Friday, May 31, 2013

Film Friday: The Big Lebowski (1998)

Few people are indifferent when it comes to the Coen brothers. Most people either love them or hate them. Personally, I find their films to be either brilliant or completely flat, though even the brilliant ones are rarely satisfying. The Big Lebowski sits in the brilliant category. Interestingly, what makes this film work is that it provides compelling moments and it strings them together in a unique way.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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Hot Town, Riots in the City

In my last article, I talked about liberalism and its growing failure as a political system, in large part because of its failure to "deliver the goods." Clearly, though, there are different kinds of goods; and the liberal state's inability to provide one kind is increasingly threatening it on its most basic level.

Since the media's good at hiding stories like this, it may have escaped your attention, but as usually happens this time of year, parts of Europe are in crisis--again. It started almost two weeks ago, in the suburbs of Stockholm, Sweden, where dozens of cars were burned for several nights in a row, repeated attacks on police have taken place, and so on. General riotous behavior, replete with the apparently-required "car barbecues" (or "carbecues," if you will). Who are the culprits? Well, it took several days, but eventually the media began reporting that this was the work of young Muslims, heavily concentrated in the neighborhood.

A Swedish youth organization tried to diffuse responsibility by pointing out that these suburbs have the highest rate of youth unemployment in the country, and that "We need to understand the underlying motives for the riots, and understand why they are taking place." Which, apparently, is why people in what has been described as traditional Muslim garb have been burning cars and assaulting Jews and their synagogues: Because they're unemployed and no one "understands" them. Got it.

Not that there's a deliberate connection between one and the other, but there has been a similar outbreak of violence in Britain. Not long after the Stockholm riots started, a U.K. soldier was horribly hacked to death by two men with machetes. His crime? Wearing a "Help for Heroes" T-Shirt--which, as everyone knows, is an obvious sign of Western imperialism and dominance and such. The radicalized youths who committed the atrocity proudly announced that they did it in the name of their Islamic brethren. In the days since, there seems to have been at least one copycat crime proceeding from this, in France, both involving young Muslim men.

But don't worry. After several days of slowness and dithering, the responsible authorities at all these flashpoints have kicked into action and are cracking down on these lawbreakers.....Ha! Hahaha!! Oh, I'm just kidding. They're actually going after the people protesting the violence.

In the past few days, police have made numerous arrests of members of the English Defence League, described as a "far-right" organization calling for tighter immigration controls, the expulsion of radical imams from Britain, and the general protection of Western cultural values. Apparently a few of their members seem to have attributed these crimes to Muslims as a group; therefore it's a hate crime, and there has been pressure from government, the media, and much of "enlightened society" to not only arrest those responsible but eliminate private funding for the group altogether. Meanwhile, back in Scandinavia, a number of citizens who took up arms to defend their property from the rioters found themselves denounced as "vigilantes" and "hooligans" and actively prevented by police from trying to break up packs of vandals. This, on the heels of the Stockholm Police Chief admitting official policy was to do "as little as possible" to interfere with the rioters. Again, the excuse is that some are nationalists or neo-Nazis, though there doesn't seem to be any hard evidence that this is the case.

Look, I'm not here to defend this individual or that organization. As we've repeatedly discussed, there's racial animosity on all sides in Europe, and at least a few of these protestors have been caught using racist language. A more pressing question is, why should anyone be surprised that this is taking place? I use the examples of Islamic violence because they're so recent, but the fact is, in a country like Britain, where a woman can be arrested for trying to ward off the guys robbing her with a toy gun (apparently the prospect of getting shot was damaging to their sense of well-being or something), how can one maintain with a straight face that the state is there to protect its citizenry? Because in cases like these, it seems that government policy is to enforce multiculturalism, sooth hurt feelings, and enhance all-around "tolerance," even at the cost of law-abiding citizens' safety.

I guess for some people, this is a worthy goal. But it does raise the question of what right such a state has to expect its people's loyalty and obedience. I'm not one of those people who think the government exists solely because of a social contract with its citizens or whatever, but it definitely derives its legitimacy from an expectation that it will protect the people over which it has power. Any ideology which seriously undermines that expectation is bound to break that relationship. And this may be the ultimate failure of liberalism today--its goals have, in certain cases, led it into direct opposition with the most basic needs of the public. The longer "tolerance" and "acceptance" continue to be the top priority of England, Sweden, and other countries, the greater this tendency towards violence and division will be.
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Caption This: The Attorney General Blues...

Poor Eric Holder. He had to testify before a Congressional Committee where he stated that he didn't know nothing about nothing when it came to those secret subpoenas directed at those AP phone lines. His exact words were “That is not something that I have ever been involved in, or would think would be a wise policy."

Well, before the week was out, another secret investigation surfaced. The Washington Post reported that Eric Holder personally involved in signing off on secret search warrant to investigate Fox News Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen for...well...espionage.

Oops, didn't he just say that this was something he would have never been involved in? Well, it looks like he has some 'splainin' to do. And he is going to do it too. He has called a meeting on Thursday with all the news organization executives to discuss these investigations that he said he didn't know anything about. But here is the catch: He wants these meetings to be "off the record". You don't have to imagine exactly how THAT is going over. As of this post, both the NYT and the AP have declined to participate and I am sure there will be other news organizations that will follow suit.

Well, since this meeting will be off the record, there's nothing to stop us from reporting on what might go on, right?

[Well, as long as all of your taxes are paid properly and we don't use our real names]


So CommentaramaPoliticsians, on your marks, get set...GOOOOOOOOO! [I would have said "BANG", but that would probably send the ATF to my door...]
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Cynical World

There’s a strong argument to be made that films reflect culture as it stands at the time. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t resonate with audiences. Thus, you can understand the values of a generation by watching their films. Nothing highlights this better than war films, which changed dramatically over the years as society changed. And watching Battle of the Bulge this weekend made me realize something interesting about the biggest problem facing the world today: cynicism.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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The End of Executive Order Government

Over the past several years, it’s been fashionable to claim that Obama would run the government as a dictator and would simply do whatever he wanted by Executive Order. This has typically been promoted by the self-described “constitutionalists” in our midsts. Naturally, no such thing is possible under our Constitution, as the last few weeks have proven once again.

Appointment Time: As far as I can tell, the only constituency Obama cares about at all is labor unions, and labor unions care about the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB is a five member board that hears claims of unfair labor practices. Labor hopes to use the NLRB’s rulings to forcibly unionize companies like Boeing, who have relocated to right to work states where labor unions are all but extinct.

The problem for labor has been that the NLRB hasn’t had enough members to issue decisions. Between January 1, 2008 and continuing through March 27, 2010, the board only had two members. That’s not enough to issue decisions legally, but they did it anyway. Those two members issued nearly 600 decisions. Sadly for them, in June of 2010, the Supreme Court came along and wiped out all of those decisions in New Process Steel v. NLRB, which held that the Board must have at least three members to issue valid decisions.

Whoops.

Since the Republicans weren’t willing to allow Obama to appoint anyone new to the NLRB, Obama took matters into his own hands and appointed three new members in January 2012, claiming they were “recess appointments.” So the Dictator got away with it, right?

Well, no. In January of this year, the DC Court of Appeals ruled that Obama could not do that. They ruled that recess appointments could only be made when a genuine recess happened, not just when Congress took a quick break. Basically, they defined “recess” as the end of the Congressional term. That’s undone everything Obama tried.

Meanwhile...

I Declare Thee Legal: When the immigration debate first drifted into freak-out mode, our “constitutionalist” friends screamed that “Obama’s going to make them all legal with an Executive Order!!” Said Glenn Beck, “The Fedrechauns are here for me gold!!” Oops, sorry, wrong quote. Anyway, once again, reality has caught up. See, Obama has no power to change immigration LAW in the Unidos Estados... the President has no power to change any LAW. In fact, that’s a good word for scholars like Mark Levin to learn: LAW.

LAW = Congress, not President.

To put it simply, a president may not make laws or decide how to spend money. The president has only the power to spend what Congress tells him and to issue regulations in accordance with the laws Congress passes. But those regulations (1) must be consistent with the law, and (2) may not exceed the authority granted to the president under the law. Basically, a President can only do what Congress tells him to do. Simple enough.

So what happened vis-à-vis the immigration issue? Obama tried to force the states to give illegal aliens drivers licenses by issuing an Executive Order. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer immediately issued her own executive order refusing to follow Obama’s order. She got sued on the basis that her order conflicted with “federal law.” This month, a Federal District Court agreed with Brewer because the court noted that Obama can’t create immigration law. Thus, he cannot impose such a requirement on Arizona.

(As an aside, Brewer may eventually lose this case on other grounds because Arizona already allows some illegal aliens to get licenses, but that’s a different issue.)

So what is the point? Well, this. Don’t believe all the loony theories about what secret things Obama is planning to do... they can’t be done. Our system works just like they told you it does in civics class when you were a kid. Obama cannot run the government by executive fiat. He may issue such orders from time to time, but they will be struck down by the courts and his efforts undone. He can’t create a private army. He can’t ban ammunition or guns. He can’t declare gay marriage the law. He can’t legalize all the illegals. He can’t spend money in any way Congress doesn’t allow. He can’t just appoint whomever he wants either. He needs to follow the same rules every other President has followed... whether he or Alex Jones like it or not.
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Obamacare Follies, An Update

There’s been a lot of interesting news surrounding Obamacare lately. None of it’s good for Obama, though the media is trying to spin most of it as a positive. But the truth is that you can’t hide from reality for very long. Let’s discuss.

A “train wreck”: Max Baucus, the architect of Obamacare, has decided to call it quits. Baucus sits in what should have been a safe seat, but clearly he couldn’t overcome the public’s anger about Obamacare. It only has 38% favorability in polls. At first, Baucus tried to deflect the blame by claiming that the real problem was that Obama was mishandling the implementation and causing a “train wreck,” but when that didn’t work, he chose to retire. Harry Reid tried the same thing, but gave up. Instead, they’re all looking to Obama to save them with a PR push. Read on...

Panic!!: The public remains deeply opposed to the law and wants it repealed. They see no benefits, but lots of problems. The Democrats are freaking out and are demanding that HHS “educate” the public about the benefits. HHS claims it would waste money to educate the public before the plans go on sale in October. The Democrats fear that will be too late to change minds. Of course, with the MSM pushing the law for three years solid now, you kind of have to think the “education” plan has already failed.

In fact, the real problem is that the public will never see benefits to this. First, most have insurance, so few will get anything new here. Further, there is no government agency they can point to as helping them and there are no “government plans.” All they’ll see is private insurers doing what they already do. Additionally, the subsidies Obama promised, if there is even money for them, won’t be seen by the public. The public will only see what they are paying and they won’t realize that the taxpayers are picking up the tab. Moreover, since the subsidies are much larger at the bottom than the top, most people will feel they are getting the short end of the stick compared to everyone else. That’s really bad for winning over the public. Beyond that, the other benefits only apply to a few people, like covering the uninsurables and offering drug treatment. So there are no visible benefits. By comparison, millions of people will lose their insurance, millions more will pay a lot more suddenly, and millions more will get fined by the IRS... surprise!

About the rates: Before the weekend (a bad time for a supposedly positive news drop), the AP began running with a meme that California and a couple states had released their rates and that those rates were “surprisingly” low. Rates in two states went up between 2% and 5%. The third, Maryland could be going up 25%. The other state, Oregon, went down! Take that critics!! Actually, none of that is true.

Here’s what you need to know. First, there is no exact rate as the AP claims. There are up to 13 companies and they’ve all provided wildly different rates. What’s more, I’ve looked at the filing for the low-rate plan they are citing in Oregon, and the company (which is about $100 per month lower than everyone else) is only offering to issue 36,000 policies total. Considering that Oregon will need millions of policies, that can hardly be called representative of what people can expect. Further, in an ominous sign, not only are the low-cost providers no-name companies, but several of the nation’s largest health insurers have refused to participate. United Health Group, Cigna and Aetna all refused to play. Each used different excuses, but this sounds like a vote of no-confidence indicating that they think the system won’t last. This suggests a two-tier system of quality healthcare outside the Obamacare system and fly-by-night insurers inside the system. In fact, there seem to be a lot of jokers in the mix. Thirty insurers applied in California, but only 13 were accepted and some don’t seem credible. And most of the low cost guys are offering to take 0% profit in 2014. In the product world, that’s called “dumping,” with the idea being to pull in customers and then raise rates once you’ve killed off the competition. Hence, between the low number of such plans and their questionable nature, it strikes me few people will get the low rates the Democrats are touting and those rates won’t last... assuming the insurers are even around to pay on the policies.

As an aside, there was an interesting article this weekend by a leftist group that tried to calm the nerves of self-employed people (all 22 million of us). They are recommending that everyone plan for a 15% increase in premiums, despite acknowledging the claim that the California rates only went up 2%. And don't forget, rates are already up 30% in anticipation of Obamacare.

Then it gets worse. Let’s run with the AP’s numbers shall we? They claim that with the full subsidy, individuals will pay “about” $40 a month in California. Without the subsidy, they will pay “about” $300 a month. The “about” is significant when you start multiplying the rate by 12 months. Anyway, here’s are the issues:
● The AP article deceptively said these rates were for a “mid-level” plan. That is false. They are in fact for the bottom plan. These plans only cover 70% of costs and stick you with up to $6,350 out of pocket each year. If you want to switch to the premium plans, then the rates on those are between $300 and $500 a month (post subsidy).

● The AP article very deceptively moves back and forth between singles and families. The policy rates presented are for singles, not families. Yet, they quote family income levels for the subsidies. To get the full subsidy, your income needs to be less than $17,000 a year. The AP article seems to imply that the full subsidy applies all the way up to individuals making $46,000 a year (and families of four making up to $95,000), but that appears to be where the subsidy actually stops, and it phases out along the way.

Using these numbers means someone making $17,000 a year will need to pay “about” $480 a year plus up to $6,350 out of pocket for a total of $6,830 (38% of their income). But wait...
● The policy being reported is for a 40 year old single person. It does not include a spouse or child. Let’s assume 50% additional cost for those. Suddenly, the plan costs $720 a year plus up to $6,350 out-of-pocket. That means they pay $7,070 if they get sick (42% of their income).

● The policy being reported is for a 40 year old person. Old people can be charged up to 300% of what the 40 year old is charged. So an old person in the same situation will need to pay $1,440 plus $6,350 or $7,790 (46% of their income).

● The $40 policy is for a nonsmoker. As we know, smokers can be charged a 50% surcharge. Our 40 year old family man will pay $7,430 if he smokes. Our oldsters will pay $8,510 (50% of their income).
Now look at the numbers for someone who gets no subsidy:
● Single: “about” $3,600 + $6,350 = $9,950
● With family: $11,750
● Old person: $17,150
● Smoker family: $14,450
That’s a lot of money, especially when you realize that, in 2010, the average American family paid about $8,400 on healthcare between their policies and their co-pays. Thus, under these “surprisingly not higher” Obamacare costs, most people will pay dramatically more. Indeed, it looks like the average family is going to see a $3,300 increase (39%). Even the fully subsidized people will barely be below the current national average.
Lastly, keep this in mind... these subsidies aren’t manna from Heaven. They need to be budgeted and as long as the Republicans control the House, I wouldn’t expect a penny to go to cover them. That means those $40 plans the Democrats are hoping will be there in 2014 won’t be there... and everybody will pay full rates.

Union Oh Hell No!: Finally, a bunch of unions are all upset with Obama. Most of their members get their healthcare through what are called Taft-Hartley plans. These are group plans obtained by the unions and small employer groups. About 20 million retail, construction, transportation and seasonal workers purchase these plans. Well, it turns out that when these idiots supported Obamacare, they were under the assumption that certain parts of Obamacare wouldn’t apply to them – like the requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, eliminating lifetime coverage limits and covering dependents up to age 26. Imagine that. Since these things do apply, these Taft-Hartley plans are about to become obscenely expensive(r) and they think employers will drop them and dump their workers into the exchanges... as conservatives warned. BUT there’s a catch: workers covered by union contracts aren’t eligible for Obamacare subsidies, just like the self-employed aren’t. So all these 20 million workers may soon find themselves paying full rates. . . and the unions are furious. Poor babies.
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day - Open Thread

Thanks to everyone who has sacrificed for this country.

(We're taking off until Tuesday.)
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

New York State of Mind and other stuff...


HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, COMMENTARAMA!

So, let's just dive right in on the local news:

1. It's official. Anthony "The Weiner" Weiner has formally thrown his hat in the ring (as of midnight Wednesday on the web and definitely not on Twitter)to run for Mayor to replace the irreplaceable Michael "Benito/Hugo/Fidel" Bloomberg as Mayor of ALL Manhattan and those other Boroughs too. Here, take a look at this LINK if you don't believe me and here is his talking points memo [don't let the obvious phallic-like symbology make you soft...{{{cough, cough}}}...on his message]. Really, his graphic designer should be jailed.

There is an upside and a downside to Weiner's run. [Stop laughing!]. The upside is that he will be responsible for some of THE best headlines that the NY Post will ever produce. I even bet that they are lining up a whole slew of new headline writers dedicated just to Candidate Weiner. Sadly, the downside is that Anthony Weiner really is the best candidate for Mayor in the present line up.

2. In other New York news:

Yeah, yeah. I know this will come as a great shock to you, but...it happened again. Another New York State Legislator was forced to resign this week. This time he wasn't arrested first, but the week is not over yet. His name is Vito Lopez (D/Brooklyn), a longtime Assemblygroper and HIS high crime/misdemeanor this time is the on-going sexual harrassment of numerous young female staff members. As if that is not bad enough, longtime Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver (D/Manhattan and Speaker since 1994) arranged with the current Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D/Gov. hopeful) to secretly pay off at least two women (and counting) with taxpayer funds.

And, as if in some 18th Century Moliere farce, Shelly Silver vows stated that he is as upset as anyone that he had to protect his very good friend and pay women off secretly with taxpayer funds and will introduce legislation to make sure that he can never be able to do it again...oh, and he's really, really sorry. Since he apologized and all, he sees no need to step down as the Speaker at all and anyway, his other very best friend is the Chairman of the Ethics Committee That Investigates These Things and will be investigating the "ethics of it all" just as soon as he finishes investigating everyone else in the Legislature.

Oh, and Mr. Lopez resigned in disgrace, yet has decided to run for New York City Council. Unbelievable, but he may win. Yeah, so who is it that is having a War on Women again?

3. Oklahoma Tornado relief in two parts:

Part 1 - This one was bad, folks. The sustained winds were clocked at 200 miles per hour and the funnel was more than a mile wide. Two grade schools full of children were destroyed and a whole community of homes and businesses were wiped off the map. Amazingly only 24 people are reported dead, so far. If you are of a mind to help in some way, Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, donate online or by phone at 1-800-RED CROSS. You won't hear the people of Oklahoma complain...they will quietly pick up the pieces, rebuild, and move on.

Part 2 - My rant - Not 2 hours after the devastating tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma and the word spread around the country and while first responders were pulling dead children from the rubble of a flattened grade school, the liberal blogs and Twitter feeds lit up with crap about how Sens. Coburn and Inhofe should be made to beg for any kind of government relief since both had the audacity to vote against Hurricane Sandy relief and they should get what they deserve...nothing. Of course, both voted against Sandy relief because of the extra added pork added that had nothing to do with relief - funds for fisheries in Mississippi and Alaska and for a roof that need fixing at the Smithsonian and the like. But, hey, why let dead children get in the way of making those conservative yahoos suffer.

Oh, and speaking of conservative yahoos, this choice Tweet from Lizz Winstead, writer for The Daily Show:



Now in all fairness, she tweeted that before she knew there would be dead children and a whole town destroyed and stuff...so give to the Red Cross 'cause she feels mighty bad about herself right now.

And finally - I saw this video and it just astounded me. It has very little to do with politics...or does it?



Now if we can just teach them to draft legislation, we might be saved...

P.S. Just when you thought the Tea Party was losing steam along comes the IRS to reenergize us. It is about all the Tea Party groups can thank the IRS for these days...but you didn't hear any of this from me and you don't even know who I am, right?
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Book: How Conservatism Can Rise From The Ashes

I published the Agenda 2016 book I've been promising. . . here ==>LINK

This book is something I started talking about after the election, when I realized that the current conservative agenda doesn't address the issues that matter to the public at large. This book is an attempt to create an agenda that will appeal to the vast majority of Americans by using common sense conservative ideas to address the things that matter to average people. These solutions are probably unlike anything you've seen before, but they're also totally common sense. Some of the topics covered by the agenda include creating jobs, tax reform, education reform, healthcare reform, environmentalism, and promoting middle class values. I think you'll like most of what I propose. The book is also packed with lots of data, all of which is linked, so it's a good resource too.

Anyway, read the book because we'll talk about it now and then, and I can't reprint it here. So think of it as homework you can do over the holiday! :)

Right now, the book is on Kindle only, though I am working on the paperback edition. It's only a $1.00 at the moment -- but the price will go up fairly soon (probably next week). Think of it as a blog buddy discount. So go buy it while it's cheap and tell your friends to buy it. For those of you with Tea Party connections, please tell your groups if you think they'll like it. And please do leave reviews at Amazon. Those sell books and I'd like this book to be read by a lot of people because I think the ideas could help conservatism a lot.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who helped me with the book!
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Whither Liberalism?

I think "whither" means "where does (noun) go from here?" So that's what I mean when I say that....where was I? Oh, yes. Liberal dogma is in a lot of trouble, for multiple reasons. It might be going too far to say that the current Obama scandals could finish it off altogether, but they might well give the Left's conventional wisdom severe and permanent damage.

As you probably know, what we oppose has had a variety of names: socialism, progressivism, technocratism, and currently, liberalism. Leftists change the packaging and the emphasis depending on circumstances and when the existing version has become discredited, but it remains an ideology of government control and (especially if your name is Michael Bloomberg) micromanagement, all in the name of a planned, perfected society.

Up until 1945, the Left was more openly totalitarian in its aspirations. Fascism, communism, state socialism: these were the wave of the future. And then we had a couple world wars and planned mass murder and suddenly totalitarian rule didn't seem so hot. So instead, liberals started talking about "social democracy," which was a lot milder. No abolition of private property, no special camps for political enemies: Instead, it's all about government aid, making sure everyone has enough to eat, every skinned knee gets treated, and so on and so on. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" was still the guiding principle, only with free elections and an army of taxmen and social workers to accomplish it, rather than a jackboot. And hey, if everyone was fat and happy and gradually got used to it, why not? So for the past half-century or so, liberals were very good at promoting the idea that they and their democratic welfare state now represented the happy medium; as opposed to the excesses of Stalin and Mao on the far Left and, more importantly, evil laissez-faire conservatism on the Right.

But this story of liberal progress ultimately rests on two claims: 1) The welfare state can adequately deliver the goods to its citizens and maintain a productive economy; and 2) Its functionaries will always act with the public good at heart.

The former, of course, has so many holes in it it's almost not worth repeating. Just look at Europe, its continent of origin. Andrew has already discussed how Sweden, the old role model of socialism-lite, has been forced to drastically scale back its programs in recent years, after chronically high unemployment and economic stagnation. Meanwhile, its Scandinavian neighbor, Denmark, has seen so many people opt for the government benefits attached to unemployment that only three of its 98 municipalities now have a majority of residents employed, and working a low-paying job instead of living on the state's largesse is increasingly seen as the sucker's way out. Spain, which may well soon become a bigger basketcase than Greece, has seen such a collapse that a visitor to the country sees abandoned condos and half-completed freeways all around, and youth unemployment is well over 50 percent. And the Franco-German alliance that has basically driven a united, planned Europe is under increasing stress, with France's new Socialist government attacking Berlin for being selfish and the Germans responding by calling their western neighbor a "problem child." Haven't we kinda seen this movie before?

And I trust I don't need to bring up how things are on our side of the pond, where we head into Recovery Summer IV: The Legend of Curly's Gold Hoarding with small businesses stifled by crushing regulations, the indicators of economic activity still sluggish, and ObamaCare collapsing under its own bureaucratic nightmares. Or the bottomless pit into which whole states like California are falling. Not only can the liberal model not "deliver the goods," it's having a hard time just keeping the lights on.

So what about that other claim? The one about members of government being disinterested servants of the common good? Well, well, well.

I'm not even going to try recapping all the scandals and crap of the past couple weeks. What I want to know is, how is anyone surprised by all of this? I haven't spent nearly as much time in government as others have, but never did I see an agency or office completely free of politics. Maybe partisan considerations didn't directly influence policy or treatment of subjects, but step behind the scenes and you'll absolutely hear the employees talking smack about some person or party. And there is definitely such a thing as "groupthink."

The truth is, the government is not an entity unto itself. Like every other organization ever, it's made up of people; fallible, non-impartial people. And as with all people, the more power and less oversight they're given, the more likely they are to abuse what they have. This seems obvious, but for some reason, there's a common assumption that this doesn't apply where the "representatives of the people" are concerned. Yes, we joke about individuals and occasionally whole branches being corrupt or liars, but never does it enter our heads that there could be an actual plot afoot to target the government's political enemies. Collectively, DC is supposed to be responsible enough not to act like that; and that reputation is what's kept the populace rather quiet up to now.

The real outcome of all this, then, may be to fix in ordinary people's minds the idea that citizens and the state really are antagonists. That's not to say we're going to see an end to leftist policies; lest we forget, there's still three and a half years of Obama to get through. But over the long run, we may begin seriously rethinking our notions of order and liberty and whatnot. The liberal dream of an all-powerful welfare state can survive a lot, but not a common conception of the government as both ineffectual and sinister.

It'll be interesting to see what comes next.
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Obama Failed To Make Liberalism Cool

There seems to be an interesting meme developing on the left. Call it a talking point. It’s about the true failure of Obama, as seen by the left. The left saw Obama’s promise as president as being able to convince the American people to embrace government, but in that he has failed miserably.

I’ve seen this talking point developing for some months now, but it didn’t hit the mainstream until the other day when I read an article by Dan Balz of the The Washington Post, and a nearly identical article by Maureen Dowd. In his article, Balz laments the “multiple controversies” (read: scandals) that have engulfed poor Barack and he notes that these controversies leave one thing clear:
“President Obama has failed to meet one of the most important goals he set out when he was first elected, which was to demonstrate that activist government could also be smart government.”
Right there. That’s how they see him. His goal was to win the public over to the belief that government is good and he failed. Indeed, Balz continues by telling us that Obama promised to win people over by bringing “smart, effective government.” But things didn’t turn out that way. Notes Balz:
“What has happened since Obama laid down that challenge for his administration? More Americans favor smaller government over bigger government than when he was first elected, according to exit polls from last November. Public confidence in the federal government is as low as it has ever been, according to a Pew Research Center survey released this spring.”
Snicker snicker. Yep. No sale.

What has caused this? Well, there are the “controversies” (read: scandals), including Benghazi, IRS, Justice spying on reporters, and Balz adds the DOD scandal of a rising number of sexual assaults -- he ignores all the rest. There are also “the questions about Health and Human Services and its implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” Of this, he says, “it is little wonder confidence has eroded.” Ultimately though, he blames his lord and master for just not doing what he needed to do:
“But Obama bears a particular responsibility for failing to do what he said he had to do, which was to convince the public that he could make the part of government that he directly controls — the executive branch — smarter, more effective and more deserving of trust.”
That is the liberal judgment of Obama: Obama is a failure because he failed to convince the public that government is good. Balz even claims that Obamacare is failing to win support for the simple reason that while people supposedly like all of its parts (a delusion), “Obama is still fighting to overcome distrust of government.”

As I said, this wasn’t the first article to talk like this either. This meme has been building. The first mention I saw of this was in January in an article that concluded that the Republicans had really won and Obama lost because the things Obama was seeking all accepted conservative thinking. Particularly, the article noted that on taxes, on the idea of using market-based solutions, and on issues like gun control, the public remains remarkably conservative. Other similar articles followed, each of which suggested ways in which Obama has failed to sell people on expanded government.

Then there was the article by Maureen Dowd, which came out the same day as Balz’s article and which makes the same point only much more damningly than Balz. Maureen whined:
“You know that the faltering American idol in the White House must be reeling in this scandalous spring. . . Just four months after his second inauguration, the president is buffeted by gushing investigations, smug and deranged Republicans, and cat-who-ate-the-canary conspiracists. The man who promised in 2008 to make government cool again is instead batting away charges that he has made government ‘Nixonian’ again.
Call it a talking point or groupthink, but either way note what is going on here. Liberals see Obama as a failure. And it’s not because they see him as the man who failed to fix race relations, something he could have done much to help. It’s not because they see him as the man who failed to fix partisan gridlock, something he could have done too. It’s not because they see him as the man who failed to solve global warming/cooling/whatevering or bring gay marriage or solve illegal immigration or reform Wall Street or bring universal healthcare. No. It’s none of that. It’s much more basic.

They wanted Obama to be a transformative president, a president who would finally get the rest of America to accept them.

He failed.

Americans still distrust government. Americans still distrust liberals. He didn’t make liberalism cool.

Score: Ronald Reagan 1, Barack Obama 0.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Hey Foreigners: Here's Why Americans Don't Pay Attention To You

In my vast travels around the business world and the internet, I've run into a great many foreigners. Yeah, they're everywhere. We even have foreign visitors to this here blog. And one of the things I keep running into is this idea that Americans are self-centered and don't pay attention to foreign countries. Let me explain why this isn't true.

Americans care a lot more about domestic news than they do about foreign news. That's a fact. The evidence is overwhelming. Even here, I can cut readership by 40% just by mentioning a foreign country... Prussia! So there is some truth to the idea that Americans don't pay attention to foreign events. But you know what? We pay a lot more attention than other countries do. The problem is that most foreigners don't understand that just because you pay attention to us doesn't mean we have a reason to pay attention to you.

This is the problem. Foreigners pay a lot of attention to us. Our films and television dominate their entertainment. Our products are everywhere in their countries. Their newspapers and nightly newscasts typically lead off with coverage of America and what we are up to. If you ever check out their papers online, you'll see that most of what they talk about is us. . . our politicians, our economy, our military, our sports, our celebrities. Sooooo, naturally, they assume that we must cover them the same way because if they care about us, then we must care about them, right? Well, no. And when they discover that we don't care about them, they get rather put out. That's when they call us self-centered jerks who only care about America.

But that's not true, and here's why.

Consider London (to use an example outside the US). I will bet you that every paper in Britain is packed with stories about the goings on in London. Yet, the London papers probably don't say Lord Jacksh*t about the happens in Bumfkferdshire. Why is that? Is it that Londoners are self-centered? Probably. But beside that, there's just no room. A newspaper can only cover so much news, so they pick the things that are most likely to matter the most. That means reporting on the movers and shakers, and the movers and shakers don't tend to live in small, out-of-the way places. Not to mention, there are thousands of Bumfkferdshires, so how could London pay attention to them all?

Well, it's the same thing with countries. You pay attention to us because we matter on the world scene, but you don't pay any more attention to Krapistan than we do because they don't do anything that warrants your attention. That means to the good people of Krapistan, you are just as guilty as we are of being self-centered. The only difference is that Krapistan doesn't care if you pay attention to them or not, because you don't matter to them either.

Look, I hate to say this, but most of you live in Krapistan whether you know it or not... you just aren't that important to us. Wow, that sounds rude, but it's true. Is this helping? Anyway, I know the British and the French and the Germans and the Brazilians and the Whatnots all think that they should be at the top of our list of countries that matter, but think about the competition. Think about what countries matter to us directly and indirectly. Do Britain, France and Brazil even crack that list? Let's find out. Here are the countries that impact us directly at the moment:
1. China -- the economic and (possible) military enemy
2. Afghanistan -- we're at war there
3. Iraq -- we just had a war there
4. Iran -- we're planning a war there
5. Israel -- big Jewish lobby here
6. Mexico -- narco-war on our border, we have 11 million of their people here
7. North Korea -- run by lunatic who wants to nuke Austin
8. Russia -- run by closeted homosexual who tries to stop everything we do
9. Saudi Arabia -- exporter of oil and terrorism, houser of American troops
10. Pakistan -- all kinds of trouble for us in many ways
See the problem? That's just the first wave. Those are the countries who are constantly on our news because they do something that poses a genuine threat to us almost every single day. How many people in other countries need to pay attention to ten "hot spot" countries?

Then you have the second tier. These are countries who affect us less directly, but still make our news for one reason or another. This includes Germany, the owner of the Eurozone, Japan and South Korea where we have massive numbers of troops in harms way, and India, the land of outsourcing. This is where Britain finally appears too because we get their television programs. But I still don't see a France, an Italy, a Brazil, etc. even though each of those countries seems to think they deserve to be at the top of the list.

Do you see now why this perception that Americans don't pay attention to foreign countries is wrong? The real problem isn't that we don't pay attention, it's that you don't stand out from the crowd. If you want to get noticed, do something to make us notice you. Nuke your neighbors... turn to terrorism... build an economic bloc and let it collapse. Seriously, if Hugo Chavez can get noticed, then so can you. Don't blame us if you're boring.

In all seriousness, this has been somewhat tongue-in-cheek but the point is valid. Americans pay attention to a lot more foreign news than the rest of the world wants to believe, but since we don't have an infinite amount of time, we focus on the things that matter to us the most -- wars, terrorism, threats of being nuked, economic competitors who inflate their currency and launch cyber attacks on our companies, narco-wars on our doorstep, and so on. Americans are not self-centered... we're just busy.
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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Open Thread And Blank Slate





"Imagine the sound of one hand clapping."
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Film Friday: The Woman in Black (2012)

Every once in awhile, a movie surprises you. I can definitely say that’s the case with The Woman in Black. Let’s see, we have a low budget, clichéd, Victorian Era haunted house film staring Harry Potter and directed by a newbie. Yeah. This thing had “weak” and “derivative” written all over it. So imagine my surprise to find one of the best horror films in a very long time.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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Friday Link Dump

It's the end of finals week here for me, so I don't have time to give you anything hard-hitting or deep-thinking (as opposed to my freaking masterpieces every other Friday). Instead, you get random stories to comment on as you like. Or not.

The Horror! THE HORROR!!!

So this guy named David Jones--who used to be in either a band or a locker, but now works for Britain's Daily Mail--went to Guantanamo Bay and reported on how terrible that place is. Apparently they no longer have a McDonald's and the inmates' PlayStation privileges have been revoked. I know. I bet if the Nazis had had PlayStation, they would have installed a few consoles for the prisoners at Auschwitz, right? Right.

What Happens When You Have No Life

I don't mind dressing up as a sci-fi or comic-book character. I like dressing up as a sci-fi or comic-book character. For Halloween. Or a special costume party. What raises my eyebrows is when you feel the need to attend a sci-fi convention in such a getup, split into rival groups on that basis--and then one thing leads to another and you and your Star Wars buddies are fighting your mortal enemies from Doctor Who. Personally, I don't understand why only the fifth Doctor was represented. No love for Picard?

Awesomest Thing To Happen At A Theater, Ever

Speaking for myself, I would rather be stuck in a room full of leftist windbags than at the theater or anywhere else with people who are being loud or otherwise distracting. Apparently Kevin Williamson of National Review felt the same way, and this was the result. You might say this is overreacting a bit. And you'd be wrong.

The Greatest Failure Of Socialism

I honestly don't know what to say about this. The government, doing what government does best, has found scapegoats for the shortage, blaming it on "excessive demand....[due to] a media campaign that has been generated to disrupt the country." Er, I don't think that's what causes excessive demand.

The word of the day is: velodrome. And the number of the day is: 17. Maybe those two have something to do with each other, maybe they don't. If you solve the riddle, you get an Invisible Commentarama Prize. No refunds.

Enjoy the reading, and comment away!
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Week in Review...so far

Really, what more could happen this week? Let's review what we have learned this week so far.

1. There have been no public officials arrested this week in the entire state of New York! Give Gov. Cuomo a round of applause...

2. No one is in charge of our Federal Government or, more accurately, no one will ADMIT they are in charge.

3. The Tea Party groups applying for 501(c) status with the IRS since 2009 who complained of unfair treatment and called paranoid and crazy have been vindicated.

4. Well, you know the rest...

Anything to add? No? Okay, so, in the words of our President who insists there's no "there, there" anywhere near him, let's look away for just a moment, take a deep breath, and try to find something positive to cling to (but not with guns or God, please).

Thinking....thinking...thinking...

Oh, wait! Here's something that is positive and, might I add, really cool. But, first, let me give you a little background.

As child of the "Space Age" circa the 1960's (yes, I am that old - don't judge), I spent many a day at school in front of a 13 inch black and white television provided by my grade school teachers watching the first lift off of the Saturn rockets, the first manned space shot where John Glenn circumnavigated the outer atmosphere of Earth, all the Gemini projects, all the Apollo projects including the first manned Moon landing, and the first Space Shuttle from blast off to landing. So, I have seen it all. In the early '90's I visited NASA in Houston with my brother and saw the International Space Station (ISS for short) when most of it was still in pieces. How far we have come. Pardon me if I get excited to see this because, though it isn't like landing on Mars, this goes way beyond Tang and velcro...


Commander Chris Hadfield is, yes, a Canadian astronaut who has been on the the ISS since December 19, 2012 until this week when he came safely back to Mother Earth thanks to the Russians. Who knew? Not only is he the first Canadian to walk in space, he is first astronaut to shoot and broadcast a music video from the ISS. Astronauts have always been really cool to me and Comm. Hadfield has just taken it to a new level - Test pilot, Astronaut, Rock Star!

As always, feel free to let loose on any topic.
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Deep Impact (1998) vs. Armageddon (1998)

By ScottDS
In 1999, we had two CGI bug movies. In 1997, we had two volcano movies. And in 1998, we had two “killer asteroid” movies: Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact and Michael Bay’s Armageddon. They both have their good qualities and bad qualities. While the former is a heartfelt, human story set against the backdrop of impending disaster, the latter is… well, it’s what Michael Bay does best – it’s the id to Deep Impact’s superego!

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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John McCain Kills MSNBC?

I’ve been saying for some time that the GOP needs to become more consumer friendly. Consumerism really is the driving engine of free market capitalism, yet the GOP always backs oligopolists. Imagine my surprise to see John McCain champion something that is definitely pro-consumer and which may have a surprising political result: the Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013.

The TCFA may not be on your radar screen because it’s the type of “housekeeping” bill that doesn’t usually excite the ideologues, so you rarely see it discussed at blogs or on talk shows. But these bills can often be much more important than they seem.

If this bill passes, it will do several things:
● It will provide an incentive to encourage cable providers to offer “a la carte” programming. This would allow you to pick the channels you want to buy without getting others thrown in. Cable currently only offers “bundles” where you need to buy a bunch of channels bundled together. It would also prohibit certain channels from being bundled.

● It will prevent the networks from moving “event programming” (like the Super Bowl) to cable. This is in response to the networks threatening to take their biggest programs off the air and move them to cable to prevent them being re-broadcast over the internet.

● It will eliminate sports blackout rules which prohibit local broadcasters from showing games that aren’t sold out. This is based on the idea that local taxpayers already pay for stadiums and thus should not be denied the right to see the game if it is broadcast elsewhere.
The National Cable & Television Association naturally hates the bill. They claim that bundling increases the diversity and value of channels. Consumer groups applaud this. Either could be right, though I suspect the cable people probably are more likely to be right. Still, I’m more interested in the politics....

First, I find it interesting that a Republican would go against big business interests on this, especially with the limited outcry. Yes, people always talk about how they wish they could pick and choose which cable channels to pay for, but I don’t see anyone really being upset about not having that choice. The blackout rule makes people more upset, but there are few areas where that has an effect. Similarly, the only time I can think of when the “event programming” issue came up was the fight between Time Warner and the NFL in New York City a couple years ago. So why would a Republican jump on board this issue and pick the side of the consumer over Big Business?

To tell the truth, I’m not actually sure. It’s possible that this is another sign that the Republicans are realizing that the government should be pro-consumer and pro-competition rather than pro-oligopoly. I’ve seen growing signs of that from people like Bobby Jindal saying we need to stop being the party of Big Business and Big Government. I’ve seen several Republicans talking about breaking up the big banks. And I’ve even seen a good number of Republicans talking about cutting corporate welfare in the form of deductions and ethanol subsidies. That’s all encouraging.

It’s also possible the Republicans are starting to play hardball with companies who haven’t really been great friends of the Republicans. That would be nice too. Though I’ve seen little evidence of that one.

In any event, this idea raises an intriguing possibility. If this passes, what are the odds that MSNBC and, possibly, CNN won’t survive? Neither network has much left in the way of viewers, but they survive because they get bundled in with more popular channels. If the bundling ended, it would be easy to see MSNBC and CNN failing because of lack of consumer demand. That would be interesting. Indeed, it would be kind of fun to see liberal news channels get whacked by the market. That would be a real validation that the public has no appetite for the progressive agenda... not to mention that it would confirm that progressives are cheap.

Even more interestingly, I wonder what this would mean for the public’s perception of the rest of the media. Would this be more likely to expose the bias at places like the networks since they could no longer point to the very-fringy MSNBC and say, “That’s real bias... we’re not like them!” or would it allow them to hide behind the idea that only “unbiased” news has found a marketplace... well, that and Fox News.

This bill will be interesting. It’s interesting that McCain is trying to find things that upset consumers and offer them solutions. That’s a really good sign as the beginnings of an agenda. It’s will be interesting to see (if it passes) how this changes the cable landscape as well. That one is too hard to tell – some channels will die, some will reform, others will move to the net, and others survive with less. And it will be interesting to see the effect on the ability of the left to get their message out to. . . well, the few people who actually watched their garbage.

Thoughts?

P.S. As a bonus thought... I wonder if this isn’t the beginning of Republican intervention in the “stadium issue.” For some time now, it’s been obvious that cities get ripped off by the NFL for stadiums, and I’m seeing more and more backlash over it (“welfare for billionaires” is the catchphrase). The NFL has responded by using a move to LA as a threat to keep get more funding. I wonder if the Republicans aren’t starting to impose requirements on the NFL on the basis that they get public money for stadiums as a way to “encourage” the NFL to stop demanding public funds? We’ll have to watch to see how that goes.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

IRS Scandal Primer

Let’s talk about the IRS scandal, because there is much to this and it presents a genuine opportunity for the Republicans to do some good things. Here’s what you need to know at this point.

What Happened: Starting in 2011, several Tea Party groups began to complain that the IRS was targeting them over their attempts to get non-profit status. Specifically, they claimed their applications were being delayed and that they were being asked to provide information the IRS doesn’t normally seek from applicants, including questions about the activities of their relatives. Then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman specifically denied this in March 2012 before congress.

On Friday, things began to blow up when Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, apologized for what she called “inappropriate” targeting of conservative groups for closer scrutiny – the exact thing the IRS had been denying. She admitted that Tea Party groups had been targeted for addition scrutiny, but she claimed it happened only in a low-level field office in Cincinnati and that none of the higher ups knew about it. Once they found out, they stopped the process. So the scandal dies, right?

Well, no.

Saturday, someone in the Treasury Inspector General’s Office leaked a copy of their report on the investigation of these claims to the AP. That report concludes that this targeting was discovered by senior level personnel, including those in the IRS General Counsel’s office, as early as June 2011, long before the period where Lerner admits they knew and long before the IRS’s Schulman told Congress this never happened, i.e. he lied. It is not currently clear when the conduct was stopped or by whom or if it extended into information leaving the agency.

Since Saturday, Reuters got the report as well and they’ve added that while the IRS first targeted groups with the name “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names, the IRS broadened their search to expand their list of targets in 2011 and in 2012. . . which would be after senior IRS people knew about this.

And now, the lawyer for 27 Tea Party groups says this went way beyond Cincinnati and also involved the DC office and two offices in California.

Why This Has Legs: This scandal has legs. For one thing, there is already proof of wrongdoing. Everyone admits this conduct happened and that it would be an illegal politicization of the IRS. Secondly, nobody wants to defend the IRS. . . not left, right or center. In fact, it’s good politics to beat up the IRS. Thirdly, journalists are running with this. Both the AP and now Reuters are competing to prove that they hold the exclusive on this, i.e. this is "their" scandal, and that means heavy coverage. You can see the result of this everywhere and it means this scandal isn’t going away. Moreover, Reuters has linked this to Obama already, calling it “a full-blown scandal involving the IRS scrutiny” which was “embarrassing the agency and distracting the Obama administration,” which means they’ll look for links to Obama.

This has wrong-footed Obama’s spin doctors, who aren’t prepared for genuine media aggression and don’t know how to defend people the public hates, especially when the evidence of wrongdoing is plain.

Further, as the scandal progresses, there are now claims this conduct went even further than Tea Party groups. Jewish conservative groups are now claiming they were targeted as well. This will make it hard to dismiss this by blaming the victims.

More importantly, unlike Benghazi or Fast and Furious or a dozen other scandals, this one has meaning to the public because it can affect them personally. The public hates the IRS, not because they need to pay money to the IRS, but because they feel abused by the IRS. They feel like the IRS can arbitrarily pick people it wishes to target and make their lives hell. They see evidence of this all the time, when they see reports about people’s lives being destroyed by aggressive IRS agents, when they see articles about the IRS targeting low-middle class people for audits, and when they hear about companies like GE getting away with record profits but no tax bill.

This scandal will confirm the public’s view that the IRS is a bully, and it will confirm their fears that the IRS is not the neutral collector of revenue Washington claims, but is instead a politicized tool for harassment, either by political administrations or (even worse) by whatever jerk off gets a job at the IRS -- neither one is good. Further, this is something people left, right, center and other all complain about. Even leftists like the Progressive Policy Institute have said, “This needs to stop, instantly, and it’s legitimate to question how the practice started and how extensive it became.” That’s a disaster for Obama if even the left wants this investigated, especially with the IRS being made the point man on Obamacare.

That’s why this scandal has legs. Journalists want it to have to legs, the Democrats have no answer, and the public already believes this and wants something done about it.

The Politics: The smartest thing Obama could do right now would be to act outraged and purge the agency of a few bad eggs. . . assuming of course that those bad eggs don’t have e-mails showing his administration encouraging this targeting. Trying to defend the IRS in these circumstances would be a huge mistake because it would create a suspicion that his administration was behind this.

The smartest thing the Republicans can do would be to attack this on the issue of abuse of power and demand a reformation of the IRS. They should demand the termination of every employee involved, as far up the chain as they can get. Plus, they should seek to implement new rules and guidelines to de-politicize the IRS and to make it less arbitrary. And frankly, I would warp it into an indictment of the entire income tax system and I would push for either the replacement of the tax code or a severe trimming of all the exceptions and exemptions which inject so much leeway into the system.

What they should not do is to try to make this about Obama, except by way of casual embarrassment: “Were you abusive or an incompetent manager?” sort of thing. . . not, “we gonna impeach you!” Start with the easy target of IRS abuse of taxpayers and build moment for the types of changes you want. Find ways to deliver a thousand little cuts against Obama in the process, but avoid the desire to find the “killer blow” because that’s how you squander a scandal, by over-reaching. And keep in mind that Obama will be gone before any of this really hits, so aim for something more lasting. . . aim for the Democratic machine as a whole.
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Monday, May 13, 2013

Logic v. Global Warming

We all know that Global Warming in a hoax. . . well, most of us know. There are some gullible people out there, particularly in Europe. But the rest of us know. Even the left knows, I think, they just keep the theory going because it’s useful. Anyway, that’s not the point... stop distracting me!... the point is that logic tells us the theory is garbage.

Global warming is based on a simple idea: mankind puts carbon in the air when they do things the left doesn’t like, like running a factory, driving a car, or raising flatulent cows.... no, I’m not kidding about the cows. This carbon then sits in the air like a blanket and keeps all the heat from leaving our planet. That causes the planet to become warmer which causes bullying... or something.

To repeat, the theory is simple: carbon causes heat retention.

So riddle me this...

According to “federal scientists” at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Earth has hit a milestone. The amount of carbon in our atmosphere has reached a level it hasn’t been in millions of years – 400 parts per million. But if carbon causes heat retention and we’ve never had more carbon in the air, then why has it been getting colder for a decade now? LOGIC tells us that this disproves the theory doesn’t it?

Not enough? Ok, try this.

The same scientists tell us that the last time the level of carbon was at this level was 2 million years ago during the Pleistocene Era. And back then, “It was much warmer than it is today. There were forests in Greenland. Sea level was higher, between 33 to 66 feet.” Interesting. So it was a lot hotter, but the carbon level was where it is now. Hmm. Doesn’t that disprove the causation as well? After all, shouldn’t causation always cause the same effect... seeing as how it is causation? Apparently not. Apparently causation now means, “kind of like each other around the same times... sometimes.” Interestingly, that used to be called “correlation” and that’s evidence of NOTcausation.

Anyway, I know that many of you are now thinking, “Wait a minute, if it was this carbony warm before and all these species survived from then to now, what’s the danger now?” Well, that’s a good point. In fact, it’s hard to see how all these species will die off if they made it through an ice age that took out Greenland and dropped the water level by between 33 and 66 feet. . . an oh so precise measurement. . . and then turned around and got warm again back to the nice toasty way things used to be in the gold age of Pleistocene. How could a couple degrees hurt anything?

Well, Penn State’s disgraced Climategate participant Michael Mann has an answer. See, animals can indeed adopt to changes in temperature, but not if the change is too fast. “If the carbon dioxide levels go up 100 parts per million over a thousands or millions of years, plants and animals can adapt. But that can’t be done at the speed it is now happening.” Right. Makes total sense. Animals can adapt to a couple degree change every million years or so, but not anything quicker than that. Got it. Oh, by the way, did you know that the average temperature in Colorado during the Winter is 28 degrees. During the summer it’s 65 degrees. That’s a difference of 37 degrees. Strangely, nobody dies off here between the seasons. Nope. I wonder why? Perhaps animals have a mechanism that lets them average their temperatures during the years? Or maybe, just maybe, animals are more adaptive than Mann gives them credit for being?

Anyway, Mann and his Climatecult claim that we are raising temperatures about 2 degrees every hundred years. Seeing as how animals in Colorado can take at least a 37 degree change in temperature, I’ll guess we’ll find out soon enough if Mann is right. . . say, in 2,400 years or so. Maybe in the meantime, Mann and his cult can learn to do science rather than politics?
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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Open Thread -- Vox Populi






"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."

-- Mark Twain

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Film Friday: Looper (2012)

Rotten Tomatoes gives Looper a 93% fresh rating and describes the consensus thusly: “As thought-provoking as it is thrilling, Looper delivers an uncommonly smart, bravely original blend of futuristic sci-fi and good old-fashioned action.” Well. . . no. Yes, it is “as thought-provoking as it is thrilling,” but that’s because it registers close to zero on both counts. It’s not uncommonly smart either, nor is it original. Still, I’m going to recommend you see it. Why? Allow me to explain.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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The Great White South

Will there ever be a day when Southerners and/or Republicans are no longer tarred as inveterate racists? Well, maybe, if they start endorsing gay marriage and high taxes and hippie communes, but certainly not until then. It's too good a weapon for liberals to discard, and they seem to have some superficial evidence on their side. Emphasis on "superficial."

Of course, I don't have to tell you how political dialogue goes where the GOP and its Southern base are concerned. Southerners are backward bigots who still have Klan hoods in their closets and keep looking for a chance to keep the black man down; the Republican Party depends on them, so it must be like that, too. Now, occasionally a few people on our side will get smart and point out that the GOP is the party of Lincoln and 19th-century abolitionists, and in fact was more supportive of the Civil Rights Act in the '60s than the Democrats were. That rarely fazes any liberal worth their salt, though. They come right back with what is often called "The Southern Strategy."

Sure, liberals admit, the Democratic Party was the party of white racist Southerners until the 1960s. But then LBJ signed all the civil rights legislation, blacks began voting Democrat lock, stock, and barrel; and those white cross-burners became very disillusioned: at which point certain Republicans, especially Nixon and his circle, seized an opportunity by opposing further civil rights to gain Southern votes, making the GOP the racist, knuckle-dragging, red-state party it is today and the Democrats the enlightened knights of progress. It's a very neatly tied-up story, you gotta admit; one that absolves Democrats of any racial guilt. It also perpetuates North-South stereotypes where race relations are concerned, which never hurts.

Basically, the only way to refute this story is to suggest that white Southerners were starting to change their position on the GOP, and perhaps civil rights as well. And one of the best-kept secrets in the political conversation is that, as a matter of fact, they were.

You have to take a careful look at the changing electoral map to see what was going on here. As multiple historians have shown, the famous "Solid South" electoral bloc was already breaking down by mid-century, especially in the Upper South states like Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, less so in the Deep South. This alone would call the Left's claims into question, for if GOP success was linked to racism alone, one would expect just the opposite. Overall, among the states of the "Old Confederacy," Republican candidates were getting around 25 percent of the vote in the '44 and '48 presidential elections, itself a dramatic rise from results in the '20s and '30s (and keep in mind, this came at the end of the reign of FDR, who was famous for tossing lots of federal money South-wards and not lifting many fingers to improve race relations). During the Eisenhower era, Ike was breaking off Virginia, Texas, even Louisiana, despite his party's noticeable lack of an anti-civil rights stance. And lest one think this was a function of presidential personality, the GOP was making similar inroads in congressional seats--again, especially in the less-racist Upper South.

What gives? It turns out that, demographically, the growing Republican support was coming especially from urban and suburban areas, middle- and upper-middle-class voters, and younger generations--the people who made up the "New South." And party strategists at the time recognized this, telling Nixon and candidates all down the line their best shot was to appeal to the "youthful middle-class," downplaying racial issues as much as possible. This is the exact opposite of what the liberal P.C. version of history would have us believe.

Also, this raises the question of just how racist Southerners were in the '50s and '60s. It would be stupid to suggest that race issues during the period were overblown, but neither should we assume that anti-black racism was uniform. Plenty of evidence exists that already by the '50s, many Southerners, especially younger ones, were changing their minds on segregation, with church organizations in particular, including the Presbyterians and Southern Baptists, coming out against it. And it would be many of these same people--young, religious, upwardly mobile--who would begin building a Southern GOP and the subsequent New Right/Religious Right. I wouldn't go so far as to say that racial equality in the South would have happened without federal legislation, but we shouldn't just assume Jim Crow would have otherwise persisted into the twenty-first century, either. Things were already changing.

This is not to imply that the Republican Party was entirely free of racial prejudice, before, during, or after the Civil Rights Era. Many party members and politicians were quite happy to strike unsavory deals with racist/segregationist Southerners. But the stereotyping of these two groups the Left indulges in rests on the narrative that Southern whites haven't changed in their racism, simply jumped ship from the Dems to the GOP, and the latter became racist as a result. Like most stories liberals spin, it just ain't so.
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Thursday, May 9, 2013

New York State of Mind

Here is something I bet you didn't know about New York. We are a great place to open a small business! Yes, it is true! In page taken from Texas Governor Rick Perry, our Governor Andrew Cuomo (potential 2016 Presidential hopeful) is rolling out a new ad touting how business-friendly the State of New York is. Who knew? Unfortunately, the ad has not yet been released on YouTube, so you can't see it, but it has been running in the State for a few weeks to the confusion of just about everyone who lives here. And, in a case of really bad timing, a list was published this week of the best and worst states for businesses. Guess which state was No. 49? Go ahead, I dare you. [Hint: New York] Hey, at least New York is above California! That's something that Cuomo can hang his hat on, right? Oh, and guess which state is No. 1...oh, come on. Oh, yeah, do want to know where $140 million of the $60 billion dollars New York received for Hurricane Sandy relief? You guess it...to make Cuomo's ad touting how business-friendly New York is...

On a related note: Both Bloomberg and Cuomo have been crowing about our very healthy television and movie industry in the state. And do you know how they have lured all these television and movie productions companies to New York...tax "incentives". The Governor just signed a bill to expand the tax give-a-way to reality and talk shows too. Shortly after the ink dried on the bill, it was announced that "The Tonight Show" would be moving back to New York when Jimmy Fallon takes over at the end of the year! What a coinkidink! All of these tax breaks are reportedly going to bring in a whopping 400 jobs. If only Cuomo could make up his mind about fracking. That could bring in thousands of new jobs, so we could maybe finally lower the unemployment rate to below 10%.

Moving on...

- It's an election year in New York City. We are about to finally divest ourselves of our Mayor/Nanny Bloomberg and the field of candidates is growing by the minute and the pandering is growing even faster. So far, we have promises of minimum wage hikes, mandatory personal days for all workers, and reigning in the evil police department. The list grows. In the following weeks, I will introduce our candidates - there's Christine Quinn the Lesbian City Council Chairperson, John Liu the Asian Comptroller whose two campaign managers was just convicted of campaign fund fraud, the billionaire Grocer, and the disgraced former lying US Representative (who hasn't declared yet). It is going to fun, fun, fun until November! So far, none of these candidates would be any improvement over Bloomberg, but it's early yet.

- The only person who is actually working for the people of New York City, our Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, is under fire because of his successful "Stop and Frisk" policies. The problem is that the police are targeting the worst, most crime-ridden areas and, as the name suggests, stopping and frisking people who appear to be up to no good and may possibly be carrying weapons like guns. It is successful because violent crime (specifically gun-related) is at the lowest levels they have been since the 1970's. Kelly has been very receptive to the concerns that the police may be heavy handed in stopping too many otherwise law-abiding citizens and updated the procedures. But that is not enough for some. They want it stopped completely and as an extra added bonus, many of our current mayoral hopefuls are vowing to do away with it. {{cough..pander...cough}}}

- And speaking of pandering, Congressman Charlie Rangel has filed a lawsuit against Speaker Boehner and other members of the House Ethics Committee to overturn his 2010 censure. He claims he continues "to suffer irreparable harm that cannot be compensated by money damages..." and the committee "acted knowingly, intentionally and willfully to frustrate the goal of assuring adherence to plaintiff's due process rights." The 40+ year Congressman, former Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committe claims he did not intend to be a tax cheat for 17 years, he was just careless. If it weren't so pathetic, it would almost be funny.

- Finally - I know, I know. You thought that there cannot possibly be anyone in our state legislature left to arrest, right? Never underestimate Albany. Yes, this week brought a new arrest with the possibility of up to six as-yet-to-be-named others to add to my rogues' gallery. This week we add State Senator John Sampson (D) former Senate Majority leader and head of the Senate Democrat Caucus was caught in sting in which other Rogue's Gallery member Shirley Huntley, in a plea deal, wore a wire. He is even accused of pressing a friend in the US Attorney's office to turn over the names of all of the cooperating witnesses who could make a case against him, so he could arrange to “take them out.” You would think by now that the New York State Dems would be embarrassed, but Gov. Cuomo just gives lip-service to reform the ethics of the Legislature.

Drumroll please......

State Senator John Sampson (D) - two counts of embezzlement, five counts of obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements to the FBI.

State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (D)- Arrested for accepting bribes to pass legislation for his special interests with 4 co-conspirators.

State Assemblyman Nelson Castro (D) - resigned after turning states' evidence and wearing a wire to implicate Assemblyman Stevenson. He was compelled to help the Feds because he was under indictment for perjury.

State Senator Malcolm Smith (D) - Arrested for paying bribes to NYC Councilman Daniel Halloran (R) to secure a spot on the Republican ticket for the upcoming Mayoral election.

NYC Councilman Daniel Halloran (R) - Arrested for accepting a bribe from State Senator Malcolm Smith (D) for same.

Oh, plus "...five other politicians, three Republicans and two Democrats, were also arrested and charged with collectively accepting more than $100,000 in bribes in meetings that often took place in parked cars, hotel rooms and state offices..."

State Senator Shirley Huntley (D): pleaded guilty to embezzlement of $90,000 in taxpayer funds for personal shopping sprees.

State Assembly Vivian Cook (D): not yet charged; implicated in procuring funds to be funneled to Sen. Huntley and participating in personal shopping sprees.

State Assembly Jimmy Meng (D): pleaded guilty to soliciting bribes

US Representative Gregory Meeks (D): Currently under investigation for accepting $40,000 in unreported "loans" from Queens businessman Edul Ahmad. Ahmad has pleaded guilty and awaiting sentences in a $50 million mortgage fraud scheme.

State Senator Carl Kruger (D) - resigned his seat and pleaded guilty to charges of corruption and bribery. (2011)

State Senator Hiram Monserrate (D-NY) - of the 13th District, was expelled by the New York State Senate on February 9, 2010 in connection with a misdemeanor assault conviction against his girlfriend.

State Senator Efrain Gonzalez (D-NY) On May 25, 2010, Gonzalez was sentenced to 84 months (7 years) in prison, followed by two years supervised release, after pleading guilty to two conspiracy counts and two wire fraud counts in May 2009.

President of the New York City council Andrew Stein (D) - was convicted of tax evasion regarding a Ponzi scheme in November 2010.

Majority Leader of the New York State Senate Pedro Espada Jr. (D) - On May 14, 2012 a federal jury found Espada guilty of embezzling money from federally funded healthcare clinics, after 11 days of deliberation.

State Senator Nicholas Spano (R) - in 2012 Spano was indicted for Federal Income Tax evasion. Spano pleaded guilty to the single felony. He admitted that he under-reported his income — $42,419 in federal income taxes and $10,605 in state taxes — from 2000 to 2008. He is to be sentenced to 12 to 18 months in Federal Prison in June 2012.
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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why Defiance Sucks

There’s a new show on the Sci-Fi Channel called Defiance. Yawn. Sorry. As I was saying, there’s a new show on the Sci-Fi Channel called Defiance. It sounded like an interesting premise when the ads first appeared for it, but it’s not. It’s missing the one thing that really matters: a story. In fact, this is the real problem with most science fiction shows these days.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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The Heritage Foundation's $6.3 Trillion Deception

I was hoping to stop talking about immigration, but then the Heritage Foundation decided to crap on their own credibility by issuing a report that is so phony it would have made a Soviet propagandist’s head spin. So I figured I had to say something, especially as talk radio is running blindly with this report. What you’ve probably heard is that if Rubio’s bill passes, it will cost $6.3 trillion!! What you probably haven’t heard is that Heritage’s report is pure deception.

Distortion: You know how we always complain about the Democrats talking about their spending cuts over a 10 year period to make the cuts seem meaningful when they aren’t? For example, do you remember how Obama claimed he proposed $4 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years, and how everyone scoffed at this because it’s a dishonest way to inflate the numbers? Well, guess what...

To get their $6.3 trillion number, Heritage adds up the cost over 50 years. Yes, 50.

That’s a credibility killer right there.

If you break their number down by year, you’re talking about $126 billion per year on average. That number is actually back-ended and is much lower in the first 30 years (and even lower in the first ten), but let’s go with the worst-case $126 billion. That $126 billion works out to only 0.8% of our GDP right now. And by the time we reach Heritage’s 50 year mark our GDP will be around $70 trillion per year, which means these illegals will cost a whopping 0.18% of GDP. It’s interesting how that $6.3 trillion suddenly doesn’t seem so large when you put it into context. And that’s just the beginning...

Deception: The numbers Heritage uses include some nonsense assumptions that pretty much need to be considered deceptive. Here’s how Heritage determined the $6.3 trillion figure. First, they determined the total cost of government. Then they determined how much government spent on natives, on lawful immigrants and on illegal immigrants. They don’t actually explain how they determined this, but they did spend several pages pretending they did. Then they determined how much each group paid in taxes and they calculated the “net deficit” for each group by subtracting the amount of government spending they attribute to each group from the amount they paid in taxes. From this, they concluded that natives receive $310 more from the government than they paid to the government. Lawful immigrants received $4,344 more than they paid. And illegals received $14,387 more than they paid. Then they took this deficit for illegals and multiplied it by the number of illegals and the number of kids they would have, and they added it up. The end result was a $6.3 trillion deficit over 50 years.

Here’s why this is deceptive.

First, Heritage assumes that illegals will never earn more than they do now. Basically, Heritage assumes that nothing will change for these people after they are legalized and that they and their children will always work for their current wages for the rest of their lives. That’s nonsense, and Paul Ryan has already criticized this. Why would someone work for a couple dollars a day when they can now work at WalMart for above-minimum wage and benefits? Why would their kids do the same? Once illegals can work legally, there is no reason to believe they won’t do as well as legal immigrants. If we assume that illegals eventually match legal immigrants, then using Heritage’s own numbers, the Heritage deficit drops from $6.3 trillion to $1.9 trillion over 50 years or $38 billion a year.

Further, I have reason to doubt even that. At one point in their analysis, Heritage notes that legal immigrants actually out-earn natives by $59,071 per household compared to $53,937 for native households -- about $5,000. This calls into question Heritage’s claim that legal immigrants have a tax deficit that is $4,034 greater than natives. Why would legal immigrants, who earn more than natives use $9,000 more in services than natives? This doesn’t seem true. And if that isn’t true, then this deficit vanishes and immigrants become net contributors.

In any event, even the $1.9 trillion is overstated. To create these deficits, Heritage divides government spending into five types of benefits. The things natives like are dismissed as “for the public good” and aren’t counted. In other words, Heritage is making immigrants seem more expensive by downplaying the costs that benefit natives.

Continuing... of the remaining four benefit types, different values are assigned to natives, legals and illegals, again without adequate explanation. Heritage simply asserts that immigrants use more services (and illegals use even more) because immigrants live in higher density areas and therefore cost more. So, logically, if we move all the illegals to smaller towns, suddenly they become cheaper than natives. Does that seem credible to you?

Anyway, of the four categories of benefits, the two conservatives complain about are actually the smallest. This includes (1) direct benefits like social security and unemployment and (2) means-tested benefits like food stamps and welfare. But those alone don’t come anywhere near to creating a deficit, so Heritage adds two more benefits: (3) the cost of educating children in public schools and (4) the cost of “population-based services.” These population-based services are the cost of police, fire, highways, parks, public transportation etc. Those last two categories account for around $19,000 of the $24,000 Heritage assigns to illegals.

But ask yourself if this is truly valid.

For one thing, it seems dubious to claim that illegals cause highways, parks, police and fire. Those things will exist whether illegals are there or not. More interestingly though, consider public transportation. No doubt you’re thinking that must mean buses because illegals probably use buses, right? Except that’s not what it means. The real public transportation costs are airports and commuter trains... things illegals never use. Yet, Heritage not only attributes those costs to everyone, including illegals, it uses some hidden formula to charge illegals more for these things than natives even though illegals don’t use them. Ditto on highways. Illegals cluster in inner-cities, yet Heritage not only charges illegals with the cost of building and maintaining highways to the suburbs and through Montana, but it charges them more for those highways than it charges natives. It’s the same with schools. Do you think the children of illegals who go to aging inner-city or tiny rural schools actually absorb more costs than the suburban kids who go to the palaces they are building these days? Heritage wants you to believe they do.

False Premise: Finally, there is another hugely misleading aspect of this report: it wrongly implies that these costs can be avoided. Basically, the report tells you, “Think about what it will cost if we pass this thing!” without ever mentioning that these costs will be borne whether the Rubio bill passes or not. In other words, these people are here already and they are already using these benefits legally. Heritage even acknowledges this, but then ignores that point so they can imply that these costs will only be incurred “if” the Rubio bill passes. This is false. Since all these costs will be incurred whether Rubio’s bill passes or not, the honest cost/benefit analysis Heritage should be performing is whether passing this bill will cause these people to contribute more as legal citizens than they would being left in the shadows. But that wouldn’t support the conclusion Heritage wants, so they avoid talking about that.


I find this frustrating. I find it frustrating that supposedly reputable conservatives are lying and distorting and producing deceptive reports in the name of ideology. Conservatism is supposed to be better than this and if this is what passes for analysis from somewhere like the Heritage Foundation then we have real problems. In any event, the CBO will be looking at this bill soon and I suspect they won’t find anything like what Heritage found. All this report really tells us is that we need to take everything we hear from Heritage with a grain of salt from now on. Nice work folks, way to blow your credibility.
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