everybody in between will flourish.

Long live Cordelia!

Better Call ‘The Wolf’

There’s a lot of angst among Republican political elites that an unequivocally strong 2012 front-runner has yet to emerge.  No worries.  In many respects, the 2012 election dynamic is shaping up to be quite similar to that of 2008–only with both parties cast in opposite roles.

As I stated repeatedly during the 2008 campaign cycle, given the electorate’s Bush fatigue and heightened disdain for partisan politics, there was very little chance of a positive outcome for Republicans.  A Democrat loss was not impossible, but pretty damn close.  Such a defeat would have signaled apocalyptic problems for the Left for a generation or more.  If a Democrat couldn’t win in that climate, when would one ever win?

Remarkably, the party that benefited from its rival’s self-destruction in 2008 is exhibiting the same destructive behavior, and in near record time–demonstrating that arrogance and ineptness are kryptonite for both sides of the isle, and voter fatigue is even more quickly inducible when somebody (or some government) is in your face 24/7.

Voter fatigue, however, is probably the least serious of Obama’s problems.  There are many more ominous harbingers of doom.

Consider that 65% of the electorate believes the country is on the wrong track (versus only 25% who think it’s on the right track).  Does that seem like an environment in which the conductor is going to be rehired?

Or, how about that fact that more than twice as many voters self-identify as conservative, rather than liberal?

Not enough?  What about the fact that the group who decides all presidential elections, Independents, have turned against Obama’s policies in droves.

Not convinced, yet?

Other than ‘Republicans are evil’ (which will certainly be his favorite tactic), what will his argument be?  What is it he can say that will be believable to enough voters?

We know that Obama built his 2008 campaign around two central pillars–one, that he was a transformative figure who would completely reshape the way Washington works, and two, that he had a fix for everything.  He was The Cleaner–Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction. 

“I’m Winston Wolf.  I solve problems.”

Well, he did reshape Washington–unfortunately, it was into Chicago, probably the only place (save Louisiana) that’s more toxic.

And how about those boastful claims that he could fix it all?  How’s that worked out so far? 

The Cleaner’s turned out to be Pig Pen.

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, though.  For the sake of argument, say his policies didn’t take a difficult situation and make it orders of magnitude worse.  He still hasn’t lifted us out of the doldrums.  That leaves an inescapable and logical conclusion, either he is completely incapable of doing as he promised, or he is intractably and ideologically opposed to doing what’s necessary to recapture our prosperity and prestige.

In either instance, probably not good for his reelection chances.

Still worried?

How’s he going to get it done in the electoral college?  Given reapportionment based on the last census, the Republican candidate will get 14 additional electoral votes just by winning the same states as in 2008.  No where near enough, but a start.

Despite all the issues with the Bush presidency and the unbridled enthusiasm (particularly in the media) for the supposedly transformative Obama, he still won by a relatively narrow margin.

Now that the bloom is off the rose and Obama has proven to be far from advertised, do you think he’s going to win North Carolina again, or Indiana, or Virginia, or Florida–all traditionally Republican or Republican-leaning states that were decided by very thin margins?  Just losing three of those four states is likely more than enough to flip the election to the GOP.

Maybe you think the Dems will be able to scare enough seniors regarding Medicare and Social Security so that Obama eeks out another narrow win in Florida, or the influx of Dems into Northern Virginia will be sufficient to keep that state in the blue column?

Not likely perhaps, but certainly possible.

Well then, what about Ohio, or Pennsylvania, or Michigan, or Colorado, or New Hampshire?  Each of those states could flip to the red column, any of which (other than New Hampshire) would likely spell disaster for Obama.

So, can the Republicans blow it in 2012?  Absolutely.  But it will take some herculean stupidity on their part.  It’s the GOP’s to lose.

If the Dems don’t want to rely on a GOP stumble, they had better get Winston Wolf on the phone…and fast.  Shooting the economy in the head is awfully messy.

It’s a 30 minute trip, but he can be there in 10.

Anybody Got A Hose?

There’s no denying that the congressman from New York is in the midst of major meltdown.  But in the grand scheme of things, his implosion is insignificant compared to the President’s.  It’s a matter of opinion as to who’s been caught with his pants down more.

Obama and his team have to be absolutely apoplectic that their reelection strategy is disintegrating before their eyes.  It was all going to be so elegantly simple.  Just ride out the storm (albeit one they seeded) , then take credit for a slowly recovering economy in 2011 and a resurgent one in the run-up to the 2012 election.  People, in their euphoria, would surely ignore the pesky facts of how Barry’s mismanagement substantially elongated the downturn.

A material recovery had to happen, right?  How could it not?  The longest recession since prior to WWII was 16 months.  Hell, most lasted less than a third that long.  We’re already roughly 41 months into a period of enormous stress in the employment market.  A turnaround had to be forthcoming, didn’t it? 

Oops.

Guess we now know with certitude that unimaginably bad economic policies trump a much-overdue business cycle bounce-back.  Maybe if Obama had read up on Carter rather than Lincoln he would have figured that out.  Nah, he would have surmised he knew better, as usual.

Now that the Big O has turned out to be the Big 0 (zero, that is), what’s next?  The markets have lost complete confidence in his stewardship.  His poll numbers are tanking.  And, he’s played virtually every card in the ultra liberal handbook.

The guy who had the answer to everything in 2008 can’t fix anything in 2011.

What has to be most horrifying for Obama and the Dems though is the long-term consequences of the next election.  They’ve already proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that their vision is a prescription for economic armageddon.  The election of a Republican will be the final nail–confirming that fiscal conservatism is the key to revitalization and renewal of the American Dream.

A possible epiphany for millions heretofore oppressed by big government dependency.

So, the party that’s all about preserving its own power at the expense of all else is at a crossroads.  Their snake oil’s been exposed for the fraud it is.

Do they reach for a time-tested solution that’s worked over and over again, or do they double down on a cynical strategy to lock in voting blocks via outrageous pandering and ever-increasing government dependency?

The sooner voters ignore the siren song of hand-outs and entitlements, the sooner we’re likely to get back on the road to recovery.  It’s time for the fog to lift.  Do you think a party whose Chairwoman says that ‘Republicans think illegal immigration should be a crime’ cares most about Latinos or Latino votes?

While Weiner’s fiddled (so to speak), America’s burned…and President Obama can’t find a hose.

Maybe he can borrow Weiner’s?  I’m sure it’s handy.

The Eponymously Named Congressman From New York

If this Anthony Weiner story has taught us anything, it’s that the mainstream media has a difficult time identifying disreputable behavior among the Democrat ranks–even when the Congressperson’s name is more preuve factuelle than nom de guerre.  Talk about your scarlet letters.

How is it fathomable that this story did not surface a whole lot sooner?  Hundreds…possibly thousands of scandalous tweets and Facebook posts over a several year period and our intrepid media is nowhere to be found.  Sam Sheepdog of Looney Tunes fame was more alert.

This gang couldn’t solve the mystery in a game of Clue if you spotted them Congressman Weiner in his Study with the Candlestick.  Eww, that’s no candlestick.

Perhaps We The People need to help the media by assigning each congressperson a name that is descriptive of his/her most offensive characteristic, trait, or action.  Maybe, just maybe that might make it a good deal easier for ‘journalism’s best’ to pursue the illicit undertakings of our not-so-fine representatives.

Allow me to introduce the Honorable P. Ed Ophile XLIII.

Obviously, the roman numerals are necessary to uniquely identify each one.

Biosphere 2012

The hits keep on coming.

Relentlessly…day after day, month after month, and now year after year we get pounded by horrific economic and geopolitical news.

If its not ever-increasing debt and deficits, it’s spiraling home values…or an unprecedentedly bleak job market…or skyrocketing gas prices…or outrageous commodity cost spikes portending massive inflation…or mounting consumer pessimism…or a collapsing dollar…or major instability across the globe.

Forget about a light at the end; we can’t even find the damn tunnel.

Interestingly, the guy who had all the answers during the 2008 campaign–at least the ones the media and his fawning acolytes wanted to hear–now wouldn’t be competitive on Battle of the Jaywalk All Stars.

Somebody hasn’t been in it this deep since Jacqueline Bisset jumped overboard in a white t-shirt back in 1977.  Hell, it’s so bad that Barry is making Janet Napolitano look semi-competent.  Well, not really.

What’s most amazing about the whole sorry and unnecessary mess is that there is absolutely no outcry from the mainstream media.  None.  Nada.

Imagine the list of policy disasters outlined above and a media that is anything less than apoplectic.  A near criminal abdication of responsibility, right?

Not surprisingly, I have a proposal.  It’s called Biosphere 2012.  As a check on the mainstream media, a year prior to the election we place a dozen or so journalists in an artificial, closed environment with no independent access to the outside world or knowledge of who was elected.  Their only link will be the economic and geopolitical outcome data that represents the appropriately party-blinded policy prescriptions of the President and his administration.  The journalists will remain in the Biosphere for the balance of the campaign plus the length of the President’s term in office.  They will write their stories based only upon the facts made available to them.

Crazy, huh?  Not any more so than a media complicit in attempting to cover up the biggest failure since Franz Berliner drove a huge gas-filled balloon into a large needle.

Oh the humanity!

Crap, I was just informed that there already is a large group of “journalists” cloistered in an artificial, closed environment…and they’ve been there for quite some time.  Apparently, it’s called the New York Times.

Hmmm, maybe we can bring back the Pepsi Challenge, politics edition?

No blindfolds necessary.  The mainstream media hasn’t been able to see for quite some time.

Newt(ered)

News Flash:  Smartest guy in the room is road kill on the campaign trail.

And oh what a mess.

The Gingrich family respectfully requests that you not send flowers, but rather a small donation to the Newt for President campaign staff.  Those poor bastards are going to need the cash; they’ll be out of a job very soon.

The campaign was unofficially pronounced dead on Monday by a 69-year-old Iowa gentleman, Russell Fuhrman, who clasped Newt’s hand outside a Dubuque Holiday Inn conference room while disdainfully admonishing him to “get out <of the race> before you make a bigger fool of yourself.”

Has better political advice ever been offered?  Where the hell was Russell when Schwarzenegger was running for Governor?

Newt got dunked in his own think tank–and it was from a softball thrown by David Gregory on Meet the Press.  It might as well have been Peter Brady.

Anyone who pays even the slightest attention to politics understood that Gingrich didn’t have the discipline to make it to the finish line, but it was shocking nevertheless that he barely made it out of the blocks.  Apparently the starter was a SEAL Team 6 sniper.

There is, of course, a lesson in all of this for other Republican candidates (listen carefully Mitt Romney). 

Don’t pander!

No need to be apologetic for your positions.  Don’t feel as if you have to soften your message to make it more palatable to the other side.  Everytime you throw them a bone they just pick it up and hit you over the head with it.  Learn from Bush’s mistakes.  By the end, he was leaning further left than a sapling getting slammed by a nor’easter.  But it didn’t buy him an ounce of liberal goodwill.

Instead, follow the Reagan/Thatcher model.  Be true to your beliefs.  Keep the message simple.  State it factually, passionately, and convincingly, and not with arrogance or condescension.  Win over those on the fence with well-reasoned, common sense arguments.  Gain respect through strength of conviction and integrity.

If IQ points and being a policy wonk mattered most, Jimmy Carter would be our greatest President…well, maybe a close second to Barry.

Playing You For A Fool: Part 2

My last blog entry pointed out how the professional Left is working assiduously to convince us, via mind numbing repetition, that the 2012 GOP field is weak.  Their goal is to get enough of us to conclude that it would be irresponsible–even unpatriotic–to trust our fragile republic to someone from such a collection of supposed extremists and incompetents. 

It’s a reasonable, it not original plan to discredit the opposition.  However, it does have one major flaw. 

That’s where Part 2 of the Left’s two-pronged effort to play us for a fool comes in.

What do you do when the GOP field you’re attempting to tar is far out done, from an incompetence standpoint, by a sitting President who has taken ineptitude to a level previously never thought possible?

The only option is to somehow rehabilitate the President’s image.

Send in the clowns and behold their political slight of hand..

Their rehabilitation narrative is ostensibly that any Obama success (real or perceived) immediately and completely negates all previous failures.  Yep, the par on 18 erases the 30 over score on the prior 17 holes.  You’ve heard the rhetoric.  All the pain has been a necessary part of his master plan to bring us back from the depths.

So far, they’ve thrice tried to spin their yarn–and failed on each occasion.  The first was after passage of the Healthcare legislation; the second was subsequent to the interim budget deal, and the latest was following the Bin Laden operation.  To date, continued staggering Democrat incompetence has trumped the Left’s sophistry.

Three strikes and you’re out; right?  Nope, not if you’re a Democrat.  They have more lives than a litter of Siamese twin cats.

The Dems will not be deterred.  You can just sense them waiting for a nugget of economic news that they can wrap their arms around.

Of course, if/when it happens, they’ll speciously tell us that all their job killing, growth inhibiting policies were just the right medicine for an ailing economy.  Never mind that they’ve essentially made this downturn three times longer than the preceding longest since the Great Depression.  We walked into their office with the flu and  tottered out with full blown pneumonia.

Don’t be the fool that they so desperately need.

Playing You For A Fool

The 2012 GOP field is weak.

If it’s said enough times it must be true, right?  Clearly, that’s what the Democrats and their media enablers want you to think.

The next eighteen months are going to be a test–a test of just how much you are willing to be played as a fool.  Are you ready to think for yourself, or are you easy prey for furtive liberal efforts to marginalize GOP candidates and portray Obama’s reelection as the only rational/inevitable choice given such a paucity of credible challengers?

Before you find yourself intentionally or inadvertently parroting the narrative of the Left, take a step back and objectively analyze the situation.

Consider the list of announced and potential GOP candidates.

Is there something weak about a handful of governors, past and present, among the most accomplished at delivering sound fiscal results that put their states on an ascendant, rather than declining path?

Is there something weak about a number of highly successful businessmen and their track records of effectively managing small and large companies?

Is there something weak about a group of people with invaluable executive experience gleaned from running state governments, as well as private and public companies/organizations?

Is there something inherently weak about people who held senior leadership positions within their party?

Is there something weak about the tough decisions these people had to execute in real time every day about how to balance budgets, create jobs, make difficult cuts, invest in opportunities, etc., etc.?

Does that seem weak to you?

Perhaps they’re just weak in comparison to something better?

Reflect on, if you will, the last few Democrat nominees for President–three United States Senators:  Gore, Kerry, and Obama.  Not one of them with an iota of executive experience or an ounce of business know-how.  Are their “accomplishments” really the basis for the Democrat’s and mainstream media’s assertion that the GOP field is weak?

Maybe they are/were just great career politicians–legislators in the mold of Madison, Clay, Moynihan, or Kennedy?  Nope.  Any dispassionate and retrospective review of their congressional achievements turns up more bombast than triumph.  It’s safe to say that the stature of Senator’s Gore, Kerry, and Obama emanated near exclusively from their ability to manipulate a liberal-leaning and unctuous media into “reporting” on the seriousness and gravitas of their positions–most of which have proven to be less than credible.  Their actual legislative accomplishments (of any significance) are practically impossible to find.  By the way, in the name of fairness, all of the aforementioned is also true of John McCain.

Of course, when legitimately weak GOP candidates do inevitably emerge (e.g. Palin, Trump), the Dems and mainstream media are quick to inflate their prospects and damn all others by association.

Don’t be made a fool.

Be nobody’s fool.

George Costanza Epiphany?

Almost a year ago to the day I authored a short blog entry titled, “If Every Instinct You Have Is Wrong.” http://blog.chuckdietrick.com/2010/05/10/if-every-instinct-you-have-is-wrong.aspx.  Ostensibly, it speculated as to whether or not President Obama might have a Seinfeld-ian moment–similar to George Costanza’s epiphany that led him to realize every action he had taken his entire life was wrong and perhaps he needed to start doing the exact opposite.  It culminated comedicaly when George was prodded to approach a beautiful woman at the diner counter.  He introduces himself by saying, “My name is George.  I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.”  The woman glances back over her shoulder at him and replies seductively and approvingly in a throaty voice, “I’m Victoria.  Hi!”

Well, by authorizing the mission to kill Bin Laden, did Obama finally recognize it was time to step away from his instincts and do the diametric opposite?  The country has looked back at him approvingly, after all.  Following two and a half years of consistent disdain, that had to feel good.  But will it be enough to keep him on the opposite path?

Perchance he’d find it beneficial to try one or more of the following on for size.  I am here to help, you know.

“Hi, my name is Barack.  I’ve helped to drive up the price of gasoline by 200%.  Let’s begin to fully exploit our natural resources.”

“Hi, my name is Barack.  My heavy government hand has stifled entrepreneurship, killed jobs, and stunted economic growth.  Let’s get the government out of the way.”

“Hi, my name is Barack.  I’ve been unfairly bashing business for years to gain cheap political points.  Who knew, but we actually need businesses in order to create non-government jobs.”

“Hi, my name is Barack.  We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.  Let’s actually reduce spending, not just its rate of growth.”

Hi, my name is Barack.  Those in the upper income bracket, including corporations, do pay their fair share.  To tax them more would only exacerbate the pain felt in the lower brackets.  Less investment by those who control capital equals fewer jobs.”

Later in the Seinfeld episode referenced above, Victoria says to George in a smitten voice, “Who are you, George Costanza?”  George responds confidently, “I’m the opposite of every guy you’ve ever met.”

In Obama’s case, I’d settle for the opposite of the guy we met nearly three years ago.

It could happen; right?

Taking The Shine Off A Shining Moment

Okay Mr. President, you are to be commended for doing a REALLY ballsy thing.  Hear, hear! 

It’s particularly remarkable given that most would consider your action against Osama Bin Laden to be completely against type–generally perceived to be frustratingly circumspect and timid.  A feckless professor endlessly debating the ethereal.

Not this time, baby!

And, I have to give you even more props for launching an operation that had eerie parallels to Jimmy Carter’s disastrous hostage rescue attempt back in 1980.  That image of utter failure and national disgrace surely had to be running through your head over and over again.

Kudos!

Now what?

Please don’t blow your shining moment with a spate of postgame political correctness.  Take control–just like you did by ordering the mission.  That pair you apparently grew a few days ago…well, don’t let them shrivel and die.  Stand tall and accountable and you’ll garner a hell of a lot more respect.  Stop your minions from wiping away the bravado you legitimately earned with their carefully scripted tales of how you proceeded with the utmost sensitivity every step of the way–cautious not to offend or upset.

For example:

Stop letting your people tell us you were agreeable to having Bin Laden taken alive.  It’s not in your best interests to convince folks that what could have been one of the most misguided decisions ever was actually on the table.  My God man, did you seriously think it would be wise to put yourself, your incompetent Attorney General, and the nation through an interminable incarceration and trial of OBL?  Not to mention an ultimate execution?

Stop letting your people tell us that the disposal at sea was about respecting the Muslim requirement of burial within 24 hours.  We know it was rightly and legitimately about not creating a pilgrimage location.

Stop letting your people tell us that that you haven’t seen any of the pictures of Bin Laden’s corpse, or that you weren’t watching the live feed of the kill shot.  C’mon man.  Is that credible?  Even if it’s true, wouldn’t you rather be imagined to have been jumping around the room high-fiving everybody like you’re perceived to do after signing into law a bill loaded with new government regulations?

Stop letting your people tell us about all the deliberations that are going on as to whether or not the photos and videos should be released.  Release them because you want to release them and it’s the right thing to do, not because you need to convince the unconvincible and/or you’re concerned about the actions of extremists who can/will find any number of other reasons to be extreme.  Does it need to be pointed out how incredibly moronic it would be to say we killed somebody who could subsequently make a video holding a newspaper showing a current headline?  C’mon; really?

Most of all, stop feeling the need to defend the legality of the action, and please tell Eric Holder, the man with the situational principles, to discontinue his insistence that the acts taken were “lawful, legitimate, and appropriate in every way.”  Most dispassionate international law experts would probably agree that you violated the sovereignty of another country.  But, most rational thinkers would also concur that you did the damn right thing.  Stand behind it on the merits.

You have a Reagan-like opportunity.

If you’re smart, you’ll seize it.

Inactivity Tax

What’s our poor President and his Democrat brethren to do when they have taxed virtually every activity possible?

You guessed it; start taxing INACTIVITY.  Brilliant!

If you thought their decision to impose levies on those who opt not to purchase health insurance was a metaphorical toe dip into the ‘inactivity tax’ pool, hit yourself really hard for being so utterly naive.  Obama just did a full on Triple Lindy that would make Rodney Dangerfield proud.

Yep, he’s proposing to tax energy companies for NOT drilling.

The socialist judge gives it a perfect 10.

Our Anti-Capitalist-n-Chief wants to slap a $4-per-acre charge on existing leases that are not currently producing any oil or gas.

The rub, of course, is that many of those inactive leases are not producing because they are caught in the Obama administration’s regulatory labyrinth–designed to make it nearly impossible to poke a hole in the ground–all while the President duplicitously tells the unwashed masses that he is for more drilling.

Shell Oil is but one example.  They recently had to walk away from a $3 billion lease investment–all spent on navigating regulatory red tape–after Obama’s EPA yanked an air quality permit in response to a lawsuit against the project by environmental activists.  To seal Shell’s fate, the EPA refused to provide any guidance as to how the oil company could regain approval.  Mission accomplished.

Need another example?  How about the 77 oil and gas leases in Utah the administration canceled immediately after taking office in 2009, or the 61 they reneged on in Montana a year later?  Think that might have had a chilling effect on the industry?

Barry’s bizzaro inactivity tax rationale is that energy companies are purposely juicing prices by choosing not to drill.  That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.  Too bad a guy from Chicago is clueless about the Chicago school of economics.  Rollover Friedman.

Don’t ya think there would be dozens, if not hundreds, of energy producers, large and small, lining up to drill if only the regulatory climate were rational and predictable, particularly given current prices?  The Libs keep screeching about egregious oil company profits.  Too bad the profit-seeking activity necessary to solve or at least mitigate the problem is being stifled by the government.  No such thing as a win-win in Obamaland.  Apparently it’s better for multitudes to suffer than allow evil corporations to pursue their (and society’s) economic self-interest.

And oh by the way, according to the Congressional Research Service (CSR), the U.S. has the largest
combined energy resources in the world.  In fact, so large that without even including shale oil deposits, our resources are greater than Saudi Arabia’s, China’s, and Canada’s–combined.

But, according to the Dems, we’d accrue practically zero benefit from exploiting some or all of our fossil fuel options while we transition over the next few decades to renewables.  If you think that makes sense, be sure to vote Democrat in 2012…then go have yourself checked.

What’s the next inactivity tax?

If you’re an Obama fan, better hope its on registered Dems who are contemplating sitting out the next election.

One thing is certain…the only inactivity tax he’ll never propose is one targeted at those committed to living off the government’s largesse.

The Man of a Thousand Excuses

Have you heard the latest from our esteemed leader on the nation’s most vexing issue–the astronomical price of a gallon of gas?  Well, it seems that this pesky situation has absolutely nothing to do with the President’s policies.  Apparently, the precipitous climb–a near tripling since he took office–is very likely the fault of fraud and/or manipulation.  Don’t worry though; The Big O has put The Big E on the case.  Yep, the rooter outer of all that is evil, Eric Holder, will surely hold those greedy speculators to account–just like he did Marc Rich and the Black Panthers, among others.  

Another government commission.  Ye ha!  Betcha Barry doesn’t ignore their ‘findings’ like he did the Deficit Commission’s.

What an exercise their review promises to be.  Talk about a stacked deck–a group of anti-capitalists evaluating the legitimate role of speculation and speculators in a free market system.  Yeah, that should work out real well for oil and gas traders.

Of course, the irony of it all is completely lost on Obama and his minions.  Needless to say, they’re too myopic and ideological to recognize that the very hyper-volatility they decry is, in part, the direct, logical, and legal result of the market’s lack of confidence in their ability to adequately address the situation.  They just don’t understand the legitimacy of hedging risk, and more importantly, that said risk is deemed ultra high right now because of their indecisiveness, incoherence, intransigence, and incompetence.  In fact, it would be irresponsible for speculators not to hedge against the potential major disruptions and uncertainties made frighteningly possible by such cluelessness in the Oval Office.

The President said there is no “silver bullet” that will solve the energy crisis in the short term.

Who doesn’t think we would see the beginnings of a price reversal almost immediately if tomorrow it was announced that the United States is ready to fully exploit its vast (largest in the world) energy reserves?

Unfortunately, the definitive answer will have to wait until 2012 or beyond.

Until then, prepare yourself for a lot more of the blame game from Uncle Sam…er…President Obama.  

Sorry, wrong finger pointer.

‘Cause I’m the Taxman

Most serious people would agree that in order to dig ourselves out from under the enormous debt that’s been accumulating (particularly in the last few years) we’ve got to do two things–1) substantially reduce government spending, and 2) increase revenue.  Obviously there has been considerable disagreement between the parties over what to cut, and by how much.  What has gotten less attention in the deficit/debt debate, however, is the greater partisan divergence over how to boost revenue.

Make no mistake, reigning in the size and scope of government is mission number one.  We’re on an unsustainable path, and could never grow enough to overcome the hyper-insanity of our current structurally driven budget shortfalls.  But, if we’re going to take a serious shot at avoiding the fiscal and social calamity of European-type debt levels, economic growth must be a key element.  In a $15 trillion economy, the difference between 0% to 2% growth and the 6% to 8% growth that’s historically been associated with vibrant economic times can be upwards of $1 trillion.  Obviously, such an amplification of revenue would go a long way toward putting the country back on a path to prosperity.

The Dems are trying to get out in front of the revenue issue.  Not surprisingly, though, they are attempting to do so by promulgating a narrative that higher taxes, specifically on the wealthy, is the tough medicine necessary to move the revenue needle.  

Any student of economic history (or this blog) understands the folly of that argument.  As evidence that their prescription is the right one, the Lefties will no doubt trot out their one trick pony–the Clinton income tax increase.  You’ve heard the yammering a thousand times…’Clinton raised taxes, yet we were running surpluses as far as the eye could see.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.’   The argument, of course, does not hold water.  Even a superficial examination of the situation illuminates a couple key facts (among others).  First, the income tax rate increases were offset by a substantial reduction in the capital gains tax rate which spurred investment and employment, and concomitantly swelled revenue (as it has each time it’s ever been lowered).  Second, and of greater importance, is that three of the largest bubbles ever (Internet, Telecom, and Y2K) were in the process of inflating.

The Libs other line of attack on the tax front is that the rich are paying a dramatically smaller percentage of taxes on their total income than do the middle class.  Several articles have been publish recently purporting that the effective tax rate on the wealthy is roughly 17%, rather than the 36% top marginal rate.

You can hear the manufactured cries of outrage from all corners of liberal land.  Once again, the Democrat case is specious.  Their flawed rationale conveniently fails to recognize our decision as a society to tax capital at risk at a lower level.  By taxing it less we attract investment and talent from across the globe which in turn stimulates economic activity and employment, thereby creating an overall climate that sustains our culture and provides the biggest benefit to the largest cross section of the population. 

So, the next time you hear Buffett or Gates drone on about the inequity of their tax rate versus their secretary’s, recognize it for what it is…a politically correct inanity.  When Buffett’s secretary’s salary is subject to the same vicissitudes as investment capital and her job has the same multiplier effect on the economy as does investment in new and existing businesses, then come talk to me about the inequity.

There is truth, though, in the Dem argument that we can not cut our way back to prosperity.  Revenue is important, too.  Regrettably and misguidedly, they want to couple cuts with supposed revenue enhancing tax measures (i.e. higher taxes on the wealthy).  To stoke the class warfare fires and lay the groundwork for higher taxes on the wealthy, which in their distorted view would increase tax receipts, they are aggressively pushing a storyline that the well-off are paying the lowest effective tax rate ever (17%).  In furtherance of that position, Democrats are also yelling, as they have for decades, that tax breaks, deductions, and exemptions disproportionately favor the rich (and those who can afford good tax advice).

These Democrat protestations all leave the GOP with a monumental opportunity.  Unfortunately, it will require somebody who can hit the ball off a tee–something the Republicans have not had in quite some time.

Simply stated, if the Dems are correct that the wealthy benefit almost exclusively from tax breaks, deductions, and exemptions, and that they also only pay an effective tax rate of 17%, what rational Democrat wouldn’t agree to a flat individual and corporate tax rate of say 25%, coupled with the elimination of all deductions and exemptions?  Is there a liberal or progressive out there who would pass up the opportunity to hike the tax rate on the wealthy by eight full percentage points?

The next several months will be interesting.  Can the Republicans finally find one or more people to eloquently and convincingly make an eminently makable case on balancing the budget and tax reform?  And, can they do it by using the Dems own rhetoric to seal the deal?

Unwittingly, the Dems have put the ball right on a tee.  Will the GOP shank it or stripe it down the middle?

Prosperity is a mere 300 yards away.

Zero Sum Game

What’s it gonna be tomorrow–2010 budget agreement or a government shutdown?  And how will the skirmish impact the budgeting process for 2011 and beyond?

The Democrats, it would seem, are in a pay now or pay-later-type situation.  Intellectually, they should agree to historic cuts (particularly in the 2011 budget) and absorb a short-term backlash from their liberal constituency, rather than stand in the way of the austerity virtually everyone understands is necessary to prevent us from devolving into a Greek-like economic meltdown.

At least In the former scenario they can attempt to share credit for averting a fiscal disaster of epic proportions, and concomitantly, make a credible case for relevancy in 2012, particularly to Independents.  Should they instead be seen as blocking the path toward critical deep cuts (back to the slightly more reasonable levels of the recent past), they run the stark risk, after the country’s inevitable fiscal reckoning, of marginalizing their party for a generation or more.  A Herbert Hoover redux?

Having said all that, when was the last time Democrats made a decision that wasn’t predicated on the political machinations of the here and now?

The Dems long-standing class warfare strategy has painted them into a corner with respect to drafting a responsible budget (not to mention successfully extricating us from the recession).

Their zero sum approach of pitting businesses and the wealthy against everybody else has led to the longest economic contraction in decades and most anemic rebound in history.  Unfortunately, they are using that same losing formula to inform their budgeting strategy.  Instead of a zero sum game, how about zero-based budgeting?

The grand irony of Obama’s economic philosophy is that the more government attempts to lift the lower and middle classes (by wittingly or unwittingly holding down the upper), the deeper the hole it digs for those it purportedly strives to help most.

Apparently, Obama not only walks on water, he thinks he can selectively control the depth of the tide for each and every boat on that water.

The data doesn’t lie.  Obama’s policies have had the most negative impact on the less fortunate.  For example, the top 5% of earners now account for 37% of consumer outlays.  That’s up from around 30% when he took office.  Don’t be fooled.  The uptick on the high end is not because the wealthy are spending more.  They’re not.  It’s because all classes have been practically paralyzed by the business-hostile policies that have choked off opportunity.  The rich adapt.  Others cannot.

What Obama and his Democrat colleagues need to recognize, but likely will not, is that all the slack is out of the system.  Years and years of extreme wasteful excess have gotten us to the tipping point.  There’s no more room to buy political favor with the purse strings.

The doomsday scare tactics that the Dems love to toss around in response to calls for cuts to their pet programs will only come true if we allow the fiscal insanity to continue. 

If congress and the President would eat a little of the budgetary restraint dog food the American people have choked down over the past few years, maybe Grandma and Grandpa won’t have to.

License to Kill

Congratulations to Lindsey Graham.  The newest congressional Master of the Inane has successfully navigated his way through the Apprentice and Journeyman ranks.  His recent appearance on Face the Nation elevated him to the loftiest level.

He was officially sworn in by Harry Reid, Barney Frank, and Maxine Waters during a small private ceremony on Capitol Hill.

Speaking in reference to the Koran burnings orchestrated by a couple nutty Florida “pastors,” and the subsequent violent Afghan protests that resulted in upwards of two dozen deaths, Graham said, “I wish we could find a way to hold people accountable.  Free speech is a great idea, but we’re at war.”

That gem was in response to Harry Reid, the GrandMaster of All That is Stupid, who said Congress “may look into the Koran burning.”

Say it ain’t so; please!

Should such a hearing occur, it will instantly become one of the most misguided and ill-advised uses of governmental authority in recent times–joining the likes of Stephen Colbert’s testimony (in character) on the need for immigration reform; Bill Clinton’s wielding of the pardon pen; Barney Frank’s support for Fannie and Freddie; and any time Maxine Waters attempts to question a Fed Chairman.

Graham and Reid are attorneys by trade.  Wow!  Didn’t realize DeVry had a law school.

If their potential initiative were to gain traction, it begs the question, ‘why even have a First Amendment?’

Before it was interpreted to mean a whole lot more, the original intent of the First Amendment was to protect political speech, and in particular, speech that could be viewed by some as especially offensive or repugnant.

Over time certain limitations to Free Speech have been recognized by the courts.  The classic case of yelling fire in a crowded theater, for example, is restricted under the so-called Harm Principle.

Of course, yelling fire in a crowded theater is prohibited because it can lead to damage/injury/death as the result of rational reactions.

Isn’t that quite different than the irrational and/or illegal reactions of people to objectionable speech?  Should we hold people legally accountable for the disproportionate and arguably insane responses of others?

I imagine some will attempt to categorize the Florida “pastors” as promulgators of hate speech.  In my view, that would place the First Amendment on a very slippery slope.

Hell, Dubya could very well be the next James Bond if he responded in kind to all the invective that’s been hurled his way.  He’d have a virtual license to kill.

Bush.  George Bush.

President Windsock

And Will Ferrell thought Dubya made presidenten look hard?  Obama just raised the bar.

He does deserve some credit though.  It’s not easy attempting the Triple Lindy of political sophistry.  Not many have the balls to proclaim leader, follower, and bystander status…all at the same time.

John Kerry, wipe that tear away; there’s a new sheriff in town. 

Just how dumb does this man think we are?  Clearly dumb enough to not realize that by turning over the Libyan mission to NATO we’re ostensibly handing it over to ourselves.  Yep, the U.S. provides the biggest chunk of NATO’s budget, and by the way, the commander of the NATO Allied Joint Force is an American Admiral.  I think we just paid the MasterCard bill with our Visa.

Oh what a tangled web we weave.

Oddly, had Obama stuck with and defended what appeared to be his initial position–let the Europeans and/or Arabs take the lead because Libya is much more vital to their regional interests–I could have, and probably would have been supportive.  Unfortunately, he lost me the moment he launched into his standard gymnastics routine of trying to be everything to every constituency. 

Talk about not sticking the landing.  Bela Karolyi should have carried him away from the podium.  It’s not easy walking after you’ve sprained your credibility.

I also could have been on board for humanitarian reasons–that is until Obama and his acolytes started making ridiculous claims that the President’s actions prevented hundreds of thousands of Libyan women and children from being slaughtered.  Come on; really?  Thousands, or the remote possibility of tens of thousands wasn’t enough?  You had to blow any and all trustworthiness with absurd exaggerations?

Isn’t Obama math amazing?  I think he used the same calculator to figure out the number of jobs created or saved from his winning stimulus package.  I digress.

Finally, what would an Obama speech be without his favorite rhetorical device–the strawman?  You know, that emblematic fallacy based on a misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.  Well, he didn’t disappoint.  Among others, he talked about the false choice portrayed by those in Washington regarding intervention as if it were black and white, rather than the nuanced, multidimensional issue it is.

We know better.

Regrettably, the biggest false choice of all was the one made on November 4th, 2008.

Let’s try to do better next time.

You Look Mah-ve-lous!

I’ve been observing a cultural phenomenon develop over the past year or so.  Perhaps you’ve noticed it too?  Social media, in many ways, has been both its genesis and breeding ground.  In fact, it’s darn near impossible to check Facebook these days without seeing at least one or two examples.

I don’t believe an official clinical term has been assigned to this condition, but for the purposes of this blog entry I’ll refer to it as hyper-complimentitus.  Fortunately guys, it only infects women–so far, anyway.

You know what I’m talkin’ about…it’s when women blow more smoke up each other’s skirts than a fog machine at a Kiss concert.

Now don’t get me wrong; I’m all for the exchange of kind words  The malady to which I refer, however, is something far, far beyond standard politeness.  In essence, I’m describing a reality distortion twilight zone.  And, from what I’ve witnessed, the zone grows geometrically the larger the group.  It’s as if women enter a giant accelerator where compliments are hurled back and forth at the speed of light until a sort of flattery fusion takes place.

Your hair is so unbelievably shiny…I’ve never seen your skin look healthier…That dress is utterly stunning on you…I wish my teeth were as white as yours…How in the world were you able to make those brussel sprouts so tasty; I must have the recipe…

Now, you might ask, could not some of that actually be true?  Well, yes, but just like the Supreme Court’s definition of pornography, hyper-complimentitus is recognizable (to a guy at least) when you see it.  For example:

One woman to another:  You are an absolute vision; what is your secret?
Male witness:  Hmm, am I missing something?  She’s wearing a housecoat and facial cream.

Why have women created this alternate universe?  Guys, are we not satisfying their needs?  Stupid question.  Of course we’re not.  But is it something more?  Help me out here, will ya?

Ladies, maybe take it down a notch or two.  Too much artificial sweeter is bad for you.  I’m not suggesting that you channel Al Bundy when a friend asks you in the dressing room, ‘Does this make me look fat?’ 

‘It’s the fat that makes you look fat’  is probably not the best response.  But maybe every now and then you could respond, ‘It’s not bad, but I think there are some other choices that would be more attractive.’

Don’t send your girlfriend out into the world in a leopard-print jumpsuit all because of some misguided notion of friendship.

Just imagine if men did this.

Hey Muammar, I love that pillbox hat; it nicely complements the sash you’re wearing…and it really brings out the sinister in your eyes.

Yo, Hosni, who colors your hair?  You don’t look a day older than when you, me, and Anwar used to hit the Cairo bar scene back in the 60’s..

You know, perhaps I’m onto something.  Maybe the Middle East and the rest of the planet would be a lot better place if we just indiscriminately threw around a heapin’ helpin’ batch of love?

To my male readers out there…you are the smartest, most sagacious and discerning subscribers a blogger could ever hope to have.  I mean, seriously, what’s it like to be so brilliantly astute? Your comments…wow…they simply blow me away with their insightfulness.  I don’t know who all of you are, but I’m certain that you’re exceptionally handsome, impeccably dressed…and you smell good, too.

Submitted for your approval.  Do do do do.

Pay Attention Wisconsin

Given the significant turmoil occurring around the world of late, important domestic issues have taken a backseat.

Today, a salvo was fired by the United Auto Workers (UAW) at all those in government attempting to curb and/or rollback excessive public sector union pay and benefits made possible by politicians with a vested interest in perpetuating the unvirtuous and corrupt cycle of compensation for votes.

Pay attention Wisconsin. 

If any of your zeal for permanent, material reform has eroded, the earlier today words of a union official who represents Ford workers should be a wake-up call.  He said that if Ford does not restore “everything” to the union, “the membership is going to knock it down.”

That’s right; “restore everything.”  It was exactly in anticipation of such a union demand somewhere down the line that Governor Walker of Wisconsin recognized that securing one-time concessions would only delay the inevitable.  Lasting, structural change is what’s necessary.

Of course, the UAW represents workers in a private industry (well, it used to be private until the government ostensibly took it over) so, it is reasonable (if not optimal) for a collective bargaining process to determine compensation (assuming that federal bailouts are not the possible result of a flawed outcome). 

There is no doubt that Ford union workers made considerable concessions (albeit from inflated levels), and now that the company is flush with cash it is not inappropriate for the workers to want a piece of that action.  What would be inappropriate, though, would be for management to restore elements of the old model (i.e.  inflexible and elevated fixed labor costs) that are virtually guaranteed to cripple the company in an eventual market or general economic downturn.  If labor and management are smart (big if, I know), they’ll recognize that the best long-term solution is for an agreement that links compensation with profitability.  As we’ve learned the hard way, there are few/no jobs in an unviable industry.

Wisconsin and other governments must drive for permanent, sustainable fixes.  They need to make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for public sector union compensation to become so dramatically unbalanced.  There are no profits to help insulate governments from bad labor contracts.

“Restore everything” regrettably almost assuredly means the insolvency, too.

Pay attention Wisconsin…and don’t lose your resolve.

Deficit, Schmeficit?

Have you noticed a transformation in the Democrat’s narrative lately?

Well, apparently debt and deficits don’t matter anymore. Convenient, huh? Yep, the gang that just rung up the largest monthly deficit in history–larger than the shortfall under George W. Bush for the entire year of 2007–is changing its tune.

That’s right, folks. Liberal talking points are being rewritten faster than Glen Beck can say George Soros is subverting America.

Mind you, these are the same Democrats that screeched continuously about the red ink that Republicans were spilling under Bush 43. Of course, those protestations were always quite humorous considering that every program on which the Republicans spent money, the Democrats wanted to spend more–considerably more. Political sophistry at its best.

So, when deficits really didn’t matter–when they were typically between 1% and 3% of GDP, maybe 4% in a bad year–the Democrats were apoplectic. Now, when it’s over 12% of GDP, and upwards of ten times greater than it was in 2007, the Dems have an epiphany. Coincidence? Uh, probably not.

It’s been entertaining , though, to see top Democrat politicians, advisors, and pundits trot out some of the old Republican talking points. Unfortunately for them, they don’t seem to get that the argument makes absolutely no sense with spending at such an exaggerated level and unemployment near a multi-generational high.

If the GOP has traditionally been the party of ideas, at least the Dems can now be the party of recycled ones.

As ridiculous on the surface as this attempt at changing the narrative might be, it’s not totally crazy for one very significant reason–the Dems do now and will continue to have the support of virtually all of the establishment media. Yeah, I know, the same media that vilified George Bush for a fraction of the spending.

Notwithstanding how tiresome a subject the media’s doublestandard can be, it is a little enlightening now and then to play the ‘imagine if’ game.

Imagine if George Bush or another Republican were President, and:

– The debt and deficit were skyrocketing to this extent
– There was no budget for the first six months of the fiscal year and counting
– We had no coherent energy policy and gas prices were spiraling out of control
– We were at more than double the rate of full employment for this length of time
– We had outrageous commodity inflation, including food
– The Middle East and North Africa were as unstable as they are now
– We were still mired in Afghanistan

And most importantly, there was near complete abdication of presidential leadership on the biggest issues of our time.

Hmm, in the ‘imagine if’ world don’t you think we’d all be bombarded relentlessly with media attack pieces on the dangerously incompetent president and his administration?

It doesn’t take a polymath to understand that somebody’s gettin’ a free ride…or a 90% discount anyway.

Damn good deal.

Obama must have bought the Groupon.

8 out of 9 Justices Recommend…

Wednesday, in an 8 to 1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the mocking and vicious protest of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) outside the funeral of a fallen Marine was protected by the First Amendment.

On the surface, the ruling is not surprising.  Courts have traditionally and rightly been very disinclined to narrow Free Speech rights.  And, such a lopsided verdict, spanning the ideological divide, would typically be beyond reproach.  Perhaps not in this instance, however.

The decision brings to a close a lawsuit brought by Albert Snyder.  Mr. Snyder sued the “church” claiming that the provocative and extremely nasty signs held by WBC members at his son Matthew’s funeral brought (intentionally) tremendous emotional pain to he and his family.  A sampling of the vile signs included, “Thank God for dead soldiers,” “You’re going to Hell,” “God Hates the USA,” “Thank God for 9/11,” and one that combined the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fi, with a gay slur.

By the way, in case you’re not familiar with the case, the WBC essentially believes that God is smiting the United States/U.S. military for its tolerance of homosexuality.  It should also be noted that the WBC is not affiliated with the Baptist Church as we know it.  It claims to follow Primitive Baptist and Calvinist principles; although the WBC  and its leader have been repudiated by mainstream Primitive Baptists.  The WBC is led by Fred Phelps and is comprised of roughly 70 members, mostly from the large Phelps family.

Again, the ruling was consistent with numerous precedential decisions that protect vigorous debate on matters of public concern–no matter how offensive the tone.

However, there are potential flaws, in my view, with the majority’s decision.  First and foremost, courts, in matters of free speech, have almost always applied a different standard when the target of the free speech is a private citizen, rather than a public figure/entity.  Somewhat surprisingly, the Justices chose to give little weight to the Snyder’s private citizen status.

Incidently, Matthew Snyder (the deceased Marine) was not a homosexual, nor were he or his parents gay rights activists, or activists of any sort.

Amazingly, to me anyway, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, said that “the frequency of the protests–and the church’s practice of demonstrating against Catholics, Jews, and many other groups–is an indication that Phelps and his flock were not mounting a personal attack against Snyder but expressing deeply held views on public topics.”

So, by extension, I guess it is fair to conclude that any individual/group, radical or otherwise, after having established a track record of protests against something he/she/they find to be objectionable, can randomly select any private citizen, and proceed to make that citizen a metaphorical whipping post. 

That strikes me as a distortion of the First Amendment.

Additionally, contrary to Roberts’ claim that the Phelps flock was not mounting a personal attack, was a poem on the WBC’s website attacking the way in which the Snyder’s raised their son (i.e. presumably as a Catholic).

As Justice Alito said in his dissent, “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.”

Surely there are ample opportunities for groups of all sorts to air their strongly held views/grievances without needing to place innocent private citizens in the center of the storm.

The expression of one person’s or group’s rights should not impugn the rights of others.

Baby We Were Born To Run

Tramps like Wisconsin state senate Democrats, “baby they were born to run.”

There’s a certain poetic rhythm, even cosmic alignment to their decision to hightail it out of Cheesetown and seek refuge in the land that practically invented political patronage, Illinois.  Well, maybe they get to take a refresher seminar on corruption at The Best Western where they’re holed up.  Perhaps Blago is instructing.  It is always wise to learn from the best.

Apparently these state senators never heard of fighting the good fight.  Hard to blame them, though.  After all, not being able to convince a majority of the voters of the rightness of your position in what is arguably the most liberal state in the union could probably be construed as a bit of a red flag. 

So instead of continuing to make their case and ultimately letting the ballot box determine the outcome, they and their union constituents are choosing to follow the Al Gore playbook– “When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts.  When you have the law on your side, argue the law.  When you have neither, holler.”

HOLLER!!!

One of the grand ironies in the Democrats’ efforts to protect the status quo on wages and benefits for government workers is that it was Democrats who made compensation the central issue of the financial crisis.  The incongruity, of course, is that although the executive salaries in question were often excessive, unseemly, and inappropriate, they had absolutely nothing to do with the meltdown (not to mention no business of the government).  They were and are an infinitesimal blip on the corporate revenue and profit seismometer. 

On the other hand, by virtually every measure, government worker/retiree compensation is at the center of our local, state, and national fiscal calamity.  By and large, even after considering gross waste, fraud, and abuse, government entities are generally bringing in enough revenue to fund their bloated operations–that is, before one takes into account the outrageously excessive compensation packages that have been “negotiated” for current and retired government workers.

Federal worker benefits are nearly 400% greater than those given to private workers.  Their salaries are 50% higher.  State and local benefits are over 60% more generous.

Those enormous disparities might even be quasi manageable if the eligible recipients were current workers, rather than current AND retired–particularly when the retired far outnumber the current.

Clearly, such a system is no longer sustainable.  The day of reckoning has come.

Governor Walker is completely right not to fall for the union offer of one-time concessions.  Such concessions would do nothing to remedy the system’s structural problems.  The unions would simply use their leverage in future contract negotiations to reignite the fiscal time bomb.

It’s time someone finally attempts to break the un-virtuous cycle of campaign contributions and votes for the quid pro quo of shamefully extreme compensation packages.

“Together we could break this trap
We’ll run to we drop, baby we’ll never go back.”

Let’s see if the “broken heroes” make their way back to Madison “on a last chance power drive.”

Howard Beale Moment

The President in his Saturday radio address called on Congress “to live within its means.”  That’s right; the guy driving us toward a $1.5 trillion deficit this year and a projected trillion dollar deficit for each of the next ten years wants us to tighten our belts.

How does he suggest doing so?  He proposes to shrink the deficit by $400 billion over the next decade via cuts to various discretionary budget items.  For those of you who have trouble shifting the decimal place one to the left, that’s $40 billion per year.  Put another way, it’s a whopping 2.7% of this year’s deficit.  Quite a belt tightening, huh?  Kinda like a 300 pounder slimming all the way down to 292.  That ain’t gonna win ya anything on the Biggest Loser…and it sure ain’t gonna cut the deficit either.

So far, the rumored Republican plan, although targeting two and a half times more in cuts, is still way off the mark and nothing more than chump change.  Even freshman Senator Rand Paul’s spending sketch which calls for a $500 billion cut to this year’s budget is still somewhat timid when one considers the dramatic increase in spending that’s been foisted upon us over the last two plus years.  It would still leave us with a trillion dollar deficit.  Repeat that three times slowly.

Of course, the standard excuse among pols and their pundit enablers is that these cuts are so, so difficult.  They’ll tell you about  how mean, heartless deficit hawks want to eviscerate necessary programs that are depended upon by society’s less fortunate.  Conveniently, they neglect to mention that there would be many fewer in the less fortunate category if our fiscal house were in order.  By the way, in Washington parlance, eviscerate translates to authorizing something short of a geometric increase.  So, trimming 5, 10, or 20 percent from programs that have seen near 100% or greater appropriations increases over the past couple/few years is met with apoplectic incredulity.

Clear thinking, logical people realize that the necessary reductions are no where near as impossible as portrayed.

Unconvinced?

What if I told you that the budget deficit for the entire year of 2007 was $165.24 billion?  Yep, less than four short years ago the country rang up red ink that was more than nine times less than what’s anticipated for 2011.  Who doesn’t think that in a pinch you couldn’t scale back to what you spent just four years ago?

Yes, we could essentially wipe out the deficit by returning to 2007 spending–and that’s before making any tough (for politicians, anyway) decisions on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Defense spending, or tax code simplification.

Remember, when the President or your Congressman or Senators starts spewing nonsense about the impossibility of more significant reductions, remind them about the impossibility of their reelection without them.

Then, channel your inner Howard Beale…

“…get up right now and go to the window, open it and stick your head out and yell ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.'”

It’ll feel damn good…and maybe, just maybe somebody will join you.

It worked in Egypt.

Corporate Responsibility?

I read with amusement (What else can one do but laugh?) a piece in Gawker taking Facebook to task for not insinuating itself right into the middle of the geopolitical mess that is Egypt.

Typifying the asinine quixotic mindset of today’s social-justice-oriented “journalist,” the author, Adrian Chen, states (apparently with a straight face), “In the days since the uprising began in the real world, the company has taken a public position so neutral it borders on cowardly.”

Seriously?

It’s cowardly for a corporation not to stake out a position on the political situation in a foreign country?  Who knew?

He goes on to say that in return for the free press the Egyptian protesters have given Facebook by crediting the site with helping them to organize and launch the uprising, Facebook “should earn their thanks by doing more to enable protesters and activists to use their service safely.”

Hmmm, I’m envisioning a product development meeting of Facebook senior managers.  Begin wavy lined sequence….

Zuckerberg:  Johnson, what are we doing to help the Chechen Separatists?

Johnson:  Sir, my group’s developing a cool new extension of the Poke feature.  It utilizes a super-secure 512 bit triple DES encryption algorithm.

Zuckerberg:  Great work, Johnson.

Zuckerberg:  Smith, tell me how we’re progressing on our effort in Kashmir to tamp down the unrest amongst the Indians, Pakistanis, and Chinese?

Smith: Well, Mark…….

Yeah, that could work.

Of course, the fun shouldn’t be limited to Facebook.  Every corporation clearly has a responsibility.

For example, what about the fine people at Wham-O?  Shouldn’t they be designing a special slingshot to prevent the Palestinians from developing rotator cuff injuries?  Or, perhaps a Frisbee with serrated edges? 

Now we’re cookin’.

How about McDonald’s?  Surely they should be doing something.  Forget Happy Meals.  Maybe a Freedom Fighter Frappe.  Fortified with all the nutrients necessary for the rebel on the go.

Man, this social engineering is easy.  I wonder if the Huffington Post is hiring?

Common Sense Ruling

So, a federal judge in FL strikes down the entire healthcare law as unconstitutional.  Should that be a surprise to anyone who looks at this issue with even a modicum of common sense?  For a second, set aside whatever partisan views you may hold.  Do we really want the government to be able to compel us to purchase a good or service?  Was that the intent of the Commerce Clause?  Consider the implications of such a precedent.  

Even though you may believe a government-centric healthcare system is appropriate, should we simply look past a horribly conceived and written piece of legislation and expand the power of the federal government in such an unprecedented and unconstitutional fashion in order to achieve that objective?  Can’t we find another solution without opening Pandora’s Box and tearing at the very fabric of our liberty?

The grand irony of the judge’s ruling is that he used Obama’s own words against him.  The opinion states, “I note that in 2008, then-Senator Obama supported a health care reform proposal that did not include an individual mandate because he was at that time strongly opposed to the idea, stating that, ‘If a mandate was the solution, we can try to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house.'”

Finally, somebody holding the President accountable for things he said on the campaign trail, and for the ‘ends justifies the means,’ ‘we know what’s best for you’ mentality that permeates his administration and party.

The judge could just as easily have noted another hypocrisy.  Obama and his minions, in their effort to sell the healthcare monstrosity to the American people, insisted repeatedly that the individual mandate was not a tax.  Of course, that position became quite inconvenient when they were forced to defend the legislation in court, because, you see, Congress does have the power to levy taxes.  So, in a shameless, 180 degree about face, the government’s lawyers argued that the mandate was in fact a tax after all.  Whoops.

Supporters of healthcare reform, let’s get out from under this fiscal and constitutional train wreck that’s been foisted upon us and replace it with something that addresses the core issues of cost containment, access, and portability, yet is also market driven, and concomitantly, dramatically less expensive.

Otherwise, get ready for your government-appointed life coach who will instruct you as to what is and is not acceptable in a myriad of areas…like salt intake, cholesterol level, alcohol use, fast food consumption, exercise regimen, sports participation, and a whole lot of other “potentially risky” behaviors.

I can see it now, tens of thousands of Richard Simmons clones, under the auspices of the IRS, showing up at your home or workplace to inculcate you on the ‘government way.’

Does my ass look fat in these candy-striped short-shorts?

God help us all.

SOTU

Tuesday night just won’t be the same without the Jackass-in-the-Box, Nancy Pelosi, entertaining us with her epileptic on a pogo stick routine everytime Barry utters one of his stock applause lines.

Maybe the Republicans in the peanut gallery will be able to fill the void?  Wouldn’t want it to be boring, you know.  In place of “You Lie,” perhaps they can yell out “You spend” each time the Prez proposes big dollars for infrastructure projects or new education initiatives.  Or, when he talks about his signature big government program, healthcare.

There’s been a lot of speculation about how Obama is planning to invoke Reagan in his State of the Union address in an effort to capture some of the Gipper’s pro-growth magic.  Somebody should clue him in that words alone won’t cut it.

Forget Reagan.  That’s way too big of a leap for the Spender-n-Chief.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.

He’d do well to channel a little JFK instead.  Rather than landing a man on the moon and safely returning him to earth by the end of the decade, how about cutting the damn accumulated debt in half in the same timeframe?  Talk about one giant leap for mankind.

Better yet, why not take a cue from one of the greatest speeches of all time, Lincoln’s second inaugural address?  We are, after all, in 2011, engaged in another civil war of sorts, the outcome of which may very well, like the conflict from 1861 to 1865, determine the viability of our nation.

Let’s defeat Big Government and free ourselves from the tyranny of paralyzing debt and deficits.


“Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the ’cause’ of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.”  –Lincoln

As Lincoln came to realize, the time passed for a result less fundamental and astounding.  Both parties have made our situation more precarious by avoiding politically difficult but necessary measures . 

Mr. President, it’s time to step up and recognize the gravity of the situation.  Astounding measures ARE essential now to get our fiscal house in order and preserve our way of life.

With malice toward none…set aside your allegiances and do what’s right.

Pre-Existing Condition

Today, another reminder hit the newswires that the biggest pre-existing condition in Washington is lying.

In a blatant and starkly obvious bit of timing, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report estimating that as many as 129 million Americans under the age of 65 could be suffering from some sort of pre-existing condition.

Is it any wonder that people have so little faith in government?

Just one more scare tactic employed to convince people of the efficacy of an Obama policy.  Remember the good old days when the world didn’t hang in the balance with each and every stroke of a government pen?

If that 129 million number were in fact true, shouldn’t we be throwing a ticker tape parade for insurance company executives?  They’d have to be miracle workers for premiums to be at current levels with one out of every two plus people in the pre-existing condition bucket.

Coincidentally, only a few months ago Democrat congressmen Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak publish a memorandum detailing coverage denials for pre-existing conditions in the individual health insurance market.  In their memo they found that “…from 2007 through 2009, the four largest for-profit health insurance companies, Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group, and WellPoint, refused to issue health insurance coverage to more than 651,000 people based on their prior medical history.”

Admittedly, they’re talking about four providers (although four that happen to encompass a huge percentage of the market), but it’s quite a leap from 651,000 to 129 million.

Never let the truth get in the way of your ideology.

The fact that denials exist should not lead one to conclude that a government takeover of an industry is required.  Insurance companies run private, for-profit businesses.  They have a right to determine the profile of a customer that fits within their business model (subject to reasonable regulatory requirements).  The government does have a role, though.  That role, however, is not to force insurers to accept customers who will either destroy their business or force them to raise premiums across the board in order to mitigate the increased risk.  The government’s role should be to support/subsidize high-risk insurance pools for those who fall outside typical parameters, but who still require coverage.  That is how a pragmatic social safety net works.

It is sensible, market-oriented solutions, underpinned/augmented when necessary by reasonable government policy (such as the aforementioned), that allow our economy to flourish, not the stifling government-first approaches that seem to be reflexive for the Obama administration.

Otherwise, Obama might as well just start ending every speech, with “Yeah, that’s the ticket.”

Special Relationship?

Had to let out a big Scooby Huh yesterday when I read that our esteemed President declared France is America’s greatest ally.  Must have been a bit of shock to the Brits who have supported us through thick and thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with whom we’ve shared a “special relationship” for the past 150 years or so.  Churchill must be rolling over in his grave.

As is typically the case with the Amateur-n-Chief, he’s incapable of saying something positive about one party without simultaneously offending or demeaning another.  Quite an inspirational leader.  Who knew that presidential rhetoric was a zero sum game?

I wonder what it is that France did to achieve such lofty status?  Perhaps Sarkozy comped the Obama’s last date night in Paris?  Hmmm.  

We know the French haven’t spilled much blood or expended any treasure in the war on terror.  Heck, if it wasn’t for them and their Axis of Weasel partner, Germany, the U.N. Security Council could have acted with the unanimity necessary to prod Saddam Hussein to acquiesce to the demands of the global community.

Maybe it’s just that Obama fancies himself as a modern day version of history’s biggest Francophile, Thomas Jefferson?  There are similarities, after all. 

Jefferson was tall.  So is Obama.  Jefferson had a way with words.  So does Obama.  Jefferson was an intellectual.  So is Obama.  Jefferson organized a country.  Obama organized communities.  Jefferson spent enormous sums of money he didn’t have traveling the world.  So does Obama.  Jefferson considered himself a man of reason.  So does Obama.  Jefferson distrusted financiers.  So does Obama.  Jefferson said that “all men are created equal;” yet he owned slaves.  Obama said, “I’m a capitalist; really, I am”…then he tried to control the healthcare, financial, automotive, and energy industries.  Jefferson wanted us to be an agrarian society.  With Obama, we may soon get there. 

And of course, Jefferson was stone cold wrong when it came to France, and so is Obama.

Resolutions

It’s that time again.  A time to reflect on the prior year, but more importantly, a time to look forward.  What can we learn from the past 365 days, and how can we use it to better ourselves?

Politicians, of course, are not like you and me.  They frequently live in bubbles of sycophantic positive reinforcement, and as such, do not typically feel the need for the deep introspection that many of us often find worthwhile.

Nevertheless, I have it on good authority that some in the political class are, in fact, taking the opportunity to contemplate the turbulent past twelve months in the hopes that they can better secure their positions and/or set themselves up for even greater power, riches, and adulation down the road.

What?  You were expecting something more noble?  C’mon.  Wake up.  They are politicians, after all.

Here are some resolutions that I’ve uncovered:



  1. President Obama:  Stop calling Wall Street bankers ‘Fat Cats;’  start calling them ‘Calorically-Challenged Pussies.’

  2. John Boehner:  Show LESS emotion.  How?  Visualize Nancy Pelosi…naked.

  3. Nancy Pelosi:  Show MORE emotion.  How?  Reduce botox injections to twice daily.

  4. Joe Biden:  Stop embarrassing himself and the adminstration.  How?  Tongue-ectomy.

  5. Sarah Palin:  Become a respected policy wonk.  How?  Pick up a book…and stop following Joe Biden’s tweets.

  6. Michelle Obama:  Ramp up the war on childhood obesity.  How?  Have Chris Christie neutered.

  7. The President of Greece:  Substantially reduce his country’s crushing debt and deficit.  How?  Grow a pair.

  8. New Republican House Majority:  Materially scale back the size of government.  How?  Ask WWND (What Would Nancy Do?)…then do the opposite.

  9. 22 Democrat Senators Up For Reelection In 2012:  Don’t get booted out.  How?  Wiretaps and compromising photos of every registered Republican.

  10. 12+ Potential Republican Presidential Nominees:  Rise to the top of the pack.  How?  Follow the Obama 2008 blueprint, but replace ‘Hope and Change’ with ‘Cut A Lot, Then Cut Some More.’

Happy New Year and a wish for smaller, more efficient and effective government in 2011 and beyond.

A guy can dream; can’t he?

J’accuse

True to his nickname, Snarlin’ Arlen Specter did not disappoint Tuesday when he stood on the Senate floor and delivered what he called “…not a farewell address but rather a closing argument.”

His remarks were classic Specter…bitter, often angry, and as always, sanctimonious.  He lectured, ostensibly (and pompously), that his brand of independent, post-partisan, civil statesmanship is the recipe for what ails our dysfunctional and divided congress/country. 

On the surface, that is a defensible, albeit simplistic and naive viewpoint.  The issue, however, is not the message, but the messenger.  You see, with Arlen, it’s mostly been about Arlen.  And his inflated opinion of himself.  He’s a purebred, and virtually all others are mutts…or so he seems to think.

From his long-winded questioning of Supreme Court nominees; to his frequent soliloquy’s on the Warren Commission (he authored the single bullet theory); to his common appearances on the Senate floor and in front of the camera discussing issues of the day, he’s been much more pontificator than effective legislator.

Perhaps it doesn’t help that he looks as if he has more cotton in his cheeks than Marlon Brando playing the Godfather.

When he switched parties in 2009, he sealed his fate as not a purebred, but rather a standard drunk-with-power pol who doesn’t know when to get off the stage.  Just another narcissistic professional politician who is egomaniacal enough to believe that the country would be in trouble without his indispensable wisdom.

The ultimate irony, of course, is that despite his repeated finger pointing and jawboning about dyspeptic, ideologically rigid colleagues who are dragging us and our system down, it has actually been Specter and other career elected officials who are at the root of our system’s ills.

Unlike the result of his questionable analysis of the Kennedy assassination, Specter was taken down by voters perched on thousands of grassy knolls, repulsed by his do anything say anything odious effort to cling to power.

In the end, his Emile Zola “J’accuse” approach was not exculpatory.  Instead, it highlighted his boundless hypocrisy.  Thank goodness for Alfred Dreyfus that he did not have Arlen Specter as an advocate.

Potpourri


  • The Ukrainians are opening up Chernobyl to tourists.  Why not?  Every day we witness an even bigger meltdown:  Congress.

  • Isn’t it curious that we ask our military to deal with the most dangerous and complex matters on the planet, but don’t think they are capable of handling the sexual orientation of some of their comrades?

  • Worse year:  Tiger Woods or John Maynard Keynes?

  • Thinks more of himself:  Brett Favre or Barack Obama?

  • A total overhaul of the tax code (for individuals and corporations) is the only practical, pro-growth way to dig ourselves out of this hole.  If the GOP is willing to eliminate ALL deductions (with the possible exception of charity), will the Dems go for one or two low rates?  Or, will their desire for class warfare continue to reign supreme?

  • Most uncomfortable cry ever:  Nancy Kerrigan’s or John Boehner’s?

  • Bigger perv:  Charlie Sheen or Julian Assange?

  • More disastrous President:  Barack Obama or Sarah Palin?

  • Best talk show host since Johnny Carson:  Jimmy Fallon.

  • Anybody else think Facebook should have a pious filter?  Praise the Lord if they make one available.  Oops.

  • Absent meaningful innovation, the laptop market is going to disappear.

  • Who throws a better riot:  Greece or France?

  • Not a big fan of the tax compromise, but both sides and the media need to stop lying about its cost.  Fact:  maintaining the current rates does not add to the deficit.  Several of its other provisions do, however, increase the red ink.  The cost, in static terms, is about one third of what’s been bandied about.

  • Now that Larry King is off the air (after tonight), and fully able to dedicate himself to the opposite sex, how many more marriages do you think he can squeeze in?

  • Is the Shake Weight the gag gift reincarnation of the Thigh Master?

  • Ironic that the Democrat house leadership that virtually killed Obama and his presidency with its ultra liberal legislation is now trying to resurrect him by scrambling to pass the tax compromise.

  • Octogenarian who needs to retire most:  Charlie Rangel or Joe Paterno?

  • Definition of insanity:  House Democrats proposing and Obama signing another pork-laden omnibus.

  • More clueless on upper income tax rates:  Obama, Buffett, or Gates?

 

Bring In The Stunt President

Isn’t it amazing that the republic managed to survive before Barry took office?  What were the odds of not having these repeated country-hangs-in-the-balance type inflection points prior to 2008?

First, there was going to be a world-wide financial meltdown if the Senate didn’t confirm Turbo Tax Tim Geithner.  Whew, thank goodness the upper chamber came to its senses.  Where would we be without Tim?  And, meltdowns are always so darn messy.

Then it was going to be armageddon if TARP didn’t get re-authorized and expanded.  Another near miss.  We must be blessed.  This is truly God’s country.

Of course, who can forget the blight we were going to face if government-centric healthcare wasn’t passed?  Are we lucky, or what?

I think there were supposed to be locusts or something without Cap and Trade, Card Check, and one or two other initiatives.  Be ready, though; they’re probably just delayed.  It’s a long trip from Egypt, you know.

Today, the Prez used his weekly radio address to remind us that some really bad stuff is just around the corner if the tax compromise he engineered with Republican leadership doesn’t get enacted.  Just in case, better head to Costco and pick up a few cases of water and a gross of toilet paper.  Don’t want to be caught with your pants down…so to speak.

Leaving absolutely no stone unturned in his effort to save our American way of life, the Big O, yesterday, called in the stunt president, Bubba.

Who can blame the guy.  He is, after all, attempting something supremely difficult for him…

Not raising taxes.

Dumb and Dumber

The posturing on the left and the right regarding the Bush tax cut deal framework negotiated between President Obama and Republican congressional leadership has been something to behold.

Republican pundits immediately painted the compromise as capitulation on Obama’s part, ostensibly declaring it his USS Missouri moment–unconditional surrender.

Simultaneously, the liberal base of the Democrat party went apoplectic over the idea of extending tax cuts for the “wealthy” (who, oh by the way, just happen to be the job creators).  As usual, an opportunity to engage in class warfare trumps all for the Dems.

But, guess what?  Both sides got it wrong.

The GOP, in its euphoria to claim victory and secure the tax cut extension, just happened to overlook that the deal represents hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending–similar to Obama’s disastrously wasteful and ineffective first stimulus.  Worse yet, the tax cut extension accounts for less than 40% of the total package.  And, just as with Stimulus I, Stimulus II provides little certainty and no long term or permanent structural change.  As such, it will be much, much less pro-growth-oriented than it could and should be.

The clueless left, in its Sisyphean effort to pull the wage earner up by dragging the wage payer down, has been largely oblivious to the fact that Obama managed to bargain for hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars in new transfer payments–the lifeblood of all liberals.

One side too stupid to realize it lost.  The other, too dumb to recognize it won.

Bad Idea Jeans

If you ever saw the classic Saturday Night Live fake commercial, Bad Idea Jeans (http://www.hulu.com/watch/10310/saturday-night-live-bad-idea-jeans), the list of bad ideas just expanded by one.

Did you catch the recent debut (and subsequent withdrawal under considerable negative scrutiny) of the Kardashian card, a prepaid debit card promoted by the Kardashian sisters and targeted at unsophisticated, impressionable, and vulnerable young girls–a demographic among the least able to properly manage its finances and handle the card’s exceedingly high fees and usurious interest rate?

Perhaps preemptive action should be in order to prevent other potentially disastrous ideas, like…
 
Harry Reid as the new spokesperson for Toastmasters.  Yes, that Harry Reid–master of the malaprop and enemy of all things coherent.  On November 29th, with pressing and critical business before the Senate and only days remaining in the lame duck session, Harry took to the floor, not to lay out a roadmap for resolution of the Bush tax cut matter, or the START treaty, or tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East, but rather to deliver a rambling and disjointed six minute dissertation on the University of Nevada’s football victory over Boise State.  Apparently Harry had a hand in the stunning victory–just as he did in saving us from the next Great Depression.

Or…

Nancy Pelosi as the pitchwoman for a new burger joint.  The ad campaign incorporates video of the soon-to-be-former Speaker repeatedly jumping out of her chair behind President Obama during a State of the Union address.  The chain is called Jackass-in-the-Box…and no toys are allowed…at least in the San Francisco stores.

And how about…

Julian Assange promoting the Xerox document management system.  In a slight twist on the oft-played commercial, it’s Assange who sabotages the mute button on the conference room’s speakerphone.

What’s next, government run healthcare?  Whoops.

Lindsay Jong-un

Who has it better, despotic leaders of rogue nations or Hollywood celebrities?  Tough call.  Both benefit from maximizing their outrageous behavior.  Sweet deal, actually.

Thumb your nose at the world by building out an unsanctioned nuclear capability.  No problem.  The international community will reward you with billions and billions of dollars worth of food, energy, or other incentives to tow the line.  Undoubtedly, you’ll pocket the cash, but never alter the conduct.  And, a year or so later, you’ll get to pull the same stunt all over again.  Beautiful.

Chase a porn star around a hotel room in a drug-induced stupor; get married for 55 hours; manage to get yourself repeatedly photographed exiting a car in a short dress with no underwear on; or rack up two, three, maybe four DUI’s.  No sweat.  You’ll be on dozens of magazine covers and coveted by every eatery and nightclub that caters to the glitterati, their hangers-on and wannabe’s.  The TV and movie offers will start rolling in, too.  You’ll probably get your own fashion label.  And, what about a fragrance?  No self-loving, narcissistic celeb wouldn’t want to afford the unwashed masses the opportunity to smell like him/her.

Of course, as a despot loon, you’ll also enjoy the opportunity to mingle with celebrity loons…and vice versa.  Crazy do like crazy.

Speaking of…why is it that North Korea has yet to find its celebrity patron saint(s)?  Chavez and Castro shouldn’t have all the fun.

Wouldn’t it be a lot more efficient if we could unite both crazy worlds?  Perhaps via another royal wedding?

Kim Jong-un do you take Lindsay Lohan…

Talk about energy.  The Hadron Supercollider would pale in comparison.

Oh well, maybe not.  Guess we’ll just have to go on reinforcing and enabling the insanity.

Don’t Touch My Junk

The hot, media-promoted issue-du-jour, in case you’ve missed it, has to do with recent, more invasive changes in the airport security protocol.  The story had been evolving, gaining incremental attention, until it exploded this past weekend into the public consciousness with the utterance of what will undoubtedly become the phrase of the year.  If only I had the t-shirt concession.

“DON’T TOUCH MY JUNK,” said by irritated and priggish traveler John Tyner, and immortalized via his secreted cell phone camera (of course), is now being promoted as the rallying cry of ticked-off air travelers across the country who are supposedly fed-up with what they perceive to be a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) run amok.

The TSA has deployed, across 70 airports to-date, 385 new advanced imaging scanners–with plans for 1000 by the end of 2011.  Additionally, they’ve implemented a more aggressive physical search regimen.

Despite the media’s best efforts to tell us how our 4th/14th amendment rights are being violated, or why we should be offended by the revealing scanner images and/or the decidedly more thorough/intrusive pat downs, I’m having a difficult time working up the outrage that those in the media, as well as professional victim and attention-seeking classes, seem to be able to do so easily.

Don’t get me wrong, the current airport security model is horrible, but not so much because of TSA incompetence, but more specifically due to the politically correct culture that makes it near impossible for spineless bureaucrats and politicians to enable an intelligent, effective system that is based on profiles of behavior and background, rather than entropy.

TSA is performing pretty much how one should expect a government agency to perform, particularly one that’s been dealt a bad hand.  I don’t begrudge their often ham-fisted methods.  They are ostensibly doing what they can to keep air travel safe within the parameters of a flawed government mandate.

If we don’t have the stomach for the correct policy, and thus are not going to find those carrying dangerous materials via behavioral and background recognition techniques, then what alternative is there?  It is tedious to hear whiners rail continuously against the airport security protocol, especially when the elderly and infants/toddlers are selected for search.  What do you think they’ll have to say the first time explosives are hidden in the clothes or belongings of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed 3 year old?  How about channeling the whining toward the political correctness that prevents the right solution?

Until we get the policy right, if it keeps me, my family and friends safe, feel free to check out a revealing image of my body.  Hell, you can even print it and hang it on your refrigerator if you like.  My feelings are pretty much the same insofar as the pat down is concerned.  Please, just make sure your hands are warm.  And while you’re down there, why don’t you check out my prostate…I am 50 now, after all.

The 4 Trillion Dollar Lie

An interesting battle over the Bush tax cuts is taking shape for the lame duck session of congress.  Who blinks first will go a long way toward determining our economic vitality for the foreseeable future.

As is typical of this president, the man with the octagonal mouth (two sides were just not enough), the rhetoric is all over the map.  He says one thing in his post-election press conference, another in Asia, another on 60 minutes, another to the Republican leadership, and so on and so on.

The guy has to be pretty damn smart, though.  No run-of-the-mill intellect could keep track of so many mixed messages.

Of course, when taxes are at issue, you know what time it is?  That’s right kids; it’s class warfare time!  Too bad the libs can’t fight the war on terror with the same vigor.  I digress.

Will he and his party ever tire of saying bad things about those evil rich people?  You know the ones…the 1% of taxpayers who fork over more than 40% of all tax dollars…the same people who also happen to create the preponderance of jobs.  Well, they did until the enormous wet blanket of Obamanomics strongly disincented them from doing so.

The spin machine is cranking up.  Can you hear it?  At least it’s green, you know–powered by an infinite supply of liberal hot air…with a back-up engine that runs on mendacity and sophistry.  Kinda like the Chevy Volt.

Need to raise taxes and do something about that nasty deficit.  That’s what the Dems are preaching now.  Never mind that they (with a large assist from wayward Republicans) increased the deficit by over $5 trillion since coming to power in 2006.  Remarkable transformation, eh?  All it took was an election night massacre.  They’ve gotten religion faster than a murderer being strapped into the electric chair.  Sincere?  Probably as sincere as they were about sticking to their PAYGO rule after wresting control of the purse strings from Bush and a Republican-controlled congress.

The two primary arguments/talking points that the Democrats employ to convince us of the need to let some/all of the Bush tax cuts expire is that  a)  a $4 trillion hole will be blown in the deficit/debt over the next ten years, otherwise, and  b)  in a recession we all need to sacrifice.

As always, they base their case on the false premise that tax increases predictably raise revenue and tax cuts reliably reduce revenue.  That’s right; ostensibly according to the Dems, each happens in a practically perfect vacuum, with nary a coincident consequence.  The behavior of individuals and businesses just stays the same.  Make sense?  Of course not.

Unfortunately for the left, the pesky facts keep getting in the way.  As detailed in numerous previous blog entries, there is an abundance of evidence of the stimulative power of tax cuts (e.g. see Kennedy, Reagan, and every capital gains and dividend cut in history) and a paucity of proof regarding the rousing results of tax increases.

Worse yet is that nobody gets hurt more by Dem policies than those they are supposedly intended to help most–the poor and middle class.  They, after all, are the ultimate friendly fire victims of the class warfare agenda–sucked into the tangled web of government dependence by the increasingly debilitating effects of disastrous economic policies and concomitant diminishing economic opportunity.

Facts aside, plain old common sense is the answer. 

When government spending increases over 40% in a couple/few years, it is probably not wise to raise taxes on the people who are most able to create jobs and drive the revenue necessary to help counterbalance (if only partially) such outrageous spending.

Imagine the government’s tax receipts if the unemployment rate were 5% instead of near 10%.  Also, consider the revenue potential of a 15 trillion dollar economy expanding at 5% to 8% (post-recession norms), rather than 1% or so.

Do the math.  Hundreds upon hundred of billions of dollars of additional revenue per year to the government is at stake.  We’re at a fork in the road.   Prosperity does not lie at the end of the counter-stimulative tax hike prong.  It lies at the end of the prong that encourages individuals and businesses to keep, spend, and invest more of their money (coupled with a congress serious about significantly reducing the size and scope of government).

Less burdensome taxes and government equals more revenue.

Choose prosperity, not dependency. 

Just like on November 2nd, the choice is just that simple.

Edward R. Seacrest

The Obama presidency has officially jumped the shark.  It was just announced that Ryan Seacrest will be taping an interview today with ole Barry for a Tuesday morning airing.

Here’s twenty bucks that says his first question is, “Who are you wearing?”

Apparently it’s getting harder and harder for BO to find that old fawning media magic.  Hell, after being TKO’ed by Jon Stewart, who can blame him for barking at Axelrod, “Get me Seacrest, stat.”

At this rate, his next sit down may be with the slow kid from the 4th grade class at RFK elementary.

Obama is smart and charismatic, though.  Right? 

If this is what smart looks like, Harvard had better open its gates wide.  The 2011 freshman class might be 10 million strong.

And charismatic?  When was the last time he convinced anyone to do anything?  I’ll bet his kids haven’t brushed their teeth before bed in eighteen months.

But, if you think he’s a broken man now, imagine the next two years–post enormous mid-term election rebuke and loss of a once in a lifetime congressional majority.

He may be relegated to delivering the next State of the Union address in front of the Project Runway judges.  I suspect a cool reception there, too.  Don’t be surprised if Tim Gunn jumps up and yells, “This concerns me.” 

On the bright side, guess it’s better than, “You lie!”

In Case You’re Confused

Some of you appear to be a little confused.

Perhaps a reminder of just what’s at stake on November 2nd is in order.  This isn’t the time to be reading the fine print.  So what if your candidate has a little baggage.  You think his or her opponent doesn’t have just as much or more?  It’s no time to lose sight of the bigger picture.

Rarely, possibly once every generation or two, does an election roll around where a single issue is so dominant, and more importantly, its disposition so critical to the future of the country.

Yes, it’s the economy, stupid!

In case you haven’t noticed, there happen to be two very contrasting approaches for addressing the problem–one is liberal, the other conservative.  So, the choice is actually quite simple.  Which one do you prefer?  And who are the candidates associated with that approach?  Don’t make it any more complicated.

This midterm is not about personal peccadillos; it’s about electing a reliable vote for the liberal or conservative economic agenda–whichever one you think is best suited to getting the country back on the right track.  Pretty simple, right?

If you believe an ever-expanding, encompassing, and controlling government is likely to maximize prosperity for all, then vote liberal. If, on the other hand, you’re convinced we need to reignite capitalism and entrepreneurship, reinvigorate personal responsibility, and dial back the size and scope of government, then vote conservative.  Don’t over think it people.

Party is what matters in this election.  The elected official is nothing more than a vessel for the votes that are aligned with your preferred policies.  They will, when all is said and done, vote consistent with the party platform a predictably high percentage of the time.

Tune out the noise that the entrenched powers are using to distract you from thinking clearly.  They’re working feverishly to focus you on anything but the issues.

Are you listening Nevada?  What about you Alaska, Connecticut, Washington, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia?

And how ’bout you California…poor, sweet, clueless California?  What’s it gonna take for you to wake up?  Twenty years of out-of-control spending.  A choking regulatory environment.  Businesses leaving the state in droves.  Outrageously high taxes.  Do you think it might be time to try another way?

Forget the candidate and focus on the party.  There will be plenty of time to elect the next Henry Clay, Sam Rayburn, or Daniel Webster after we’re out of the woods.

We’ve already tried Obamanomics…could witchcraft be any worse?

A Tale of Two Idiotic Ideologies

Indulge me if you will.  Normally, I relish the nuance in arguments–the fine, often times obscure details that can and do determine what is actually correct.

It is, after all, nuance that typically exposes the deleteriously real or expected outcomes of feel-good positions.  Modern liberal economic orthodoxy, for example, is littered with the calamitous consequences of populist policy.

So, as much as I normally genuflect at the altar of gradation, allow me to abandon it completely in favor of a couple sweeping generalizations.  Some of you may want to argue the minutia.  That’s okay.  There is a lot of it to consider.  But, my primary point for the purpose of this blog entry lies in the general.

Imagine a United States dominated by economic liberals and social conservatives.  Are there two other groups more out of touch with reality?

Regular readers of this blog are more than aware of my thoughts on liberal economic ideology.  Never have so many been so categorically and provably wrong on so consistent a basis.  More elegantly stated by Ronald Reagan, “The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

That brings us to social conservatives, who are, in many respects, even worse…probably because I hold conservatives in general to a higher standard, and expect them to be practical and factual.

The absolute worst of social conservatism has been on full display this past week, first with New York gubernatorial candidate, Carl Paladino, and most recently with Colorado senate hopeful, Ken Buck.  Ignorance and intolerance are so very, very unpleasant.

On Meet the Press Buck said, when queried as to whether or not homosexuality is determined at birth or learned, “I think that birth has an influence over it, like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically, you have a choice.”  Seriously?

In 2010 do we really need to care about someone’s sexual orientation (let alone race or religion)?  Is it posing a genuine, rather than imagined threat?  If social conservatives are truly about family values, why not simply define the parameters a bit more broadly?  Aren’t we generally better off as a society when people are in loving, supportive relationships?  I don’t know about the rest of you heterosexuals, but I haven’t lost my innate attraction to the opposite sex because of exposure to gays.  I suspect you won’t either.  Trust me.

The country has rarely needed an injection of economic conservatism more than it does right now.  What a shame it will be for all, but particularly the lower and middle classes, if fewer economic conservatives are elected on November 2nd due to the arcane beliefs of a backward minority.

Let’s keep liberals out of the board room and conservatives out of the bedroom.

What’s Good for the Goose

The Wall Street Journal ran an Op-Ed on October 13th in which four governors offered up their solutions for cutting spending.  Pennsylvania’s esteemed Cheesesteak-Eater-n-Chief and number one media toady, Ed Rendell, put forward a couple of ideas under the title of, “Try Smart Shopping.”

Hmmm, what could that be?  Perhaps a reinstatement of the draft to conscript an army of personal shoppers?  It could, after all, do wonders for the unemployment rate…and just think how much better we’d all feel in designer-wear coordinates selected and procured by a trained professional.

Private First Class Dietrick reporting for duty, sir!  Name, rank, and inseam size, please.

Ah, bummer; that’s not it.

Actually, Fast Eddie chortles in the WSJ that he’s saved PA taxpayers millions by putting various procurement contracts out to competitive bid.  Genius!  Adam Smith has nothing on this guy.  Who knew that when you allow vendors to compete against one another in a free market that downward price pressure would be one of the outcomes?

Rendell also says that the state has saved money by imposing the first-ever employee contribution toward healthcare premiums, giving its workers greater responsibility for their own care, and requiring them to fully engage in wellness programs (or face 50% higher payments).  More sheer brilliance.  Imagine, incenting individuals to not frivolously use the healthcare system–linking proactive health maintenance with employee out-of-pocket costs.

I wonder…is it possible…nah….well maybe…could such an insane idea…nah, it’s too crazy…but, you never know…ok, I’ll just go ahead and say it…why not use the aforementioned principles to get the government out of the way and allow the combination of free market forces and personal responsibility solve our healtcare ills?

I must be running a fever. 

Hope the government allows me to see a doctor.

Kettle, You’re Black

From the “Hello Kettle, I’m Pot;  you’re black” files, Nancy Pelosi accused Newt Gingrich and the Republicans of attempting to gain electoral advantage through the use of class warfare.

Thank goodness her skin is pulled so tightly; otherwise, it would have been damn near impossible to say that with a straight face.

Not since Eva Braun declared, in an early men’s magazine profile, that she hated bad moustaches and mean people has a more ironic statement ever been uttered.

The Democrats, of course, are the party of irony.  Nancy has undeniably taken the gold, but feel free to choose silver and bronze medalists amongst the following:

  • Al Gore using more energy than most small cities.
  • Jimmy Carter implying that various Obama policies are ill-conceived.
  • Ted Kennedy being a champion for women’s rights.
  • NOW endorsing Bill Clinton.
  • The paragons of liberalism and equality eulogizing Robert Byrd.
  • Tim Geithner being responsible for the IRS.
  • Joe Biden chosen for VP because of his foreign policy wisdom.
  • Harry Reid being the leader of anything.

Can’t wait, though, for the ultimate irony on November 2nd–the self-proclaimed populists being driven from office by a populist uprising.

Touche voters.

The Baron of Boston

Thank goodness (for him) the senior Senator from Massachusetts isn’t up for election this year.  His nobleness, the Baron of Boston, demonstrated once again that the proletariat masses just aren’t worthy of his highly gentrified and patrician representation.

In a recent print interview, John Kerry explained, almost surely during afternoon tea, sipping a cup of camomile, pinky proudly extended…possibly sailing around Newport on his $7 million, 76 foot yacht, that an uninformed, out-of-touch public is primarily to blame for the Democrats’ problems heading into the midterms.

That’s right, it’s not the Dems’ widely despised policies that are at issue, it’s our inability to appreciate their wisdom.

In a flash, the effete one managed to reinforce what he and his liberal colleagues have been preaching for years, that we’re simply not smart enough to comprehend the Progressive vision for a more utopian America.

Kerry added, “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening.”

Strange.  I thought people were paying more attention than ever over the past twenty months or so?  And, for a moment there I was practically certain he was referring to the 2008 Obama campaign?

He clearly knows something us bumpkins don’t.  I’m humbled by his brilliance.

Is it possible we can ever be worthy of the Senator’s magnificent intellect and stirring leadership?  Yes we can!  Whoops, there’s one of those darn misleading slogans.  Sorry.

Oh how we disappoint him.

I guess that explains the long face.

Hanging On In Not So Quiet Desperation

Besides the obvious or obtuse policy differences between Democrats and Republicans, there was always one reliable distinction between politicians in the two parties–an element of shame.

Historically, and frequently for no rational reason, Democrat office holders have found it quite difficult to relinquish power.

We’ve seen their brazen, twisted logic displayed time and again.  Always with some pretext handy as to why they should remain in office or ‘continue the fight’–despite election results that say otherwise, or irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

Accept $100,000 from an FBI informant, then have the FBI later find $90,000 of it wrapped in aluminum foil and stashed in your freezer…and oh by the way, have it all captured on videotape…hey, no problem.  It’s all a misunderstanding. 

Talk about a frozen bank account.

Get caught not reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and violating a litany of other ethics rules…no worries. 

Two simple words:  I forgot.

The Democrat examples are too voluminous to detail.

Well, in recent years, a growing number of Republicans seem to have had their own shame-ectomy.  Talk about a disappointment.  The old standard was so much more respectable, not to mention dignified.

The days of tucking your tail between your legs and stepping away quietly after losing a close election or getting your hand caught in the cookie jar is no longer a given for some narcissistic, egotistic, arrogant Grand Old Party elected officials and candidates.

John Ensign, Charlie Crist, and Lisa Murkowski are all eviscerating the GOP tradition of putting party and the greater good ahead of personal politics and ambition.

Of course, they’re not the first Republicans to do so.  Arlen Specter does hold a Lifetime Achievement Award, after all.

It was particularly painful to watch Lisa Murkowski in a recent Today Show interview try to convince us that she is selflessly waging her write-in campaign because it’s the “will of the people” (not her desperate effort to cling to power).  The populace’s “uprising” and “outpouring of support” has been “so overwhelming”, and their pleas so convincing that Lisa, the defender of all that is right, is the only one who can “give Alaskans this opportunity” to be graced by another six years of her Churchillian leadership.  What a noble woman.

Too bad she is seemingly unaware that when you live in a bubble, as all politicians do, there is always someone who is going to tell you that your ‘ass’ doesn’t look fat in those jeans.

Just another clueless politician.

Perhaps a pledge to step away is something that should be added to the ‘Commitment to America’ document currently being crafted by the Republican leadership?  This is an area where a return to the past would be more than welcome.

ODD Behavior

It was a hellish August for President Obama and the Democrats, and September doesn’t appear any more encouraging.  The economy continues to languish; their poll numbers are going through the floor; and the generic ballot is the most favorable it’s been for any party, let alone the Republicans, in its 68-year history.

However, if you’re a loyal Democrat, don’t despair; you have a few soulmates.

The lovely and oh so fair-minded (gulp) Joy Behar, when asked whether Obama was living up to her expectations, commented, “Yes, so far but, you know, I have questions on him, too.  Nobody escapes my wrath.  Nobody.  And I’m very happy that, you know, he is doing as well as he is.”

Apparently ‘ol Joy has a bigger blind spot than a ’57 Chevy.

Just yesterday, in an interview with POLITICO, Martha Stewart, discussing the fact that she will doing up-close-and-personal prime-time interview specials, said in response to a question on who she’d like to interview, “Nancy Pelosi…in detail.  She’s a phenomenal woman – look at what she’s done.  And she’s absolutely beautiful.”

Parents, please please discipline your kids, and by all means, keep them out of the slammer.  Look at what its done to poor Martha!

But Martha and Joy are not alone.  Several days ago on Hannity, Jerry Springer opined, “I think Barack Obama has done a good job as president.  In fact, I’d say even better than good.”  He continued, “…I must admit, he’s turned out to be an excellent president.”

Do you think Jerry has been hit by one too many flying chairs?

If you find yourself thinking like Joy, Martha, and Jerry, the clinical term for your condition is Obama Deep Derangement syndrome, or in layman’s terms–ODD behavior.

Take two asprin and vote Republican on November 2nd.

It Takes a Weiner

Eponymously named Democrat congressman, Anthony Weiner, tweeted earlier today, “It takes a great man to build a barn.  Any jackass can kick it down.”  A not-so-thinly-veiled shot at Republicans.

Admittedly, Republicans weakened a wall or two during the Bush years, but Weiner, Pelosi, Reed, Obama, and their Democrat colleagues have flattened the barn, burned the crops, killed the animals, and razed the entire damn farm…and all in a few short years.  Impressive.

In which environment do you think the townsfolk would best be able to rebuild: 

One where businesses and entrepreneurs understand the rules of the game and are properly incented to deploy capital and create jobs?  Where the tax code is simple, certain, and growth-oriented?  Where the regulatory regime provides necessary oversight, but doesn’t smother those under its purview?  Where the free market is unshackled and able to stem out-of-control healthcare costs?  Where risk-taking is encouraged and rewarded, not vilified?

Or, one where businesses and entrepreneurs are laden with uncertainty regarding their taxes, healthcare costs, and regulatory requirements?  And where consumers are afraid to spend, and businesses are reluctant to hire?

Weiner should know better than to light a match in tinderbox barn.

It takes a village to identify its idiot, and a Weiner to be, well…a wiener.

In this case, we got a twofer.

Recovery Summer?

Remember when the Democrats and media vilified George Bush for the “Mission Accomplished” banner that was hung on the USS Abraham Lincoln?

Apparently their indignation is selective, because it certainly hasn’t surfaced over Obama and company’s Recovery Summer declaration.

The liberal outrage police must not have been paying attention when Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner draped an equally bold and premature sign across the aircraft carrier that is the U.S. economy.  “Welcome to the Recovery.”  That was the title of his Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal on August 2nd. 

Perhaps ‘Welcome to the Grand Illusion’ would have been a better choice. 

Well, maybe it is Recovery Summer.  After all, Geppetto…er…Obama keeps trotting out Joe Biden to tell us so. 

But, how much faith can you put in a puppet?

Recovery Summer?  Nah. 

More like Nuclear Winter.

Can We Talk?

Is it still possible to have an honest, intellectual debate in this country without fear of retribution from the PC police?  I mean, seriously.  Can we talk?

Has it gotten so bad that common sense positions on issues can no longer be advanced if they don’t meet some random, phony compassion threshold established by the self-appointed “enlightened” in our society?

In case you don’t know, “enlightened,” in this context, means anyone who disproportionately values what he/she perceives to be empathetic at that moment in time–over what are the long-term consequences, many of which are often quite deleterious to orders of magnitude more people than those who are the beneficiaries of so-called “enlightened” viewpoints.

The immigration debate is a perfect example.  It’s hard to fathom a rational thinker who wouldn’t recognize that a country must be able to control its borders, and without respect for the rule of law, we’d have chaos and anarchy.  Of course, that hasn’t deterred the politically motivated and disingenuous among us from trying to frame this as a matter of discrimination and bigotry.  Those who possess even an ounce of intellectual honesty must recognize the specious arguments posed by those with something to gain (e.g. votes).  However, with the help of an agenda-driven mainstream media, many in the general populace, perhaps some of whom have difficulty thinking for themselves or are too lazy to independently analyze, believe it would be swell to impress those around them with their “enlightened” views–having little/no understanding of, or care for, the long-term consequences.  As a result, communities and their citizens are seriously damaged. 

Similar politically correct zeal has sprung up regarding a long-standing interpretation of the 14th amendment that says anyone born in the United States is a citizen of the United States, even though the parent(s) may be in the U.S. illegally.  The PC police are working overtime on this one to scare and discredit all who would dare to support a position that says, ‘you know what, should we really be allowing/incenting those who are breaking our laws from deriving a benefit from their law-breaking actions?  Wouldn’t it be reasonable to have some legitimate debate on the matter?’ 

Nope.  You’re an uncaring, racist troglodyte if you even want to discuss it, regardless of the fact that limited resources otherwise largely for the benefit of the less fortunate (but legal) are being seriously depleted as a consequence of the ostensibly uncontrolled flow of illegals into the country.

Just the other day, several weak-kneed Republican candidates, instead of supporting legitimate debate, have chosen to take the easy way out and be “enlightened.”  So much for a principled, in-depth examination of the subject.

That’s too bad, because we all ultimately lose when issues are not evaluated on the merits, but rather on how we’ll be perceived if we support one side or the other.

Can we talk?

Apparently, the answer is NO.

Joan Rivers, we need you.

Nutty Uncle Harry Is At It Again

Did you catch the latest pearl of wisdom from nutty Uncle Harry?  Speaking to a group of Latino’s, he said, “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican.”  He then added, “Do I need to say more?”

Funny, I thought Hispanics were just as interested in an opportunity for prosperity as the next guy.

I generally don’t like to speak for anyone, particularly liberal Democrats, but I’m pretty sure that their collective response to the last part would be, ‘No, for the love of God, please don’t say another word!’  Is there anything more cringe-worthy for the Dems than witnessing one more episode of verbal diarrhea from the clueless one…well, besides living through the implosion of the practical application of their long-held economic theories?

Perhaps it’s unfair of me to criticize ol’ Harry.  After all, he may have some rare form (outside Capitol Hill, anyway) of politics-induced Tourette’s Syndrome.  Let’s hope the new healthcare law allows him to see a doctor in order to get that diagnosed.  Whoops, how stupid of me, almost forgot that congress doesn’t have to play by the same set of rules as those of us among the great unwashed.

Anyway, I’m probably over-reacting.  Of the litany of things Harry Reid doesn’t understand, ‘why a Hispanic would be a Republican’ is pretty far down the list.

For example, to name a few, he doesn’t understand the basics of:

  • Our free market system
  • Personal liberty and the role the constitution plays in protecting it
  • Individual responsibility and initiative

Nor does he understand:

  • How to stimulate the economy
  • How to stop out-of-control spending
  • How to restrain mushrooming government
  • How to reform healthcare
  • How to put us on a path to energy independence
  • How to secure our borders
  • How to properly regulate our financial system
  • How to stop the melt-down in the housing market
  • How to negotiate free trade agreements
  • How to protect us from terrorism

To be fair, he does understand some things, like:

  • How to create a system of cradle to grave entitlements
  • How to explode the national debt
  • How to weaken us economically
  • How to lessen our stature abroad

Yep, upon further review, it’s pretty clear that his latest excretion is relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things.  So, nevermind.

Someone, anyone… please drape a blanket over nutty Uncle Harry’s legs and wipe away the drool that’s running down his neck.

Roy McAvoy

It’s been quite a site to witness…our incredibly shrinking president, that is.

Day after day, this formerly formidable figure, simultaneously revered and feared, has done very little (besides a whole lotta economic damage) but diminish his personal standing, and the stature of the presidency.

The man who was swept into office amid great fanfare and hope for the future, even among many on the other side of the political spectrum, is now but a shell of the powerful orator and possessor of solutions for what ails us that he appeared to be during the campaign.

The foreign leaders who were supposed to accede to his every wish and whim, now ridicule his requests for cooperation, and look askance at his stewardship of the economy.  The liberals who salivated at the very thought of a Progressive in the White House, now lament his weakness and stunning incompetence.  The independents that pined for a bipartisan leader who would help us solve the vexing problems of our time, now wonder how they could have been so foolish.  And, the conservatives who were highly skeptical of the Big O’s record, but respected his smooth style and political dexterity, particularly after eight years of often ponderous prose from GWB, now have redoubled their resolve regarding the importance of limited government.

In hindsight, it’s not so surprising, really.  The bright lights do have a way of separating the bona fide from the bogus. Seeming scratch golfers on the range often turn out to be 20-handicap hackers on the course.

Is it just me, or is Obama playing the role of Roy McAvoy in a remake of Tin Cup?  He stubbornly keeps trying to hit the ball over that damn water, but time after time it ends up in the hazard.  Perhaps one of these days he’ll actually hole it.

Unfortunately, by then, the tournament will have been lost.

More Everything…Well, at Least the Bad Stuff

Sixteen economic and academic lions of liberal orthodoxy just joined together in a consensus statement to demand immediate action to bolster our teetering economy.  These geniuses of the Left are calling for more stimulus and tax credits.

Their thesis is:  “As in the 1930’s, the economy is suffering a sharp decline in aggregate demand and a loss of business confidence.  Long experience shows that monetary policy may not be enough, particularly in deep slumps, as Keynes noted.”  As a result, they say there is “urgent need for government to replace the lost purchasing power of the unemployed and their families.”  They believe this can best be remedied via a boost in government spending programs.

Keynes?  Seriously?  His continually discredited theories will no sooner solve our economic woes than will magnetic bracelets for all fix our healthcare system.  Neither has any basis in fact.

Aggregate demand is not the issue.  Aggregate employment is.

There is plenty of demand.  Those who managed to scrape together the cash, readily queued up to take advantage of government largesse in the form of home and auto purchase incentives.  Unfortunately, when those subsidies disappeared, so did the buyers–not due to a lack of demand, but rather because of ongoing uncertainty over the economic landscape and household finances.

Other than that great economic mind, Nancy Pelosi, does any serious thinker really believe that unemployment benefits have a sustainable stimulative effect on the economy?  Sure, they are necessary for a lot of reasons, but is it really so difficult to understand that they change nothing structural?  Those on the receiving end save what they can (if they can) and spend the remainder, mostly on necessities. 

To believe Pelosi and the Keynesians, one has to assume that businesses are highly irrational.  For example, should we have expected the auto companies and home builders to ramp up manufacturing and construction, and therefore employment, as a result of ephemeral government-subsidized, consumer-directed incentives?  We would be in even worse shape now if they were dumb enough to take that bait.

Who supposes executives in those industries choose to weigh more heavily a fleeting blip in sales from a one-time consumer incentive over a stubborn unemployment rate of 9 or 10%?

Now that businesses have had time to restructure and get their costs in line, wouldn’t it be much more logical to strongly “encourage” them to hire?  Government action that significantly reduces their cost of doing business, and concomitantly increases profitability, will invigorate hiring (i.e. a substantial cut in, if not elimination of, the corporate tax).  That is a growth-oriented policy that has a structural and sustainable impact.  More jobs.  More disposable income.  A healthy and expanding economy.

Of course, a similar result could be derived by reducing the cost of running a household (i.e. a permanent across the board cut in individual tax rates). 

Sure, either solution will ultimately lead to some big(ger) profits for those evil corporations, but like it or not, that’s the virtuous cycle that has been the engine for this country’s past greatness.  Hopefully, that will remain the case in the future.

Ahh, I can hear the Liberals now….

Across the board tax cuts for businesses and/or individuals; you’ve got to be kidding!!!  Just lining the pockets of the rich!

Funny, I wouldn’t mind the rich getting richer in return for lowering the unemployment rate to 5 or 6%.  Call me crazy.

Unfortunately, it appears that many in the political class would prefer to cynically maintain/expand their voting block, rather than affect the change necessary to get the country back on track.

As the supermodel sitting in first class next to Seinfeld said, “I’ve never met a man who knew so much about nothing.”

She might as well have been talking to the clueless sixteen.

Comedian-n-Chief

There was big news out of Washington on Wednesday.  Apparently, the White House is launching a campaign to convince us….wait for it…..that Obama is not antibusiness.  Yep, you read that correctly…NOT antibusiness.  Okay, hop back up on your chair.

This guy is just too funny.  He can’t lead or govern worth a damn, but he does have one helluva future in stand-up comedy.

Fast forward to circa 2014.  The Funny One has been out of office for two years.  He’s at some lounge on the outskirts of Vegas honing his new routine.

<Begin wavy-lined dream sequence.  Enter toward the end of his four-minute set>

You know you’re a bad President when…
– Joe Biden is now referred to as the smart one.

You know you’re a bad President when…
– Your base starts pining for the good old days of the Carter Administration.

You know you’re a bad President when…
– Your Kitchen Cabinet is hiding in the basement.

And, you REALLY know you’re a bad President when…
– All the First Lady wants to mount is a challenge in the next election!!!

I don’t get no respect…no respect at all.

I’ll be here four years…er…all week.

Try the scraps.  That’s all that’s left.

Divorce

Did you see that Tiger and Elin reached a tentative divorce settlement in which he agrees to pay her between $750 million and $833 million?  In return, she consents to never comment publicly about his extramarital affairs.  Quite a payoff for a relatively unimpeded opportunity to rehabilitate his image and convince the public he’s not the ass most believe him to be.  Woods does, however, get access to the children–as long as he is not in the company of a woman to whom he is neither married nor engaged.  Hmmm…that might not be a gimmie.

Messy circumstances, but most likely best for all parties.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Obama and we the citizenry could reach a similar accord?  There are irreconcilable differences, you know. 

Like most marriages, this one started out hot and steamy.  It was true love.  But, as is so often the case, illicit affairs (Wright, Ayers, Rezko, Blagojevich, Holder, Napolitano, GM, Chrysler, AIG, SEIU, UAW, Sestak, and Romanoff to name several) and money matters have broken down the trust that must be the foundation of any healthy relationship.

Don’t ya just hate it when the bills come and you find out your significant other has been on a spending bender?  Sure, you could probably stomach a few pair of Manolo’s, a Hermes bag or two…maybe even a new set of clubs, but when it all adds up to an extra four or five trillion, enough is enough.  Right?

And, then…learning of that threesome with Fannie and Freddie…fugetaboutit!!!  Those two sluts have been homewreckers for quite a while.

The breakup probably won’t be easy.  Some nasty things have been said, and a lot…make that a WHOLE LOT of damage has been done.

Perhaps an interim step is in order, say a restraining order this coming November?

With a little luck, we should be able to get the final divorce papers signed in 2012.

Anybody know a good attorney?

Ain’t No Churchill

It’s never particularly difficult to understand why we despise the political class, but every so often something happens that reinforces our disdain.

This past Sunday was such an occasion.

Rahm Emmanuel, White House Chief of Staff, on ABC’s This Week program, railed against BP CEO, Tony Hayward, for attending a yacht race back in Great Britain.  Among his gusher of acerbic comments, Emmanuel spewed this gem, “And I think we can all conclude that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting.  This has just been part of a long line of PR gaffes and mistakes.”

Can you spell chutzpah?

As Emmanuel’s criticisms were hitting the Sunday airwaves, the Hack(er)-n-Chief was part way into a six-hour round of golf–his seventh foray to the links since the Gulf disaster began.  Mind you, this is the same person who vowed, in Churchillian fashion, that “we will not rest until this well is shut, the environment is repaired, and the cleanup is complete.”

Sure, it didn’t have the eloquence and resonance of Winston’s We shall fight on the beaches speech (“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…” ).  But, to be fair, Barry IS fighting in the bunkers.  He’s just carrying a sand wedge instead of a rifle.

So, maybe BO can’t offer “blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Shouldn’t we, though, expect more than…sludge, oil, fears and debt?

Obama Shrugged

The proliferator-n-chief of the straw man argument has been at it again, floating the notion that Republicans are some how hypocritical in their attacks on his untimely and ineffective response to the oil disaster in the Gulf.  Without a hint of regard for fact, he has, over the past week, repeatedly and pompously mischaracterized Conservative ideology by declaring, “Some of the same folks who have been hollering and saying ‘do something’ are the same folks who, just two or three months ago, were suggesting that government needs to stop doing so much.”

Really?

Does he honestly think we’re that stupid–unable to distinguish between his administration’s unprecedented usurpation of our quasi-free market system, and the proper and customary role of government in the face of a catastrophic environmental disaster of national scope?

Perhaps he just doesn’t understand?

In the ass-backwards, Bizarro world of BO, it’s apparently okay for government to insinuate itself into the automobile, financial, and energy industries, but murkier when it comes to government discerning its proper role in relation to a calamity that poses a monumental national threat.

There is no hypocrisy in the Conservative critique, only ignorance in Obama’s comprehension of the role of government.  It is perfectly rational to be against unsustainable spending and il-advised intrusions into the marketplace, while also being for a muscular governmental response to an event with such potential socioeconomic consequence.

Conservatives understand that the fundamental purpose of our government is to provide for the safety of the citizenry; to maintain public order; and to protect our natural resources and way of life.  Those are all things for which the government is uniquely qualified.

Now, if we could only determine for what this president is uniquely qualified. 

Who is Barack Obama…and where the hell is John Galt?

I Confess!

U.S. Senate candidates Richard Blumenthal and Mark Kirk are not the only ones to have misrepresented their military service.  Yes, your humble blogger has done so, as well.  I’m not proud of it, but nearly 45 years of lies is enough.  It’s time to come clean.

Allow me to set the scene.  It was 1966, and I was a snot-nosed 5-year-old enlistee in St. Joseph’s Military Academy.  I have no idea why my mother sent me there, but then again, I have no idea why my mother did a lot of things.  St Joseph’s was located in the East Liberty/Shadyside section of Pittsburgh.  It was a boarding school, and for a kid who had never been away from home, a bit of a shock to the system.  Nevertheless, I soldiered on–literally and figuratively.  In addition to our academic pursuits at St. Joseph’s, the students wore military-style uniforms, and engaged in various marching and drill activities.

As it turned out, my tour of duty was short.  The school closed its doors less than twelve months later, and I matriculated to St. Margaret’s in Green Tree for the remainder of my elementary education.

Although my tenure at St. Joseph’s was abbreviated, It’s impact was lasting.

Years later, I often referenced my time in the military during the Vietnam War (conveniently omitting the academy part) .  If it gave me a leg up when competing for a job, or trying to impress someone in a social situation, so be it.  There’s really little difference between a military academy and the actual military, anyway…right?  Well, that’s what I had convinced myself.

Not surprisingly, one lie led to another.

During one particularly snowy day at St. Joseph’s, a classmate and I were involved in a sledding accident.  The Flexible Flyer we were both riding flipped and ended up sliding across one of my eyelids, leaving a nice gash and requiring that my mother be called to approve the necessary stitches.

An opportunity was born.  The wound, as I came to describe it, “happened during the Vietnam War.”  Technically correct?  Yes.  Was I awarded the Purple Heart?  No.  But was there harm in implying as much?

It didn’t end there.

On November 14th, 1965 when first elements of Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion/7th Cavalry touched down at Landing Zone X-Ray in the central highlands of South Vietnam (beginning of the bloody battle of Ia Drang), who later claimed to have been there?  You got it.  Yours truly.  Sure, it was only 3 days after my 5th birthday, but who checks dates?  I was, after all, a pretty precocious kid…having been bumped up, as a 1st grader, to the 3rd grade reading and math classes and all.

Later, when the battle was immortalized in the critically acclaimed book, We Were Soldiers Once…And Young, and then the movie, I was at it again, asserting that I was the inspiration for the “…And Young” part.

Clearly, it’s a tangled web that I’ve woven over these many years.  Now, it’s time to stop the deceit and misrepresentations, and ease my guilty conscience.

I’m deeply sorry and sincerely regret all the times I may have misspoken over the past 45 years or so, but I will not allow anyone to impugn my integrity or disparage my year of hell in the military…academy, that is.

I confess! 

World’s Most Dangerous/Difficult Jobs

Al-Qaida announced on Monday that its #3 official had been killed, along with several members of his family, and other yet-to-be-identified persons.

Although the year is less than half over, this locks up, on points (8th al-Qaida #3 to be killed) the prize for world’s most difficult/dangerous job.  The #3 position in al-Qaida is undeniably riddled with risk and is anything but a stepping stone to bigger and better things–unless you factor in that 72 virgin thing.

Well behind, but still no picnic, are the following jobs:

  • Traveling secretary and other associates in close proximity to al-Qaida’s #3.
  • Nancy Pelosi’s swamp drainer.  Better luck next year.
  • Ethics adviser to Charlie Rangel.
  • Illinois vote counter.
  • The guy charged with reminding Arlen Specter what party he’s in.
  • The structural engineer responsible for Hillary’s pantsuit designs.
  • Justice Department officials required to keep a straight face after each Eric Holder decision.
  • Janet Napolitano’s interpreter.  It’s not easy attempting to make idiot-speak sound rational.
  • John McCain’s chief immigration policy strategist.
  • Four-letter word bleeper to Rahm Emmanuel.
  • Sound guy at a Sarah Palin rally.  Is that audio feedback or just Palin screeching?

Honorable mention:  My golf partners at this weekend’s and next’s events.

Imagine

Imagine if George Bush were President and:

  • He did not hold a press conference since last July–after running on a platform of greater transparency.
  • He were presiding over, by consensus, one of the most incompetent administrations in history.
  • His administration did not respond in a meaningful fashion for upwards of ten days to an environment-threatening event of potentially catastrophic magnitude.
  • He allowed a major corporation to be on point for the mitigation of an enormous environmental disaster.
  • The economy were hemorrhaging jobs for 16 months and counting, particularly after promising that his policy prescriptions would remedy the situation.
  • The deficit tripled and national debt were on track to quadruple.
  • The Palestinian/Israeli problem were mired in limbo with no progress to-date, or in sight.
  • The Iranians were moving inexorably toward a world-destabilizing, deliverable nuclear weapon.
  • His party were braced for massive mid-term election losses.
  • He stood by embarrassing incompetents the likes of Janet Napolitano and Eric Holder.
  • The poll numbers for virtually everyone of his policies were unequivocally negative, and dropping further.
  • Someone in his administration allegedly attempted to bribe a U.S. Senate aspirant with a federal job so he wouldn’t run against their preferred candidate.

Ya think the storyline might be a bit different, and/or pursued with a touch more vigor, from/by the mainstream media?

Just sayin.

And John Lennon thought he was a dreamer?  Guess he was right…he wasn’t the only one.

Depends On What The Definition Of “In” Is

Don’t you just love it when the sanctimonious get exposed?  Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Attorney General and leading candidate to replace retiring Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd was just caught with his pants down by the New York Times. 

Blumenthal, one of the all-time political opportunists, it turns out, has been making speeches and giving interviews for years where he proudly references his service IN Vietnam.  Well, guess what?  Blumenthal never served IN Vietnam; he served DURING Vietnam–in the Marine Reserve.  He obtained at least five military deferments between 1965 and 1970 in order to avoid combat.  In 1970, when it appeared the deferment string might run out, he was able to secure a prized spot in the Marine Corps Reserve; thereby dramatically reducing his chances of seeing action in Vietnam.  In fact, he was able to remain stateside for his entire tour–working on local projects in Washington D.C.

What is most priceless about the whole affair was Blumenthal’s non-apology–where he claimed to have simply misspoke a few times.  Yep, the Harvard magna cum laude graduate; Phi Beta Kappa member; editorial chairman of the Harvard Crimson; Cambridge University fellowship awardee; Yale Law School graduate; editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal; and clerk for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun apparently didn’t understand the difference between “served in” and “served during” Vietnam, and never made an attempt to correct the record in the dozens of reports/publications that quoted his erroneous claim.

Politicians often ask us to swallow some real doozies (e.g. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman;” “I am not a crook;” “The hearings will be on CSPAN;” etc.).  It’s going to be pretty hard for the Connecticut electorate to choke this one down.  A guy who made a living in a world where words have meaning and precision matters, now expects people to believe that the “mischaracterization”, repeated time and again over many years, was just a mistake?  Good luck.

Too bad Blumenthal wasn’t as creative with his military account as he was when it came to shamelessly grandstanding and filing misguided and inappropriate lawsuits.  He could have been a modern day Baron Munchausen, the German Baron who returned from war with tall tales of his adventures.  “Munchausen reportedly told people that he’d traveled to the Moon, ridden cannonballs, and escaped from a swamp by pulling himself out by his own hair.”  If Blumenthal ends up winning the Senate seat, he may be able to regale us with his very own escape from a swamp by pulling himself out by his hair…you know, the short ones.

One think-tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, ranked Blumenthal the worst Attorney General in the country, largely for his “encroachment on the powers of other branches of government, meddling in the affairs of other states or federal agencies, encouragement of judicial activism and frivolous lawsuits, favoritism towards campaign contributors, ethical breaches, and failure to provide representation to state agencies or to provide legal advice.”  Other than that, he did a real swell job.

Whenever some high profile matter cropped up, you could always count on seeing Blumenthal’s self-righteous mug on the news sounding off on how he was going to sue on behalf of the poor, aggrieved people of Connecticut.

It’s often said inside the Beltway that the most dangerous place in the world is between Chuck Schumer and a camera.  If so, a close second is between Richard Blumenthal and the courthouse where he files his politically-motivated lawsuits.

Now don’t get me wrong; we’ve all told our little fibs and exaggerations.  Hell, my mother, who perpetually disguised her age, actually claimed, for a period of time (I’m pretty sure) to be younger than me.

But, there is just something special about catching a guy who has always played the holier-than-thou card.  The guy with all the answers.  The Arnold Horshack of public service–always raising his hand and yelling “Ooh-ooh-ooooh!”

Early in his career, Blumenthal was hired as a reporter by Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee (of Watergate fame). 

How ironic that Blumenthal would turn out to be his own Deep Throat?

If Every Instinct You Have Is Wrong…

For those keeping score at home, the Times Square bomb scare is yet another in a seemingly endless stream of embarrassments for Janet Napolitano.  In the ready, shoot, aim style that has typified her tenure as Secretary of Homeland Security, she was quick on the trigger once again–repeatedly implying/conjecturing, with little or no supporting evidence, that the attempted bombing was most likely the one-off work of a lone wolf.  Wrong.

Nobody’s had worse instincts since Gary Burghoff, McLean Stevenson, and Larry Linville decided to leave M*A*S*H for greener pastures.

How much longer can Obama endure her laughable (if it wasn’t so serious) incompetence?  At some point, won’t the two of them be forced to resort to a Seinfeld-like solution? 

Remember when George returns from a long, reflective trip to the beach and laments that every decision he has ever made has been wrong, and that his life is the complete opposite of what he wants it to be.  Hearing this, Jerry has an epiphany that “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”  This resonates with George and he sets out, in every situation, to do the converse of his natural impulse.  He begins by approaching a beautiful woman seated at the coffee shop counter.

On November 7th, 2012 (if not much sooner), let’s hope that we, the citizenry, are that beautiful woman, and all we hear from Napolitano is, “Hi, I’m George…er…Janet.  I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.”

Your Move, Obama

In the game of welfare state one-upsmanship between the United States and Europe, those crazy kids on the European Commission have fired the latest salvo.  Just when you thought they might have run out of socialistic steam–with unemployment soaring, economies tanking, the currency collapsing, and member states going bankrupt–those paragons of social justice demonstrate once again that we’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning if we’re going to out-entitle the folks who have given entitlements a certain je ne sais quoi since the early 1900’s.

Let me apologize for past assertions that innovation has all but disappeared in Europe due to the enormous size and burden of government.  This new proposal shows that the European spirit is alive and well.  They are constantly thinking of new ways to redistribute wealth and eviscerate whatever capitalistic instinct may remain among their ever-shrinking productive class.

Antonio Tajani, an EU commissioner, has put forth the novel concept (well, maybe not so novel in Europe) that vacationing is a human right.  Mr. Tajani says, “Travelling for tourism today is a right.  The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life.”

The plan, not yet fully developed, would fund 30% of the cost, and focus on people and families “facing difficult social, financial, or personal circumstances.”

Honey, our goldfish died.  Pack up the Fiat; we’re heading to the Amalfi Coast.

The program will be piloted until 2013, then fully launched.  One of the objectives, according to Tajani, is to have northern Europeans visit southern Europe and vice versa.

I never made it from the South Hills of Pittsburgh to the North Hills until I was 18.  Who knew my human rights were being violated?  Anybody have Gloria Allred’s number?  I’ve clearly been damaged.

If we don’t adopt this policy in the U.S., then haven’t the terrorists…er…anti-tourists really won?

Your move, Obama.

Hello Value Added Tax!

Small Thoughts on Big Subjects

  • President Obama is attempting to quell the anger over a burgeoning government by making the case that refund checks are much bigger this tax season than in previous years.  Even if you take his supposition at face value and ignore the host of tax hikes already signed into law, as well as a bunch of others that will take effect in the coming months and years, his claim is akin to telling a death row inmate that he should be thrilled with his final meal–even though execution awaits in the morning.
  • Arizona’s governor just signed into law a bill that eliminates the requirement for a concealed-carry weapons permit. Also done away with was any obligatory safety training.  I’m a big believer in the right to bear arms, but this law strikes me as an overreach by Second Amendment zealots.   In an effort to affirm/expand gun rights for all, the safety rights of others may very well have been abridged. 
  • If you had Lloyd Blankfein in the future Treasury Secretary pool…sorry. 
  • Goodwin Liu, Obama’s nominee for the 9th Circuit, said his personal views (progressive as they may be) would “never have a role” in his opinions if he were confirmed to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  In a related story, bigoted lawyers and judges across the country breathed a sigh of relief that they still may be viable candidates for appellate and Supreme Court openings.  
  • Did you see that a delegation of White House press corps members met on Thursday with Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, to air grievances and improve frayed relations?  Ed Chen of Bloomberg News, and president of the White House Correspondents Association, said “in my 10 plus years at the White House, rarely have I sensed such a level of anger, which is wide and deep, among members over White House practices and attitude toward the press.”   If the administration is true to form, a solution will be announced…with an implementation date somewhere around 2025. 
  • On Friday, Bill Clinton said that today’s grass-roots anger and resentment toward government can legitimately be compared to the right-wing extremism that percolated prior to the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building 15 years ago.  I wonder if he finds similar parallels between the current state of affairs and his actions in office that resulted in a debasement of the presidency, general coarsening of the culture, and hyper-partisanship? 
  • Bigger pen pals:  John and Abigail Adams or Obama and Ahmadinejad? 
  • Even though California desperately needs a fiscally conservative governor with business acumen (i.e. Meg Whitman), it feels wrong when a virtually unlimited personal fortune is used to run for office.  Also didn’t like it with Corzine in New Jersey and Bloomberg in New York City.

Miss Teen South Carolina for President

Did you happen to catch President Obama’s question and answer session the other day with workers at an advanced battery technology manufacturer in North Carolina?

A woman by the name of Doris Ravis (from South Carolina) asked the following rather straight forward question, “…in the economic times we have now, is it a wise decision to add more taxes to us with healthcare?  Because we are over-taxed as it is.”

Pretty simple, right?  Nope.  As we’ve learned over these past fifteen months or so, there is no such thing as a straight answer to a simple question with Barack Obama.  In fact, as his policies have become more convaluted, his explanations have become more incomprehensible.  Maybe I’m just not smart enough.

Obama’s response to poor Doris may have been his masterpiece, however–all glorious 17 minutes 12 seconds and 2500 words.

Already several minutes in and aimlessly meandering about (or so I thought), he put forward this gem in trying to explain why insuring 30 million additional people doesn’t have to cost more money:

But let me give you an example. If you’ve got a house and you’ve got a big hole in your roof, and it’s raining and snowing through that roof and there are some people who are inside the rooms where the roof is okay and they’re nice and warm, and then you got a few — your family members in that room where there’s a big hole in the roof and they’re shivering, and they’re cold — if you repair the roof, that’s going to cost some money. But if all the water damage from your floors and all the heat that’s going out of the roof, you count all those savings, over time it may turn out that it actually is saving you money and, by the way, all those family members now are warm, too. You’re not the only one who’s warm, right? That’s essentially what we’re trying to set up.

Ahhh, now I get it.

The president also helped to clear up any confusion over COBRA:

See, those of us who have health care right now ask ourselves, well, is this something that should be a priority right now, but anybody here who lost their job and then COBRA ran out, or COBRA wasn’t subsidized the way the Recovery Act made sure COBRA paid 65 percent of the cost of COBRA — and if you had somebody at home who was sick, or you had a child who got sick, you’d suddenly say to yourself, well, now I see the need.

Boy, I think I’m finally catching on to Obamanomics.  COBRA paid 65 percent of the cost of COBRA.  All these years and I never realized I could pay my American Express bill with my American Express card.  Brilliant!

Please read the transcript or watch the video, because I’ve only been able to scratch the surface of our president’s complex, multi-dimensional policy analysis.

More than anything, though, what his response helped me to realize is that mere mortals cannot hope to understand the answers to questions either posed by or to South Carolinians.  Apparently, the respondents are operating on a much higher plane than us.

As such, I now have a whole new respect for Miss Teen South Carolina 2007, Lauren Caitlin Upton.

When she was posed with the question, “Recent polls have shown that a fifth of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map. Why do you think this is?” I initially had no idea of the intellectual, socioeconomic, geopolitical, and metaphysical significance of her answer.

So, with the help of our president, I’ve been able to begin to contemplate the deeper meaning of her elegant prose:

“I personally believe, that U.S. Americans,
are unable to do so,
because uh,
some, people out there, in our nation don’t have maps.
and uh…
I believe that our education like such as in South Africa,
and the Iraq,
everywhere like such as…
and, I believe they should uh,
our education over here,
in the U.S. should help the U.S.
or should help South Africa,
and should help the Iraq and Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future,
for us.”

Magnificent!

Lauren Caitlin Upton for President, 2012.

Rethinking Things

If you didn’t see Thursday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense budget, you missed some penetrating questioning by Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia.  Addressing Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the Navy’s Pacific fleet,  Johnson queried, in relation to the Navy’s desire to house 8,000 additional troops on the island of Guam, My fear is that the whole island will become so overpopulated that it will tip over and capsize.”  Hmmmm, I thought.  What does this obviously brilliant public servant know that I don’t?  Could evil forces be secretly plotting to separate Guam from its sea floor base?  What a potentially inspired and clever method of terrorism.  Or, have our leaders been lying to us all these years?  Maybe Guam has never been naturally rooted to the sea floor?  Perhaps it has been secured by a clandestine network of government anchors?  Whatever the case, if Guam can be capsized, might there be other truths I’ve held as fundamental that are incorrect?

  • Maybe healthcare for 32 million more people will cut the deficit?
  • Maybe a carbon tax won’t be a crushing blow to prospects for lower unemployment and economic revitalization?
  • Maybe the government can employ every man, woman, and child and simultaneously stimulate the economy?
  • Maybe 15 minutes can save me 15% or more?
  • Maybe a half dozen or so more government programs will jump start the housing industry more quickly than could the free market?
  • Maybe that’s John Boehner’s natural skin color?
  • Maybe President Obama is serious about offshore drilling?
  • Maybe Nancy Pelosi doesn’t do botox; that’s just a “deer in the headlights” stare?
  • Maybe Ben Roethlisberger is just a nice, polite boy who happens to be misunderstood?
  • Maybe grapefruit juice, when added to vodka, does not act as a slimming agent?
  • Maybe I can’t wear a hard hat, slap on some Mighty Putty, and secure myself to a steel beam suspended high in the air?
  • Maybe Joe Biden is one of the brightest political minds of our time?
  • Maybe it’s pure coincidence that I become convulsive at the sound of Keith Olbermann’s voice (see Kramer and Mary Hart).
  • Maybe the Pirates won’t lose 100 games this year.
  • Maybe Buzz Aldrin really can dance.

And, maybe Big Government is the ticket?

Nah.

219; The New 666

Things have been a bit upside down for the past 15 months.  As Democrat House Rules Committee member, Alcee Hastings, said in reference to passing Obamacare, “There are no rules.  We make ’em up as we go along.”  So, in case you’re unsure which way is up anymore, let me help to explain the new order.



  • United States is the new Europe.
  • Progressives are the new Socialists.
  • Overwhelming opposition is the new mandate.
  • “Change you can believe in” is the new “That depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”
  • “Yes we can” is the new TIM-BERRRRRRR.
  • “I am not an ideologue” is the new “I am not a crook.”
  • “Let me be clear” is the new “Read my lips…”
  • “Drain the swamp” is the new “Look the other way.”
  • Trillion is the new billion.
  • Waste is the new stimulus.
  • 60 is the new 51.  Well, it was until this weekend.
  • Executive Order is the new legislation.
  • Government oversight boards are the new free market.
  • Bart Stupak is the new fourth Stooge.

And, the new Republican Party color is a whiter shade of pale.

But of course, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama are the same old big-government-lovin’ libs they’ve always been.  Some things never change.

219 is the new 666.

Babbling Brooks

“Conservative” columnist and author, David Brooks, in a recent Op-Ed, attempts, as he seems to do ad nauseum, to earn credibility with the left by explaining why President Obama is not the radical that many on the right make him out to be.

Brooks, of course, is nothing more than the right-leaning version of Thomas Friedman.  You know the profile…a self-important, highly enlightened, seer, sooth-sayer, and knower of all that illuminates people on all sides of every issue.  He, like Friedman, loves to position himself as floating well above the fray–looking down on the great unwashed who don’t have the sophistication, nor the intellectual capacity, to understand what is so painfully clear to someone blessed with his supernatural analytical skills and brainpower.

The thesis of Brooks’ piece is that “Obama is as he has always been, a center-left pragmatic reformer.”  He opines: “…he always describes a moderately activist government restrained by trade-offs.  He always used the same on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand sentence structure.  Government should address problems without interfering with the dynamism of the market.”  Obama doesn’t want to interfere with the dynamism of the market?  Who knew?

Putting aside that Obama had virtually no track record of reforming anything prior to becoming president, is there any denying that his rhetoric, of which there is quite a trail, almost always proselytized positions considerably to the left of what could rationally be represented as mainstream Democrat fare?  Sure, once he saw the presidency was within reach, he became more clever at obfuscating and misdirecting (aided by a fawning media), but can there be any other interpretation for what is on the voluminous video and audio clips over the years that document his liberal utopian ideals? 

You’ve seen them.

How about the one where he states that he’s always been for government-run healthcare and describes how the government will systematically insinuate itself until it inevitably has full responsibility for running it?  Or, the numerous times he’s discussed his views on social justice and the need to redistribute wealth in order to level the playing field, including a Chicago Public Radio interview in 2001 where he intimates that the constitution should have been radically reinterpreted to enable the redistribution of wealth.  But instead, similar results are being achieved through community organizing/activism.  You get the idea.

Brooks adds, “Conservatives are wrong to call him (Obama) a big-government liberal.  That’s just not a fair reading of his agenda.”  Really?

Can Brooks possibly be so clueless?  Or, has he just been blinded by the light (apologies to Manfred Man)?  If Obama were able to rule with impunity, who believes he would not pursue the most radical left agenda in this country’s history?  Brooks seems to confuse Obama’s inability to sell his ultra-left policies with his desire for said policies.  Humdinger of a miscalculation.

And what about the one area where Obama has supposed non-liberal bona fides–his prosecution of the war in Afghanistan?  Again, who thinks that if he had free reign, he wouldn’t pull those troops out in a heartbeat?  Like Bush before him (re: Medicare prescription drug benefit), he’s backing a position to earn points with the opposition in the misguided belief that it will help him gain support for his agenda.  Didn’t work then.  Isn’t working now.

If Obama isn’t a big-government liberal, what else might we have to rethink?  Bush 43 wasn’t a bumbling communicator?  Harry Reid isn’t a milquetoast, ineffectual leader?  New Coke didn’t suck?

If the deficit fits….

Let Me Tell You About A Letter I Received From One Of My Constituents…

There it was towards the end of today’s healthcare summit–the perfect illustration of liberal and conservative mindset differences when it comes to crafting solutions to difficult problems.  Dick Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois and member of the senate Democrat leadership team was waxing on about why tort reform is so very unnecessary, and more importantly, why it would be unfair to those victimized by medical malpractice. 

As politicians are want to do, he used a tragic story to bolster his argument.  In this particular instance, he was quarreling with the Republican notion that damage awards for pain and suffering should be capped at $250,000.  A badly botched routine medical procedure was used as supporting evidence.  The unfortunate victim, while undergoing a standard procedure to remove a mole, had her face badly burned and disfigured when the oxygen she was being given ignited.  The woman had to deal with numerous painful surgeries and a life irreparably altered for the worst.  Obviously, no rational, caring person could believe that $250,000 is adequate compensation for such suffering.

On the surface, it is difficult to argue with Durbin’s reasoning.  However, what he doesn’t recognize is the dramatic ripple effect on a system that must plan for the possibility of uncapped or virtually uncapped damages to more than just a relative few.  It is incumbent upon insurance companies to set premiums, often higher than we’d like, to deal with a lack of cost certainty.  It would be fiscally irresponsible (and probably illegal for a public company) to do otherwise.  One cannot prudently manage such a business without allocating substantial sums for potentially catastrophic lawsuit awards.  Relatedly, medical personnel are forced to practice defensive medicine because they are fearful of crippling lawsuits and the effect such cases will have on their malpractice insurance and overall insurability.  Of course, the practice of defensive medicine, irrespective of the existence of actual malpractice, serves to raise premiums even more.  A very unvirtuous cycle.

So, in doing what may appear to be sensible and compassionate on the surface (i.e. allowing enormous awards) actually damages the overall system such that orders of magnitude more people are harmed through much higher premiums or lack of access (due to those higher premiums).  Would we be better off as a society with lower premiums and broader coverage for all, or virtually unlimited damage awards for the relative few?  Is the unfairness to the few trumped by increased fairness to the many?

No doubt reasonable accommodations should be made for malpractice victims, but we simply cannot design policy to address a fraction of one percent of cases, when by doing so, we egregiously impact the other ninety nine plus percent.  That is the difficult, but right thing to do.

And, we make these trade-offs all the time. 

We set the guilty free on technicalities, as gut-wrenching as it is, because we are concerned that improprieties allowed to go unchecked will have a deleterious effect on our liberty and the integrity of our system of justice.

We could require that cars enable drivers and passengers to withstand head-on collisions at 65 MPH, but have concluded that the economic and societal costs of doing so would be prohibitive.

There are endless examples.

A balance is what we require.  As tempting as it is to want to address every bit of current suffering, we have to have an eye toward the longer term, or we’re just setting ourselves up for even greater misery down the road.

Common sense and basic economics tell us that the greater cost certainty derived through tort reform, coupled with competition made possible by allowing purchases across state lines is what will control and even reduce premiums.  The Democrats’ own rhetoric is proof.  If insurance company profits are as outrageous as the Dems claim, then there will be a flood of insurer entrants into the marketplace who will want to compete for a piece of the profit pie…once the state monopolies are busted and the threat of exorbitant, unpredictable malpractice awards is mitigated.  We know that medical personnel compensation is not the culprit.  Salaries are all but stagnant.  Nor is it plant or other basic operating expenses.  That points the finger squarely at lack of competition and the cost problems associated with defensive medicine.

The market, not the government, is the solution.

Any time you hear a politician, Democrat or Republican, start a sentence with, “Let me tell you about a letter I received from one of my constituents…” cover your ears and hide your wallet.

Hot Dogs…and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

There’s a story out today that highlights the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) call to redesign hot dogs (and other foods) because they present a choking risk to children.  Past Chairman, Dr. Gary Smith, is quoted:  “Any food that has a cylindrical or round shape poses a risk.”  Clearly, and unabashed and unapologetic roundist of the worst sort.

Hot dogs, so the article says, account for 17% of food-related asphyxiations in children under the age of 10.  Hmmm.  I’ve seen Kobayashi down 50 or 60 of the suckers in a few minutes without nary a Heimlich maneuver.  But, who am I to doubt the vaunted AAP?  Who doesn’t just prop little Billy up in his highchair, toss him a couple dogs, then head out to the backyard for a smoke?  That’s ok; isn’t it?

Where will the government and other organizations stop in their continual and absurd effort to protect us from ourselves?

Could bundt cakes be in the cross hairs because hemorrhoid suffers may mistake them for inflatable donuts and bruise their tail bones?

Might pineapple upside down cake be under investigation because there is concern some may feel it necessary to stand on their head in order to eat it?

What about NY strip steaks?  Perhaps they subliminally promote indecency and lead to a life of prostitution?

And, of course, everybody who saw the movie American Pie understands the temptation associated with the warm desert.

A little common sense can go a long way, people.  Really, it can.  Government doesn’t have to insinuate itself into every aspect of our lives; even when the matter is something as “critical” as the shape of a hot dog.

If they insist on this further intrusion, I guess we can all look forward to the movie,  Clear and Present Danger:  The Hot Dog Files.  Jack Ryan never had a tougher mission.

Spoiler alert:  He kills his enemies by choking them with hot dogs.

The Politics of Economics

The Laurel and Hardy of left wing economic thought were at it again today.  Actually, make that Hardy and Hardy.

Paul Krugman, in response to an interview where Obama tacitly approved of the bonuses granted to Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, said, “How is it possible, at this late date, for Obama to be this clueless.”

Not to be out done, Joseph Stiglitz, in a piece for Politico, called for another stimulus–ex post facto, and told us not to get caught up in all that angst over ever mounting deficits–you know, the deficits that were “out-of-control” when they were 80% smaller under George Bush.

If you follow politics and/or economics, you know that Krugman and Stiglitz are the go to guys when the left leaning media and liberal politicians are looking to validate progressive policy prescriptions with some academic heft.  Seems reasonable on the surface.  Both are Nobel laureates, after all.  But, do you ever wonder how they earned the honor?

Let’s examine Dr. Stiglitz a bit.  Krugman has been in my cross hairs in a number of past blogs, so he gets a pass this time.

It’s hard to find a progressive principle that doesn’t have Stiglitz’s stamp on it.  He is often referred to as the most cited economist in the world.  When one reviews his body of work, it’s easy to see why those who favor an activist government look for his endorsement.

Stiglitz made his mark by “proving” that markets are not normally efficient.  Standard economic theory held that markets are almost always efficient, except in some limited and well documented instances.  In essence, Stiglitz made the case that the invisible hand is just that, invisible (i.e. doesn’t exist).  Furthermore, he “showed” that whenever markets are imperfect (which is regularly the case), then there is nearly always some government intervention which can induce superior outcomes.

Are you beginning to see why this research caught the eye of the folks in Norway? 

Finally, someone and something to justify the Big Government utopian desires of the Nobel committee and their elitist brethren around the globe.  Imagine, research that says it’s not just okay for the government to intervene, but actually necessary if we want better outcomes.  Social justice here we come.

Wow, what a breakthrough.

Apparently, no one considered that when Adam Smith and the other founding fathers of capitalism orthodoxy discussed efficient markets, they probably meant relatively, not perfectly efficient, nor did they mean efficient all the time?  Guess that’s why they explained how imbalances were typically corrected?

And, I imagine no one bothered to calculate the odds of ideologically aligned politicians coming up with flawless economic solutions to squeeze out incremental efficiency from all these imperfect markets?  Come to think of it, I bet they also didn’t figure the probability of the government actually making things much worse?

As pointed out numerous times in past blog entries, markets can and do break.  There are occasions when intelligent intervention can produce better outcomes.  However, one has to recognize that the likelihood of highly imperfect politicians coming up with perfect or near perfect solutions is quite remote.  As such, the first instinct should be to let markets heal themselves.  The near- or mid-term results may be painful, but not nearly as damaging as ill-advised intervention.

If we listen to the Hardy twins, Krugman and Stiglitz, it will be just another fine mess that they’ve gotten us into.

Poseidon Adventure

President Obama unveiled his fiscal 2011 budget today.  It calls for $3.83 trillion in government spending.  Let that figure sink in for a moment.

If you’re having some difficulty wrapping your arms around it, perhaps a little perspective might help.  It is roughly $1 trillion more than was spent in fiscal 2008.  Are you aware of any business that can endure, over a three year period, a greater than 35% rise in expenditures coupled with no/little corresponding increase in revenue?  That’s no way to run a Dairy Queen, let alone the United States government.

Our captain (and his predecessor) has already steered the ship of state into an enormous iceberg of debt.  The question is, will we follow Gene Hackman, or a misguided band of irrational, panicked people to safe passage off the Poseidon?

If the President was truly serious about reigning in out-of-control spending, freezing non-entitlement, non-security discretionary outlays for three years would not be the solution.  That piece of the pie represents only about 17% of the budget, and would lead to a meager $15 billion reduction in year one–less than four tenths of one percent.

Instead, why not rollback to fiscal 2008 spending levels?.  In fiscal 2008, just two short years ago, the federal government spent about $2.9 trillion–upwards of $1 trillion less than is called for in the President’s new budget.  Would that really be so undoable?  It’s not like we’re talking about spending levels from 20, or 10, or even 5 years ago.

We were still funding two wars back then, and more recently have already spent hundreds of billions of dollars on “stimulus.”   So, there’s no need to accept the argument that another trillion dollars is necessary.  GDP is back in the black, and the world financial system is on more solid footing (for the moment).  The markets and economies of the world would boom if they thought we were taking the difficult steps necessary to get our economic house in order.  And, businesses would finally have the impetus to hire.

Advice to President Obama:  Have Larry Summers do some deep breathing exercises and swim back to fiscal 2008 where the spending level was a heck of a lot safer.  That’s the path to our fiscal salvation.

Shelley Winters would be awfully proud.

A Hookah Smoking Caterpillar

When did Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane start writing State of the Union speeches?

Tonight, we were asked to step through the looking glass and back to a period when this rhetoric would be more believable–a time of idealism and unbridled hope.  Unfortunately, this evening’s ostensibly recycled 2008 campaign speech now carries the heavy baggage of twelve months of broken promises, including, most significantly, a complete rejection of bipartisanship–the single biggest plank in Obama’s platform and reason for his election (besides the fact people were REALLY tired of Republicans and their missteps).

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small


Sure, during the 2008 campaign, most knew that there was an incongruity between Obama’s record and what he was promising.  Many understood that he had virtually no substantive track record of reaching across the isle to compromise on difficult issues.  Many more knew that his experiences and associations strongly suggested a near lock-step allegiance with the far left.  Nevertheless, the words and themes were so, so mellifluous and soaring.  They filled  us with great expectations and anticipation of better days.  They made us dream of what might be.  And, they made us want for something better than the difficult and divisive last years of the Bush administration.

Well, here we are a year later.  The words and themes are the same, but the ring is very, very hollow.  How can we be expected to trust him this time?  What of the repeated pledges regarding lobbyists, earmarks, safe nuclear, offshore drilling, going through the budget line by line, fiscal responsibility, etc., etc., etc.?  And, let’s not forget one of my personal favorites, “Let me know if you have a better approach.  Really; I mean it.”  I feel so used.

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call


What makes tonight’s rehash of past promises, including, most specifically, yet another call for bipartisanship all the more stupefying is that it was done while simultaneously slapping the other party and its agenda right across the face.  C’mon, is that any way to usher in a new era of cooperation?  Even if you believe it deep down in your bones, can’t you finally step away from the bashing in the name of tackling tough problems together?  It’s not like he hasn’t said it a million times before and people don’t understand his views on the past eight years.  Kinda makes it hard to see the sincerity.

Despite all of this, I suggest giving the President one last chance.  I know what you’re saying, “Fool me once…”  Give him a week, or two, or maybe even four to see if there’s been an epiphany and a legitimate effort to meet near the middle.

If not, it’s game over.  Go ask Alice.

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s “off with her head!”

Funny, I feel like I just had some kind of mushroom.

Supreme Court Campaign Finance Ruling

In a 5 to 4 party-line ruling on Thursday, the Supreme Court  reversed a 1990 decision and also struck down a key element of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act.  The net result is that unions and corporations can now use their own money to call for the election or defeat of individual candidates.  In doing so, the court essentially said that the First Amendment rights of unions and corporations trumped concerns that their money may have a corrupting or disproportionate effect on elections.

Although the First Amendment offers very broad protection (“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…”), congress and the courts have, over the years, narrowed or sought to narrow the boundaries, particularly when the rights of individuals, groups, or institutions were thought to be improperly or unfairly impinged by the speech of others.  Individual campaign contribution limits are but one manifestation of such narrowing.

Naturally, a 5 to 4 party-line decision engenders skepticism.  Was it derived from constitutionally sound reasoning, or just ideologically motivated?  Of course, it can be both; they’re not mutually exclusive.

Given the very expansive language of the First Amendment, it is, not surprisingly, open to a multitude of interpretations.  In such complex situations, common sense is often the best guide.

The actions of the current and prior administrations, coupled with rapidly changing election/fund raising dynamics, demonstrate the soundness of this ruling.  It would be difficult to argue that Bush 43 did not want to strip unions of power and influence.  Similarly, there is no denying that Obama has corporations right in the cross hairs.

Therefore, isn’t it reasonable that unions and corporations have every opportunity to defend themselves and their interests against such powerful onslaughts?  The old logic simply isn’t sensible any longer.  Previously, as Justice Kennedy noted, the court upheld regulations on corporate speech based on the theory that the voice of ordinary citizens could be drowned out by corporations and their vast sums of money.  24/7 cable news and grass roots Internet fund raising have made that notion obsolete.  There is no shortage of raiseable cash available to those on each side of an issue.  Nor is there a limit on ingenuity. 

Cash may still be king, but it now shares the throne with creativity.  The Internet has changed the rules.  The most resonate messages are no longer exclusively the domain of those with the fattest wallets.

Don’t be fooled by the spin.  This is a reasonable and fair decision.  If precedent is based on conditions that are no longer relevant or true, then it is rational for that precedent to be struck down.

Justice Felix Frankfurter said,  “If facts are changing, law cannot be static.”

American Robespierre

George Bernard Shaw said, “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”  How true; for today, the United States is reliving a 21st century French Revolution of sorts.

Like the French Revolution, the Obama Revolution began with noble intentions and was kindled by comparable root causes–including mismanaged wars, decreasing capacity to meet domestic obligations, mounting national debt, and class warfare.

In 1789, the rise of Enlightenment ideals, popularized and promulgated by the likes of Rousseau, Voltaire and others, helped to foment a sense of unrest and growing desire for upheaval.  In the mid-2000’s, a comparable feeling of dissatisfaction and want of change permeated America.

Like 1789, aspirations for change in the mid-2000’s were initially driven by deep discontent with the performance of those in power, then later catalyzed by emerging charismatic voices for transformation.

In 2006 the American electorate “stormed the Bastille” and planted a flag, expressing a profound disdain for how government was operating.  It wanted something better.  In fact, it insisted on something better–someone equipped to coalesce the disparate interests of a political class spun out of control and unable to address the needs of a country facing increasingly intractable problems.
 
The King, Bush 43, was neutered, and his court (Republican congress) was exiled. In swept Barack Obama–Robespierre in an Armani suit.

Robespierre, as explained in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, was a “bright young theorist but out of his depth in the matter of experience.”  Further describing Robespierre, the encyclopedia continued, “the Committee of Public Safety gave him power, which he hoped to use for the establishment of his favourite theories, and for the same purpose he acquiesced in and even heightened the horrors of the Reign of Terror.  It is here that the fatal mistake of allowing a theorist to have power appeared.”

So, although the French Revolution removed a failing monarchy, it replaced it with a radical democratic republic, and an even more poisonous climate, highlighted by the Reign of Terror where rival political factions executed enemies with impunity.  Today, public opinion and the ballot box have replaced the guillotine as the method of choice for purging unwanted politicians.  On Tuesday, the metaphorical guillotine dropped on twelve months of tone deaf, hubristic one-party rule.  The people spoke loudly–damning the failed promise of bipartisanship, the drastic lurch to the left, and the Reign of Economic Terror.

The French Revolution played out over ten years and led to several additional decades of turmoil as the country struggled to find its identity and settle on an appropriate form of government.

Things did not end well for Robespierre.  The idealistic and once promising leader attempted suicide and was subsequently executed.  He contributed to and was unable to contain the wild excesses of a movement that morphed into an unruly and unrestrained mob.

Although many in his party are doomed, there is still time for President Obama to avoid a 21st century version of Robespierre’s fate, repudiation at the ballot box. 

Will he be able to set aside his largely rejected ideology and do the peoples’ business, or will he stubbornly and self-destructively continue to pursue his own “theories?”

Marx said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”

Let’s hope not.


 

Paul Revere Rides Again

It wasn’t on horseback at midnight, but it had every bit the sense of urgency and alarm as that famous ride in April of 1775.  Barack Obama rolled into Boston on Sunday to alert the masses:  THE REPUBLICANS ARE COMING; THE REPUBLICANS ARE COMING.

Of course, the warning was not without reason.  The GOP has already marched through Virginia and New Jersey, and is moving rapidly up the coast straight toward Massachusetts.  Unlike 1775, however, the interlopers may actually be welcomed, rather than repelled.

In many respects, the Democrats have already lost this war.  Should they squeak by in Tuesday’s battle, the victory would be Pyhrric at best.  The lantern’s been lit at the Old North Church and every politician on the left can interpret the signal.  Barring a material shift in sentiment between now and November, each race will be contested.  Safe seats appear but a distant memory.  This, no doubt, is disastrous for the DNC.  Valuable resources will be required to defend what were previously impregnable strongholds.  That means limited dollars to go on the offensive.  Not a good spot for the Dems.

Obama trotted out an old and comfortable theme on Sunday, populism.  He roared to the crowd about how Martha Coakley, like his administration, will fight for the people–against those mean banks, oil companies, and insurance behemoths, and I imagine virtually every other company and industry without a significant union population.

Isn’t it ironic, though, that “being for the people” seems to have nothing to do with empowering them, and everything to do with making them more dependent?  If we could just press our thumb down a little harder on the job creators, or make the rules even more uncertain, and install another government program…or twelve…all would be better.  Obama and friends can’t seem to comprehend that all this “fighting for people” and against corporations nonsense has caused enormous collateral damage to the regular folks who work for, or potentially might be hired by, those evil corporations.

Coakley said, “People are angry at the policies of the past that frankly rewarded the wealthy and left main street behind. I think that’s wrong and we have to fix that.”  They’re fixing it alright.  It was really dreadful back when everyone who wanted a job could find one.  Things are a lot better now.  Right?  Imagine the horror of rewarding the wealthy.  Oddly, when the wealthy (i.e. those with investment capital) don’t get rewarded, they’re not so keen on deploying their money in economy-expanding, jobs-producing endeavors.  Who knew?

Many pols on the left just refuse to acknowledge the simple elegance of our capitalist, quasi-free market system.  Big risks sometimes beget big rewards (and often big losses).  The residue of those risks are GDP expansion and job creation.  Outlandish returns (as long as they are scrupulously earned) are an important element of what fuels the system.  The potential for those returns is what attracts a disproportionate amount of investment capital to the U.S.  When we go beyond necessary and intelligent regulation and instead inflict a thousand cuts, the capital drys up and the system ultimately bleeds to death.

For those of you not into all of the policy minutia, merely compare and contrast the tone this administration has established as it goes about attempting to lift us out of difficult economic circumstances, to the last time we faced such challenges (in the early 1980’s).  Which feels more right–a never-ending stream of finger pointing, threats, and shakedowns, or a climate of optimism, empowerment, and incentives?

Yes, the Republicans are indeed coming.  Perhaps it will be a blessing in disguise for Obama and the Dems if they recognize the onslaught for what it is–an indicator of major dissatisfaction and an opportunity to alter strategy in time for the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Giddyup.

The Amazing Kreskin…er…Krugman

You really have to hand it to Paul Krugman.  The man is persistent.  There has rarely, if ever, been an argument for government expansion that he hasn’t advanced or embraced.  Remember, this is the savant who thought the $787 billion  Keynesian-style “stimulus” was only one half to one third the size it needed to be, despite voluminous historical evidence as to the ineffectiveness of such programs. 

In his latest New York Times missive, Krugman extols the virtues of European social democracy.  He says that, “what everyone knows isn’t true.”  Adding, “Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works.”  Really?

Of course, as per usual, the supporting evidence he cites is only visible to those looking at a rose-colored fun house mirror through a pin hole in a piece of cardboard.  And, in typical Krugman fashion, it’s not so much his unique interpretation of data points as it is what he conveniently, or cluelessly, leaves out.

It’s apparent from the beginning that the column is yet another exercise in obfuscation.  Remarkably, he says, “Actually, Europe’s economic success should be obvious even without statistics. For those Americans who have visited Paris: did it look poor and backward? What about Frankfurt or London? You should always bear in mind that when the question is which to believe — official economic statistics or your own lying eyes — the eyes have it.”

Just imagine his reaction if an assertion of American prosperity/economic justice were made by pointing to visible signs of wealth in Beverly Hills, or Park Avenue, or Beacon Hill?  Was it not he and other liberal economists/politicians who constantly preached that the boom years were more of a kaboom for the many who fell behind and/or slipped through the cracks?

Apparently he missed the contradiction in such an observation.  Not content to simply mangle the qualitative, Krugman goes on to demonstrate his facility for twisting and rationalizing the quantitative.

He notes that since 1980 America’s real GDP has outgrown that in the European Union (EU) 3.0% to 2.2%.  But, he neglects to highlight the significance of the disparity.  Allow me.  If average U.S. GDP over a similar time period were instead equal to the EU figure, we would incur, given today’s GDP, upwards of $3 trillion in additional debt.  But what’s $3 trillion in the name of social democracy?

Moreover, he claims that EU and U.S. per capita GDP, a more important measure (in his estimation),  has risen at about the same rate, with the U.S. enjoying a slight advantage.  My research, however, shows the United States 10th ($46,300) in worldwide per capita GDP, and the EU 38th ($33,000)–quite a non-trivial delta.

Krugman also says that Europe has caught up in its use of technology; that its productivity is close to that in the U.S.; and that European unemployment rates are substantially higher than those in the United States, but their citizens are not much more likely to be on the dole than people in the U.S.  Hmmm.

So, in making his case for European social democracy, Krugman admits that the U.S. is ahead in virtually all the economic indices, but he expains away our various advantages as relatively meaningless.

Krugman forgets, or chooses not to mention, the many material benefits the EU derives from a U.S. not drug down by social democratic policies.  Imagine how uncompetitive Europe would be if it wasn’t able to draft behind the United States? 

Where do you think European productivity numbers would be if it wasn’t for U.S. and Asian innovation/technology?  How much greater would their already enormous tax burden be if they had to provide for their own national defense?  How much worse would their GDP be if the U.S. was not the number one customer for their luxury cars and other items?  How much more significantly would their population be declining if it were not for the overall positive economic impact of a non-socially-democratic United States?


Turn the U.S. into a social democracy–throwing a wrench into the catalytic engine of worldwide growth, innovation, freedom, and defense–and see just how fast an already fragile EU economy would spiral downward toward total collapse.

The Amazing Krugman…all the clairvoyance of a boardwalk psychic with a migraine.

Obamathello

If you caught the Sunday talk shows this week, you witnessed yet another poor Not Ready For Primetime Player trotted out to defend policies so flimsy that they would collapse under the weight of an anorexic butterfly.

John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counter-terrorism, was the latest somnambulant sinecure to take a bullet for the evermore astonishing ineptitude of this administration.  Among the gems he uttered, and there were many, was something to the effect of:  The failed Christmas Day terror attack was a “unique incident” that won’t affect the process of closing the Guantanamo facility.  More remarkably, he indicated that many of the Gitmo-housed detainees of Yemeni descent are still on track to be returned to their home country, which just so happens to be the latest prime breeding ground of global extremists.  Really.

I could almost hear Janet Napolitano muttering, “Tag; you’re it.”  “It,” of course, being–Foolish Incompetent of the Day.

As ineffectual as dozens of Obama appointees have proven to be, shouldn’t we really be focusing on who writes the script, rather than those who deliver the dialogue?  This is, after all, as most would agree, the most scripted administration ever.  And, the screenwriters of the current drama happen to be Messrs. Obama, Axelrod, and Emanuel—a.k.a. BadDreamWorks.

Obama’s day one “commitment” to close Guantanamo was the drama’s first act.  Our protagonist, Obamathello, did so, foreshadowing subsequent trouble, with hope in his heart, but not a trace of a plan on his brain.  The Enlightened One stood on the grand stage and sermonized about how Gitmo functions as a recruiting tool for our enemies.  In a later plot twist, it turns out he was correct, but in a wholly unexpected fashion.  The terrorists are energized by their ability to affect policy changes from a weak-kneed government, more concerned with offending than defending.  Recruiting skyrockets.

The second act centers around the failed Christmas day attack and ensuing debate over how to respond.  It highlights a central and ongoing conflict.  Do we succumb to the self-anointed, hypocritical global moralizers that constantly strive to weaken America, and return enemy combatants to the battlefield, or do we recognize that a strong, aggressive defense of the homeland is completely consistent with our values, and THE primary obligation of government?

Act III is not yet fully written.  The decisions made in Act II will determine whether or not this play turns out to be a tragedy or a triumph.

In a subplot, it should be noted, the protagonist’s nemesis, Lord MacBush, releases, against his better judgment, numerous combatants from Gitmo in an ill-advised gesture to the aforementioned self-anointed, hypocritical global moralizers.  Those combatants come back to haunt Obamathello.  Will Obamathello choose to make the same mistake, or recognize it as a sign of what not to do?  Will he see the truth and aggressively prosecute the war on terror, or choose to commit national security suicide?

“This is the night that either makes me or fordoes me quite.”  –Othello.  Act V.  Scene 1.

Filibuster

A piece in Monday’s Washington Post titled, “After Healthcare, We Need Senate Reform,” seems to imply that the filibuster has become anachronistic, and should be eliminated or eviscerated.

If partisanship has, in fact, increased over the past decade or so (as is hinted in the article), that is a reason FOR the filibuster, not an argument against it .  Do we really want the majority, particularly during times defined by a strong ideological divide, to have unfettered ability to ram through its agenda?  Sure, good bills may sometimes fall victim to purely partisan obstructionism, but what a small price to pay for the capacity to defend the system against ideologues run amok.  Don’t we employ a similar rationale in our criminal justice system?  Suboptimal outcomes (the guilty set free due to a technicality) are a tolerated evil in order to secure the greater good (our freedoms, and the integrity of the system).  History has unambiguously demonstrated that enacted legislation, no matter how ill-advised, is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to repeal. 

The Senate was specifically designed by the founding fathers to be the deliberative body.  They fully anticipated that the House of Representatives, by its very nature, would be much more subject to bouts of impetuousness and instances of populism.  The process in the Senate, therefore, is meant to be measured, and respectful of the minority. 

Although the filibuster is not outlined in the constitution (it is a Senate-defined rule that has evolved and been changed over time), it is completely consistent with the framers’ recognition that certain decisions, because of their gravity, should necessitate a supermajority vote (e.g. requirements to pass a constitutional amendment).  Sure, the minority may, on occasion, or even frequently, filibuster the relatively trivial, but, that is simply a small, broken branch on the majestic tree of liberty that shades us from the tyranny of the majority.

Moreover, the Senate’s deliberative style is critical insofar as it allows time for the electorate to be educated and heard.  The filibuster lets light be shone  It facilitates opportunity for deeper analysis and reflection, and therefore–a more informed populace, better equipped to provide feedback to policymakers.  And, it promotes transparency.  If the majority cannot make an effective enough argument to adequately sway public opinion to its side (and therefore help to attract enough Senate votes to prevent/stop a filibuster), the proposed legislation is likely not ready for prime time.  The filibuster is a necessary check and balance on the otherwise unchecked power of the majority.

A Senate devoid of the filibuster, or the option of a supermajority vote requirement, is one that can much more easily run roughshod.

Regardless of political affiliation, the filibuster is in our long-term interest.

Earth Race

Thomas Friedman has an interesting piece in the Sunday New York Times.  In it, he outlines the two strategies he sees for addressing climate change–the “Earth Day” strategy and the “Earth Race” strategy. 

The former is embodied in what transpired in Copenhagen.  It is about finding a “global mechanism for codifying and verifying” carbon emissions and reductions, country by country, and transferring billions of dollars to developing countries to help them meet their obligations.  Friedman rightly implies that this method has a low probability of success because it depends on dozens and dozens and dozens of countries, all working together cooperatively, to affect the desired result.  Any one or small group of relevant nations could derail the effort by not participating or fully meeting its commitments.

A much more effective means, Friedman suggests, is the “Earth Race” strategy.  This approach is rooted in greed–“the only engine big enough to impact Mother Nature.”  Of course, this begs the question, why are other large, intractable problems, like healthcare, not better subjected to the stimulative forces of capitalism’s key driver?  But I digress.

Hmmm, the “Earth Race” strategy sounds suspiciously supply side for the quasi-liberal/moderate Friedman, doesn’t it?  Well, it did, until he unveiled a key detail.  In order to excite the greed necessary to positively impact the climate, he wants the “Senate to pass an energy bill, with a long term price on carbon that will really stimulate America to become the world leader in clean tech.”  He further says, half-correctly, “Only a market, shaped by regulations and incentives to stimulate massive innovation in clean, emission-free power sources can make a dent in global warming.”

Admittedly, this is a hands-down better solution than the exceedingly untenable “Earth Day” scheme.  But, why shackle capitalism via such unnecessary regulation?

Friedman is dead on to identify greed as the only legitimate way to address a problem of such scale and perceived time sensitivity.  However, the suggested regulation really only catalyzes those who need to deal with the potential penalty.  Robust tax incentives, on the other hand, aimed squarely at innovators, have the advantage of unchaining the full power of the capitalist system.  They provide all, not just those directly impacted, with a reason and motivation to find/build a better mousetrap.  Would you rather have an industry or two working to innovate in order to avoid some regulatory consequences, or would you prefer to unleash the innovative capacity of our entire economy?

Take the auto industry as an analog.  Government-imposed CAFE standards really just incent the car makers to innovate.  There is no extraordinary benefit for others to solve the problem above and beyond what is available to any person/company who provides a useful product to an interested buyer.  As such, capital is not drawn to this purpose over numerous other equally or more attractive opportunities.  With tax incentives, though, orders of magnitude greater numbers of innovators can and will be induced to pursue unusually high profits.  The innovators benefit, the targeted industries benefit, and society benefits.  A win-win-win.

As we’ve seen in the auto industry with the regulatory approach, car makers have spent more time and effort finding ways to circumvent (and defer the effective date of) the regulations than actually inventing technologies to significantly and rapidly advance the state of the art.  And, others have not been incented enough to act, or deploy the quantity of capital necessary for dramatic, speedy improvement.  So, over the nearly 35-year lifespan of CAFE standards, incremental, rather than transformative progress has been made.

Kudos to Friedman for recognizing that greed is the best prescription for what’s ailing the planet, and that incentives are a vital component.  But, just as we don’t want to pollute the environment, let’s not pollute the free market waters.  The suggested regulation would be superfluous and distracting.  We should direct our full focus and energy toward implementing an incentive regime that attracts the requisite capital and innovative effort.

Then, and only then will we put ourselves on the fast track to energy independence and a healthier planet.

10 Random Thoughts


  1. How bad does the healthcare bill have to be if the Democrats can’t secure the support of Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins?
  2. Senators Shelby and Collins represent much of what is wrong with the Republican party.  How could they vote for an appropriations bill that hiked spending allocations to many federal departments more than 10% over the prior year?  This is legislation that three Democrat Senators voted against, and one, Evan Bayh, called for Obama to veto.
  3. Remember the president’s solemn campaign promise to comb through the budget line by line to reduce waste and eliminate earmarks?  Remember the omnibus spending bill early in the Obama administration that was signed by the president with thousands of earmarks?  Remember how he promised to do better next time?  Well, next time was today.  He signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill with thousands more earmarks.  Maybe next, next time.
  4. Who ever thought Howard Dean would make a little sense?
  5. When did Bob Villa become president?  Obama was on TV yesterday for 10 minutes extolling the virtues of home insulation?  Wow!
  6. 2012 is a long way off, but I wouldn’t find it particularly shocking if Hillary mounted a challenge for the Democratic nomination?
  7. The only person having a worse year than Obama is Tiger.  Al Gore will have to settle for the bronze.  Lifetime “achievement” awards go to Pelosi and Reid.
  8. Let’s hope Obama’s didn’t slip his letter to Santa into the Kim Jong Il envelope.
  9. Chuck Schumer learned the hard way that the only people who say “no” more often than the Republican caucus are USAirways flight attendants.
  10. The House passed a $155 billion “jobs” bill today.  Doesn’t Nancy Pelosi remind you of a wind-up toy that ran itself off a table and is lying upside down on the floor with its wheels still spinning?

An Inconvenient Economic Truth

There are two great threats to economic liberalism.  The first, we see more and more each day.  It’s manifest in the unbridled power grab of politicians who espouse its supposed benefits.  It is also evident in the arrogance of illogical and mal-formed policies, so clearly designed to garner votes, rather than deliver results.

Since FDR, liberals have sought to construct an impenetrable voting block, composed of those beholden to, and dependent upon, government largess.

As I’ve highlighted in a previous blog entry, Roosevelt admitted as much when he said, “…tax, tax, tax…spend, spend, spend…elect, elect, elect.”  The meaning, of course, was and is that Democrats use their power to curry favor with various constituent groups in return for votes, without much regard for the greater good.  You scratch my back, and I’ll support your cause and/or look the other way.  The fact that 40% to 50% of the country doesn’t pay federal income taxes is reflective of decades worth of effort to assemble an indebted class that is also a reliable voting block for liberal candidates and incumbents.

For the past 77 years or so, prior to 2008, the Republicans, even though they were often out of power, were able to provide an adequate counterbalance.  The often wildly impractical intentions of liberals were frequently able to be watered down or outright defeated.  And, in the instances when their programs did manage to see the light of day, the system was able to handle it because the initiatives were relatively isolated and not part of a multi-pronged, all out assault on our wealth creation engine.

Things are different this time.  The system cannot absorb the stress of such an unprecedented expansion of government.  The law of large numbers has caught up with liberal orthodoxy.  More importantly, we’re all getting an opportunity, given liberal government control, to evaluate in real time their medicine and its side-effects.  It’s not theory any more.  This stuff does destroy opportunity and initiative, and threaten our welfare.  But, despite very clear evidence as to its ineffectiveness and debilitating consequences, liberals continue their cynical efforts to bribe (e.g. see Mary Landriew), extort (e.g. see numerous national organizations), and threaten (e.g. see EPA) in order to force a deeply flawed vision down our collective throat.

Such hubris, in the face of strong and strengthening, public opposition, is actually catalyzing the second great threat to liberalism–economic literacy.  For decades, a substantial portion of the population paid little attention to the inside the beltway machinations of Democrat and Republican policy specifics.  People had a general sense that the two parties kinda canceled one another out and that things would just work somehow.  And, whenever Republicans gained too much of an advantage, the mainstream media was always there to put its finger on the scale.

Now, with a mounting sense that something is amiss, people are starting to pay a lot more attention.  It’s become increasingly difficult for the media to convince us that black is white.  Policies are being scrutinized to a much greater extent.  This has to be quite worrisome to liberal elites.  The driver of their dogma has been the voting support of factions who are the direct beneficiaries of liberal policies, not a virtuous cycle of evidence that said policies are creating a greater good for all.

This blog has expended a good deal of effort over the past 14+ months focusing on the incontrovertible facts associated with Democrat and Republican principles.  It has attempted to highlight what the mainstream media has regularly chosen to ignore, cover-up, or obfuscate.

In today’s New York Times, Greg Mankiw, a Harvard economist and former Bush 43 advisor, does a commendable job of pointing out those pesky facts.

Notwithstanding undeniable evidence regarding the lack of efficacy of Keynesian-oriented government spending approaches to economic maladies (note the last three stimulus packages–one from Bush and two from Obama), the Dems continue to force their Big Government agenda and ignore solutions that have worked time in memoriam.  Can there be any other conclusion than they fear losing power and exposing once and for all the failings of their faction-first, power retention method of operation?

Mankiw asks, appropriately so, why not tax cuts?  After all, they have a rich history of delivering the intended results.  He highlights as one piece of evidence, the academic work of Christina Romer (one of President Obama’s top economic advisers) and her husband, David, that “tax policy has powerful influence on economic activity.”  The Romer’s research shows that “each dollar of tax cuts has historically raised GDP by $3.”  That number happens to be three times the figure found in an administration-driven report.  Not surprisingly, the administration report concluded that government spending (yeah, I know you’re shocked) actually had a roughly 57% greater positive impact on GDP than tax cuts.  Who would have figured that the administration would produce a report with findings that perfectly fit its Big Government mindset?  Coincidence?  You make the call.

Additionally, Mankiw says, “Other recent work supports the Romer’s’ findings.  In a December 2008 working paper, Andrew Mountford of the University of London and Harald Uhlig of the University of Chicago apply state-of-the-art statistical tools to United States data to compare the effects of deficit-financed spending, deficit-financed tax cuts and tax-financed spending. They report that “deficit-financed tax cuts work best among these three scenarios to improve G.D.P.”

Still not convinced?  Mankiw offers something more compelling:

“My Harvard colleagues Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna have recently conducted a comprehensive analysis of the issue. In an October study, they looked at large changes in fiscal policy in 21 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. They identified 91 episodes since 1970 in which policy moved to stimulate the economy.  They then compared the policy interventions that succeeded — that is, those that were actually followed by robust growth — with those that failed.”

“The results are striking. 
Successful stimulus relies almost entirely on cuts in business and income taxes.  Failed stimulus relies mostly on increases in government spending.”  

It should be noted that this study comes out of Harvard, hardly a conservative think tank.

So, armed with facts and a growing awareness of what is going on in the political and economic realms, will we say enough is enough?  And, will we allow the Democrats and mainstream media to continue to denigrate the use of tax incentives as the tired old policy of a party that is out of ideas or just interested in the wealthy?

Would the media or Democrats stand for it if someone or some group denied the unequivocal benefits of civil rights?  Of course not.  So let’s not tolerate them denying what is obvious to any thinking, dispassionate observer.

Tax policy is the hammer in our economic revival tool belt.   Anyone who says otherwise is, dare I say, a tool.

The 12 Days of an Obama Christmas

On the first day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
A TARP for the E-CON-O-MY.

On the second day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
Two curdled loves,
And a TARP for the E-CON-O-MY.

On the third day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
Three mensch men,
Two curdled loves,
And a TARP for the E-CON-O-MY.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
Four galling nerds,
Three mensch men,
Two curdled loves,
And a TARP for the E-CON-O-MY.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
Five Bi-den gaffes,
Four galling nerds,
Three mensch men,
Two curdled loves,
And a TARP for the E-CON-O-MY.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
Six nominees a-backtracking,
Five Bi-den gaffes,
Four galling nerds,
Three mensch men,
Two curdled loves,
And a TARP for the E-CON-O-MY.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
Seven acolytes a-tingling,
Six nominees a-backtracking,
Five Bi-den gaffes,
Four galling nerds,
Three mensch men,
Two curdled loves,
And a TARP for the E-CON-O-MY.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
Eight prompters prompting,
Seven acolytes a-tingling,
Six nominees a-backtracking,
Five Bi-den gaffes,
Four galling nerds,
Three mensch men,
Two curdled loves,
And a TARP for the E-CON-O-MY.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
Nine clunkers clunking,
Eight prompters prompting,
Seven acolytes a-tingling,
Six nominees a-backtracking,
Five Bi-den gaffes,
Four galling nerds,
Three mensch men,
Two curdled loves,
And a TARP for the E-CON-O-MY.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
Ten czars a-regulating,
Nine clunkers clunking,
Eight prompters prompting,
Seven acolytes a-tingling,
Six nominees a-backtracking,
Five Bi-den gaffes,
Three mensch men,
Two curdled loves,
And a TARP for the E-CON-O-MY.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
Eleven bailers bailing,
Ten czars a-regulating,
Nine clunkers clunking,
Eight prompters prompting,
Seven acolytes a-tingling,
Six nominees a-backtracking,
Five Bi-den gaffes,
Four galling nerds,
Three mensch men,
Two curdled loves,
And a TARP for the E-CON-O-MY.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my Obama sent to me
Twelve spenders spending,
Eleven bailers bailing,
Ten czars a-regulating,
Nine clunkers clunking,
Eight prompters prompting,
Seven acolytes a-tingling,
Six nominees a-backtracking,
Five Bi-den gaffes,
Four galling nerds,
Three mensch men,
Two curdled loves,
And a TARP for the E-CON-O-MY!


Legend:



  • Two curdled loves:  Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid
  • Three mensch men:  Robert Gates, Paul Volcker, Arne Duncan
  • Four galling nerds:  Peter Orszag, Tim Geithner, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz
  • Six nominees a-backtracking:  Tim Geithner, Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle, Kathleen Sebelius, Nancy Killefer, Hilda Solis
  • Seven acolytes a-tingling:  Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, David Shuster, Alan Colmes, Joy Behar, Bob Herbert

That Which We Call A (Charlie) Rose

I happened to catch Charlie Rose a few evenings ago.  The show, as per usual, followed its tried and true recipe.  Three parts egghead (media, political, and academic elites), and one part bonehead (Arianna Huffington).  The resulting Illuminati stew was prepared to near perfection–with all ingredients contributing their stereotypical Upper East Side, affected, and oh-so-condescending opinions–not letting the facts be as much as a fly in the ideological pot.  Heck, when there’s little or no supporting evidence, at least make the case with complete conviction and emphatic indignation.

As this blog accurately and presciently predicted (about as hard as forecasting another losing season for the Pirates), the Left’s primary excuse for the incontrovertible failure of the administration’s economic policies is not that those policies are misguided, but that they were not of sufficient scale.  That’s right, the $787 billion albatross of a recovery-inhibiting package would have been fine and dandy had it only been twice the size.  So say the thorns sitting around Charlie Rose.  Believe it or not, they still don’t see the writing on the wall.  They’re actually attempting to lay the groundwork for more Keynesian-style spending, even though the three most recent such efforts from Bush and Obama, and every one from prior presidents, has been a documented failure.  Forget incentivizing the private sector; let the government handle it.  It’s never worked before, but maybe that means it’s all the closer to working next time.  Hidden vigorish, as Bob Prince used to call it.

Not surprisingly, the Left’s point person for promoting more and more government has been the Nobel Laureate of Chicken Little economics, Paul Krugman.  Krugman and his Liberal fear mongers are going so far as to advance the notion of a 21st century Works Project Administration (WPA).  Apparently, since the government has crowded out virtually all private capital, and stiffled innovation, entrepreneurship, and business investment with the uncertainty surrounding its entropy-riddled over-management of the economy, it now thinks it’s time to go on a hiring spree.  Yup, the lender and subsidizer of last resort may be looking to become the hirer of last resort, too.

Won’t that be special?  Disregard the fact that the government is broke (understatement of the century) and only about one sixth or seventh the size of the private economy.  Also, ignore the reality that what we need is for the government to get out of the way, or at least support real growth with a concomitant incentive regime that leads to the creation of sustainable jobs, bountiful opportunities for investment, and trend or above trend GDP expansion–rather than temporary, make-work projects that leave little more in their wake than greater national debt.

Government expansion by any other name does not smell sweet.  Apologies to Will.

An Educated Flea Knows It

I know it.  You know it.  Independents know it.  Republicans and Democrats know it.  An educated flea knows it.  And, I suspect the President’s inner circle knows it, but doesn’t want to admit it. 

Sure, it’s only been ten months.  It’s possible things could improve.  But let’s not kid ourselves.  Barack Obama is shaping up to be one of the worst presidents of the last 100 plus years.  Move over Hoover and Carter.

The question is, how did we get here?

Again, it’s no secret.  It’s the media, stupid…with a big assist from a complicit populace.  And, if we’re not careful, it could happen again in 2012.

We shouldn’t dismiss someone of Obama’s limited relevant experience out-of-hand.  Such individuals must have a chance to compete.  Great leaders can emerge from nowhere.  But, that’s normally the beauty of long, hard campaigns.  They’re supposed to separate the pretenders from the contenders.  It’s a marathon for a reason, or at least it’s intended to be.  Unfortunately, in the last election, the mainstream media used the time to coronate, rather than investigate.

It’s not necessary to rehash the details here.  The warning signs were quite evident.  All but the most partisan have to, at least in retrospect, recognize that there was little persistent probing in the media’s examination of Obama’s record, and equally unsatisfactory inspection of his policy views.  They may have asked him the questions, but certainly didn’t follow-up on his evasive, platitudinous responses.

Disturbingly, the groundwork is being laid for a repeat performance in 2012.  Journalism is dead, or at least on a respirator.  In its place is a bifurcated system that falls out along party/ideological lines.  Candidates get to pick and choose their spots.  They’re conditioned to be attracted to the light that is guaranteed friendly coverage.  You see, the candidates are also educated fleas.  It’s too bad that light is not a bug zapper every now and again.

One can easily imagine a Republican being swept into office in 2012 much the same way Obama was in 2008.  He/she can largely avoid the mainstream media and have practically unlimited time on Fox News and conservative talk radio to present views that need not hold up under the weight of aggressive questioning. 

As we’re learning the hard way, we all lose when the system breaks down. 

It’s highly unlikely that the media bias problem will get solved anytime soon.  As such, a much more discerning, thinking voter is required.

Adlai Stevenson, during one of his presidential campaigns, was told by a supporter that he was “sure to get the vote of every thinking man.”  Stevenson replied, “Thank you, but I need a majority to win.”

Nearly 60 years later, the truth still hurts.

Jobs Summit

Memo to the President:  scrap the jobs summit and hold a job fair for new administration economists. 

Have so few ever done so much to stifle opportunity and destroy prosperity?  It’s not clear whether this gang is completely clueless, or simply too spineless to speak truth to power.  Would it be unreasonable for one of them to at least put a bug in Obama’s ear that his agenda for “economic fairness,” the redistribution of wealth, and massive government expansion might actually be backfiring?

It shouldn’t be particularly difficult to fire them.  No need to strategize with Human Resources.  Don’t bother checking their expense reports for erroneous charges, or phone bills for unauthorized calls.  And, forget about fabricating claims of sexual harassment, or monitoring their email traffic.  

Isn’t attempted murder sufficient cause?  They are killing the economy, after all.

What self-respecting economist would allow this to continue?  Any schmo with an IQ over 80 and a passing familiarly with history has to know that transfer payments have nothing to do with structural, permanent economic growth.  You know…the kind that creates real jobs…lots of them…ones that actually last…and exist…not the fake ones the administration keeps reporting…and the Boston Globe calls “wildly exaggerated.” 

Yep, even the super liberal Globe called bullshit on this one.  When they investigated the administration’s claim of 12,000 jobs created in Massachusetts as a supposed result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it turned out the number was actually closer to zero.  Ouch.

The most laugh-evoking line from Obama’s jobs summit speech was, “We all know there are limits to what government can and should do, even during such difficult times.  But we have an obligation to consider every additional responsible step that we can to encourage and accelerate job creation in this country.”

Limits?  Even after a quadrupling of the deficit in less than a year, the President and his Liberal enablers are talking about an additional Keynesian-style stimulus, despite the fact that every previous such instance of government largess, including the two most recent (2/2008, 2/2009), has been a miserable failure.

Isn’t it curious that “consider every additional responsible step” never seems to include pro-growth, supply-side measures, that when properly constructed, have a virtually unblemished track record of success?  What rational thinker, for example, doesn’t recognize that cutting the tax rate on those evil corporations and small businesses…yeah, the ones that hire people…wouldn’t be a seismic jolt to economic activity?  Even a lay person can easily comprehend that capital flows to where there is less friction and maximum prospect for return.  Instead of the dollar being under siege and money fleeing the country, we would see capital rushing in to exploit the boundless opportunities.

Oh, there I go again, waxing quixotic and fantasizing about government officials doing what is right, rather than political.

Speaking of fantasy…I’m seeing Paul Volcker…he’s drinking a beer with his economist buddies…whoops, wrong summit.  Wait…he’s channeling a little Johnny Paycheck…strumming a guitar…and singing, “Take this job and shove it.”

Oh, that felt good.

Pass me a cigarette.

Radical? Really?

As you’ve probably noticed, a battle is being waged within the GOP.  Having recognized the damage done from eight years of regular forays away from its core values, many party faithful and Right-leaning individuals/groups are attempting to reestablish the brand.  This intra-party tension is largely a good thing.  It clarifies the agenda, and brings to light a litany of past policy decisions, enabling reflection on their impact–good and bad.

The Conservative faction appears to be winning the hearts and minds of a majority of those on the Right.  One need not look beyond New York District 23 for clear supporting evidence.  The District’s Liberal Republican congressional candidate opted to pull out of the race amid a groundswell of support for the third party Conservative.  Notably, this was a direct rebuke of local and national party leaders who endorsed the Republican, despite her Left-leaning positions, completely misreading the depth of discontent for Big Government politics.

What is most interesting, though, and what you need to be on the lookout for, is how this is going to play out in the media.

The spin machine is cranking up.  Those on the Left, which includes a preponderance of the mainstream media, are and will be working hard to define and discredit the Conservative movement.  Their primary method, of course, is to characterize the Conservative faction as radical and extreme.  You will hear those words used over and over in a matter-of-fact fashion–the inference being that every clear-thinking individual understands this–you should, too; it requires no further examination.

Well, actually it does.

All parties have their fringe, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.  True Conservative views are actually held by a plurality, if not majority, of the country.  Said views are, by definition, mainstream.  In a recent national poll, 40% self-identified as Conservative, as opposed to less than 20% who categorized themselves as Liberal.

What is radical about wanting to put power in the hands of the people, rather than the government? 

Is it radical to be for personal responsibility, free trade, property rights, the rule of law, a strong defense, state and local rights, and not a lot more government than is necessary to protect us and provide a reasonable social safety net?

Are those beliefs more or less radical than:



  • Quadrupling the deficit in less than a year;

  • Attempting to jam a bill down our throats impacting one fifth of the economy in a couple weeks with little/no debate and transparency;

  • Endeavoring to tax carbon emissions such that various industries would be unfairly destroyed and many U.S. companies would be rendered irreparably less competitive;

  • Lending credence to the notion that the U.S. may owe a carbon debt to the developing world as a means of redistributing our wealth;

  • Attempting to muzzle legitimate dissent and elements of the media;

  • Demonizing and strong-arming individuals, corporations, and industries who do not tow the administration line;

  • Employing 30+ czars, not elected or vetted by the Senate, to impose their government-centric views on our way of life.

Don’t stand for this political and media tactic.  Let your displeasure be known.  It is perfectly legitimate not to share the Conservative philosophy, but it is dishonest to portray that point of view as radical or extreme.


 

When The Levee Breaks

The next five days or so could be the most critical in Obama’s presidency.  A light mist of restlessness that appeared about six months ago has gradually grown into an intermittent drizzle of discontent, then a steady rain of displeasure, and now, threatens to become an out and out downpour of dyspeptic opposition. 

If it keeps on raining, levee’s going to break

The President is in a bad spot.  His mismanagement of the economy, ham-fisted handling of the healthcare debate, and trepidation over addressing the Afghanistan situation have siphoned off the substantial support he enjoyed post election.  He must wistfully look back at those heady, anything is possible days of November thru January and wonder what the hell happened.  His clout appeared to be almost limitless, and he wasn’t shy about wielding it.  The power of his personality and perceived strength of the “movement” led supporters to line up behind him in cult-like fashion, and caused opponents set aside long-held principles in order to appear to be one of the enlightened.

But here we are, not even a year later, and there aren’t enough fingers in the Dutch army to plug the leaks in Obama’s reservoir of support.

No, crying won’t help you – praying won’t do you no good
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move

Pieces of the levee are breaking away.  More and more Democratic congress people are daring to speak out  against various Obama policies.  Their objections have all but killed card check, cap and trade, and various central Liberal elements of healthcare reform, to name a few.  More telling, we’re starting to see cabinet members and advisers break ranks.  It’s clear that Defense Secretary Gates (and the top brass in the military) have embarked on an independent campaign to sway public opinion in favor of a troop surge in Afghanistan.  Marginalized economic advisor, Paul Volcker, has expressed dissatisfaction about aspects of the administration’s financial system regulatory reform package.  How long will it be before Larry Summers, he of the massive ego, starts to distance himself from the disastrous litany of economic policy prescriptions?

All last night I sat on the levee and moaned

As bad as it’s gotten for Team Obama, it has the potential to get much, much worse on Tuesday.  That’s the day Virginia and New Jersey elect new governor’s.  It appears quite likely that the Republicans will regain control of Virginia.  Given that state’s long history of voting for the GOP (until the last couple of elections), it’s not a particularly surprising turn of events.  Nevertheless, it will sting Obama and the Dems, and be a sign that the tide is turning and 2010/2012 could be very problematic. 

New Jersey, though, is different.  It has been a reliably blue state for some time, and the Democrats enjoy an enormous advantage in registered voters.  However, years of wild entitlement expansion have placed New Jerseyites number one on the list of most heavily taxed citizens.  Obviously, they’re not so thrilled about that distinction.  Jon Corzine’s inept stewardship and uninspiring, wet-cardboard-like personality have only exacerbated the problem.  People are leaving New Jersey in droves, further eroding the tax base.  Many in the state appear ready for a course correction.

Mid-term elections are invariably difficult for the party in power.  They tend to be not so much about will incumbents lose seats, but the magnitude of the losses.  That was certainly the case in 2006 when the Republicans were absolutely and unequivocally thrashed.  The beating was a clear referendum on the electorate’s dissatisfaction with Bush 43 and undisciplined Republican congress people.  If the Democrats lose New Jersey, it may be a precursor to a comparable spanking.

The ramifications will be felt almost immediately.  Democrats, although they will say otherwise, will recognize such a defeat as a rebuke of the President and/or his policies, but more importantly (to them), they’ll see it as a direct threat to their personal survival.  And, is there any species with a stronger survival instinct than a politician?  Forget party unity; every man for himself.  It will be Vichy France battling, albeit reluctantly, the Allied powers.

Despite all of Obama’s and Corzine’s problems, the Republicans are fighting an uphill battle in New Jersey.  The polls are tight, but it is still somewhat difficult to see the GOP overcoming all the obstacles (e.g. multiple appearances by Obama and Bill Clinton; huge spending advantage and negative campaigning by Corzine; and the large delta in registered voters).  But, if they do, look out below.  It could ostensibly render Obama a first term lame duck.  Starting in 2012, he may be able to work on that Olympic bid full time.

Going – I’m going to Chicago
Going to Chicago
Sorry but I can’t take you
Going down – I’m going down now
Going down – I’m going down now
I’m going down –


(Credit:  When The Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin)

When 2 + 2 Is Not Allowed To Equal 4

For those of you who may be new to this blog (now getting several thousand hits per month), It exists for two primary reasons:  espouse the virtues of limited government, and expose disingenuousness on both sides of the political aisle.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a fiscal conservative and, for the most part, a social liberal.  To the extent possible, I endeavor to avoid being doctrinaire.  Context can and does matter.

That brings me to today’s topic–this evening’s edition of Happy Hour on the Fox Business Network.  I was particularly interested to watch because one of the guests was Marco Rubio, the attractive, young conservative U.S. Senatorial candidate from Florida.  Rubio, a former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, is vying for the Republican Senatorial nomination against Charlie Crist.  Crist, of course, has been in the national spotlight for some time as Florida’s governor, and, to the chagrin of fiscal conservatives, for his recent support of cap and trade, as well as the $787 billion “stimulus.”

Although it was initially assumed that Crist would run away with the nomination, several curious policy choices, including the aforementioned two, have made the situation much less certain.  Rubio has become the darling of the limited government crowd, and, is rising rapidly in the polls.  I was intrigued to see whether or not he could express his ideas clearly and concisely, and if he is as substantive and innovative as his record seems to indicate.

Given the format (i.e.  a relatively short TV interview), I thought Rubio acquitted himself quite nicely.  He came across as smart, reasoned, and articulate…and he did make a simple, but compelling case for the importance of limited government.  I was struck, however, by one part of the interview that actually had nothing to do with Rubio.  Part way through, the interviewer (and co-host of the show), Rebecca Diamond, posed a question that ostensibly went something like this…tell me your solutions for healthcare and the economy, but don’t say tort reform or tax cuts.  My immediate reaction was, huh? 

As it so happens, Ms. Diamond and I are Facebook friends, so I immediately fired off a post to her wall, the gist of which was, you just asked Rubio the answer to 2+2, but told him not to respond with 4.  I further commented that just because one side persistently demagogues a particular policy approach, it doesn’t make that approach incorrect or unworthy of discussion.  A more appropriate and effective line of questioning, I suggested, would have been to attempt to draw out more specific, fact-based examples that supported the proposed solutions.  It does not strike me as media’s role to dictate what are and are not reasonable answers, but rather to explore how someone arrives at such conclusions, and if they fully understand their consequences.  For the record, I believe the answers Ms. Diamond disallowed are just parts of the ultimate solutions (which I’ve detailed in previous blog entries).

Let me add that I have a good deal of respect for Ms. Diamond.  I’ve found her to be diligent about being balanced, and I like her “every person” approach to issues.  She doesn’t get caught in the trap of querying to impress people with her knowledge, but rather poses questions that are on the minds of most regular people.  She’s also very responsive–replied to my wall post almost immediately after the show.  Impressive.  I have a different take on one of her co-hosts, Cody Willard.  I may share those thoughts/experiences in a separate blog entry.

The situation does highlight how GOP policy prescriptions have been caricatured by opponents and the media, and how inept the Republicans have been at explaining why their approaches are relevant to all socioeconomic classes.

No denying the Democrats are hurting themselves more than a goth teenager at a piercing party, but the Republicans need to make their message more coherent and convincing if they’re going to seal the deal in a big way in 2010 and 2012…and have a legitimate mandate to govern.

Marco Rubio could very well be a piece of that puzzle.

Press 246 If…

Let me tell you a story about what government-run healthcare might be like.  It’s not for the faint of heart, so please be sure that small children and the elderly are kept at a safe distance. 

Playing the role of faceless, feckless, and friggin’ incompetent bureaucrats is Cox Communications, our cable and Internet service provider here in Scottsdale. 

Allow me to set the scene for our little novella. 

Act I

We were scheduled to arrive at our home in Scottsdale on Wednesday, the 14th.  The prior evening we contacted Cox and arranged for them to reconnect our cable and Internet service the following day, Wednesday.  They informed us it would be done sometime between 7AM and 7PM.  That seemed like kind of a big window, but what the hell, we were leaving 40 something degree miserable Pittsburgh weather behind for the near perfect conditions of the north Sonoran desert.  Life was good…or so we thought.

As planned, we did land in Scottsdale on Wednesday afternoon.  Not surprisingly, the weather was beautiful.  Low 90’s and not a cloud in the sky.  After collecting our luggage, we were whisked away by our good friend and neighbor, Frank, to a little piece of paradise called Troon North.  Life was good…and getting better.

The 30 minute or so drive to our home reminded us of our good fortune and just how beautiful it is in the Southwest.  We reach our destination, trundle up to the front door, unlock and open it, and are greeted by the fresh cut flowers Frank’s wife, Kathy, placed inside.  Could it get any better?  Why yes it could, Kathy also left us a box of cereal and half gallon of skim milk.  Beautiful!  I can take care of my cereal fix without having to make a trip to the store.  I’m certain this is how King’s live.

Of course, being the web junkie that I am, my next move was to ascertain if the cable and Internet had been turned back on.  I found a TV remote, pressed the power button and saw nothing but static.  Damn!  Ok, life might not be perfect, but it was still pretty dang awesome.  A quick glance at my Blackberry told me that there were still two hours remaining before 7PM.  No need to worry, right?  I was quickly and pleasantly distracted when Frank and Kathy informed us that they prepared dinner and we could come over as soon as we were ready.  Shortly thereafter we moseyed the 20 yards over to their home and were treated to a terrific dinner under the stars on their patio overlooking the first fairway of the Monument course at Troon North.  Forget Kings, this is how the Gods must live.

After a great dinner with some terrific wines, we returned home.  By now, it was well past 7PM, so I was ready to kick back, relax, and settle into my nightly routine of cable news, piano practice, and surfing the Internet.  Let’s see; where’s that remote?  Ahhh, there it is.  Click.  Damn!!!

Act II

The following is an abridged account of at least twenty conversations (no joke), spread over two days, with various Cox representatives and supervisors.  It is not embellished in any way.


Cox:  Hello, how may I help you?

Chuck:  My cable and Internet were supposed to be turned back on yesterday.  Unfortunately, they weren’t.  I need it done ASAP today.

Cox:  Account number please?

Chuck:  We don’t have an account number, yet, because the service has not been reestablished.

Cox:  Address?

Chuck:  Address provided.


Cox:  Name on the account?

Chuck:  As I mentioned, we don’t have an account, yet.

Cox:  Name associated with previous account (before seasonal service was disconnected)?

Chuck:  Angela Dietrick, my wife.

Cox:  Is Angela available?

Chuck:  Yes, hold on.

Angie:  This is Angela.

Cox:  Is this Angela Dietrick?

Angie:  Yes.

Cox:  What is your account PIN?

Angie:  As my husband mentioned, we don’t have an account, yet, so we don’t have a PIN.

Cox:  Last four digits of your SSN?

Angie:  Digits provided (phone handed back to Chuck).

Cox:  May I put you on hold?

Chuck:  Yes.

Cox (several minutes later):  How may I help you?

Chuck:  Did I just get transferred?

Cox:  I don’t know.  How may I help you?

Chuck:  This is Chuck Dietrick, do you have my information?

Cox:  Account number please?

Chuck:  We don’t have an account, yet, but you should have other information for us.

Cox:  Address where service is to be connected?

Chuck:  Address provided.

Cox:  Name on the account?

Chuck:  We don’t have an account, yet, but Angela Dietrick was the name on the previous account.

Cox:  Is Angela available?

Chuck:  Hold on.

Angie:  This is Angela.

Cox:  Is this Angela Dietrick?

Angie:  Yes.

Cox:  Account PIN?

Angie:  We don’t have an account, yet, so we don’t have a PIN.  The last four digits of my SSN are XXXX.   Here’s my husband again.

Chuck:  Can you please get a technician to our home as soon as possible since nobody showed up yesterday.

Cox:  You said a technician was supposed to be there yesterday?

Chuck:  Yes.  I’m sure you must have a work order that can be checked.

Cox:  One moment please.  Yes, here it is.  It says the technician couldn’t get in the gate.

Chuck:  We provided the gate code when we arranged for the service to be reconnected.

Cox:  Oh, here it is.  Is the gate code 1234?

Chuck:  Yes.  Is that what went on the technician’s work order?

Cox:  Hold on; let me check.  Ok, here it is.  It says, 9284.  Hmmmm.  That’s odd.  Guess we somehow transposed an incorrect gate code on the work order.

Chuck:  When he couldn’t get in the gate, why didn’t he bother to call one of the two cell phone numbers we provided when we placed the order?

Cox:  That’s a good question.  We’ve apparently screwed up a couple times.

Chuck:  Given that Cox has made some mistakes, can you get somebody here ASAP?

Cox:  Sorry, you’re not on the schedule today.

Chuck:  I know, I was on the schedule for yesterday, but you guys messed up.

Cox:  Best I can do is get somebody there by 7PM.

Chuck:  What?

Cox:  Sorry, that’s all I can do.

Chuck:  Would you please connect me with a supervisor?

Cox:  One moment, sir.

Cox (several minutes later):  How can I help you?

Chuck:  Are you a supervisor?

Cox:  No I’m not.

Chuck:  What?  I was supposed to be transferred to a supervisor.

Cox:  Account number?

Chuck:  You’re kidding, right?

Cox:  Sir?

Chuck:  I’ve just gone through this process multiple times.  Would you please just connect me with a supervisor?

Cox:  Address?

Chuck:  Address provided.  Now can you connect me with a supervisor?

Cox:  One moment, sir.

Cox (after several minutes):  How may I help you?

Chuck:  Are you a supervisor?

Cox:  Yes I am.

Chuck:  Do you have my record in front of you?

Cox:  No I don’t.

Chuck:  You mean to tell me you don’t have the capability of attaching my record to a transferred call?

Cox:  Sorry, sir.  Account number?

Chuck:  Am I being punk’d?

Cox:  Pardon me?

Chuck:  You cannot be serious (apologies to John McEnroe).  I’ve given this information no less than a half dozen times already (I ultimately provided it more than 20 times over the course of 2 days).   There is no account number yet; you can find the record via the address or my wife’s cell phone number.

Cox:  Address?

Chuck:  Address provided.

Cox:  Got it.  Let me see.  It appears that we’ve made some mistakes.

Chuck:  Kind of you to acknowledge that fact.  As such, can you get a technician out here ASAP?

Cox:  I’m going to send an email to our dispatcher immediately to see if we can free somebody up.

Chuck:  An email?  Why don’t you call him?


Cox:  We don’t have the phone number and can’t call them anyway.

Chuck:  You are a communications company, aren’t you?

Cox:  Yes, sir; we are.

Chuck:  But you don’t have the phone number for a group in your own company and are not allowed to call them if you did?

Cox:  That’s correct, sir.

Chuck:  You’re sure I’m not being punk’d?

Cox:  Sorry, sir; that’s all I can do.  I will monitor it personally and get back to you with an update.

Suffice to say, I never got that status update.  And, the above repeated itself several times over the next day and a half.  There were multiple more calls with clueless representatives and incompetent (or bureaucratically handicapped) supervisors.

Finally, three days and a whole lot of consternation later, a technici
an was dispatched to complete the 30 second job of reconnecting our cable and Internet service.

Epilogue

No doubt, you’ve all run into a situation like the one described above.  Cox Communications, of course, is a publically traded private company.  Imagine how bad it would be if the context were medical, and it was the government on the other end of the phone.

Perhaps it would go something like this:

Government Voice Response System (GVRS).
Universal Healthcare Recipient (UHR).

GVRS:  Say xxx or Press 1 if…

GVRS:  Say xxx or Press 2 if….

GVRS:  Say xxx or Press 3 if….

GVRS:  Say xxx or Press 4 if….

GVRS:  Say xxx or Press 5 if….

GVRS:  Say xxx or Press 6 if….

GVRS:  Say xxx or Press 7 if….



GVRS:  Say “It burns when I pee” or Press 246 if it burns when you pee.

UHR:  “It burns when I pee.”

GVRS:  I’m sorry, did you say that you skinned your knee?

UHR:  “No, it burns when I pee.”

GVRS:  I’m sorry, did you say that you were stung by a bee?

UHR:  “No, I SAID IT BURNS WHEN I PEE!!!”

GVRS:  I’m sorry; I don’t understand.  Say “Start Over” or Press 1 to start over….”

UHR:  “STICK IT UP YOUR A$%#&!!!”

GVRS:  I’m sorry, did you say that you have a stick up your A$%#&?

I think you get the picture.

And the Winner Is…

Things are looking up for the President.

I happen to have it on good authority that the Nobel Peace Prize is just the beginning of a slew of accolades to be bestowed upon Barack Obama.  Below is but a sampling of the tributes in the works for His Awesomeness. 

Like another great Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci, the President’s abilities span multiple disciplines.  Beyond his “accomplishments” in international diplomacy, his achievements, and most importantly, his immense potential, is being recognized in the areas of popular culture, sports, and music–just to highlight a few.

For example, People Magazine, in an upcoming special issue, will be naming our esteemed leader the Sexiest Man Alive for the tingle he’s sent up the leg of Chris Matthews and the entire national press corps.

The prestigious Fred Flintstone bowling award will be given to Mr. Obama for the exemplary grace he demonstrated while rolling a stylish 37 on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania in 2008.  Executive Director of the Flintstone Center for the Bowling Arts, Barnard F. Rubblinski,  was effusive in his praise of the President’s potential.  He was overheard to say that with diligent practice and a little luck, the Bowler-in-Chief could be scoring in the 50’s in no time at all.

Similarly, the President will be honored during the World Series with the Walter Matthau/Bad News Bears Memorial Award.  It goes to the adult male who throws a pitch most resembling that of a 12-year old girl.  I understand that Tatum O’Neal will be on hand to personally present the plaque.

And, early next year, the President will be heading to Cleveland for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Apparently, a Rolling Stone reporter heard Obama whistling The Who’s, “We Won’t Be Fooled Again,” as he was boarding Air Force One in Copenhagen.  Co-Founder and Publisher of the iconic music magazine, Jann Wenner, said the performance sent a chill up his spine, quite like when the Beatles landed at JFK in February of 1964.

Aren’t we so very fortunate, just as those were who lived during the time of Michelangelo, Jefferson, de Tocqueville, and Churchill, to be in the midst of such greatness?

As the Chinese curse goes, “May you live in interesting times.”

I feel a tingle up my leg.

Republican Guilt

If you didn’t catch David Brooks New York Times column on Friday, it’s not dissimilar to many of his pieces over the past year or two.  You see, it’s become quite fashionable for so-called Republican moderates, in the media and in office, to express their guilt.  Such expressions come in a variety of forms.  For Brooks, it typically manifests itself as an attack on some symbol or symbols of conservatism.  No doubt he feels a need to establish and affirm his “fair-minded” bona fides–to definitively demonstrate his enlightenment, and show that he’s not one of the great unwashed.  In this instance, the method for accomplishing that objective is an assault on the three kings of right wing talk–Beck, Limbaugh, and Hannity (BL&H).

Those who read this blog regularly know that I am not a fan of extreme rhetoric–from the Left or the Right.  As such, I often take issue with BL&H.  Although I believe Brooks’ analysis of their power is mischaracterized, the intent of this entry is not to refute his argument;  but rather to examine the phenomenon of conservative guilt.

A confluence of two factors is behind the trend.  First, the Democrats have unrelentingly and successfully labeled Republicans as incompatible with the interests of the middle class.  Second, and more important, the GOP has gone more than 20 years without a messenger who can simply and persuasively make the case for why its platform is a prescription for prosperity, regardless of economic class.

Over that 20 year period, a pundit class has emerged to fill the leadership/communication vacuum.  So, instead of the party, its positions, and values being delineated by a strong politician or group of politicians, they have been defined by the opposition, and a cadre of loud, but charismatic civilian ideologues.

Of course, this has had terrible consequences for the GOP.  It is, after all, never good to lose control of your brand.

In attempts to disassociate from unflattering portraits painted by partisan Democrats and bellicose right wing commentators, and ingratiate themselves to the Left, Republican politicians have veered catastrophically from their core principles and become something very unattractive to the electorate–big spending bureaucrats who still can’t match the Dems when it comes to constituent group give aways.

After years of Bush 43 and an undisciplined GOP-controlled Congress, it should be abundantly clear to all Republicans that you simply cannot out-pander the Democrats.  And, following nearly a year of Obama, and several years of a Democrat-led legislative branch, it should be even clearer that those forgotten principles are, in fact, the right formula–for all.  Expanding old, and piling on new, government services is very empathetic–until the system collapses from its own weight because there’s no longer enough productive capacity to create jobs.

Hence, message to Republicans:  get back to your roots; find and elect persuasive leaders.  Your task should actually be much easier than before.  Obama’s been a gift.  Since you were apparently incapable of making the argument in the abstract, you can now make it based on readily available and comparable facts…or at least exceptionally convincing circumstantial evidence.

Don’t feel guilty for not expanding government.  New/bigger entitlements today have calamitous consequences tomorrow.  There is no better way to express true compassion than through ensuring/improving our long-term economic viability and way of life.  Focus on leveling the playing field and creating a sustainable economic system on top of which all have an opportunity to succeed–and are encouraged to do so.

A safety net, in the end, is meant to catch you when you fall, not ensnare you when you attempt to break free.

Achtung Baby!

As if President Obama needed any more ominous news regarding his political future, Germany just affirmed what has been a stark and sweeping move on the continent toward center-right government.  The reelection of Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats, along with new governing coalition partner, the Free Democrats (somewhat akin to our Libertarians), is another unmistakable rebuke of Social Democrats. 

The election comes on the heels of a historic and devastating early June blow to European liberalism when voters chose center-right parliaments in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Tired of 30+ years of burgeoning government, under-performing economies, fewer jobs, a declining population base, and greatly diminished worldwide competitiveness, European voters put down their collective foot..  Better late than never, I guess.

Now, Merkel, liberated from the Grand Coalition (governing partnership with the Social Democrats), is theoretically more able to pursue an agenda of lower taxes, less government control, and a reinvigoration of private markets and entrepreneurship.  The task, given the considerable baggage of transfer programs run amok and an entrenched entitlement culture, will not be easy.

How ironic, though.  Just as Merkel and other European leaders are walking back from the precipice of socialism, we are speeding blindly toward its cliffs.

At this point, there is little doubt that U.S. Democrat incumbents are going to take a pounding in 2010; it’s really just a matter of degree.  The American electorate is showing the same disdain for government expansionism that has recently and finally been exhibited by our European brethren.

The real drama, however, is how this will affect the 2012 calculus.  Conventional wisdom says that Obama will be forced to move to the center in order to tourniquet the blood letting of critical Independent voters.  Such a strategy did get Bill Clinton elected to a second term.

The landscape may be different this time, though.  If a significant portion of the Republican base continues, self-destructively I might add, to be infatuated with Sarah Palin, Obama may have the cover necessary to stay on the hard left.  It would not be irrational for the Dems to want to setup a turnout battle, particularly given the machine they put in place in 2008.  Should Palin win the nomination, or even simply  force other Republican candidates to lean harder to the right in a primary battle, Independents might become sufficiently disenchanted with both parties that their vote gets spit relatively evenly and/or they show up in lesser numbers.

Odds, nonetheless, are that Obama will move to the center–either during the run up to the mid-term elections, or shortly thereafter, but the specter/influence of a Palin, or even Huckabee, may present Obama an option not available to Clinton in ’96 when he ran against a pre-ordained and considerably more moderate Bob Dole.

So, will the situation in Germany impact Obama’s strategy?  What must he be thinking when he sees virtually all of Europe turn to the center-right?  Will there be lessons in Merkel’s experience?

If he does look to Germany for a clue, perhaps he’d be well-served to consider the advice of the smartest German of all, Albert Einstein:

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”

He’s never needed more hope than right now.

The Grand Illusion

Listening to President Obama’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly, it was hard not to wonder if and when we are going to wise up as an electorate.  In the next cycle and beyond, will we apply a different standard given that the current and prior President have failed so miserably in living up to their campaign rhetoric?

Remember the haughty manner in which candidate Obama dressed down George Bush for his inability to get foreign leaders to cooperate? 

Fast forward twelve months or so and there’s the President imploring recalcitrant U.N. member states to step up because “this cannot solely be America’s endeavor.”

Unfortunately, despite candidate Obama doing everything, including issuing Joe Namath-like guarantees that things would be different this time, they are not different.  America continues to stand virtually alone.

Recall how relatively easy it was going to be to secure the support of Russia and China in winning new U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran?

Weren’t Middle East peace talks supposed to go just swimmingly?

And, how about the war in Afghanistan?  Wasn’t a flood of international support going to come pouring in?

Of course, it’s been more of the same on the domestic front.  The supposed post-partisan utopia–a world in which previously intractable problems would be knocked down one after another–has proven to be nothing more than a wild chimera.

George Bush was no better.  In fact, it can be argued that he was worse.  We should have seen through Obama’s smoke screen.  The words, after all, were 100% inconsistent with his track record.  But, we were smitten.  Love would conquer all.

Bush, on the other hand, appeared to be a somewhat known quantity.  He, we were told, and the record (thin as it was) seemed to indicate, was a limited government conservative.  He was against nation building.  He wanted to restrain spending and reduce the deficit.  He would trim, not expand, entitlement spending.

Yeah, right.

So, now what?  We’ve clearly been duped time and again.

Common sense, maybe?  Some basic guidelines?

Perhaps we can start tuning out campaign oratory.  It’s little more than fiction.  Let’s apply considerably more weight to records of actual achievement, instead of empty speeches before the Rotary Club.  Governing, it turns out, is quite more challenging than speechifying.  Accountability has a way of changing the dynamic (see Iraq, Guantanamo, and Afghanistan).

Maybe we can also agree that hard stuff is not going to magically stop being hard.  As such, we should pay particular attention to the candidates’ history (or lack thereof) of solving difficult problems, instead of their “sincere” assurances that they’ll make it right.

Perchance, we might also recognize that inarticulate, bomb-throwing fools don’t suddenly become Cicero’s or Henry Clay’s (see Sarah Palin).

Could it also be a good idea to be extra wary of weak resumes and/or those who’ve suddenly emerged on the national scene (see Carter, Bush, and Obama)?

Let’s get back to basics…and not be fooled again.

Post-Racial?

So this is post-racial America?

It would be horribly regrettable if the increasingly fiery and accusatory rhetoric of the past week or so, seemingly triggered by the Joe Wilson episode, helped to turn back the clock on racial progress.  Unfortunately, it’s starting to have that feel. 

While the election of Barack Obama was not a cure-all for our race-related ills, it was an important and encouraging step toward that end…or so it appeared.

Real racism is such an immoral, destructive, and reprehensible sickness, not to mention macroeconomic stupidity of the highest order. 

It’s disquieting to see so important an issue cheapened by irrational and baseless charges.  And, the more ridiculous the allegations, the more those who can least tolerate their poisonous venom are hurt.

Do we really want to go down this path?  By doing so, we’re just distracting ourselves from legitimate matters of race.  It is, after all, impossible to have genuine discourse in such a climate. 

Wouldn’t it, for example, be great to intelligently debate the appropriate remaining lifespan of affirmative action?  Surely there will come a day when discrimination has been sufficiently rooted out of the system, and it is more beneficial to phase out affirmative action and its associated stigma than to manipulate an environment that is able to function adequately on its own.  No way that dialog is remotely possible in today’s hyper-charged atmosphere.

The President was quick and right to dispel the notion that his skin color has anything to do with reasonable criticism of his policies.  However, he and leaders from both parties need to be more forceful in rebuking those who perpetuate such claptrap.

Let’s save the indignation for authentic, rather than imaginary, racism.

I can hear the President now.  “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in!!!”

Sanctimonious Supercilious Slugs

It’s a shame that Charles Bronson passed away in 2003, because Death Wish VI is just begging to be made.  The murder victim in this instance is Democratic congressional hopes in 2010 and beyond.

Can it really be that the blue party (in more ways than one) is considering a censure of Joe Wilson for his turrets-ific “you lie” eruption during the President’s joint session speech?  For the Republicans, it’s undoubtedly better to be lucky than good. 

After months of being battered, bruised, and beaten by self-inflicted wounds, the Dems were finally handed an opportunity to climb out of the Valley of Darkness and onto a parcel, tiny as it might be, of high ground.  And, what do they do?  Tumble right back down. 

Hello darkness my old friend.

Rather than focusing their and everyone’s attention on healthcare reform, as the President desperately wants, they apparently thought it better to take time out and remind us what sanctimonious supercilious slugs they truly are.

How absolutely priceless is this initiative?

Speaker Pelosi allows Charlie Rangel to maintain his chairmanship of the most powerful committee in the House while he’s being investigated for numerous ethical (and possibly criminal) violations, but may go forward with an attempt to rebuke Wilson for an injudicious and inappropriate remark.  Simply amazing, but unfortunately, not surprising.

I can’t help but imagine a Pelosi profile in Playboy: 

    Likes:  Really, Really Big Government; Cushy Private Jets; Double Standards.

    Dislikes:  Rude Republicans; Facts; Those Mean CIA Interrogators.

Frighteningly, these are the people to whom we are being asked to trust for the passage of legislation that effects one sixth of the economy?  The best and the brightest.

Jerry said it best to George as George lay prostrate with his pants down on Jerry’s floor :  “And you want to be my latex salesman?”

Joint Session

Some immediate thoughts on the President’s speech on healthcare reform before a joint session of Congress:



  • The speech was well-constructed.  It should be reasonably well-received by the target audience–those without insurance, those worried about their insurance, and seniors–particularly if they’re not interested in the details.

  • It’s too bad this wasn’t the starting point several months ago; the debate could have been much more constructive.

  • I am an insurance exchange proponent and was glad to see it proposed by the President.  If implemented properly, it can promote competition, particularly across state lines. 

  • It is still very unclear to me how the government can force insurance companies to not consider pre-existing conditions without significantly driving up premiums.  Insurance relies on actuarial science.  If more risk/costs is/are foisted on insurers, they’ll have to raise prices in order to ensure their viability.

  • It’s possible that all those with pre-existing conditions will end up in the non-profit, public option provider, but that then virtually makes certain that entity’s ultimate insolvency and/or need for government support.

  • It is impractical to expect the non-profit, public option insurer to be self-sustaining, as the President guaranteed.  How can it be when the users of the option will almost certainly be those priced out of the exchange?  They will have been priced out because they’ll be the riskiest and most expensive to insure.  So, the non-profit cannot possibly be viable when it has to provide care for persons who will cost orders of magnitude more than those in a typical, actuarially sound risk pool.  Therefore, the non-profit will assuredly go broke and/or require government subsidy.

  • The only way the aforementioned might not be a guaranteed outcome would be if the non-profit was comprised of much more than 5% (the President’s number) of the populace.  That way, it would have a chance to spread the risk.  However, in order to make that happen, it would have to undercut the private insurers on price; thereby crippling that market.

  • The malpractice reform proposal was weak and will be unacceptable to Republicans.  It’s difficult for Obama to argue that we can do all the heavy lifting necessary for healthcare reform, but ostensibly eviscerate tort reform with drawn out state trials.

  • The case was not made regarding how this will be paid for.  It has always been laughable when either party claims their program is going to be paid for by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.  Even if there is a slim chance that this might be the one time it’s true, we’ve all been conditioned to dismiss such a rationale.

Hammered

On Wednesday, Barack Obama will be delivering a speech every bit as important as his campaign-saving soliloquy on race at the height of the Rev. Wright imbroglio.  Things are much different now than they were in March of 2008, however.  Back then, Obama could do little wrong.  He was riding a wave of populist support, and a tsunami of media good will.  He was the anointed savior of a system widely believed to have been drug down by sixteen years of bitter partisanship.  Today, the tide has turned.  Large segments of the populace have become unsupportive.  His policies and job performance are held in low regard by half or more, and the mainstream media, while not necessarily on the attack, has at least demonstrated healthy skepticism.

What happened in such a remarkably short period of time?

Did we simply misjudge the situation?  Were his answers always right because the questions were never hard?  Did the rancor from the Bush and Clinton years convince us to ignore the record and believe the rhetoric?  Are Obama and team not the master strategists we thought?

Evidence to that effect is certainly starting to pile up.

It’s hard to deny that the administration and congressional Democrats are in chaos over healthcare.  Less than two days out from the President’s supposed clarifying and unifying address, the message is more muddled than ever.  The performances of Obama during his weekend rallies, and his acolytes on the Sunday morning talk shows, meant to lay the groundwork for Wednesday, have only increased the confusion. 

Less nebulous is that the answer man apparently has only one answer–more government, and regrettably for Team Obama, it turns out a plurality of the voters don’t like it so much.  Will we see some flexibility on Wednesday, or will it be more of the stark partisanship and ideological rigidity that has defined the Obama presidency to this point?  Perhaps he’ll take a page from the book of one of his idols, FDR, who was known for “bold, persistent experimentation?”  It wasn’t unusual for Roosevelt to quickly discard failed or questionable policies, and implement big new ideas, regardless of what side of the isle they originated from.  Not so for Obama.  To date, despite a series of missteps and disappointing policy outcomes, he continues to cling to his statist view.  It’s the one size fits all approach to governing.

As the saying goes, when a man’s only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail…and boy, are we getting hammered.

Easy Rider?

Wasn’t the picture of President Obama riding a bike on Martha’s Vineyard without a helmet  telling?  Sure, we’re all allowed an indiscretion here and there; nevertheless, it does provide a window into the hypocritical existence of politicians, particularly the ones who pontificate most about what’s right for others…but conveniently exempt themselves.

Is it any wonder why limited government is so important?  The more we have to endure duplicitous policies, and their proclivity for bankrupting us and eroding our personal liberty, the worse off we are as individuals and a nation.  You don’t have to look far and wide to recognize that very few, if any, of our self-righteous representatives actually walk the walk.

They love to demonize corporate executives for using private jets, but are quick to turn around and attempt to authorize hundreds of millions of dollars worth of luxury planes for themselves.

They’re terrific at moralizing and extolling the wonders of family values, like Senator Vitter and Governor Sanford, but don’t hesitate to grab a little action on the side for themselves.

They’re ready to force healthcare coverage down the throats of the general populace, but not willing to use that same coverage.

They’re responsible for writing tax laws and overseeing the IRS, like Messrs Rangel and Geithner, but don’t find it necessary to pay their own fair share.

Sure, not putting on a helmet is rather trivial in the grand scheme of things, but it does help to remind us that government is at its worst when it endeavors to legislate behavior and co-opt personal responsibility.  We are much better served when government focuses on protecting its citizens and removing barriers that hinder individuals and organizations from achieving their potential.

Like in the movie, Easy Rider, the purpose of the journey is to achieve freedom.

Someone, please tell that to “Captain America”…er…President Obama.


 

The Laughable Laureate

After reading Paul Krugman’s New York Times Op Ed today, one is once again left to ponder, “what in the world were the Swedes thinking?”  Was the Nobel Prize in Economics selection committee comprised of DeVry graduates?

If Krugman is anything, he is consistent.  Has anybody so decorated made more bad calls on public policy and macroeconomics in recent history?  He’s the Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager of Nobel Laureates.

His incorrectness isn’t a recent phenomenon, either.  It dates, minimally, back to the early 80’s when he was briefly a member of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors.  While there, he (along with Larry Summers) famously penned a memo predicting that the decline in inflation from the highs of 1979 thru 1981 was a “temporary aberration,” and would resume with a vengeance–adding more than 5 percentage points to then current levels.  Not only did inflation never again reach the point it was when the memo was written, it actually declined by 4 to 5 points at its low.  That’s right, future Nobel Laureate, Krugman, missed his inflation forecast by upwards of 10 percentage points.  Economists are generally shamed when such estimates are a mere few tenths of a point off the mark.

Fortunately, Reagan had the common sense to follow a different path.  President Obama would be wise to do the same.

Krugman, as most know, has been the “intellectual heart and mouthpiece” of the Big Government movement.  It was he who gave credence to the Left’s call for a $787 billion “stimulus” package by arguing that such an amount was probably only one half to one third the total actually needed.

Needless to say, that theory has proven, by most accounts, to be wildly erroneous.  The economy’s natural resiliency has allowed it to rebound, albeit several quarters later than would have been the case had the “stimulus” been pro-growth-oriented, rather than transfer-payment-centric (as advocated by Krugman).  It should be noted that the recovery has come with only about 11% of the “stimulus” having been spent (somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/20th to 1/30th what Krugman insisted was necessary).

In today’s Op Ed, Krugman picks up on his favorite target, Reagan’s economic policies.  It’s no surprise that he would try to discredit Reaganomics, since Reagan’s philosophy of limited government and personal responsibility is in such stark contrast to Krugman’s statist view.

As is typical with Krugman, he puts his own unique spin on the numbers in order to support his ideology.  He trots out the tired argument that the wealthy benefited disproportionately because their real incomes grew considerably more rapidly than that of the middle class.  True, but needless to say, he ignores many less convenient truths.  The Left likes to disregard the fact that household wealth, a more comprehensive measure than income, was at all-time highs during the Bush years.  And, unemployment was at record lows.  As Reagan said, and all of us are learning the hard way, “the best social program is a job.”

Krugman also says, “…most of whatever gains ordinary Americans achieved came during the Clinton years.”  Fittingly, he fails to acknowledge that the advance was due to one of the greatest positive developments in personal responsibility in decades–Welfare reform–pushed by a Republican congress, and signed by the President.  Isn’t it amazing that when opportunity and initiative collide, good things happen.

The most remarkable part of the Op Ed, however, is his screed against those who oppose the inclusion of a public option in the healthcare reform Bill.  Almost comical in his lack of awareness, he says, “Opponents of the option–not just Republicans, but Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad and Senator Ben Nelson–have offered no coherent arguments against it.  Mr. Nelson has warned ominously that if the option were available, Americans would choose it over private insurance–which he treats as a self-evidently bad thing…”  Well, da!!!  Could it be anymore self-evident?  Wouldn’t you think that if proponents could point to just one government success story–that is one that isn’t in jeopardy of bankrupting itself and the country, the general populace would be supportive?

This simply is no longer the era of the New Deal or Great Society.  The demographics don’t support a further expansion of the social safety net, unless along with it comes the political courage to make major cuts in other areas.

Krugman plainly doesn’t get it.  Like in the kids game, he is the last one to realize he doesn’t have his finger on his nose.

Public Option Twisted Logic

Today, the Philadelphia Daily News joined the chorus on healthcare reform by attempting to make the case for why the public option is crucial.  Central to its thesis is the notion that a government run alternative is necessary to “keep insurance companies honest.”  Funny, I thought that was the role of the regulatory bodies that oversee them, and the “free market” itself?

If true, why stop at healthcare?  Shouldn’t other critical markets be “kept honest” with the government as a competitor?

Food is pretty essential.  Maybe the government ought to be in the business of producing and distributing it?

What about telecommunications?  Perhaps the government should become a cellular provider?

How about the commodity markets?  Legislators are always exercised about the price fluctuations of oil and other natural resources.  Might it make sense for the Feds to build and run an exchange?

Everybody needs shelter. Do you think the government should be in the home building business?

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

Let me repeat what I’ve stated many times in the past.  I am a limited government pragmatist–emphasis on pragmatist.  I do not believe that unfettered markets always function flawlessly.  Inefficiencies arise.  Prudent intervention can be necessary.  The proper response, however, is a sensible adjustment to the regulatory and incentive regimes, not direct government insinuation into the marketplace.

Our lawmakers just don’t seem to understand that it is the competing self-interests of disparate parties, coupled with intelligent, competition-enhancing regulations and incentives, that always lead to the best, albeit still imperfect, outcomes.

There is no denying that the health insurance market is seriously flawed, as is the legal climate in which its professionals are forced to operate.  Given that the aforementioned two areas appear responsible for the preponderance of upward price pressure, shouldn’t we focus our efforts on breaking down the contributory elements?

The argument that insurance companies have gained monopoly or near-monopoly power in various regions has legitimacy.  Let’s use the regulatory and legislative tools at our disposal to lessen their stranglehold, but do it in a way that empowers the private market to help find the equilibrium point.  It is completely justifiable for the government to stimulate an environment whereby hundreds of smaller, more nimble companies provide innovative coverage across state boundaries.  Doing so will stabilize prices, or minimally, slow their rate of growth.  The government need not be a direct competitor in order to kindle such viable solutions.

We must also recognize the tremendous costs of defensive medicine.  Those who quote the 1% to 5% price tag for jury awards (out of the total healthcare cost pie) fail to acknowledge the orders of magnitude greater indirect costs incurred due to medical personnel acting in ways that mitigate their legal exposure.

It’s hard to not recognize/admit that healthcare costs are skyrocketing largely because of artificial, rather than standard micro/macro-economic factors.  Doctors and nurses certainly are not making more money.  In fact, by all accounts, their compensation is at or near all-time lows.  So, if it’s not labor driving up the price tag (the typically most significant input cost, particularly in service-oriented industries), then what is it?

Logic dictates the culprit is insurance.  But, is it that simple?  Are greedy insurers to blame?”  The data tells a somewhat different story.  While insurance companies do earn solid profits on a nominal basis, the previous quarter rank for the insurance industry, among all other sectors, from a profit margin standpoint, was #86.  That’s right, 85 industries achieved higher margins.  Imagine the rank after they are required (rightfully so) to address pre-existing conditions and stop terminating coverage when a patient requires expensive care. 

That certainly does not absolve the industry of responsibility; however, it does point to a couple of problem areas.  It validates, in my estimation, President Obama’s claim that the absence of a universal patient record and robust, interconnected healthcare IT infrastructure, is contributing to an astronomical rise in the cost of claims processing.  Moreover, it highlights that those costs, potentially combined with others (e.g. unknowable tort liability), have erected barriers to entry that make it unattractive for competitors (principally smaller ones) to enter the market.

The government has a legitimate role to play in helping to remove the barriers.  The proposed dollars to catalyze the creation/adoption/installation of a standard patient record, and the infrastructure on which it can ride, is a step in the right direction.

The matter of cost uncertainty must also be addressed, though.  Insurance providers, like all companies, need a reliable way to estimate their costs.  Unfortunately, that is difficult/impossible to do in an atmosphere of capriciously large jury awards (or the threat thereof).  Responsible tort reform will lead to less upward price pressure because insurers will no longer be forced to price for wildly random contingencies.  That, along with the realization of Obama’s healthcare IT objectives, will allow significantly greater competition because smaller, innovative companies can compete in an environment where low margins and unpredictably catastrophic costs (e.g. egregiously punitive jury awards) are much less likely.

A proper diagnosis of the root causes of hyper-escalating costs will point to the right course of action.  No need to transplant multiple organs when diet and exercise is the appropriate prescription.

Kitchen sink legislation that checks all the boxes of its supporting constituent groups is every bit as bad as defensive medicine.

We need to unleash and enable private competition, not shackle it.

Healthcare Reform: Now What?

It’s pretty clear that the various Democrat-sponsored health bills are dead in the water.  The plans are simply antithetical to common sense.  Even the President’s most ardent supporters have to be watching in disbelief as really smart person after really smart person is sent to slaughter attempting to defend them.  Can you recall any other big, controversial issue for which someone wasn’t able to make a compelling case, no matter how much you might have been opposed?  It has actually been uncomfortable to witness the complete dismantling of these people and their arguments with the very simplest of probing questions.  If that alone doesn’t highlight the proposed legislation’s debilitating problems, see your doctor; you may be in Kool-Aid shock.

So, what now?  Healthcare is clearly on an unsustainable path.  And, the President is right; it does require reform.

Surprisingly, the ball could be in the Republicans’ court.  The GOP has largely been on the sidelines.  Sure, they’ve helped to stoke the fires of discontent.  But, for the most part, they’ve sat back as Democratic infighting and grassroots anger has fractured the partisan efforts of the administration and congressional leadership.  Conceivably, the GOP might be abiding by that old Napoleon dictum, “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.”  But, is that really the proper approach?  Is it enough to be united in opposition?  To be fair, they have offered their own programs and amendments, but they haven’t done so in as forceful and unified a fashion as possible.  A clearly defined Republican alternative needs to be in the public’s consciousness.  So far, they’ve failed to get one there.  The debate and the populace would benefit from an understandable and tangible comparison of the two programs.

If the Republicans do not make a stronger effort to promote their ideas, and instead count on the continued implosion of the Democrats, they risk ultimate failure, because a less radical, but still economically disastrous piece of legislation will eventually pass.

It is not difficult to imagine a scenario whereby something terrible makes it to the finish line because the opposition wears down and/or the public becomes immune to the counterarguments.  The legislation might look better in comparison to the original, far out of the mainstream draft, but it still could be catastrophic.  If someone is hitting you on the head 100 times a day, but finally agrees to do it 50 times, you’re better off because of the reduction, but at the end of the day, you’re still getting hit on the head.

There is a reasonable deal to be made if ideology is set aside.  The potential elements are not unknown–tax credits for the uninsured, medical savings accounts, pooling, portability, tort reform, standardized electronic medical records, etc, etc. etc.

Democrat and Republican centrists would be wise to find common ground where it exists and compromise where it doesn’t. 

It’s the right thing to do.

P.S.  To those of you who are regulars, thank you very much for your readership.  If you comment infrequently or never at all, please take a moment to express your opinion on this entry or any of the many others.  A dialogue is much better than a monologue.

Tin Ear

Just read a piece by Bob Shrum, Democratic political consultant, titled, “The GOP decline starts Phase Two.”  In it, he posits that the Republicans will be left holding the bag in 2010 and 2012 when “…the instant news cycle, which trumpeted the bad news, will turn around as the economy does.”  He adds, “Increasingly, we’ll hear that America’s on the up, with the predictable tidal effects on our national politics.”

For those of you not familiar with Shrum, he’s been either THE primary “brain” or one of the primary “brains” behind the failed presidential campaigns of Dick Gephardt, Michael Dukakis, Bob Kerrey, Al Gore, and John Kerry.  That’s right, he’s blown more majors than Greg Norman.

I’m not sure there is anybody who has proven himself less adept at judging the political winds.  If his ear were any more tin, he’d be on Broadway in a revival of the Wizard of Oz.

How about this gem:  “…the economic news should–and I believe will–embolden Democrats to pass health care reform worthy of the name.  As the economy rises and mobocracy declines, Democrats will hold the high cards in the next congressional campaign.  They will be rewarded for the stimulus they passed and for a health care bill they enacted…”

And, if that’s not enough, he continues, “In 2010 and 2012, Democrats will not only win elections; they will achieve a political transformation–the Obama era, with progressive values ascendant.”

I’ll have what he’s having!

Apparently he’s matriculated to the Obama school of it must be true if you say it enough.

Obama’s had numerous questionable relationships over the past couple decades, but you have to give him credit for not putting the Shrum anvil around his neck.  Of course, there is always 2012.

Shrum, either conveniently or ignorantly, ignores a variety of factors that make his analysis dead wrong.

First, the electorate is not interested in the ascendancy of progressive values.  It was attracted to and sold a new form of politics–one that pushes ideology to the side in favor of bipartisanship.  It wanted practical solutions to real problems.  Unfortunately for Democratic candidates in 2010 and 2012, most now believe they were the victims of a bait-and-switch.  A choking amount of Big Government dogma has been substituted for “change you can count on.”

Shrum also mysteriously avoids the public concern over growing deficits.  Ironically, it was he and his cronies who, in the 80’s and 90’s, brought the deficit into the American consciousness as a means of combating the successes of Republican supply side policies.  Of course, the deficits in those years were 2% to 6% of GDP (healthy, or at least not harmful, by most economists’ standards), compared to the current and projected astronomical percentages (likely in the teens) that virtually all credible economists recognize as economically catastrophic.  How frightening for the Democrats to be in the cross hairs of a weapon of their own design?

In yet another miscalculation, Shrum incorrectly assesses the ultimate recovery and the public’s likely reaction.  The “stimulus” is not and probably will not be seen as the catalyst for a return to prosperity.  On the contrary, it is largely recognized as a mis-managed, bloated, partisan, special-interest-laden piece of legislation that has prolonged the recession and limited the vitality of the eventual recovery. 

GDP expansion and job creation will almost definitely be constrained by the mountainous debt resulting from the Democrats’ Big Government programs.  The lack of availability of jobs and likelihood of depressed wages will not sit well with the Democrats’ core constituency, let alone the all-important Independent voters.  Most economists estimate it could be upwards of 4 to 5 years, or longer, before the unemployment rate has a chance to get back down to 5%…let alone the low 4’s where it was not so long ago.  The fact that over 40% of Americans don’t pay taxes won’t benefit the Democrats if their policies result in monumental job losses and lower wages.

Again, the Dems will be bitten by rhetoric of their own creation.  Remember the “jobless recovery?”   That’s the tag line they attached to Bush 43 when his administration was “only” able to create several million jobs after the shock of 9/11.  Obama would stand on his head to be able to claim such job growth.

Also, most don’t recognize that the economy needs a net gain of 125,000 to 150,000 jobs per month (due to population growth and new household formation) in order for the unemployment rate to simply hold steady.  The dearth of pro-growth policies coupled with the crowding out of private capital by government borrowing to finance the debt make it quite difficult to project anything more than the most tepid of recoveries.

Moreover, although hard to estimate, we can’t forget how much damage the Democratic brand has incurred and will incur from those pillars of statesmanship, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.  Some correctly argue that the Republicans are no shining light themselves, and as such, it will be a wash.  Not true; the Dems are in power, and the lion’s share of the blame always goes to those who are.

None of the above even begins to consider that mid-term elections are notoriously difficult for the incumbent party, or other factors such as more than 60 Democrats in the House won in 2008 despite being in traditionally Republican districts.

Politicians and operatives never let facts get in the way of their efforts to obfuscate.

As the Tin Man said, “What have you learned, Dorothy?”

Apparently, not much insofar as Bob Shrum is concerned.

The Next Crisis

As the financial/economic catastrophe continues to abate and focus shifts toward healthcare reform, the seeds of a forthcoming crisis have quietly been germinating in the background.  Oil, under $35 a barrel as recently as the end of 2008, has more than doubled in recent months. 

Sadly, virtually nothing has been done to prevent or significantly lessen the probability of another major shock.  In fact, the contemplated carbon tax would only exacerbate the situation. 

For those who believe that $147 oil and $5 a gallon gasoline are a thing of the past, think again.

Those days are coming, and sooner than most think.

Of course, much/all of this could be avoided if Congress and the President were to be proactive and sensible in addressing this eminently avertable disaster-in-waiting.

It doesn’t take Carnac the Magnificent to foresee how this will play out.  Prices will continue to rise as the global economy rebounds.  Our elected representatives and their enablers in the media will articulate their strong contempt for those evil speculators and greedy oil company executives who have caused this to happen to the poor old U.S. of A.  Then, all sorts of draconian measures (e.g. taxes, regulations, etc.) will be proposed/implemented that will further inhibit the “free” market and make the problem even worse.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  There are many, many reasonable solutions available to the non-ideological.

Consider the following as one of the innumerable possibilities.

As of 2005, roughly 19% of domestic electricity was produced by nuclear power plants.  That percentage has remained relatively constant since.  Today, there are 104 commercial nuclear power plants in the U.S., virtually all of which were built well over 30 years ago. 70% of our emission-free electricity is the result of nuclear power.

Imagine the economic stimulus and boon to national security (via greater energy independence) if our legislators/regulators would simply rationalize the mountainous restrictions that make it all but prohibitive to construct new plants.  The private markets would respond with hundreds of billions in investment dollars.  The number of plants could be doubled in 5 to 10 years, if not sooner.  New technology actually enables plants to be constructed in as little as 3 years now.  And, it could be accomplished without a dime of government money.

For those of you who are more Big-Government-inclined Keynesian’s, envision what could have been accomplished with a fraction of the $787 billion “stimulus”.  New nuclear plants, depending on size, generally cost between $1 billion and $5 billion.  For, the sake of argument, say the average cost would be $2.5 billion.  Obama and Congress could radically increase our electric grid capacity; create well over a million construction, plant operation, and other related jobs; dramatically reduce emissions; and greatly improve our energy independence and national security for the low, low price of less than a third of what they spent on short-term, non-stimulative projects with little/no structurally sustainable benefits to the economy.

Reagan had it right.  Government is not the solution to our problems.  Government is the problem.

Remember this months from now.  Our politicians fiddled as a preventable crisis was allowed to smolder and eventually burn out of control.  Don’t let their ideology block what is prudent and logical.  According to a Zogby poll, 67% of the population are behind the construction of new nuclear power plants, with nearly half indicating strong support.  Those figures will only increase as the situation intensifies.

Renewable energy is the future.  However, the country needs to bridge the gap between now and the time when those renewables are viable/scaleable.  We have proven, safe, clean technology available to prevent a potential economic/security shock that could make the last couple years look like a walk in the park.

We have nobody to blame but ourselves if we don’t vote out those who act so politically and irresponsibly.  Guess that’s redundant.

I just pulled an envelope with a card in it out of a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnalls’ porch.

It says, “The answer is:  Benedict, Bob, and the American Voter.”

Carnac, in his infinite wisdom, divined the question to be…”Name a Pope, a Hope, and a Dope.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to prove him less than omniscient?

The Real Teachable Moment

Forget the Beer Summit; the real teachable “moment” has been the past six months.  Will there ever be a better opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of Big Government?

This blog has not been shy about highlighting the deleterious effects of a system run amok. We continue to needlessly bleed jobs and endure the longest economic contraction in 80 years because Congress and the Executive Branch have chosen to co-opt the free market, rather than catalyze it.  An economy itching to demonstrate its natural resiliency is being smothered by the wet blanket of fiscal liberalism.

There have been no shortage of contributing factors–including the tragically ill-conceived $787 billion non-stimulative “stimulus” program, and the disaster-in-waiting that is Cap and Trade.

But, one program stands out as almost comical in its absurdity.  Cash for Clunkers.

Friday was priceless.  Those elected whiz kids of ours in the House of Representatives scrambled to appropriate additional funds for their monument to foolhardiness.  Did you see them taking a victory lap–holding up the Clunkers program as an exemplar?  Their giddiness was palpable.  Yep, they have been triumphant at getting people to accept free money.  Brilliant.  Well, free in the immediate sense anyway.  We’ll all be paying for it down the road.

Who knew that a couple hundred thousand people would each be willing to take $4,500 off the government’s hands?  Might it be possible that another four or five hundred thousand would be willing to do the same?  Better set aside a couple billion dollars more just in case.  Thank you House of Representatives.

Clearly, the government has concluded it can lose money on every car, but make it up in volume.  Shrewd.

What a shame that Obama and friends don’t seem to understand the ephemeral nature of government giveaways.  Bush and company certainly didn’t get it in February of 2008 when they handed out over $150 billion in “rebates” with absolutely no effect on our longer-term economic well-being.  We got a small bump in GDP for a single quarter after a fraction of the recipients spent some/all of the money, then quickly resumed our downward slide.

In the face of incontrovertible evidence, so many still do not recognize that for stimulus to be meaningful, it needs to have a structural, long-term impact.  If it doesn’t lead to sustainable demand growth, then it only serves to stoke the deficit.  Subsidies can create virtually unlimited demand.  That’s the good news.  Unfortunately, subsidy-enhanced demand typically disappears when the support is withdrawn, and the subsequent government borrowing necessary to finance the deficit spending results in lower demand elsewhere.  It has to.  What would otherwise be expansionary private investment capital gets siphoned off to fund the debt.

Since this Cash for Clunkers program is so outstanding, at least according to our representatives, why not Money for Mortgages and/or Dollars for Dresses?  It wouldn’t be fair to discriminate against the housing and retail sectors, would it?

Let’s discuss over a beer.  I’m feeling smarter already.

Nightmare on K Street

If you’re struggling to figure out which way the political winds are blowing, set aside the partisan rhetoric and simply look at what is undeniable.  There is no clearer sign that Obama’s public support is flagging and his stewardship of the economy weak than the rapidity with which various congressional Democrats are retreating from his healthcare plan.  Ignore the Republicans.  All you need to know can be gleaned from watching those on the Left.  Had the President’s policies thus far proven to be even remotely successful, the Dems would be tripping over themselves to pass the Granddaddy of all Big Government programs–healthcare reform.  Instead, they are in full survival mode–trampling one another while running for cover.  Capitol Hill is beginning to look like a South American soccer stadium.

The mid-term elections are quickly approaching, and incumbent Democrats are terrified that Obama’s less than stellar record is going to be an anvil tied around their collective waist.

What’s particularly interesting, though, is how much prestige the legendarily circumspect and disciplined Obama has put on the line with recent healthcare-related statements.  In fact, his declarations have gotten more muscular as the prospects for their success have become more fragile (e.g. “Don’t bet against me.”  “We are going to get this done.”  “It will happen this year.  I’m absolutely convinced of that.”).  The later statement renegs on an earlier promise of an August deadline.

Today’s weekly radio address was classic Obama–littered with more straw men than a Wizard of Oz convention  (e.g. “Now we know there are those who will oppose reform no matter what.”)  We do?  It seems there are multitudinous proposals from both sides of the aisle. Obama’s, of course, is right out of his Big Government playbook.  Unfortunately, his play calling has come under serious fire as play after play has been thrown for a monumental loss (e.g. stimulus, cap and trade, card check, etc.).

Obama is right to attack the healthcare predicament.  We are on an unsustainable trajectory.  Unfortunately, he prescribes more government for a system already on life support because of government. 

The root problem, to no ones surprise, is skyrocketing costs–escalating at over three times the rate of inflation, but linkable to a tort environment which causes a cascade of responses that lead doctors and others in the profession to practice wildly expensive defensive medicine.  Why order a test or two  when ten or twelve will do a more effective job of fending off catastrophic lawsuits?  Responsible tort reform plus reasonable regulatory oversight of pricing, when coupled with Obama’s desire to overhaul healthcare IT, would dramatically rein in costs and put us back on a path to viability.

Also, pay no attention to the noise about the often cited 46 million uninsured.  The number of involuntarily uninsured is a fraction of that figure.  The two least covered groups are those between 18 and 24 (70.4%) and 25 and 34 (75.1%), the vast majority of whom deliberately reject coverage because of a perhaps unwise but understandable personal cost/benefit calculus.  If we can get costs under control, the value proposition will be such that this predominantly healthy group will find it smart to opt for insurance.  99.2% of those who most need coverage (age 65 and older) have it.

Putting government in charge of anything significant has never, ever reduced costs.  Just the opposite.  Why risk doing it to a segment of the economy that represents 17% of GDP, particularly given government’s track record?  Imagine healthcare’s crippling share in 5, 10, 20 years if Obama prevails. 

The public has begun to have that nightmare, but it’s congressional Democrats who are shrieking in horror.

Public Opinion: The Ultimate Free Market

Although the free market has absorbed numerous body blows over the past six months, the public opinion free market has remained remarkably resilient.  The same supply and demand fundamentals that drive our capitalist system (well, until recently anyway), also apply to the shaping of public attitudes.

Despite being consistently misled by politicians and absolutely ignorant on most issues, it’s astonishing how reliably and predictably the general public senses unhealthy imbalances on either side of the political spectrum, and moves instinctively to correct inequities.

Moreover, this process always plays out notwithstanding the pontification of self-appointed experts who spin tales of tectonic shifts in sentiment–the kind that are supposed to permanently or near-permanently alter the landscape.

Remember the purported death of the GOP in 1992, only to be followed in 1994 by a historic rejection of Democrats and embrace of Republicanism?  In conjunction with that change came pronouncements of an electoral college lock that some claimed might take generations to crack.  It wasn’t long after, however, that the Republicans lost control of the House and Senate, and eventually the presidency.  So much for the stranglehold.

Today, it’s not difficult to see that the seeds of a reversion back to the mean are being sown.  As always, history is quite illustrative.

After Nixon’s contemptible corruption, the public unsurprisingly went for the squeaky clean Jimmy Carter.

When Carter proved to be uncharismatic, a tedious micro-manager, and an ineffectual leader, the country moved in the direction of a magnetic, eloquent, and big-picture-oriented Ronald Reagan.

As soon as the populace tired of George W. Bush’s clumsy oration, divisiveness, and proclivity for projecting American power around the globe, it reached for Barack Obama, a smooth talking conciliator. 

Now, the focus is on President Obama. Following an initial and unprecedented insinuation of Big Government policies by his administration and Congress, the formerly “can do no wrong” invincible one is seeing the effects of the public’s growing disenchantment and belief that he and his cohorts are overplaying their hand.

The evidence is all around.

Obama’s poll numbers, which have been eroding steadily over the past several weeks, as they typically do for new presidents, have recently fallen off a cliff in certain key areas as the public begins to sense that something is amiss with the huge lurch to the Left.

What must undoubtedly be most troubling for the Obamaites is the significant loss of support from Independents–dropping 6 points last week alone in a national Gallup poll.  In Ohio, a critical battleground state, the numbers are more disconcerting–a full 48% of Independent voters disapprove of Obama’s job performance.  In Virginia, the figure is 52%.

Poll numbers aren’t the only referendum on Obama’s policies and performance.  Various seminal races around the country also reflect the current mood of the populace.  Republican candidates are well in front among all voters, and dramatically ahead among Independents, in the NJ and VA Governor’s races.  New Jersey, of course, has been reliably Democrat for a long time, while Virginia has been a recent addition to the Democrat column.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s efforts to get reelected in Nevada may also prove quite telling for Obama and the Democrats if current poll numbers are an indication.

Interestingly, of late, all of this is having a material impact on how the legislative sausage is being put together.  Democrats in Congress are reading the tea leaves and beginning to recognize that public opinion is a legitimate counterweight to their majority voting position–a much needed, and until recently, missing check and balance.

And, as we know, the congressional Hippocratic Oath is, “Above all, do no harm…to my re-election prospects.” As such, we’re seeing an awful lot of trial balloons floated to test what might and might not be palatable to the general public.

So, it remains to be seen how much of the Democrat’s ambitious agenda Obama and friends will attempt to pass–knowing full well that there will be a reckoning in 2010 and 2012 if voters deem it to be over the line, or if it doesn’t deliver the advertised results.

The pendulum will swing back; it always does.  The question this time, though, is, will it first swing so far to the Left that it knocks out a structural support–making our economy unstable for decades?

When it does swing back, we unfortunately have a spotty track record of being able to put entitlement toothpaste back in the tube, should it be necessary to do so.  Other than welfare reform during the Clinton/Republican Congress era, I don’t know that it’s been done.

Jefferson said, “Government is best which governs least.”

It’s pretty clear we will all be weighing in on that theory over the next 3+ years.

Dangerous Game

Virtually ignored among the Michael Jackson media frenzy is one of the most positive Middle East developments since the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.

Yesterday, the leading group of Iranian clerics defied Ayatollah Ali Khamenei by calling the disputed presidential election and resulting government illegitimate.  This represents the most significant challenge to the authority of the supreme leader in the Islamic Republic’s 30 year history.

Therein lies the conundrum for American foreign policy.  Do we bet on the reform movement, or is it too risky to wait for that to fully take root?  Should we instead address, sooner rather than later, the nuclear ambitions, support for terror, and overall destabilizing effect of Iran’s radical leadership?

There are compelling arguments on both sides.

Reasons to wait include:  Iran is, and has been, a relatively open society.  For the most part, its people can come and go as they please.  They have near unfettered (discounting the recent crackdown) access to the Internet and other outside influences.  The Iranians are among the most well-educated people in the world with a literacy rate of 77%.  The populace is also remarkably young.  More than two-thirds are under the age of thirty.  And, they have one of the more enlightened views in the region of females.  Women comprise greater than half of the university students, and they hold pivotal positions throughout society.  Finally, if the reformers win out, and the Islamic regime collapses under its own weight, the democratic reverberations could be felt across the region.

Of course, those more hawkish can legitimately argue that although the general population may be moderating more and more over time, radicals still call the shots, and their intentions toward Western, Iraqi, and Israeli interests are quite evil.  Can we chance a nuclear weapon in their hands or the hands of some rogue nation/entity to whom it may be passed?  Not an easy call.

Ideally, we (and/or Israel) should wait as long as absolutely possible.  If the U.S. or Israel feels the need to attack, we/they may blunt the immediate threat, but no doubt stoke nationalist pride in the process, and likely delay illusive Middle East peace by decades.

The race for control between Iranian extremists and reformers is fraught with peril.  It’s critical that the U.S. and Israel play its hand wisely, or any potential near-term victory may prove to be Pyrrhic at best. 

Let’s hope that President Obama’s naturally cautious approach plays to our advantage in this instance.

Big Government Dominoes

As with virtually all Big Government programs, the medicine is bad, but it’s the side effects that kill.  And, the Grim Reaper of Obama’s litany of government-first programs is H.R. 2454:  American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.  In case you’re not familiar, this is the legislation that proposes to institute a cap and trade system for reducing CO2 emissions.

Irrespective of which side of the climate change debate you come down on, it’s difficult to avoid the simple scientific fact that the U.S., acting unilaterally, can do nothing to materially impact the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.  As of 2004, the U.S. emitted roughly 22% of all CO2, and that percentage represented a very substantial decline from previous years.  As China, India, Russia, Eastern Europe, Brazil, and other rapidly industrializing countries/regions experience monumental growth and dramatic standard of living improvements, the United States’ share of the total continues to decline precipitously.

As scientists know, CO2 acts globally, thus, its impact on the environment is similar wherever around the globe it is released.  So, potential U.S. reductions will be overwhelmed by the considerable increase in emissions from other parts of the world.

Given the aforementioned, some still argue that the U.S. must lead and set an example for the rest of the world.  But, at what cost?  Should we absorb what will arguably be the largest tax increase in history for the honor of capturing the global moral high ground–particularly when there are much more economically friendly, even stimulative, solutions?

Obama himself commented last year in the San Francisco Chronicle that “Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.  They (utilities) would have to retrofit their operations.  That will cost money.  They will pass that cost onto consumers.”

It should not be hard to recognize that the impact of inflicting consumers with these new costs will be economically ruinous.  Obama’s own numbers point to a roughly $650B tax hike over the first eight years (CBO places it above $820.  The CBO estimates it could cost the average household $1600 per year.  Other estimates point to a figure as low as $175.  Nevertheless, the hardest hit will be those least able to pay–the poor and near poor who spend a disproportionately large share of their income on energy.

To be fair, there is an argument that such a system can be revenue neutral.  After all, much, if not all, of the direct costs may be offset by the billions of dollars the government will collect from selling/auctioning carbon credits.  While that very well may be true on the surface, think of the larger implications.  Those hundreds of billions will be sucked directly out of the private sector–thereby decreasing innovation and eliminating the free market multiplier of privately spent dollars.

Even more frightening than the cap and trade system itself, is the bill’s contemplated tariff on countries that don’t sign on to a global carbon-reducing regime.  So far, President Obama has appropriately spoken against such protectionism.  Unfortunately, those in Congress are worried more about the politics than the economics of such a measure.  In particular, those who represent industrial (i.e. energy-centric) states, will sell the tariff to their constituents as a means of protecting them from the devastation that will rain down on their economies from this unfriendly legislation.

Should such a provision make its way into a final bill, that’s where the dominoes will really start to tumble.

Imagine China’s reaction to such a tariff.  Do you think they’ll sit still?  Of course not.  They’ll respond in any number of ways, including pulling back on their purchases of U.S. Treasuries.  And, by the way, that’s how we’re funding Obama’s enormous social agenda and concomitant deficits.  Fewer purchases of Treasury securities by the Chinese will mean a sizable increase in interest rates.  A sizable increase in interest rates translates to a much slower U.S. economy, which, in turn, will slow the global economy.  Slower world economies will put a drag on consumer spending which will drive reduced purchases of Chinese goods.  And so goes the un-virtuous cycle of Big Government in action.  As should be apparent, nobody wins.  The negative consequences reverberate in ways well beyond a singularly bad policy.

I’m willing to concede it’s possible, maybe even probable, that greenhouse gases are a threat to the environment.  I am not, however, willing to sign on to feel-good policies that don’t materially address the problem and, in the process, greatly reduce our economic sovereignty and competitiveness. 

As usual, this administration looks instinctively to the government, rather than the private sector, for a solution.  The only way to get the world on board is through U.S.-led innovation.  We have to stop thinking that countries will act contrary to their economic interests.  They will not. 

The sooner we can get to cost-effective renewable sources of energy, the sooner China, India, and others will do so in order to be competitive.  Cap and trade is diversionary at best.  The government has much more effective and less regressive means at its disposal for accelerating the migration away from fossil fuels.  Rather than establishing another stifling bureaucracy, it should be focused on incenting the private sector to innovate.   Let’s get the electric grid to operate as soon as possible 100% on nuclear, solar, wind, and other renewables (as they become viable)…and produce vehicles that are pluggable into that grid.

That’s real change…not catastrophically illusory transformation.

The Scarlet Letter

“What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him–yea, compel him, as it were–to add hypocrisy to sin?”  –Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter.

If the GOP keeps going at this pace, there may not be enough scarlet letters in the alphabet.  Of course, Mark Sanford can account for a good part of the alphabet on his own.  “A” for adultery, “I” for idiot, and “H” for hypocrisy.  

When will the Republican’s learn?  If you’re going to talk the talk on family values, you’ve also got to walk the walk.  Is there anything more off-putting than the “do as I say” guy who doesn’t?   Let’s face it; power corrupts.  Only the very special can avoid the temptation.  What sounded good when there was little or no opportunity, suddenly is an afterthought when opportunity abounds.  If you believe that a faithful husband is one without prospects, don’t put your money on a politician, let alone one of such high profile.

It’s okay, noble even, to be for traditional values, but why not be for the most traditional value of all–freedom.  Republicans have always advocated freedom in political and economic contexts.  How about extending it to a social/civil rights context?  Shouldn’t our lifestyle choices, to the extent they don’t intrude on others rights, be outside of the purview of sanctimonious and hypocritical legislators?  I think so.  The GOP would be on much firmer footing if they would adopt this philosophy.  And, their message would be abundantly more consistent.

Mark Sanford should resign the governorship post-haste–not because of his personal failing, but because of an egregious dereliction of duty.  To have left the state in such a clandestine fashion is an inexcusable offense.

Czars Gone Wild

Another day, another oversight entity…or two. 

Yesterday, President Obama rolled out his much anticipated proposal to overhaul the financial regulatory system.  As usual, the actual plan bore little resemblance to the pre-announcement hype.  Instead of streamlining and simplifying, it up-sizes and complicates.  Littered amongst Obama’s hodgepodge of indiscriminate and ill-conceived measures are a new Consumer Protection Agency and Systemic Risk Council.  So, an already flagrantly complex structure may become that much more untenable with the potential adoption of two more regulatory bodies.

Is there anything more illustrative of Obama’s government-first philosophy than his affinity for appointing Czars, councils, oversight boards, etc.?  To date, there are twenty-five or so.  Imagine if he spent half the time focused on unlocking the creative and productive capacity of our capitalist system as he does on inflicting us with bigger and bigger government.  Maybe we still wouldn’t be hemorrhaging jobs and dealing with an economic contraction months after all other such contractions since WWII turned positive.

Who but politicians and academics believe that employing dozens of Czars is a recipe for success?  It wreaks of randomness, not to mention a quixotic faith in government over markets.  Why would one intentionally create such overlap and confusion?  Would any responsible business pursue a similar course to achieve its objectives?  Doubtful.

Consider for a moment the absurdity.  We have an Energy Czar and a Secretary of Energy.  There’s a Drug Czar and a Secretary of Health and Human Services, not to mention a Surgeon General.  We’ve got a Bank Bailout Czar and a Treasury Secretary and Chairperson of the FDIC.  How about a Border Czar to go along with the Secretary of Homeland Security?  We’ve also got Czars for the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan?  Guess Hillary Clinton and the whole State Department can hit the beach this summer.  Those are but a few examples of our government run amok.

How far can we be from a Czar Czar?  Don’t all those Czars need somebody to watch over them?

Obama had better be careful, or he may end up being remembered as Barack the Terrible.

Trust Me

Despite continual protestations by President Obama and his minions that all of his/our problems have been inherited, many are coming to the realization that he is in fact, the owner.  His herculean efforts to buy time and deflect blame, heretofore successful, are starting to ring hollow.  “Trust me” governing doesn’t seem to cut it any longer.  A recent Gallup poll on Obama’s handling of the economy showed a greater than 20 point decline in his rating.

Even a  sycophantic media and generally supportive populace can’t hide from the mounting evidence of policy failure after policy failure.  If you doubt that’s the case, simply overlay Bush 43 on top of the Obama fact set, and see if your opinion doesn’t change.

Imagine Bush being cut slack for an economy still contracting well beyond the length of every recession since WWII.  Bush was derided mercilessly for about 1.4 million lost jobs the year after the shock of 9/11, while Obama has largely gotten a pass for the 3+ million jobs lost since he took office.  Unemployment never exceeded 6.3% in the aftermath of 9/11.  Today, it’s 9.4% and rising.  The Bush economy added several million jobs in the post 9/11 years, even though the media frequently characterized it as a jobless recovery.  Obama’s plan doesn’t foresee significant job gains for quite some time.

The media has virtually ignored Obama’s made-up and completely unprovable statistic of “saved jobs.”  It’s hysterical to think what would have happened had Bush tried to pull that maneuver.

Consider the Obama “stimulus.”  Virtually every assumption he and his team used to sell the plan has already proved to be wrong–including unemployment which was supposed to peak at 8.2% (already 9.4% and climbing); the yearly deficit which was expected to max out at $1.8T (currently projected to be well over $2T); and GDP growth, already affirming suspicions of over optimism (calling for near-term growth greater than that realized during the height of the Internet bubble).

Again, use the Bush test.  What would have happened had GWB been responsible for a “stimulus” package that spent under 10% of the total allocated amount in year one–the most critical window for stopping the bleeding and resuscitating the economy?

What would the media have said if Bush had proposed to increase the deficit by five-fold in a single year?  Remember the Democrat’s PayGo charade (every dollar of increased spending was supposed to be offset by a dollar in reduced spending)?  The media and Dems bludgeoned Bush with that tactic every time he proposed a new program–even those that were likely to increase revenue.

Think about all of the above in the context of not a single persistent pro-growth policy from the Obama administration.  Picture what Bush would have been accused of had he been so negligent as to allow such economic deterioration without driving major stimulative initiatives–of the free market, rather than government spending variety.

If you need proof that Obama’s programs have been non-stimulative, just check out the dramatic increase in the savings rate.  It has far outstripped investment and consumer spending.  The lack of proper incentives are causing government dollars being poured into the system to be hoarded, rather than used to increase the size of the economic pie and create jobs and wealth.

Of course, we can’t ignore the auto industry bailout.  Envision Bush’s fingerprints fully on this debacle.  The media certainly would have thrashed him for favoring big business, even though they look the other way as Obama gives little respect to contract law in order to serve his primary constituency, big labor.

And, on the foreign policy front, arguably, things have never been worse with North Korea and Iran.

So, what does it all mean?

For one, it reinforces the significance of communication skills and media bias.  Bush’s verbal ineptitude, coupled with the media’s disfavor, would never have allowed him to reach this point so relatively unscathed.

More importantly, it highlights the dangers of policy proposals able to pass through the process with so little vetting.  We are all done a disservice, including the party in power, when vigorous debate is quashed or not covered adequately.  Unfortunately, bad decisions are the residue.

Given all of these failures, it will be interesting to see how the media and electorate reacts to the forthcoming debate, or lack thereof, over healthcare.  Obama and the Dems have a lot riding on it–most notably, the 2010 and 2012 elections.

We and the media have great power…and with that great power comes great responsibility.  Let’s ensure that “trust me” politics is a thing of the past.

The Race Card

It’s disappointing that many Republican politicians and pundits have opted to play the race card regarding the nomination of Judge Sotomayor, particularly since they themselves have unceasingly decried such tactics from Democrats for decades.

We all lose when cavalier accusations of racism are made; because nothing stifles debate quicker than shifting the focus to the purported bigotry of the debater and away from the actual issue.  As a result, we never get to thoughtfully examine whether or not affirmative action has run its course, or what’s wrong with requiring identification to vote, or the many other things to which racial undertones are often ascribed.  And, of course, the constant charges of racism just reinforce stereotypes, perpetuating whatever feelings of prejudice may still exist.

Can we also stop saying nonsense such as, “…well, if a white person said that, there would be hell to pay?”  Although the legal definition of what constitutes racist speech or behavior may be one thing, there is another, simpler and more practical definition.  To me, racism is very insidious.  It is about believing that a particular class of people is inferior.  That kind of belief has extremely damaging and persistent social and economic consequences for the affected class.  It is very different, in my view, from a preference, especially when the preference is for a non-white.  Such a preference may be quite illegal, but it does not carry with it the same debilitating implications.  When a white person is subjected to such discrimination, all white people are not suddenly viewed as incapable.  They do not slide down the social ladder as a result.

Let me be clear.  I am not condoning or excusing the potential illegality of reverse discrimination, just putting it in its proper context.  It is something very different from classic racism, even though it may feel identical to the impacted party.  We should not trivialize the term by using it in a fashion that dilutes its real meaning.  Discrimination can be transitory.  Racism has a persistent and deleterious effect on entire classes of people.

No Role Model

LeBron James proved once again why athletes so often disappoint when it comes to being a role model.  A couple nights ago, after losing the Eastern Conference final to the Orlando Magic, James eschewed customary post game pleasantries and opted to pout in the solitude of the team bus.  A day later, supposedly after having had the opportunity to regain his composure, collect his thoughts, and benefit from counsel, he further compounded the effrontery by inserting his size 18 Nike’s squarely in mouth–uttering the following gems:



  • “It’s hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them.  I mean, I’m a winner.  That’s not being a poor sport or anything like that.”
  • Somebody beat you up; you’re not going to congratulate them for beating you up.”
  • “I’m a competitor.  That’s what I do.  It don’t make sense to me to go up and shake somebody’s hand.”

Most disheartening is that James has, by all accounts, worn his super stardom well.  He’s been accessible, good natured, and a positive ambassador for the NBA.  Of course, it’s somewhat sad that we consider civil behavior from athletes to be so praiseworthy, particularly when it comes with tens of millions of dollars and worldwide adulation.  Nevertheless, James demonstrates that sports doesn’t necessarily build character–it reveals it.  It’s pretty easy to be the cooperative good guy when you’re collecting MVP’s, being featured on 60 Minutes, and the face of countless products; but what happens when a little adversity gets mixed in?  We may have just gotten a glimpse.  Hopefully it was an aberration.

To James’ credit, he is only 24, and has had to grow up in the public spotlight since his teens.  Prior to Saturday night’s gaffe, most of us would not have handled fame and fortune any better.

What has been most attractive about James, until recently, is that he’s been a breath of fresh air for a league long dominated by thugs and thuggery.  He’s shown that anti-social behavior does not have to be the norm…that vigorous competitor and decent person are not mutually exclusive terms.

I’ve always found the ultra-competitive persona–one that extends beyond the field of play–very annoying.  Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods cultivated such an image, and it is arguably their least appealing trait.  Hopefully, LeBron won’t go down the same path.  It’s always been curious why the media paints as virtuous behavior that disallows acceptance of defeat of any kind.  We heard it all the time about Jordan, and we hear it today about Tiger.  They can’t deal with losing at cards, scrabble, ping pong, etc.  You name it, and they have a near psychotic aversion to losing at it.  Somehow, the media tells us that’s a good thing.  It’s emblematic of a fighting spirit–a certain uber competitiveness.  No it isn’t.  It’s illustrative of an enormous character flaw.  One can try hard and enjoy the spirit of competition without taking it to the personality disorder stage.

So LeBron, give it all you’ve got, but walk away in the end respecting the game and the competitors.  If hockey players can beat the heck out of one another for seven games and still shake hands at center ice when it’s all over, you can certainly muster some sportsmanship.  We don’t need another self-centered athlete to set a bad example for all his young, impressionable acolytes.

Come to your senses and realize that like one of the classiest men ever to compete in the sports arena, you’re “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

China Syndrome

Treasury Secretary Geithner is headed to China next week.  His agenda is pretty much the same as its been for all officials of recent administrations–encourage a more freely floating Yuan, and promote a less export-centric Chinese economy.

As usual, resident Senate China policy alarmists, Chuck Schumer (D) and Lindsay Graham (R), are raising their oft articulated concerns about China’s purported currency manipulation.  They, and many others, believe China keeps the Yuan artificially low in order to make its manufactured goods more attractive abroad, and concomitantly, U.S. exports less competitive in Chinese markets. 

Of course, the way in which China does this is to purchase U.S. dollar-denominated assets (e.g. Treasury Bonds) in order to drive up the value of the dollar.  Despite calls for China to stop, or at least moderate this currency ploy, it just so happens we’ve never been in greater need of China’s large-scale purchase of Treasury assets.  It would be extremely difficult to fund our enormous and growing debt without them.

So, expect a lot of lip service from Geithner for public consumption, but don’t anticipate that he’ll push hard behind closed doors.  It just wouldn’t be prudent, and will not be, if and until we get our economic house in order.  As long as China’s vitality rests on exports, our two economies will be tightly coupled.  Ignore the rhetoric about the U.S. being vulnerable to potential cutbacks in China’s purchase of Treasury’s.  We’re protected by the prospect of Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.).  Yep, the same principle that helped the U.S. and Soviet Union avoid nuclear armageddon during the Cold War, is what will help us evade a bilateral economic meltdown.  Right now, they need us to buy their goods, and we need them to fund our debt.

Although it’s in our long-term interests to see China grow its own markets and expand its middle class, we’d potentially be in dire straits if they were to see internal demand ramp up dramatically while we remain in a quagmire of gargantuan deficits.

Be careful what you ask for.  China’s acquiescence to our wishes could actually be detrimental to U.S. economic health should we continue to be fiscally undisciplined.

Sotomayor

Now that President Obama has nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, many will assert that she, generally considered to be Left or far Left, should be confirmed because Bush was able to get his Right or far Right selections, Roberts and Alito, approved.  Is that a legitimate argument?  It is often said that elections have consequences.  Isn’t one of those consequences the opportunity to put forward nominees who share the president’s ideological bent?

But what does it mean to be a Left- or Right-leaning Justice?  And, is it reasonable to expect a quid pro quo approval? 

Simplistically stated, a Right-leaning (or conservative) judge is typically thought to be a strict constitutional constructionist–someone who interprets the constitution and existing law, rather than looking for (or inventing) meaning that isn’t there.  He/she feels bound by precedent, and tends to protect or uphold existing rights, rather than expand them.  Critics, of course, would contend that conservative judges often suppress rights.

On the other hand, a Left-leaning (or liberal) judge is characteristically thought to be someone who has an activist point of view–a predisposition to craft arguments that support a particular perspective.  A liberal judge is thought to be more likely to navigate around precedent and find rights where none were previously enumerated.

Historically speaking, there is no doubt that Justices from both ends of the conservative/liberal continuum have ruled in improper fashion.  A conservative court in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation and ushered in the 58-year doctrine of “separate but equal,” ignoring the unequivocal unconstitutionality of Jim Crow laws that had been on the books for generations.  On the flip side, liberal courts have frequently bastardized the various amendments, with Roe v. Wade and its creative interpretation of the 14th amendment being a prominent example.

Given the choice, though, isn’t judicial conservatism the preferential, and less dangerous alternative?  Don’t we run the risk of losing control of our sovereignty when judges run amok and transcend their traditional and constitutionally defined role as interpreters of the law?  Isn’t it better to err on the side of deference to the law and legislative process?  Is it proper for courts to champion various causes because lawmakers don’t have the political will or persuasive power to push forward controversial policies?  The lifetime appointment of federal judges certainly makes it quite difficult to right any wrongs.

So, when the Left disparages Roberts and Alito as far Right, is that really a bad thing?  Aren’t we better off when our fate lies in the hands of elected representatives, rather than those with little accountability?  Shouldn’t we use the legislative and amendment processes to craft social and economic policy, rather than activist judges appointed and/or approved as proxies by politicians too timid to take a stand and fight for what they believe to be right?

None of the aforementioned should be interpreted as an indictment against Sotomayor.  It’s much too early in the process to understand with any reasonable certitude where she falls on the continuum.

The Senate needs to vet her thoroughly, and the Republicans should vote for her if she meets the standard of an intelligent and impartial arbiter of the law, not as a quid pro quo for Roberts and Alito. 

Our sovereignty is much too precious a thing to risk should she, or any nominee, prove to have activist proclivities, whether they be conservative or liberal.

Knute (Ba)Rockne, All American

The Notre Dame community is to be applauded for the way in which it comported itself amidst the controversy surrounding the commencement invitation to President Obama.  Other than the spectacle put on by outside radical elements of the abortion debate, the University and its students demonstrated a civility and respect for differing views that isn’t frequently seen on campuses around the country.  Hopefully, many on the Left will take the cue and afford the same courtesy to controversial conservative speakers.

Whatever you think of the President, there’s no denying he deserves credit for insinuating himself into the fray.  One can argue that his actions haven’t always matched his rhetoric (including on this issue), but today, the rhetoric was powerful.  It was the very best of Barack Obama.

The words and ideas were not in any way surprising.  In fact, the key themes were very predictable.  However, it was all woven together in such a rich, masterful, and elegant fashion.  The text exuded reason, empathy, and practicality.  It did not attempt to defend a particular position, but rather to provide a framework for understanding.  Obama correctly and astutely pointed out that the differences may in fact be irreconcilable because both sides have passionately held convictions and strong arguments. 

I thought the story of the doctor who wrote Obama when he was running for the Senate was especially compelling.  The doctor essentially said he was a strongly pro-life Christian who was not going to vote for Obama in the general election (he voted for him in the primary), not because of his stance on abortion, but because of words he had just seen on Obama’s campaign website.  It stated that he would “fight right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose.”  The doctor’s very apt point was that if Obama considered every pro-life person to be an ideologue, he couldn’t possibly be reasonable.  The doctor wrote, “I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words.”

Fair-minded words.  What a country this would be if all politicians and pundits would heed that advice.

So, let’s see if fair-minded words translate into sensible policy.  Obama got off on the wrong foot with the pro-life crowd when he issued executive orders in the initial days of his presidency that lifted abortion restrictions established by the Bush administration. 

There is, however, common ground to be found in a number of areas, including funding and/or support for: carrying babies to term, adoption, programs to help reduce unintended pregnancies, limitations on late-term abortions, etc.

Congratulations to Notre Dame and the President for engaging in the debate.

Now both sides just need to go out there with all they got and win one for the country.  End scene.

Misled

Speaker Pelosi claims to have been misled by the Bush administration on waterboarding.  Here are some other things they told her:



  • Roger Clemens did not do steroids
  • You can have great abs in just 8 minutes per day
  • Your eyes really don’t look that buggy
  • Hunting with Dick Cheney would be a great way to repair the Republican/Democrat divide
  • That pantsuit is quite flattering
  • The public can’t get enough of those awesome press conferences you hold
  • Feel free to use Air Force jets as much as you want
  • The troops love it when you visit them in Iraq
  • The ShamWow holds 12 times its weight in liquid–or the drool from one Harry Reid speech
  • More cowbell

Political Expediency; the Enemy of Transparency

Since Barack Obama entered the national consciousness roughly two years ago, his recipe for political success has been pretty unbeatable:  Three parts sanctimony; 2 parts theater; and a pinch of substance.

You’ve seen it many times.  Make some grandiose, feel-good, but sufficiently squishy proclamation; do it in front of Greek columns or other suitable item(s) of stagecraft; proceed to offer very little in the way of details or time frames; then ultimately reneg when following through becomes inconvenient.  Of course, this would not work with most politicians, but when you’ve been anointed by the media, it’s a winning formula.  The question remains, will the general populace ultimately consider it manipulative?

Transparency has been an enduring theme of the Obama campaign/administration.  It’s been the subject of numerous grand eloquent speeches on how America is of the people, by the people, and for the people.  The President says we all have a right to know what our government is doing–unlike what those evil Bush/Cheney people told us.  You can almost hear the echoes of Justice Brandeis, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

Remember way back when candidate Obama waxed rhapsodically on the wonders of public campaign financing, only to leave it at the altar when it became ever so apparent that he had a huge fund raising advantage over his opponent?

Well, since then, the hits just keep on comin’.  And, why shouldn’t they?  He barely got a slap on the wrist for the campaign financing about face.

How about the classic, “No lobbyists will serve in my administration?”  Guess his Chief Strategist, David Axelrod, doesn’t count, nor do the many others–some of whom were granted special waivers, some of whom were not.

Then there was the five day public comment period for all pending legislation.  Of the eleven or so bills he’s signed so far, only six have been posted on the government’s website, and none were there for five full days before being sent to Congress.  The public is not alone.  Congress has frequently only had hours to consider thousands of pages of provisions in very complex and expensive bills.  Apparently it’s better to ram these things through before annoying questions get asked.

Can’t forget earmarks.  What was it about going line by line to eradicate wasteful spending and eliminate earmarks?  So much for 8,500 of them in the omnibus spending bill.  Whoops.

Recall the D.C. school voucher program?  In one of Obama’s most inspired cabinet selections, he chose Arne Duncan as Education Secretary, a very well-respected school superintendent with a rich track record of reform and results.  It was thought that Duncan might be able to propagate the successes of the flourishing D.C. voucher program to other troubled districts around the country.  Evidently, results dramatically superior (e.g. students nearly two years ahead in reading and math) to the public school control group, at a lower cost per student, was not enough.  In the end, Obama caved to a powerful constituent group, the NEA, and pulled funding from his budget.  And, he did it without so much as an explanation to the nearly 2,000 D.C. kids left in the lurch.  That would have shed to much light on the hypocrisy.

Recent days have not been lacking in examples, including a refusal to release new photos of alleged prisoner abuse.  Funny, I remember how apoplectic the Left became over Abu Ghraib.  They were hell-bent on making the photos public, no matter the consequences for our troops or the nation as a whole.  Again, transparency is a lot  more inconvenient when there are consequences.

What does it all mean?  Is Obama noble in his intentions, but just naive and/or weak-willed?  Does he really plan to do as he says, or has he simply mastered the art of political expedient communication?  Does he merely reflect a reaction to what many perceive to have been an overly secretive Bush/Cheney administration?  And, most importantly, will he and/or should he pay a price in the next election for not following through on so many commitments?

Power Over Your Liberty

The last several weeks have been replete with numerous positive economic indicators.  The stock market is surging; housing is showing signs of life; corporate profits have been better than expected; consumer confidence and spending are on the upswing; the rate of job losses is declining; and manufacturing is on the threshold of expanding again.

It’s reasonable to expect that GDP will turn positive this year.  In fact, some anticipate growth as soon as this quarter.  That may be slightly optimistic, but what should we look forward to insofar as a recovery is concerned?

President Obama’s ten-year budget projections call for above trend line increases in GDP.  Is that realistic?

If we use Europe as a guide, dramatically increased government spending and robust economic growth have not gone hand-in-hand.  For the period 1970 to 2007, roughly coincident with Europe’s move toward social democratic policies, GDP growth has averaged 2.4%, compared to nearly 3.1% for the U.S.  A delta of .7% may seem rather trivial (it isn’t), but it carries with it enormous economic consequences, particularly as more and more dollars are needed to fund exploding entitlement costs and aging populations.  In the U.S., economists estimate that GDP needs to grow between 2% and 2.5% just to break even from an employment standpoint. 

The current decade has been even more bleak for Europe.  Since 2001, GDP has grown by 1.87% on average–close to a full percentage point less than the U.S. (2.78%).

With all of their government spending and social engineering, one might expect that the trade off would be lower unemployment.  Not true.  European unemployment rates have been doggedly and substantially higher than ours.  The EU25 rate has consistently been 3 to 4 percentage points (sometimes more) above what we’ve experienced.

What about poverty?  Has European spending at least reduced the ranks of the very poor?  The data shows a rather mixed bag.  The U.S. appears to fall somewhere in the middle of European countries in terms of poverty rate.

One of the more disconcerting statistics is government spending as a percentage of GDP.  In 1903, the figure was 6.8% for the U.S.  In 2009, it’s projected to be 44.72%–a greater than 8% increase over the average of the previous 5 years–not particularly encouraging.  Less encouraging are the comparisons with major Western European countries.  In 2007, France was at 61.1%, Sweden and Denmark 58.1%, Italy 55.3%, the UK 50%, and Germany 48.8%.  Yep, we’re on the march to be the equal of those paragons of economic stagnation.

I remain sanguine about our long term outlook, but that enthusiasm is diminished by unprecedented increases in spending, coupled with a policy environment that appears quite unfriendly to our prospects for trend and above trend growth.

Big government and big debt burdens do not have a favorable history.  Until we lighten the hand of government, reinvigorate the private sector, and reemphasize personal responsibility, we are in for a European-style long and steady decline in our economic vitality and international stature.

Think what you do when you run into debt; you give to another power over your liberty.  –Benjamin Franklin

The Supremes

With Justice Souter’s announcement of his forthcoming retirement, one of Washington’s favorite parlor games, speculating on a Supreme Court nominee, is shifting into full gear.  Both sides of the isle have wasted no time in attempting to put a stake in the ground with respect to criteria that will facilitate the prospective replacement’s Senate confirmation.  Interestingly, there is a movement afoot to consider a non-lawyer.

Although all 110 Supreme Court Justices to-date have been lawyers, there is actually no constitutional or statutory provision that requires such a background.  In fact, there is also no age or citizenship constraint.  Arguably, the closest we’ve come to the selection of a non-lawyer was FDR’s near choice of Princeton professor, Edward Corwin.  But, he happened to be a constitutional scholar.

So, would a non-lawyer be a good idea?  In my estimation, no.  Undeniably, there are plenty of “lay” people with the requisite intellectual horsepower.  That’s not the concern.  I’m apprehensive that interest in non-lawyers is really about shopping for ideological and/or key issue alignment.  No doubt, that is also the case, implicitly or explicitly, when choosing among lawyers.  There is, I believe, an important distinction.  Lawyers are trained to follow and respect the law.  They are accustomed to operating within a defined legal and professional framework.  And, they have a directly relevant and reviewable track record, not one that requires considerable extrapolation.

Almost by definition, non-lawyers are likely to be associated with a particular perspective or issue area.  If they are politicians, they are apt to have views associated with their party.  If they are business people, they are inclined to be sympathetic to the interests of industry.  You get the picture.

Obama needn’t take the risk and endure the scrutiny connected with heading down the non-lawyer path.  Democrat/Liberal presidents have a perfect track record of selecting simpatico Supreme Court nominees.  There really hasn’t been a thought-to-be Liberal nominee who turned out to be Conservative.  Republicans/Conservatives can’t make the same claim.  They’ve had numerous blunders (by their definition); including  Teddy Roosevelt’s choice of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Eisenhower’s nominations of Early Warren and William Brennan, Nixon’s selection of Harry Blackmun, Ford’s tapping of John Paul Stevens, and George H. W. Bush’s mistake with Souter.

Obama would probably be wise not to open Pandora’s Box and set a precedent that would be more beneficial to subsequent Republican/Conservative presidents.

Duplicity

“The only thing worse than a liar is a liar who is also a hypocrite.”  Tennessee Williams must have been referring to politicians.

One of the latest examples is the way in which President Obama and his acolytes are vilifying and demonizing Chrysler bond holders.  It seems that property rights and the rule of law mean very little to Robin Hood and his band of merry redistributionists.  Apparently, Obama prefers that they set aside those irritating fiduciary obligations and tow the populist line.  Nevermind that the bonds are held in pension funds and other investment vehicles depended upon by thousands of hard-working Americans.  And, bankruptcy courts are set up to determine what is most equitable under the law.  None of that appears to matter.  They’re just pawns on Obama’s social engineering chess board.

Of course, Team Obama typically explain away these sweeping usurpations of rights as necessary and proper given the very trying times.  Funny, I don’t remember the same crowd buying that argument from the Bush administration subsequent to 9/11–not counting their quite brief bout with nationalistic fever in the immediate aftermath (one pandemic that never materialized).  They hung the Patriot Act around Bush’s neck like an albatross, despite the fact it passed the Senate with a rather inconvenient 98 to 1 vote.  Clearly, there is no shame in politics.

I guess our economic freedoms aren’t quite as important.

The President deserves a lot of credit, though.  It has to be exceedingly difficult pulling strings in every nook and cranny of the economy.  He’s picked more winners than a cigar chomping handicapper at Yonkers on a Saturday afternoon.  Here’s hoping he hits the trifecta.  Right now, it looks like a long shot.

The Specter of Political Opportunism

In light of Senator Arlen Specter’s party switch today, I thought it was relevant to post (below) a Letter to the Editor I had publish in the Pittsburgh Business Times three years ago to the day.

I consider myself a moderate and have always had great respect for moderates.  Although Specter has defined himself as a centrist throughout his political career, charges of opportunism and insincerity have always cast doubt on his motives.  Today’s move will no doubt add fuel to that fire.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Letters
Strategy needed, not sound bites
Business Times

In the past several days the drumbeat has begun again.

Several congressmen, including our own Sen. Arlen Specter, have reinvigorated their intimations of price gouging by the oil companies and have re-floated the possibility of windfall profits tax legislation as a remedy.

Well, here’s a news bulletin for Specter and his colleagues–the reason we find ourselves in this serious predicament is because of the dangerous incompetence of Congress, not the misdeeds of oil companies.

A very rudimentary understanding of economics and market dynamics is all one needs o understand that oil prices are driven by basic forces of supply and demand, as well as the risk/supply perceptions and projections of global commodity traders.

Why would the folly of windfall profits tax legislation even be considered for an industry whose return on capital is typically at or below the average of all S&P 500 companies?  Is there not anybody in Congress who has the intellectual honesty to recognize the distinction between a raw-dollar and percentage-based return?

If Specter wants to be constructive, let me suggest that he put together a coalition of his colleagues to immediately begin work on bipartisan, comprehensive energy policy legislation.

Has this country ever faced a more serious, yet eminently solvable challenge?  Our national and economic security, as well as our capacity to be an engine for freedom and growth across the globe, depends on our ability to achieve a considerable measure of energy independence.  It should be a national embarrassment that countries like France and Brazil are out in front of us in securing their energy interdependence.

The tools to make it happen are at our disposal.  Why not craft a five- to ten-year plan that extricates us from the uncertainty and instability associated with our current addiction to foreign oil?  And, we can do it without jeopardizing the environment.  Bipartisan leadership and its concomitant give and take is all that’s necessary.  Is that possible anymore?

We can spread our bets across many current and emerging technologies, and then move more disproportionately over time to the ones that prove most effective.  Ethanol, biodiesel, hydrogen fuel cells, clean coal, solar, wind, nuclear, increased refining capacity, drilling in ANWAR and elsewhere, conservation and more rigorous CAFE standards are some of the elements that can form the foundation of a prudent and effective policy.

So, Sen. Specter, I implore you to stop the sound bite politics, dig in your heels and be a force for substantive and meaningful reform, not something that is a Band-Aid at best and does nothing to address the long-term problem.

A sensible energy independence policy would catalyze innovation and economic vitality for decades to come.

The domestic and worldwide benefits would be enormous.


Chuck Dietrick  I  Presto

The First 100 Days

As we approach the 100 day marker in Obama’s presidency, has reality matched the hype?  An objective analysis seems to indicate no.  He has a reasonably strong personal approval rating; although, as I point out in a March 9, 2009 entry titled, “Popular(ity) Misconception,” in many respects, it is at or below the level of many other presidents since WWII.  More foreboding, however, is the large disconnect between his personal popularity and the popularity of his specific policies.  Poll after poll show significant gaps  

It’s hard to deny that he has benefited from favorable coverage.  The mainstream media’s cheerleading has no doubt goosed his approval rating to some extent.  Unfortunately for Obama, the populace tends to be quite a bit more circumspect when it comes to the issues central to their lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren.  And, at the end of the day, it’s policy that matters.

Despite a convincing election victory and a traditional honeymoon period, perceptive Obama faithful must see some ominous signs on the horizon.  Most noteable, I believe, is that a supposed great orator and charismatic leader is having tremendous difficulty getting a material number of people, beyond his most zealous supporters, to sign on to the specifics of his agenda.  Sure, many like the broad outline, but blanch when the details (e.g. deficits, government control, etc.) become more clear.  More troubling is that Obama doesn’t appear to have the fight in him to aggressively push for implementation of his policy vision in its pure form.  Instead, he has been quite willing to drop items off his priority list (e.g. carbon tax), water them down substantially (e.g. education reform), and consider parliamentary gimmicks (e.g. reconciliation process that requires simple majority in Senate, rather than supermajority) for passage of controversial aspects of his program (e.g. budget, healthcare, etc).

Compare and contrast the aforementioned with Reagan’s effort to achieve comprehensive tax reform, one of the two central priorities of his presidency (along with fighting Communism).  Bear in mind that Reagan, unlike Obama, was operating with substantial minorities in the House (177 to 258) and Senate (45 to 55).  Notwithstanding this daunting disadvantage, Reagan worked effectively with key Democrats and persuasively took his case to the American people.  As such, Congress voted in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion.  The Tax Reform Act of 1986 passed the House and Senate by votes of 292 to 136 and 74 to 23.  In fact, the Senate passed its version (before it went to conference committee) by a vote of 97 to 3.  Reagan’s approval rating at the time was 62%, roughly in line with Obama’s today.  Moreover, Reagan’s achievement came halfway through a lame duck second term–when such sweeping legislation is generally viewed to be next to impossible to pass (how many times have we heard Obama has to act now because it will be prohibitively difficult to do it later).

Come the 100 day anniversary on Wednesday, the media will likely be bombarding us with stories of Obama’s performance–most of which will likely be upbeat in nature.  Draw your own conclusions.  Certainly, there have been positives.  Many are intangible.  But, what about specifics? 

Has the foreign policy ball been advanced?  Sure, we’ve made some overtures in the name of improving our moral standing, but what has it gotten us?  More foreign troops in Afghanistan?  More stimulus spending in Europe and Asia?  Reduced threats from Iran and North Korea?

How about domestically?  Do you like the idea of doubling the deficit in 5 years and tripling it in 10?  Do you want a considerably bigger government with more direct control over private enterprise?  Do you favor putting impediments in the way of those most responsible for economic expansion, rather than providing them with incentives to spend, invest, and create jobs?  Do you think it’s odd that the President hasn’t gotten more traction for his policies at what should be the peak of his popularity?  Is it reasonable that he has paid nothing more than lip service to bipartisanship–a key theme of his campaign and reason why many voted for him?

As I said, it’s all about the policies.  I’m largely in favor of Obama’s focus on healthcare, education, and energy.  It’s his government-first approach I find disquieting.  If you agree or disagree with the policy specifics, it is incumbent to send that message clearly; otherwise, personal popularity will be used as a proxy to push through an agenda that may be out of touch with the sensibilities of a large percentage of the population.

Foxx Hole

Did you hear or read what comedian and Academy Award winning actor, Jamie Foxx, said about Miley Cyrus on his radio show?  Irrespective of whether or not he is within his rights (that’s fodder for a separate debate), I think it’s fair to say the words were inappropriate, offensive, and over-the-line.  Not surprisingly, Foxx responded to the controversy with what has become a common refrain among those in the public spotlight–chill, it was just comedy.

Perhaps we need a 28th amendment:  “Congress should make no law abridging the freedom of people, in the United States or abroad, to be as offensive as possible in the name of comedy.”

Think of the possibilities.  I can see it now.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il on stage at Caroline’s with their two-man show.

Mahmoud:  Two suspected homosexuals walk into a mosque.  They are executed immediately!

Kim:  An IAEA inspector, a U.N. Security Council representative, and a U.S. government official walk into a uranium enrichment facility.  They’re stoned,  drug through the streets, then hung in the town square!

Mahmoud:  Hey, Kim.  Kill the Jews…please!

Kim:  Mahmoud, did you hear the one about the capitalist?  What, you’re reading about capitalism?  Put his head on a stick!

Mahmoud:  A woman speaks out of turn in the presence of her husband.  He cuts out her tongue and nails it to her forehead!

Can’t wait for their HBO Special.  Should be a blast…literally.

Try the veal, and be sure to tip your waiters and waitresses.  The insanity will continue a