May 31, 2014

Support Tom Cotton for Arkansas Senate

Who says that dour white men are all Republicans? Why support Democrat Mark Pryor, who even looks angry, when he's misrepresenting his opponent.

when you can support someone with common sense who also doesn't take himself so seriously even though he is serious about the problems the country faces.

By the way Arkansas, those of you who don't recall, Pryor supported Obamacare, something your Democratic candidate for governor didn't even do.

May 30, 2014

Friday Musical Interlude - Walk This Way

This week a throwback to 1977 (the year it hit Billboard's Top 10) or 1975 (the year it was originally released).  Aerosmith's rock classic Walk This Way.

May 29, 2014

Thursday Hillary Bash - Hillary tacks left, just in time.

"Liberal Democrats feel the wind at their backs."

I'm not sure why that would be the case going into the 2016 presidential election, but let's assume that is indeed the way they feel.  In the article in The Hill, it's pointed out that Hillary Clinton might not be the ideal candidate for the progressive liberal left wing of the party.
“If Hillary Clinton embraces the rising economic populist tide in America, there will be little political space for a credible primary challenger,” said Laura Friedenbach of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “But if she sides with big corporations against everyday people, there will be a huge amount of political space for some insurgent to run on an economic populist platform.”
The far left has been increasingly openly laying down the gauntlet for Hillary Clinton - move left or you will not get our support.  With a president who regularly spout progressive agenda platitudes and clearly has a sympathetic ear for the cause, the far left may feel empowered to turn out another progressive president - an Elizabeth Warren or a Howard Dean  type.  As we inch closer to primary season, their 'encouragement' will grow more strident and louder and may become outright political threatening of Hillary Clinton.

There's a worry already that she cannot possibly represent grassroots progressives because she's too rich.  I'd argue (tongue-in-cheek) that perhaps progressives are being sexist because the same wealth standard does not seem to apply to George Soros.  Nevertheless, the thought is there and Hillary understands the nature of elections - run to the base first and run back to the center during the general election, that's how you will win.  She's started movement accordingly;
When your own minimum wage reportedly is in the neighborhood of $200,000 a speech, it might be difficult to sell yourself as the populist champion of the working class.

In recent weeks, Hillary Rodham Clinton has begun a calculated transition from respected diplomat to fierce advocate for the 99 percent, using a “haves versus have-nots” message to build support among progressives who are desperate for a strong voice to battle Wall Street, protect entitlement programs such as Social Security and promote income equality.

But for Mrs. Clinton, a rich, successful woman and part of one of America’s most powerful political families, there are questions about how effectively she can carry that banner if she runs for president in 2016.

Her comments indicate that she understands which way the political wind is blowing, at least within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
For Republicans, this is a welcome opportunity.  The further this fracture on the left grows, the less likely is a Hillary Clinton primary win.  And even if the fracture is fixed as Hillary plays to the far left to gain their support, the more ammunition the eventual GOP candidate will have during a general election season.  She'll say things that can be brought up during the debates to call out her leftist extremist positions.  Either she'll be forced to defend some outlandish positions or she will stumble all over herself trying to backtrack on her statement.  She's done it before.  Remember the driver's licenses for illegal immigrants issue during the 2008 Democratic primaries?  She'll flub again, guaranteed, if the questions are put to her in a way where she has to think quickly on her feet.

Meanwhile there's a whole other front in which Hillary will have to fight back.  The Wary of Hillary Democrats have begun to get some notice.  They are at least superficially concerned about her inevitability, although I suspect many progressives are using the group as cover for their real, far left agenda-based concerns;
“She is an enormously capable candidate and leader, but I do worry about the inevitability, because I think it’s off-putting to the average voter,” Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a longtime Obama ally, told CNN earlier this month. “And I think that was an element of her campaign the last time. As an enthusiastic Democrat, I just hope that the people around her pay attention to that this time around.”

The public commentary about the risks of Clinton as fait accompli seems less a harbinger of a messy primary fight than an effort to nudge Clinton to the left. There’s no apparent candidate with President Barack Obama’s political skill to catch Clinton by surprise this time. But the Democratic base doesn’t want Clinton to get a free pass, lest she give short shrift to the progressive agenda and tack to the center before the primary campaign is even fully underway.
All this in-fighting doesn't hand a win to the GOP, but a divide on the left does make the Republicans' job easier in 2016. A smart RNC will be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity this presents. Let's hope smart applies this time around.

May 28, 2014

President Obama's Foreign Policy Pivot Fails on Many Levels (Part 1)

The president today made a speech at West Point today to a graduating class that was full of problematic statements. The speech was so full of...misinformation, that I've been forced to break down my breakdown of it, into more than one part. in this part I will focus on the president's cherry picking of facts in his speech.  But that's just the starting point.

In order to support his positions, the president, no stranger to cherry-picking facts to support his positions, did not disappoint in this speech, if cherry picking is something you were looking forward to hearing.

Here's the first example of cherry picking his facts:
Al Qaida's leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated, and Osama bin Laden is no more.
True - but al Qaida is still an existential threat worldwide. The president has selected a narrow window to define success, because beyond that window, the problems are nowhere near being fixed.  Of course, the president tries to minimize the geo-political threats, because it helps justify a minimized military, enabling more social engineering programs.
In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world. Those who argue otherwise, who suggest that America is in decline or has seen its global leadership slip away, are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics. Think about it. Our military has no peer. The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low, and do not come close to the dangers we faced during the Cold War.
He has parsed his words carefully -"rarely" been stronger. Yet relative to China, America is losing it's military superiority advantage. And while no nation has any reason or power to invade the United States, North Korea and Iran are both working diligently towards long range nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States. Russia and China still do of course. The threats faced today are not the same as they were during the Cold War.

Wasn't it president Obama who chided Mitt Romney when he stated that the 1980's called and wanted their foreign policy back during the presidential debates? Mitt Romney was of course right that Russia is the biggest geopolitical threat (you could argue China is a bigger threat now). And while Russia is poised to indulge in a nefarious landgrab in the Ukraine, Obama argues that the world is a different place. Well, if it is, then comparing the dangers of today to the different dangers of a different era is most definitely cherry picking.

But there's more egregious examples.
And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine -- it is America that the world looks to for help.
Exactly what is America doing about the kidnappings in Nigeria or the violent unrest in the Ukraine? Effectively, zilch.  The world may have looked to America, but with missing leadership from an American president, that is not likely to continue.  At least it will not until someone else comes along who can create a sense of global leadership that an apology tour and obvious disinterest didn't do.

When the president bases his speech on selectively choosing facts, or portions of the whole picture to act as a foundation for whatever else it is he has to say, you know his arguments have started on shaky grounds.

Next I'll take a look at the implications of the president's pivot and vision for America's future beyond Afghanistan and Iraq.

Iran's losing proposition - don't let youth be "Happy"

By now you've probably heard that Iran has jailed everyone in the video below - 6 young Iranians who danced to the Pharrell Williams song Happy.

As the person who uploaded this particular iteration of the video on youtube (it's not the original posting of the video) noted:
About a month ago, 6 Iranian boys and girls (in this video) danced to the famous song by Pharrell Williams called "Happy" on the rooftops of Tehran and uploaded their video on the YouTube. It was widely distributed in the social media. The police decided to track them down and arrest them and make them repent in front of the camera. It then showed this capture on the national TV channels as a bunch of deceived Iranian youth who regretted their deed. In the past 35 years, Islamic Republic has managed to steal freedom and happiness from the Iranian youth and replace it with a culture full of mourning and sorrow. We, too, are human. We, too, have the right to be happy and live happily and learn how to be happy.
What the video points out is two different things that must be remembered.

(1)  Iranian people are like anyone else - individuals, interested in the pursuit of happiness, capable of being happy and eager to do so.  Sometimes people outside of the country forget that fact and that there is a diversity of opinion in Iran.

(2) Those in power in Iran who are suppressing individuality, freedom and the pursuit of happiness through any path other than the one they prescribe (a strict religious adherence with no room for interpretation) are on the wrong side of history.  By stifling your own people you can hold onto power for a time, with increasingly white knuckles.  But the longer you deny people fundamental freedoms the harder it becomes to do so.  The Soviet Union managed to do so for seven decades.  Other countries are seeking to beat that mark.  But you cannot suppress an entire people forever.

At least that has been the case in human history.  Perhaps some day some regime may come along that manages to keep humanity downtrodden indefinitely.  But that time has not come and with the advent of social media, it is even less likely.  

In fact, it is even less likely in Iran.  There is already a diversity of opinion in Iran that undercuts the monolithic government view of the world.  With each rhetoric-fueled suppression, the awareness of something not being right will grow.  And with each instance of defiance, or even self-expression, the justification for a more aggressive crackdown will create a more brutal government response and in turn drive more awareness of the injustice and consequently, more resistance to it.

Iran is not about to erupt into democracy.  They tried that a few years ago and the results, without any international support, were catastrophic.  But you simply cannot suppress ideas with brutality.  If Iran's leadership were so confident in the rightness of their own ideology, they would not feel the need to do so.

Economics Must Reads

Due to some personal scheduling challenges I have gotten a bit backlogged on posting.  In particular, I have fallen behind on opining on some items that are quite worth sharing.  Rather than letting them fall by the wayside, I've decided to include the links and some excerpts here in order to hopefully generate some interest in these terrific articles/posts.

May 27, 2014

The perverse backwardness of progressivism

Progressivism, perversely, is regressive and backwards.  In a great post about the marvelous accomplishments of the 20th century and beyond, Yevgeniy Feyman claims out that the Golden Age is Now and points out the most every great advancement of the last 100+ years have come as a result of capitalism.  Feyman argues that technological progress comes from the economic freedom that market economies both provide and enable.
Simply put, technological progress is the key to these gains—and market economies have liberated, and rewarded, technological innovation.

People are not just living longer, but better—sometimes with government’s help, and sometimes despite it. Even people in the developing countries of Africa and Latin America are better educated and better fed than ever before. Hundreds of thousands of children who would have died during previous eras due to malnutrition are alive today. Here, we can thank massive advancements in agricultural production unleashed by the free market.
Progressives believe that markets need deeper regulation, that no one should be allowed to succeed too much and that success is a zero sum game where those who are successful must be achieving only at the expense of someone else.  Such a notion is absurd.  Centuries ago when someone was busy inventing the water mill, they were not making anyone's life more difficult by doing so.  They were in fact making it easier to cut lumber, grind flour and do numerous other tasks - thus enriching everyone's lives.  

Feyman points out many of the advances that have helped millions if not billions of people and notes that they come not from those who oppose technological progress but those who embrace it.  Free market capitalism embraces it.  What progressives are progressive about is social progress, a Utopian equality of outcome rather than a real equality of opportunity to which America and a few other countries are much closer to achieving.  

Progressives come down on the anti-business side of every issue - more red tape, more taxes, more superfluous climate protection are all prime examples of wanting to slam the brakes on progress.  Oh sure, progressives believe that they are helping humanity by taking these positions, but their belief is a blind and ill-considered belief.

Equality of opportunity is a much more worthy goal than equality of outcome.  Someone who wants to do nothing or very little all day will not achieve the same success as someone who wants to achieve something.  What drives that achiever is the opportunity to benefit from their hard work.  But they do not only benefit themselves.  Finding a cure for cancer will likely help even the lazy guy in our example.  The lazy guy benefits from the innovation because a cure he had nothing to do with now is available to him.  Take away the incentive to succeed and the cure does not get found.  In fact you lower the bar and encourage the achiever to become someone who does only what is necessary to survive and stop pursuing his dream.

Viewed another way, the removal of the incentives progressively halts technological progress and causes complete stagnation at some point. Everyone ends up equal, but in a less able society.  How anyone can call that progressive is incomprehensible.

May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day America. For those who have lost loved ones, perhaps 'happy' is not the right greeting.  But never forget, that there are those who will never forget the sacrifice your soldier, and your family have made in order to guard liberty against tyranny.

May 24, 2014

Saturday Learning Series - Constitutional History Part 2 - Colonial Constitutionalism

Last Week in the Constitutional History Series by Tom Woods, he reviewed the antecedents to the U.S. Constitution.  In Part 2, professor Brion McClanahan looks at colonial constitutionalism predating the Philadelphia Convention.

May 23, 2014

Pelosi still blaming Bush - 5 years after he left office

Nancy Pelosi hasn't read the meme memos from the White House.  Blaming Bush is out, blaming Congress and the Koch brothers are in.  Still, Pelosi could not resist assigning blame for the Veteran's Affairs scandal on long gone president Bush.  The same administration that gave ample warning to president Obama before leaving the White House, that a problem was evolving.
Pelosi took a shot at Bush while saying that the scandal is a high priority for Obama. "He sees the ramifications of some seeds that were sown a long time ago, when you have two wars over a long period of time and many, many more, millions more veterans," she told reporters during her Thursday press briefing. "And so, I know that he is upset about it."

The Democratic leader never mentioned Bush by name, but she alluded to him early and often in the press briefing.
This far into the chronology of this administration, and this far into yet another scandal, Democrats are still too focused on deflecting blame and not focused enough on working out solutions.

When your modus operendi is all politics, you simply can't be bothered to fix anything, and consequently, you don't.

Friday Musical Interlude - Long Weekend edition

It's Memorial Day weekend this weekend. Kicking off your weekend, the first unofficial weekend of summer, here are two songs to put you in a summer weekend frame of mind.

First, from 1981, Everybody's Working for the Weekend by Loverboy.

And from 1969, Sly and the Family Stone's Hot Fun in the Summertime

Friday Musical Interlude - Come Get It Bae

Pharrell Williams' catchy "Come Get It Bae". The song apparently features Miley Cyrus. Redbull uses this song in their recent commercials.

May 22, 2014

Thursday Hillary Bash - Odds & Ends she isn`t.
No time for a full on post today, but there are a few quick things concerning former first lady, ersatz senator, moribund Secretary of State and inevitable Democratic nominee for president in 2016, Hillary Clinton that merit a mention today.

With Chinese military officials being charged for industrial espionage in the U.S., do we really want a Clinton in the White House while China is on the march?

Liberal women are lining up to back Hillary Clinton for 2016.  Michigan`s Democratic senator Debbie Stabenow has re-endorsed Hillary for 2016.  Former spy Valerie Plame goes even further.  She thinks Hillary Clinton is  the next FDR - the ultimate liberal endorsement.  Women, you've received your marching orders - no need to bother thinking for yourselves. 

Meanwhile some liberals are asking for her to outline some actual positions.  Of course they want liberal positions.  But perhaps because liberals are not enamored  with the tabula rasa (blank slate) that they allowed Obama to run as in 2008, she will not get the same free pass then-candidate Obama got.  We can only hope.

Finally, Hillary Clinton is headed to my backyard - Toronto - next month for a speaking engagement related to her book (aka a fundraising opportunity no doubt).  Tickets are a modest $355 Canadian per seat.  I will be sure to miss that but if any news comes out of it, (1) I would be shocked  and (2) I will definitely keep you posted here.

May 21, 2014

Refining the small government movement

The best approach: Defend aggressively, advance slowly.

Back in 2011, I commented on a Hot Air article about the Conservative party in Canada and their chances of winning elections but the focus of my comment was more about how Canadian conservatives are not less conservative than those in America, we are simply faced with a different reality.  But it's one that provides a lesson on how to move America back to the right, and in retrospect, one that requires a little additional nuance to it. As I wrote in response to Ed Morrissey's point about Canadian conservatives being less so than our American counterparts;
The conservative party of Canada is far less of a center-left party than you suggest. While it is not currently conservative in the sense of American conservatism, it’s still a center-right party. The way it governs is affected by the country as a whole. The conservative government is hampered by decades of liberalism and socialism, so moving the country back to the right will take considerable time. The country fears conservatives as being radicals and Prime Minister Harper has had to temper his lower taxes, stronger national defense, pro-business views to suit what is still a center-left country that is slowly testing the waters with a conservative government (three elections later).

Harper’s prudence isn’t as exciting as Reagan or Thatcher in a full on charge to the right, but it’s the smartest approach in a country ready to run back to the liberals at what it regards as the slightest hint of radical conservatism...
In short - in Canada we have had to take baby steps back towards the right, not giant leaps. Our electorate needed to learn to be comfortable with the positives of conservatism and will only eschew the liberal rhetoric about us over time. Canada is now more comfortable with a conservative government than it was in 2011. The same logic holds true in the United States. As I've written about many times, Democrats and their progressive ilk have successfully pushed the U.S. to the left over the course of decades by moving the ball slowly, while occasionally taking advantage of a crisis to move the ball a lot more all at once. That's because they know, as Rush Limbaugh has often pointed out, that if they were up front about their true intentions, voters would balk en masse.

That seemed true until the current president bought into his own hype and decided that the country was fully behind him on the aggressive march to the left. You see how that's worked for him. His re-election was arguably an incumbent's advantage win. He has met with growing resistance and weaker job approval year over year. That's because Americans want change to be managed, not a headlong, ill-planned plunge into something new.

As many have argued - an aggressive refutation and loud opposition to the progressive liberal agenda is definitely necessary. But if the GOP wins in the midterms and wins the next presidency, should they engage in a headlong plunge back to the right, or manage the walk back and advancing the agenda in a smart, organized and palatable way? Obviously that's a bit of a rhetorical question.

The lessons of Canada and of Obama's leftward plunge apply. Replacing an extremely liberal agenda with a very conservative one will accomplish two things - a lurch of change that will be as mismanaged as Obamacare, and a knee-jerk reaction from voters wiling to test the waters of conservatism.

That's an unfortunate situation since the country clearly needs to be brought back to smaller government, fiscal conservatism, non-interventionist courts, American exceptionalism etc. in a big, big way. Obama has slid and/or allowed the nation to slide into a disgusting malaise of lowered respect, lowered expectations and a dead end, debt-riddled future without a future.

But with so much to accomplish, in order to govern effectively, there is a need to prioritize. That in itself will help manage the return to the right and make it a more orderly change. The best way to prioritize what needs to be done is to look at the low hanging fruit first - where there is major agreement on the right, indicates itself as a good place to start. For example, rolling back Obamacare is an easier sell on the right than pretty much any social issue or an issue of libertarian smaller military vs. conservative defense hawks.

With each issue tackled, there is a need to move cautiously and intelligently forward. A simple repeal might be something most every conservative can agree upon, but it is way to easy for the liberal media to frame as bringing America backwards. Armed with Congressional Budget Office proof, the GOP could move forward with an intelligent mix of their dozens of proposals that the Democrats and media ignored while claiming the GOP had no plan. The message - we are not returning to the status quo, we are moving forward but in a different direction than the previous president with ideas that are more cost effective, will help more people, offer more alternatives to people and be simpler to understand.

Each area will eventually snowball and it will give people a chance to adjust as it grows its own momentum. That's what Obama has been trying to do with all of the delays to Obamacare. The difference is that the president is attempting to hide the true cost, the true implications, from voters. The GOP will necessarily have to be up front about their real goals, more choice, and lowered costs. The approach of slow and steady is a necessary evil for America.

Because charging headlong never works. I know, I've posted this before, but it's still funny and apropos here.  (more below the video):

One last point - the advance slowly notion need not be equally applied in all areas. If there is a true emergency with the national debt for example, perhaps a bit of not letting the crisis go to waste becomes not only feasible, but advantageous to conservative ideals.

May 20, 2014

War of the Internets - China vs. U.S.

Cyber-spying has real world implications.
The United States government, perhaps has finally bought a vowel and is starting to take seriously the threat of cyber attacks from foreign nationals - specifically Chinese nationals.  The U.S. government has charged several Chinese military officials, in absentia, with cyber theft related charges.
Yesterday’s indictment of five Chinese officials signals the administration is banking that enough time has passed that it can redirect the worldwide debate over government surveillance toward China’s drive to steal commercial secrets of private companies to boost its own economy.

“We’ve told the Chinese we know they spy on us for military purposes and we spy on them for military purposes, which is what big powers do,” said James Lewis, a fellow in cybersecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “What’s weird is when you spy purely for commercial purposes, and that has to stop.”
This from the same not-ready-for-prime-time administration that was about to give up control of the Internet. Why the about face, and why so quickly after supposedly re-thinking the notion of sharing control of the internet?  And why the specific anger about industrial espionage? Shouldn't the fact that China basically stole the F35 fighter jet blueprints and suddenly has their own version in testing be equally damning.

And when I say damning, I mean both of the Chinese and of American counter-espionage capabilities.  Let's face it, the U.S. is getting its behind handed to it by the Chinese in the realm of espionage and whether it's the Obama arrogance that is causing a disbelief of the facts on the ground or just the lack of capabilities of the various espionage agencies in the U.S. that prevents things from getting better, the problem is still that things are just not getting better.

These charges are window dressing designed to make the president look tough on Chinese espionage, just in time for the midterm elections oddly enough.  Just this weekend I was chirping about how the U.S. needed some muscle in its electronic surveillance despite the privacy issues that surround the spying (granted, with no easy answers available to fix things), and today these stories break.  While the focus has been on terrorism, China and Russia have not gone away, they are both resurgent (or trying to be in Russia's case).  But charging a few low ranking military personnel is no solution.  All it is going to do is to anger China, while accomplishing nothing.

China of course, has reacted:
China’s decision to suspend its involvement in a cybersecurity working group with the U.S. after being accused of commercial spying threatens to undo efforts aimed at finding common ground to tackle hacking.

China halted the dialogue and threatened further retaliation after the U.S. indicted five Chinese military officials yesterday for allegedly stealing trade secrets. China’s Foreign Ministry called the U.S. move a “serious violation of the basic norms of international relations,” while China’s State Internet Information Office likened the U.S. actions to “a thief yelling ‘Catch the thief.’”
I expect that the president might use this as a springboard for some proposed legislation (sans details of course), to protect the U.S. from Chinese aggression.  If we do see it, rest not assured because it is merely a ploy to get votes.

EXIT question:  With Bill Clinton having been such a cozy president for the Chinese to work with, there's one more reason not to have Hillary win the White House in 2016.  Will anyone in the media make the connection?

May 18, 2014

Snowden, Libertarians, spying, TURN and grey areas

Recently, I blogged about the AMC series TURN, which is a TV series about America's first spy ring. Before even the Constitution was born, but after the Declaration of Independence, America had spies.  It had to have them - it may have lost the war for independence if it had not effectively spied on the British.  Today I was revisiting my views on the NSA and the scandal that came to light with the information revealed by Edward Snowden.  I think it's healthy to revisit your beliefs from time to time in order to either validate them or else decide to refine, or perhaps even move away from them.  Otherwise you get locked into a set of beliefs that end up enabled by confirmation bias.  That happens in the mainstream media crucible all the time and they never learn from it.  They predominantly never evolve and they consequently continue to support a president who not only has led the country down a failing path but has also abandon much of the ideals the liberal media supposedly holds dear.

Now, I think my beliefs have shifted some on national security - back towards where they were in years past.  There is a delicate balance between personal liberty and national security.  Benjamin Franklin was once quoted as saying that "They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."  

Not wanting your government to spy on you is understandable.  Not wanting their nose in your business is normal.  Not wanting to grant the government too much power to do so domestically in desirable.  That is a libertarian instinct that most every American likely shares.  But what about foreign agents intent on undermining the security of America?  Without the protection of the American government (be it militarily or through espionage), the very liberties that Americans wish to maintain become highly vulnerable. 

A quote from Thomas Jefferson, less libertarian in nature addresses that notion: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Blood is certainly at least an equally precious commodity to liberty.  I guess that might be  a judgement call.  In any case, liberty must be defended.  At times that defense involves unpleasantries and that may include infringements upon liberty.

Don't get me wrong.  Illegal search and seizure is not something I condone.  But my views on the cost benefits of the actions of Edward Snowden have changed from one of him being predominantly an important whistleblower with some unintended consequences to the nation to one of traitor with some beneficial information about government over-reach important, but less so than him undermining the security of the citizens as a whole by revealing far too much national security information in the process.

America needs spies. It needs a strong military. In today's day and age with such an interconnected world, the notion of a forward defense, electronically especially, is at the core national security.  While libertarians may argue that the mitigating factor in the war for independence was that spies were outward focused, the same is true today.  Spying is done on the basis of national security and those being targeted are enemies of the nation (not the state, there's an important distinction).

The real battleground should be how the information that is being collected is used and retained.  Data collection is being done on an unprecedented scale by not only the government but also by companies and don't be so naive as to think that other countries aren't collecting data on Americans either.  Data can be transformed into information.  Information can be transformed into insights and insights can be transformed into wisdom.  Any nation with wisdom has an advantage over other nations that do not when it comes to geopolitical considerations.  To abandon that to the Chinese or the Russians is sheer folly.

Let me provide one example of how this data collection could be used.  If the phone and electronic records of known domestic terrorists are looked at patterns of behavior might emerge.  Those collected records may point to other data elements that are indicative of terrorist related potential.  A model can than be built to search for that type of behavior among the trillions of phone and data record elements and identify potential terrorists based on similar behaviors being exhibited.  That would give an agency like the FBI potential targets to investigate.

That's where the handling of the information becomes important.  If you have not met those criteria, your data should likely be expunged.  If you fit the profile of a potential terrorist, you still might not be one.That might be the point at which the FBI requires corroborating evidence or becomes limited in what surveillance it can conduct under the Fourth Amendment.  It certainly is a grey area in terms of how far they should be allowed to go.  

Because the power of that data is unquestionably strong.  Companies model customer behaviors all of the time.  I personally know that to be true.  It's done for marketing efficiency.  Why target someone to switch to a more expensive data plan on their iPhone if you know they are extremely unlikely to do so? Computer modeling behavior is very effective.  But it does require large amounts of data.  Big Data is the industry buzzword these days.

The reality of espionage has always outstripped public knowledge of what is going on.  
No matter the Constitutional protections provided to American citizens, spying is going to happen.  And there always going to be domestic threats to national security and individual safety.  My personal opinion as to what the balance between national security and personal privacy should be continues to shift from what is ideal to what is practical (not what is necessarily feasible).  There are no easy answers to this, but the one undeniable fact is that there are many, many countries where the national conversation about what the balance should be, would not be allowed to occur.  That fact is something worth fighting to keep.  The only question is how that fight should be fought.

May 17, 2014

Saturday Learning Series - Constitutional History Part 1 - Antecedents

From Tom Woods, a series on Constitutional History.  Part 1 deals with the European antecedents to the U.S. Constitution.

Exactly when will all these 2-for-1 scandals affect Obama?

In the wake of two never-really played out Benghazi scandals that have so far failed to engulf president Obama and Hillary Clinton, Obama's job approval ratings remain mired in mediocrity instead of plummeting to depths conservatives have hoped.  And that was a two-for-one scandal: firstly, not doing enough to prevent the deaths (before and during the terrorist attack) as well as covering up the fact that it was a terrorist attack and lying to the public about knowing that, just to win re-eelction for the president. In the overlooked IRS targeting Tea Party scandal (another two for one - the targeting and then claiming it was just a local problem), the president remains fairly flat with his job approval.  In the face of the NSA spying on journalists, the president's numbers remain leaky, but afloat.  With the NSA also spying on all Americans, the president is still keeping his head near the waterline.  And with the ill-conceived and poorly executed rollout of Obamacare, and the suspect number of actual enrollments that the president is putting forward the president still clings to the fringes of job approval respectability.  

And now there's the scandal of the Veterans Administration having secret lists and allowing veterans to die while on waiting lists for surgeries.  Another executive misdeed followed by another cover-up. Another two-for-one scandal.  Despite all of these two-for-one scandals, the president remains much more 'approved' than is justifiable.  Which leads me to believe that if the damage hasn't already been done to the extent that it should have, it just won't.

Conservatives are right to expect that the president's job approval should be in the 10% to 25% range.  They are not right to expect that it will actually happen.  It won't, and it isn't going to get any worse than it is right now.  Just as the president has a ceiling for job approval (and support), he also has a floor, and we've reached it.

That's bad news.  As Obama heads into the summer, his approval numbers appear to have even rebounded slightly.  The summer typically tends to be a holding pattern in politics.  With the exception of the 2010 town halls during the birth of the Tea Party and the birth of opposition to Obamacare, not much happens politically in the summertime.  It's as if the pause button has been hit.

That does not bode well for the GOP and even worse for conservatives.  When people re-engage in the fall, there is a short window to make the case to voters that president Obama does not deserve more Congressional and Senate supporters, but rather less of them.  By that time perhaps there will be a breakthrough on Benghazi or on Lois Lerner.  Perhaps not.  The GOP and conservatives have been lackluster at best in painting the scandal-ridden president to the public as who he really is.  

Meanwhile the president has seemingly been casting about, looking for an issue to connect with voters - the minimum wage and pay fairness, immigration reform and gender politics (among other issues) have all been items he has discussed in campaign style fashion over the last few months.  Conservatives might be tempted to see that as desperation.  It's not - it's called securing the base.  

How else to explain that despite the scandals, the president's approval record appears to have bottomed out for now?  He's working the base for turnout in the fall.  The Obama turnout machine killed Mitt Romney in 2012.  They know their constituencies.  They know which buttons they have to press in order to win, and they are doing it already for the November midterms.

The lesson for the GOP is that trying to get some or all of these scandals to really stick should not be the main objective.  There's no reason to drop them, but a meaningful victory can only come with a positive message about what the GOP stands for, and what it can do for Americans in all walks of life, is the only way for the GOP to win. Relying solely on scandal is a gamble, and it's likely to be a losing bet.

May 16, 2014

Left-on-Left political correctness attacks?

As a conservative, my inclination when liberals are arguing with liberals over liberal-centered issues is to stand back and let them go at each other.  So when the New York Times decided to fire Jill Abramson for demanding equal pay for equal work as Executive Editor with her regards to her male predecessor, that was my first inclination.  Provided the fight stays on the left.  I don't know that it will stay there, because it seems to be a media hot-button issue right now. 

In fact, The New Yorker for example, jumped right on the story:
Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. “She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect. Sulzberger is known to believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson, who spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, had been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, which accounted for some of the pension disparity. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Jill Abramson’s total compensation as executive editor “was directly comparable to Bill Keller’s”—though it was not actually the same.
The political correctness of equal pay is unequivocally a progressive agenda item.  Although equality is not a liberal-only issue.  Equality affects everyone.  But gender equality is, as every other form of equality, about equal opportunity, and not equal outcome.  Not every female would deserve equal pay with every other female in a given role, and to compare any two people, with different experience, and different skill sets will inevitably result in different value that they can offer in a role.  Therefore different pays are to be expected, always.  True equality comes from equal opportunity, not equal outcome. That would be a Marxist resolution.  Is the marketplace willing to hire female Executive Editors?  If so then equal opportunity exists.


That equal offer of employment comes with a clearly reduced level of compensation.  I'm not talking about 10% less - that could be attributable to a difference in experience. So too perhaps could a 30% difference in pay.  Maybe.  But a 50% difference in pay would seem to be a different scenario.  It could be gender based, or it could be a bias against Abramson individually.  Either way, the notion of equality is not being applied.

All that said, it is hard to argue that equal pay for equal work is some sort of unreasonable concept.  Within an acceptable range as defined by experience etc., it is likely the norm in most companies.  If women all end up at the bottom of the range and men all at the top, maybe there is still a problem, but proving that is not so simple.  Comparing women in company A to men in company B with similar roles is not necessarily an apples to apples comparison.   This is something that calls for a layered analysis, which is an expensive proposition to research and not necessarily even possible given the secrecy surrounding pay in many companies.  In other words, there is no easy answer, no A-HA, no "gotcha!" in this discussion.

Which is all the more reason as a conservative to step aside and watch the New York Times once again be subject to criticism and concern - especially on an issue that as a liberal media outlet, they should be championing.  Holding the NYT up to their own standards is something Alinsky might do if he were on the conservative side of the political spectrum.  I'm happy to do so, with the proviso that this doesn't turn into another attack on conservatives as per usual.  As a conservative, I believe in free markets - even when it comes to labor.  If Abramson is worth as much as her predecessor (or more, or less) she should be paid accordingly.  And if she isn't being paid what she is worth, she is free to leave and seek more gainful employment - the free market will see her get offers in accordance with what she has to offer. This should be true for every woman, and every man.  Underpaying someone will result in only being able to hire inferior employees.

As far as being able to leave for better employment, I suspect that is actually what is happening in this case already.

Friday Musical Interlude - Amok

Today's Friday Musical Interlude is brought to you by German group Ledernacken (German for Leatherneck) with their weird but catchy song Amok from 1983.  The music of Ledernacken was a mix of electronic, hard rock and African rhythm with lyrics that were meant to be ironically violent and sexist (or so I am led to believe).  Since the lyrics are predominantly German, I don't pay much attention to them anyway - not speaking German and all. But beyond the controversy of the lyrics, this is simply a catchy song.

May 15, 2014

Thursday Hillary Bash - Raising her health issues a tactical blunder?

The purpose of the Thursday Hillary Bash is of course to bash Hillary Clinton (on Thursdays) since she just isn't qualified to be a good commander in chief.  So I do not take lightly the notion of questioning someone who questions her fitness to be president.  But in this case, I do have to wonder - was this the right route to take?

Not brain damaged, but definitely policy-challenged.
Thanks to Karl Rove, it looks like the latest focus on Hillary has surrounded her health.  In 2016 she'll be 69 years old.  I personally don't think that's too old to serve two terms as president, but when Ronald Reagan ran in 1980 at the same age as Hillary Clinton would run in 2016, many people on the left used the issue his age against him (or tried to do so).  Borrowing from Saul Alinsky, why not use Hillary's age against her? But will it be effective?

In either a stroke of genius, or a massive brush of stupidity, Karl Rove threw the issue of Hillary's health out there. But he didn't limit it to her age, he brought up brain damage, as reported by the Washington Post:
If Clinton decides to run in 2016, her age and health are certain to be talked about, given that she would be vying to become the second-oldest person in history to be elected. She would be 69, only a little younger than Ronald Reagan when he won his first term in 1980.

What had been only a secondary issue, compared with the prospect of electing the first female president, has suddenly burst to the fore. On Tuesday, the New York Post ran a provocative headline: “Karl Rove: Hillary may have brain damage.”

May 14, 2014

Creative Destruction and you

Source: M.J. Perry

Recently I stumbled upon an article in The Federalist about the destruction of the middle class by 'robots'. The point of the article was that advancing technology does not destroy jobs as a by-product of excessive greed of the rich, which is a commonly held progressive belief.

The article makes the point about the automobile vs. Facebook as industrial innovations, rhetorically asking which would be more disruptive to an economy.  It follows, with this great section:
 ...Isn’t it more likely that an administration that fosters a “fairer” economy over an innovative one is hampering job creation? 
Question: Which one of these things is more likely to undermine economic activity:

     a) Twitter

     b) over 12,000 new pages of regulations added by this administration 
“The temptation is to blame markets if, for ordinarily workers, creative destruction is more destructive than creative,” Boudreaux says, “But perhaps the accumulation over the years of capital-market regulations, labor-market and occupational-licensing regulations, consumer-products-market regulations, and the hidden taxes (e.g., Obamacare) that attend many of these regulations are, unlike in the past, finally indeed preventing markets from doing what markets would otherwise naturally do: create new opportunities for workers displaced by technology.”
 I agree with the fundamental argument of the piece.  The one point I would however, is that while the creative destruction of a capitalist economy does indeed replace obsolete jobs with newer ones, those new jobs need not exist in the same economy.  Creative destruction does not operate in a vacuum.  Freer trade has made it possible to replace an existing worker with a far cheaper worker in India (for example).

This does not come without geo-political considerations.  Wealth transfers to China as part of the global economic re-structuring pose an existential risk for America. Undermining the notion that the United States can move freely to a post industrial economy by becoming a service economy overlooks the basic fundamentals of life - things still need to be farmed, things and still need to be manufactured, from clothing to cars.  As the world moves to a more wealthy existence overall, those making pennies on the dollar for sewing jobs in Bangladesh, will ultimately expect more relative to someone working at a Wendy's in Arkansas.  All of this to say that in an inter-dependent world economy, change, even change as a result of innovation, is more chaotic than it has been in previous eras.

Cycling back to the point in The Federalist, given that resultant chaos, the most humane thing for the government to do would not be to prolong the agony by propping up failing industries or pet projects, but rather to get out of the way as much as possible and allow the pain of the creative destruction to happen as quickly as possible and be over with.  Think of the Reagan recovery in 1983. The economy blasted back from the stagflation of the late Carter, early Reagan years after the decision to allow interest rates to rise to the point they did which cleared out (destroyed) those who were operating most inefficiently and could not absorb the shock.

In that light, allowing all jobs to just go offshore would seem to be the most humane approach, but that might not be realistic on a macro scale just as much as on a micro scale. That caveat aside, those who argue against innovation (rhetorically or via implementing policy or executive orders that hamper it from happening) are truly damaging to the long term viability of the United States.

May 13, 2014

The potential social value of AMC's TURN

Okay, I was wrong - I've got something to post about.  For the past few weeks I have been watching the series TURN on AMC.  The series is a drama based on the actual Culper Spy Ring during the American Revolutionary War.  The characters represent the actual players in the spy ring.

While the series has received mixed reviews, I have quite enjoyed it.  It's a pleasant change from the various moribund reality series that dominate television these days.  And while you can argue about the accuracy of the details in the series, particularly around peoples' motivations, the key elements so far seem to be reasonably accurate.  The opportunity to learn about American history in a less boring environment than a school classroom, should appeal to both parents and social conservatives who bemoan the social decay of American society.  While the series has a long way to go to beat the clever drama of a Breaking Bad,or the mass appeal of a Walking Dead,  from a social value perspective it has both beat hands down.

I see the series as an opportunity to make American history, and the ideals of the Founding Fathers a more palatable and relevant subject to the youth of today.  The series itself took a couple of episodes to really get a hold on me but now I can't wait to see more.

A Post About Nothing

This is not a political, economic or socially-focused post.  It's more of a post about nothing.  In fact, it's about finding nothing worth posting about.  It seems like a slow news day to me.  There are of course things going on, but nothing so gripping that I feel motivated to blog about it today.  That's unfortunate - not that there's not enough impactful stuff to write about, that can be a very good thing, but rather that I'm not feeling motivated to write.

I attribute it to inertia.  When I'm blogging I'm energized to continue to do so.  When I'm not writing, it seems incredibly difficult to get motivated to start writing again.  This spring has been much of the former and only a little of the latter.  I'm sure as the midterm elections draw nearer I will be re-engaged, but hopefully it happens much sooner than that.

Frankly the reason I'm writing about this rather than the Marco Rubio's latest attempts to re-connect with the right, or tracking the on-going foibles of Hillary Clinton,  is to try to keep on posting on a day where my mind is clearly elsewhere.  Hopefully it helps.

May 12, 2014

Flawed Common Core Commercial

Yesterday I saw a commercial about Common Core that proved to me that liberals are either blind to its implications, or trying to blind the public about it.  Unfortunately I have not found an online version of it to include in this post (as reference) but I will add it if I do find it.

If you are not familiar with the Common Core State Standards Initiative, Wikipedia defines it this way:
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an educational initiative in the United States that details what K-12 students should know in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade. The initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.
In the commercial, in order to snuff the opposition argument about local control, the commercial actually makes the argument that local teachers have autonomy on how to teach the Common Core program.  But that really doesn't get to the core of the problem.  Pardon the pun.

The problem IS NOT whether there is local control of how to teach to the Common Core.  The problem is the content of the Common Core.  True local control means that local teachers and school boards decide what to teach, not how to teach what they are told to teach. If the Common Core required teachers to teach the merits of Nazi Germany, it doesn't matter how you decide to teach that, you are still teaching something bad.

Common Core is rooted in the progressivist idea that a group of centralized planners are better at deciding what is best for everyone than people themselves would be.  That didn't work in Soviet 5-year plans and it won't work in Washington D.C.  What makes sense in learning in Alaska may not make sense in Texas or Florida.  The fact is that diversity of ideas is what makes America great.  That is as true in education as it is in business.  If there were indeed one clearly superior way to teach students (with respect to both what and how), then it will evolve on its own anyway, out of necessity.  So far it hasn't because it is not clear what is the one best way that every state and district has just got to adopt.  It's just like the Solyndra debacle all over again.  The government is picking winners and losers, in this case in education.  It's because they want to control the agenda.  But the real problem is that if they were best at picking the best, every decision they made would be correct.  Obviously that is not the case.

May 9, 2014

Friday Musical Interlude - Hammer Time

This is a bit old now, unbelievably. MC Hammer's U Can't Touch This, from 1990.

May 8, 2014

Thursday Hillary Bash - Not Lewinsky, Boko Harum

Clearly not.
I was busy with a couple of job interviews today and didn't have a chance to provide a Thursday Hillary Bash.  But that doesn`t mean there isn`t Hillary news this week.

I`m going to ignore the re-hash of the Lewinsky affair (literally and figuratively speaking).  After all, the Washington Post and others have already spun it as having done Hillary Clinton a favor.  She wants the re-telling of the story out of the way long before the presidential elections.  I actually think it hurts Hilary because it would be a mistake for Republicans to focus  on that during the 2016 general election.  It's a distraction that would hurt them more than her.  This frees up the GOP to focus on the Benghazi issue or other substantive issues closer to the general election instead.

But that's not ignoring the issue, so let me drop that there and share this instead.  Think Progress is defending Hillary Clinton's resistance to classifying terrorist organization Boko Harum as a terrorist organization.  First, here's the back story on Boko Harum's 'sudden' importance, also via Think Progress:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week tweeted out support for efforts to recover the more than two hundred girls kidnapped almost a month ago, saying “We must stand up to terrorism” and using the now ubiquitous #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. But now conservatives are angrily pointing out that she had refused to list the Nigerian group behind the kidnapping as a terrorist organization during her time at the State Department, threatening to turn the latest push against the group into a political football.

May 7, 2014

Larry King blasts CNN

When CNN is being criticized by former CNN stalwart Larry King, you know something is dreadfully wrong.  King took exception to CNN's nearly wall-to-wall coverage of the missing Malaysian airlines 777.
Appearing on Tuesday's NBC Today, former CNN talk show host Larry King ridiculed his former employer when asked if he would ever return to the cable channel: "The tough time I would have at CNN now, I think, would be doing this airplane story. Because I think I'd crack up laughing. I think I would have – you know, how many times can you cover a plane? Six weeks and all we know is it made a left turn."

Co-host Willie Geist asked: "So you wouldn't do that story?" King replied: "Well, what if they forced me to? I would probably not want to do it. I think it would get embarrassing after a while."
Even the president joked at the White House Correspondents Dinner about having to travel to Malaysia recently just to get coverage from CNN. 

Why is CNN so obsessed with the story? CNN, under new stewardship, is trying to go in a different direction lately to try to save their flagging ratings. But I suspect that the reason lies elsewhere.

With the Benghazi scandal re-shaping into an issue the reluctant mainstream media has been forced to take note of now, and with the IRS scandal doing the same, CNN appears to be trying to distract viewers from real issues with a real life version of a serial TV show like Lost. When it comes to coverage of that plane being so omnipresent however,  if Larry King is embarrassed by it, you know it has gotten to the point of absurdity.

May 6, 2014

Federal Report: Global Warming Is Disrupting Your Life

DID YOU KNOW:  Your life has been adversely affected by this global warming thing that mankind has clearly caused.  From the isn't-this-convenient-timing-before-a-midterm-election files, via AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Global warming is rapidly turning America the beautiful into America the stormy, sneezy and dangerous, according to a new federal scientific report. And those shining seas? Rising and costly, the report says.

Climate change's assorted harms "are expected to become increasingly disruptive across the nation throughout this century and beyond," the National Climate Assessment concluded Tuesday. The report emphasizes how warming and its all-too-wild weather are changing daily lives, even using the phrase "climate disruption" as another way of saying global warming.

Still, it's not too late to prevent the worst of climate change, says the 840-page report, which the White House is highlighting as it tries to jump-start often stalled efforts to curb heat-trapping gases.

...The report also says "climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways." Those include smoke-filled air from more wildfires, smoggy air from pollution, more diseases from tainted food, water, mosquitoes and ticks. And then there's more pollen because of warming weather and the effects of carbon dioxide on plants. Ragweed pollen season has lengthened by 24 days in the Minnesota-North Dakota region between 1995 and 2011, the report says. In other parts of the Midwest, the pollen season has gotten longer by anywhere from 11 days to 20 days.

And all this will come with a hefty cost, the report says.
No mention of any countervailing views in the AP story, because, as we all know, the science is settled.  I would comment more on the absurdity of this story but I've had about as much as I can stomach right now.

May 5, 2014

WHCD a disconnect with America

The president as pointed out by critics on the right, was full of 'others-deprecating' humor as usual at the latest iteration of the WHCD (White House Correspondents Dinner).  The tradition of self-deprecating humor was paid an ever-so-brief nod before the president started skewering everyone else, particularly his political foes.  There are plenty of examples to choose from, but there is more reason to not care.

Politico had a couple of articles about the WHCD, one of which points out the partisan opportunity the president sees the dinner as presenting.  Keeping in mind he's playing to a predominantly liberal media gathering, the receptive crowd would play into the notion that the direction the president is taking the dinner is okay.
Obama is much more likely to reserve his sharpest flashes of wit for his adversaries, antagonists and even (in a kind of throwback Henny Youngmanesque style) for the wife he invariably portrays as hectoring...

Obama generally eschews the kind of deadly self-directed stinger George W. Bush delivered at his first Gridiron Club dinner in 2001, when he allowed: “Those stories about my intellectual capacity do get under my skin. You know for a while I even thought my staff believed it. There on my schedule first thing every morning it said, ‘Intelligence Briefing.’” And near the end of his tenure, Bush said he was considering “something really fun and creative” for his memoirs, “You know, maybe a pop-up book.”
The other Politico article, even goes so far as to bring up New York Times Magazine National Correspondent Mark Leibovich, who complains about the WHCD as an abomination.
"I think that it’s morphed into this extravaganza of more than two dozen pre-parties and after parties, and we have to ask ourselves, what are we celebrating exactly?" he said on ABC's "This Week."

"This is a classic case of the bubble world and the unselfawareness of spending however millions of dollars over a number of days to celebrate ourselves and again I ask, why?" he said.
Leibovich makes a valid point, particularly when it comes to the bubble world. That bubble is the inside the beltway political class and the media cabal that lives in it`s own atmosphere, unaware of how they look from the outside.  Therein lies the reason to not care.  The more into the bubble the beltway folks go, the further the disconnect, and the less relevant their opinions become to America at large.

CNN, which recently made it clear it would like to become less of a news channel and more of a news magazine style channel played the WHCD like it was the Oscars.  Whether it was part of that re-branding effort, an attempt by the liberal media to allow the president the opportunity to skewer the right in a seemingly lighthearted manner or a bit of both is not clear.   But the red-carpeting of the event was clearly a disconnect with the mean-spirited monologue of the president.

Even those who seemed to appreciate the dinner itself were down on CNN's SuperBowlesque dedication to the event.
CNN dedicated no less than six hours to its White House Correspondents’ Dinner coverage on Saturday night, and the reviews weren’t a whole lot better than the network’s widely-panned MH370 coverage. Primetime anchor Don Lemon led the coverage with important anecdotes about how he had a hard time recognizing who was who at the event, showing off the cue cards he was using to identify celebrities during CNN’s extensive red-carpet coverage. The network bizarrely brought on actor Michael Torpey, most recognizable from Chase Freedom’s ads, and former conservative speechwriter (and current boring curmudgeon) Ben Stein to help interpret the evening’s best jokes. (Spoiler: Stein thought they were mean, unfunny, and uncomfortable. We’d mostly disagree.)
That`s why it does not matter. The inadvertently us-and-them event has been paraded out as an in-your-face-America spectacle. Should those within an industry be allowed to celebrate their achievements?  Of course.  But what is the harm in keeping that celebration private?  This is NOT the Oscars (despite all the stars in attendance, another problem with the event).  The pomp and circumstance is especially inappropriate given the high unemployment rate, the historically terrible labor participation rate and the declining median income in America.

More importantly, this is not going to going to make anyone like president Obama any more or any less.  Those opinions have already been set and are already firmed up.  The WHCD comes across as more mean-spirited than it would in good times.  So the sniping at the GOP is irrelevant. There's no reason to care because the disconnect of these people with the rest of the country makes their case that much harder to make.

For those of you on the left, particularly those who identify with the 99% movement, how do you reconcile your agenda with this?  When the likes of Van Jones are in attendance, clearly there is a big disconnect between the liberal elite agenda and your own.

May 3, 2014

Saturday Learning Series - Principles of the Constitution

From Freedom Project, an explainer of the principles of the Constitution, from Preamble through the amendments and beyond.  The series, in 11 parts, are all present in this playlist.  At the end of each video, after a few seconds, the next video will start.  Stay tuned for the whole series.

May 2, 2014

Good Unemployment Numbers? Let's Be Clear, Not Really.

More coming soon.
The real picture on unemployment is getting overlooked on a regular basis by the mainstream media.  So the latest numbers, showing a drop of unemployment from 6.7% to 6.3% can expect to have a lot of hoopla in support of the president.  But those of us who look beyond the headlines realize that the jobs report for April 2014 are anything but good.

Rather than rehashing the details, let me just quote Neil Irwin from the New York Times:
Rarely does a monthly report on the United States job market look so terrific on the surface while being so disappointing underneath.

At first glance, the new reading on the nation’s employment situation is shout-from-the-roof-tops, pop-the-Champagne fantastic. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent from 6.7 percent, and employers added a whopping 288,000 jobs, the most in two years. Those types of numbers, if sustained, would signal something better than just the humdrum, sluggish recovery of the last few years, and something far more robust.

The details of the April job report, though, threw serious cold water on that proposition. The number of people in the labor force fell by a whopping 806,000, wiping out the February and March gains and a bit of January as well. The labor force participation rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 62.8 percent, returning to its December level.

And the number of people reporting they were unemployed fell by 733,000, which sounds good on its surface, but paired with the similar-sized decline in the labor force points to job seekers giving up looking rather than finding new employment.
Kudos to the NYT for reporting on the softness of the numbers. The mainstream media gets a point in the plus column for a change. Then again, the NYT instead has this report on it's front page (online) "Report Shows Resurgence of Hiring but Has Downbeat Notes" and as it's main article on the subject. Reading through it the report seems to be reasonably neutral in tone. But it's still early. After the president's team gets a chance to spin this, you can bet the NYT will be onboard with the rah-rah cheerleading as we head towards the midterm elections.
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