Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama Ratings Slide: We've Seen this Act Before

You can pass trillion dollar stimuli packages and ramp up record budget deficits. You can tinker with the laws of the land.

But you can't repeal the law of diminishing returns.

President Obama's big 100th Day prime time "simulcast" experienced a 29 percent drop in viewers over his last prime timer presser, and he's down 46 percent from the first one on February 9.

It's all part of the law of supply and demand. Mr. Obama shows up on TV news nearly every day, gets quoted constantly, and his staff makes sure that his sound bites are out there for all to see and hear. He's over-saturated and is showing no signs of realizing it. There's a lot of supply and the demand is diminishing, for good reason.

His so-called press conferences are a lot like his town hall meetings: total jokes. He only answers softball questions and, when someone slips in a real question, he "uhs" an un-prompted string of words together until either someone Blackberries his answer or he comes up with a semi-artful dodge.

The public is starting to catch on, as it always does, usually later rather than sooner. People have questions but his answers are typically to questions that no one outside of the sycophantic MSM is asking. The never-ending Obama campaign is wearing thin. It's kind of like watching those football players who prance and preen every time they get close to the end zone, who spike the ball and then victory dance a first-and-ten.

Mr. President, you have the job already. Everyone has accepted it by now, supporters and loyal opposition alike. Get over yourself and start acting like you've been there before.

Labels: ,

Cutting Joe Biden Some Slack

Yes, Vice President Joe Biden is a clown.

Yes, it is great fun laughing at Joe Biden's gaffes, especially when he contradicts his boss.

But maybe we should be paying closer attention to what he's actually saying. No, seriously!

Today the vice president said he wouldn't fly in commercial aircraft or ride in subways because of the greater potential to contract the flu, and that's what he would recommend to this family.

"That's me," he said.

Quite simply put, he is speaking for himself. He isn't acting as a mouthpiece for Homeland Security, HHS, or even the White House, just noodling the idea that common sense says you ought not to put yourself in harm's way if there are alternatives and no overriding reasons otherwise.

It's a sad measure of how far we have fallen as a nation when everything anyone says becomes an occasion for ridicule. Now I'm not a big Biden fan -- the thought that he is but a heartbeat away from being Commander-in-Chief is much more troubling than the Mexican Swine flu -- but give the man credit for a bit of clear thinking on the "pending pandemic."

What he said about aircraft? True. Studies have shown that even in normal times flying can be hazardous to your health because of the closed air systems. If you've got 150 people on a flight, and just one has a cold, there is a good chance you will catch it. My own anecdotal experience convinces me that this is so: I don't think I've ever flown without coming down with the cold or flu shortly afterward, except for the times I've flown in practically empty jetliners, or small aircraft. I would imagine subways have the same sort of problems.

Right now the official position of the White House, et al, is that we are looking at a probable pandemic that is very serious, bears watching, should close affected schools, will necessitate quarantines, and yet ... isn't worth closing the border, no one need worry about wearing a mask, the death rate seems rather small, and not to worry because our best and brightest scientific minds are on the case.

In other words, it's deadly serious and it's no big deal. All at the same time.

That may well be true, as several epidemiologists say that is is likely that the Mexican Swine flu, while pandemic in nature, is not yet skilled at killing its hosts. It may take two or three "waves" over the next year or so for it to become so adept.

Which, to me, argues for trying to isolate it and contain it quickly. Don't allow it to find a host more condusive to its killer ambitions. Take sensible precautions now, like tightening border crossings and restricting certain types of travel, and each of us personally doing our part.

As one of our Founding Fathers said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Ben Franklin and Joe Biden, strange bedfellows. Who knew?

Labels: , ,

How 'Atlas Shrugged' Kept a Bank from Disaster

There is a North Carolina-based bank which avoided the siren lure of quick profits over the last decade and yet managed to be profitable enough to withstand today's economic crisis.

Its secret? Following Objectivist Principles founded by the late Ayn Rand, reports Mark Hemingway of NRO.
The fact that BB&T didn’t dive head-first into the shallow pool of subprime mortgages certainly goes a long way toward explaining the relative health of BB&T as an institution. But how was BB&T able to resist chasing after all that new mortgage money?

The answer is simple: Subprime mortgages were bad for the people who took them out. That went against BB&T’s philosophy — not for reasons of altruism but because it would have been poor strategy. “We’re obviously a for-profit company, but we don’t think that it’s good business in the long term to do bad things to your clients, even if you make a profit doing it,” Allison said. “So we chose not to do negative-amortization mortgages because we knew it was going to get a lot of people in financial trouble.”
John Allison, who retired last year as BB&T CEO, discovered Ayn Rand in the 1960s and based the bank's operating principles on her philosophy of self-interest capitalism, which is not the same thing as selfishness or greed. Bank employees are actually required to read "Atlas Shrugged," a move that no doubt would thin the ranks of the illiterate on the staff while raising the overall IQ.

However, not everyone is enamored of Miss Rand's books or philosophy, especially those who today she would have called social do-good "looters."

While aspects of Rand’s philosophy might legitimately be called controversial, Allison points out that she is misunderstood more often than not. Rand is often viewed as “extreme” because her defenses of capitalism and “rational self-interest” are seen as promoting greed and selfishness. Yet Allison is quick to note that the strong values and ethics that Rand’s philosophy promotes allowed BB&T to steer clear of shortsighted and greed-driven decisions.

“A lot of people miss the fact that Rand has a very strong ethical system,” he observes. “Rand says you can derive ethics from reality. If anything, Rand is more rigorous in her ethical system than most codes are. If you’re dishonest, you are disconnected from reality, and that has consequences.”
Many attack Rand's philosophy for its lack of altruism, but Allison points out that much of the economic mess roiling America today is the result of government-sponsored altruism:
In fact, it was misguided altruism that got us into the current financial crisis, and Allison has no problem identifying whose economic philosophy was flawed. “I think that government policy is the primary cause” of the financial crisis, he says. “Government policy set up the problems we have in the real-estate market, and it is the Big Kahuna in the room.”
Allison is enjoying his retirement by traveling about the country giving lectures on the housing crisis and his philosophical remedy to college economics students.

Perhaps there is hope after all.

Labels: , ,

A Journalistic Opportunity

I wish someone with writing talent would interview these two sisters in Pennsylvania. This is a story begging to be told:

Elderly Pennsylvania sisters arrested on drug charges
Two elderly sisters from Monroe County, Pennsylvania have been arrested for allegedly distributing drugs.

Elizabeth Marie Grube, 70, and her 65-year-old sister, Elaine Volkert, are facing drug charges after being arrested on April 14.

Investigators said they seized 400 bags of heroin with a street value of $8,000 and more than $2,000 from the home of Grube in the 1000 block of Ehler Street.

On the same day, a task force seized 988 bags of heroin with a street value of $20,000 and approximately $1,600 in cash from Volkert's home also in the 1000 block of Ehler Street. Police also seized quantities of Oxycontin and marijuana during the search.

According to investigators, both Grube and Volkert had been selling between 500 and 1,500 bags of heroin every two weeks for the past two months. Prior to selling heroin, the sisters had been selling crack cocaine, police said.
This report is something any hack can put together off the police blotter. What inquiring minds want to know is how they got into the business? Were they users? What did they do with the money? Were they involved in the counter-culture 40 years ago?

Alas, I fear we shall never know.



Why Are the Market Analysts So Happy?

On a day where it is announced that another 631,000 workers lost their jobs in a week's time, comes this headline at Bloomberg:

Job Cuts Avert Catastrophic Quarter as Profits Excel
Corporate earnings worldwide haven’t been the disaster analysts predicted as companies from Ford Motor Co. to Siemens AG beat earnings estimates through job cuts, factory consolidations and a dose of lowered expectations.

“It’s one of those things where you walk away from the car crash and think, ‘Well, that could’ve been a lot worse,’” said Andy Lynch, who helps manage about $5 billion at Schroder Investment Management Ltd. in London. “The first quarter is marginally less catastrophic than feared.”

Fantastic news! Let's throw a few million people out of work, close a bunch of factories, make those who still have jobs work a bit harder and make sure that we lower our forecasts so we look good at the next report.

This is further evidence of the disconnect between the elites of the world and the common people. Gee, everything must be fine because the Dow is rising, earnings weren't bad at all. It's a public relations game to the elites.

Outside, however, the losers of the game are not much consoled that the markets are rallying.
Dow Chemical Co., the largest U.S. chemical maker, today reported an unexpected profit excluding some items of 12 cents a share, instead of the 19-cent loss that was the average estimate in a Bloomberg survey. The Midland, Michigan-based company has said it’s firing 10,000 workers.
If you are one of the 10,000, I'm sure you're very proud of your former employers. Your job termination was a vital part of the company's unexpected profitability.

Look, I'm not naive. I understand that in tough times people lose jobs. It's part of the natural cycle of things. If left alone, the business cycle will reset itself and companies will start hiring again. Unfortunately, the federal government is not leaving things alone.

What I deplore is that today's bean-counting business culture too often looks for the quick fix instead of examining the systemic cause of a company's business woes. It's so easy just to let people go to make shareholders happy. They are so easily pleased.

Despite what you hear and read, we are not near the end of the bottom of this economic downturn. We are nowhere close to the end. As long as banking is not "fixed," the federal government still spending, the Fed operating the printing presses on "11," and Congress on the verge of regulating health care and energy, uncertainty rules. There will be no major investor push back into American business until that uncertainty is resolved in favor of stability, and the only game right now is to look for under-educated small investors to pluck for badly needed cash.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Sad Story of Patient Zero

If this Reuters story is correct, the first person to die of the new (H1N1) Mexican swine flu was treated very poorly, or not at all, for nine days in early April.

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The 39-year-old woman who was the first to die in Mexico's swine flu epidemic spent the last eight days of her life going from clinic to clinic to find out what was wrong with her but doctors were baffled.

The woman, from the southern state of Oaxaca, died shortly after being admitted to hospital as an emergency case. Experts only identified the virus that killed her 10 days later. [SNIP]

The woman, who worked as a census taker in the city of Oaxaca, became ill with what was she thought was a severe case of pneumonia on April 4 but was not admitted to hospital until April 12.

"She went to several private clinics where she was given various diagnoses and various treatments. However, her condition worsened and she was taken to the hospital by emergency services on the 12th and the next day she died," Miguel Angel Lezana, Mexico's chief epidemiologist, told reporters.

Authorities are beginning to believe the flu did not originate on a Mexican pig farm.

Hindsight is 20-20 but you have to wonder how many people were infected because no one thought she was serious enough to warrant earlier hospitalization.

Labels: ,

AP Once Again Finds Obama Factually Challenged

Just words?

President Obama, giving himself every benefit of the doubt in his Missouri town hall meeting Wednesday, got caught by the Associated Press of distortions, exaggerations and self-serving assertions that don't bear close scrutiny.
WASHINGTON (AP) - "That wasn't me," President Barack Obama said on his 100th day in office, disclaiming responsibility for the huge budget deficit waiting for him on Day One.

It actually was him - and the other Democrats controlling Congress the previous two years - who shaped a budget so out of balance.

And as a presidential candidate and president-elect, he backed the twilight Bush-era stimulus plan that made the deficit deeper, all before he took over and promoted spending plans that have made it much deeper still.

Obama met citizens at an Arnold, Mo., high school Wednesday in advance of his prime-time news conference. Both forums were a platform to review his progress at the 100-day mark and look ahead. [SNIP]

His assertion that his proposed budget "will cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term" is an eyeball-roller among many economists, given the uncharted terrain of trillion-dollar deficits and economic calamity that the government is negotiating.

He promised vast savings from increased spending on preventive health care in the face of doubts that such an effort, however laudable it might be for public welfare, can pay for itself, let alone yield huge savings.
The article goes on to cite several specific claims he made and refutes them. Not a good sign when the AP issues an almost immediate fact-slam.

Notice the language used by the reporters: "eyeball-roller" and "uncharted terrain of trillion-dollar deficits." This is a sign that the mainstream press, on extended honeymoon with Mr. Obama, may finally be waking up. When they discover that the annual interest on the debts he is piling up alone will be unsustainable, even at 70 or 80 percent tax rates, the game will be over.

By then it may be too late, as it may already be.

Labels: ,

No Longer Passively Surveilling on the Border

Homeland (In)Security Chief Napolitano says she's retracting her statement to Congress that border officials are using "passive surveillance" to deal with the Mexican Swine flu.

I guess that sounds too much like "sitting on our collective ass."

Now border officials are asking tough questions, she says, like "are you feeling well?" and "where you been lately?" Apparently the answers are leading her to believe there is still no reason to close the border.

I feel so much safer.

Labels: , ,

Religious Intolerance & Pandemic Fear

Religious prejudice, meet the power of fear.

Egypt's health minister has ordered a "cull" -- a fancy word for slaughter -- of 400,000 pigs in response to fears that the Mexico flu will spread to that country.

The problem is two-fold: this version of the swine flu isn't being transmitted by pigs because it has avian and human genetic characteristics. The Egyptian government knows this, but that's when the second issue comes into play. The pigs being "culled" are owned by the Coptic Christian minority.

It's probably a tossup as to whether the Muslim majority in Egypt dislike more intensity the pigs or the Christians.

The Arab world's most populous nation has been been badly hit by the H5N1 bird flu virus in recent years and the move to cull up to 400,000 pigs - seen by Muslims as unclean animals - was designed to calm fears of an impending pandemic.

But it left Egypt's large Coptic Christian minority up in arms, especially the slum-dwelling "Zebaleen" rubbish collectors who rely on the hogs for their livelihood. Scores of them blocked the streets and stoned the vehicles of Health Ministry workers as they arrived to carry out the government's order at pig farms on the outskirts of Cario this afternoon.

“Our pigs are healthy. They are our capital and they have no diseases,” said Adel Ishak, who feeds his pigs from the rubbish he collects in Manshiet Nasser, northeast of Cairo.

"We remind Hosni Mubarak that we are all Egyptians. Where does he want us to go?” added 46-year-old Gergis Faris, another pig farmer. “We are uneducated people, just living day by day and trying to make a living, and now if our pigs are taken from us without compensation, how are we supposed to live?”
Good question. Egypt is promising to compensate for the dead animals but such promises have been made in the past with bird culling efforts and no money ever materialized. The following exemplifies the prevailing attitude:
Magdy Rady, a Cabinet spokesman, put the number of pigs that could be culled at between 300,000 and 400,000. “If you see the conditions of the swine farms in Egypt, they are not healthy at all. They are hazards in themselves, even without the swine flu. That’s why people are really getting afraid,” he told the Reuters news agency, even before the decision was taken.
There likely will be an even greater disaster looming when there are no pigs to handle the food scraps.

Mr Ishak said that his community receives 6,000 tonnes of organic rubbish every day, but if the pigs die there will be nowhere to put the waste. “What is the use of compensation? It will feed us only for several months, what then?" he asked.

Egypt has not had any confirmed cases of swine flu yet but government experts fear a pandemic flu strain could spread quickly through the country because most of its roughly 80 million people live in the densely packed Nile Valley, many in crowded slums in and around Cairo.

The World Health Organisation has repeatedly said, however, that the newly mutated H1N1 virus is not found in pigs - although the animals can be the vessels for the "genetic reassortment" that produces new strains - and that pork meat is safe to eat.

Joseph Domenech, chief veterinary office with the UN Food and Agriculture Officer in Rome, said the Egyptian order was "a real mistake".

"There is no reason to do that. It’s not a swine influenza, it’s a human influenza,” he said.

Absolutely, incredibly stupid.

Labels: , ,

That First 100 Day Thingee

A couple of you have used the secret Oklahomily back channel to encourage me to say something about Barack Obama's Incredible 100th Day Anniversary Celebration & Arugula Festival.

So I will.

Congratulations, Mr. Obama. You made it through your first 100 days as president.

I always knew you could do it.

I just wasn't so sure the country would survive. The jury's still out on that one.


One Great Car for One Great Country!

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson had a chat with National Public Radio's Michelle Norris about the future of Government Motors (GM). Jackson's comment leaves little to the imagination:

“The President has said, and I couldn’t agree more, that what this country needs is a one single national road map that tells automakers who are trying to become solvent again what kind of car it is they need to be designing and building for the American people.”

NPR's Norris then asked the EPA chief: “Is that the role of Government though? That doesn’t sound like free enterprise.”

Jackson responded: “Well it is free enterprise in a way.”

In what way?

I suppose when all the automakers eventually succumb to The One's incredible charm, they will no longer be enslaved to that maddening competition that has catered to that dangerous freedom of choice Americans have struggled with. With a single national road map outlining one type of car that we need, we will no longer be forced to shop around for the best buy for the best product, since all products will, by definition, be the best.

No need to waste money on advertising when you sell the same vehicle. In fact, the car companies can combine under the umbrella of Government Motors, thus eliminating lots of paperwork, management jobs, and excessive bonuses. With the EPA designing the car of the future, there is no need for a design team, engineers and marketing experts. With the Dept. of Labor on site there will no longer be a need for efficiency experts, quality control, or even time clocks!

With the bully pulpit of the presidency at GM's disposal and the Bureau of Commerce standing by, there will be no real need for dealerships for Americans can buy their new vehicles directly from the manufacturer -- the government -- thus eliminating the greedy middle men, those obnoxious and poorly dressed car salesmen and their mysterious "managers" who have to "approve" the deal. Everyone will be getting a deal!

In fact, I have it on good authority that once The One has achieved the Auto Singularity he envisions, each and every American family will be getting their very own Drive Shaft.

Labels: ,

How My Bank Made Me Happy Today

It's the little things that can make you the happiest.

Such as the tiny notice on my computer screen today, when I went to my bank's website to pay a couple of bills before the end of the month, assuring me that it would not be needing, nor applying for, nor accepting, any of the TARP bailout cash dangled by the federal government.

This delights me beyond what words can describe for I like my bank and I do not wish to change to another. And I would change immediately if I thought that Uncle Obama and Tiny Tax Cheat Tim Geithner were taking over ownership like they are with several other big banks. It's not that I think it would make a big operational difference in the short term; I merely suggest that Americans who believe in foundational principles of less government is better government should punish efforts to nationalize our banking system.

Long term, it will make a huge difference for it gives the government way too much power over a man's relationship with the people who hold his hard-earned samolians for him. The love of money, Scripture saith, is the root of all evil. Too much temptation for too many faceless, nameless bureaucrats behind the scenes to figure out how to slice a bit of personal profit at our expensive.

Even private banks, in my opinion, are a necessary evil, something you endure even as you wish there was a practical way to do all your financial stuff yourself. I'm told the simplest solution is that you live within your means, keep your appetites simple, do good to your neighbors, and keep a low profile so that you are not a target of the looters, whether they entrepreneurial or government-sanctioned. I'm a late-comer to that philosophy and it may take me awhile to get it right; in the meantime I need to have a bank I can trust and, thus far, my current bank has done a fine job.

Keeping federal fingers out of the vaults is the newest part of that evaluation.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What Not to Call Swine Flu?

Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack today insisted that reporters not call the disease of the day "swine flu" out of deference to pig farmers.

You gotta be freakin' kidding!
"This is not a food-borne illness, virus. It is not correct to refer to it as swine flu because really that's not what this is about," Vilsack said. Israel has already rejected the name swine flu, and opted to call it "Mexico flu." Jewish dietary laws forbid eating pork.

The Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health also objected to the name, saying the virus contains avian and human components and no pig so far has been found ill with the disease. And there is growing sentiment in the farm sector to call it the North American virus -- although disease expert Anthony Fauci told a Senate hearing the "swine flu" designation reflected scientific naming protocol.
Since the virus has snippets of avian (bird) and human flu strains, maybe we should just concoct a new name for it. Using the Anagram finder, I came up with


and all I had to do was lose a couple of letters. We could call it the "Ambush Rewind" virus. A little bird, a little swine, a bit of human.

Then maybe we won't offend anyone. That seems to be the highest protocol of our new Dept. of Homeland Security.

Can we have the grown-ups back, please?

A Side Note:

I liked, but rejected, "Barn Undies Whim" as it sounded like something that might be fun to catch. Similarly the phrase "Bra Nudism Whine" virus seems a bit on the risque side. On the other hand, "Unwashed Rim Bin" seemed like a potential keeper.

Final Side Note:

Only a complete dim-wit, or a Russian bureaucrat, would actually believe that eating pork could give you the flu.

Labels: , ,

Survival Plan? It's Government Motors Now

GM is now "Government Motors." Via a GM press release:

"As a result of its ownership of GM common stock, the U.S. Treasury will be able to elect all of our directors and to control the vote on substantially all matters brought for a stockholder vote. In addition, through its stockholder voting rights and election of directors, and its role as a significant lender to us, the U.S. Treasury will be able to exercise significant influence and control over our business if it elects to do so."

You know damn well it will "elect" to do so.

I can't wait to see how well these geniuses of the "new capitalist" model for America do in running a modern automobile company. Probably as well as the great central planners of the Supreme Soviet did in creating modern autos for the comrades of that nation.

And when sales lag, Congress can jigger with tax credits to make sure that we, the "owners" of Government Motors, realize that we must avail ourselves of our "discount." Which will end true competition in the marketplace if Ford, Toyota, Honda, etc., do not enjoy the same federal benefits.

Truly, GM has become "too big to fail" in the sense that the government will not allow it to officially fail, ever again, even if requires killing off the competition through regulation and disincentives.

Too gloomy? Just watch.

GM has eliminated its Pontiac line which was one of its two four sales "producers" last year. That doesn't make a lot of sense.

GM is eliminating Hummer, Saab and Saturn. That last was a major success during its lifetime, a well-built American car that helped GM return to competitiveness with foreign automakers. Killing Saturn is a major mistake. Another senseless act.

GM is eliminating 42 percent of its dealers over the next 18 months. Fewer places to purchase the official automobiles of the United States. Is it fair to say, "Dumb ass move!"?

What's next? Getting out of NASCAR to show Americans that Government Motors is serious about not wasting fuel on frivolous pursuits? (Especially since it provides cheap thrills for all those conservative, extremist red necks?)

One thing you can count on when the humorless, clueless bureaucrats start throwing their weight around is that they will know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The modern version of Cuffy Meigs will be in charge of public relations and a new Wesley Mouch will ascertain production quotas.

This is unusual socialism, using the federal treasury to purchase controlling interest in a private company, but it is socialism nonetheless. It will end as do all socialist experiments: in failure.

I feel very, sincerely sorry for anyone who still owns GM stock. But then again, we will all suffer for it.

Labels: ,

The Dance of 100 Days, With 7 Obama Spins

The White House press office has suggested seven bullet points it wants reporters to write about the first 100 days of the Obama administration.

That seems a bit presumptious.

According to the Politico, the seven bullet points are:

1) Obama is a promise keeper.

2) Obama is a "game changer."

3) Obama is the "decider." (Shades of George W. Bush!)

4) Obama's "not in the bubble." (He's plugged in to the average America ...)

5) Obama is not FDR.

6) Obama is FDR.

7) Obama is "one cool cucumber."

The National Catholic Register has its own take on these seven points which, even if you aren't Catholic, are worth reviewing.

Labels: ,

What Choice, Really?

The Fox entertainment network is refusing to air the Barack Obama "100 Days Victory Lap" press conference.

Instead, it is sticking with the regularly scheduled show, "Lie to Me."

Draw your own conclusion.


Good riddance!

Arlen Specter has finally made an honest liberal of himself by switching to the Democrat Party.

After whoring his vote for many years, pretending to be a principled conservative at times but finally "compromising" on the most critical of issues, he is at home.

Enjoy it, Arlen. Come 2010 retirement looms.

It's like a twist on the old joke: Mr. Specter changes his political affiliation and raises the IQ of both parties.

Would that every closet "progressive" see fit to find their home with the Democrats! This is the only way in which the two-party system can function for the benefit of the United States -- if there truly is a difference between the parties. Sadly, this isn't going to happen.

So the best alternative is for people of good will, who love freedom, limited government and constitutional restraints on government "efficiency," to register as independents. Make candidates of both parties prove themselves to us every election time by going on the record as to which of the fundamentals of freedom they support and which they do not.

Arlen Specter switched parties because he could read the polls and knew that his political future as a Republican was likely doomed. There was even talk that the national organization would no longer finance his campaigns. He knows that his 60th vote in the U.S. Senate is valuable to the Democrats' hopes to enact all sorts of wonderful redistributionist, bigger government programs that will alter life and increase costs for the average American, and maybe they'll be grateful enough to provide campaign cash for him.

Arlen Specter is a man whose principles are for sale.

The gavel has banged! Sold, to the Democratic Party.

UPDATE -- Jim Geraghty of The Campaign Spot had this pithy observation:
As of April 9, Specter was telling Newsweek, "I'm a Republican and I'm going to run in the Republican primary and on the Republican ticket." Good to know his word is his bond.
Maybe the GOP should issue a warning label with Mr. Specter so that the Dems won't be too surprised when he bites them in the ass like he has everyone else.

Labels: ,

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wheeling & Dealing for Cap'n Trade Votes

After reading this, I feel like the entire country, me included, could use a good shower:

To get votes, Waxman offers cap-and-trade breaks

In exchange for votes to pass a controversial global warming package, Democratic leaders are offering some lawmakers generous emission “allowances” to protect their districts from the economic pain of pollution restrictions.

Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, represents a district with several oil refineries, a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. He also serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which must approve the global warming plan backed by President Barack Obama.

Green says Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who heads the panel, is trying to entice him into voting for the bill by giving some refineries favorable treatment in the administration’s “cap and trade” system, which is expected to generate hundreds of billions of dollars over the coming years. Under the plan, companies would pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, but Green and other lawmakers are angling to get a free pass for refineries in their districts.

“We’ve been talking,” Green said, referring to a meeting he had with Waxman on Tuesday night. “To put together a bill that passes, they have to get our votes, and I’m not going to vote for a bill without refinery allowances.”

Naturally, Waxman denies this is happening.

“That is what the Republicans are saying, but that is not accurate,” he said. The bill left out specifics on allowances “in order to be able to have discussions on how best to ease the transition for various geographical regions and ratepayers.”

Notice, however, that Rep. Green is a Democrat.

Even some environmentalists are taking a critical second look at cap-and-trade, wondering whether we will end up with a dirtier environment after the program is enacted because the dollars involved are so massive that there will be closet deals, fraud and waste.

If the command-and-control environmental policies of other socialist countries are an indication, you bet.

Labels: ,

Health Care Reform to be Rammed Through in Budget Deal

The New York Times reports that Congress will ram health care reform through by using the "budget reconciliation" process in order to minimize debate, eliminate potential amendments and avoid filibuster.

That means the American people have virtually no chance of knowing in advance anything substantive on how this is going to change our lives, nor will we have a chance to stop it.

Budget reconciliation means that the entire health care reform apparatus will be inserted at the House-Senate conference, and then the two houses vote on the entire budget. There is little chance that lawmakers, especially since most of them are enthusiastic progressives or, like the Blue Dogs, controlled by them, will vote against the overall budget because of health care.

Both parties have used this budget reconciliation tactic to blunt the opposition since the process was "invented" in 1974. As David Freddoso at National Review explains:
Reconciliation, originally designed in the 1974 Budget Act as a means for helping the government save money and keep federal budgets closer to balance, allows for certain legislation to pass both houses of Congress on an expedited basis — and perhaps most importantly, to pass the Senate with a bare majority.
It was also meant to make Congress more efficient, something our Founding Fathers were loathe to consider. They feared efficient government, and for the same reason we should fear it now.

I initially thought we might survive the first two years of a liberal Obama/Congress tandem with our Republic intact, enough anyway to elect enough conservatives in 2010 so that 2011 might open on a more hopeful note. Now I am not sure there will be enough individual liberty left to be worth saving.

Labels: ,

Geithner Says Happy Days are (Nearly) Here Again

The economy is in free fall but have no fear, the Obama Administration knows exactly how to handle it.

First, make sure the Tax Cheat is out there declaring that the worst is over. (We'll overlook all the other reports that might indicate otherwise, such as "Feds preparing bankruptcy for Chrysler," and "Feds may remove Citigroup CEO." Also overlooked, "Bad assets triple for banks," and "Germany in explosive mood as second wave of banking problems surfaces." The Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse is warning that government action may make things worse but surely no one will notice. The lights are going off in parts of France as the press warns that "France at risk of 'revolution' -- a story you have to read to believe -- while in Jamaica the army is deploying ahead of tax increases! About the only good economic news is that Ford's first quarter report was a lot better than expected; only in these times is good news losing only $1.4 billion.

Second, make sure that the national conversation talks about something else, like closing Gitmo and looking at new photographs of alleged "detainee abuse" from six or seven years ago. This has the added value of distracting from the congressional hearings on global warming and the carbon taxes the progressives wish to enact on each and every one of us. While we are "booing" and "hissing" the evils of the Bushitler "overseas contingency operations" we won't be "booing" and "hissing" the evils of the Obamessiah's over-reach on socialism at home.

And if those aren't enough, a compliant media will find something totally different, this time out of Mexico and the American Southwest: a pandemic threat! This is not to say there isn't a real threat, but it's a little early to say that we're all doomed.

There are a couple of hot stories that are not being well reported in the mainstream. I hope to have a little something on them later today, if other duties do not interfere.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Can You Afford 'Cap And Trade'?

If someone takes $4,000 out of your bank account without your express permission, is it going to make you feel any better if you learn that they gave the money to the poor, or to a park?

No, me neither.

But that's the argument that an MIT professor made in defending the per household costs of carbon cap and trade legislation proposed in Congress. The explanation via the Heritage Foundation:
The controversy centers around a study by MIT professor John Reilly that shows a carbon cap and trade would cost the average American household $3,900 a year. $800 of that figure comes from, according to Reilly, “the cost to the economy [that] involves all those actions people have to take to reduce their use of fossil fuels or find ways to use them without releasing [Green House Gases].” No one disputes that $800 a year cost. It’s the other $3,100 that Reilly, the St.Pete Times, and CAP (Center for American Progress) want to disappear.

Reilly admits that cap and trade policies would cause energy prices for the average American family to rise by $3,128 a year. Reilly also admits that “Those costs do get passed to consumers and income earners in one way or another.”

But here is where Reilly gets creative. Reilly believes that since those extra energy taxes will be collected and then spent by the government in some way, they should not count as costs to the American family. He told the Weekly Standard:

It is not really a matter of returning it or not, no matter what happens this revenue gets recycled into the economy some way. In that regard, whether the money is specifically returned to households with a check that says “your share of GHG auction revenue”, used to cut someone’s taxes, used to pay for some government services that provide benefit to the public, or simply used to offset the deficit (therefore meaning lower Government debt and lower taxes sometime in the future when that debt comes due) is largely irrelevant in the calculation of the “average” household.

Got that? Anytime the government takes your money, whether it be in the form of an income tax, or payroll tax, or capital gains tax, according to Reilly and CAP, this actually does not cost American taxpayers anything because eventually the government will spend your money on something anyway.

Glenn Beck pointed out today that MSNBC's Keith Olbermann was citing $31 as the total cost, and used Reilly as his source. Obviously, Olbermann is either using out-of-date information or he is simply cutting and pasting numbers from his own fevered brain, which would not be out of character. Even Reilly admits the number is $3,928.

If you believe that the federal government is going to raise your expenses by roughly $4,000 a year in direct and indirect hikes in the cost of energy, and then cut you a reimbursement check at the end of the year, you will believe anything. You probably even believe you got a $13 a week tax cut this month, when in reality all that changed were the withholding tables, not the tax code.

By the way, that $400 "tax credit" -- even if it were real -- is only 10 percent of what they want to hit you with cap and trade.

Let's take a moment, too, to say a little something about the Center for American Progress (CAP), an organization pushing the cap-and-trade legislation. Founded in 2003 and espousing the progressive policies of Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and FDR, it is funded in large part by George Soros and mortgage billionaires Herbert and Marion Sandler. Due to the large number of CAP personnel who have been appointed to positions in the Obama administration, Time magazine declared that there is "no group in Washington with more influence at this moment in history." In other words, CAP is hip deep in the Obama White House AND in cap-and-trade.

Nice to know.

How much farther down the rabbit hole do you want to go?

Labels: ,

A Reading Disability

EPA director Lisa Jackson testified Wednesday that she hadn't actually read the text of a bill she was promoting in a congressional committee appearance. I like the way Chris Horner described her testimony:

"I haven't read it -- but it's a great bill!"

Don't you think it's time members of Congress actually read and study the bills they are being asked to vote for? Especially when we are being threatened with a complete restructing of life as we know it? And shouldn't that also include the people who testify on behalf, or against, a piece of legislation?

Right now, the Obama Administration is trying to force a congressional stampede in favor of the Carbon Cap-and-Trade Tax legislation by threatening to use the EPA to mandate something even worse, if that were possible. Remarks Horner:

We've seen two major overreaches by the Democrats — the budget's cap-and-trade revenue stunt, and now this bill. The administration has painted itself into a corner with the "endangerment" threat: "We'll do something really disastrous to the economy unless you agree to do it first!" Now, either acting means they both lose — mutually assured political destruction, which is why they are desperately seeking to have their bacon saved.
A bit later today I want to talk about the actual cost of "cap and trade" to the average American family.

Labels: ,

When the In-Laws Agree With You ...

For all three of you who wondered why I didn't post yesterday ...

Spent some time Wednesday visiting my in-laws who are pretty sharp people for their late '70s. I always enjoy our talks because they are most definitely not afraid of getting into the nitty-gritty of politics and religion, and we can disagree with gusto. There is no danger that they are going to disinherit my wife and kick me to the curb, which is to say that our conversations have always been passionate and humor laden.

Yesterday was no exception. What was different is that whereas two years ago they wondered aloud if I wasn't getting a bit alarmist in my readout over the political/cultural situation in this country, now they admit they are with me.

"You know," my father-in-law said, "when you told us we were sliding into socialism under George Bush, I thought you had gone off the deep end. Now I think you were pulling your punches."

He's right. They were big Dubya fans, as I once was. None of us have much affection for Barack Obama, but we all agree it has nothing to do with race. (My in-laws were against segregtion and bigotry long before it became a majority opinion in this nation).

Both are dispirited over the alarming apathy so many people display. "Most of the people I talk to around here seem to want the government to take care of them. They think every problem has a government solution," my mother-in-law said. "They don't think they have a responsibility to provide their own solutions."

These two are not typical of the senior citizen stereotype, which might say something about the stereotype. While she is retired, she is active as a Sunday school teacher, and gets involved on political issues at the local level. He still works nearly full time, and jokes that he actually provides most of his wife's Social Security based on the annual withholding on his pay. "Don't tell me Social Security is an entitlement," he says. "I'm still paying for it. If they had actually saved that money over the years, instead of spending every penny of it, we wouldn't have a problem."

I agree with him. Social Security is not an entitlement. An entitlement is an attitude that people have that says "give me something I don't actually deserve." Americans, and their employers, have paid dearly over the decades into that black hole called FICA. That the federal government risks watering down our dollar with Zimbabwe-style inflation is a moral crime against every current and potential retiree.

For all their irritation at the current political and economic malaise, they are not about to surrender the field. "We have to try to talk to people, to wake them up," he says. "We can't do much but we can do something. I love my country too much to give up." Spoken well, like a former officer in the U.S. Army should.

She insisted on cooking dinner for us: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, asparagus and salad. The chicken was natural (no hormones or antibiotics) and was simply delicious. I ate my fill.

It takes us about three hours to drive back to Oklahomily Central, so it was pretty late and I was too tired to check in.

... so now you know.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Hate Speech Future is Now in Britain

Continuing the topic of Free Speech and the oncoming nemesis, Hate Speech Codes, ponder this report out of Great Britain:

A 14-year-old schoolgirl, Codie Stott, asked a teacher if she could sit with another group to do a science project as all the girls with her spoke only Urdu. The teacher's first response, according to Stott, was to scream at her: "It's racist, you're going to get done by the police!" Upset and terrified, the schoolgirl went outside to calm down. The teacher called the police and a few days later, presumably after officialdom had thought the matter over, she was arrested and taken to a police station, where she was fingerprinted and photographed. According to her mother, she was placed in a bare cell for 3 1/2 hours. She was questioned on suspicion of committing a racial public order offence and then released without charge. The school was said to be investigating what further action to take, not against the teacher, but against Stott. Headmaster Anthony Edkins reportedly said: "An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark. We aim to ensure a caring and tolerant attitude towards pupils of all ethnic backgrounds and will not stand for racism in any form ..."

Hate-crime police investigated Basil Brush, a puppet fox on children's television, who had made a joke about Gypsies. The BBC confessed that Brush had behaved inappropriately and assured police that the episode would be banned.

A bishop was warned by the police for not having done enough to "celebrate diversity", the enforcing of which is now apparently a police function. A Christian home for retired clergy and religious workers lost a grant because it would not reveal to official snoopers how many of the residents were homosexual. That they had never been asked was taken as evidence of homophobia.

HT: Mark Steyn, who refers to what is happening as "soft totalitarianism."


Labels: , ,

The True Cost of Free Speech, Part Deux

Public Service Announcement.

I post this ...

... because you should know just what kind of person holds such old-fashioned views on marriage ...

... and because this blog is not above pandering to the masses.

That is all.


The True Cost of Free Speech

Just what part of "free speech" do you not understand?

Apparently a lot, if what I'm reading and hearing in the various national and state media is any indication.

It's a bit ironic, and unfortunate, that people who ply their words, spoken or written, can be so easily led into dead-end arguments over what does and does not constitute free speech.

Let's examine the actual words of the First Amendment that are applicable: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech ..."

That's it. Short and sweet. Unfortunately Congress has made all sorts of laws that abridge freedom of speech, including but not limited to the McCain-Feingold restrictions on campaign contributions, but we won't open that can of worms today. The main point is that the prohibition is on Congress trying to shut up citizens through its control of the lawmaking process. The Founding Fathers knew that it would be a great temptation of the national government to silence dissent because, well, that's what governments generally try to do, sooner or later.

The most important speech, it has been held by the courts, is political speech, for it is the most troublesome and therefore the speech most in need of protection.

Most of us understand this well enough.

Where we began to get into trouble is thinking that the First Amendment prohibition against infringing upon speech applies to everyone, every institution, and every situation. It doesn't.

There's been a lot of discussion, including here, of Janeane Garofalo's denunciations of the tax day tea parties as "racist." Most of those who objected to her comments did so on the grounds that her facts were untrue -- not whether she had the right to utter them. There are a few who would like to instigate a boycott of her acting job on Fox's "24" in retribution. I say, "Go for it, if that's what'll make you feel better." Personally, Garofalo is a small minnow in the ocean of opinion and I've got bigger fish to fry. But I think two things must be clear:

1) Garofalo exercised her right of "free" speech on the MSNBC megaphone, and I have no problem with that. It was their right to invite her, her right to speak, and my right to think she's crazy as a loon.

2) Speaking freely isn't exactly like saying there is no cost. If enough people pressure Fox, and they decide to write her out of the show (they will not, by the way), then Garofalo has only herself to blame. The price tag for one's free speech is often very expensive.

Case in point, Miss California Carrie Prejean probably cost herself the Miss USA title on Sunday night when, in response to a question from (gay) judge Perez Hilton, she declared that in her opinion, marriage should be between a man and a woman, period. She came in second.

Hilton, on his blog Monday, called her "a dumb bitch."
He went on to describe her as having 'half a brain' and said he would have stormed onto the stage and ripped off her tiara if she had won.
I think we can assume he didn't vote for her.

Miss Prejean, in contrast, said she did not regret her answer because she believes God was testing her faith.
"I have no regrets about answering honestly. He asked me for my opinion and I gave it to him. I have nothing against gay people, and I didn't mean to offend anyone in my answer.''
She told Fox News:
"By having to answer that question in front of a national audience, God was testing my character and faith. I'm glad I stayed true to myself."
Both Prejean and Hilton were exercising their right to speak freely, but you cannot say that there were no costs associated with the outcome.

Mr. Hilton, who had every right to vote against her, will pay no price for his gutter language and personal disparagement of Miss Prejean. He will be fawned over and comforted by the sycophantic cultural elite for having to endure such an awful thing as a beautiful woman expressing her opinion. For this she must certainly deserve his opprobrium!

Miss Prejean will undoubtedly be comforted by some, but she will also face the wrath and potential ostracism of the entertainment and media establishment for her cultural sin. Plus she lost the contest, so you cannot say she is not paying a price for her "free" speech.

Notice that the federal government is not involved in this "speech" controversy. It has no role to play. There is no "rights" issue. This is as it should be. However, it may not always be thus.

Without a doubt there will be calls for greater screening of Miss USA contestants, and perhaps even howling demands for legislative codes against "hate speech," which in reality are crimes against thought. This is what happens when a culture decides that "group rights" (or social rights) trump those of the individual. We have fallen a long way from the time when most agreed with Voltaire's statement: "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

And because we are a nation of intellectual lightweights who do not understand the nature of the freedoms we enjoy as the legacy of our brilliant Founding Fathers, and the constitutional protections against such monstrosities called "hate speech laws," we will be forced to defend principles which were once self-evident.


The Unstimulating Calm Before the Stimulus

O Beware the Law of Unintended Consequences!

More evidence, courtesy of Jim Geraghty at The Campaign Spot at NRO, that human nature never changes. A viewer who heads up a large medical institution e-mailed:
I am in charge of several large construction projects that are already budgeted and ready to go . . . in effect they are “shovel ready” . . . however, as soon as the stimulus bill was signed into law they all came to a screeching halt. They’ve been put on hold in hopes that the Federal Government will pay for them.

Unfortunately no one knows how much money our institution will be allotted, and how exactly we’re supposed to apply for said money. Meanwhile, these projects will just sit and wait, just in case. My fear is that we won’t find out if they’ll be government funded until sometime in the fall, which will be in the next financial year, and then there will no longer be funds in our budget for these projects.

I suspect that this thinking is not unique to my employer. I’m sure that other institutions plus state and local governments are all putting projects on hold in hopes that they can get someone else to pay the bills. So, from what I have seen; the “Stimulus” has resulted in a slowdown in the economy.

That's why Porkulus was so much more appropriate. Everyone would rather get a freebie from Uncle Sugar than have to repay for these projects through normal means.

Get in line boys. It may be a long wait.

Labels: ,

Smoke & Mirrors: A Fake $100 Million Spending Cut

My last post included a graph that shows the past and projected deficits of the federal government. That was yesterday.

Today we learn that the $100 million budget cut search ordered by President Obama -- in itself a tiny drop in a mighty big bucket -- is even less than it appears.

Mr. Obama is asking his cabinet secretaries to look for $100 million in cuts in the growth of next year's budget and (get your duct tape ready) this is so the money can be used for other necessary projects!

In short, there is no $100,000 spending cut. Period. End of story.

It's all kabuki theatre, focus group tested and bounced off a behavioral psychologist for good measure.

Even if the cuts were real, they are inconsequential. Ask liberal economist Paul Krugman, in the New York Times:
Let’s say the administration finds $100 million in efficiencies every working day for the rest of the Obama administration’s first term. That’s still around $80 billion, or around 2% of one year’s federal spending.
The Associated Press, in an article entitled, "Spin Meter: Saving Federal Money the Easy Way,"
Cut a latte or two out of your annual budget and you've just done as much belt-tightening as President Barack Obama asked of his Cabinet on Monday.

The thrifty measures Obama ordered for federal agencies are the equivalent of asking a family that spends $60,000 in a year to save $6.

Obama made his push for frugality the subject of his first Cabinet meeting, ensuring it would command the capital's attention. It also set off outbursts of mental math and scribbled calculations as political friend and foe tried to figure out its impact.

The bottom line: Not much.

Okay, how much is not much?

For all the trumpeting, the effort raised questions about why Obama set the bar so low, considering that $100 million amounts to:

-- Less than one-quarter of the budget increase that Congress awarded to itself.

-- 4 percent of the military aid the United States sends to Israel.

-- Less than half the cost of one F-22 fighter plane.

-- 7 percent of the federal subsidy for the money-losing Amtrak passenger rail system.

-- 1/10,000th of the government's operating budgets for Cabinet agencies, excluding the Iraq and Afghan wars and the stimulus bill.

The President and all his men have calculated that the American people are dimwits, that we cannot distinguish between large numbers and even larger numbers.

To me, the most frightening prospect is that they may be correct.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 20, 2009

Want to See Something Really Scary?

This is even scarier than some of the Oklahoma City steroid pictures I've seen posted today.

This is a graph that shows first what our federal deficits have been since 2000, and two versions of what is expected this year and beyond to 2019.

Actions have consequences, and there are three possibilities. 1) Taxes must be raised or there will be no private capital available for lending; 2) Money must be borrowed from overseas to finance our spending, and/or 3) printing presses run overtime, inflation rages out of control and our currency collapses.

In reality, there will likely be a bit of all three scenarios involved. The only real solution would be to dramatically cut spending to essential services and pray that we survive the Depression which follows. It is the only course of action that gives us a fair chance of saving our Republic.

Why do so few people see this?

Labels: ,

Blue Dogs Acting Like Lap Dogs on Spending

How are the Blue Dogs doing in Congress in terms of trimming spending and making sure that huge liberal/progressive majorities do not run roughshod over personal liberty?

There are 51 congressmen who identify themselves as Blue Dogs, including Oklahoma Second District Rep. Dan Boren. (How do I know this? They have a website. ) They claim they've “been particularly active on fiscal issues, relentlessly pursuing a balanced budget and then protecting that achievement from politically popular ‘raids’ on the budget.” This "relentless pursuit" sounds more like Don Quixote than Lexus, don't you think, considering we've had the Porkulus, Son of Porkulus and Obama's $3.7 trillion budget since the new term began in January.

Since many of these Blue Dogs asked for our votes in 2006 and 2008 based on the claim that they could more effectively represent our values by working within the Democratic Party majority than the Republican incumbents they replaced, it only makes sense that we should hold them accountable for their votes.

Michael G. Franc, vice-president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation, examined the nine major votes in the House that dealt with the release of the second half of the TARP funds, the expansion of SCHIP, the economic-stimulus package, the omnibus spending bill, the expansion of government funding for volunteer activities, and the FY2010 budget. He used Rep. Barney Frank as the big spending measuring stick; each one of Frank's votes was for greater spending. (Frank missed one vote, so Rep. Barbara Lee of California was the substitute vote for big spending.)

Using this Big Government Scale of Spending, how did the Blue Dogs stack up?

-- 11 Blue Dogs voted 100 percent with Barney.

-- 10 voted with Barney 8 out of 9 times.

-- 11 voted with Barney 7 out of 9 times.

-- 6 voted with Barney 6 out of 9 times.

If you're keeping score, a whopping 38 of 51 of these "fiscally conservative" Blue Dogs voted with the big spenders on 67 percent or more of these bills. That's 75 percent of the Blue Dogs.

That's not Blue Dog fiscal conservatism. That's pathetic yellow lap-dog behavior.

It gets worse. Only six Blue Dogs voted against the spending on more than half of the 9 bills, and four of those were freshmen congressmen, which means they will probably cave in to pressure from the liberal establishment in another year or so. Who are the true Blue Dogs? They are Bobby Bright (Ala.), Parker Griffith (Ala.), Frank Kratovil (Md.), Walt Minnick (Idaho), Colin Peterson (Minn.), and Gene Taylor (Miss.).

Okay, you've been waiting for it: How did fearless Dan Boren fare?

Our intrepid budget battler voted with Barney Frank on six of the nine spending bills. Yes, indeedy! He claims to be one of us, but he's sure looking like one of them!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you should always trust a Republican over a Democrat, or that Blue Dogs can't do good work. Big spending is as big spending does. A politician who won't put principle over party is valuable to the party but not to the American republic.

It's time We the People (WTP) quit voting by party and starting really quizzing candidates about what they really believe. Any candidate who merely claims that "I'm with you fellers" isn't worth a spit, and flag-waving allegiance to the Second Amendment alone isn't going to be much help when the government takes control of major portions of our economy because we spent the dollar into oblivion.

There are big votes coming up this year, earth-shattering pieces of legislation that effect energy, health care, farming, transportation, and without exception they are all designed to decrease our freedom and increase our cost of living. Even if the Blue Dogs rally in opposition it is not likely they can stop the Progressive Express from radically changing our nation.

At this point, given their performance so far, I'm not sure they should even save their jobs.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mexican Drug Gangs, Guns & a Big Lie

I think Mark Twain once wrote that there are "lies, damn lies, and statistics," an ascending hierarchy of excrable mendacity.

One of those in the top level, statistics, is the mantra we are hearing from the mainstream press and "progressive" politicians: 90 percent of firearms confiscated from drug cartels in Mexico are purchased in the United States.

It ain't so.

I don't care if Mexican President Felipe Calderon said it to President Obama this week. I don't care if The Obama Himself repeated it later. So did the New York Times. I think ABC News wanted to, but somehow refrained in a lament they put together on how the renewal of the so-called Assault Weapons Ban was indefinitely postponed. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder managed to avoid repeating the 90 percent number but then claimed it was a "vast majority."

The 90 percent number is one of those twisted stats that has been repeated so many times that the intellectually lazy, the ignorant and the wilfully deceitful declare it to be true.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, in testimony before Congress, said as best they could tell, the real number is about 17 percent. That's right. Less than one in five.

The Washington Post highlighted an online interview with Professor George Grayson, author of "Mexico's Struggle With Drugs & Thugs," and Grayson -- no friend of the National Rifle Association or, for that matter, a traditional interpretation of the Second Amendment -- reaffirmed the 17 percent number. Here is the Q&A:

[A caller from] Woodbridge, Va.: What will it take for the Obama administration to stop pushing this bogus statistic that 90 percent of the guns used by the cartels are from the U.S.? That number only includes guns that are traceable by the ATF and excludes the overwhelming majority of guns that are untraceable and come from Guatemala, China, and Africa. The real number is only 17 percent.

George Grayson: An extremely astute point. The 90 percent figure applies only to weapons that have been traced. Many firearms captured by police go in one door of the police headquarters and out the backdoor. I try to make you point in media appearances.

Grayson later conceded the 17 percent figure might not be accurate, but added it could not be 90 percent. He also said:

Even if the U.S. and Mexico stopped all southbound flow of weapons, the cartels have so much money that they would obtain sophisticated arms from Russia, Central America, and other areas.

Gun rights rocker Ted Nugent makes a good point about Mexico's gun problem:

I’ll tell you where 90% of the gangbangers firepower comes from. All that artillery is supplied by the demonically corrupt Mexican government, their own “law enforcement” gangs and from places like China, Venezuela and an unstoppable pipeline of uncontrolled gunrunners from countries where guns are virtually banned from private citizens.

Mexican residents are not allowed to keep and bear arms, so based on law, Mexico should be a gun-free zone. Guess how that worked out for them? About as well as it has in Afghanistan.

In fact, a good case could be made that one of the reasons Mexican drug cartels have free rein in much of that country is that the average citizen is unarmed and defenseless against them.

There are two solid bullet points about the situation with the heavily armed Mexican drug cartels.

1. There is no doubt at all where they get most of their money. From drug users in the United States. With this money they buy weapons, much of it more sophisticated than anything they could get from an American gun show (or would even want). They also use this money to corrupt politicians, law enforcement officials and even military brass in Mexico (and possibly, I suspect, north of the border as well).

The best thing that could happen to reform Mexican politics and drive the drug cartels out of existence would be for either a) U.S. drug use to stop overnight or b) the U.S. dollar to collapse. I like Option A, but I don't think the Obama administration is serious about curbing drug use. I hate Option B, and I fear that the Obama Administration is hell-bent on achieving this objective eventually.

2. The first and best answer to halting the flow of drugs north and weapons, however many they be, southward, would be to get serious about defending the southern border of the U.S. including finishing the fence we were promised three years ago. If that means amending the law so that U.S. military operations could operate to police the border, then by all means let us do so.

If Mexico doesn't like this operation, that would be just too bad. You can't have it both ways. We can't be the evil villain because we don't police our borders effectively, and be the evil villain because we police our borders too well.

Two much ballyhooed "solutions" are problematic. One is the Merida Initiative passed by Congress last year that would give Mexico $1.4 billion in crime fighting aid, including arms and helicopters. Unfortunately, earlier similar efforts largely failed. One, in southern Mexico, essentially created the Zetas, as military personnel trained and equipped by the U.S. defected and became part of what is now arguably one of Mexico's most fiercesome outlaw gangs. I would hate to see a similar failure.

The second proposed solution is the one that President Obama discussed with Mr. Calderon last week: a treaty covering Latin America that would attempt to impose international gun control efforts on the signatories. I think any international treaty that potentially infringes on the rights of individual American citizens is a non-starter. The last resort to international law is what happens when progressives have failed to bring about a change in laws through the legislative and judicial branches. They look for the executive branch for a fix that can't be adjudicated.

Finally, back to that 90 percent versus 17 percent issue: Can we at least agree that the truth is important?

On the Seinfeld TV show, the character George Costanza once advised Jerry on how to pass a polygraph, "It's not a lie if you believe it."

The Costanza Corollary, as I define it, is when the media and politicians operate under the assumption that "It's not a lie as long as we can get you to believe it."

Ninety percent of Mexican drug cartels weapons ARE NOT originating in the United States. To say otherwise is a lie. A damn lie. And a statistic.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Will Mr. Obama Wear the Notre Dame Robe?

Will President Obama wear the doctoral robe at Notre Dame?

This will be an interesting test of whether Mr. Obama has issues with Christian symbols. From the Christian News Service online:

Notre Dame expects President Obama to wear the school’s traditional doctoral robe--which is emblazoned with a cross and a prayer to the Virgin Mary--when the president receives an honorary law degree from the university at its May 17 commencement ceremony.

“Yes,” replied Notre Dame Spokesman Dennis Brown, when asked him if Obama would wear the robe that has been worn by previous graduation speakers at Notre Dame.

Another Notre Dame official confirmed that “everybody” wears Notre Dame's traditional doctoral robe when they receive an honorary law degree from Notre Dame.

In 2001, when President Bush received an honorary law degree from Notre Dame, he wore the school’s traditional doctoral robe inscribed with the prayer to the Virgin Mary. In 2008, when actor Martin Sheen received the Laetare Award from Notre Dame at its commencement ceremony, he wore the same traditional Notre Dame robe.
The official explanation from the White House for this past week's atrocious cover-up of the name of Jesus at the president's Georgetown University speaking engagement was that they didn't want any imagery other than the American flag; no mixed messages, they said.

I don't think a lot of us buy that explanation, but if Mr. Obama wears the Notre Dame robe, I'll be willing to shut up about it. (I still think Georgetown should have refused, but that's my beef with them.)

If, on the other hand, it's a problem for him ...

Labels: , ,

A Saturday Morning Conversation on Freedom

It's Saturday morning, a bit on the dreary side outdoors with the threat of rain, but John Sebastian and the Lovin' Spoonful are spinning their greatest hits in Drive I, a couple of breakfast burritos are history, and there's no one around to derail my train of thought, save me. So here's what I'm thinking about today:

A great multitude of Americans have begun extra reading assignments lately in response to calls for a more enlightened electorate on the principles and values incorporated into the founding of the American Republic.

I am one of them. It seems only reasonable that if we must decide between whether to restore and keep our Republic or toss out the Constitution toward something more "efficient and flexible" we should know, first, what that Republic was supposed to be.

I've always considered myself fairly well read on history and political thought. It was a strong part of my political science studies in college, and well before that I was fortunate to have teachers in high school who directed my attention to books like Allen Drury's "Advise & Consent" and Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." I'm not going to pretend that I understood everything in those books, but I absorbed the larger arguments and it helped prepare me to keep an open mind when my college professors attempted to radicalize me a few years later.

At some point I became too busy living life and dealing with work issues to spend a lot of time reading for leisure, and I think that's probably true for most people. Lately, however, I've realized that there is much, much more to know than I have learned, and some of it is important.

So I re-read "Atlas Shrugged," this time not missing a word or concept. It's an important work. I wish Ayn Rand had had a "come to Jesus moment" in her life, for it would have given her Objectivist philosophy an eternal underpinning, and it would have given her a bit more compassion for the poor fools who continually want to pull humanity down into the Abyss. Nonetheless, Miss Rand had a great deal of enthusiasm for the United States and the American experience.

I'm not sure she understood the Founders very well, or even Constitutional principles, for her works do not reflect that understanding. In "Atlas Shrugged," she mentions the word "Congress" only once that I can find. She calls it "the legislature" throughout. She mentions state and local governments not at all.

What she did understand was the pervasive grasping of those she called "looters" -- collectivists and opportunists of all stripes -- who corrupt both political, academic AND business organizations with a seemingly endless playbook of scheming, high-minded but false rhetoric, and an ability to twist the English language so that up seems to be down, good seems to be evil, and evil seems to be good. (I wonder, did she know that Scripture predicted these days would come? If she had, would it have changed her perception of religionists, who she saw as co-conspirators in the destruction of the works of the complete and ideal human?) Ayn Rand knew the looters well, for she had witnessed the progressive/liberal/socialist/Marxist/communist transformation of her native land, Russia, first hand as a teenager. She knew that, under the guise of working for the good of the people, the looters would not hesitate to promise anything, or do anything, to achieve their goals.

What is alarming, as I re-read the paperback version, is how so much of her fiction seems ripped from the headlines of newspapers and websites today. It is though we somehow managed to avoid her scenario in the 20th Century, only to fall prey to the looters here in the 21st Century. It is this that makes "Atlas Shrugged" extremely compelling reading but, sadly, not for everyone. If you cannot read well, you will probably not make it through the 1,000-plus pages. The effort is worthwhile, however. You will be rewarded with understanding the answer to the question, "Who is John Galt?" and why it could be vitally important in real life, real soon!

The dark philosophy of those who control government in her novel is at one point described as follows. See how closely it fits some of those who are demanding today that there be a cap on salaries, that taxes should be increased to confiscatory levels on "the rich," that there are too many Americans who have too big a "piece of the pie" and must learn to live with less so that others can have more pie:

"You who are innocent enough to believe that the forces let loose in your world today are moved by greed for material plunder ... they do not want to own your fortune, they want you to lose it; they do not want to succeed, they want you to fail. They do not want to live, they want you to die ..."

"It is not your wealth they are after. Theirs is a conspiracy against the mind, which means: against life and man. It is a conspiracy without leader or direction, and the random little thugs of the moment who cash in on the agony of one land or another are chance scum riding the torrent from the broken dam of the sewer of centuries, from the reservoir of hatred for reason, for logic, for ability, for achievement, for joy, stored by every whining anti-human who ever preached the superiority of the 'heart' over the mind.

"It is a conspiracy of all those who seek not to live but to get away with living, those who seek to cut just one small corner of reality and are drawn, be feeling, to all the others who are busy cutting other corners -- a conspiracy that unites by links of evasion all those who pursue a zero as a value; the professor who, unable to think, takes pleasure in crippling the minds of his students; the businessman who, take protect his stagnation, seeks pleasure in chaining the ability of competitors, the neurotic who, to defend his self-loathing, takes pleasure in breaking men of self-esteem, the incompetent who takes pleasure in defeating achievement, the mediocrity who takes pleasure in demolishing greatness ..."

If you read these three paragraphs and see a reflection of the insanity of our culture today, where talk show hosts mock both capitalist and Christian ideals with equal disdain, where congressmen (and congresswomen) see no ethical problem with cheating on taxes AND running the IRS, or writing new tax laws, where daily we see new regulations and legislation that threaten the economic lifeblood of our nation's businesses and the ability of American families to cope without government assistance, and we hear of grandiose plans to "save the planet" that will scuttle life in the United States as we have known it ...

If you see a reflection of this insanity, then you are still capable of independent thought. You are one of those who can help reclaim our country from the would-be looters who would just as well see everything owned "in common" through the government than by individuals, and who because they refuse the lessons of history (or to even study) want to condemn us to repeat history's worst tutorials. Because they see misery, they wish us all to become equally miserable.

If you can see the insanity for what it is, you are not insane. Thus you undoubtedly recognize that freedom and responsibility walk hand-in-hand. For the truly free individual does not wish to enslave his neighbor or brother but understands he has a duty to encourage his neighbor and brother to embrace both their own personal freedom and responsibilities. We seek not the equality of misery, which is the only equal result that government can guarantee, but rather equality of opportunity to pursue our lives, our liberty and our happiness, which is the answer to humanity's noblest aspirations, and the only sure path permitted by the laws of Nature's God.

Well, it is now no longer morning, and the Lovin' Spoonful has left the stage to be replaced by Mason Proffitt ("Wanted" 1969), so it is time to finish this post.

If you aren't sure where you stand right now, keep an open mind and keep reading. Try out "The 5,000 Year Leap," which you will find listed on Amazon. It's not difficult reading and, in just the first few chapters, I find it already is yielding many nuggets of wisdom about our nation's founding principles.

We'll talk again.

Labels: , , ,