Thursday, December 30, 2010

Boiler Boiler, Toil and Trouble. . .

There is an old saying that God watches over idiots and drunks. But the arrogantly stupid are another matter. In fact, the universe seems to love messing with those people, and it LOVES ironic punishments. Take the case of Britain, a leading proponent of global warming, and the “condensing boiler.”

Five years ago, drunk with self-righteousness, New Labor passed a law outlawing existing boiler technology. In its place, New Labor decreed that the people would use condensing boilers. Thus, it became illegal to install any kind of boiler other than a condensing boiler. Consequently, eight million of these things have been put into service in Britain, and every year another 1.2 million of the old ones are scrapped.

The reason for this change was simple: global warming must be real, despite the science to the contrary, because all the right people say it is. By forcing people to install condensing boilers instead of the old kind favored by the ignorant masses, everyone would save money in the long run on fuel bills and the country’s carbon footprint would be reduced.

Here’s why. A regular boiler produces hot gases when the methane fuel is burned off to heat water for radiators, dishwashers, tap water, etc. Around 25% of that heat vents out the exhaust pipe in the form of steam and evil CO2. But a condensing boiler captures that steam, lets it condense back into water, and returns it to the system. According to advocates, this should increase the efficiency of the units from 75% to 93% and will thereby lower fuel bills and reduce carbon emissions. Hurray! Praise the maker!

But something went wrong between the drawing board and reality.

First, these things cost around £2,000, which is a lot more than the older versions. Indeed, assuming the fuel bill savings are as advertised, it will take ten years to make up the price difference over the older models. BUT... these things don’t last ten years. According to a plumbers association in London, the boilers are only likely to last three to six years, whereas the old ones lasted twenty years. Moreover, the replacement parts are so expensive that it’s usually cheaper just to replace a broken unit than it is to have it repaired.

Secondly, these things don’t work as advertised. For the water to condense, it needs to be below 55 degrees Celsius. But the steam typically produced is around 65 degrees Celsius. To fix this, customers either need to buy over-sized radiators for their homes (thereby wiping out the environmental efficiency benefits) or pipes need to be installed into the walls and floors to let the steam cool. This can cost thousands of pounds.

Third, the condensed water vapor is often acidic, as it contains nitrogen and sulphur oxides, and will corrode the boiler components and lead to breakdowns.

But the biggest, most ironic problem of them all was exposed over the past few weeks. See, it turns out that while this steam is racing through these pipes to cool off and condense, the cold air from a particularly cold winter. . . like the one they are having at the moment despite claims that global warming would end such weather forever. . . will cause the condensed water to freeze up into ice. This blocks the pipes. Once the boiler senses the blockage, it shuts down.

Yep. No heat.

In Yorkshire alone this past week, very angry British people called British Gas to come fix 60,000 units because they froze up. The cost of these plumber visits ran between £200 to £300 per visit, plus 20% VAT tax.

So think of the irony: a record cold snap that should no longer exist according to global warming enthusiasts, is destroying heaters that are being foisted on people by those same enthusiasts for the sole purpose of stopping the global warming that isn’t coming. Way to not-solve a non-problem! If that isn’t the definition of irony, then I don’t know what is.

Moreover, this technology that was meant to save the planet costs more and ultimately pollutes more (when you consider the scrapage and the cost of replacing units more frequently) than the tried and true technologies it was meant to replace. In other words, the enthusiasts made the very problem they are combating worse.

Nice huh?

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dump Iowa/New Hampshire For Regional Primaries

Our electoral system is broken. The Electoral College system was designed to require primary candidates to attract votes from large states, as well as a small states, from rural states as well as urbanized states, from rich and poor, and from north, south, east and west. But our system no longer works that way because two states all but decide the outcome: Iowa and New Hampshire. This needs to change, especially because Iowa and New Hampshire are highly idiosyncratic states.

Iowa is a small farm state that is dominated by evangelical Christians on the right and socialist farmers on the left. If a candidate is not a member of the religious right, then they cannot win the Republican endorsement. And if a candidate is not an old-school socialist, then they cannot win the Democratic endorsement. Making this all the worse, Iowa uses a caucus system that lets votes be traded at the time of voting and which places an emphasis on getting voters to the right precincts in sufficient numbers to carry the precinct. Finding a less democratic system would be difficult.

New Hampshire is the opposite side of the same coin. Indeed, while New Hampshirites talk about the state’s conservative past, it’s not a conservatism that the rest of the country would recognize. It’s more like a big-government, elitist, country-club “conservatism.” The Democrats have a similar problem in that New Hampshire Democrats are more like their Alabama cousins, only richer, than their California comrades. Indeed, what comes out of New Hampshire (on both sides) is basically politics through the lens of elitists, who value the establishment above all else.

In and of itself, the idiosyncrasies of these two states would be meaningless, as they are so small. But they’ve been assigned a leading place in the primary season, which is what’s causing the problem we’re having with finding good candidates. Indeed, Iowa voters go to the polls first, where they select right wing and left wing extremists, both of very specific types. Then New Hampshire follows a little later, where they select the most “establishment” candidate. At that point, most of the other candidates will drop out of the race -- even when candidates survive losing both of these primaries, it’s rare that such candidates will be able to continue much longer. Thus, the choices voters appeared to have when the primary season began were actually an illusion as only candidates who fit the Iowa or new Hampshire mold could make it to the next round. This causes too many good candidates to fail before a single person in any other state gets the chance to vote for them.

So how do we fix this?

First, lets acknowledge that the country can legitimately be broken into different regions with relatively homogeneous beliefs found within each region: the Northeast, the South, the Rust-Belt, the mid-West, the West, and the West Coast. Each of these regions has largely similar views, though those views can clash wildly with other regions. Thus, voters within the Rust-Belt are much more likely to think like other Rust-Belt voters than West Coast voters or Southern voters.

Because of this, a series of super-primaries would be appropriate. For example, one week all of the states in the West could vote. A week or two later, the Rust Belt might vote, and then the South, etc. This would let the voters of each region make their selections at the same time.

Why do this? For one thing, this undoes the Iowa/New Hampshire problem because not all of the states in these regions are as intellectually narrow as Iowa or New Hampshire. In other words, while Iowa may be dominated by Type X people, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota are not cloned copied of Iowa. This makes the first primary more meaningful because the candidates would need to broaden the scope of their appeal to survive the first primary hurdle. No longer could they spend two years focused like a laser beam on just one state, hoping that a victory there will suffice.

So why not just have every state vote at once in a mega-primary? Two reasons. First, if we switched to a single primary, then we face the same problems we face with a national popular vote -- politicians will concentrate in voter-rich areas and will ignore smaller areas. That means they will begin pandering to big cities. Secondly, often times we don’t know what’s good or bad about a candidate until later in the process, e.g. after we see them recover from a loss or do something stupid just as they begin winning. A single primary day would let bad candidates hide their flaws because we would not see them having to adjust to wins and loses. It would also prevent good candidates from recovering from early mistakes.

But which region should go first? It should rotate. This is key. By rotating the order of the regions, politicians could not adopt the current strategy of simply trying to make their image perfect for the lead off states. Again, this means less pandering and more broad-based appeals.

Right now, Iowa and New Hampshire all but choose our nominees for us. But neither state fits in with the other 48 states. Thus, this system needs to change if we are to find conservative (and liberal) candidates who are more satisfactory to the country at large. A series of rotating regional primaries should eliminate those problems while still providing a sufficient proving ground to allow us to evaluate the candidates.

What do you think? And what, if anything, would you change about the primary system?

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Congressional Reform

With Congress getting set to start again, now is a good time to talk about some of the changes we need to make Congress work better. Or, said differently, these are reforms we should make to rein in Congress.

1. You First: Number one on any list should be that any law that Congress passes must apply to Congress, their minions and aides, and all government workers. Thus, if they pass ObamaCare, then they need to have their healthcare taken away and replaced with the basic ObamaCare being foisted on the rest of us. Government pensions should be scrapped and replaced with social security. Any new workplace rules must be applied to Congress, as must every other law.

2. Four Weeks A Year: There is no reason Congress should become a full time occupation. Most state legislatures only meet a couple days a session. Boards of directors only meet one day a month, if that. Congress should be limited to meeting four weeks a year, one week in each quarter.

3. No Pay For Public Service: Since we’re cutting the Congressional term and we’re picking up their expenses, and public service is its own reward, it’s time we stopped paying Congresscritters. This should not be a profession, but a noble pursuit done in conjunction with gainful employment in some other profession.

4. Strip The Perks: There is no reason Congress needs a barbershop, a post office, a cafeteria, a mini-rail system, massive offices, a housing allowance, massive staffs, a gymnasium or any of the other perks they get. Take it all away. Give them a dormitory, two aides, and coach airplane tickets to and from each Congressional session.

5. Lobbying Moratorium: Lobbying rules need to be changed to make it less profitable for K Street to hire ex-Critters. Thus, it should be prohibited for lobbying firms to pay any money to a Congresscritter OR THEIR FAMILIES for a period of two years after they leave office. Similarly, Congressional aides should need to wait two years to work as or for a lobbyist as well.

6. Criminalize Self-Dealing: It should be made a felony for a Critter to vote on any bill that sends money to any person to whom they are related or to any firm that employees any person to whom they are related.

7. Budget Reform: The budget process must be reformed. (1) No budget may exceed the prior year’s budget by more than the prior year’s percentage change in GNP. (2) All budgets must balance, based on the prior year’s actual revenue received. (3) Every line item of spending must be voted on individually (and its sponsor(s) identified), and must be approved by both houses. There will be no committee negotiation to reconcile the two bills and no final all or nothing vote -- any item not passed by both chambers dies. (4) Nothing can remain “off budget”: not wars, not a “doctor fix,” and not social security. (5) Budgets may only be made on a year-to-year basis, no more 10 year phony budgets.

I think these would be a great start toward refocusing Congress on its proper role and duties. These would also loosen the grip of lobbyists and wipe out the excuse that the process makes it impossible for individual Congresscritters to do the right thing.

What you would add? Or take away?

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Choosing A Candidate -- The Fundamentals

At a Christmas party the other day, the conversation turned to politics, as so often happens these days. No one there supported Obama, or any other Democrat, although several were convinced that Hillary would challenge him. More interestingly, there was a distinct concern about the lack of quality Republican candidates to challenge Obama. And this brought up the question of what should one look for in a political candidate?

As a conservative, I certainly want my candidate to be a conservative. But that’s just part of the equation. In a general sense, there are four qualities I want to see in my political candidates even before I examine their conservative beliefs.

The first quality I want to see is that the candidate is well informed. Without a basic knowledge of facts, e.g. people, places, conflicts, and issues, I find it very difficult to support anyone for political office. I’m not saying that you need to know the current president of Kerpsplatistan off the top of your head, but any candidate who doesn’t have a passing familiarity with current events, budgeting, our history and form of government, and who our friends are in the world and what our interests are, just isn’t someone we should be electing. Not only is the learning curve too steep to pick up this kind of knowledge in office, but anyone who has made it to adulthood without this knowledge lacks the intellectual curiosity to make an effective political leader -- it’s like choosing a doctor who never cared about anatomy and thinks they can look it up as needed. That’s not someone we can trust to make good decisions. Indeed, that's the kind of person who either plans to fake their way through the job or will quickly become a puppet of their advisors/donors.

And even worse, anyone who would try to become a political leader despite this lack of knowledge either doesn’t grasp how ill-equipped they are, and s thus a fool, or doesn’t care, and is thus an opportunist. Indeed, such people represent the “something for nothing” or “reward without work” school of “thought,’ which is anathema to conservative thinking. So why would we accept them as a candidate?

The second quality I want to see in a candidate is that they have the ability to use logic and reasoning. One of the problems I have with most Democrats (and many Republicans) is that they lack the ability to reason. These people are incapable of grasping concepts like cause and effect and they are constantly proposing “solutions” to problems that cannot possibly solve the problem. A classic example of such a failure is John McCain. During the last Presidential campaign, McCain was asked what he would do about the $400 billion deficit. His response was that he would end the $40 billion practice of earmarking, and it was clear that he simply did not grasp that $40 billion in cuts would not solve a $400 billion problem. This lack of ability to use even simple logic is sadly all-too-common in our political class.

The third quality I want to see in a candidate is someone who has principles, but also is willing to change their minds when they are proven wrong. Too many politicians (people in general, actually) can never admit that they are wrong. This is a bad sign. All the greats in history, all the best CEOs, all the smartest scientists, and so on, have had the ability to evaluate the results of their actions, to see when they are mistaken, and to change course accordingly. To stick with a bad answer merely because you are unwilling to admit a mistake is a much greater failure than being wrong in the first place and is not something we should tolerate in our candidates.

But it is equally wrong to flip or flop merely because you run into opposition. It is a candidate’s principles that make us decide whether or not they are worthy of occupying an office. If they have no true principles, then we should not support them as we have no idea what they stand for or will do.

Finally, the fourth quality I’d like to see is a track record of conservative achievement, i.e. actual experience in putting conservative ideas into practice. It drives me crazy when a politician gives one good speech and suddenly everyone wants to see them in the White House. Never forget that speeches are meaningless because they don’t require politicians to commit, and almost all speeches are written for our trained-monkey politicians by their handlers. When candidate Obama read those supposedly pretty speeches, you didn’t learn anything about him except that he was a competent reader. All you really knew was what his speechwriters thought you wanted to hear. That’s why political records are so vital. Political records not only tell us how a particular politician has made up their mind in the past, which gives us insight into how they will act in the future, but they show how successful the candidate has been at implementing conservative ideas. A candidate can say all the right things, but if their history is one without achieving a single goal, then what are the odds they will suddenly become successful if we promote them? Would you promote a failed fry cook to CEO just because he uses the right buzzwords?

At the same time, we should be leery of candidates who demonstrate behaviors that are inconsistent with what they are saying. Candidates who talk about budget cuts, but spend like drunken Congressmen; candidates who speak of traditional values but then live like libertines; candidates who promise to end corruption and corporate influence, but then rely on corporate influence. . . hypocrisy is a huge warning sign of someone who is not what they claim to be, and who will abandon their promises once they no longer need you to get what they want.

To me, these are the fundamental requirements for any candidate before we even look at what kind of conservative they are. These are like minimum requirements. Fail these and I’m not interested.


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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Taxpayer Funded ObamaCare Lies

With Christmas vacation just around the corner (we’re starting tomorrow), and little going on in the news, it wasn’t too easy to find a topic to write about this morning.

On the one hand, we’ve got the FCC trying to seize control over the internet, ostensibly to keep it free but more truthfully doing the bidding of certain companies. On the other, we’ve got Rahm Emanuel’s desperate prayers that Santa bring him a Chicago residence. Or you’ve got START probably passing the Senate, giving Obama another victory that the Democrats will trumpet and the public will ignore. Or you’ve got redistricting. Redistricting is kind of fun, as it looks like the Republicans are likely to add at least six permanent votes in the House and the Electoral College. . . I guess people really don’t like high taxes and run-amok liberalism after all?

But none of these things have caught my interest as much as the commercials intended to brainwash the public into thinking that ObamaCare isn’t such a bad thing. Grrrrr.

I’m sure you remember the first ad: that one involved the ghost of Andy Griffith’s zombie corpse as he sure does tell us how this new health care law is a gosh darn good thing. It won’t cost anything and it will make us all young again. . . because it’s magic, and golly, let’s all vote Democratic because they passed it. Grrrrr.

These ads ran only in September and October (just in time to help the Democrats re-election campaign) and they cost taxpayers $3,184,000. And, frankly, they should be illegal. Federal law prohibits the use of government money to lobby. This is lobbying. Agencies are allowed to use various means to spread the word about new programs or changes in the law, but this is not that. These ads cross the line into advocating, like when Griffith (who worked for free -- another violation of Federal law) tells us that he thinks this here health care law is a mighty fine thing. That’s an opinion, not a fact.

Moreover, the ad is misleading. Both Judicial Watch and (which is associated with the University of Pennsylvania) have concluded as much. Said FactCheck:
“Would the sheriff of Mayberry mislead you about Medicare? Alas, yes. In a new TV spot from the Obama administration, actor Andy Griffith, famous for his 1960s portrayal of the top law enforcement official in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., touts benefits of the new health care law. Griffith tells his fellow senior citizens, ‘like always, we’ll have our guaranteed [Medicare] benefits.’ But the truth is that the new [Obamacare] law is guaranteed to result in benefit cuts for one class of Medicare beneficiaries -- those in private Medicare Advantage plans.”
If this had been a company making these kinds of false claims, the FTC would have made them issue a retraction, which I’m thinking is a good idea. . . right before the next election.

Further, these ads were produced by Obama insider Catherine “Kiki” McLean, which reeks of both politics and crony politics, just as Hillary’s pollster “coincidentally” got contracts under the Stimulus Plan that matched the debt Hillary owed him. Grrrr.

Now they’re at it again with a new ad. This time they have two black women sitting around a table as one tells the other about all the great things they're going to get from ObamaCare. Grrrr. The government is not Santa. It’s job is not to give you things, and to encourage that attitude is infuriating, especially when the point of these ads is so clearly to shore up Obama supporters rather than advise people on specific, factual benefits.

(Apparently, they are also buying ads on google now, including paying to have search results lead you to their webpages.)

These are the sorts of things the Justice Department needs to look at, but we don’t have a Justice Department at the moment. So this will fall on Congress in the next session. Congress needs to look into this and take appropriate steps to end this practice. And if that takes retaliating by authorizing ads that will make the Democrats scream bloody murder so they will agree to stop the government from doing this, then so be it. I’m thinking a retraction of the lies told in the 2010 ads would be nice. . . to air, say, in October 2012.

Come on Santa, how about a little rule of law this year?!

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Friday, December 17, 2010

RINOs and Taxes and Budgets. . . Oh My!!

I had planned to put up an article reviewing Avatar today, because I endured its pain just so I could write a review. But that will have to wait because I get the feeling some of you may have some thoughts about this whole budget thing or the tax bill. . . what a mess! Let’s look at the winners and losers:

Loser: House Democrats The House Democrats look like fools in this whole process. The voters are furious that they blew a trillion dollars on their friends, achieved nothing regarding the economy, and managed to bring the debt to levels that literally endanger our country. So here is their chance to show that they’ve learned something. They didn’t.

First, they threw a hissy-fit and made it clear that they were willing to destroy the economy and raise taxes on everyone by killing the Bush Tax Cuts just to score political spite points. They even spent the week name-calling and swearing at Obama, something which always makes you look childish and stupid. And in the end, after giving Obama a black eye and exposing themselves, they voted for the deal.

Secondly, they passed an obscene budget that not only kept right on with their insane and crooked spending ways, but was crawling with earmarks, set-asides and special projects. . . like those of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) who earmarked $48 BILLION (with a B) for a day care center run by one of his friends out of his house (although he claims he didn't actually make the request, he just put it on his website). Cleaver will be leading the Congressional Black Caucus next year, though he should be in prison.

Loser: Obama Obama cut a deal with the Republicans on the Bush Tax Cuts, which immediately blew up in his face. Liberals depend on all their friends telling the world how great they are (because they have no other accomplishments they can point to), and this wiped that out. No longer the Messiah, Obama became the Pariah, as his historically low approval ratings plummeted.

Winner: George Bush If you want to judge a President on how effective they are, look at how many of their policies get adopted by their successors. Obama got into office promising to close Gitmo, get us out of Iraq, and kill the Bush Tax Cuts. He’s now adopted all three.

Loser: The MSM Not only have they watched as their heroes fell apart into childish bickering, but their efforts to spin the news have fallen flat. For example, many of you probably saw how the “Bush Tax Cuts” recently became the “Bush Era Tax Cuts” and then the “Obama Tax Cuts,” but nobody bought it and we’re right back to the “Bush Tax Cuts.” Moreover, there was nothing they could do to stem the tide on any of these stories, not the budget, not the taxes, not the feuding.

Winner: Mitch McConnell McConnell started out poorly in these matters as he seemed quite content to get a poor deal on the Bush Tax Cuts and he seemed happy with the Budget. But when McConnell started pushing around the RINOs and then reported to the Democrats that the Senate Republicans no longer supported the budget, Harry Reid withdrew the budget in a panic maneuver. McConnell then added insult to injury by proposing a one page budget that basically said, “no changes from last year.”

Winner: The Tea Party There is no doubt that the pressure put on Senators by the Tea Party is what caused the Republican about-face on the budget. And once again, it was Jim DeMint as the first to break ranks.

Loser: The Republican Establishment While many individual Republicans came out as winners in these issues, the establishment continues to look weak and backwards. They have shown again that their instincts are wrong, although they at least changed course when the Tea Party people applied a lot of pressure.

Winner/Loser: Political Contenders These are the candidates for President and other gurus squawking from the sidelines. They are winners in the sense that they made good soundbites and were able to tell us “what they would have done” if they had been in the negotiations on these matters. But they are also losers because this is fake bravado and it’s exploitive. It’s one thing to propose something in advance, which none of them did, it’s another to play armchair quarterback safely away from any responsibility. So this will play well with their supporters, but doesn’t give the rest of us any confidence that they are serious or that we can trust them.

Winner/Loser: Us We got some good things in the Bush Tax Cut deal and some bad things, but that’s what you get with compromises. On the whole we are probably better off. But the budget is another issue. The withdrawal of the budget is nice, but I’ll believe it when it stays withdrawn and a better budget is produced. What’s more, we are losers in that the budget (even as they are talking about changing it) does nothing to trim the fat that’s accumulated in the budget in the past 3-4 years. But we are winners in the sense that our politicians apparently remain afraid of us.

There you have it. Anyone you would add or subtract? Anything you disagree with? Come on folks, vent away.

*** Update *** According to the Washinton Examiner, the number of earmark requests looks like this:
Senate Democrats: 15,133 earmarks for $54.9 billion
House Democrats: 18,189 earmarks for $51.7 billion
Senate Republicans: 5,352 earmarks for $22 billion
House Republicans: 241 earmarks for $1 billion
I guess we can see where the problem(s) lie?

(I’ll put up the Avatar review early next week.)

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fox News: A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

One of the most critical traits required of any journalist, lawyer, investigator, scientist, or anyone else whose job is to examine evidence, listen to conflicting stories, and make sense of what they find is a little thing called “skepticism.” Skepticism is what causes you to question the things that just don’t seem right, and to check the things that seem too good to be true. But journalists have abandoned skepticism, as shown by their reaction to a recent Fox New directive.

At one point, journalists realized that skepticism was a necessary part of their jobs. Indeed, this principle was summed up perfectly in a statement attributed to the City News Service of Chicago: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” But modern journalists no long respect this axiom.

Mike Vick is reformed! Sure, his apologies were not apologies and his mea culpa was more of a mea accusa everyone elsa, but the NFL says he’s reformed. Lindsey Lohan’s publicist says she’s sober. Sure, she ends up in rehab more often than most people go to the bathroom and she’s constantly photographed coming out of clubs drunk, but her publicist sounded very sure.

What do you mean the Democrats aren’t the party of the working class? They say they are. Sure, they get their money from rich lawyers and Wall Street, and they do favors for banks, but they say they don’t really like those people. What do you mean Obama isn’t the ideal leader? Sure, he has no educational or professional record and his first book reads like someone else wrote it, but he looks nice and he reads well. . . and all the Democrats say he’s a genius.

You get my point? The media has reached a point where skepticism is no longer considered part of the job. They will report any assertion as true if the assertion comes from the right people, even when it’s patently obvious the asserted facts could not be true. And they will uncritically parrot any conclusion, no matter how unsupported or how illogical, so long as it comes from the right people.

Indeed, the closest they come to skepticism is cynicism, but that’s not the same thing. What separates cynicism from skepticism, is that skepticism involves a thorough process of starting from a default position of doubting all that you are told, and then vigorously trying to prove or disprove the assertions. . . letting the facts fall where they may. It has no bias.

But cynicism, on the other hand, is just an opinion and it is pure bias. Cynicism takes from skepticism the idea that simple assertions cannot be trusted, but rather than seeking to prove or disprove those assertions, it stops at disbelief. Thus, if you do not trust the source, then you cast doubt on the source’s data, their motives and intentions, their capabilities, and their seriousness. And that is exactly how modern journalists behave, not with skepticism, but with cynicism. Indeed, they no longer seem capable of true skepticism, just cynicism directed at the people they don’t trust, i.e. Republicans, and blind faith in the people they do trust, i.e. Democrats and other leftists.

Consequently, it should come as no surprise how leftist journalists have responded to the news that on December 8, 2009, Fox News Washington Bureau Chief Bill Sammon issued a memo to his reporting staff telling them to be skeptical about assertions of global warming. Here’s what he said:
“Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data, we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.”
Their response should be, “excellent! We, as journalists, must be skeptical of all things and this fits perfectly with our credo.” But that’s not how they responded. Instead, they called this directive “conservative spin” and they ranted furiously that Fox would not bow at the global warming alter. The horror, the horror that journalists would treat disputed facts as disputed!

How sad is it that the same profession that refused to believe that Presidents never sanction breakings and enterings, that the Pentagon never lied, that corporations never committed crimes, that scientists never faked data to get contracts, that colleges never paid their athletes. . . would suddenly be outraged that other journalists have dared question disputed “science” that has been exposed as the domain of liars, cheats and data-fakers.

The fact that these “journalists” react this way should tell you all you need to know about your ability to trust their reporting and their analysis. It is yet another black mark in the eye of modern journalism.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Don't Label Me Bro!

You’ve probably heard about this “No Labels” garbage the left has come up with? Ostensibly, the idea is that if we can keep people from labeling each other “liberal” or “conservative” or “communist” or “RINO” or “idiot” then we can end the horrible partisanship that keeps “us” from getting things done. What a load. This is nothing more than an attempt by RINOs and leftists to make it hard for the public to spot them.

This laughable idea was created by two failed political consultants. On the left, you have Nancy Jacobson, a former finance director for the Democratic National Committee and a Hillary Clinton-campaign creature. On the other left, you have Mark McKinnon, who once worked for arch-conservative John McCain (**snicker snicker**) until he decided that he “[didn’t] want to work against an Obama presidency.” Poor dear.

Politicians who have outted themselves in favor of this idiocy include Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Evan Bayh (D-Ind); RINOs Mike Castle (RINO-Del), Charlie Crist (RINO-Fla), and Tom Davis (RINO-Va); and a slew of leftist hacks from MSNBC. “Labels get in the way of getting things done,” whined RINO Tom Davis, who spent his time in Congress pushing for DC statehood and federal pay raises.

So what are these groups after? Let’s look at each group.

The RINOs want a home. Their repeated betrayals of the Republicans have worn thin and Republican voters are done with them, but Democrats don’t want them either. They are hoping that by getting rid of labels, they can hide in the squishy middle while getting re-elected on personality and favor trading. In fact, their ideal world would be one where there are no parties and, thus, no primary voters to answer to.

The Democrats want a lifeline. They blew it with Obama/Pelosi. The voters hate them and the Republicans are ready to be as aggressive with them as they were when they were in power. So they are now pushing the idea of being bipartisan in the hopes that the Republicans buy into this and they can sneak through their policies despite the growing Republican majority.

The left wants a way to hide. The left has a long history of spoiling any label they tried to adopt. Their policies are poison. They destroy economies, they endanger people, they create poverty and make existing poverty more intense, they encourage crime, they encourage racism, they encourage violence, and their ideological compatriots have been directly responsible for killing millions of people. Thus, it’s no wonder they’ve worn out their welcome wherever they’ve been. Therefore, they’ve had to change their labels every couple of years as the latest label gets disgraced, so that people don't realize who or what they are.

Indeed, they went from progressives to populists to radicals to socialists to liberals and a dozen more, each time trying to choose a name that sounded like a good thing and eventually disgracing that name through their actions. If they could create a world where politicians and ideology bore no labels, then they could avoid being found so easily. Instead of people saying, “watch out for the progressives,” and everyone knowing exactly who and what that meant, they could hide among us in plain sight, pretending to be just concerned politicians. . . part of the generic establishment as a whole. It’s the political equivalent of camouflage.

These are the people who make up the “No Labels” coalition, a collection of losers looking to deceive the rest of us about who they are. Sad.

Finally, let me ask this. What exactly is wrong with partisanship anyway? Partisanship is what gives the voters a clear choice of ideas. Should we complain that McDonalds doesn’t also offer a Whopper? Or that Long John Silvers doesn’t offer tacos or winter clothing? No. That’s ridiculous. We want clear choices that let us decide what we are in the mood for, with each restaurant specializing in one type of item rather than all restaurants doing a little of everything because we know that promotes better quality and cheaper prices. So why is it, when it comes to politics we’re suddenly supposed to want politicians who offer fish-taco-hamburger jackets?

Seems kind of obvious to me.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

ObamaCare Struck Down? Not Quite

In case you didn’t hear, a federal judge in Virginia struck down a key portion of ObamaCare today. This ruling was made in response to a lawsuit brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia in defense of a new state law that prohibits the government from forcing state residents to buy health insurance. What does this ruling mean for ObamaCare? Well, don’t get excited. On a practical level, this ruling means nothing. Here’s what you need to know.

First, this ruling struck down the part of ObamaCare that allows the federal government to compel individuals to buy insurance. I’ve spoken before about why this will probably ultimately be found to be unconstitutional (click me).

Secondly, this ruling was issued by Federal District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson, a Republican appointee. He sits in Richmond, and thus, the scope of his reach is only Virginia. In other words, this ruling does not affect anyone in any other state. Moreover, other courts have already gone the other way on this provision, finding it constitutional, including courts in Michigan and Virginia.

So what does this mean? It means there is a conflict, and those need to be resolved, right? Actually, no. As strange as it may sound, conflicts are allowed under federal law, though they are not preferred. They are usually resolved by the appeals process, but not always. And when they aren’t resolved, different parts of the country will find themselves living under federal laws that have been interpreted differently -- you often see this in tax cases.

Still, as I said, conflicts are not preferred. And here is what is likely to happen.

The way the federal courts work, the District Court is the lowest level (excluding certain specialty courts). The scope of their power is the district within which they sit. Most states are broken into two districts. Thus, for example, you have the Eastern District of Virginia and the Western District of Virginia. These two districts can (and often will) conflict.

To fix the conflict, an appeal is made to a higher court -- the appellate courts. In the case of Virginia, the appellate court is the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. That court happens to sit in Richmond, but it oversees all of the District Courts in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas. When the Fourth Circuit issues a ruling, its ruling becomes the law in each of those states and any conflicts are erased.

But this doesn’t necessarily end the conflict because the country is broken into thirteen Circuit Courts, and they can conflict with each other. Thus, the Sixth Circuit in Ohio may disagree with the Fourth Circuit in Virginia or the Second Circuit in New York. When such a conflict exists, the only way to resolve it is to appeal to the Supreme Court. A Supreme Court ruling will become the law of the land and will apply to all Circuit Courts automatically, no matter which Circuit Court the appeal came from.

BUT appeals to the Supreme Court are not mandatory, nor are they guaranteed. In other words, the Supreme Court can refuse to hear an appeal, even when there is a conflict in the Circuits, and that will leave the conflict in place. That said however, it is unlike the Supreme Court will allow a significant conflict to continue. One Circuit striking down ObamaCare while another affirms it would be the kind of conflict the Supreme Court is unlikely to leave in place.

Since the Fourth Circuit is the most conservative Circuit Court in the country, and will likely affirm Judge Hudson's decision, and Circuits like the Sixth and Ninth will go the other way, a conflict is more likely now than before. Thus, the real meaning of today’s ruling is that this decision makes it more likely that the Supreme Court will hear this case. . . but that's it.

Also, as an aside, don't expect much to come from this ruling because the case everyone is watching is the lawsuit filed in Florida by the twenty state Attorney's General. So expect nothing to happen in the Supreme Court until that case makes it there.

All in all, today's ruling is nice and it makes it somewhat more likely that the Supreme Court will hear this case, but it doesn’t mean much more than that.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Bubba Summit

Once again, our contacts at the White House have helped us get the jump on other media. Behold, more Barack tapes! These are good too, these are the secret tapes of the entire meeting between Bill Clinton and our President. Read on.....

Obama: Uh, thanks for coming, Mr. President.
Clinton: Thank you for inviting me, Mr. President.
Obama: I could sure use some help.
Clinton: Oh, I know you can. I watch the news. What can I do for you Barack?
Obama: Things aren’t looking good right now. The economy’s in the tank. The election was a disaster. Nancy Pelosi was throwing eggs at Air Force One last night.
Clinton: Sounds pretty bad.
Obama: It is. What would you do, if you were me?
Clinton: Well, I don’t really need to think I’m you to give you advice. You do know I was the nation’s first black President, don’t you?
Obama: What?
Clinton: The first black President, that’s me. Trust me, I know what it’s like to have people hate you just for your race.
Obama: You’re not even black.
Clinton: Am too. I was the first black President. Seriously. I was there when you were still trying to sneak across the border from Kenya. Face it, you’re number two. . . and you’re not even all black.
Obama: Let’s not go there. Just give me the advice and let’s get this over with.
Clinton: Alright, alright. First thing you could do is resign. Nixon did that and it helped his popularity a lot. Hilly and I could take over.

** silence **

Clinton: Ok, you don’t like that. Well, let’s take this in parts. First, you gotta fix the economy. The voters ain’t a knockin’ if the economy ain’t a rockin’.
Obama: Yeah, I get that, but how do I do it?
Clinton: Here’s the single most important thing I can tell you about running an economy.
Obama: Yes?

** sound of cabinet opening **

Clinton: You got an booze? I used to keep booze around here.
Obama: No. Now get to the point.
Clinton: Not even a Colt 45? Come on.
Obama: Is that another racist crack?
Clinton: Racist? How can I be racist? I was the first black President, I can’t be racist.
Obama: Forget the booze, get on with it!
Clinton: Ok, here’s the secret. Let the Republicans do what they want to do. Those fellars are smart as heck when it comes to economic stuff. All their voodoo tax cuts this and less regulation that. . . I don’t know how it works, but man does it ever. Whatever they propose, just agree to it and then run out and tell everybody you came up with it?
Obama: What about being progressive?
Clinton: That stuff’s just for show. You didn't take that seriously, did you? No wonder Pelosi's pissed at you, she must think you're an idiot if you took that stuff seriously.
Obama: What else have you got?
Clinton: Triangulate.
Obama: How do I do that?
Clinton: Heck if I know. Just steal everybody’s ideas and blame everybody else for messing everything up. That worked for me.
Obama: Brilliant! . . . blame everybody else.

** more cabinets opening **

Clinton: Man, I was reading some of those Wikileaks things. If I knew diplomatic cables were so entertaining, I would’a read some when I was President.
Obama: You never read the cables?
Clinton: Heck no.
Obama: Well, this Wikileaks issue is a real problem and I don’t know what to do about it.
Clinton: I could take care of this Asschange guy for ya. Hillary’s got some people. . .
Obama: What kind of people?
Clinton: I promised her I wouldn’t say. Let’s just say, they took care of a couple problems for us.

** silence **

Clinton: Look, I can call her and get a Vince Foster special for ya by Monday.
Obama: Uh, no, let’s skip that.
Clinton: Suit yourself. I could throw in Biden for free. . . my treat?
Obama: Biden? Everyone keeps talking about “Joe Biden,” but I honestly never heard that name before. Who is that guy?
Clinton: He’s like Al Gore, only funny. Hey, let me ask, how are you staffed for interns?
Obama: What?
Clinton: Interns? Any hotties?
Obama: I wouldn’t know.
Clinton: What? How can you not know?
Obama: I just don’t.
Clinton: Wait! Wait a minute! Holy cow! You throw like a girl. Skinny jeans. You don’t know when you met your wife. . . and she ain’t exactly a looker. And you don’t look at the interns? Wow, two and two is coming up pretty gay around here if you ask me.
Obama: Let’s change the topic.
Clinton: Trust me, I feel your pain.
Obama: No, you don’t.
Clinton: Well I could.
Obama: What?
Clinton: Come on, everybody’s doing it. Come on, don’t ask, don’t tell. Let me feel your pain!
Obama: What!
Clinton: Come on, whip that sucker out. Let’s compare Presidents!
Obama: Stop it.

** sound of person being chased around desk **

Clinton: Oh come on, goochie coo!
Obama: Stop it, dammit!
Clinton: Oh, alright. Hey, do you realize that with you being half white and me being black, we’re like that Paul McCartney Michael Jackson song, “Ebony and Irony”? Remember that?
Obama: I don’t like the Beatles.
Clinton: No, you’re probably into rap aren’t you? That’s cool. I met Sir Mixalot once. . . “I like big butts and I cannot lie...”
Obama: Stop! Now!
Clinton: Oh, alright. Insecure about your small back door, huh?

** silence **

Clinton: Man, I miss this office. They should have elected me to another term. . . hey, can I be your vice president?
Obama: No.
Clinton: I’d let you be mine.
Obama: No. Let’s talk about this press conference.
Clinton: What do you want to do?
Obama: You understand, I’m going to answer a few questions. I’ll introduce you. Then you give a quick statement about how hard we’re working and how honored you are about being back to help out, right?
Clinton: Being black?
Obama: Back!
Clinton: Oh, I got ya.
Obama: Then I make some joke about my wife waiting for me.
Clinton: Then we whip out our Presidents!
Obama: NO! Then you wave to the crowd and you and I come back here. Got it?
Clinton: Yeah, I got it.
Obama: Don’t deviate from that script.
Clinton: I would never do that to a fellow Mr. President, Mr. President.
Obama: Ok, let’s go.
Clinton: Lead on. . . fer a change. ** slaps Obama on the back **

** 10 minutes later, Obama re-enters room **

Obama: That was a good conference, don’t you think so Bill? Bill? Where the hell is Bill?
Aide: He’s still in the conference room, sir.
Obama: What’s he doing?
Aide: I believe he’s doing shots off Helen Thomas’s old chair.
Obama: Oh God! What are we going to do?
Aide: We could push the red button, sir?
Obama: Nuke the Russians?
Aide: The other red button, sir.
Obama: You mean have him Shellacked?
Aide: It worked on Ted Kennedy.
Obama: I told you never to talk about that.

** Clinton enters room **

Clinton: Woo boy was that fun. That was like the old days. I think that ABC News hottie likes me. You mind sending Hillary overseas again?
Obama: Just what the heck are you doing?!
Clinton: Hey, I give great conference. And did you see their reaction? Mr. President is back baby!
Obama: Bill, get the hell out of this White House and never come back.
Clinton: Ok Barack, you can throw me out now. . . but I will be back. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but January 2012. . . I’ll be back.

** sound of button being pushed repeatedly **

** End of Tape **

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rage Against The Nanny State

Allow me to rant for a moment. I don’t know about you, but I am getting sick and tired of being told how to live my life. Seriously, can’t we wipe our own rear ends without the government telling us how to do it? Why can’t the government understand this?

Consider these examples:

1. A recent “nutrition” bill sent to Obama for signature actually gives the federal government the power to ban bake sales in schools. BAKE SALES!! Why? Because we can’t have parents, i.e. the agents of obesity, trying to sell cookies and muffins to kids. Why, that could lead to cake with butter cream frosting! Oh, it’s true, cookies are nature’s gateway drug to brownies! And make no mistake, this was no accident -- this was their second attempt to smite the noble cookie.

2. During the Great Hampocalypse, the Swine Flu Plague of 2009, they actually told us how to cover our noses when we sneeze.

3. To keep us from wasting a minimal amount of electricity, they criminalized the elegant and timeless light bulb and offered instead these twisty things, filled with toxic substances. Talk about the epitome of government!

4. In August, Portland “authorities” shut down a lemonade stand run by a 7 year old girl because she failed to get a $120 temporary restaurant license. These are the same people who refused to work with the FBI to stop terrorists and are now whining that the FBI entrapped the man who tried to kill thousands of their citizens. I guess his permits were in order.

5. In Canada, they are trying to shut down an online carpool matching service on the grounds that it’s an illegal bus company because its drivers are not licensed like bus and tax drivers. And not to be outdone, Fayetteville, Arkansas, shut down a man who ran a free designated driver service on the weekends, because it’s safer to have drunks cruising the streets than it is to have a man running what could look like an unlicensed tax service. . . if you squint. . . and you’re inbred.

6. Tipper Gore wanted warning labels on records with dirty words. Others have wanted to ban books with the "wrong" ideas. Someone even slapped a warning label on the DVD release of Sesame Street!

Just what the heck is going on around here? From requiring helmets on bike riders to banning tasty food in New York City to the examples above, our government has gone crazy. It’s become a weapon for busybodies to use to force the rest of us to conform to their pathetic, petty little obsessions. And when it isn’t the busybodies, it’s the interest groups trying to stifle their competitors. Did you know that ObamaCare bans doctor-owned hospitals? Why? Because it can. Net Neutrality is about protecting huge multinational companies from the predatory practices of other huge multinational companies. Etc. etc. etc.

This is the problem with government: whenever an issue arises that someone can whine about, there is always some jack~ss politician willing to make a law to sooth their tantrum. This needs to stop!

Let he who is without stupidity cast the first vote, but the rest of you shut the heck up and stop trying to tell the rest of us how to live. Go about your own lives and stop trying to control mine. If you don’t then be warned that maybe I’ll get into this game too. And trust me, you won’t like that; I can come up with all kinds of ideas to make your lives a living hell. . . all for your own safety of course.

Thoughts? Anything you would ban in retaliation for the good of average folks?

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Did A Light Bulb Come On Or Go Dark?

So how do we interpret some of the moves by the incoming Republicans? In particular, we have a curious decision by John Boehner in his selection of Fred Upton (R-Mich) as chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. Upton is the moderate Republican responsible for the light bulb law. . . yeah, that one. So should this bother us?

When it came time to select a chairman of the HEC Committee, John Boehner had a choice between Upton and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla). The former chairman, Joe Barton of Texas, was term-limited from receiving the chairmanship. Many conservatives wanted Stearns, but Boehner chose Upton. Should we be concerned?

As always, these things are hard to say until we see how Upton acts. For example, Upton is a member of several moderate Republican groups and he was the author of the evil ban on incandescent light bulbs -- a ban about which Dennis Miller quipped: “I don't care what my electric bill is. I haven't worked my entire life so that my living room can look like a Soviet Bloc stairwell during a James Bond fight scene.”

But Upton now says he was wrong to support that ban and he opposes the law he helped create. He also has pledged to block the EPA’s attempt to back-door a cap-and-trade bill by regulation. Those are both positives.

Moreover, Upton may not be the moderate he seems. For example, he is generally considered a fiscal conservatives. Additionally, he says he wants to repeal ObamaCare because the bill ignored the will of the people and because he believes that such a significant bill should not have been passed over strong bipartisan opposition. He also argues that the current level of debt means ObamaCare is unaffordable. Those are all solidly conservative positions.

He has social conservative credentials as well in that he opposes abortion in most circumstances, including partial-birth abortion. He opposes gay marriage, and has earned only a 15% rating from the Human Rights Campaign. He supports gun right generally, though he did support some gun control laws, including the Brady Bill in 1993.

So how do we reconcile his light-bulb hating moderate credentials with his conservative promises? It could mean he’s simply saying what he thinks the public wants to hear? Moderates in particular are good at that. Or it could mean he’s realized he needs to shift his politics to the right to fit in with the incoming “Tea Party” Republicans? Or maybe, he simply had an epiphany? If so, it’s the same one the voters had. And let me remind you that many of the most conservative of conservatives were once Democrats or moderates or worse. Only time will tell us which of these is the answer.

So what should we make of Boehner choosing him? On the surface, this is troubling. But keep in mind that politics is a strange game that rarely is as simple as black and white. For example, Stearns may have been the more conservative choice, but he may not have been the superior choice. It’s hard to tell as we don’t sit in on the committee and, thus, we don’t see how effective each is. It’s possible Stearns simply lacked the gravitas or personality to lead the committee. Also, over the past few years, the power of the Speakership has grown to the point that the Speaker can control an errant committee chair. Thus, it’s unlikely Upton could do anything Boehner did not approve. Again, we just don't know.

In the end, I’m left with little to offer as a conclusion. We have a man who appears to be a moderate, but is now saying the right things. He has been appointed to a position that appears very important, but ultimately may have little power if he crosses John Boehner. Will this work for us or against us? I don't know. But I do know that this one sits on John Boehner’s head. So let us leave it at that for the moment. Boehner has taken a risk and we will watch to see how his choice plays out. If everything goes well, then Boehner deserves great credit for recognizing Upton's conversion. But if Upton goes back to his light bulb hating ways, then John Boehner will have to answer to the voters for his selection.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bush Tax Cuts: Democrats Set Themselves Up

Life has a way of getting even with you for past attempts to game the system. Just ask the Democrats. In the matter of the Bush Tax Cuts, we see this karmic axiom playing itself out with a vengeance. What a shame.

For starters, in case you didn’t know, Obama and the Republicans agreed yesterday to a deal that will keep the Bush Tax Cuts in place for another two years. . . right into the 2012 election (violating Obama's biggest campaign promise). I am not a fan of those tax cuts because they are simply more of the same in our twisted tax system of carve outs, exceptions and favors; I would prefer a completely revised tax code. But they are better than nothing, so I will take them.

The Democrats, however, HATE them. Indeed, they hate the very word “cut” (which confuses them) and the fact that a single “rich person” (anyone with a job) will be “allowed” to keep what they’ve earned. Grrrrrr. And if you want to know why, check out this lunatic quote from Minnesota Democrat Rep. Keith Ellison: “think about what we could do with $700 billion instead of just giving it to people to buy luxury items.” Right, think about the unions that could be bailed out, the money that could be sent overseas, or spent on paying for abortions or blasphemous art, or siphoned off by Charlie Rangel and friends, or given to corporate donors. Yes, think about what the Democrats could do if we only let them rob us blind.

In any event, what truly galls the Democrats is that this deal is entirely the result of their own prior bad decisions catching up to them -- something which pathologically bothers Democrats, who believe in a consequence free world. Consider this:

First, they originally called these “the Bush Tax Cuts” because they wanted to tar the Republicans as the party of the evil rich. Now it bothers them that Bush is getting credit for something they will be forced to pass, and which the public believes must be passed to prevent economic ruin. Curses!

Secondly, they created this problem when they agreed to the idea that these tax cuts would need to be renewed. These tax cuts were originally passed to stimulate the economy and stave off recession. But the Democrats got cute about it. They figured the economy would be running at full steam by now and, thus, the public would be happy to let the tax cuts expire. Instead, the economy has “inexplicably” faltered and the Democrats now find themselves jammed up by their decision to make these temporary.

Third, that “inexplicable” I just mentioned isn’t really all that inexplicable. History has shown that when governments let recessions play out, they end fairly quickly. But Democratic policies have injected a great deal of anti-stimulus, fear and uncertainty into the economy, causing the recovery to sputter, die and never quite arrive. Thus, the need to extend these tax cuts continues because the Democrats interfered with the economy.

Fourth, by choosing to run wild to the left during the past two years, the Democrats squandered any goodwill they had with the public. Not only were they tossed out en masse, but the public has done a complete 180 on their policies. If they had been more sensible, the public might have listened to them on this issue. But as it is, no one will listen.

Fifth, the Democrats are whining that they were sold out by Barack Obama. As I’ve discussed many times before, Obama has a penchant for selling out his allies (except his union friends) in almost every instance. . . gays, environmentalists, socialists, anti-Wall Street types, foreign policy utopians, etc. This is the result of the Democrats picking an empty suit with no experience and no apparent ideological depth. When you buy a black box, you have no idea what you are getting, and Obama was the ultimate black box. Once again, their own choices come back to bite them.

And make no mistake, the Democrats are furious at Obama. New York Democrat Anthony Weiner compared this deal to “punting on 3rd down -- it seems the president is not seeing the value of being on offense.” One unnamed Democrat said: “What the hell? Could we have a little fight before we cave? Why go right to surrender?” Jim McDermott of the Ways and Means Committee, said: “We're going to find out exactly what this president is all about. . . . This is the president's Gettysburg. He's going to have to decide whether he's going to withstand Pickett's Charge . . . I worry.” Bernie Sanders said he would “do everything I can to stop the deal.” And so on.

They’ve even dug up psychologists to assess Obama (a nasty trick usually reserved for people like Hitler, serial killers, and noted Republicans). Their conclusion? Obama let himself be bullied. . . as if the President of the United States could be bullied!

Finally, we come to Dingy Harry’s attempt last year to sabotage what appeared to be a likely Republican majority. When it looked like the Senate was lost, the Dinge decided not to pass a complete budget because that would rob the Republicans of the power to use reconciliation as the Democrats had done to circumvent the filibuster. Without that power now, the Senate cannot push through the House version of the Bush Tax Cuts, which only continues tax cuts for Democratic voters. That shifted the power to the minority, i.e. the Republicans, and meant Obama had to strike a deal.

Nothing angers a Democrat more than being tripped up by their prior attempts to trip up the other guys. And nothing unifies and excites them more than having an enemy to hate. And in this case, that enemy is Barack Obama because he’s apparently not a team player and he put the good of the country ahead of the angry politics of the Democratic Party.

This is going to be an interesting two years.

(FYI, House Democrats are now threatening to vote down the deal.)

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Monday, December 6, 2010

WikiWrap-Up On WikiLeaks

Over the past couple of months, WikiLeaks has been dripping out classified US government documents by the hundreds of thousands. Now that we have a good idea of what they reveal, let’s address the issues.

Point 1: What the heck was the government thinking?

Lost in this whole affair is the first question we should all be asking: how did a nobody Army Specialist, Bradley Manning, download several hundred thousand sensitive documents about two separate wars and 250,000 diplomatic cables (11,000 of which were marked secret or “nofo” meaning they could not be shared with foreign government) to a personal computer so he could hand them over to WikiLeaks? Who designs a system for storing classified documents that allows such wide-ranging access? Moreover, they apparently only caught Manning because he went online and bragged about being the source. How can that be?

This is the real issue that needs to be solved and the total focus on WikiLeaks' founder is a distraction from the real scandal.

Point 2: What revelations?

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this affair has been the utter lack of revelations. The media claims to have found some, but not a single piece of information produced wasn’t already widely known. Consider these:
● Many governments are run by sexual predators, incompetents or criminals.

● Putin and Berlusconi like to party, as does Gaddafi, who also likes to pout.

● Medvedev is a puppet of Putin, and Russia’s bureaucracy really runs the country.

● Yemen let US troops kill al Qaeda terrorists within their border and tried to pass this sophisticated attack off as having been done by its own primitive security forces with a few US advisors involved.

● Obama used promises and threats to win support for his Copenhagen non-deal deal.

● Mexico’s drug war is not well-focused and is not going well.

● Various Arab states hate and fear Iran, and a couple pleaded with the US to bomb Iran to keep it from getting an atomic bomb.

● Venezuela is not well-liked in the region.

● Iran heavily supported the insurgency in Iraq.

● China is slowly turning against North Korea.

● China authorized cyber attacks against American companies, including Google, and the US Embassy.

● The British royals are inbred idiots who say stupid things.

● Karzai is an erratic jerk who believes in conspiracies and plots but knows little about governing, and his brother is a drug lord.
Anything shocking there? Anything you didn’t already know? I thought not. In fact, the only real revelation of which I am aware is that North Korea managed to send a number of sophisticated missiles to Iran, missiles that are capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

So why is the lack of revelations so interesting? Because it shows us that our government actually is very good at being open and honest with us. And since that is a necessary cornerstone of democracy, this bodes well for our system.

Point 3: Is this disclosure good for democracy?

WikiLeaks founder Julia Assange claims that he leaked this information because secrecy is anathema to good government. To a degree, I agree with that. I am a firm believer in requiring “full disclosure” by government because our government acts in our names and we can only judge our government if we know what it is doing. But the key word there is “doing.”

“Doing” does not include advice given to leaders by their advisors. When you make such advice public, the advisors stop providing complete and honest advice and instead become concerned with how they will appear to the public when their advice is disclosed. That cripples the government because it can no longer get a full picture of its options or the likely consequences of its actions.

“Doing” also does not include information that was provided to the government in a confidential manner. Whether this is corporations sharing trade secrets with the government or individuals turning in neighbors who may be terrorists, allowing the disclosure of such information will prevent people from coming forward with similar information in the future. That prevents the government from getting the information it needs to do its job.

WikiLeaks failed to protect either of these types of information. By turning over private assessments of foreign leaders, WikiLeaks makes it harder for future diplomats to share their private opinions about foreign leaders, which makes it that much harder to spot the potential Hitlers or Ahmadinejads -- which means the US is more likely to work with budding dictators in the future. Likewise, soldiers will now censor their reports, which means the likelihood of casualties (civilian and military) goes up.

WikiLeaks also turned over information that has endangered individual informants. Said a former British military intelligence officer: “Assange has seriously endangered the lives of Afghan civilians. . . the logs contain detailed personal information regarding Afghan civilians who have approached NATO soldiers with information.” This release will prevent future informants from coming forward, and will thereby help terrorists and dictators suppress their people.

Even some of the leading opponents of government censorship have strongly denounced WikiLeaks. Steven Aftergood, editor of Secrecy News, says: “WikiLeaks routinely tramples on the privacy of non-governmental, non-corporate groups for no valid public policy reason. . . this is not whistleblowing and it is not journalism. It is a kind of information vandalism.” Aftergood notes, for example, that WikiLeaks has also published the “secret rituals” of a women’s sorority, “the private rites of Masons, Mormons and other groups that cultivate confidential relations among their members.”

So how can it be good for democracy to have a group of information peeping Toms releasing information that (1) prevents government advisors, diplomats and soldiers from being honest with their bosses, (2) prevents non-government people from sharing information with the government, (3) gets people killed for getting involved with the government, and (4) will make the government much more obsessed with hiding information in the future? If WikiLeaks’ purpose was to open government and make it more responsive, then this is called a “backfire.”

Point 4: What if this had been Bush?

Finally, it is amazing to see the difference between how these leaks are being treated now that they are affecting Obama, rather than Bush. Under Bush, the left was demanding that Bush release the very type of information just released -- they even sued him to get some of it. And they poo-poo’d the Bush Administration’s claims that the release of this type of information would be dangerous.

So they should be happy that this information is finally coming out, right? Wrong. They are treating Assange like a war criminal. They want him hunted down, they don’t even object when people talk about putting him on the terrorist “kill on sight” list. They are happy to believe the rather ridiculous rape charges as true and include that in every mention of his name. They raise no complaints about various governments (possibly including our own) using cyber attacks to keep WikiLeaks offline, nor do they complain when the government leans on and threatens ISPs that host him. It’s amazing how right and wrong changes for the left depending on who is getting hurt.

And let me add another interesting piece to this puzzle. Remember how Obama promised to run the most open government in history and how the left relentlessly pounded Bush for his supposed secrecy? Well get this: last year, the Obama administration marked 54.7 million documents as secret, that’s 10 times the number marked “secret” in 1996 and more than double the maximum amount marked “secret” in any year under Bush. Yet the left says nothing.

I guess “open government” only matter when it’s a Republican president?

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

MSM Advice to Obama: Work Miracles

One thing that makes blogging easy is that the MSM keeps on saying stupid things. This time, it’s US News. They’ve put together a ten point list of things they think Obama needs to do to win back the public. While I’m sure the list sounded good to them when they made it, it only takes a moment’s analysis to realize just how goofy the list really is.

Point 1: Lighten up. US News begins their list by suggesting that Mr. Cool has lost the public because he just doesn’t seem fun enough. So they recommend that he (and no, I’m not making this up) “take off the robot mask and show some humor” by playing football on the South Lawn with Bo. So a man who is criticized for spending his days playing golf, who was laughed at for throwing like a girl, and who needs stitches after playing basketball should now walk onto his front lawn and throw a football at his dog? Why does that sound like a PR disaster in the making? As an alternative, they suggest he could “whiff a soccer ball” playing with Malia. Yeah, that’s a great idea. First of all, a “whiff” means to miss. Secondly, soccer is hated in this country as a Euro-elite sports. Do you really think that will endear him to Americans?

Point 2: Utilize the First Lady. Right, use your wife. US News suggests that Obama hide behind Michelle’s relative popularity by putting her in charge of finding jobs for women. Of course, she’s not that popular, nor does she know anything about finding jobs, and so far her record on projects is pretty darn poor. In fact, she's done so little they should change her name to the First Lazy. Seriously, what has she done since moving into the White House except spend our money on expensive vacations?

Point 3: Feel Our Economic Pain. This one you have to read to believe: “spend some nights in the homes of regular folks and skip the fancy restaurants for Denny’s.” Yes, my peons, I will sleep in your hovels to show you that I am not an elitist. Also, what do you think it would take to get Michelle into a Denny’s? And isn’t Denny’s supposed to be a racist restaurant anyways? How did US News miss that?

Point 4: Concentrate on Job Numbers. This time they want him to create an employment program “where new jobs can be accurately calculated.” Two problems. First, no one will ever believe another number he says. Secondly, what in the world makes them think he can create a single job? Maybe he should also speed up the harvest or teleport Luke off that rock?

Point 5: Promote Healthcare Reform. Right, because people were angry that they didn’t know anything about ObamaCare. Me thinks the real problem was they knew too much! In any event, there is something I like in point 5 -- they want Obama to “take whatever healthcare deal you can get” and then promote the heck out of it. I like that. He should sign on to CommentaramaCare.

Point 6: Hit the Campaign Trail. That’s right, they want him to go campaign for “troubled Democrats”. . . because this worked so well before the election. They also want him to “frame the issues in a populist manner.” Right, because nothing says “vote for me” like an elitist pretending to be a man of the people looking to strike a blow for the common man against the titans of American industry. I’d name someone this worked for, but the only name that comes to mind is Lenin. . . and not the musical one.

Point 7: Tax Cuts. Extend tax cuts to those Americans making less than $250,000. This one’s legit for some of his base (the rest oppose all tax cuts), so I’ll credit US News with a 0.5 out of 7 so far. Of course, this will do nothing to win over the rest of the public, who seem to realize that those rotten “rich” do silly things like hire the poor and buy the stuff they make.

Point 8: Fulfill Promises on Iraq and Gitmo. Wait a minute, I thought he’d already fulfilled his promises on Iraq? I guess the Democrats misinformed me? As for Gitmo, um.... no one really cares about that, and trying to bring those idiots to US prisons will just pick at an old wound.

Point 9: Seize Voter Anger. Yikes. “Steer anger to a new ‘economic populism’. . . talk about the patriotism of shared sacrifice for the common good.” I can see it now: exterior scene, Obama standing on the balcony of the most posh hotel in town, as rows of economic glitterati stand beneath him cheering. “I know you hate me, but you shouldn’t hate me, you should hate bankers and CEOs and anyone who makes more money than you do! Let’s kill them all! In the name of the common good, take only what you need and give according to your abilities. . . and never forget to hate, hate like a thousand suns. We are the greatest Muslim nation on Earth because we hate and we have the freedom to hate. . . but don’t hate me, hate everyone else.” Maybe Joe Biden should test run that speech first.

Point 10: Name Oprah as a Domestic Envoy. Are you kidding me? Since when does the President need an envoy to meet with the American people? And if he does, who represents us in this meeting? I’d like to cast a vote for Hannibal Lecter, that might make the meeting more interesting. Also, isn’t Oprah passé now? He should appoint Judge Judy. . . wait, she’s on the Supreme Court now, right?

There you have it, the “thinking” liberal’s plan to save Obama. All I can say is that if you’re paying for US News, you’re being robbed.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Television Networks

I often marvel at how poorly the television networks are run. In fact, if it weren’t for the airlines, I would say that no industry in America is more poorly run than the networks. Consider the following:

At a time when people are abandoning the network news because they offer nothing that can’t be found on the internet, the networks are laying off news staff and relying more on wire reports. . . the same wire reports that supply every internet news site. Wouldn’t it make more sense to increase resources so the networks can offer stories that can’t be found on the wire?

The networks are obsessed with competing head to head. If Fox gets a science fiction hit on Friday night (e.g. the X-Files), other networks (cough cough NBC) will try to come up with similar science fiction shows and run them opposite the Fox hit. If there’s an NFL game on one channel, rest assured someone else will run “guy films” to try to steal that audience. Wouldn’t it make more sense to grab the audience that isn’t flocking to the other guy's main attraction each night?

The networks spend a fortune coming up with “new” programming each year, but their failure rate is incredible. More than 80% of new shows will fail each year, with about a third not lasting a month. What’s worse, to achieve this “success rate,” they take the safest, i.e. “most cowardly,” approach possible. They do nothing that hasn’t been done and isn’t already airing. All sitcoms are either knock-offs of Friends or the awful generic family sitcom. All dramas involve cops or lawyers or over-sexed teens. They recycle stars more than environmentalists recycle their garbage. Yet, only 20% even make it to year two? And every year network audiences shrink even as the population grows? Wouldn’t it make more sense to try something new, like taking risks on content? HBO, AMC, and FX are all taking risks, and are being well rewarded for their efforts.

Also, wouldn’t it make sense to change the whole model? For example, you could start a show with a 15 minute pilot tacked onto the end of an existing show to see if people like it. You could spend a week running new pilots and getting audience to vote on them. Or you could start them on cable auxiliary networks and “promote” them to the network if they succeed. What other industry would accept a 20% success rate on new products without changing their business model?

The networks also spend a fortune bidding on sporting events like the Olympics and the NFL, on which they admit they will lose vast amounts of money. They do this to earn the “prestige” of having these events. But does anyone really watch NBC sitcoms or dramas because NBC had the Olympics or because they have the NFL? Do you think any less of ABC because they don’t? And if you’re going to spend money on these properties, why not do more tie-ins like having NFL players appear on sitcoms or doing a show about the NFL?

Finally, why would these networks let their shows and their news become so politicized? Does it make any sense to turn off half (or more) of your audience? Could you imagine WalMart blasting right-wing propaganda over its loudspeaker when you enter the store, or having its cashiers lecture you on the problems caused by unions? They don’t do that because they aren’t a political organization and it doesn’t make sense to offend their customers. So why do networks do/allow this?

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Why You Shouldn't Trust Open Borders Arguments

I am a firm believer in immigration. Immigrants add to our economy, our history, our defense and our culture. They add to the national energy, and most of the immigrants I know are deeply in love with America. But I don’t believe in open borders, nor do I accept the arguments made by the open-borders crowd. The reasons I don’t accept the open-borders arguments are highlighted in a recent Economist article on Muslim immigrants in Germany.

The Economist is a long time advocate of open-borders (though it never says so explicitly). In this case, it is responding to concerns voiced by several high profile Germans, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, that the idea of multiple cultures living together in harmony in Germany has failed. Specifically, these Germans argue that Muslims are not integrating into German society, that they are instead bunching together in German cities, where they live off the German welfare system, while contributing nothing to the country. Because of this, Germany is now talking about requiring assimilation into German society and stopping the flow of immigrants. The Economist rejects this, but none of the arguments it advances are convincing, and its conclusion is downright disturbing.

The Economist first tries to dismiss the concerns voiced by these Germans by arguing that Germany needs immigrants: “Awkwardly, Germany is bashing foreigners just when it needs them. . . The workforce is shrinking and growth is raising demand for skilled labor.” But is this accurate?

According to data found in the article itself, 16.9% of immigrants in Germany are unemployed. That means there is already a surplus of immigrant labor in Germany of 1.97 million people. Moreover, the article notes that 7.5% of Germans are unemployed. That translates into an additional labor surplus of 6 million. With a labor surplus of nearly 8 million people, why should Germany bring in more people until it can find jobs for those people?

Well, suggests The Economist, there is a need for “skilled labor.” But does that change this analysis? The answer is NO, because immigrants aren’t skilled labor. The Economist implies that they are when it says that as long as Germany finally passes a law to recognize foreign credentials, 300,000 immigrants can return to their old professions. But let’s think about this number. That 300,000 represents only 2.5% of the 12 million immigrants in Germany. That means the rest are unskilled labor. This is a ratio of 44 to 1.

So at best, this argument would suggest allowing targeted immigration, where Germany lets in only people with the missing skills. Yet, both the left and The Economist have already argued repeatedly that this would be unacceptable to them -- they want fully open borders. That means, Germany would need to let in 44 immigrants to get 1 skilled immigrant. Is that really a good deal, especially considering that there are no more jobs for unskilled immigrants? Should Germany really add 44 people to its welfare roles so it can get one person skilled at working a printing press or programming a computer? Also, wouldn’t it make more sense to train the 8 million unemployed to do those jobs first before looking outside for more labor? Or are those 8 million to be considered permanently useless unless Germany returns to a manual labor economy?

What you’re seeing here is that the economic arguments for letting in more immigrants are flawed to their core. And the “skilled labor” argument is nothing more than a red herring used to suggest that immigrants can do something they cannot. And in any event, none of this actually addresses the concerns of the people who say that lack of assimilation is the problem. So what does The Economist say to disprove their concerns? Nothing.

It admits that “Islam can be an additional barrier” to assimilation, but then it adds, “but only for Muslims who choose to make it one.” This is meant to dispel the idea that there is some incompatibility between German culture and Islam, but this is double speak. At first, the article purports to agree that Islam is a barrier (something that is too obvious to deny with any credibility), but then it simultaneously dismisses that by claiming that this is only a barrier for people who let it be a barrier, i.e. it's an optional barrier. Not only does The Economist not provide a shred of proof to back this up, but this point actually goes against its argument. If Muslims are seeing Islam as a barrier, when it is not, then the only way to remove that barrier is the very assimilation The Economist abhors so much.

What’s more, let’s look at how this voluntary barrier is taking shape. According to the article: “One study estimated that 10-12% of Muslims have radical Islamist leanings, and a quarter of Muslim teenagers are hostile to Christians and Jews or to democracy.” In other words, because of Islam, 3 million of these 12 million immigrants are hostile to their neighbors and the government they are now living under. How can that be considered acceptable, and how can this situation justify bringing in more Muslims? What this should do is convince anyone with a rational mind that immigration must be stopped immediately until those three million can be assimilated to reduce their hostility. But The Economist doesn’t see this. Instead, it offers a different solution: “Germans’ idea of what it is to be German will have to change.”

There you have it: the problem isn’t that continued immigration of Muslims will change Germany, the problem is that Germans won’t just shut up and accept it.

And that is the problem with the open borders people. They make economic sounding arguments to justify bringing in all the immigrants they can get. But their economic arguments are false and contradictory. And when confronted with real concerns about changes in culture, they ignore those concerns. What’s worse, they don’t understand or care that it’s a very bad thing that a country like Germany will go from being a tolerant, modern, Western democracy to becoming a country whose people are hostile to Christians, Jews and democracy. This is why the open borders people cannot be trusted and their arguments must be exposed.

I am a fan of immigration, but to suggest that a government should let in enough hostile immigrants to kill off the existing culture, to bring in millions of people who are hostile to their neighbors, and to put millions of immigrants onto the backs of existing taxpayers is obscene.

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