November 30, 2008

Mumbai Terror - Threat and Opportunity

Yet another terrorist attack, yet again not on US soil, and yet again evidence that vigilance is imperative. What will the Bush and/or Obama Administrations do as a result? So far President Bush has offered condolences, and may be, at least publicly reticent to do more, given the dwindling time in office and the self-righteous Obama "Office of the President Elect" being the real power center since the election. Obama has similarly condemned the attacks and indicated it would not destroy Indian democracy. But far more needs to be done. The horrible attacks represent both a threat and opportunity to the War on Terror.

The Bush Administration's approach to Afghanistan has been to work with Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. While this may have spawned early success, it has clearly gone beyond the point of diminishing returns. With the increased level of unmanned aerial attacks, it's clear that the CIA, at least, has realized the limits of this approach and is exploring new ways of dealing with the problem of radical Muslim terrorism in the region.

With the terrible terrorist attacks on Mumbai, a new variable has been thrown into the equation. Some in India are angrily calling for war with Pakistan. Such a war would undoubtedly escalate into something larger, including the disputed Kashmir and Northern Areas.

This may be where the opportunity lies for the U.S. Of course no one outside the intelligence community is privy to the level of co-operation between the U.S. and India, but given that the focus has been a tactical alliance with Pakistan, my guess is that the connection with India has at a minimum been weakened. There are a myriad of opportunities available for the U.S. They could act as a peace broker between the two nations, fostering some goodwill in the process. They could take the opportunity to greatly strengthen ties with India. That would serve not only as a potential base of operations if Pakistan falters in it's support, but also, strengthened ties and a strengthened India (with respect to intelligence, trade, security, military and economically) would provide a regional counterbalance to the threat of an aggressive China. In the event of a war in the Kashmir and Northern Areas, supporting India might provide further opportunity to ferret out Bin Laden, in another area he could be in hiding.

Of course there a number of threats in these scenarios as well - a regional conflict may drag the Chinese into the Kashmir territory dispute. Another war front is simply unaffordable, especially during a recession. America may be forced to stand on the sidelines and the outcome would probably not be to their liking. Not gaining Indian support and losing support in Pakistan would severely impede operations in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is 1 1/2 times the size of Iraq, with 116% of Iraq's population, much less hospital terrain and about 20% of the amount of paved roads. Creating a stable Afghanistan has massive logistical problems as it is, losing a base of operations like Pakistan would pose incredible challenges. Even if India were to offer an opportunity along those lines, it would be exponentially more difficult logistically, given the distance between the base of operations and the area of operations. The remaining scenario is ramping up in Afghanistan to levels greater than in Iraq if the job is to get done properly. Given the geographic obstacles, the dangers to U.S. troops would be quite great.

If a regional conflict were to occur, Russian action might also be a possibility. It's a situation that could very quickly spiral out of control, and one where the U.S. is not in the best position to achieve it's regional objectives.

The United States is currently holding a weak hand at the table in many respects. It cannot finance further activity, it cannot rely on continued support from Pakistan in light of the Mumbai attacks, and recent comments from Pakistani military officials. Really negotiation and peace brokering are it's only options at this point, which are also weakened because the others at the table will know that the American 'big stick' isn't in play. The terror attacks in Mumbai are tragic, but they also represent a minefield that needs to be negotiated very skillfully if the United States wants to accomplish anything positive, or even avoid a possible flash point of a new threat to regional stability.

November 28, 2008

Reagan versus Obama

When you look at philosophy versus empty platitudes, compare these speeches. One is full of ideas, the other full of slogans. I bet you can guess which is which.

He talks about 'meaningful change' but defines specifics like poverty, climate change, and nuclear weapons in vague terms. He is specific only on Iraq, and that the moment is now.

Contrast that versus this;

Let's see - government IS the problem (implying by getting in the way). He points out the uniqueness of American opportunity, and gives specific examples in the flaws of logic of more centralized government power. He argues about the governments job being to provide opportunity not smother it. He gets specific on goals about taxes, government spending and ties in the platitudes of courage faith and hope to how America will strengthen ties to allies and to stand courageously against foes.

I could have taken other speeches for either man, but the point remains pretty much consistent. Obama speaks in slogans, Reagan spoke in ideas. It's the same as always ideas versus emotions. And for Republicans it's the same old problem - emotion is an easy sale, ideas require much more effort to sell because education and outreach are mandatory precursors to the selling process.

And that ties in to my other argument about outreach - the ground work has to start now.

November 27, 2008

A humorous look at outsourcing

Haven't been able to post the last two days. I've wanted to do something on outsourcing but I haven't had time. For now, enjoy this take on the issue.

November 25, 2008

It's the message

Just a reminder - it's becoming clearer and clearer, this is not a shift to the left.

This is about the medium being the message. And the medium is liberal. PEOPLE - it's about the media. Ideas are important yes, but the message is what wins. It's the ground game and the air war that will win the election.

Obama didn't need to have a message more detailed than Hope and Change. The media carried his water for him. We can't waste time arguing moderate or conservative Republican. We've got to get the pieces in place for 2010 and 2012 and we need to start right now. Outreach can't happen a month before the election. It's got to be an on-going dialogue or it isn't going to be effective.

November 24, 2008

Supreme Court in the Balance

The Supreme Court is bound to change over the next administration. The conservative justices, Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia are aged 53, 58, 60 and 72 respectively. They are, God willing, likely to remain on the bench through an Obama term. The liberal justices Stevens, Ginsberg, Souter and Breyer are older - 88, 75, 69 and 70 and at least one appointment and as many as 3 replacements are possible. The swing vote, Justice Kennedy is also aged 72.

My suspicion is that Ginsberg may retire, and that 2 nominations under Obama's watch are possible. Stevens is all but guaranteed. Scalia, Kennedy, Souter and Breyer are all possibilities as well.

Replacing Stevens and Ginsburg with other liberal justices does nothing to alter the immediate face of the court. There will still be a 4 to 4 and 1 swing vote situation. And if that's all that faces conservatives before 2012, we should consider ourselves lucky. The worst case is that they will be replaced by much younger justices, thus bringing youth and extending tenure to the liberal cause. Based on the names being bandied about by the partisans at Salon, this is likely to be the case. But there are worries to be had. Scalia and Kennedy in particular, if replaced by Obama would represent a shift in the balance of the court. Given that Stevens will set the tone for replacements, it might impact the retirement options of the other justices.

In the period between 2012 and 2016, the existing conservative justices would be aged 57-61, 62-66, 64-68 and 76-80 respectively. The liberal justices assuming Stevens is replaced by someone say 50 by next year, would be aged 53-57, 79-83, 73-77, and 74-78, with Kennedy aged 76-80.

Best case scenario is for Conservatives to win in 2012 and hold in 2016. That guarantees them the opportunity to pick off 1, maybe even 2 liberal justices and swing the balance of power back. losing 2012, presents a darker scenario.

I'm just saying.

November 21, 2008

Because words matter - take back the language

One thing I have to give the Left credit for is how they manage to mold the debate by framing the premise of the debate through effective use of words.

Look at Pro-choice. This is America - how can anybody be against choice. On the Right we are for school choice, how can we be against another type of choice? Aren't we being un-American on this? Well no, but being against choice is inherently un-American. So how do we lose on school choice? Well, the debate isn't framed around that. It's framed around school competency. Why aren't we getting the word choice out there in that context more effectively? A big part is the swimming upstream we have to do against the main stream media. It's like trying to swim up the Mississippi.

But we do not help ourselves when we blindly fall into debating on liberal terms (literally). An example of this for the right revolves around Iraq. It's still called the War in Iraq. But is it really a war? For that matter, is it really an occupation? It's not. What is going on today is more of a security issue. That is how we should be framing the debate (or what's left of the debate). What is going on is a rebuilding process that is reminiscent of the Marshall Plan for post WW II Japan and Europe. Would anyone even on the left, consider those efforts a failure, immoral, or even unworthy goals? If they do, not only should you question their sincerity, you should question their morality and/or sanity. So why not call it the Rebuilding of Iraq?

Why not give Obama the breathing room to keep the forces there until we can safely get out? My guess though, is that the left will beat us to that punch and then take credit for the rebuilding that they will say never really got started under Bush. Remember their line of thinking - repeat the lie often enough and people will start to believe it.

Bypassing the MSM

Conservatives aren't winning simply because we aren't effectively communicating our ideas and the reasons behind them. The recent video on how Obama won, is proof. The message isn't getting out. Liberal messages get out. They've got Saturday Night Live. They have Katie Couric. They have Oprah.

Where's our media? On the Internet and talk radio. These are excellent sources of news and opinion - for the converted that is. But if you get your news from the occasional tune-in to CNN or NBC Nightly News or worse - The Daily Show, there is no way you get any sort of counterpoint. Fox News, while fair and balanced, only wins the network ratings because it's the only MSM outlet conservatives can stomach. It may have a conservative bent but Hannity has Colmes while Olbermann has...sounding boards. I'm not denigrating Fox. Thank God for Fox! But I'm saying they are preaching to the choir and the choir, having no other church to sing in, is sort of a captive audience (sorry for the mixed metaphors).

We need to be flogging our message non-stop to break through the liberal clutter. We need more of our own outlets. Yes, alternatives like the Internet, but we also need to break through in an MSM way. There are ways to do this. Reagan did it.

And now there are more avenues open to us. This is about an air war, not boots on the ground outreach and fundraising (which we still need to do better).

Direct mail is one way. (Go to, and search Richard Viguerie - America's Right Turn.) If this interview doesn't put you to sleep, then we are on the same page. For an abridge version, you can look here;

But that doesn't do it alone. Think about all of these untapped communication opportunities;

  • Text Messaging & MMS messages.
  • Viral email campaigns.
  • Web portals - own the search, like Google does.
  • Talk radio - not AM, we own that. Are the FM lite talk opportunities?
  • Yet another Fox type network. An MSM outlet built from the ground up with shows and news and that are from a conservative perspective. Conservative values product placement is an interesting idea.
  • Another option is to do the MSM type network on the Internet. Become Internet television.
  • Pod casting.
  • Polling and data mining - not push polls, but doing statistical analysis to discover profiles or clusters that can be successfully communicated to with a message. Then find the right means to contact them.
  • Social Networks - Creating new online networks or building applications for Facebook for example.
  • Films - fund on-message movies and documentaries.
  • Commercials
  • Interactive Media - video games
  • Leverage PACs for message spreading outside of the Beltway instead of inside it.
  • RSS Feeds
  • Create our own broad-interest magazines (like Women's, Men's, Vibe, Rolling Stone) with some messaging and articles with a conservative slant.
  • Door to Door canvassing (more of a ground game approach but not a bad idea)
  • Becoming truly interactive with a Web Ring of conservative ideas with an interactive feedback mechanism of some kind.

November 20, 2008

How Obama Got Elected?

In a previous post I mentioned working around the MSM. I really need to write more on that. For now, 'enjoy' this anecdotal evidence.

Here's an interview with the creator of the documentary.

Climate change - still bunk

UPDATED Mar 21, 2012 - New link to the video.

UPDATED Jan 11/09

These videos on Youtube have been taken down because of a coryright claim from Wag TV. That's a shame, but the video is a must see for anyone who is concerned about global warming, or wants to have facts about the argument when trying to convince someone that global warming is nothing more than hysteria. Hopefully I can find some replacement versions for free to share.

From Wag TV's website, where the documentary is available for sale, the following description exists;
The Great Global Warming Swindle

The film's basic proposition is as simple as it is shocking. Despite everything you've heard to the contrary, the theory that man made emissions of CO2 have any discernible effect on climate, has always lacked solid scientific evidence.

The warming of the past 300 years represents a natural recovery from a ‘little ice age'. It is mild, beneficial and cannot possibly have been caused by us humans. Yes, humans have an effect on climate, but it's an infinitesimally small pin-prick, compared with the vast natural forces which are constantly pushing global temperatures this way and that. This film turns the world
upside down, and uses an extraordinary cast of the world's top scientists to do it.

It's the morality tale of the decade - of politicians eager to pander to prejudice, throwing vast quantities of public cash into scientific research aimed at supporting an unsupportable theory. It's a tale of scientists fearful of speaking out, of upsetting the funding applecart and jeopardising the many thousands of research jobs generated for them by the global warming scare. Global Warming is indeed the biggest threat facing the world today, but not
in the way you think.
Anyone still concerned about Global Warming (er, Climate Change) needs to be shown this.


Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8:

Of course this documentary has been roundly attacked as misleading. But it's being attacked by misleading misleaders...

November 19, 2008

21st Century Part II - The Economy and Government

With the economy on the precipice of a potentially deep and damaging recession, Americans were rightly focused on it as the primary factor in this year’s election. Any positions on social policy, military policy, poverty, environment, Wall Street bailouts, education, immigration, or 1st or 2nd amendment rights are meaningless; unless they are backed up by a strong, vibrant and growing American economy. Without a sound financial basis to build upon, there would be no military; there would be no ability to educate, and all of these other issues become irrelevant.

Regardless of party affiliation, every American can agree that a sound economy is an imperative, and that soundness must fulfill everyone’s definition of what ‘sound’ is. That means America needs an economy that works for every American, not just Wall Street bankers or corporate executives enjoying multi-million dollar bonuses. It has to work for the assembly line worker, and the child care provider and the small business owner too.

There are some basic principles that seemed to have just slipped away. I’m not talking about just at a Congressional or Executive level. I’m also talking about board rooms and lunch rooms. Things like respectful dialogue in civil discourse, or an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. As a nation America needs to get back to these things. There needs to be a vision for how to save America from its growing bad habits. We need to fix certain things at a governmental level. But that is just a starting point. President Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” I believe the implied notion is that if you dedicate yourself to improving America, if everyone does, then all will all benefit from that improvement individually.

In order to overcome the challenges facing the nation, a dedication from each and every American to participate in lifting this great country up – back to where it belongs. To be as President Reagan put it, that “shining city on a hill.” Regardless of who is in charge, the paramount challenge will be righting the ship. This will provide a foundation for re-visiting all of the other issues that America faces or disagrees upon. Turning the economic engine back to full power will be the focus of the next decade, beyond the next presidency.

Tackling the nation’s financial woes boils down to two areas of concern; how much debt The United States has as a nation, and the balance of trade, in other words, how much more is spent on things from other countries than they spend on things from the United States. This second item is particularly bad because it means the U.S. borrows money from foreign sources and end up owing billions of dollars to external entities beyond its control. The United States is mortgaging its future and risking its national security in a non-military sense.

People argue in favor or against free trade about free trade. I believe free trade is a good thing if it is done fairly. But the world is not always a fair place and national priorities must reflect that reality and not the pipe-dream of a perfect world. Free trade can only work on a level playing field. While no one can control the decisions and actions of another nation, things can be done to ensure that the playing field is as level as possible.

How? We must address specific items.


Budget – The national debt is both easy to understand and hard to understand. Easy in the sense that everyone gets that every year the federal government typically spends more than it collects. It’s hard to understand the enormity of what is owed in total. With this current bailout the national debt ceiling has been raised to over 11 trillion dollars. That amount is staggering. The government belongs to the people. So every man woman and child in the nation will in a sense, owe approximately $36,000. And the number will continue to rise, daily. This is in addition to any individual debts or mortgage obligations you may have.

Every year the amount the government owes goes up. And every year the nation falls deeper into to debt (and also transfers more national wealth outside our borders). It is simply unsustainable. Let me repeat that – it is unsustainable. The republic will not go on indefinitely on credit. The time to pay the piper will come.

Short of a balanced budget amendment, the natural inclination of the Congress is to tax and spend. And overspend. But Constitutional amendments aren’t realistic in today’s day and age. So how can we fix things and prevent an economic meltdown?

You have to ask yourself, for the amount of government services I am getting, is it really worth all of that debt? Chance are your answer is no. We absolutely must reign in spending. And it is not enough to fight earmarks and pork-barrel spending. The government must reign in spending in an even and tempered manner. Working with the CBO to fight waste and with the Congress to identify areas where restraint is feasible in a bi-partisan manner. All of this must be done with an objective of balancing the budget within one presidential term and setting a target of paying off the entire national debt within 30 years. This will require bi-partisan commitment and sacrifices on both sides of the aisle. But similar to the emergency response measures being espoused today, we must come to an agreement that tightens our belts collectively and without partisan rancor. The President should not support any budget that does not work towards these goals, and be clear and direct in his reasons for opposing any budget that he deems inadequate in this regard.

This approach must apply to both discretionary and non-discretionary spending. Compromises will need to be made, details will need to be worked out, and it will be tough. It will be tough to negotiate and even tougher to transition afterwards. But the alternative of punting the issue down the road again would be catastrophic. Too long we have stuck our head in the sand and pretended the looming economic crisis and unfunded liabilities are not heading our way like a transport truck in the middle of the highway. The time to act has drawn to a perilously limited window. Further delays in action will only deepen the pain. And I hasten to add that it is a pain that will dwarf the current banking and automotive crisis in scope.

There is another deficit that is more immediate and being more keenly felt by today’s American families. That is our balance of trade. The balance of trade is not the root of the problem. It is rather a symptom resulting from other factors facing the nation. I will address these issues individually and discuss possible solutions for each area.

Balance of Trade

Outsourcing: On the surface of it, outsourcing looks like a no-brainer for a corporation. Why pay someone in America $16 per hour if you can pay someone in a developing country $2 per day for the same job? Never mind the quality of the work, the public safety and product recalls. If you sell the product for $30 you make much more profit. Capitalism is based on profit, and more is better. But capitalism is NOT based on greed. At times greed can provide motivation but unfettered greed has proven disastrous. Jobs are shipped oversees and our manufacturing industry is slowly drying up. This same type of problem occurred in England in the 1700’s.

So how do we fix it? The only way to fix the problem of outsourcing is to make producing in America more economically viable. And since no one wants to lower the minimum wage to $2 per day there’s really only a couple of options left.

A Manufacturing Tax Credit to companies who sell manufactured products ONLY if they are manufactured in the United States. As John McCain pointed out, Ireland has a corporate tax rate of 11%, drastically lower than America’s. What I suggest is a two tier tax system. Let’s lower our tax rates for any company that produces 100% of its finished products in our country to 3%. Any company that outsources its production or support services (like call centers) gets taxed at today’s current rate of 20%+. What an incentive to build here in America!

This will help bring back manufacturing jobs, and with it stronger employment and have spin-off benefits like a larger tax base and with more and better employment, potentially downstream benefits like lower crime rates too.

Tax Code: As I mentioned we need to adjust the tax code to a two tier system. But there are other things we can do. We can provide a deeper Research and Development Tax credit. America has been known for innovation. We must ensure that in the 21st century, this does not become a matter of nostalgia. Let’s double the R&D tax credit for companies that qualify for the 3% tax rate. Let’s remove barriers to producing new developments so far as they do not impact product safety. This R&D credit is what can be leveraged to move our economy towards greener technology. Bill Clinton’s war room used to use the phrase “It’s the economy stupid.” Well guess what, in this case, it’s the carrot stupid, not the stick. Give people reasons to WANT to invest in new a smarter technology that is better and faster and greener.

Let’s simplify the effort involved for both small businesses and large corporations in filing and complying with a tax policy that is the size of a phone book. Is that really necessary? McCain talked about earmarks, but the same basic principle applies to tax laws. Every time someone gets an idea in their head to do something using the tax law, the size of the tax ‘phone book’ gets bigger and bigger. No one ever thinks to streamline it. I’m sure if someone went through it (probably a team of ‘someones’) with a fine-tooth comb they would find discrepancies within the laws themselves. The comb probably wouldn’t even need to have that fine-tooth quality.

And one further step needs to be taken – let’s think about a National Sales tax in the context of free trade. Right now a country selling products in the US, under free trade – with minimal or no tariffs or import duties gets away with collecting profit on sales in the United States, without any recompense to America. If we put a National Sales tax of 3% on all sales, of goods, then not only would our own companies contribute more to America’s tax base but so would foreign competitors. The argument that these costs would be passed on to consumers may prove true, but there are counterpoints in the benefits of increasing taxes equitably (between the rich and poor, and between foreign and domestic companies).

Finally, let’s consider significant incentives for taxpayers to save. People are spending beyond their limit and manufacturing below its limit. The U.S. is an indebted nation at all levels. When like drunken sailors and producing less and less, the U.S. is simply sending wealth overseas. Let’s create additional incentives on our 401k programs in order to ensure that Americans are saving for the future. This may sound like another old-fashioned idea, but the reality is that you can go back ancient Greece and Aesop’s fables to find examples of this being a truism. Money saved today is an investment in our future. If we forget this truth, we are dooming our future to more and more examples of stock market crashes, and massive business failures with frightening fallout.

Immigration Law: Enforcement first. That has not changed. Think about what we are facing this century. Our next big focus will be on the re-emergence of China as an economic superpower. Three things are needed to drive an economy – land, labor and capital. China has natural resources, and land. They have a massive population base and they are rapidly developing the capital they need to be the dominant economy of the 21st century. That is not a position America should blandly forgo. In a unique position, having the land, the resources and the population needed to compete, the United States must strive to maintain what it needs to compete.

Look at America during it’s periods of economic expansion and compare it to the population growth. America needs to grow in population, but needs to do it in a smart way. How can it achieve this? No one wants a free-for-all in immigration, but immigration IS part of the solution.

We need to provide natural (i.e. domestic) population growth. And we need to ensure that there is a LEGAL path to citizenship for people who want to come to the United States and build a better future for themselves and their family. But it must be for those who do so through legal means. This means stricter enforcement for companies in who they are able to hire. It means protecting the borders. And it also means revisiting the immigration laws to make the path to citizenship simpler and easier for those who qualify by bringing marketable and needed skills to America. It is important to ensure that the path not only to citizenship but to integration into American society is smooth. And finally, someone needs to revisit the assumptions about how many immigrants are needed. Do we need more? Do we need less? The answer is probably a little of both. Certainly we need less illegal immigrants, but depending on skills, we need more of certain types and less of others.

On the flip side, America cannot afford to naturalize citizens who become a drain on the system through inactivity or illegal activity. We are at an economic crossroads and adding to our economic burden is simply not an option. So we must provide incentives for natural growth and legal immigration that align with the economic reality of the day.

Currency Valuation and Trade Policy: Let me go back to free trade for a minute. Free trade does assume a level playing field in order to be beneficial to all parties concerned. A level playing field means free and fair access to each others’ markets. And it means similar economic conditions in each country.

Many trade partners compete fairly, and provide products or resource cheaper than can be produced domestically. Conversely Americans provide them with similar resources or products.

But some countries limit access to their markets. Other countries, such as China, peg their currency to a level relative to the American dollar. By under-valuing their currency, they can give themselves an unfair trade advantage and take advantage of American willingness to trade and our willingness to spend. For countries that try to manipulate the system, the penalties should be prohibitive. If you want access to the US market, you have to play by fair international rules. If you don’t play by the rules, you get no access. What’s the point in providing consumers access to $1 shirts made in Asia, when all the manufacturing jobs are shipped overseas and nobody can afford that dollar?

How do we manage something like this? Not with a bloated bureaucracy. What is needed is an expert panel that can implement rapid response changes to how we deal with other nations financially. We need to put simple principles in place that allows for quick changes in a rapidly changing economic environment.

Education: Schools are producing too many lawyers in America and not enough Engineers, Doctors and IT experts. Expertise is outsourced in part because there isn’t enough domestic supply. You can’t compete well in industries like the automotive industry or the electronics industry when you can’t productionize your innovations well enough. More engineers can accomplish this. Some thought should be given to revisit how business degrees focus on accounting and marketing and finance and very little on production.

There needs to be a re-think on what is being emphasized in education. In order to orient development, obviously this is a long term process, there will need to be no set quotas but again use the carrot approach instead of the stick.

Let’s look at industrial college partnerships. The way the GI Bill encourages enlistment for education, let’s get partnerships between education and industry (not business, industry) to produce subject matter experts for what the industry needs. Offer a sponsored education in exchange for a three year work term upon graduation (at a reduced salary range until the expiry of the term). The company supports a number of full scholarships relative to its expected needs; the college educates a student according to those needs, the student graduates and gives a three year guaranteed work commitment to his or her sponsor. In exchange for a free education, the student would work for a reduced pay for three years.

From the companies perspective the government could provide a tax incentive relative to the amount of the scholarship up to a maximum threshold to offset the cost of the sponsorship. The only caveat would be that a high percentage of the scholarships must be related to production, and less to other business aspects such as finance or marketing.

Corporate Regulation: Corporations act in an environment of minimal government involvement beyond current regulation. Blindly applying more regulation is not the answer. However, companies need to look beyond the next quarter’s results. Our short term, myopic view of profit has hurt the country’s economy. You see it in the off-shoring of jobs. You see it in the questionable methods of generating more profits – methods that led to the bubble and the sub-prime loan crisis. You see it in the fire-sale atmosphere of foreign takeovers of once proud industrial, commercial and financial giants.

How do we correct the thinking that leads to this? How do you overcome greed and fraud and the get-rich-quick mentality? Strictly speaking, you can’t. Human nature is what it is. The desire to do well is not a bad thing, but the desire to do well at any cost is inherently short-sighted and dangerous.

The only real way to overcome these things is to ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place – accountability and transparency. Ensure that corporations are held accountable for their own questionable behavior. Ensure that risky behavior is not subsidized by bailouts. Ensure that risky behavior is recognized as such before it has time to grow and spread. And ensure that those responsible are not allowed to walk away on the taxpayers’ dime but face the consequences of their actions head on.

This can be done through clear, concise and appropriate business regulatory requirements. Not overly cumbersome regulation, but appropriate regulation: Regulation and responses that are not made in haste but are made with the appropriate forethought and anticipatory of future requirements.

Citizenry: Finally all of this requires a rededication to core American principles on everyone’s part. Hard work, innovation and dedication to country are all virtues. They all provide their own rewards. Think about how you apply them in your day-to-day life. Are there things you could be doing differently? Ask yourself “How am I, investing in America?” Do you buy American or does it matter to you? It’s not always, all about individual choice. Sometimes your right choice is to make the less selfish choice. Do you save for your future or are you borrowing against the future of your children and theirs? Do you care about your neighbors or only yourself? Do you work hard or work indifferently? Individual actions, just like voting, add up to a greater whole than the sum of the parts.

November 17, 2008

Institutionalizing errors

The American experience is replete with examples of mistakes that have taken root to become part of the institutions of every day. There are of course governmental examples that politically we tend to focus on. There are also many private sector examples. The conundrum currently facing the automobile industry in America is a prime example.

The auto sector did not suddenly drop anchor and punch a hole in the side of their own ship. The roots of this crisis date back decades. Ultimately what drives consumers, pardon the pun, is quality and price. Foreign automakers continue to find a better footing in delivering these key factors to market, simplifying the purchase decision in a way not suitable to the likes of GM, Ford and Chrysler.

Price: In the case of GM, both legacy costs and production costs mean that cars cannot be produced on a level playing field with Toyota or Honda. Challenges from Dealers and the UAW make proper restructuring more of a fable than a possibility.

Quality: Toyota has a better business model. The result - quicker to market, and better quality product.

The auto industry is indicative of the problems in government. When bad decisions become the operational procedures of an organization, bad things follow. The difference between the auto industry and government is the possible range of outcomes.

For GM et al., bailout may solve the problem. More likely it will only forestall the inevitable - a collapse gets punted down the road for a few years. Sounds like the case for Social Security, a little, no? The other alternative is to not bail out the industry. Allow it, or force it, to accept Chapter 11 restructuring and do so aggressively. Make things run leaner, give the company wiggle room to capitalize on it's new found desire to lead and thrive once again. Tough medicine, but medicine the patient (GM) doesn't seem willing to or able to take itself.

For the government's institutionalized blunders the cure may be more difficult. But there is an opportunity here to avoid consuming more of the same poison that has created the problems in the first place. Starting with the auto industry bailout. There is a right side and a wrong side to this. There's an opportunity for Republicans to get on the right side of this and make great strides in their image of being part of the problem.

The tricky part is that Obama can straddle the issue. Change can mean fixing things to back to the way they worked in the 1950's (re: GM, Ford, Chrysler). So he can cleverly argue, "yes let's bail them out but to be safe, let's add lots of regulation because clearly management at these companies screwed up." Implicit is the argument that Obama knows better. Of course he does, he's The One. He can fix what others could not. A Democratic government will ride to the rescue of the industry. GM will be able to struggle along for a few more years, out of the spotlight of course. And the media will launch into applause mode - Obama made the realization of the Volt possible. Look what he's done for GM, for humanity, for Mother Earth...the sugar levels will be unpalatable for those of us on the right. But GM, will only have forestalled it's problems. Certainly enough to get past 2010, and hopefully for Obama, enough to get past 2012. Until GM falters again in Obama's second term and the cycle will repeat itself. But Obama reaffirms that union vote for as long as he needs it.

Then there's the right course of action. Opposing the bailout. It's a super-risky strategy, one very likely to backfire at the ballot box. But it's the right thing to do for America, something conservatives typically can get behind. And something Democrats typically pull out their 10' pole to avoid touching. What's at stake is America's future. GM is still an important part of America. As GM goes, so goes the nation. GM's preeminence has been cut in half over the last 5 decades. Is America next? The battle is not for the next election (as Democrats tend to view it), but for the 21st century and America's part in it.

The right course of action is to use tough love. And then, the tricky part is to convince America, convince GM, convince the United Auto Workers, that this really is the best course of action and that everyone has to work together for the future of their jobs, their industry and their country. That's a tough, tough sell. But it's a sale worth making; for the Republican party, and more importantly for the country.

November 16, 2008

An Obama Presidency erases American hypocrisy?

Let me preface this with a comment that I am in no way racially motivated. This represents an analysis of a supposedly post-racial presidential race.

I received an email from a friend who knew someone heading back to the US on Nov. 4th to vote in order to prove that America is a hypocrite (that's a broad, vague statement, but I'm assuming it's with regards to electing a black president).

What a silly notion. The United States would have no problem electing a black president, but this was true before Obama. Go back to 1996 or 200 and if Colin Powell had run he could have won. People assuming there is a glass ceiling without trying to break through are an unfortunate lot. America, more than anywhere else in the world is the land of opportunity and that, is colour-blind. Using a ceiling as an excuse for failure is just not trying hard enough. And it guarantees a failure.

Hypocrisy exists in the fact that many rich donors routinely support Democrats rather than Republicans, either out of guilt or out of the fact that they know the Democrat party loves tax loopholes that allow the rich to get away with obscene tax savings they don't deserve. And yet the Democratic party is the one subtly promoting class warfare - with it's tax the rich approach to everything. Did you ever wonder why they would act opposed to their self-interest? Here's a hint - they don't.

The Republican view of equality is equality of opportunity, the Democrat view is equality of outcome. That is not equality, it's socialism. You are more deserving of success than someone who didn't make it because of (i) your efforts at self improvement in school and afterwards (ii) your work ethic and (iii) your specific skills. You should not feel guilt over it, because you've earned your success. If you want to level the playing field, you don't pay more tax, you make sure everyone else has the same opportunity for quality education. You do that either through competition like school vouchers, or having teachers meet certain qualifying criteria (for example). In any case, you do not re-distribute the wealth.

Let me give you a quick analogy. Think of a football game. A level playing field is just that, not one sloped towards one end. Republicans want to ensure that the field is level before the game starts. What Democrats want to do is avoid a 56-10 final score, so they don't level the playing fields, they shave points of the winning side and give them to the losers. In essence, making the final score 36-30. Now I ask you this - what is the incentive for either team in that scenario to workout, to practice, to devise new plays to run? Not much.

The hypocrisy exists in the fact that for 50 years the Democrats have been championing racial equality under a false premise. Support us and we will support you. 50 years of welfare have made things worse - single parent families have gone way up in the black community during the last 50 years as replacing fathers with a welfare cheque has re-enforced a dependency environment and created a circular process - poverty leads to welfare to broken families which leads to a lower pursuit of higher education which leads to more poverty. And this circular process also leads to a dumbing down of the American workforce (broader than just by race).

The hypocrisy exists in hiring quotas that put unqualified people into certain jobs rather than ensuring that they are educated properly to do those jobs well.

The hypocrisy exists in creating a culture of dependence rather than independence. You know the old proverb about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish?

Seriously, if someone is voting for Obama to prove a point or for racial reasons, they are being short-sighted. What if he turns out to be terrible because he wasn't really well vetted? How much harder does that make it for the next black candidate, even if they are exceptionally qualified? There will be an inherent scepticism before he/she has a chance. What does that do for equality of opportunity? Yes, America is in need of a black president, but in my opinion this is just not the right guy. The timing of getting a black president doesn't matter, what matters his ability. The same goes for a woman VP or any other group that feels excluded. Hell, I'd vote for a cross-dressing, Vietnamese albino midget if I thought his policies made sense. And I'd do it in a heartbeat. What matters is the content of their character, their vision and their ideas.

The hypocrisy is in voting to prove you aren't a hypocrite (as person or as a nation). The idea that America is overdue for a black President is not justification for voting that way. Does that mean a woman has to be elected next, then a homosexual, then a Mormon, then a Latino, then an amputee, etc.? Just so there can have been a one of everything? There's more groups to satisfy that way than there are cycles to vote in.

The biggest hypocrisy is that the first black President, won in large part due to his skin color. America did not really prove it's become post-racial. In fact it may have proven that to some people the superficial matters more than the man. And for the enlightened intellectual 'elite' the reality of that has yet to set in.

November 14, 2008


Yes, WE can too.

Stand up. And fight for what you believe.

And anything can happen.

This cannot be repeated enough.

Watch these.

Remember them.

Understand them. Repeat them (like this).

Be sure people you know understand the implications.

The 'Vision thing'.

In a post yesterday, Matt Lewis talked about what idea conservatives need to focus on, with an eye towards a providing new Contract with America. I thought I'd add my two cents worth here.

One quick note - whatever the vision is, I think the time has come to not only articulate a vision, but provide voters with a clear road map instead of platitudes and vague ideas. In 4 years, people will likely be asking "How did Obama plan to get us there? He never really told us." If you can't contrast against that, the ideas might sound like hollow promises.

1. Matt mentions science and math. How is it possible to disagree with that? Obama mentioned on the campaign trail music.

Really? Really? What tripe! You want to teach students to fiddle while America burns, Mr. President-elect?

The impacts of being the party of math and science however are far reaching. It impacts education policy. And that in turn may provide an opportunity for in-roads in ethnic communities. Asian communities for example are likely to appreciate the attention on these ares as they keenly understand their importance. No racial comments please, I'm generalizing of course.

But another area of impact is translating the emphasis on these into a realizable economic benefit. For example, patent protection, while not sexy is important. The Chinese violate copyright laws systematically. There needs to be a more robust effort to protect the innovation that results from the focus on the hard sciences. Likely this will affect trade policy.

2. Free trade. Republicans often blindly follow the doctrine of free trade. It's good in theory, but in an imperfect world, it needs to be a finely managed march towards free trade. China does not deserve it's preferred partner status. Why support a blind allegiance to an idea, when practically applied it's taking American jobs. We need to explain the benefits, manage the transition and ensure that equal access, equal playing field free trade is followed.

Free trade has proven very effective. But it has not come without certain pitfalls that need to be addressed and managed.

3. Industry. The Republican party has a huge untapped opportunity to get unions to come onside. Not by pandering to their immediate priorities, but rather by embracing re-industrialization. More factories mean more jobs. More jobs mean more votes, period. Regardless of whether union leadership buys in, union members understand that supporting industry is supporting job opportunities.

We don't want to impede business from taking advantage of cheaper labour, but as we have seen, that often comes at a cost of quality. American workers can produce quality given the opportunity. And I'm sure there are ways to produce quantity cheaply too. Leverage that science agenda, improve the means of production through automation and create volumes that can't be matched in a sweatshop of 5,000 offshore workers.

Promote tax policy that encourages tax breaks for on shoring, and/or heavily favours R&D.

The economy is shifting to a service based economy. Good. But without a sustainable base of production, the country is doomed. You can't offshore all of your production indefinitely. If there's a net capital outflow, it's not sustainable indefinitely. And while services can be exported, clearly it can't be done at the same rate as the importation of goods. Not at this point in time anyway.

There's also a national security risk of becoming a service-dominated economy. What if our clothing and automobile suppliers decided to cut us off? With insufficient means of domestic production it would come as a shock to the system.

So being the party of productivity and re-industrialization has it's logical and populist appeal. As the economy shifts, make sure that domestic production specializes sustainable industries. Do not cede production of the automobile, electronics, defense, communication, transportation, medicine or even resources to foreign interests. Specialize and be the best.

4. Hispanics. Matt is right about the Hispanic community. The numbers don't lie. Not only is this group key as a segment of the population, look at the electoral college potential. If Republicans can keep the south and Florida onside and make inroads in the southwest, particularly California, the potential impact is clear.

I have argued elsewhere that outreach is heavily underplayed by Republicans. It's a missed opportunity. Hispanics have a natural fit with Republican ideology. But we don't sell them on that. Amnesty for illegals may be an issue, but it is not an issue if the broader picture is properly framed. Hispanic (or any) families have the same basic needs from government. Schools, hospitals, crime control, job security and freedom to be who they are. These are basic human needs. If you emphasize the importance of family to a Hispanic voter, do you think he's going to argue with you about it? Probably not.

This is simply a variation of the "all politics is local" argument. Local, in a different context - ethnic/cultural. The Republican party missed an opportunity recently to address the NAACP. Why? Outreach is the key.

Go to community events. Go to churches. Go to their associations. And talk to them. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Invite them to participate in Republican events. Inclusively. Sponsor their events. This is Basic 101 stuff.

This dovetails very well with being the party of family, security and freedom.

On that last point, an aside. Why is it that people would want to give the same group that managed to create the current financial crisis the keys t their 401k's? Could anyone manage it better on their own. Even by throwing darts at an investment dartboard seems like it would have yielded better results.

Fiscal Responsibility. Let's take another crack at this one. Balanced budgets. Innovative solutions to the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare. I'm sure there are myriad ways out of the mess. Let's table some and pick the best ideas.

While on the subject of finance, what about becoming the party of banking? Every great empire has had its financial vehicles to leverage. Controlling international money flows is key to a prosperous empire/nation. Smarter banking. Stronger banks. Perhaps the Fed could benchmark it's prime rates based on criteria of banking stability. Just a random thought. Anything to bolster the foundation of stronger banking institutions is good.

Energy. Yes, energy independence is an imperative. Drilling wherever possible, clean coal, natural gas, and nuclear power should be at the forefront. Yes, hydrogen fuel cells, biofuels and other alternative sources should be investigated. But they may take 10, 20, 50 or 100 years to come to fruition. The country doesn't have that time to spare.

Those areas I think are good starting point.

November 13, 2008

21st Century Part I - The Individual

America is undoubtedly still the world's superpower. By all objective measurements, economically, militarily, technologically and creatively, America's accomplishments and stature are astounding. For over 200 years the United States has forged herself into the world's power, as well as the world's greatest hope for freedom, democracy and fairness and equality (regardless of what individual interpretations of these last two might be). But that greatness is always at risk. That crucible of democracy is always fragile.

Every generation of Americans are party of a great experiment and part of a great challenge. And every generation is responsible to uphold it's end of the bargain by striving to advance the cause of these ideals. Anyone who does not consider it their duty, doesn't understand what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America. There are many on the outside looking in (including myself, I'm Canadian) who are envious of the opportunity and good fortune your country provides. To squander that opportunity, to distort the meaning of being an American or to not appreciate the unique position which God (or fate or circumstance - whichever you choose to believe) has afforded you, is simply a travesty.

JFK's quote "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." fits that mold. The United States was not meant to be a welfare state or a nanny state. It was meant to be the land of opportunity for the individual. But with that opportunity comes an obligation to contribute back to the common good. There are many ways that can be achieved. Military service is merely one option. But at a minimum, holding true to the ideas of rugged individualism, self-reliance and simply obeying the laws of the land are required.

More than this, nothing is asked. But more than this, shall not be given - the freedom to exercise your Constitutional rights. True, there is no Bill of Obligations in the Constitution. But there doesn't need to be. It is implicitly understood that if you are free to act in your own best interest, you will attempt to do so. For most people this means things like pursuing an education, becoming gainfully employed and raising a family. The government imposes additional obligations, like paying taxes.

But America faces constant threats. And in exercising those given freedoms national interest and self-interest do not always intersect. When the two interests are at odds, one will naturally suffer. National interest typically takes the back seat.

How often have you heard things like "I'll only buy a Japanese car, American cars aren't built as well."? While that may or may not be true, what are the consequences of buying Japanese? Or buying from any shielded market? In this example, you are supporting a Japanese company (and potentially worker) rather than an American worker. And if millions are doing the same thing, then thousands of American workers and some American companies are at risk of failing. And if the entire industry fails, you have displaced workers, some of whom end up on welfare and increase the welfare burden and your taxes or national debt. That's a drastic oversimplification. The government has an obligation to ensure that it's national interests are protected. You do not. But how many people even consider that sort of impact - not drive their decision by it, but even give it a second thought?

Self interest has been taken to absurd extremes in America. The right to own a home is not a right. Living on welfare is possible, but it is not a right. Conspicuous consumption is not a right. People seem to think that the government can mitigate their retirement needs through social security so it's okay to spend today. Why not think for yourself and plan for yourself instead?

If you can't afford it, don't buy it, don't steal it - you haven't earned it. By abrogating your earning potential you are chipping away at your sense of self worth. Can't afford that iPod? Earn money, and save for it. Can't afford to retire? You should have thought of that when you were busy buying that Cadillac years ago.

People survived before welfare. People survived the Great Depression. But America seems poised to succumb to the cradle-to-grave nanny state mentality so prevalent in Europe and here in Canada. Standing on the shoulders of giants, Americans seem poised to climb down and hide in a ditch. That is a grotesque mistake. Succumbing to the maelstrom of socialism will not keep America great. And those entitlements you seek will become less and less sustainable as time passes. Your grandchildren will not have shoulders of giants to stand on, just the bones of giant corpses.

This is not a drill.

November 12, 2008

Obama and the American Dream

There will always be people who need help. But I think a hand-up is better than a hand-out. If you've got the option of keeping a single mom on subsistence level welfare for 25 years or paying her welfare for 5 years while fully funding a college or university degree for her via an interest free loan payable back within say 20 years after graduation (or even with interest at inflation rates - below 4%, interest commencing say 5 years after graduation), the latter is my choice.

What you've effectively done is taken 20 years of welfare payments away from government costs. You've added to the GDP by creating a productive member of society. And far more importantly, you've given her self-reliance, self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment. That filters down to the next generation. By that I mean the child or children see her succeeding and see what it does for her and they get that sense of self-reliance and that sense of what independence means. Hopefully the next generation doesn't repeat the cycle.

[This guy rocks!]

And that's just one option. In the mid-1990's the Republican Congress forced Clinton into signing into law changes from Welfare into Workfare. That's good for certain people but it doesn't fit for everyone. Some will remain under-employed for life, and some will always need welfare because they just can't function as a productive member of society (say for example that world's heaviest man in Mexico who can't get out of bed). But some can go to work and most can learn more and find better work options.

To keep someone on welfare is to keep them dependent, and to keep them dependent on crumbs. That to me isn't freedom. It certainly isn't the American dream. Actually, what it resembles is the serfdom of the middle ages. That's why I don't understand why the same civil rights activists like Jesse Jackson who lionize MLK are the same ones who are activists for liberal causes that (seemingly 'unwittingly') ensure the continued dependence they should be trying to fight.

It's a circular system.
We want to help you. We'll keep you fed. Just keep voting for us and we'll ensure you keep getting your cheque. The African American community has the most to gain from the freedom to follow the American Dream.

They just seem to keep going about it the wrong way. An Obama presidency should prove to some disbelievers that anything is possible. But it doesn't mean everyone has reached the promised land. Just him. What I fear is that Democratic policies will continue to 'keep the black man down'. And what frustrates me is that very few people seem to realize the vicious cycle will perpetuate itself until enough people realize that the ONLY thing that will level the playing field for everyone (regardless of ethnic, religious or racial make-up), is equal access to equal education. The alternative is another 50 years of welfare, and no real change. Just more unfulfilled promises of a better future. Unfortunately, I expect we'll see the latter.

We need to get moving!

First off, let me begin by saying I am an avowed Reaganite, just in case there's anything in my previous posts, or posts that will follow that might confuse you on that issue. I recognize that there are many Republicans who believe that we need to moderate the party's approach to reflect the times. And I recognize the fact that some new ideas may be ones that the party should embrace.

However, every new idea must be looked at through the lens of real conservatism - there is a reason that generations have passed down tradition and social norms that have existed for centuries - they work. If a new idea doesn't pass the test of something that meshes with core conservative principles, then it's not something that should be embraced. For example, campaign finance reform puts limits on free speech, ergo freedom. It doesn't fit. It should not be something supported by conservatives, and therefore the Republican party. That the Republican party is no longer the "pure" standard bearer of conservative ideas is a shame. But it is fixable. And it must be fixed, otherwise, as others have said, the Republican party becomes Democrat-lite, and doesn't win. Or if it does, what price victory? If the nation simply moves to the left at a slower pace, it is still moving left.

But now is not the time for civil war. Now is the not time for internal melees. Now conservatives of all stripes must determine what can be agreed upon, and build out from there. Slowly and thoughtfully. Because as I have been arguing, the Republican party has to work very hard on getting it's ground game in place, and it's air (broadcast) game too. A purge/bloodbath accomplishes nothing but handing the Democrats more seats in 2010.

Yes, the party needs to broaden it's base - for example, Hispanics are a growing segment of the population. They need to be a part of any strategy. This is where reformers can meet traditionalists. Broaden the outreach to Hispanics, but in a way that meets the guiding principles. In other words, do not bend your philosophy to fit the circumstances, but rather have a vision and through outreach, guide people to the wisdom of your vision. Yes, the specifics of a particular effort will need flexibility. But therein lies the challenge;

Be creative in applying your principles to new problems.

Find the issues that are important to a constituency, and solve them in a way that follows your principles. Then show them the merits of your ideas, in ways that speak directly to their concerns.

Take illegal immigration for example. If you embrace legal immigration, but remain tough on border security and crack down on illegal immigrants, how does that sit with the Hispanic community as a whole? Are they angered because someone they know is affected? Are legal immigrants happy because they went through the struggle to become citizens or get working visas the proper way? Is it something else they feel? And what are the demographics and raw numbers of specific feelings? Maybe a tough stand on illegal immigration makes perfect sense. Or maybe a better solution exists that appeals to the Hispanic community and still has conservative principles embedded in it.

Creative thinking is needed.

Just because we are conservatives doesn't mean fresh ideas are anathema to us. Aren't we the party of logic as opposed to the party of emotion? Are there no conservative thinkers left? Of course there are. William F. Buckley was not the end of the line for us. We are still thoughtful, resourceful and clever. Get the ideas, then sell the ideas. That's where the branding, positioning and marketing can win hearts by using emotion if necessary.

[UPDATE: After writing this, I found this link today, specific to Hispanics and conservatives and the GOP ]

And that's where having boots on the ground and media on the air helps. Not just in election cycles, but every year, year round. Conservatism requires that people continually be educated about issues. Democrats have the advantage of only talking about feelings. It feels bad that American is in a war in Iraq. Okay, but why is America in a war? You can stick with feeling like the Democrats do - "Bush is an evil person". Or you can talk about freedom, democracy, national security etc. But that needs education of the target audience. That doesn't just happen in a September to November home stretch, it takes time. That's why it's got to start now.

November 11, 2008

Core principles

Ronald Reagan got it:

Boy, did he get it:

Dick Armey gets it:

Russel Kirk gets it, more eloquently:

Barry Goldwater got it:

Even Rudy Guiliani seems to get it:

But G. W. Bush just doesn't;

And neither does John McCain.

Conservative core principles, mean different things to different people. But here are a few fundamentals;

-small, efficient, fiscally responsible government
-limits to government power
-freedom, individual liberty and rugged individualism
-strong national defence
-equality lies in equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome
-pro-growth policies that espouse the above elements

Next we can discuss how to apply this to things like party purges and ideological purity, something the Republican party can waste little time on now if it wants to recover some ground in 2010.
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