December 31, 2013

Best Wishes for 2014 to everyone!

I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.  Please be responsible (especially come November).

December 30, 2013

2013 - some personal reflections and looking beyond

2012 was a bad year for me, a lot went wrong in my personal life and in my career. 2013 turned out to be even worse in a number of ways.  I'm quite frankly glad this year is almost over.  I've always been an optimist and have always tried to see the glass half full or the silver lining on the dark cloud.  The past two years have really tested my resilience but I'm still here. I'm thankful that my loved ones and I have made it this far given the struggles over the past while (2011 was slightly on the down side of mediocre too).  I'm sure someone up there is looking out for us.  Testing us perhaps, but they certainly haven't abandon us.

Gee, that paragraph seems fairly bleak upon reflection.  I'm optimistic for 2014.  I said that about 2012 and 2013 too, but there's reasons for hope both personally and politically.  I won't get into the personal side of things, but I do want to share that I think 2014 will be good year for Republicans mainly because Obamacare will continue to be a train-wreck.  

The one good thing about that (Obamacare) is that there could be a true groundswell in November such that Republicans end up with a super-majority in the House and Senate in 2015.  I'm not saying it will happen but the potential is there.  Smart political operatives in the Republican party would be wise to focus on that rather than fending off the Tea Party.  There is so much more alignment between the GOP and Tea Party and libertarians than there are differences.  Seeking common ground is the smart thing for all concerned.  The greater issue is to defeat liberal Democrat enablers of progressivist liberalism.  United we stand and all that.

The downside of a resounding victory in 2014 is the possible backlash in 2016 and another Democrat inhabitant of the White House until 2020.  Still, if the GOP govern as they should, that isn't a guaranteed outcome.  And in either case, that presents no reason to try to maximize the election results for Republicans in 2014.  If you think that they are simply the lesser of two evils consider this - how successful would you be for example, in holding John Boehner's feet to the conservative relative to president Obama's.  Boehner might move to the right,Obama will not under any circumstances.  For that matter, an emboldened Hillary Clinton would not do so either, despite all of the talk about Bill Clinton's smaller government movement and the triangulation of voters stuff.  Hillary Clinton will govern only slightly to the right of president Obama were she to be elected president.  She's no moderate.  Don't get suckered in by the inevitable slick marketing.

As for my family and I, I can only pray that we continue to persevere and that 2014 and beyond holds much for us that the last several years have not, and doesn't hold some of the things the last couple of years have held.  Well, pray, and keep working at it myself.  I'm not merely a bystander in trying to make life better.

December 29, 2013

2013 In review

Everyone puts out their year in review stuff this time of year.  Top 10 lists abound.  Why not participate?

Here's a list of the Top 10 stories from 2013 as reflected in my blog postings.

(10) A Top 10 List embedded in a Top 10 List?  The Top 10 liberal agenda websites you might not know about.  Not super important at first glance but a lot of memes and media focus come from these directions.

(9)  Back in April I noted that the Pope might be a socialist. It seems more evident today. I was slightly ahead of the curve.

(8) Government without brakes.  From EPA to NSA to IRS, this has not been a good year for liberty.  Government without a means to stop itself is like a car without brakes, at highway speed.

(7)  Let's not forget Benghazi.  People died needlessly.  And the administration conveniently had other scandals erupt.

(6) Snowden: not a black and white scandal.  4th amendment vs. national security has no simple answers.

(5) I did blow it on the government shutdown.  Then again, so did a lot of people, including the key players.

(3)  Three problems with Obama in two paragraphs. What the president says, defines his shortcomings.

(2) Aristotle in action: What the philosopher would have thought about Obamacare is no secret.

(1) Are we just greedy capitalist pigs? According to some, yes.  But is that really fair?

December 28, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - One Word

Burke, a unique viewpoint.
James Burke's series Connections and The Day The Universe Changed in the late 1970s and mid-1980s respectively were very successful at taking a historical and philosophical look at scientific change.  The two series led to a Connections sequel (Connections 2) in 1994, with James Burke still at the helm of the project (and another, Connections 3 in 1997).

Series continued from Episode 16.

Here's episode 17 of Connections 2,  entitled One Word.

December 27, 2013

December 26, 2013

2014 Predictions

Later I'll do a Top 10 list for 2013 stories, but today let me make a fool of myself by making some predictions for 2014.  I have a track record for getting predictions wrong.  It's not exactly forecasting because I don't have the data I need to forecast things in a really scientific fashion.  So this is just gut instinct, and that has a bad track record, much like when I try to pick NFL winners based on instinct rather than statistics.  So, more for your merriment than anything else, here goes.

(1)  The GOP will make gains in Congress, but they won't be big.  Congress currently consists of 233 Republicans and 201 Democrats.  It's early and a lot can happen to change voter intentions between now and next November, but I don't see this as being a wave election like 2010 unfortunately.  I think the GOP will only net out up a handful of seats - less than 6. And probably one 1 or 2.  There is an element of not voter fatigue but partisanship fatigue from those not politically engaged and as a result, most of the 50 or so true swing seats will even out as normally expected.  That said, I'd love to be wrong on this, but in many ways I expect to see too much political apathy in 2014 to send a message to Washington.

(2) The GOP will make gains in the Senate, but they won't be big.  The Senate currently has 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and 2 Independents who vote with the Democrats.  The GOP will make gains. They could take as many as 6 and become the majority but to be, pardon the wording, conservative, I expect them to win 3-5 in another classic GOP under-performance and a missed chance to make a difference before 2016.  Sadly, this could be a GOP blessing in disguise.  Any improvement in the economy and/or national mood prior to 2016 will undoubtedly be attributed to Obama by the media and only serve to help Hillary Clinton (or God help us, Joe Biden) in 2016.

(3) Hillary Clinton will stump for secure Democratic candidates in 2014.  This is a no-brainer, not a prediction.  Hillary Clinton still has Democratic star power and the air of the inevitable first woman president in the United States.  Sadly.  The Democratic party will want to use that cache to mitigate any Democratic losses in the 2014 midterms, so she will be pressed into service.  But she will serve the party selectively and only endorse where they are confident her endorsements are safe and are guaranteed victories for the Democrats.  If this prediction comes true - you don't see any of her endorsed candidates take a loss, then you can bank on the fact that she is running for president in 2016.

(4) Obama's approval rating will remain flat throughout 2014.  His approval rating is stubbornly high at 40% for such a poor track record, but a lot of liberals remain locked in and the Democrats can rely on the low information voters to be swayed by a still mostly compliant media to believe the Democrat story line. Nevertheless, for Obama to remain at 40% popularity it means a number of things of national importance.  It means no more Obama scandals (bucking a trend to date).  It means Obamacare will no longer continue to suck the air out of Obama (i.e. it won't get any worse than it has been, but it won't get any better).  That's a bold prediction from a conservative.  Obamacare is fraught with perils and pitfalls and is a true clusterflop.  But my prediction is that anything that goes wrong will either be mitigated with promises to fix it, or else postponed beyond 2014 if the White House cabal can see it coming ahead of time.  In summary, all the upcoming problems will be mitigated by finger pointing, promises, delays and a compliant media corp (or "corpse" if you speak like the president).

(5) The Seattle Seahawks will win the Superbowl.  I'm suggesting you don't take this one to the bank.  My football predictions used to be pretty good when I kept on top of team stats and used formulas to make predictions.  This one is nothing more than a hunch, and a weak one at that.  I'm actually rooting for Peyton Manning and the Broncos this year.

(6) Nobody will attack Iran.  Not some bizarre Saudi-Israeli alliance, and certainly not the United States.  Consequently, Iran may announce having nuclear warhead capability before the end of the year. I'm not willing to predict how soon they use one...

(7) Flight of the Rich.  Given Europe's taxation schemes and a similar trend, further down the curve in the United States, and persecution of the non-Putin oligarchy rich in Russia, we'll see continued movement of the super rich from various countries to the diminishing number of tax haven countries of the world.  After that, at some point in the more distant future, you might either see the same happen with the rich in China.  Either that, or a flight of the rich to China where society seems happy to accept that the party apparatchiks can be treated differently, so why not the rich?

(8) Edward Snowden will remain an unwelcome, no longer useful guest in Russia as nobody else will accept him.  His relevance/newsworthiness will evaporate and he'll have to find a job over there.  The only people who will care about him are the NSA.

There we go, my predictions for 2014.  Cue the laugh track.

December 25, 2013

December 24, 2013

Test pattern

I wasn't kidding.  Regular posting will resume tomorrow.

December 23, 2013

Some holiday fun, Back to the Future style

It's approaching the holidays and I'm not able to post meaningful essay type posts or even shorter analysis or opinions as much as normal during they year. 

But just for fun, here's  everything wrong with Back to The Future in 8 minutes or less:

Oh No! Two days until Christmas.

Panic at the 11th hour!
My shopping is barely begun.  That's not the norm for me, I'm usually done by now  (at least over the last several years).  I'm in full on panic mode as I haven't had the time or money to focus on gifts this year.  That's of course not the purpose of Christmas at all, but in truth, it does pretty much sum up my circumstances this year.  It should be an interesting sprint to the "finish' over the next 48 hours.  The reason I mention it here is that my posting may be impacted. We shall see.

If you are in the same boat as me this year, Good Luck.

December 22, 2013

Sunday verse

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 
~Romans 15:13

December 21, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - Christmas Edition

I'm interrupting James Burke's Connections 2 this week in order to post a Christmas edition of Saturday Learning Series installment.

History Channel's "The History of Christmas."  Part 1:

And here's Part 2:

December 20, 2013

Friday Musical Interlude - String Quartet covers

Here's some bonus musical interludes - string quartet covers of pop songs.

First, the Black Eyed Peas:

Next, U2:

Finally, Fleetwood Mac:

Friday Musical Interlude Bonus

Hundreds of millions of hits for this silly song What Does The Fox Say?  I mainly put it up here so that when children ask me to see the video, it's easy for me to find.  If you haven't seen this Ylvis video, I bet you'll have it stuck in your head after listening through it once.  The chorus is frustratingly catchy.

Friday Musical Interlude - Ave Maria

In light of the season (Christmas), Schubert's Ave Maria (from 1853):

December 19, 2013

Pajama Boy? This is your great idea, liberal media machine?

Nothing more need be said about the president, his team and how low they will sink to sell their ideas to an unwilling, disinterested marketplace. But let's say it anyways.

This is not just PR (public relations), it's really ill-conceived, bad PR.

Talk about getting health insurance?  Talk about bad ideas.  Christmas is a religious holiday.  Their blatant disregard for that is just one step short of saying 

"Ask your hick uncle if Jesus wanted us to try to heal the sick like he did."

I bet something like that came this close to being discussed.  Ill-conceived, selfish, partisan, disrespectful and just plain foolish.

Never let a good crisis holiday go to waste.

Oh, and on the subject of the liberal dogma of separation of church and state, this looks just a little bit too white, too Christian-specific.  It's profiling.  It's politically incorrect.  I guess when it suits the left, their own standards be damned.

All that snark aside, did they really think this was going to work?  How many conversations will this spark over Christmas gatherings? And how many of those will be sarcastic and derisive over this bungled idea to spur Obamacare signups?  And how many will be what's with the Christmas lights and Christmas theme of the piece?  My guess is the numbers are all less than 10, but hey, I'm no Obamacare PR wizard. 

Duck Dynasty soup

I'm pretty open-minded when it comes to trying new foods, but never in my life do I intend to eat squirrel if I can help it. With that NOT irrelevant disclaimer out of the way, let me add my two cents on the latest Duck Dynasty kerfuffle. Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Robertson clan has apparently said some things in an interview with GQ, that didn't sit well with a lot of people.

Firstly here's some background via THR,  in case you missed the story:
A&E has placed Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson on indefinite hiatus following anti-gay remarks he made in a recent profile in GQ.
"We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty," A&E said in a statement. "His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."
..."It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus," Robertson says in the January issue of the men's magazine. "That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."
Do the comments surprise anyone?  Does this really matter that much?  I don't think so personally.

(1) In America, freedom of speech and freedom of thought still exist.  Phil Robertson is entitled to his opinions.  He does not speak for all of America, all of Christianity or all of Louisiana, he only speaks for himself in an interview.  There is nothing wrong with him having opinions or sharing them. You might think his thinking is wrong, but that is your opinion.  Opinions are allowed.  Offending people is allowed.

(2) In America freedom of assembly is still allowed.  Therefore anyone offended by his comments have a right, individually or collectively, to voice their disapproval and to choose not to watch the show.  It's quite likely most who were offended were not fans of the show to begin with, but they still have every right to voice their disapproval of his comments and/or the show.  They have every right to boycott the show or the hunting equipment his company sells.

(3) In America, freedom of association and freedom to engage in commerce still exist.  Therefore A&E are entirely within their rights to suspend Phil Robertson indefinitely.  They may feel his comments may reflect negatively on their brand image and/or the ratings on the show Duck Dynasty, so they are within their rights (unless contractually obligated otherwise) to suspend him and reduce or terminate their association and/or commerce with Phil Robertson.

I mentioned that I do not intend to eat squirrel.  I watch Duck Dynasty sometimes.  I find the show quirky and entertaining.  But I am not swayed to the notion that eating squirrel, something that occurs on the show at times, because I watch the show.  People often attach too much importance to the media.  Yes the media does influence people, but not absolutely.  Just as MSNBC attracts a certain pre-disposed crowd, so too does a show like Duck Dynasty.  The fact that comments made by Phil Robertson happened, does not mean that Americans will suddenly start stoning gay people in the streets.

By all means, protest and do what you need to do.  Those who support the show or Phil's opinions are free to do so in support of him also.  That's what democracy is all about.  I have gay friends and redneck type friends.  Being either does not make you a bad person.   The ones I know all seem like good people, with differing viewpoints.  Believing something is immoral is not wrong, it's tied to personal belief system.  That's true whether you believe homosexuality is immoral or condemning homosexuality is immoral.  Be happy that you live in a country where whichever side you of any issue you are on, you are free to speak your mind. But also be smart about it and know that anything you say can be used against you in a court of public opinion.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden quietly gathers pebbles

Joe Biden for president in 2016?  He's a dream candidate - for Republicans.  Gaffe-tastic, needlessly verbose, goofy-looking and sounding; what's not to embrace for conservatives as the opposition candidate in the person of one Joe Biden?  Yet he keeps plodding along in an effort to win himself the White House in 2016.  The prohibitive favorite, Hillary Clinton is running circles around him in terms of support, but being #2 is a good place to be if the front-runner suffers a major gaffe and falters.  So Joe, continues collecting the support pebbles he can, and surprisingly, one comes from a source pretty darn close to Hillary Clinton.

Former President Clinton has warm words for his wife’s most likely rival for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
In an interview Tuesday with CNN en Español, Clinton praised Vice President Joe Biden, who is rumored to be considering a 2016 bid, and pledged to support him if he ended up with the nomination.
“If he runs and he's the nominee, I'll try to help him win. I think the world of him,” Clinton said.
“I've known him for years and years and I have a very high opinion of him. I care a great deal about him and I think he's done a good job for the President and the country.”
Obviously that's the correct thing for Bill Clinton to say politically (as opposed to politically correct).  Bill Clinton has no illusion that Hillary won't be the Democrats' nominee in 2016.  But should she falter, he's just indicated who he sees as the number two choice, or perhaps Hillary's VP selection that he can help keep out of the way while he (Bill) personally assumes the #2 spot via association.

President Obama meanwhile, has offered a more seemingly neutral tone:
There's no way President Obama is going to get between Vice President Biden and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

When MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked Obama on Thursday to "compare and contrast" Biden and Clinton -- both of whom are pondering 2016 White House bids -- the current president had a quick non-answer.

"Not a chance am I going there," Obama said.

Obama did say that "both Hillary and Joe would make outstanding presidents, and possess the qualities that are needed to be outstanding presidents."

His assessment of his vice president:

"I think Joe Biden will go down in history as one of the best vice presidents ever. And he has been with me, at my side, in every tough decision that I've made -- from going after (Osama) bin Laden to dealing with the health care issues to, you name it, he's been there."
The second last sentence, indicating what Obama really thinks of Biden. I'm not sure how the president could say that with a straight face, but if he really means it, it's actually more frightening than Obama being diplomatic for a personal ally. Either that or Obama is already formulating his own version of "Miss Me Yet?" with an ersatz president behind him. After all, in terms of terribleness as president, Obama will be hard to beat.  Nevertheless, for Biden it's another pebble to add to his collection.

Thursday Hillary Bash - 2014 impacts

You scratch my back?
Forget 2016, Hillary Clinton could have an influence on 2014 according to USA Today:
Hillary Rodham Clinton looms large as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, but she could be a major factor in the 2014 elections too.

Ready for Hillary, the group organizing supporters nationwide for a potential Clinton presidential campaign, says it will ask its members to support candidates endorsed by Clinton in the 2014 midterm elections, and to push her policy agenda over the next two years.

In addition, Clinton could decide to campaign for 2014 Democratic candidates, many of whom are old friends and allies. She helped two candidates get elected this fall — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Doing the same in 2014 could help her amass support for a presidential run and help retain a Democratic-controlled Senate for a future President Clinton to work with. It could also help her decide whether she still has enough fun doing it to run for the presidency again.
That means apparently that whether Hillary runs in 2016 could depend on the impact she has in the 2014 races.
If Clinton helps Democrats win in 2014, it would solidify the support of a pro-Hillary swath of the political elite well before the first 2016 primary. But if Democrats lose widely in midterm elections, that could tarnish her.

"It's a matter of political momentum, who's on the winning side and who's on the losing side of that debate,'' Dayspring said. "Are they yesterday's news or are they tomorrow's news? If she associates herself … with losing candidates or the candidates of yesterday, that's a risk.''

Whether Clinton is campaigning next year or not, the people who want her to be president will be.

Ready for Hillary says it will be active in 2014 races that Hillary supports, just as it directed its members to help McAuliffe after Clinton campaigned for him this year. The group says it has raised $1.25 million and has 25,000 donors and 1.1 million "likes" on its Facebook page.
Forget the Facebook stuff, the money is what matters. And more importantly, if Hillary endorsed candidates suffer devastating losses in 2014, it might be enough to nudge her out of running in 2016. Wouldn't that be great? Republicans 'forced' to run against Joe Biden for the presidency? What a hoot. But don't expect that to happen. Expect Hillary to only endorse those who might be locks for the Democrats in 2016. She won't taint her image by endorsing losers in the run-up to 2016. It will provide a clear signal as to her 2016 intentions to see if she's willing to risk her own credibility by endorsing risky candidates (in terms of chances of winning) in 2014. Very telling indeed.

December 18, 2013

Joe Biden, all touch

In case you missed it earlier this week, Joe Biden is all touch:

Joe:  The gift that keeps on giving.  Keep your hands to yourself Joe.

Democrat priorities laid bare

This lays bare how Democrats think.  Veterans have been cast aside in favor of illegal immigrants.  How this could possibly sit with the American public, any of it, is beyond me.  This is a glaring example of where Democrat priorities lie - not in what's right, but in what's right for them in vote buying. Disgraceful.
A final effort by Senate Republicans to halt cuts to pensions of military retirees failed late Tuesday, after Democrats blocked an amendment to the controversial budget bill.

The two-year budget agreement, which cleared a key test vote earlier in the day, was expected to get a final vote no later than Wednesday.

Ahead of the final vote, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., tried unsuccessfully to use a parliamentary tactic to force a vote on the amendment, which he wrote to undo the cuts for military retirees.

A provision in the already House-passed bill would cut retirement benefits for military retirees by $6 billion over 10 years.

Sessions wanted to instead eliminate an estimated $4.2 billion in annual spending by reining in an IRS credit that illegal immigrants have claimed.

He and fellow senators argued the bill unfairly sticks veterans and other military retirees with the cost of new spending.
Spending cuts have to happen, and they have to come from somewhere. But come on, does this seem right to anyone?

December 17, 2013

Obama can't avoid PRing anything and everything - even a private meeting

Via Drudge,  Mail Online notes that president Obama hijacked a tech meeting about NSA over-reach and intrusive surveillance to pitch some PR about Obamacare and discuss the failed roll out of said program:
During a White House meeting called to brief America's largest tech companies today about government overreach in electronic surveillance, President Barack Obama changed the subject – angering some meeting participants by shifting gears to address the failed launch of

'That wasn't what we came for,' a vice-president of a company whose CEO attended told MailOnline. 'We really didn't care for a PR pitch about how the administration is trying to salvage its internal health care tech nightmare.'

One executive said that meeting participants were dead-set against straying from the principal focus of the meeting – the uncomfortable and legally untenable position they are in when the National Security Agency demands access to their digital records.

The White House said in advance that the meeting would include a discussion of, but the company executive said the only subject that mattered to the participants was the NSA. 'He basically hijacked the meeting,' the executive said. 'We all told the White House that we were only there to talk about what the NSA was up to and how it affects us.'
When a presidency is based on public relations, it's the only trick in the bag of tricks.  It's no wonder the president, meeting with a group of technical insiders, felt the need to hijack the agenda and talk about his own legacy and the impact they all might have had on his legacy and what they could do to help him fix it. 

It's not what the rest of those in attendance wanted to discuss.
The unnamed business leader told the paper that 'there's only one subject that people really want to discuss right now.'

The 15 companies, including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, Apple and Etsy, issued a one-line joint statement after the 150-minute marathon meeting in the White House's Roosevelt Room, saying that they 'appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the president our principles on government surveillance that we released last week and we urge him to move aggressively on reform.' There was no mention in the statement of
The PR president is now failing at PR because there are important things going on that he can't seem to fathom, or even see.

The Pope, Christmas and the Holy Land

In my previous post, I was less than complimentary to the Pope.  I thought I'd counterbalance it with some positive words about the Pontiff.  After all, it is his birthday today.  In the same article in The Guardian that talked about the Pope standing by his comments on capitalism as though all of capitalism were the incarnation of Ebenezer Scrooge, the Pope also spoke about Christmas and the Holy Land:
He said that his thoughts during that time went above all to Christians living in the Holy Land, where he is expected to go next year.

He said he would like to mark the 50th anniversary of Paul VI's pioneering visit in 1964 – the first papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the first time a reigning pontiff had flown on a plane – along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian church.

He added that violence targeted at Christians in some parts of the world was forming the basis of what he called a new ecumenism of blood. "In some countries they kill Christians because they wear a cross or have a Bible, and before killing them they don't ask them if they're Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox," he said.

"Those who kill Christians don't ask you for an identity card in order to know what church you were baptised in. We must take this reality into account."

Christmas, said Francis, was a time of hope and tenderness that should shake people from indifference when they are confronted with suffering in the world.
That is good and worthy of applause.  

Marxism and the Pope

Bitter clingers?
The Pope says he's not a Marxist, but he's defending his criticism of capitalism according to The Guardian.  Great. I would contend that the Pope wasn't asked the right question.  
Pope Francis has rejected accusations from rightwing Americans that his teaching is Marxist, defending his criticisms of the capitalist system and urging more attention be given to the poor in a wide-ranging interview.

In remarks to the Italian daily La Stampa, the Argentinian pontiff said the views he had espoused in his first apostolic exhortation last month – which the rightwing US radio host Rush Limbaugh attacked as "dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong" – were simply those of the church's social doctrine. Limbaugh described the pope's economics as "pure Marxism".

"The ideology of Marxism is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended," Francis was quoted as saying. Defending his criticism of the "trickle-down" theory of economics, he added: "There was the promise that once the glass had become full it would overflow and the poor would benefit. But what happens is that when it's full to the brim, the glass magically grows, and thus nothing ever comes out for the poor ... I repeat: I did not talk as a specialist but according to the social doctrine of the church. And this does not mean being a Marxist."
He's not a Marxist, Marx decried religion so that would make no sense.  The Pope should have been asked if he was a  socialist.  If he has a political worldview that is informing his political views rather than the reverse, people should know about that.  

The Pope wants to reform the Catholic church.  That can be good and bad.  His focus on the poor is not a bad thing.  That focus would certainly help attract new people to the church.  But there is a difference between recognizing a problem and the prescription applied to it as a cure.  The Pope has decried capitalism but it has often been applied in a way that is as twisted as Marxists claim communism was applied in Soviet Russia.  In other words, capitalism has seen many flawed applications and it has still managed to lift millions of people out of poverty.  Perhaps what the Pope might be seeking is socialism.  Perhaps tempered capitalism.  He has been less than clear.

The danger for the church, particularly in the United States is that if he is taking a socialist approach, he risks turning off a lot of people.  While he may gain converts to Catholicism around the world, he could certainly lose the passion or even the faith of followers in America (and elsewhere). It's not clear if the Pope believes that to be the case and is taking a calculated risk, or doesn't know, or doesn't care.  The Catholic church  has a big pulpit.  If the pontifications coming from that pulpit espouse increased government control, the church may have lost its rudder.

December 15, 2013

Sunday verse for Bitter Clingers

The Hope and Change guy who sees most (if not all Christians as "bitter clingers") has nothing on this source of real Hope:
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
~Romans 12:12
Seems a lot better than false promises, and more worthwhile to cling to than someone who doesn't live up to expectations.

December 14, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - Routes

Burke, science & history sandwich.
James Burke's series Connections and The Day The Universe Changed in the late 1970s and mid-1980s respectively were very successful at taking a historical and philosophical look at scientific change.  The two series led to a Connections sequel (Connections 2) in 1994, with James Burke still at the helm of the project (and another, Connections 3 in 1997).

Series continued from Episode 15.

Here's episode 16 of Connections 2,  entitled Routes.

Blog thoughts

I still need to make some repairs to my blog - the column layout isn't great, and the news slider is busted among other things.  And I'm still not happy with Google/Blogger making significant changes to my search traffic results just because I happened to remove the Blogger banner.  My blog has had a dedicated URL for some time but despite the ads, it's not really a money maker.  Then again I'm not in it for the money (mostly, a bit would be nice)- I believe in what I write.  But I'm beginning to wonder if the free blogger hosting is worth the price.  Having a hosted solution would certainly give me more freedom to design the site without having to conform in order to generate search results.  

December 13, 2013

December 12, 2013

Press vs. Press Secretary

Apparently the White House isn't giving photographers the access they want.  This isn't a full on press revolt, but there are a couple of clearly unhappy people on the opposite side of the podium from Jay Carney.  Give the media another 100 years and they will all have turned on the president's administration.  500 years and the president himself may have to start worrying.

Feel Good Video - Pelosi At a Disadvantage on Facts

Want to feel better about Obamacare? Actually you can't.  But seeing this fairly recent spot of Nancy Pelosi on Meet The Press might offer some temporary relief of the acute Obamacare cramps you are now experiencing.

Thursday Hillary Bash - The Also Rans

If you missed it, there are some interesting Hillary-related implications of Obama's inclusion of John Podesta in the White House team.
Hey, what about me?

It's looking like it's Hillary or bust for the Democrats in 2016.  Recent polling indicates that Elizabeth Warren may be the one to challenge Hillary for the Democrat nomination for president in 2016.  Because even Democrats don't believe Obama when he says Joe Biden is one of the best VPs ever.  But the recent poll with Warren gaining on Biden looks as if it will be two women fighting for top spot:
“There is no strong contender against her,” he said. “She doesn’t want to use the word inevitable, but these numbers are as wide as they can get. She’s jogging around the track by herself.”

The former first lady, senator and secretary of state enjoys lopsided support among Democrats and Democratic-leading independents:

Clinton, 65 percent.
Vice President Joe Biden, 12 percent.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, 9 percent.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, 3 percent.
Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, 1 percent.
But if that's true, Warren, viewed as further left leaning than Hillary isn't buying into it - or wasn't as recently as last week: (emphasis added)
WASHINGTON — Elizabeth Warren did the convenient thing yesterday. She fell on her presidential sword, and took herself out of contention for 2016.

It’s highly probable that if she didn’t get her marching orders directly from President Obama or Hillary and Bill Clinton, then some intermediary made their desires known to her.

At the highest levels of the party, there is no desire for a Democratic primary bloodbath that would serve only the 
Republicans. Hillary Clinton sees 2016 as her year, and Obama, while personally closer to Warren, doesn’t want to run afoul of his [sic] own party’s most powerful couple in their quest to return to the White House.
Doesn't that seem a little ominous?  What the United States clearly needs right now: more autocracy... 

December 11, 2013

While we're on the subject of Obama at a funeral

(Original Obama funeral issue here)

Specifically, Nelson Mandela's funeral, everybody is making note of the fact that he shook hands with Cuba's Castro, but Brietbart has the real story about shaking hand with Obama:
Earlier Tuesday, NBC News reported that President Barack Obama had shaken hands with Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe. However, the UK Telegraph's Josie Ensor reported that Obama "was asked to take his seat just before reaching Mugabe." Complicating matters, another article in the UK Telegraph also claimed that Obama had shaken hands with Mugabe--in very similar terms to those used in the NBC article.

Breitbart News caught the discrepancy--and suddenly the NBC News article was corrected, with no notice.
Mugabe, in case you didn't know is not a nice guy.  

I'm not sure where the Obama handshake with Mugabe story goes, given the concerted attempt by the media to focus on what is perceived as the lesser of two evils to focus attention on the Castro handshake but I'm sure he hopes it just goes away.  It's not good for his brand.  And maybe this is nothing more than an editorial mix-up or incorrect information, but if that's the case a correction for the discrepancy should be made. Mugabe offends many in Obama's base as well as people's sensibilities in general.  that handshake has no upside while the progressives within the Democratic party might secretly cheer a Castro handshake.

In Obama's defense, maybe he just didn't know who this Mugabe guy might have been 3 a.m. Eastern Standard Time

Obama's Mandela funeral selfie

There's a word I thought I'd never use and certainly not with respect to the POTUS, let alone at a funeral for Nelson Mandella. This is really not appropriate.  No matter what you think of Mandela (communist, healer, freedom fighter, supporter of violence, whatever) it's the man's funeral.  Not cool.

As captured by OpieRadio (who noted MichelleObama's reaction):

Budget Deal doesn't sound great

The Washington Post has a rundown on many of the details in the plans to sideline the sequester and return to increased spending from government.  That sentence alone provides enough reason to be skeptical about the deal struck by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray.  But there are other reasons too.

Firstly, spending goes up:
Under the terms of the deal, spending for the Pentagon and other federal agencies would be set at $1.012 trillion for fiscal 2014, midway between the $1.058 trillion sought by Democrats and the $967 billion championed by Republicans. The Pentagon would get a $2 billion increase over last year, while domestic agencies would get a $22 billion bump, clearing space for administration priorities such as fresh investments in education and infrastructure.
More taxes (sorry, 'premiums'), less for student loan recovery (more on that some other time) and less strategic oil reserves:
That cost would be covered through a mix of policies to be implemented over the next decade. They include $12.6 billion in higher security fees for airline passengers, $8 billion in higher premiums for federal insurance for private pensions, $6 billion in reduced payments to student-loan debt collectors and $3 billion saved by not completely refilling the nation’s strategic petroleum reserves.
There will also be some interesting unintended consequences that come out of this. Most notably, the Medicare provision:
On top of sequester replacement, the deal calls for an additional $22 billion in deficit reduction by extending a small part of the sequester into 2022 and 2023. That shift would primarily affect Medicare providers, who would face an additional two years of 2 percent across-the-board cuts.
Curious timing, given the ongoing Obamacare drama. Another area that may lead to some backlash is government pensions:
Another large chunk of savings — $12 billion over the next decade — would come from reduced contributions to federal pensions, split evenly between military retirees and new civilian workers who start after Dec. 31.
It's interesting that the "new civilian workers" might also be younger - the same ones in many cases getting hit by Obamacare. There will likely be some backlash around that as well. However,Democrats may be able to effectively punt that issue (at least the pension portion of it) ahead a number of years as the cumulative impact to younger workers won't be as noticeable on the pension side as on the Obamacare side of the equation.

The deal doesn't sound like much of a win for fiscal conservatives.  The GOP may be plotting to not come across as fiscal extremists leading into a midterm election where they stand a good chance of making gains in both the house and senate.  They are playing it safe politically, even though it may not be what's best for the country and is sure to anger many conservative voters or at least leave a bad taste in their mouths.  

Check out the interesting albeit brief Zero Hedge article on the above graph.

But the Republicans with major victories in 2014 could effectively take control of both houses of congress and be better positioned to make a difference between 2014 and 2016.  If they can pull that off, then this could be regarded as a win.  But that's certainly no guarantee. Given that, the deal is not a great deal for the country or for fiscal sanity, and perhaps not even the GOP.

Podesta joining Obama carries implications beyond Obama

John Podesta, former Clinton Chief of Staff (1998-2001) is joining team Obama and it is purely as a result of the presidents abysmal and dropping job approval ratings.  It's a political move through and through.  Expect Podesta to clean house with White House staff, or at least appear to clean house in order to put some support and to the hopes of Democrats, a floor under Obama's flagging job approval ratings.  Whether it works or not remains to be seen, although for it to make a difference, it would have probably had to have happened a long time ago.  The damage is probably irreparable by now.  The real implications however, lie elsewhere - many of them, with Clinton.
Expect to not see this.  But it will still be there.

Firstly, a lot of  supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline project initially viewed Podesta's onboarding as a death knell for the project.  They were right to worry.  Although news came out that he will recuse himself from Keystone XL discussions, it isn't like he won't discuss the matter with Obama in private.  It still portends bad news for the pipeline's supporters.  There isn't really going to be a firewall between him and Obama on the pipeline.

It also should retroactively raise an eyebrow for those who supported Bill Clinton's presidency if they care at all about jobs and his legacy as the supposed economic wunderkind (no, you can thank the Republican wave of 1994 for the economic resurgence during the Clinton presidency).  If Podesta does and did value vague, half-truth climate histrionics over jobs and economic prosperity, then what does that say about him being part of Bill Clinton's inner circle?  It means that Clinton may very well have been on the same page, despite being able to read the tea leaves on public sentiment about economic growth and prosperity post-1994.

Another Clinton angle is that Podesta would certainly be a member of a Hillary Clinton presidency and getting Podesta in there can serve as an ear and a heads-up to Clinton about decisioning coming out of the White House.  She'll be better prepared to comment on presidential items as she will have advanced notice and time to prepare.  Additionally, Podesta "cleaning house" might be designed to serve as window dressing from Obama's perspective, it could also help clear the way to put Clintonian elements in key positions for her coming presidency.  Should she win, she could hit the ground running so to speak with her agenda.

Frankly I'm much more worried about the Clinton implications than the Obama implications of Podesta coming on board with the White House.

December 10, 2013

A friendly reminder from your government

Unfortunately I'm not sure of the original source, but I saw this on Facebook somewhere today. 

In case you were wondering:

And if you were wondering, they might want to know why.

Canada to claim North Pole. Obama to acquiesce?

This one is tricky. Canada, Russia and the United States have all, at various times laid claim to sections of the Arctic. It's never come to military action, nor will it. However, given apparent Canada's intention to move forward with an effort to look for legal recognition you can expect both Russia and the United States to respond in some fashion.
TORONTO (AP) — Canada plans to make a claim to the North Pole in an effort to assert its sovereignty in the resource-rich Arctic, the country's foreign affairs minister said Monday.

John Baird said the government has asked scientists to work on a future submission to the United Nations claiming that the outer limits of the country's continental shelf include the pole, which so far has been claimed by no one.

Canada last week applied to extend its seabed claims in the Atlantic Ocean, including some preliminary Arctic claims, but it wants more time to prepare a claim that would include the pole.

Asserting Canada's rights in the Arctic has been a popular domestic issue for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, though at least one expert on the issue described the planned claim as a long shot.

"We are determined to ensure that all Canadians benefit from the tremendous resources that are to be found in Canada's far north," Baird said.

Countries including the U.S. and Russia are increasingly looking to the Arctic as a source of natural resources and shipping lanes. The U.S. Geological Survey says the region contains 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of oil. If Canada's claim is accepted by the U.N. commission, it would dramatically grow its share.

December 9, 2013

Winston Churchill on Obamacare

"You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing — after they have tried everything else."
 —Winston Churchill

A short post on Medicaid is all we have time for now

Why are such a high proportion of the enrollments on end up in the Medicaid bucket? Is it deliberate progressivist sleight of hand, or just poor planning and management?
To be sure, the health-care law’s designers saw the expansion of Medicaid as an important feature of their plan to expand coverage for the uninsured. Still, they expected most of those enrolling in ObamaCare to qualify for private (albeit subsidized) insurance.

It’s beginning to look like that was just another miscalculation, one that could have very serious consequences for the program’s costs.
In either case, the Medicaid-specific fiscal time bomb countdown has been accelerated by Obamacare.

December 8, 2013

Sunday School - thoughts from Daniel

Some Biblical passages that seem to reflect upon America today From Daniel 2 (emphasis added):
31 “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay....

36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

December 7, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - Making Waves

James Burke, scientific cool.
James Burke's series Connections and The Day The Universe Changed in the late 1970s and mid-1980s respectively were very successful at taking a historical and philosophical look at scientific change.  The two series led to a Connections sequel (Connections 2) in 1994, with James Burke still at the helm of the project (and another, Connections 3 in 1997).

Series continued from Episode 14.

Here's episode 15 of Connections 2,  entitled Making Waves.

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