June 30, 2009

POLITICO: No more questions, please .

From Politico comes an interesting little sidebar story a couple of weeks ago that has an ominous portending for the future. The whole story is here: POLITICO: Shenanigans - No more questions, please
During Monday night’s meeting, Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) cut off ranking member and former Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) while he was questioning Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) on a commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill. Chairwoman Slaughter asked Dreier: “You want to talk about the previous bill?”

Dreier responded, “There are a number of things I want to talk about. Do I not have a right to do that? Do I not have a right to question the chairman of the Appropriations Committee on the process we are about to begin here for the 13 appropriations bills that he and his subcommittee chairmen are going to be considering? Am I not allowed to ask him questions?”

Slaughter basically told him no, saying, “We have already finished the roll call and accepted that bill, and we are ready to move on now.”

Dreier responded, “So I am not allowed. So I am sorry, I have overstepped my bounds if I am not allowed to talk about the overall appropriations process with the chairman of the committee. So thank you very much. I yield back my time.”

At that, Slaughter looked at Dreier and moved on without any more GOP input, we’re told. “Even the Democrats on the committee were stunned to silence,” an observer tells Shenan, adding, “We knew this day was coming, but it really is a sad day when the Democrats stop any form of questioning between the Republicans and chairmen who are presenting their bills before the committee.”
Parliamentary process semantics? Perhaps. Democrats drunk with power? Maybe. Good for American? Absolutely not. When debate disappears, so does democracy.

Give up something - America's real choice (Part 2)

Finally, after a brief 27 day interruption, the second part of America's Real Choice.

I'm taking off my partisan hat right now. As much as I have issues with the agenda items of liberal Democrats (in the interest of full disclosure), there's a much bigger issue facing conservatives, liberals, and all of America. Every American, alive today, and those yet to be born for generations to come is affected by it. Truly, it's impacts spread across the globe. The issue is the National Debt.

An unsustainable American national debt jeopardizes the future of the country as an economic and military superpower. As the shining city on a hill, the bastion of freedom and democracy for countries around the world, as the defender of freedom, liberty and justice, America has not only a vested interest but a DUTY to keep itself from crumbling as did the Roman Empire and the Greek Empire before it. The United States is not an empire. It's simply a country that institutionalized freedoms, democracy, and justice for all. Nowhere else in the world are people as free to choose the path of their own lives as in America. No one should be denied what Americans have. Perhaps someday those freedoms will be universal. But if America fails to keep itself from going off the rails now (or ever), then that future becomes inherently jeopardized.

When the Roman Empire crumbled it was followed by the Dark Ages. They were indeed dark - progress halted and reversed, societies reversed. Barbarism flourished in many places. The crumbling of America would come at a time when there are a myriad of tyrants and potential tyrants lurking the globe. With modern day technology at their disposal, the consequences could include a nuclear catastrophe. They could mean that there becomes a separation of access to that technology (like the Internet) that be the exclusive domain of those in power, thus guaranteeing their power for millenia, not centuries. Of course with fewer having access to the knowledge base not only on the Internet but education as well, the worlds scientific progress would grind to a halt. While Luddites might appreciate that, think of where we would be without penicillin, insulin, aircraft, cell phones and other things that spread health, wealth, knowledge and communication. The future, would be bleak indeed.

So America must save itself. It must maintain it's 'leader of the free world' notion. The biggest threat does not come from without. It comes from within. Al Qaida can hurt America. Other nations in a war could hurt America - some gravely. But only America can kill America. And it's happening.

I've spoken about it in the past as Americans having to make a choice on what they want to do about the future of their country. I've also recently posted a couple of warnings about the coming economic collapse. Oddly, I'm not typically a doom and gloom guy. I'm normally a glass half full guy. I've always believed that if you put your mind to it you can achieve most anything. But facts are facts.

FACT: The current US National Debt stands at $11 trillion, over 85% of GDP.

FACT: The baby boom generation is starting to retire in the next year and a half. Some even began retiring in 2008 under the early retirement options.

FACT: Social Security costs are estimated to be $12.7 trillion

FACT: Medicare costs are estimated to amount to $30 trillion

FACT: To cover these costs by taxes alone would require almost doubling the taxes being collected on each American.

FACT: Federal and military pensions other mandatory spending amounts to $6.1 trillion in spending

FACT: Military spending costs over $500 billion per year. That does not include spending on Iraq or Afghanistan, the ending of that spending or rate of decline is not precisely known. That's $1667 per person in America.

FACT: Annual interest payments on the national debt is $400 billion. That's $1,333 per person in America.

FACT: Based on these numbers and the Obama budgets, the CBO projects a national debt of an additional $9.3 trillion or $20.7 trillion by 2019. That does not fully realize the impact of cap and trade costs.

FACT: By 2019 the population of the US will be approximately 322 million. Based on the numbers above, each person will carry $64,285 of federal government debt, excluding the Non-discretionary components.

FACT: The States have an additional combined debt of $1.85 trillion as of 2005. That's an additional $6,167 per person in America. and we haven't even considered personal debt.

FACT: When factoring National Debt per citizen with all costs loaded in, ranges depending on how it's calculated and who is telling you, from $37,000 to over $100,000 per citizen. If you look at the $53 trillion figure of all combined debt, and with a population of 306,000,000 it works out to over $172,000 per citizen. Dubious but still worth noting.

FACT: If the budget were balanced today and every day the government paid down its debt by $1 billion it would still take 197 years for the US government to pay off the debt it has accumulated to date.

FACT: By comparison, China's national debt (in US dollar equivalent) was $370.4 Billion in 2005. That's $285 per citizen in China.

FACT: By comparison, Japan's national debt in US dollar equivalent was $7.1 trillion, or a per capita amount of $55,000 per citizen. While a higher percentage of GDP than in the US, the current Japanese government was elected to reduce that ratio.

FACT: By comparison, Canada's national debt is approximately $403 billion US, or $12,026 per capita, and rising again after having been paid down by budget surpluses since the mid 1990's.

These are facts. Taming the National Debt is not a matter of choice, it's a matter of necessity. It will require some gut-wrenching changes to America. This is not about cutting pork-barrel spending insofar cutting those things does not solve the problem. Granted, that's part of the solution, but the problem is far bigger than even a billions dollars on this pet project or that.

Yes the current budget is making things worse. But the problem is larger than that too. Inevitably, it's going to get worse.

So now what? Really. I'm conservative and I'm strong on national defense, and a strong America. But the reality is, that like every single thing in the budget, it's annual allotment has got to shrink. I don't want that, but the alternative is no better.

Here's your choices - higher taxes, and/or reduced discretionary spending and/or scrapping or reducing entitlement programs.

All these choices risk political suicide. The public want things cut out of the budget that are ballooning the deficits and national debt, but they don't want to be personally impacted. The two are not mutually exclusive. Something has got to give. Politicians meanwhile are too comfortable avoiding the truth because it keeps them getting elected to promise more and/or to lower taxes. They've let the next Congress deal with it for decades. Time is running out.

America has some tough choices ahead. For too long collectively it has been putting it's head in the sand on the fiscal realities that it has created for itself. Every option has now become a dramatically painful one, and they will only continue to get more painful with every passing year. So what now? Double the tax rates? Halve the military budget? Scrap Medicare? None of those options seem possible. But they are pretty close to unavoidable. Nothing has prepared the nation for this.

There is only one alternative to the economic shock wave coming. The deficits have got to end immediately. Then the government has got to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. That's the only way to give possible creditors security that the country will, while growing these unfunded liabilities over the next few decades, be able to emerge in a few decades on the right path. But that's still not enough. The federal government will have to negotiate long term favorable loan rates with it's debt holders. It will have to privatize or dramatically cut

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending. Privatizing them would be better - it proves that they will be off the books in the future and therefor not a sword of Damocles hanging over America's head in perpetuity. Drastic, but even so, still likely not enough to avoid some economy-dampening massive tax increases or massive program cuts to everything the government does.

I'm not a fan of the methadone approach - the Congress should have it's ability to tax and spend curtailed. There should be a complete withdrawal of the ability for Congress to decide how much more to tax and how much more to spend, just for one year - cold turkey. Force them to lower taxes and fix spending to balance the budget for one year. Then lock them in the Congress or Senate chamber until they solve it. At the very least it would make for some great C-SPAN viewing.

These seem to be impossible choices to get a consensus on. More worrisome is the fact that those decisions will not be possible before 2012 and certainly not before 2010 given the current liberal climate of spending the country out of it's debt problem. Everybody is still waiting for the free lunch economy, and the clock keeps ticking.

Iraq: Smells Like Victory

An interesting comparison of Democrat lack of foresight, lack of honesty versus the situation on the ground today.

Harry Reid:

Nancy Pelosi:

Iraqi's blame Iran for the turmoil.

And in the news today:

"The withdrawal of American troops is completed now from all cities after everything they sacrificed for the sake of security," said Sadiq al-Rikabi, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "We are now celebrating the restoration of sovereignty."

The Pentagon did not offer any comment to mark the passing of the deadline.

Fireworks, not bombings, colored the Baghdad skyline late Monday, and thousands attended a party in a park where singers performed patriotic songs. Loudspeakers at police stations and military checkpoints played recordings of similar tunes throughout the day, as Iraqi military vehicles decorated with flowers and national flags patrolled the capital.
To the point about dishonesty, the AP news story felt compelled to include this comment, but none from those Iraqi's thankful to America.

"All of us are happy — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds on this day," Waleed al-Bahadili said as he celebrated at the park. "The Americans harmed and insulted us too much."
Isn't that just wonderful? I'm sure every Iraqi feels the way al-Bahadili feels and to a man, woman or child, no one is happy to be free of Saddam and grateful to America for giving them freedom and quelling the violence (for the most part) before leaving.

Ah, but there IS a consistency Ed!

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a column today in which he struggles to make sense of the lack of consistency coming out of the White House on the coup in Honduras versus the protests in Iran.

On the surface, he appears to be correct. The President is practically treating Iranian protesters as anathema, waiting seemingly forever before making a weak protestation against the violent suppression being employed by the government. On the other hand he wasted no time condemning the overthrow of the Mini-Chavez wannabe-be-President-for-life Zelaya.

But there's an underlying consistency to be sure. Zelayawanted totalitarian power and lost it. Obama criticized the coup. Ahmedinejad and Khameni want total power and are struggling to keep it. Obama is trying to stay hands off as much as he can get away with.

The consistency? Supporting fascism. In each case the President is on the side of the ruling class. In the case of Iran he's playing wait-and-see on the open invite to Ahmedinejad. He has no choice. The suppression is to brutal and too public for him to do otherwise. But make no mistake, Obama does not see the followers of Mousavi, the youth of the nation, those having hope and wanting change, the way he sees his own supporters. If he did, he would have been all over the election results and subsequent farce of an investigation and then violence.

The motive for him to side with the ruling class? Firstly, he's now one of them. And Obama wants more centralized power for himself too. He says he doesn't but his actions betray his rhetoric. GM, Chrysler, the banks, firing IG's without consulting Congress are but a few obvious examples of his actions being autocratic.

He seemingly believes in government by an elite few. Clearly he also has an anti-capitalism bent which caused him to rush to judgment on Zelaya and end up on the same side as Chavez. Ironically in each case Honduras, Iran and America, the situation is combining the precepts of fascism (centralized power) with socialism (government ownership or dictate of the economy) - a concept tried to dramatic and horrific results in 1930's and 40's Germany.

The point though is that there IS a consistency out of the White House, you just have to look behind the obvious inconsistencies to find it. The consistency is not in the actions but rather the motivations.

Addendum: was it a coup? Yes, for the reason Ed gives about whisking the President out of the country. Was it for the right reasons? Yes. Should the US be against it or support it? Tricky.

As conservatives we always try to argue logic over emotion, thinking over feeling, so this is a tricky one for us. We also support the rule of law. Based on that alone, the coup therefore was illegal. The remediation would be for the army to look to the Congress or supreme court for direction. But what happens next in Honduras is unclear.

The other side of the argument is that Zelaya's actions were illegal too. For Obama it came down to like versus dislike. For conservatives it comes down to this - Honduras will not fall into a socialist/fascist style government like Venezuela. That's good. I think we have to quietly cheer for an outcome of a return to democracy in Honduras. The coup while unfortunate was necessary - if ever the Domino Theory had legs it is in the case of South America. Yes, we'd be siding with an illegal act, yes we'd be inconsistent with some of our principles. But this is a case of the other side being dirty (Zelaya copying Chavez) and consistent (Obama tacitly or overtly backing anti-democratic players). If we can't get a little dirty in foreign affairs then where does that leave us? It leaves America as a nation more vulnerable, and it leaves conservatives unable to compete with a Democratic machine.

But loosening our moral certitude to be able to fight injustice, foreign or domestic, is a slippery slope. There are no easy answers.

June 29, 2009

Consistency on Honduras

In Honduras the military has overthrown the President of the country Manuel Zelaya, who was trying to get a non-binding referendum to change the Constitution of that country to allow him to run for President again beyond his four year term. The Congress, the judiciary and the army in that country.

Castro and Chavez have sided with Zelaya, Chavez going so far as to say he would not let it stand, saying "We cannot allow a return to the past. We will not permit it."

In an effort to remain consistent, one would expect that President Obama would, while not recognizing the coup, at least recognize that trying to thwart the will of the people as expressed by apparently everyone else in government, Zelaya should not be supported. Just like he is expressing a desire for democracy in Iran.

Furthermore, President Obama, obviously against interventionism (as is the case in Iran, and Iraq), should denounce the pronouncement by Hugo Chavez that caries an ominous air of interventionism.

So far though,the President only has only decided to not recognize the coup as democratic...the problem it appears, is that pretzel logic gets more difficult the more you use it.

June 28, 2009

Fairy Tale Economics - Part 1

Politicians would have you believe most anything. They'll say anything to get elected. They themselves might absolutely believe the words they are saying when they say them. But when it comes to governing, they are often confronted with the realities of the situation that cause their promises to become forgotten promises. In that light, the GOP being regarded as the party of 'No.', on the surface appearing to be simply obstructionist, is in reality a good position to be in. It's a lot easier to promise NOT to do something, NOT to spend money and then deliver on that promise, than it is to promise to do something that turns out to be unwise or impossible to deliver upon after being elected. In that case you've got to go back on your word, or plow ahead with a bad idea that will do more harm than good in the long run.

It's one thing to believe that your solutions are smart ones when the aren't, it's entirely another and far more sinister when politicians are deliberately misleading the public into believing in a set of principles that are patently flawed. The United States as a nation finds itself in one of those situations right now. The recessionary meltdown currently being navigated by the economy is the problem, and believe it or not, the solution as it stands is a big part of the problem too. There are three distinct culprits in getting us to this crisis point: (1) President Obama (2) The mainstream news media and (3) the inattentive, gullible and naive American public. The truth is that the culpability is pretty evenly spread between those three.

The Problem

The economy is in rough shape but it can't be cured by Fairy Tale Economics. Those following the economy will look at things like unemployment rates and the stock market and draw their conclusions about the nation's health based on them (or similar indicators). But that's taking a microscopic look at an economy that has a macroscopic problem. The unemployment rate is the symptom of the problem, not the problem.

You don't solve the economic problems by solving the unemployment rate issue. That's like thinking you'll cure your cold by taking cough syrup. If it was as simple as creating jobs then as someone pointed out (source unknown), then the government could take the stimulus money and hire workers, and handing out shovels to 2 groups of people - one to dig holes and one to fill the holes back in. And why not pay them $200,000 each to do it? Surely that would be more stimulating than $35,000 each, no?

The fairy tale economics yarn that the Democrats are spinning is that the government will create jobs and demand for goods and services by creating projects and spending money on them. The politicians will argue that consumers are not demanding goods and services so the government has to step in to fill the void until consumers appetite for buying returns. The government may indeed need to fix roads, build more Hoover Dams etc., but that's not the issue here. The economy is the issue, and their solution does not work. It's pretty a simple matter to figure out why.

In the simplest context, the government has to get that money from somewhere. They have 3 options available to them (i) they can raise taxes on consumers and/or businesses (ii) they can borrow money from domestic and/or foreign lenders (banks or governments) and then pay it back later or (iii) print more money and use it for the government spending. Of course the politicians could also decide to do a combination of some of all three of those options. The result would then be a mix of the results of each option taken in isolation.

Here's where the fairy tale breaks down into three distinct lessons to be learned.


Let's look at our hole digging example above. If the government raises taxes to pay those diggers, it means it has to raise taxes on other workers or businesses to get that money. If 10 workers are paid $200,000 each that costs $2 million for the government to pay them. That means it has to pull that $2 million out of other's pockets. On the surface, the government has added no new value to the economy, just moved it from personal areas of spending to paying for holes to be dug and filled back up.

But, the politicians argue, the economy is in recession - those people wouldn't have spent that money otherwise. They would have just paid off credit card debt, or saved it in case they are worried about becoming unemployed and they need it later. While there's no certainty that that would be the case, let's assume it's true.

If those who kept that money paid off their credit card debts, it would mean they are in fact spending the money - spending it on purchases they previously made. True it's not new spending but the payments do have an economic impact. The financial institutions, at the crux of the economic mess, become more solvent because they don't need to worry as much about potential bad debt. If they never got paid back for the credit they extended, they might collapse causing a much bigger drain on the economy. Even if they don't collapse, without the flow of being paid back, they would continue to be stingy with their new lending, thus acting as a brake on the economy.

Banks do not need to keep one dollar for every dollar they lend. They can lend $10 for every dollar they have on deposit. That means they can lend out $90 dollars. That means in our simple scenario the banks could lend out $1.8 million. If the hole diggers who got the $2 million put 50% of it (unlikely) into the bank then the bank would have $1 million more on deposit and could effectively lend out $900,000.

If the borrowers then writes a check to someone else who deposits the $1,800,000, the bank receiving that deposit can lend out again - $1,620,0001, and so on. The net effect is the potential amount of money in the system is increase by $20 million if the government does not tax it, and $10 million if the government does tax it, gives it to these workers and they save half.

That is, if the assumption that the assumptions about the ditch diggers depositing half of their pay into the bank holds true. In reality it would be much less. On the other hand we could assume that the newly hired ditch diggers and the other workers who are being taxed to pay for them all behave in the exact same way - they spend as much and deposit as much as each other. In that case there is no change in economic effect because $1 of those taxed and $1 of those paid would be applied the same way. In tat case, we are looking at a transfer of wealth, and not a stimulus because no matter where that dollar is - it will deposited or spent the same way.

The other reality is the psychological impact of a new level of taxation. If you are going to be taxed more, you are likely to spend less as a result. That has a negative, but not precisely measurable impact on the economy.

The economy requires that people spend. The economy therefore requires that people sell. The economy requires that people save so that banks can lend and multiply the value of every dollar in the economy. Lending leads to spending which leads to new things being built or made. That is wealth creation. Simple Supply and Demand dictate that the money will ultimately flow to where the economy most needs it. If we are short golf balls, more end up produced without any government bureaucrat saying let's produce more. When the government steps in to alter that system, it impedes the natural flow of the economy. The real argument about digging the holes is this - does digging and then fill in a hole do more for the economy, more for the country, or more for society than allowing that money to be used to manufacture computer chips for sale in laptop computers? Obviously not.

So the real question is - what does the government have planned for all this stimulus money? What can we compare private industry production against to see if we are all benefiting more by what the government wants to do than what the unimpeded economy will produce. The problem is all this money about to flow into the economy isn't precisely directed anywhere. It's such a mish-mash that being able to judge it fairly is impossible.

And that, is exactly what the Democrats want.

NEXT UP: Of course taxation isn't the only alternative for getting money into government's hands to be spent. Democrats would rather have you believe you are getting something for nothing. It's painless and therefore seems like a free lunch. They way that is achieved is to borrow money for the government to spend. In Part 2 - the borrowing option.

Nonsensible Quote

Americans today, less wanting for necessity, have diminshed the mother of invention.

~Nonsensible Shoes

June 27, 2009

Republican Congressional Sellouts on Cap & Trade

The following Republican Congressional Representatives voted in favor of the Cap and Trade bill known as HR2454;

Bono Mack (let's call him Freddie Mac from now on)
Castle (apparently not)
Kirk (definitely no Captain)
Lance (More like Knife - as in 'in the back')
Lo Biondo (No Crompendo)
McHugh (McFool)
Smith [New Jersey]

Additionally Flake (no kidding) and Sullivan (Is that Andrew or a different traitor?) did not vote.

This with 44 Democrats crossing the aisle to vote against the bill. Damning. I just thought you should know.

Saturday Learning Series - Countdown

Episode 9 of 10 from the Connections series by historian James Burke - Countdown.

For more in this series, search Nonsensible Shoes for the term "Saturday Learning Series".


June 26, 2009

Republican SLOW CLAP for John Boehner

Let me start the SLOW CLAP for John Boehner, Republican House Leader for trying to personally derail the Cap and Trade bill in Congress that will go a long way to turning the United States into a Third World nation.

In the middle of a deep recession, in the middle of a choking de-industrialization of the nation that once produced over 50% of the world's GDP, in the middle of a global cooling phase, the Democrats managed to pass a bill to kill what's left of American manufacturing, to kill the auto industry, to hamstring Boeing, and Caterpillar, and countless others.

On top of which, they decided to slide it through on a Friday afternoon, the day after Michael Jackson died - as close to the dead of night they could muster.

John Boehner went on Twitter (go there and search #nocap to see some tweets on the topic) and plead with conservatives to contact their representatives to stop the bill. Then he went on the floor of Congress and tried to affect a one-man filibuster.

He deserves a round of applause for his efforts.

The bill passed 219-212. The congressional representatives were flooded with calls to reconsider. It was closer than expected. It was almost turned back.

This could be a moment in time that people look back and say this was the moment America truly lost it's way and wandered into the wilderness for decades or perhaps even irreversibly. This is the wrong bill at the wrong time.

Maybe not. Maybe the world of Twitter can be even more effectively leveraged in the future, with less generals trying to promote their own agendas (myself included at times) and more foot soldiers willing to mount a coordinated effort to stop bad government decisions. America needs it. There is no government body dedicated to 'sober second thought' now - it's up to the people to do that for their elected, unlistening politicians.

Meanwhile, SLOW CLAP for John Boehner again. Excellent effort Congressman.

Bet You Didn't Know: Biden Flub

Did you know that while Vice President Biden had joked about Chief Justice Roberts having flubbed President Obama's oath of office, he actually messed up while swearing in Hillary Clinton for her role?

It's true.

Listing President Obama's Priorties

If you had to take all of the Obama agenda items and prioritize them, how do you think they would look? A lot of your answer would depend on how you view the President's motivations, even just from the perspective of a conservative eye. If you view Obama as full of hubris and self-importance the list below would look quite different. However, I personally believe that there is a side of the President that is thinking bigger picture. I think he's thinking about winning a much larger victory and is willing to have a longer term window to achieve it.

And I don't think that is entirely at odds with the hubris view. If the President wants to affect a sea change, a dynamic shift in the political culture that moves the country unalterably to the left, does that not make him a historical President? Even more so than a mundane cap-and-trade victory? So by thinking really-big-picture he is in a sense believing he can transcend the smaller victories and have his name written as one of the greatest Presidents of all time. The Muhammad Ali of Presidents if you will.

With that in mind, here's my interpretation of the priorities of this President:

(1) Ensure a dynastic rule of the Democratic party that will last for decades. Obama wants power centralized and held in Democratic hands for years to come. Closer to home he wants power centralized in his hands for years to come - as many as he can get. This requires a myriad of efforts including - staying popular, staying in the limelight, demonizing the Republicans and/or conservatives at every turn, fudging the the census with ACORN and gerrymandering districting efforts, a re-visitation of the Fairness Doctrine, working more and more closely with the complicit press, assigning control of the positions of captains of industry to a hand-picked, loyal few, rewarding those loyal to him (like the UAW), and punishing those opposing him (like IGs), thereby buying or intimidating loyalty, redistributing wealth to loyal voting blocks in order to ensure loyalty. Pretty much every decision can be viewed in the light of whether or not it will help Democrats retain power.

(2) Federalized Health Care - this is sort of an offshoot of the first point oddly enough. It's not about saving money because there are smarter options around than having the government take over. It's not about providing coverage to the uncovered, because there are non-governmental ways to ensure that as well. Governmental solutions run counter to the American way. But not the Chicago way. It's all about control. Health Care is a means to control who gets what health care, and thereby help enforce loyalty. They want to put Republicans in a position to have to cut back on the unsustainable costs so they can point out to the newly coddled class that "the Republicans don't like you - and this proves it." Don't buy the straw man argument that they'll use to say conservatives say the government can't compete so why are they so worried about a market-based government provider. The truth is the government is supposed to be the referee so it can't be a player in the game too or the bias in it's own favor will naturally seep out into it's actions. Ultimately it's a takeover. and takeovers are all about power.

(3) Environmental Reform - whether it's a cap and trade system or a tax, this is about two things - generating government revenue, so they can redistribute wealth in any social engineering way they desire and about, once again - control. The government can push you to behave in certain ways if they control the taxes and rules governing that behavior. They can subsidize behavior they like and penalize behavior they don't like. They can do it at a corporate level too if they want to do so. Are they really that interested in the environment? Are they really convinced Al Gore is right and thousands of dissenting scientists are out-to-lunch? Maybe. It doesn't matter - that's not the Obama motivation. The environmental movement has become the home of many socialists and communists and it's all about more government control.

(4) Hubris-related accomplishments - getting peace in the middle east (at any cost, including abandoning allies like Israel and embracing tyrants like the regime in Iran and ignoring those that won't play ball like North Korea), maybe getting an airport or a highway or 500 schools named after himself, dramatically scaling back on the military which will raise his star with the left quite far. Heck, why not cure cancer? All of these accomplishments would boost his own image. It may or may not be a top priority, but it would seem like it's still part of his thought process.

(5) Bankrupting the economy. This one I'm not sure about. In a perverse way, bankrupting the nation could be an act of hubris. He'd certainly be remembered for it. Conversely, perhaps the President sees the spending as an absolutely essential step to consolidating power. If that's the case, the money is inconsequential, it's a by-product of trying to achieve his objective. Or perhaps he is so far to the left, he secretly wants to see America fail so that he can have it re-built in a more socialist way. If the government collapses and the creditors are left holding the bag, when you start up the People's Republic of America, where can the bill collectors go? Nowhere. And who in the US will complain when they are told they're not going to be held responsible for the debt their government incurred? In fact, they'll argue, no one will be held responsible - voila - we've provided you with a 70 year free lunch (dating back to the Roosevelt days) and all you have to do is swallow this giant red pill.

What fits best with my previous assumptions is that it's all about obtaining and maintaining power. Those of you still enthralled by Obama have to wake up to the reality that the United States is the greatest country in the history of the world for one reason and one reason only: FREEDOM. Capitalism works because it is founded on freedom. Innovation is inspired by freedom. The pursuit of happiness is an option because of freedom. The rights enshrined in the Constitution are not 'negative rights' they are the most positive rights imaginable. Whether I have the Obama motivations right or not you've got to consider this; the actions entailed in the above points are all actions that will lessen your freedom. The question you have to ask yourself is this; Is that what you really want?

Friday Musical Interlude II - Special Edition

It seems fitting to add a special additional Musical Interlude today.

I was never a huge fan of Michael Jackson, but the man did have talent, and some very memorable songs. For those who missed the news, the "King of Pop" died yesterday at the age of 50.

The list of modern era musical icons gone too early spans from Buddy Holly, through Elvis, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Bob Marley and others right through to Michael Jackson today.

Friday Musical Interlude - June 26, 2009

Bob Marley - Could You Be Loved?

Just great songs.

June 25, 2009

The Good Sanford

This statement from wife of South Carolina Sanford speaks for itself.

"Statement from First Lady Jenny Sanford

I would like to start by saying I love my husband and I believe I have put forth every effort possible to be the best wife I can be during our almost twenty years of marriage. As well, for the last fifteen years my husband has been fully engaged in public service to the citizens and taxpayers of this state and I have faithfully supported him in those efforts to the best of my ability. I have been and remain proud of his accomplishments and his service to this state.

I personally believe that the greatest legacy I will leave behind in this world is not the job I held on Wall Street, or the campaigns I managed for Mark, or the work I have done as First Lady or even the philanthropic activities in which I have been routinely engaged. Instead, the greatest legacy I will leave in this world is the character of the children I, or we, leave behind. It is for that reason that I deeply regret the recent actions of my husband Mark, and their potential damage to our children.

I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity, dignity and importance of the institution of marriage. I believe that has been consistently reflected in my actions. When I found out about my husband’s infidelity I worked immediately to first seek reconciliation through forgiveness, and then to work diligently to repair our marriage. We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago.

This trial separation was agreed to with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage. During this short separation it was agreed that Mark would not contact us. I kept this separation quiet out of respect of his public office and reputation, and in hopes of keeping our children from just this type of public exposure. Because of this separation, I did not know where he was in the past week.

I believe enduring love is primarily a commitment and an act of will, and for a marriage to be successful, that commitment must be reciprocal. I believe Mark has earned a chance to resurrect our marriage.

Psalm 127 states that sons are a gift from the Lord and children a reward from Him. I will continue to pour my energy into raising our sons to be honorable young men. I remain willing to forgive Mark completely for his indiscretions and to welcome him back, in time, if he continues to work toward reconciliation with a true spirit of humility and repentance.

This is a very painful time for us and I would humbly request now that members of the media respect the privacy of my boys and me as we struggle together to continue on with our lives and as I seek the wisdom of Solomon, the strength and patience of Job and the grace of God in helping to heal my family.


Well said.

Iran to Obama - Stop Meddling

CNN is reporting today that Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, has told President Obama to back off.

Also Thursday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the declared winner in the disputed June 12 election, told President Obama to stop "interfering" in Iran's affairs, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

"The question is, do you want to use this kind of literature to address Iran and create a dialogue?" Ahmadinejad said. "If this is your position, then there is nothing to talk about."

Good thing that don't meddle approach was taken or he'd REALLY, REALLY be accusing the United states of interference.

At least the July 4th hot dog open invitation to the last man standing in Iran has been taken off the table.

You know the old saying: "Better LAME than never."

Inferences Derived From Rasmussen Data

Rasmussen regularly reports very useful information in the polling universe. Frequently bloggers (myself included) have blogged about his Presidential approval index. The index measures, on a daily basis, the percentage of the American public that strongly approves minus the percentage of the American public that strongly disapproves of the President's performance. In other words a positive rating means more people strongly approve than disapprove.

The problem with these numbers is that their recency, while giving current snapshots, creates a myopic view that encourages an eye away from the broader trends (not from Rasmussen himself, but rather from the reader). With that in mind, I took a quick snapshot of the Presidential Tracking polls provided by Rasmussen and applied some higher level viewing to it in the graphs below.

In the first graph, I looked at the monthly average of 'strongly approve' versus the 'strongly disapprove' results. Clearly at this level, a trend becomes apparent.

Click to enlarge.

Beyond the existing trend, the point of no return intersection of Strong approval versus strong disapproval occurs in July if you forecast the data outward. Personally I think that's a bit soon but based on the existing trend, there is a real rate of change that is occurring.

[Note that the linear logarithmic forecast was used for Disapprove but a third order polynomial regression was used for the Strong Approval. The reason - anything else for strong approval had it falling before now or falling too far, while anything else for strong disapproval had it climbing beyond 100% before year end. Therefore a mixed trending was required.]

The second graph, looks at total approval versus total disapproval. The results are quite similar.

Click to enlarge.

These results show the President falling below the 50/50 threshold some time in September. This is all theoretical of course, as the biggest driving factor is the performance of the economy. If the current appearance of a recovery firms up into something solid, it will solidify his ratings. It would be ironic given that the stimulus money he has planned for has hardly touched the economy yet - in other words the economy would have recovered pretty much without any help from the President.

Looking at graphs like the above is inherently dangerous. Politics and economics are not linear, or for that matter logarithmic or polynomial on any level calculable level. Still these graphs point to a trend that has occurred since Inauguration Day, and they cannot be ignored.

Iran - Still a Bloody Mess

June 25th, 2009 It looks like the demonstrations in Iran are winding down. It's not surprising considering the mullahs are using Basij, military units and the police to violently suppress unarmed students, women, soccer players and citizens of the country.

How do you fight back against an oppressive government when you don't have a constitutional right to bear arms? It's tough, nigh on impossible. There's nothing like the 2nd Amendment in the Iranian constitution. So the people have to fight guns and thugs with rocks and flesh. The odds are not in their favor.

The uprising might be quelled soon. But only for now. The genie is out of the bottle now. Whether the change comes to Iran in 2 weeks or 20 years, it will come. And when it does, those who killed Neda, those who suppressed the will of the people, will come to face their justice.

June 24, 2009

Mark Sanford "D'oh!"

Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, once a contender for the GOP nomination for President in 2012, just torpedoed his own chances, not to mention his own family by divulging that he'd had an affair.

Needless to say he's out for the GOP nomination. As he should be. Also needless to say is that this will get lumped in with the stupidity of Senator John Ensign of Nevada admitting to having had an affair last week, by the left of the blogosphere, not to mention NBC, CBS, ABC, and of course MSNBC (aka "The Mouthpiece" or "Mouthpiece NBC").

The problem with that is that the scandal is specific to Mark Sanford (as is Ensign's to him). The Democrats were wise to distance themselves from Rod Blagojevich and then Roland Burris (before they decided to embrace him and then re-distance themselves).

As conservatives, we need to distance ourselves from Sanford because he has betrayed our values. No one is perfect, and he may deserve to be forgiven if he truly works to fix the damage he has done to his family. But he does not deserve their forgiveness - they can forgive him if they feel the want to forgive him. Similarly he does not deserve to be a standard bearer for the Republican party or for conservative values. He has betrayed those values, regardless of whether he firmly believes them or not. Actions speak louder than words. Sanford's actions right now are drowning out anything he's ever said and his previous words, by this action have lost credibility. Let's not let the same thing happen to a Republican party by preaching family values and then ignoring them out of some sort of imagined convenience.

Let's also be clear - not every conservative is an adulterer just as not every Democrat is a tax cheat. This is a distraction from the real issues of the day - Iran, the economy, North Korea, deficits etc. Sanford was wrong, just as Jon Edwards was wrong. How we prove we mean what we say is by distancing ourselves from Sanford's behavior as opposed to the way Democrats for the most part remained silent on the Edwards affair.

That is the only way to move beyond this black mark on the GOP. And it will force Sanford to focus on reconciling with his family, which is something he should have been doing all along.

UPDATE: The Sanford and Hon fallout starts - Campaign Spot on National Review Online

Geithner - show us your proof

Today the OECD, the Paris based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development revised it's economic outlook for the 30 OECD countries for the rest of 2009 and 2010.
The OECD has upgraded this year's forecast for the U.S. to a 2.8% contraction in GDP from a 4% drop previously. However, it has cut its projections for the euro zone and now expects a 4.8% contraction in GDP compared with a 4.1% fall previously.
This is in direct contrast to it's previous forecast and also the recent World Bank pronouncement.
The World Bank cut its 2009 forecast, predicting that global growth will shrink by 2.9% versus its earlier forecast for a 1.7% contraction.
This is in contrast to the previous World Bank pronouncement and somewhat at odds with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

The International Monetary Fund is going to raise its growth projections "modestly upward, mainly with regard to 2010," John Lipsky, first deputy managing director, said Friday.

The rate of decline in world economies has slowed, confidence is returning and forecasts of future production and demand are up, he said in an address prepared for delivery to a business group in Turkey.

But the recovery from the "Great Recession" is still fragile, as unemployment is rising and lenders are cautious about making loans.

"Even the upbeat indicators widely cited as representing 'green shoots' still point to a global recovery that would be sluggish by historic standards," Lipsky said.

These are supposed to be experts. Certainly there's enough discrepancy to say that the experts are unsure of what the future holds. They don't agree, not only with each other but with their own previous assessments. The discrepancies are to be expected - if predicting the future was a simple matter then there would be certainty and things would progress without dispute. But if the prognosticating experts can't get 100% accuracy on an NFL football game, with thousands of variables that can affect the outcome, you can't expect other experts who have billions of variables to consider, some that have probably never been identified as having some impact, to get the economic future of the entire planet, or a region or even a country right.

They can present their best estimates based on what models indicate, but if the experts don't agree, then clearly nothing is certain. The White House, Congressional Democrats, Senate Democrats and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would have you believe otherwise. They are dead certain their stimulus package will work. They are dead certain their health care reform will save the economy. Just as others are dead certain they are wrong. And there's the real problem with how the Democrats have handled this crisis.

No real debate of ideas, and plowing ahead at breakneck speed they've tried to lock the country into a path that doesn't necessarily provide a rosy outcome. Don't buy it. If the experts don't agree then you should be absolutely skeptical of what Democrats are saying about the recovery.

It reminds me of the double take Sweet Lou does in the movie Grind at about 28 seconds into this clip.

Sweet Lou: Sweet Lou's got everything he needs right here.
Eric: What? Okay. Dude, we're going cross-country. You know what that means.
Sweet Lou: Yeah!...No. What does that mean?

You can only pretend for so long to understand if you really don't. The US economy is not a teen movie - it's far too important to just take your best guess. That's especially true when you are dealing with the financial well being of the future of your country and the biggest economic engine on the planet. You don't plow ahead without a LOT of forethought and planning. Either reacting in a panic or using the crisis, is a dangerous and bad gamble.

Which leads to my last point about this whole experiment in socialism. When you are plotting your course forward, it's always best to rely on the learnings of the past. The Great Depression gave a great example of what not to do. But it's being done now in an exponential way, exactly as the Great Depression showed us not to try again. The larger point here is that learning from the past - standing on the shoulders of giants, building upon the foundation already built - is the smartest way to proceed. Trying to re-invent the wheel after thousands of years of successful use of the original design is sheer idiocy. Sure the wheel has been upgraded from stone to iron to having tires. But it's still round. This is why conservatism works - it's the slow and steady methodical improvement versus trying to make the square wheel work.

Conservatism, real conservatism not Republican conservatism of late, isn't flashy. It's not attention-grabbing. But it works. It's the tortoise versus the hare story. Improve by tweaking not ramming radical change down the throats of an unsuspecting public - a radical change that is more likely to be wrong than right, especially.

And realize it or not, a radical change is exactly what this is, and on the surface, it appears much more likely to fail than to succeed.

June 23, 2009

MSM seeds of discontent

Politico is reporting that it looks like the President co-ordinated a question with the Huffington Post's Nico Pitney at a press conference. Even calling on the Huffington Post for a question breaks from tradition, but having knowledge of an upcoming question has the smell of state-controlled media all over it. [NOTE - the update in Politico confirms that there was at least co-ordination on some level - Pitney knew that he might be called on].

But the real 'a-ha' moment with this situation shows up further down in the Politico column by Michael Calderone:

CBS Radio's Mark Knoller, a veteran White House correspondent, said over Twitter it was "very unusual that Obama called on Huffington Post second, appearing to know the issue the reporter would ask about."
So here's the juicy part - the CBS correspondent sounds a little irked. After the Mainstream Media carrying Obama's water through the primaries, the general election through post-inauguration, he's asking questions now from those even further left than the mainstream media. Despite being their darling, the President has perhaps started the process of jilting them.

Ouch. There was a lot of speculation on the right that the media was backing Obama because he was their guy. It was a means of re-establishing their clout. But if he's going to start asking questions of HuffPo 'reporters' then what's next Kos? The press at NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, New York Times et al. might start to see their clout in doubt and threatened by the new media on the left. This in addition to the new media on the right - Fox, Rush, right wing bloggers etc. Combine that threat with their already sinking ratings and in some cases, bleeding of cash - you have the beginnings of a potential rift.

Presidential honeymoons always end. For President Obama it ended early on for the right because of his blizzard of spending. But for the left, he may be causing his own early ending of the honeymoon by revealing his truest friends are further left. Either the mainstream media is going to be angry because they feel they are just as left as HuffPo and will feel used or else they are going to feel used and deceived because of his shift towards friendlier questioning. Either way, the MSM is going to feel a bit of antipathy over this. And if that's the case, the questions are bound to get just a little harder for President Obama.

All I can say is "about time".

Obama: No really, I'm tough.

Obama defended his forceful reaction to the events in Iran today.

Obama forcefully countered the idea that he's been slow to forcefully respond to Iran's violent crackdown on dissent.

"I don't think that's accurate," Obama said. "Track what I've been saying."

The president said he quickly responded after the election results and after violence broke out in the streets of Tehran, and that the United States has frequently condemned infringements on the freedom of assembly and speech for Iranians.

"We've been entirely consistent," Obama said.

Consistent and forceful are two entirely different things. Consistent, maybe. Consistently forceful? Not a chance. The arguments made on his behalf have been that he's being 'appropriately cautious'. Cautious and forcefully are hardly congruous.

Quickly and forcefully are not the same thing either. It's a comment aimed at deflecting valid criticism by positing a false choice type argument. He's arguing his critics are wrong because he was quick to respond and he's been consistent. Because he's supposedly talking tough now, therefore he was tough out of the gate and has always been tough.

In reality he can claim to be consistent if the word 'muted' is added. His responses by every evaluation - liberal or conservative - have bee low key. Consistently muted makes sense. In that respect he could claim consistency. He shouldn't want to claim to be that though.

He can claim to be fast in responding but his initial response was to continue along the path of engagement. Something he's clearly re-thinking. It also belies the 'consistent' label the President has applied to himself.

Wait and see if the liberal spin switches to "Obama's tough stance" very soon. It will be very telling if the narrative changes and the duration of the public memory on these things doesn't adjust Obama's popularity ratings downward. That would mean that liberals have correctly gauged the public's memory to be very short term politically.

June 22, 2009

Iran Firing the Protesters - GM to follow suit?

Word on Twitter is that the government of Iran is warning that anyone who doesn't come to work tomorrow will be fired (see #iranelection on Twitter.com).

How long before that approach catches on at Government Motors or anywhere in the US for that matter, given this President's autocratic reign and the upcoming Tea Party protests?

If the jackboot fits...I'm just saying...

July 4th Tea Parties Losing Steam?

Hopefully the July 4th Tea Parties aren't losing steam, but there doesn't seem to be as much of a buzz two weeks out as there was for Tax Day Tea Party.

Fox News just doesn't seem to be as energized about it as they previously were. Could they be gun shy after being labelled as being behind the Tea Parties? Hopefully not. Maybe it's just me. Or maybe they're just lying in the weeds for now. Not a bold strategy though, if that's the case. And this from blogger RightKlik - some bad news about Atlanta's Tea Party being shut down.

On the other hand Memphis is still a go, and it looks like the focus is on Tax and Spend and the deficit. Focused. I like that. Dayton has fireworks. Cool. And sites like TeaPartyDay appear to have things somewhat organized.

But the sense of size of this next set of impending protests seems somehow diminished, when in fact you'd think the opposite would be true. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am.

Obama Foreign Policy: Debacles

Just a quick recap. Remember a couple of months back, all those media reports about how wonderful Obama's foreign trips and speeches apologizing for America were? In truth it was bad. And now it's gotten worse. Obama's been leveraging his community organizer past to try to organize a world community. He's got his "we're all in this together" philosophy and he's trying to share it with Hamas and Chavez, and Ahmadinejad and others.

The problem is - we aren't all in this together. There are those who would gladly see the US destroyed, or Israel wiped off the map. That is not together-hood. The do not see a chance for reconciliation - they see weakness and reluctance, and they are taking advantage of it.

Let's do a little exercise in comparing Obama then to Obama now.


(Just a sample)

-We've got to close Guantanamo
-Saying during the apology tour, that the US has committed acts of arrogance
-We should not have gone into Iraq
-We need to go further in Afghanistan
-Not following the proper etiquette with the Queen of England
-Bowing before the King of Saudi Arabia
-A feeble response to North Korean nuclear tests and rocket tests
-Joe Biden will be my foreign policy guy


-Thugocracy in Iran killing protesters in the streets and a weak response from the leader of the free world
-North Korea missiles aimed at Hawaii and they're threatening to harm the US if attacked (including apparently, having the sanctions enforced while they try to sell illegal arms to others).
-Chinese ships playing chicken with American ships.
-China and Russia trying to take the US dollar off the world stage as the world's currency reserve.
-Al Qaida admitting they would use nuclear weapons on the US if they could just get their hands on them in Pakistan

Guess what Mr. President, it's a dirty world and there are same bad, bad people out there who don't have your country's best interests at heart. To call your foreign policy anything other than a debacle would be being generous.

Let's do another quick compare and contrast:

-Bush managed to free Iraq from the oppression of Saddam Hussein. Obama's premature withdrawal has sparked an uptick in violent action in the country
-Bush removed the Al Qaida supporting Taliban from power in Afghanistan, Obama's going to try a surge to prevent them from regaining power in the region, in this case by taking parts of Pakistan and their nuclear weapons.
-Bush tried to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians. Obama is trying to dictate the conditions to it's ally.
-Bush kept Americans safe from attack after 9/11 for over 7 years. Obama has done so for 5 months. So far so good, but it's got a long way to go to prove his approach will be effective as President Bush's approach actually was.

Those who had derided Bush's foreign policy stance as arrogant or 'cowboy diplomacy' can not argue with the relative successes of Bush compared to Obama. And the excuse that Obama inherited a mess won't wash - EVERY President has inherited a very difficult and often dangerous foreign relations situation because the world is a dangerous place; always was, always will be.

To try to not take ownership 5 years in is no longer acceptable. You won the job Mr. President, the responsibilities are yours now. So just do your job and stop the PR tour, stop the blame game. Just do your job.

June 21, 2009

Obama De-Indexed

Rasmussen reports today that Obama has fallen below zero in the Presidential Approval Index result. That means that more people strongly disapprove than strongly approve of his performance in the role of President.
It's starting to look a little bit like GM's stock price - in inescapable decline. If Obama's approval rating were a stock they might get de-listed before 2010.

News Flash: Rush Limbaugh to stay popular

Newsmax interviews Michael Harrison, who explains the landscape of talk radio, and also predicts Rush Limbaugh's continued and future success.

Nonsensible Quote

Charity is a virtue, forced charity is a tax.

~Nonsensible Shoes

June 20, 2009

Iran: Horror, yes. Change? Hopefully.

Horror in Iran.

Gateway Pundit has some very graphic and yet moving content on the violence in Tehran. Gateway Pundit has proven an excellent source of details. So has YouTube,

and of course Twitter. The point is, you can't follow this crisis closely through these media, and not be moved to want the protests to succeed. But it's tough to succeed without outside help.

Change? Hopefully. THAT would be 'change we need'. There are protests around the world. There are continued protests in Iran. If they continue to gain momentum perhaps they can affect a regime change.

It's important to realize that the crisis over the election came about as a result of a devastated economy - in turn a result of an over-reaching government domestically in Iran, and of course sanctions imposed by some in the West. This did not come from an Obama speech. This is a natural, homegrown uprising against a corrupt regime. It's a country where 60% of the population was not born when the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979. It's a country that because of modern technology simply couldn't remain in a Muslim dark ages because they could see the Internet. They can talk to those beyond their own borders.

Too many people are still saying that the US is right to stay as far on the sidelines as possible. That this was a endemic uprising is all the more reason to support the validity of the uprising and to condemn the government for any violence against the people. There's a huge difference between bombing Iran and condemning evil. If this had occurred in Iraq in 1991, as President Bush (41) had urged, things in that country would have gone entirely differently than they ended up going.

These protesters deserve worldwide support. They are in a VERY tough situation - they aren't armed for a rebellion. They are ruled by an autocratic and repressive mullahocracy. They are quite brave to protest. Some strong language is more than desired - it's required.

Refuting Obama with his words (part 2)

June 20, 2009 Obama to Iran:

"As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away."

I guess that means we no longer have to worry about:

-The Fairness Doctrine.
-Actual debate in Congress
-Debate on the stimulus bill
-Debate on TARP
-Debate on Health care
-Debate on Justice Sotomayor
-Derision of Tea Parties
-"I won."

Why? Because suppressing ideas ultimately won't be successful. And:

"If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion."

If it applies to Iran, it applies to America too. Good new Republicans, conservatives, libertarians - your voices obviously count too. Of course it would be easier to believe he meant it for America if it was easier to believe he meant it for Iran.

Previously: This and this.
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