Friday, October 30, 2009

Unbelievable - Illegal Immigrant groups

This was sent to me by a friend this morning. It makes me sick. And it is accepted.

Check out this article on Lou Dobbs, who was apparently shot at outside his

My favorite part is when William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal
Immigration says "it's very likely Dobbs' outspokenness on illegal
immigration led to the shooting."

Said in a matter-of-fact way, it is absurd that this man doesn't seem
shocked that Dobbs was shot at. This is unbelievable. We're okay with
illegal immigrant groups coming after an independent talk show host?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where are all you privacy fanatics?

Let me just ask this simple question. Where are all of the "privacy advocacy" people during this health care debate?

You know, last time I was at the doctor's office, I was one of the many people patiently waiting their turn to be seen. As the receptionist came out each time to call the next patient's name, I noticed a trend - the first name was called, followed by only the first letter of the last name (Ted M.? Ted M.?) I started to wonder, why doesn't she just call the person's full name? I mean, there is bound to be an occasion where there are two people in the room who share the same first name, and first letter of their last name, right?

So, this lead me to think further, as I am a "critical thinker", like our President, does this have something to do with privacy? HIPAA - that is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act - was created in 1996 by the Department of Civil Rights (duh!), and honestly, we have all been in a situation where we were presented a piece of HIPAA paperwork to sign, and yet trying to read and understand it was like trying to decode hieroglyphics.

So, and think about this for a minute, where the hell are all of these people who are HIP-ites? PRIVACY is directly connected to health, right? So, if the government seizes control of our health care, does that mean that they seize control of our privacy? I think so, don't you?

Where's the outrage?

Oh, wait. I forgot. It is a Democratic, black man leading the charge. He just happens to be the President. So, obviously, you must be a racist if you disagree with the agenda. Duh.

Compost: Who Thinks Alike?

The other day Obama shined a little light into the national political discourse when he said Republicans "all think alike." I pointed out that Democrats are the ones who label those in disagreement with liberal policies as anti-intellectual, insensitive or greedy. That especially, and with much more vitriol, applies when Hispanics, Blacks, homosexuals or women do not abide by the liberal code. Then they are traitors, sell-outs, house slaves, or Uncle Toms. Democrats believe that people should vote out of self-interest, and make a political living out of urging people to identify by gender, ethnicity, or race first and country second (or not at all).

They then believe that they are entitled to those groups' votes because they work so hard to make special policies that supposedly benefit those groups. These are things like welfare and special social rights, which don't help them but actually entrap them into a cycle of poverty and/or expectation of economic and social entitlement that deters the development of genuine social equality (based on merit).

As part of this, liberals are always on the look out for potential social injustices in order to instill a victim mentality in their preferred groups. It accomplishes two things: 1) the group rallies together against a common enemy (usually a business owner or Republican) and 2) it identifies the liberal as the patron of this group. In reality, it usually just causes a minority group to vote against their own prosperity, and to sacrifice their own progress in order to score political points for liberal elites.

There is no better moment that captures all of these machinations than an interaction between CNN's Kyra Phillips and Rick Sanchez on Monday. Phillips is drilling the new owner of a Taos, NM hotel for a) after buying the hotel, laying off all the employees and making them interview for jobs, b) requiring his employees to speak English in his presence, and c) asking his telephone operators to Anglicize their names when dealing with customers on the phone.

The first two are standard procedure for a new owner in a service industry, and don't need to be discussed.

The last, and most controversial, aspect is something that immigrants have been expected to do, or done on their own, since the beginning of America. It happens all over the world. In this instance, the owner thought it'd be easier to attract customers from across the country if those people thought they were interacting with assimilated people. As a private business owner, it's also his right to set policies, so long as he is non-discriminatory in hiring and assignments.

Phillips trashes the hotel owner as a racist. Rick Sanchez joins the conversation, says that he agrees with the hotel owner, and Phillips is stunned. If she'd left it at being stunned, maybe it would have just been a surprise disagreement among liberals. But Phillips feels compelled to enlighten Sanchez, who she begins treating like an Uncle Tom:

She expects that she can show him how he should think by putting him back in touch with his people and his roots. And then, boom. It turns out Rick Sanchez Anglicized the shit out of his name. And did it because he wants to be respectful of American culture that has "allowed us as Hispanics to come here, and I think it's easier if someone's able to understand my name." Phillips continues to try to correct Sanchez, and tells him that he hasn't really Anglicized my name.

So, a liberal reporter tells a Hispanic man that she better understands the Hispanic circumstance becuase she expect all minorities to think alike and be offended by any perceived slight, even though the Hispanic man has lived through and prospered under the exact same circumstances. And Republicans all think alike.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The last place trophy

How many more times are we going to say to our children, or our students, "Great job, you got a 50!"? "Wow, you came in dead last! Awesome, you rock!"

There is, and has been a mentality that there are no losers. I'm all for that - no one should be called a loser for TRYING. No one should be made fun of. FOR TRYING. Yes? I think we understand that. However, there is a distinct line in the sand when it comes to defining a "job well done", deserving of a good grade or high commendation, and a "half - ass" job, with little or no effort put in. What I make of this is that we all of a sudden have a new generation emerging - the "Entitlist" generation.
Look, I am a recent college graduate. I landed a good job, actually two, soon after I graduated. I consider myself lucky. But let's not forget- my being hired twice already is a reflection of my merit, not the color of my skin, or another similar deciding factor. Back to my point. I can't stomach the typical college student - and this may be a broad generalization- that wants to save the planet by wearing Birkenstocks and riding a bike to work, and never misses an opportunity to lecture you on how you are a hater, bigot, racist, capitalist loving homophobe. But this same person does not declare a major, and decides to either use their college education to "find themselves" and out they come with their liberal arts degree. (I did not capitalize because in my humble opinion, that does not constitute a college education, much less warrant a degree from a so called institution of higher learning.)
OK, out into reality we go. Two choices: stay for another degree, or look for a job. Either is a personal decision - I get it - and I chose the former. But that was my choice, and everyone should chose wisely. Wisely. That is the key word here. Now, what the hell can you do with a degree in liberal arts? Is it a resume builder? A standout in the giant pile of other job applications? Hmm...don't think so. So now we have the same person who was told, "It's OK if you fail your tests, come in last place every time, dress like a clown, speak like an ignoramus, and don't like to bathe on a regular basis. It's OK."
News flash- there are thousands of people walking around out there, who were spoon fed this mentality, and it has produced a certain type of individual. One who will reason with a child instead of teaching discipline, one who will blame the process and not the product, one who will avoid work to gain success, and finally, one who will be granted something they are unqualified and undeserving of.
I always thought that if you worked hard at something, you would get what you wanted. It may not happen instantly, but just putting in the effort was something that was part of the pay-off. I find myself in a minority today. Look, I'm no preacher, and I'm not going to say it wouldn't be great to win the lottery and not have to work anymore. But the path that I take - work, and then get - is no longer what is "mainstream". The "Entitlist" must have everything, now, without putting in the work. Sorry people, but I don't buy it, and I never will. You want something? Go get it. And if you come in last place, it's not "Great job!" It's "try again, and you will get it."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Compost: Reinvesting In Waste

Since the Stimulus/$800B Pet Project Spending Kit was passed in February, these signs have popped up at tons of road construction projects. At the "strong encourage[ment]" of the federal government, states are spending between $1500 and $2500 per sign to let people know what they already know. Federal and state tax money is paying for this roadwork.

When the phony debate between conservatives and liberals about whether and what kind of stimulus should be passed, many conservatives reconciled themselves to the inevitability of a huge, wasteful spending bill, but hoped that a large portion would be spent on repairing and installing infrastructure - roads, bridges, mass transit. To some extent that has happened, but not to the extent it should have. And it hasn't fulfilled the dubious claim on the above sign of "putting America to work":

So no, people really haven't gotten back to work. In addition to the general waste inherent to bulk spending bills, there may not be a better illustration of conservatives' frustration with government spending than the Spending Bill road signs. Again, everyone is aware that highway repair is funded through tax dollars. There is no reason that extra money needs to be spent to remind people of this. In Georgia, the AJC estimates that the signs, costing between $1,200 and $1,600 apiece, could eat $600,000 of the stimulus funds. Quick math reveals that instead of wasting money on redundant and wasteful signage, $600,000 could be used to provide 20 one-year jobs paying $30,000. Not bad money during a time that the Vice President refers to as a "depression" for most people.

Instead, much like Barack Obama needed to remind people that he won the election with a $170M inauguration, he needs to remind people that his is the hand feeding them with these signs. More money could have gone to repairs or jobs, but the Obama administration has put more money toward sheer waste, including $4,600 for a sign in NY. As is typical of those who want to create a dependency on government, there are reports that stimulus money has been withheld if localities refuse to waste money on signs. After having their pockets picked by the government, people need to kiss the ring to get any of it back.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Contradiction: Healthcare and Education Reforms

It's pretty easy for conservatives to make negative comparisons between existing disliked or failing government programs and a greater role for governme. A litany of financially unsuccessful or socially misguided programs that have been enacted with good intentions - AMTRAK, the Post Office, Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, etc - serve as cautionary tales to greater government involvement in health care. The lesson is that the government will spend, cover spending with taxes, and spend more if they are in control of a program that they do not want to give up.

However, there is one program that attracts equal dislike across the political spectrum (but especially by liberals): No Child Left Behind. It seems to be the one federal program both conservatives and liberals dislike. Teachers seem to dislike the law for it's interference with their ability to design their own curriculum. For most, it's harder to get into a much deeper defense of it than it was a law with good intentions. It was supposed to force states to create minimum standards of achievement, and then hold schools accountable. To conservatives, it was a step toward shifting control of education back to the states, creating standards that could hold teachers, administrators, and politicians accountable, and reducing education spending at the federal level.

Keeping in mind that this was a bi-partisan bill - Ted Kennedy sponsored it and 87 senators voted for it - serious problems emerged after several years. The framework and consequences for schools setting and meeting standards is rigid, and the timeline for remedying and complying with the standards is harsh and sometimes unrealistic. The consequences for failure to comply are daunting: additional requirements for potentially over-burdened schools if they don't meet the standards after the first year, dismissal of administrators if still the school is still non-compliant after the second or third year, and then closing the school if it is still not meeting standards after four years.

The problem with inflexible such inflexible guidelines is that many mitigating factors that could prevent a school from meeting the grade: teachers union protecting bad teachers, a community of disinterested parents, an unusual influx of special needs or disadvantaged students (or, a large group of overachieving students who require IB or AP classes that take up additional resources and budget space), as well as a dearth of capable administrators. No Child Left Behind certainly has good intentions, but it is a law that could only function properly in a world filled with average to above-average students (say, C- to B+), where a specific curriculum meets the needs of each districts and additional resources do not have to be allotted to slower or faster learners.

After considering the negative, unintended consequences of a well-intentioned, bi-partisan education bill (and all of the instances of exploding costs for government programs), why do liberals insist that a government-run framework for health care will solve the problem? Doing the same thing - adding government - over and over is not going to result in a different outcome. It's like Lindsay and Tobias experimenting with an open marriage:
Tobias: You know, Lindsay, as a therapist, I have advised...
[falls off the bed]
Tobias: ...a number of couples to explore an open relationship where the couple remains emotionally committed, but free to explore extra-marital encounters.
Lindsay: Well, did it work for those people?
Tobias: No, it never does. I mean, these people somehow delude themselves into thinking it might, but... but it might work for us.
A government option and mandated coverage may provide broader access health care, but, much like NCLB, the unintended consequences will be great:
  • small businesses dropping coverage because it's cheaper to pay the fine for not providing insurance,
  • low-income people being fined for not purchasing health care,
  • mandated minimum amounts of coverage eating up the savings of young, healthy people who may only want catastrophic coverage,
  • private premiums rising because of taxes on private plans that exceed the maximum mandated coverage,
  • increased taxes to subsidize lower middle and middle class people purchasing public option insurance,
  • sacrificing quality of coverage for access to a plan.
And on and on. This doesn't even touch on the failure to bring down costs - none of the current plans have an adequate plan for diminishing health care costs aside from rationing - or the problem of adequately reimbursing doctors if the public option acts like Medicare.

There is a solution that doesn't require complex, potentially disastrous government mandates. The "small bill" and other conservative proposals don't require willful ignorance of past government failures.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Compost: Excluding Compatriots, Washington and Obama

George Washington, 1796 (Farewell Address):
The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
Barack Obama, 2009 (on Fox News):
"I think that what our advisers simply said is, is that we are going to take media as it comes," Obama said. "And if media is operating, basically, as a talk radio format, then that's one thing. And if it's operating as a news outlet than that's another. But it's not something I'm losing a lot of sleep over."
The standard for political discourse set by Washington was for politicians to remember that your countrymen are your allies, that you both should expect them and need them to stand with you when the country is threatened. I imagine that the slight differences he refers to are over domestic policy, whereas he expected Americans to bond together when it came to national security or other imminent crises. In other words, health care and reducing carbon emissions should take a back seat to collaboration on fighting foreign enemies and preventing economic disaster.

Instead, heading into the second decade of the 21st century, President Obama pulls further away from Washington's message than any other president. Elected under the guise of being a post-partisan, post-racial politician, Obama has managed to alienate independents and parts of his own constituency faster than any other president. He's refused to collaborate with Republicans on the economic recovery package early after his inauguration and health care reform throughout 2009. Nor has he seemingly been willing to listen to the likely disastrous consequences of his desired cap and trade scheme.

Instead of collaborating, he's pursued the domestic equivalent of what Democrats accused Bush of doing in Iraq (even though they actually all supported it): unilateral, highly partisan legislation aimed at stripping economic liberty in the name of social equality.

Instead of rising above petty disputes, local issues, and the fast pace of political journalism, he's pursued every minor issue as if it were a personal feud: Rush Limbaugh's "fail" comment, the Henry Gates-Cambridge Police affair, Dick Cheney's rebuttals to his foreign policy.

And now, in addition to name-calling and denying any senior administration interviews to Fox News, Obama has tried to freeze them out of press pool policy briefings (which they pay, along with NBC, ABC, CNN, etc to be a part of). DrewM at AoS sums it up:
Fox is reporting on Special Report that the White House wanted to exclude Fox from the 5 member White House Pool who were going to be given access to Kenneth Feinberg.

The White House Pool, of which Fox has been a member since 1997, is a consortium of the five networks which fund its operations.

After the White House attempted to exclude Fox, the Washington bureau chiefs of the 5 networks met and announced none of them would participate if Fox were excluded.

It's amazing we are in the position we are. We have a President who is more interested in talking to murders around the world but is affraid to face a reporter who isn't enthralled with the crease of his pants.

I agree, but it goes beyond being afraid to face potentially unfavorable questions (even though O'Reilly's campaign interview was perfectly fair). His strategy for working with hostile countries is to engage them, speak diplomatically and offer an exchange of concessions. Yet, his strategy for dealing with domestic "enemies", as the White House as called FoxNews and other Democrats have called Republicans generally, is slash and burn. It's a serious contradiction of his foreign policy and outwardly tone of post-partisanship, and it's an indication of how badly he wants to consolidate power in America.

His foreign policy goal is to achieve enough of an international stasis that he can drastically lower military costs in order to shift that money toward his domestic policy goals. So while he is mute about Ahmedinejad slaughtering people in Tehran, he can't stop talking shit about Republicans and FoxNews:

Democrats think for themselves? Yeah, right. That must be why every liberal you'll ever meet thinks any black, Jew, female, homosexual or Hispanic that is a Republican is an idiot, Uncle Tom or traitor. I guess that's also why liberals are so tolerant of right-wing talk radio, profit margins, divergent religious expression, and economic freedom. They're big fans of economic success and independent thought. The reality is they're only fans of equality of outcome. The more they can tie individual economic success to party affiliation, the more they can control the entire domestic agenda.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Compost: Diplomacy in the Dark (Part III)

Part I and Part II centered around the lessons of the fall of Communist Dictatorships in 1989, and the continuing failure to apply those lessons to other long-term fights against ideologically motivated enemies (Fundamentalist Islamic terrorists). For all the crying about George Bush's supposed incompetency or short-sightedness, Obama has shown an extreme naivete and lack of vision in his foreign policy.

As extrapolated from the last 20 minutes of Charlie Wilson's War and this Reason column, Obama has failed to introduced the appealing alternative of economic and social freedom to the people living under oppressive regimes. Destroying the enemy and using US resources to rebuild infrastructure were huge parts of defeating Communist Dictatorships, but building a belief in the concept of individual liberty is a crucial third component. Without it, fights against ideologies will not be completely successful.

American is uniquely positioned to do perform the third component. As Charles Krauthammer wrote in "Decline Is a Choice", American primacy - hegemony - is a necessary component for any sense of world security:

The very expectation that these concessions would yield results is puzzling. Thus, for example, the president is proposing radical reductions in nuclear weapons and presided over a Security Council meeting passing a resolution whose goal is universal nuclear disarmament, on the theory that unless the existing nuclear powers reduce their weaponry, they can never have the moral standing to demand that other states not go nuclear.

But whatever the merits of unilateral or even bilateral U.S.-Russian disarmament, the notion that it will lead to reciprocal gestures from the likes of Iran and North Korea is simply childish. They are seeking the bomb for reasons of power, prestige, intimidation, blackmail, and regime preservation. They don't give a whit about the level of nuclear arms among the great powers. Indeed, both Iran and North Korea launched their nuclear weapons ambitions in the 1980s and the 1990s--precisely when the United States and Russia were radically reducing their arsenals.


There is a reason that we are the only hegemon in modern history to have not immediately catalyzed the creation of a massive counter-hegemonic alliance--as occurred, for example, against Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany. There is a reason so many countries of the Pacific Rim and the Middle East and Eastern Europe and Latin America welcome our presence as balancer of power and guarantor of their freedom.

And that reason is simple: We are as benign a hegemon as the world has ever seen.

It's a simple premise, and one that follows Reason's argument that the important lessons of the Cold War, and 1989 in particular, are incompletely remembered. America must be able to step into a conflict with the understanding that America's government, social freedom, and economic freedom are the best thing the world has seen since Pax Romana. The presence, or projection, of American force can go as far as actually using American force. That projection or use of force backs up American ideals, which are the motivation for interfering in foreign affairs.

Either out of moral obligation (Rwanda, Bosnia, etc) or security reasons (Iraq, Afghanistan), the preservation of American ideals is at the forefront of the use of American force. This is not to say that American force backs up the arbitrary imposition of American government, culture or values on foreign territories. People clamor for involvement in Darfur not to spread American ideals. They clamor for involvement because what has happened in Darfur is incompatible with American ideals. The abuses and darkness in circumstances like Kosovo are so egregious that, even though they do not directly affect America's interests, not to intervene would undermine American credibility. Essentially, as Krauthammer puts it, America is exceptional because its ideals are the best the world has to offer, and America polices the world without expecting anything in return but its own safety.

However, some people read the word hegemon and stop there. Krauthammer did not intend it to be read in the pejorative sense, but the NYT was quick to find people who read Krauthammer has bloodthirsty and war-mongering:

Joe Klein, Time: Barack Obama would probably argue — as would most foreign policy centrists — that the goal of his foreign policy would be to make the United States dominant in a more effective way: at the center of multilateral efforts to bring international miscreants under control. He goes on to list a number of ways this works: military coalitions, UN sanctions, etc. Except that the coalition disappeared in Afghanistan when people forget about the security threat posed by the people who ran that country, enabling and harboring terrorists. For effectiveness of UN sanctions, look at Hussein's cooperation throughout the 90s and early 2000s - there was none - and look at Iran's nuclear development program. Sanctions are temporarily effective at best.

More Klein: [Krauthammer] wants us to be more brutal, more like other historically powerful countries, more like the Russians in Afghanistan or the British in Mesopotamia. This is totally dishonest. Krauthammer never advocates using arbitrary force. He promotes relying more on the projection of force to intimidate repressive leaders into reforms. He also couples that with the idea that America has to bring ideas to fight against ideologies. The ideas that will appeal to people living under repressive regimes come from American ideals of individual liberty.

Klein jumps on Krauthammer for referring to Iraq as a prize being squandered by Obama, calling Krauthammer imperialistic. Krauthammer referred to Iraq as a prize to underscore the preciousness of what came out of a hellish situation. What could have been a total loss after three years of American blood and resources turned into a potentially viable, stable regime after 2007. This is a prize - totally unexpected, completely precious. Prize does not equal trophy. Iraq is certainly not a trophy, nor a shining example of well-thought military intervention. But in it's current condition, at the nascent stages of stability, it is a prize to the world.

The NYT then goes on to extensively quote a rebuttal from Yglesias at Think Progress, who further (deliberately) misreads Krauthammer. They read American hegemony as equivalent to American arrogance. They talk about it like modern liberals are the only ones who can see the negatives to American hegemony: the resources and lives America spends because of it. They act as if conservatives speak of this plan with no reluctance. Of course there is reluctance. There are other things at home that could be accomplished rather than expending energy around the globe. But the price of that is having to rely on hostile government to be considerate of a global balance that doesn't exist, and having a multipolar power structure where no country wants to expend their resources to solve the problem. Multipolarity exists in the form of the UN, and it doesn't work.

Krauthammer's hegemony isn't an imperialistic vision. It's really just a continuation of countering oppressive regimes who threaten American security with force and freedom, and the intervention in circumstances (genocide) where a lack of involvement (America doesn't just jump in for fun; it jumps in because it's the only one that will) is incompatible with American ideals.

It's understanding that unstable regimes (Iran and Russia) will act irrationally, out of self-interest, and without regard for other countries' interests because they don't see the world harmony that Barack Obama envisions. They don't share that vision because they still believe in domination of people and resources. The US never has believed in those things. They have believed in self-determination for sovereign countries (Woodrow Wilson), individual liberty for all people (Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, Bush), and international security (Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Clinton, Bush).

The basic premise of the Reason column and Krauthammer's piece is that American force (projected or used) coupled with the rational ideas (economic freedom, social freedom) America can offer as an alternative to barbaric ideologues is a recipe that America used for most of the 20th century in a bipolar world and should continue to use in a unipolar world. Until another country (likely Australia or a Western European democracy) is ready to step up and share the power and ideals of America, there is no reason that America should give up the role of hegemon. The world would be a darker place for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Compost: Diplomacy in the Dark (Part II)

Part I was triggered by a Reason Magazine piece about the fall of Communism in 1989. In many ways, 1989 was the reverse fall of the dominoes that US foreign policy analysts saw years before.

The point of Part I was that the Reason piece lamented the incomplete lesson learned from the defeat of Communism. The moral is that the best parts of the Free World triumphed over the worst of the Second World (Communist countries). The free exchange of information and ideas, and the introduction of economic liberty, defeated the repression of peoples' natural desires. This was accomplished through force - the USSR and Soviet Satellites couldn't compete with the US arsenal - and through ideas - social and economic liberty was more appealing than darkness.

When the US invaded Iraq and toppled the regime, people wondered why there wasn't a real plan for the fallout that followed. The idea that US could "democracy build" in Iraq was quickly dismissed. Gradually, a government was formed. For years, bombings and the insurgency prevented any progress. In 2007, the counterinsurgency began to slowly take back villages, towns and cities. Basic things happened: roads and bridges were protected, markets and stores stayed open instead of blown apart, school children attended new schools. Restrictions on economic activity were lifted, and Iraqis began to create in a freer market. Ideas began to accompany the force that had been in Iraq since 2003.

Nothing of the sort has ever, at least as far as I can appreciate, happened in Afghanistan. Towns and villages go back and forth between the US, Afghani Warlords and the Taliban. Infrastructure put in place beginning in 2002 was destroyed over time. Ideas never fully followed the force existing in the country since 2001.

In the 2008 election, Democrats excoriated George Bush for taking his eye of Afghanistan. They claimed too many resources were diverted to the "war of choice" (Iraq), and there was no plan for last success in Afghanistan. As happened in Iraq, some Democrats contended that success was not an option anymore. The situation was so far out of control that 7 years of fighting and work had been for naught. Typically, while they were quick with the criticism, they were also slow on their own robust plan for success (to be fair, I can't remember McCain ever articulating a clear plan either).

Essentially, nothing has changed since the campaign. Barack Obama won, and still does not have a plan for success. Other threats that existed - Iran, Russia - also remain untended. For all the complaining that Obama did about George Bush's supposed short-sightedness (or incompetency), Obama has also failed to grasp the concept of force + ideas. He has no large-scale plan to battle the Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters on local levels, and he has no plan for the problems identified in Charlie Wilson's War/ Reason Magazine. There's still no ideas accompanying the force.

Obama has no ideas to accompany the American force because: 1) he doesn't believe in American exceptionalism. Americans don't have the right to foster a new way of life for people in repressed countries because there is nothing special about American freedom or America's position in the world; 2) he has no understanding of how America fought and ended the Cold War. His version of the Cold War ending is many countries - good and bad - agreeing to stop a silly fight about arbitrary goodness and evil (Socialist/Communist dictatorships weren't evil to him because he didn't see the evil in mediocrity disguised as parity).

Obama's failure to understand that the US (and other Western democracies) are special because they have offered, preserved and introduced freedom to more people in the last hundred years than any other movement or country in history. His worldview is that all countries are willing to consider the effects of their behavior on other countries. It's that somewhere, somehow the leaders of all countries have the ability to think and behave rationally. That's, unfortunately, just not true.

This failure to behave rationally/thoughtfully is embodied in Russia. Obama wanted to start a dialogue with Iran. Russia has a tenuous and possibly dangerous relationship with Iran (in the sense that Russians sell nuclear secrets to them and probably trade arms with Iranians). In order to have a broader front with which to begin discussions with Iran, Obama began to bargain with the Russians. The Russians were skeptical and annoyed at the missile defense shield schedule to be installed in Poland and other Eastern European countries who still live in fear of totalitarian repression.

Those countries see that the name has changed, but Soviet-style behavior and aggression lives on in Russia. As a token for their cooperation (but before Russia agreeing to anything), Obama canceled the missile defense systems. The expected reciprocation never materialized (Of course, Russia knew that Obama would never install missile defense anyway, so maybe the carrot just wasn't tasty enough.). Russia refused to assist the US in engaging Iran on stopping Iran's nuclear weapon ambitions. In addition, Russia has refused to even support UN sanctions against Iran.

Aggressive countries headed by repressive governments are nothing like the US. Iran and Russia are concerned with defeating US interests, because the US prevents them from consolidating resources (land, oil, water, weaponry, religious domination) under their power. Unless the leaders are backed into a corner and the people are a moment from revolt, their leaders will only take from the US. Anything that the US offers as a gesture will be taken and nothing will come in return. If this sounds like a denouncement of appeasement, it is.

All during the 2008 debate, McCain ripped Obama for Obama's declaration that he would meet with enemy leaders without preconditions. But simply meeting with the leader of an oppressive regime doesn't seem like such a harmful idea. Unfortunately, these leaders will use the concessions the US offers as tokens to demonstrate to their people that the US is weak and desperate for the oppressive leader's cooperation. They spin to their people that the US is scared of Russia's potential power or Iran's attempts at nuclear weapons. They can shape the message to make the US look as weak or bad as they want because they control the media. They are interested in self-preservation, not interested in the reality of global power and economy, and are entirely willing to lie for their own interests. There is no consideration of offering good will in exchange for the US's "tokens."

Instead of engaging the leaders, Obama had a golden opportunity to incite reform in Iran during it's Summer elections. While people were angered about Ahmadinejad rigging the election and protesting in the streets, Obama stuck to his ill-sighted plan for direct discussion with the leadership (forget the hypocrisy of non-interference in Iran and a total willingness to involve itself in Honduras).

After 10 months of ObamaDiplomacy, the only pattern that has emerged is a five-step plan for failure:

1. Talk about the elements of America's past global and domestic policies that were unsuccessful or unaligned with the modern liberal version of freedom. Apologize for sins the US did not commit, committed in the midst of efforts to liberate large groups of people, or committed so long ago they have no relevance to American's modern image in the world.

2. Institute policy of directly engaging hostile countries through diplomacy (and continue to get spit on by them).

3. Offer concessions to hostile countries (enemies) in return for their cooperation or concessions.

4. Ignore complete rejection of overtures and total lack of reciprocation from hostile countries, watch them escalate their erratic and dangerous behavior, and continue to offer concessions and/or to meet with.

5. Due to Step 1, Obama has conceded the US does not have the moral authority to use means beyond Steps 2-4. The US has no ability to lead because it has legitimized the hostile regimes through distorted engagement and concessions, leaving allies and US interests unprotected. Remove possibility of multilateral force because other countries believe Step 1 strips the US of authority to intervene.

As much as countries like France and Germany may not have liked what modern liberals portrayed as American arrogance under Bush, they like even less being totally unprotected by American force, and completely undermined in their ability to deal with hostile regimes in a traditional manner modeled after past successes.

Compost: Diplomacy In The Dark

Once in awhile, a Reason Magazine piece will hit just the right spot. This one, "The Unknown War", is a great column about the swell of democratic reform brought on by the fermenting Eastern European revolutions and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Given the current global threat - Fundamentalist Islamic terrorism - the article concludes with a prescient statement for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq:

Ironically, the one consistent lesson U.S. officials claim to have learned about the Cold War is the one that has the least applicability outside the East Bloc: that aggressive and even violent confrontation with evil regimes will lead to various springtimes for democracy. It is telling that the victors of an epic economic and spiritual struggle take away conclusions that are primarily military. Telling, and tragic.

There are a couple of ways to take the statement that the US's key lesson from the Cold War is tragic. The author could mean that force (war) played no role in bringing down Communist Dictatorships around the world. Or, the author could mean that the key lesson from 1989 is twofold: 1) projecting force (through war if necessary) is a key element to defeating an ideology run by a few that controls many; 2) when facing an ideology that controls nation-states and people, force must be coupled with an alternative.

The latter is likely what is intended by the lamentation. It's also pretty much, when applied to Afghanistan, what the last 20 minutes of Charlie Wilson's War is about. Afghanistan, of course, is the reason why 1989 deserves so much remembrance.

It's hard to separate the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution from the arms race and economic competition between the US and USSR that preceded them. However, it's possible to imagine the economic competition alone leading to the crumbling of Communist governments. Communism is a deeply flawed style of social governance and economic rule. It did not always exist in Eastern Europe and other areas from which it disappeared in the late 80s. People had previously been accustomed to, and certainly were aware of, in neighboring countries, a level of economic freedom (Economic freedom is inextricably linked to social freedom.). During the 1980s, people in these countries - the older through prior experience, the younger through observation of the free world - had tastes of economic freedom that fueled a greater desire for liberty and opportunity.

Nevertheless, it's difficult to imagine Communist Dictatorships falling solely through the desire for economic liberty. Communist governments had resisted reform for over 50 years, even in the face of mass starvation and the need for coercion through brutal treatment to maintain legitimacy among the people. While the people were increasingly aware of personal liberty outside of their borders, and were increasingly desirous of it, Communist governments could not keep pace with the US in the development of preventative and offensive weapons. If, in the worst scenario, the Cold War turned hot, the US was in a position to destroy the USSR.

This concerns Afghanistan in the sense that the people there, unlike Eastern Europeans, are largely unaware of the freedom alternative. The people that control them (Taliban, Al Qaeda, others) more tightly control peoples' lives than Communist regimes. They are at least as equally brutal and willing to use force against people to force cooperation or submission, if not more.

However, it is fair to assume that Afghanis will be responsive to the idea of personal liberty if it is offered in a way that they can comprehend the concept (not to say that they are unintelligent, just that personal liberty has to be introduced in ways that are not incompatible with the culture). The idea that personal liberty is appealing and natural to all humans is the premise of the US Constitution. Would the Constitution work in Afghanistan? No. But would a movement premised on personal liberty be appealing? It should, if introduced properly. Obviously, religious and other social freedoms are unlikely to take root.

On the other hand, economic freedom is a way of introducing a repressed country to the modern world. And economic freedom - working for yourself and your family, and keeping what you earn - is a concept easily grasped. Where economic freedoms have been introduced - USSR, China, SE Asia - social freedoms have followed.

In order for these to take hold, however, force is absolutely necessary. Force is necessary to remove the people - nationally and locally - who will prevent an appealing alternative to their brutal repression from being introduced. And force is necessary to keep those who wish to destroy the alternative - freedom - from preventing it from taking root in individuals and the culture at large.


People often mock the slogan, "Peace through strength." They take it as a euphemism for bombing people into submission, and then implementing US-style democracy. The reality is, however, that the great lesson of 1989 referred to in the Reason piece is that economic/social liberty has to be a major component, alongside of force for fighting a repressive ideology.

The slogan, as viewed by a conservative, reads "Peace through strength of force and strength of ideas." Some form of elected government follows. What was learned in Iraq, what maybe people already knew, was that a new government that promotes freedom has to be tailored to the local culture. Small social or economic reforms can follow, the initial type depending on the history of the country. Gradually, you hope for a somewhat functioning government, but there are no guarantees. In the most repressive regimes - and especially in those which export their destruction in the form of terrorism - force must precede these steps.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Compost: Yasser Arafat and Barack Obama?

There's been much, much, much written about Obama winning the Nobel Peace prize. My favorite came from Ace of Spades' list of other people considered for the Nobel:
9. Sue Lefkowitz, homemaker, Poughkeepsie, NY, for vowing on New Years Eve to lose her last 20 pregnancy pounds (she gained 6)
The initial shock over the absurdity of a first year president winning the award was rooted in the reality that the only thing Obama has done is promise everything and deliver nothing. Americans - liberals and conservatives alike - were criticized by Democrats for questioning the value, worthiness and timing of the award. A DNC spokesman said that people who mocked the president for receiving it were throwing their "lot in with the terrorists..." No idea what that even means.

His receipt of the award was undeserved. It's clear that turning it down was not in Obama's cards, nor did that seem like the wisest diplomatic move. The best move was probably suggested by, of all people, Thomas Friedman. Obama should have accepted on behalf of American soldiers, who have done more to keep and create peace in the world than any person or entity in history:

“Let me begin by thanking the Nobel committee for awarding me this prize, the highest award to which any statesman can aspire. As I said on the day it was announced, ‘I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize.’ Therefore, upon reflection, I cannot accept this award on my behalf at all.

“But I will accept it on behalf of the most important peacekeepers in the world for the last century — the men and women of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

“I will accept this award on behalf of the American soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, to liberate Europe from the grip of Nazi fascism. I will accept this award on behalf of the American soldiers and sailors who fought on the high seas and forlorn islands in the Pacific to free East Asia from Japanese tyranny in the Second World War.
If you still can't reconcile Obama, who is watching idly the increase or creation of arsenals of nuclear weapons in Iran, India and Pakistan, winning the Nobel Prize, reconsider the award's worth. Recent winners have included noted terrorist and murderer of innocents, Yasser Arafat, and long-time thief and abetter of dictators, Kofi Annan. The award has gone from being bestowed upon those who solve large, widespread problems (food shortages, war torn Europe) to being a political Emmy. It's not that the world has a dearth of problems, with people actively working to solve them. It's just that international committees, typically pro-internationalist liberal bodies, love taking swipes at the US. In this case, they got to take a shot at the individualist nature of Americans, while bestowing praise on Obama, who is seeking to align US interests with the homogenized goals of internationalist liberal bodies.

Ignorance, Apathy, or Indifference?

Universal health care. Excuse me, health care "reform". The dollar, which for those of you who don't know or care, is tanking. The United States military, left to fend for itself amidst a mess in Afghanistan. And a President who, instead of actually producing his real birth certificate, appears on 5 prime time comedy programs. Is this the twilight zone?

I'll never understand some people. It's just not going to happen. But what I do understand is that the average person is naive. "Oh, you're just blowing this way out of proportion." "They're not czars like, yunno, in Russia." OK. Unfortunately, until a dog has its bone taken away, leaving no other option but to raid the bathroom trash can out of sheer boredom, will some people realize what is really going on here, and what is actually at stake.

Let me pose a question. Answer honestly. If there is someone out there that can find another country - not a third world country, or a crime infested cess pool -I mean a major country, that has the kind of government involvement that we re heading towards, that WORKS, please, enlighten me. We live in a world where people who write tax code don't pay taxes. OK, nothing new there. How about a "health care reform" bill that exempts the authors, yet you are supposed to blindly accept it because it is an African American President who is pushing the agenda, and if you don't, you are a racist? OK, pushing it a little bit. How about the fact that we are so far in debt that it is virtually impossible to sustain the dollar as the world's leading currency? OK, now you have my attention. "Oh, well yunno, whatever, it's just not that important, there are other means to define currency besides the dollar." OK. Now you are pushing the boundaries of stupidity. When you realize, or rather, after I tell you that your children are now indebted to China as soon as they pop out of the womb, maybe that will wake some of you up.

Has anyone checked with Saudi Arabia lately on what their take is on all of this? Didn't think so. Because if you did, I don't think you'd like the answer. (ps- they would love to see the dollar fall, because that is the currency that oil is bought and sold on, and so they could give the U.S. an even bigger middle finger than they already do). Now, I am no genius. I teach little kids how to play band instruments. But what I am seeing is this coy, sly and ever so noticeable trend towards bringing the United States to its knees, at the feet of some of the most corrupt nations that exist.

Back to health care. It's not free, there, I said it. And people are going to suffer as a result. All of you bleeding hearts, listen, I'm all for helping people. But I am not for hurting people as collateral to my plan. Let me spell it out in crayon: INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY IS WHAT MAKES THIS COUNTRY GREAT.
Let's take all of the countries who have socialized medicine. Actually, no, let's take a well known government run operation. The DMV. Yes, the DMV. You know, that place where everyone loves going, because of its easy to understand forms, friendly and helpful staff, and prompt, accurate service, with no long lines. Now apply that when you need to visit a hospital. We've all been on line at a hospital, or sat in our physician's waiting room longer than we were supposed to. But let's get real, this is not about helping you, the poor, the uninsured, the blacks, the whites, the rich, the middle class. It is about control. Control of your life. I don't like it, I don't want it, and I reject it. When will you?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Conservative Health Care Plan

It's called the "Small Bill Proposal" for a reason (Links to PDF). From Commentary Magazine, here's a summary of the one-page propsal:

1. Leave employer-provided insurance as it is and give individuals a $2,500 tax credit to equalize tax treatment for individuals who buy their own insurance.

2. Allow individuals to buy insurance across state lines.

3. Extend COBRA for up to 30 months, allowing people to keep their insurance if they leave a job.

4. Remove government regulations limiting insurers from offering premium breaks for healthy lifestyle choices.

5. Enact real malpractice reform (limit punitive damages to $250,000 and all noneconomic damages to $750,000).

6. Provide help to encourage insurance pools for the hard to insure.

It's that simple. The Small Bill Proposal would increase spending by less than a 1/10 of the current Democrat proposal, would cost the people nothing in new taxes, cost them nothing in mandate fines, save the people $345B in tax cuts, and accomplish the same extent of coverage over ten years (95% of all Americans).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Contradictions: Children Being Used

Lots of videos of public school children singing the praises of Obama have surfaced since he took office. A quick Youtube search brings two videos: one in NJ and one in an unidentified school. Now, there is another hymn to St. Barack of Obama. This one was sung on CNN by Chicago school kids:

A couple of those videos are pretty well put together. But what the hell are public school children doing singing songs explicitly praising Obama and/or his policies. The kids aren't even old enough to understand that there is an alternative to Obama, and they're being taught that his is the best way, he is the chosen one, and they must sing his praises.

Why is this bad? First, schools are supposed to be about education. This is teaching partisan devotion. It is completely subjective and unfair to children who a) don't know the difference or b) are afraid of being admonished by social ostracization or an authority figure (their teacher) for not participating.

Two, schools receive tax money and are tax-exempt organizations. They are supposed to be non-partisan. Also, they only have about 5-6 hours per day of actual class time. To waste an hour or more per day over weeks or months to teach children highly partisan songs is a huge waste of tax payer money. It is a prime example of the waste and malaise in public schools that causes people to send their kids to private school.

Also, consider: Local and state property taxes are involuntary and go toward funding public schools. School attendance is mandatory until at least 16 in all states. Property taxes take away money that many parents would like to use to send their children to better (private) schools, but otherwise cannot afford them. Essentially, parents are coerced through taxes to send their children to public schools where they undergo compulsory indoctrination.

These aren't songs about Barack Obama and America. Or Barack Obama and other politicians. Or Barack Obama and any historical lesson. These are highly personal songs praising Obama. But liberals say it's ok because once some kids from the Gulf Coast sang a song about recovering after Katrina that mentioned Congress, FEMA, and Bush in one line. One line:

Our country’s stood beside us
People have sent us aid.
Katrina could not stop us, our hopes will never fade.
Congress, Bush and FEMA
People across our land
Together have come to rebuild us and we join them hand-in-hand!

Compare that to the CNN video:

So we throw our hands up
For health care reform.
Make your choice today
Private or public care
Will the market place treat us fair
Obama says everyone needs
Health coverage in America now.
We need to insure those 47 million but
The government doesn't know how

That's not to mention the sickly sweet "Obama is great and wonderful" lyrics of the in-school songs. The CNN song is riddled with partisanship and factual inaccuracies. I don't need to blame the children for inaccuracies because the teacher should have known better. A few issues. One, whether and how to have the government reform health care is a highly partisan topic. Advocating for it indicates that the teacher has helped craft lyrics that are in favor of government intervention. Two, the song is a personal reference to Obama's efforts at reform. The children are throwing their hands up behind his partisan approach to changing the health care system. Third, even Obama doesn't use the 47 million uninsured number. He used 30 million in his September health care speech. That number includes illegal aliens (10M), people making over $75,000/year (9M), people eligible for existing programs but don't participate (9.7M), and people who went without insurance for a brief period of time between jobs or change in coverage (6M). The real number is more likely in the 10-15 million range.

So, again, you have an innocuous reference to Bush in the middle of one line of a song about the Katrina recovery. No mention of his specific involvement, specific policies, or personal greatness. On the other hand, you have a variety of songs singing about Obama's personal greatness or brilliant policy reforms. Pretty much the same.

Reasons To Hope For A Reversal Of HopeNChange

RealClearPolitics has a nice rundown of various 2009/10 races of import. A quick look down the line shows immediate promise and long-run potential. If Americans got confused during the last eight years and needed a reminder that the economy isn't going to recover by recycling the economic policies of the 30s and 70s, they are getting it this year.

Here's a quick summary of why the political mood has changed drastically in less than 12 months: Taking more money out of peoples' pockets during a recession is a terrible idea. Obamacare, cap & trade, and proposed taxes on soda, alcohol and other consumer products all promise to continue taking more money out of peoples' pockets for years to come. Not to mention, Obama's deficit will hit $1.4 TRILLION this year, which is almost triple Bush's largest deficit.

People are finally realizing that for all of Obama's socialist fumbling in (or intended overwhelming of) the economy, the results have been a) all efforts at stimulus have failed to create any jobs and b) those who have kept their jobs will have shrunken paychecks in the years to come in order to pay off the massive deficit already run up and/or below average health care coverage and increased production and energy costs as a result of cap & trade.

An important number for 2010 is the Generic Congressional Vote poll, which measures which party people are likely to vote for in a congressional race regardless of candidate. Currently, Republicans anywhere from a +4 advantage (Rasmussen) to a -2 deficit (Gallup - registered voters). Regardless of which number is closer to reality, it is a huge upgrade over the past 6 to 12 months.

Rasmussen: On 3/1/09, Democrats had a +2 advantage, and on 10/5/08, Democrats were +8.

Gallup: In 7/09, Democrats had a +6 advantage, on in 11/08, Democrats were +15. Republicans have gone from -7 among registered independents to +9 since last year.

This is in addition to the two 2009 governors races, in which Republicans are showing great life:

NJ: Christie up an average of 2.3 over Corzine over the past two weeks.

VA: McDonnell up 11 over Mr. Deeds.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Contradictions: Dreams From Where?

It's long been speculated that Ayers ghost-wrote Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father. Word and syntax comparisons between Ayers' previous work and Dreams revealed stark similarities. Also, it's almost a certainty that Obama lied about the nature and extent of his relationship with Ayers ("A guy who lives in my neighborhood..."). It's known that they both had an office in the same building for three years, Obama for a non-profit (Chicago Annenberg Challenge) that helped fund Ayers' Small Schools Workshop. Obama wrote a blurb for an Ayers' book released in the 90s. There are other claims about their relationship, but they don't have as much information back them up (A comprehensive list of the connections and background on Ayers is here).

Obama, of course, had huge incentive to diminish the extent of their professional and personal relationship. Ayers was a full-fledged terrorist, tied to a broader network of radicals that sought the fall of the US economy and/or government. It would seem likely that if it was known that Obama approved grants to Ayers' organiation, or that they attended the same social events regularly, people would question Obama's values and vision for the country. How is listening to the musings of a terrorist going to help Obama shape goals for the country? The media, much as they did for the Reverend Wright story, aided Obama in diminishing it by not even asking perfunctory questions about the relationship.

Recently, however, a couple of stories emerged that make the Ayers' ghostwriting story worth another look. First, a couple of weeks ago, Jack Cashill, a professor of American Studies at Purdue, wrote about a (another? are you kidding?) forthcoming Obama biography:
To flesh out his family history, Obama had taped interviews with various family members. Andersen writes, "These oral histories, along with a partial manuscript and a truckload of notes, were given to Ayers." Andersen quotes a Hyde Park neighbor, "Everyone knew they were friends and that they worked on various projects together. It was no secret. Why would it be? People liked them both."
Now, in a strangely worded exchange with a conservative blogger, Anne Leary, Ayers has admitted to writing the book:
Then, unprompted he said--I wrote Dreams From My Father. I said, oh, so you admit it. He said--Michelle asked me to. I looked at him. He seemed eager. He's about my height, short. He went on to say--and if you can prove it, we can split the royalties. So I said, stop pulling my leg. Horrible thought. But he came again--I really wrote it, the wording was similar. I said I believe you probably heavily edited it. He said--I wrote it. I said--why would I believe you, you're a liar.
Obviously, it's a he-said, she-said if anyone chooses to dispute the account (which the entire media, most liberals you know, Obama, and maybe even Ayers will choose to). Still, it's another account that lends credence to the theory that Obama's rhetorical eloquence and pensive demeanor are the products of a cold-hearted domestic terrorist. It also begs the question: what has Obama done in his life that would stand up next to the resume of the average college graduate? William Jacobson, of Legal Insurrection, has the best take:
Will Obama issue a denial of Ayers' accusation? Will the usually compliant press ask a real question for once? Probably neither, which is too bad.

I think we are entitled to know whose Dream it was, since we are living the nightmare now.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Compost: Who Matters To Regular Americans?

David Brooks, former conservative, now house moderate, at the NYT editorial page, wrote an exasperated column about the hollow appeal of conservative media personalities like Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. Essentially, based on one election cycle, 2008, Brooks believes the support of millions and millions of listeners and watchers is meaningless. Since the followers were uninspired by McCain's campaign and did not go out to vote against Obama, the personalities actually have no power.

Never mind that McCain was the most uninspiring GOP nominee since... actually, I don't know if there's ever been as uninspired a candidate. I'd say Warren G. Harding, based on the "front porch campaign" he ran and how corrupt he was, but he won. Never mind that conservatives never coalesced around a candidate, in the primaries or the general.

Never mind that O'Reilly, Beck and Hannity all sell millions of copies of their books, or that Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny has sold a million copies despite never being reviewed in the NYT or Washington Post. People don't spend money on political books if they aren't sympathetic (or passionately opposed) to the author's philosophy. O'Reilly could piss on paper and still sell a million copies. And, never mind that all of those shows outdraw "hard news" shows and every other cable news stations opinion shows.

Brooks insists:
But this is not merely a story of weakness. It is a story of resilience. For no matter how often their hollowness is exposed, the jocks still reweave the myth of their own power. They still ride the airwaves claiming to speak for millions. They still confuse listeners with voters. And they are aided in this endeavor by their enablers. They are enabled by cynical Democrats, who love to claim that Rush Limbaugh controls the G.O.P. They are enabled by lazy pundits who find it easier to argue with showmen than with people whose opinions are based on knowledge. They are enabled by the slightly educated snobs who believe that Glenn Beck really is the voice of Middle America.
Why does he refer to them as jocks? Because David Brooks is like a scared little boy. In high school, that was the type easily intimidated by the more athletic kids in high school. The type that reassured themselves constantly about how much their intelligence mattered. Not even that it was better - of course it was, they knew that - but that it mattered more. It was hard to come to grips with the fact that something so rare, so brilliant was worth less to fellow students than the inartful grunting of a lineman. Underneath it all is a mix of resentment and worship. The jocks command the attention the scared little boy so desperately wants, and believes he deserves.

The truth is that Brooks wants to matter as much as the aforementioned "jocks," but never will. His brand of flaky moderate-liberalism has very little appeal to most Americans. Not because it's too cerebral, but because it is inherently devoid of decisiveness*. Brooks never reaches much of a decision in his columns. He only suggests the way he wishes things were, and explains how the conservatives that disagree with him just aren't very smart.

*A lack of decisiveness is going to be my generation's (people in their 20s now) greatest problem. Over and over, the education process has taught us how to question and how to think critically, but never to make a decision. Never to take a side. If you always have something to think about, nothing can ever be right. There's always a problem for the government to fix. This is what makes Obama so appealing to young people: He is the picture of non-chalance and non-commitment. While posing as a thinker, he wavers and twists in the wind. He's all problems, no definitive answer. He's the anti-Bush.

The truth is that most people don't have Brooks' education. Unfortunately, even though he's Ivy League, he's totally divorced from reality. He wants everyone to be like him: a suburban dad, with a good education and a regular job. But America is diverse. It has many unique needs that are met by many different groups of people - be it religious, physical, political, whatever. Most people have to make a decision in their lives and jobs; they can't just write without reaching a conclusion.

Even though Brooks is so eager to lead middle America out of the ignorant desert, and to give them an educated, thoughtful voice, he misses the point. People don't necessarily listen to and watch "the jocks" because they agree with everything they say. They watch and listen because they trust "the jocks" more than any other news source. Because, while Brooks figures out that Obama was not a serious-minded pragmatist but a hard-core tried-and-failed liberal, middle America already knew the truth about Obama. They didn't get it from Meet The Press, where Brooks is a panelist, or from CNN or the NYT. They got it from "the jocks."

With all that said, Brooks must love that Fox News's 3 AM show, Red Eye, outdraws CNN's Campbell Brown, who is on air at 8 pm, in the 25-54 demographic. It's hard to say this is meaningless. It's not a bunch of kids staying up late on the weekends or old people who can't sleep. It's a key voting and commercial demographic. And it outdraws the serious-minded, "No Bias, No Bull" Campbell Brown, as well as "every CNBC show, every MSNBC show that is on before Hardball, most of HLN, and American Morning on CNN."

The reason is simple: when their jobs, lives, homes, families are on the line, middle America knows that Barack Obama, if he ever has to make a tough decision, will not be looking out for them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Contradictions: Worse Than The Other?

David Letterman, as most know, plowed a bunch of women of various ages who worked for his show or for CBS. John Ensign had an affair with the wife of one of his staffers. Neither is particularly admirable. Each is bad in it's own way. Ensign is a politician, which means he's held to a higher standard than regular people. He also betrayed his wife and a close friend. Letterman is a prominent television host, who makes a living off joking about foibles similar to the one he's been found committing. He also likely traded on his stature to gain the affection of the young women.

However, to the NYT, one is possibly criminal for attempting to assist a departing staffer (albeit the cuckolded husband) in finding a job back in his home state, a common practice for Congressmen and Senators to engage in with their staff. The other is a civilian hero for turning in the would-be extortionist, who was the boyfriend of one of Letterman's flings. One gets judged, the other gets praised. One is conservative, one is liberal. It's easy to match the ideology in the latter sentence with the treatment in the former.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Contradictions: Terrible Priorities

I guess the New York Times and Barack Obama do have the same priorities. Chicago losing out on the Olympics is no where near as important as the jobless rate hitting 9.8%. Not even close. Almost 1 in every 10 Americans is unemployed. Estimates of the real unemployment rate (which includes frustrated workers and people who settled for part-time work) are 17%. All attempts by the Obama administration to provide immediate relief to the economy have failed. Does he need to do anything more? No, just worry about the Chicago Olympics.

Similarly, the situation in Afghanistan is in dire need of direction and leadership. Obama talks about needed to reexamine Afghanistan and create a new strategy. Toward that effort, he's met with the top commander, Gen. McChrystal, twice since he took office. Last month, McChrystal asked for more troops. Obama said wait. Last week, McChrystal called for a strong commitment to the Afghan war. Obama keeps waiting. Instead of carefully analyzing and explaining to his general (or to the American people, as liberals often demanded Bush do) what the plan is in Afghanistan, Obama chose to go to Copenhagen with his wife and Oprah to lobby for the Olympics. An excellent use of his time, it turns out, because the IOC shot him down on the first ballot.

(Read more about if the bid was a failure, how the bid was a failure, are conservatives bad for considering the bid for the Olympics an Obamafailure, and are conservatives rooting against America for pointing out the Obamafailure at Ace of Spades.)

Compost: Government Coverage of Abortions in Obamacare Reform

Until recently, the framework for abortions set by the federal government was rather broad. Very few restrictions were placed on the practice (they are, to varying degrees, more regulated at the state level). Recent laws passed - the partial-birth abortion ban and the Laci Peterson law - at least have placed some common sense restrictions on access to abortion.* If the federal government or federal courts are going to make laws regarding when, where, how or if people should have abortions - proponents of easily available abortion need the federal government/courts to at least keep it legal in all 50 states - there should be a rational, reasonable framework.

The framework and the issue of legalized abortion can be debated for ever and ever.

*By common sense, I mean things a great majority of people should be able to agree about. By common sense restrictions: under 18 requires parental notification, no partial-birth abortions, and no late-term abortions.

Abortion is now a big issue in health care reform. Unsurprisingly, the New York Times thinks abortions should be fully covered under any public option included in Obamacare reform. No surprise there. They'd also like it to be covered under Medicaid. Again, no surprise. Any service that can be given to low- and low/middle-income people for free will be supported by the New York Times. The surprising part is that the NYT would like abortion to be covered for anyone receiving subsidies for health insurance via the proposed health insurance exchange. The gist:
These restrictions, which constitute an improper government intrusion into Americans’ private lives, apply to the joint federal-state Medicaid program, the health insurance exchange that covers federal government employees, and health programs for military personnel, American Indians and women in prison, among others. This approach disproportionately harms poor women, who often can’t scrape together enough money for the procedure until delay has made abortions more costly and more risky.

Now abortion opponents want to apply similar restrictions to low- and middle-income Americans who would receive federal subsidies to buy coverage on the new insurance exchanges that would be created by pending health care reform bills.
Wow. Here's the thing. Poor people, and all people for that matter, have the right to buy candy bars. But I'm not going to give them my money to go buy candy bars. There's a lot wrong this, but three things in particular that stand out.

1. There is no right to free or federally subsidized abortions. Abortion is an elective procedure. People choose to have them: hence people identifying as pro-choice. Saying that the government is intruding on anyone's privacy because that person has to pay for their own elective procedure is a complete distortion of the concept of privacy. Saying that the government is intruding on someone's privacy because someone else won't pay for their abortion is ludicrous. People do not have the right to expect someone else to pay for their elective procedures.

Proponents of abortion argue that the right to an abortion is largely about the government not intruding individuals' right to control their body. As an elective procedure, federally subsidized abortions would open up the decision to have the procedure to government review. Democrats will not control the government forever; what happens when conservatives regain power? The review process for approving abortions on publicly funded health insurance could become extremely restrictive, and the change wouldn't necessarily require legislative approval. This isn't a far-fetched scenario, could be the opportunity to limit abortions long sought by conservatives. Also, it would open the door for a plethora of elective procedures to be covered by government funds. Who would want their tax dollars to go towards someone's botox treatments?

2. Most modern liberals would argue against any tax money being used by religious organizations. They opposed Bush's faith-based initiatives which would have allowed religious organizations to be compete with non-profits for government contracts. There is a clear push to make sure that the "wall of separation" prohibits religion from receiving any benefits. There's also a clear push to stop religion from influencing public policy. The latter is a dubious cause - political beliefs are driven by personal and religious beliefs. To dismiss an idea - or prohibit from entering legislative discourse - solely because it is rooted in religiosity tears apart a person's freedoms to religion, thought and speech.

However, most modern liberals have no problem with government placing restrictions on mainstream religions (for instance, the use of public space for religious ceremonies or displays). Nor would they have a problem with tax money (remember, tax money for public services comes from people, not the government) being used for liberal causes or organizations. Below is a handy little chart for how modern liberals view the concept of the "wall of separation." (Green means acceptable to liberals; black means it is not.)

In this case, the NYT wants tax payer money to cover (public option) or subsidize (insurance exchange) abortions for low and middle income people. Those payments would come from taxes and fees collected by the government. I would imagine, since more Americans identify as pro-life than pro-choice, that a majority (and a large majority at that) would oppose their tax money covering another person's abortion. Some of that opposition may be driven by an opposition to frivolous expenditures with their tax money; some of it (likely a significant part) may be inspired by religious beliefs. Liberals would regard the opposition to frivolous government expenditures as the rational argument and provide a counter-argument. Since abortion is an elective procedure it is a frivolous government expenditure. But, they would dismiss the religious objection as irrational.

This is sheer hypocrisy. If religious organizations can't receive financial benefit from the government for charitable work, the objections of religious believers should be considered when the government proposes making frivolous use of tax payers' money. If the NYT thinks it's an intrusion of privacy to deny free money for abortions, it's a definite invasion of privacy and personal belief to take money from a tax payer who opposes abortion and use it for free abortions.

3. The NYT uses careful wording in lamenting the opposition to unlimited financing for abortion: Now abortion opponents want to apply similar restrictions to low- and middle-income Americans who would receive federal subsidies to buy coverage on the new insurance exchanges that would be created by pending health care reform bills. Hidden in there is that along with the insurance exchange, Obamacare proposes to have panels that will set the minimum and maximum levels of coverage. Within that span, they will decide which procedures will be above the minimum and below the maximum. In order to operate on the insurance exchange, private insurance companies would have to meet those standards. And in order to meet those standards, insurance companies would have to cover abortions.

Not only is this a huge intrusion into private business, it's also a huge intrusion into Americans' health care choices. A lot of people would not want to participate in an insurance plan that covers abortion. Even more probably would not want the money paid for their insurance premium to go toward abortions for others on the plan. If the NYT proposals took effect, people would be getting double-dipped to pay for abortions: their tax money would subsidize peoples' receipt or purchase of the public option, and their premium would go toward paying for abortions on the plan. It would inescapable: those who are morally opposed to abortion would have to finance it. Those who are opposed to their tax money being frivolously spent to cover an elective procedure wouldn't have any recourse. Even though modern liberals take pains to make sure the rights and beliefs of minority groups are voiced and considered in legislation, rational fiscal arguments and mainstream religious objections to abortion would be ignored.