Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Afghanistan Failure

At the beginning of June, Afghanistan became our longest war -- longer than even Vietnam. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars and sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Yet, we are losing. The Taliban are running rampant and control huge swaths of the country. What’s worse, our current strategy won’t change that. We need to rethink this war. Let’s start this by going through the reasons that are routinely given for staying in Afghanistan and showing why those are bad. Then I’ll talk about a better plan.
Reason One: “Having invaded Afghanistan, the West has a duty to return a half-decent state to the Afghan people.”
I hear this a lot and it’s total bull. We owe these people nothing. Afghanistan is a primitive cesspool because its own people made it that way. It was like that when we got there, and it’s not our responsibility to change that. And frankly, claiming this is our responsibility with one hand while claiming that we need to respect their culture and religion with the other is a sucker's game.
Reason Two: “We need to deny al-Qaeda a haven.”
This is the primary reason given for being in Afghanistan. But we’ve already lost this one. Al-Qaeda has a haven in Pakistan, in Yemen, and in Somalia. The CIA has even noted that they are starting to use operatives from all over the world now, making “havens” almost irrelevant. Moreover, if the goal is just to deny them Afghanistan, a rather silly goal given their other havens, then there are better ways. Indeed, cutting a deal with the Taliban to toss al-Qaeda out would be more effective.
Reason Three: “If we leave, a civil war might start, which could suck in local powers like Iran, Pakistan, India and Russia.”
This one shows how little our policy people understand what is going on. This IS a civil war. The Taliban are not foreign invaders. They do not lack popular support. Indeed, recent polls show that one-third of Afghans openly support them, compared to only 25% who support the government. No matter how much we call them “insurgents,” we are participating in a civil war.

Our real target, al-Qaeda, has smartly piggybacked on the Taliban. Without the Taliban, al-Qaeda has no support in Afghanistan. Yet, we’ve lumped them together and, in so doing, we’ve chosen to fight tens of thousands of Taliban fighters who can draw upon local populations for support, when we should be fighting the 1,000 or so al-Qaeda members that the CIA claims are there and in Pakistan. In fact, once again, our best strategy would be to cut a deal with the Taliban to toss out al-Qaeda and we walk away.

Indeed, the military is starting to get this. Said one U.S. civil affairs officer: “We need to reevaluate who the enemy really is. . . Based on the evaluations and interviews in the report, we're not sure we're fighting the right war or fighting the war the right way."

And as for those other powers, who cares? Afghanistan is a worthless piece of rock populated by a few million goat-herders. It has no strategic value. And if Pakistan or Iran want it, let them have it. Where is the harm? Indeed, it might show the world that there are negative consequences to fighting with the United States. . . mess with us, lose your country.

Further, the idea that Pakistan and India or Iran would go to war over this is simply scare mongering. Those countries are ready to fight over any number of things already, tossing in the rocks and goats of Afghanistan won’t change a thing. Not to mention, we could partition the country before we leave to avoid any such conflicts entirely.
Reason Four: “A defeat would mark a humiliation for the West, that would encourage our enemies around the world.”
Finally, we come to the real reason we stay. It is absolutely true that the rest of the world follows the maxim -- “might makes right.” Thus, if we appear weak, then we will be weakened in the eyes of our enemies everywhere. And running away would make us appear weak. But so would losing. And make no mistake, we are losing and everybody knows it.

At the beginning of the year, the military put together an assessment called “The State of the Taliban.” This document paints a grim picture:
• U.S. and NATO leaders do not adequately understand the Afghan people, and our communication skills are poor.

• Our support for Karzai’s corrupt government has made it easy for the Taliban to recruit insurgents and prevents locals from working with NATO.

• The Afghan army and police forces are years away from providing security for the nation -- even though we’ve been training them for nine years.

• There are not enough civilian workers to complete construction projects, and fear prevents local workers from taking coalition jobs.

• Local governments steal project funding.

• Violence is up 87% since March and bombing is up 94% this year.
Said one official with knowledge of the report:
“We are getting beat up. The Taliban know their own people -- they are culturally accurate. We know the facts but we are culturally inaccurate. The main message in the report is that we don’t fully understand our enemy and we are not clearly communicating our message to the people.”
Indeed, the military admits that the Taliban are better propagandists than we are. They have persuaded the Afghan people that (1) 9/11 was a response to the planned invasion of Afghanistan by United States, (2) America does not allow Muslim women to cover themselves, and (3) mosques are not permitted in American cities. These are big recruiting points.

All of this leads to a quagmire. In fact, the situation is so bad, that the report recommends that US commanders mediate cease-fire negotiations with local Taliban commanders. But that’s not possible because the Taliban don’t respect our side. Said Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis: “The bulk of insurgents clearly do not see foreign forces as a credible negotiating partner.”

What was supposed to change all of this was the “surge” that Obama and McChrystal promised. But that’s proven to be a failure. It started in Marja, a farming district in Helmand province. Thirty thousand troops moved into the city to push out 400 Taliban fighters. Along with the troops came government people and truck-loads of money. The idea was to establish Afghan government control and thereby gain the trust of the locals, who would then reject the Taliban. That didn’t happen. The Afghan government proved ineffective and the locals were less than impressed with the temporary nature of our military plans. Indeed, the Taliban put out posters telling people the date they would return, right after our withdrawal date. McChrystal now calls this test case for our surge plan “a bleeding ulcer.”

And because of this failure, they have postponed the next step, which was the invasion of Kandahar, a city under the control of drug traffickers and the Taliban. According to the military, the local people in Kandahar “are not ready to back” the invasion yet. Ominously, McChrystal implied, before he was replaced, that if we don’t make significant, irreversible progress soon, Christmas would be the end of NATO operations, i.e. the date we quit.
So What Do We Do?
Actual victory is an illusion. What we need is a genuine exit strategy. Obama’s "wait one year and then run for our lives" plan is about the worst thing we can do, apart from staying without any plan except waiting to be driven out. Here are our options as I see them:

Option One: Our first option would be to totally replace the government and impose a modern state on these people. I doubt we have the stomach to do this, but this is the only way we can win over the people who oppose Karzai’s corrupt regime and also eliminate the handicaps that keep us from creating a stable state. This one would require a longer military stay and a realization that we can’t “respect” a defective culture.

Option Two: Our second option would be to carve the country up and hand it to the neighbors along ethnic lines. This strategy actually makes a lot of sense as the neighbors would then become responsible their new territories, and none of the neighbors like al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The weak link here would be Pakistan, which is already a problem in and of itself. BUT, the force in Pakistan that props up the Taliban is Pakistan’s intelligence service (the “ISI”). The ISI use the Taliban as a way to destabilize Afghanistan and fight off Iranian and Indian influence in Afghanistan. If Afghanistan were broken up, then the ISI would no longer need the Taliban. Indeed, their concerns then would turn to maintaining the stability of Pakistan, which would mean ending the Taliban.

Option Three: Our final option would be to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban. In exchange for the Taliban kicking out al-Qaeda, we would either (1) cut the country in half, leaving them with the part they already hold, (2) walk away and let the locals sort it out, or (3) force some sort of power-sharing arrangement on Karzai that included the Taliban.

The advantage to this would be that we could somewhat-credibly declare victory, al-Qaeda would be denied the Afghan haven, and this would likely prevent foreign powers from getting involved. And if the Taliban don’t want to agree, then we use Option Two and their whole country disappears right out from underneath them.

As I read the tea leaves, we are giving up at the end of December. If we don’t come up with a better plan than "keep doing what isn’t working," we will leave Afghanistan in disgrace and we will face a much broader mess. But if we act now, and we stop thinking about winning this war in the traditional sense, then we can salvage a real victory. If we don’t, then this will be a defeat we will regret.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why Americans Don’t Like Soccer

Every four years, the world holds an international soccer event called the World Cup. And every four years, there is a full court press to convince us that Americans should love soccer. We don’t. We won’t. There are basically two reason for this: one economic and the other political. . . or more precisely, political correctness.

Americans don’t care about soccer. Indeed, every year Harris does a poll to ask people what their favorite sport is. Soccer doesn’t rate. Here are the top eight from 2010:
• NFL (35%)
• Major League Baseball (16%)
• College Football (12%)
• Autoracing (9%)
• NBA basketball (5%)
• Hockey (4%)
• Men’s golf (4%)
• College basketball (4%)
Soccer hovers between 1% and 4%, where it has been for the last 25 years.

A lot of reasons are given for why Americans don’t like soccer, but I think what it really comes down to is a matter of economics: soccer presents a poor value for our time.

As strange as it may sound, people are economically rational creatures. That means that before we act, we look at the value of each of the alternatives and we pick the one with the highest value for our time. Value is simply the benefit we expect from the activity less the costs of engaging in the activity.

The problem for soccer is that it presents a relatively low value to the viewer. Indeed, while I agree that most goals and a great many near-miss shots on goal can present the same thrill as a running back breaking away from the pack for a touchdown or a baseball speeding toward the fence, the problem is that soccer presents too few of those moments for a two hour event. Indeed, in baseball, any pitch can result in a home run. In football, any play can result in “that moment” of the great hit or the great escape. Soccer simply does not offer anything like that. In an hour and a half soccer match, you’re looking at a couple of minutes of excitement and an hour plus of set up.

Even compared to hockey, soccer still comes up short. In principle, hockey and soccer are nearly identical games. But hockey has three times as many shots on goal per game, and the game is only 2/3 as long. Moreover, the majority of time in a hockey game is played in the danger zone where a strong shot could score. By comparison, most soccer is played in the middle of the field where scoring is essentially impossible.

Thus, even though soccer can achieve the same highs as other sports, it simply does not offer enough of them for the time commitment involved to attract an American audience.

But why are American audiences unique? Because Americans value their time differently. The rest of the world by and large values leisure time more than work time. They are obsessed with holidays, short work days and early retirement, and they are willing to give up economic progress for that free time. American’s aren’t. So when it comes to finding leisure time activities, Americans have fewer leisure hours, and they value each hour more highly. In other words, Europeans are much more willing to blow an afternoon than Americans are. This means that when Americans are looking for ways to spend their leisure time, they are much more selective, i.e. they are more concerned than other people with finding “the biggest bang for the buck.” Soccer just can’t compete with the other activities available to Americans.

Moreover, soccer is hurt in this country by its advocates. For example, too many of the attempts to get Americans to like soccer sound anti-American. We’re told that Americans aren’t smart enough or erudite enough to “get” soccer. . . could you imagine Coke using a similar ad campaign? We’re given vague (and sometimes open) parallels between soccer and socialism, which never sits well with Americans. And we’re told that we should like soccer because the rest of the world does. . . as if Americans have ever liked being told to act like the rest of the world.

Frankly, reading some of the articles on the exit of Team America, you get downright angry. These articles vacillate between insults at the public for not getting with the program and lies about tens of millions of Americans suddenly falling in love with soccer (the same lies they give at the end of each World Cup). They also love to present misleading statistics to give the impression that everyone but you is watching -- “soccer ratings up 68%”. . .twice nothing is still nothing.

Finally, soccer has become the weapon of choice for leftist in the United States. Soccer has been the vehicle that feminists have used to demand that Americans start treating women’s sports on a par with men’s sports. . . actually, that's not quite accurate: feminists have been trying to shut down men's sports for years and they see requiring equal outcomes with women's sports as a way to do that. And soccer is the sport where daffy anti-competition socialist nuts keep demanding that kids games be played without keeping score. . . so nobody feels pressured or gets their feelings hurt. None of this endears the public to soccer. It's like having Hitler endorse your aftershave.

Soccer will have a hard enough time ever breaking onto the American to-do list because of the lack of value in the game. And as long as it is a political tool of the politically correct left who are trying to remake America as a commune, it might as well forget trying.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Financial Regulation Winners and Losers

Let’s talk about Obama’s biggest achievement, THE achievement that will rally the public to the Democratic side in the upcoming election: FINANCIAL REFORM. . . (yawn), sorry. Any ways, here are the winners and losers. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the well-connected banks are the winners and you are the loser.

The winners. . .

1. Goldman Sachs and the investment banks. This bill changes nothing for these boys (see 5 below).

2. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These monster slush funds and dumping grounds for former Democratic staffers are big winners because somehow the Democrats couldn’t find it in their corrupt little hearts to fix their regulations. . . even though Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac directly caused the financial meltdown and will cost taxpayers $389 billion. Laughably, the MSM actually calls Fannie and Freddie “losers” on this because the lack of new regulations means the evil Republicans will keep talking about them. Boogey boogey boogey!!

3. Wal-Mart and the Retailers. Wal-Mart won a reduction in the amount that credit card companies can charge retailers for the use of a credit card -- which will save retailers $20 billion a year, which the Democrats are sure will be passed on to consumers. Wink wink.

4. Massachusetts Banks. To get Scott Brown’s vote, the bill includes exemptions for State Street bank and other Massachusetts banks from “the Volcker Rule,” which will keep banks everywhere outside of Massachusetts from trading with their own money. . . mostly.

5. CME Group. Blanche Lincoln forced a provision into the bill that requires that derivates be cleared by a third party and traded on an open exchange. The organization who led this charge is the CME Group, which coincidentally, provides just such an exchange! It's like a Christmas miracle!

6. Derivative Traders. Blanche Lincoln wanted to appear to crack down on the $600 trillion market in derivatives. So she put in place regulations that prevent banks from trading the more exotic derivatives. . . unless they do it through subsidiaries. This shell game is what is causing the MSM to call Goldman and the boys “losers” in this. Not coincidentally, the stock of Goldman and the boys went up between 4% and 6% right after this "punishing bill" was announced.

The losers. . .

1. Bank Customers. Bank fees are going up about $19 billion a year, almost the exact same amount the retailers won’t be sharing with you. If you believe the Democrats, then banks will pay these fees. If you aren’t stupid, then you know bank customers will pay these fees.

2. Retail Customers. Retailers also won the right to require minimum dollar amounts on credit card purchases.

3. The Democrats and the Liberal Press. The Democrats believe that they have finally achieved something they can sell to the public, and they are going to make this the focus of their campaign. Heh heh heh. . . oops, I mean, oh no, whatever will we do now!

4. Us. This bill does nothing to stop future bailouts, does nothing to clean up our archaic regulatory scheme, and simply ensconces the principle that big lobbyists get what they want from our government, and you pay for it. Moreover, a golden opportunity for true bi-partisan, expert-based reform is squandered. . . as usual.

In fact, the only good thing to come out of this bill is that mortgage issuers will now be required to hold 5% stakes in the mortgages they issue. This will slow mortgages and make them more expensive, but it will also help slow the growth of legal-yet-basically-fraudulent mortgages because the issuers will now stand to lose when they make bad mortgages.

There you have it. I hope you’re still awake. . . so do the Democrats.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Case For A Democratic Debacle In November

I’ve been trying to avoid getting too positive about the November elections, because it’s still a long time until November and many things can happen. But the evidence is coming in that the Democrats are going to get routed and that nothing will turn that around. Here’s the case for a huge disaster for the Democrats.

1. The Numbers Game. The Senate is a problem because there just aren’t enough Democrats up for election in November. But the House looks set for a Republican tidal wave. Here are some key facts:
• Republicans can capture 70 seats without picking up a single seat where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans.

• Republicans lead the generic ballot by around 8%, and have done so for more than a year now. This translates into somewhere between a 70-100 seat pickup in the House.

• Turnout is critical in elections, and 62% of Republicans are excited to vote in November. Only 37% of Democrats are excited. And as we saw with CommiCon, the far left is demoralized and isn’t turning out and won’t be contributing time or money.

• The media talks about an anti-incumbent mood in the country, but polls show that 55% of people want their Republican representatives re-elected, only 41% want their Democratic representatives re-elected.

• Republicans look like they will capture 33 governorships covering 318 House seats (73% of the total). This could boost the above numbers simply with the coattail factor.
2. The Image Problem. Democrats have an image problem: 49% of Americans think the Democratic party is “too liberal.” You can win being too conservative in America, but you can’t win being too liberal. How bad have things gotten? Democrats are retiring or refusing to run all over the country, whereas Republicans are piling into the primaries. Even Harry Reid’s own son won't use his own last name in his ads for his race for Governor of Nevada (he still trails by 22%).

The Democrats also have shown that they are masters of corruption, which does not play well with the American public (usually listed as the number 2 or 3 concern of voters):
• Blagojevich is busy linking Obama and Rahm Emmanuel to attempts to sell Obama’s seat.

• Obama has been caught illegally offering government jobs to Sestak and Romanoff if they would drop out of their Democratic primaries.

• No one in Obama’s administration paid their taxes.

• Team Obama is thicker with lobbyists than K Street itself.

• Pelosi has spent like a queen on alcohol, office decorations, junkets and private planes.

• And every bill the Democrats pass is loaded with giveaways and dirty deals. And I’m not just talking about the Louisiana Purchase or the Nebraska Compromise, I’m talking about money for contributors and regulations to harm competitors of contributors, e.g. like ObamaCare preventing the creation or expansion of doctor-owned hospitals.
3. The Angry Middle. To win a general election, you need a majority of independent voters. For a year now, 2/3 of independents have been mirroring the views of Republican voters.

4. With Friends Like These. . . Meanwhile, the Democrats are fracturing. The left is running against moderates. The moderates have turned on Obama/Pelosi’s agenda. The activists are demanding suicidal policies be put in place while they still can, and Pelosi openly talked about sacrificing her moderates to get her agenda passed.

Moreover, none of them are defending ObamaCare or the Stimulus anymore -- their two big “achievements.” In fact, most are specifically avoiding town halls and won’t even do open questions at public appearances. And now, their left flank is forcing them into a war with Arizona and the vast majority of the American public.

Also, with the coming of election season, things are turning ugly in Democratic ranks. From the vaguely racist attacks on the winner of the South Carolina nomination, to the refusal to support the Lyndon LaRoucher who won the nomination in Texas, to the attempts to buy off competition for incumbents, the Democrats have shown themselves to be hypocritical corruptarians, who will do whatever it takes to protect “the establishment.”

5. The Unforgiveable Sins. The Democrats also have done several things that are simply unforgiveable to the public. They hoped that the public would forget about these by the time the elections rolled around, but the public hasn’t forgotten:
• ObamaCare: More than 60% of the public want ObamaCare repealed. In fact, this desire is so strong that the Democrats dropped their plan to paint Republicans as wanting to repeal ObamaCare.

• Seniors are furious about the $500 billion in Medicare cuts.

• Unemployment remains at 9.7%, with real joblessness above 17%.

• The Democrats have spent us into Greece-like levels of near bankruptcy. And they just can’t stop themselves.
6. A Deluge of “Other Shoes”. Everything the Democrats have done is starting to blow up on them. The Democrats have been hoping against reality that the economy would recover despite their economic policies and that people would give them credit for the recovery just in time for the election. But that’s not happening.

Twelve months after the end of a recession, we should be experiencing tremendous growth, massive job growth, and strong confidence across the economy. But growth is being projected downward again, consumer spending is anemic, bank failures are at their highest point in two years, foreclosures are at an all time high, unemployment is growing, and we are experiencing job losses -- not growth.

Also, their failure to act rationally last year and to trim state governments means that state governments will start running out of money, cutting worker pay and jobs right at the end of the summer.

7. All The Wrong Moves. Finally, the Democrats have one big handicap that will keep them from recovering: poor leadership. Obama’s approval rating remains stuck at the bottom of its range, between 40% and 45% (if you exclude black voters, this falls to 39% with 54% negative -- this is important because blacks are clustered in "majority-minority" districts designed to make sure black candidates get sent to Congress, which also means blacks rarely affect other districts). This is because he keeps making all the wrong moves.
• BP was not his fault, but it became his fault when he started dithering. He did the same thing he accused Bush of doing, only worse. Rather than going to the Gulf and appearing sympathetic, Obama remained silent. He played basketball, went on vacation, and went to the theater, all the while claiming he was too busy to do anything. Then he got angry, but never showed leadership. Instead, he flailed around impotently and looked like a man who wants to destroy all business. This hole is going to keep leaking right until the elections and every drop is hurting the Democrats. And even if it somehow stops in August, it’s destroyed the time the Democrats needed to repackage themselves.

• As I’ll outline in a couple days, Afghanistan is a failure. That won’t sit well with the American public. What’s worse, the fight with Gen. McChrystal reflects poorly on Obama (even though I fault McChrystal) because the public is already suspicious of the Democrats when it comes to the military, and this will only remind the public of the Democrats’ yellow streak.

• Obama also doesn’t know how to win the public back. He thinks trumpeting financial regulation will do it. Big whoop. The public doesn’t know what a derivative is or care.

• Finally, Obama has a penchant for insulting everyone with everything he does. The Democrats demonized the voters with their mocking of the Tea Party. They’ve blasted “greedy” doctors and “greedy” bankers. They blast the religious, the patriotic, and non-union workers. And they call us all nasty names because we want to see illegal immigration stopped. Moreover, Obama’s “famous cool” is turning out to be petulance and anger. People don’t like angry, whiny politicians.
To sum this up, the numbers favor us. All the poll numbers portend a tidal wave. The Democrats have alienated the middle, energized the right, demoralized the left. Their record is a record of failure and the few things that might have helped them are now turning sour. Moreover, they don’t seem to know how to fix this. And even if they did, they have insulted the public, and the public is no longer listening. Sounds like a disaster is inevitable now.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why Obama's Poll Numbers Keep Falling

One of the interesting facets of the Obama administration has been how he’s managed to make his poll numbers not only hit bottom, but how he’s managed to keep them there without a single upward blip. Some people say it’s his leftist politics. Other say it’s his incompetence or his arrogance. But I think the answer lies in something far more interesting. I think the answer lies in a very famous book from 1513 A.D.

Niccolo Machiavelli has gone down as history’s most cynical thinker. Indeed, many people claim that Machiavelli was an evil man whose views are the stuff of dictators and tyrants and deceivers. But that’s the ignorant view. The reality is that Machiavelli was a keen observer of the human condition, and he well understood the relationship between rulers and their subjects. And it is Obama’s failure to understand the principles laid out by Machiavelli that have caused his steady unpopularity.

In his seminal work, The Prince, Machiavelli makes two key points about leadership. First, if a leader is faced with taking negative or unpleasant actions, the leader must do so swiftly, quickly, and all at once. The leader should never drag out such actions. But, secondly, if the leader has the opportunity to take pleasant actions, i.e. to hand out goodies or patronage, the leader should stretch that out over a long period of time. Obama violates both points.

1. Cruel Actions

Machiavelli warns that a leader who must take “cruel action” must be decisive in their actions, must act swiftly and effectively, and that these cruel actions must be short-lived. The reason is simple. Cruel actions anger people and generate fear.

Think about this in terms of your job. If you came to work one day to find that your boss fired half the staff, this might be startling, but it won’t terrify you so long as you know that these are the only firings that will happen. But if your boss starts firing people every day, that will terrify you, whether you are likely to be fired or not. The reason is that human beings crave certainty. Even though we may hate the idea that so many of our colleagues have been fired all at once, the first scenario still gives us the comfort of knowing that we will not be next. Combined with the remarkable human ability to put unpleasantness behind us (and to turn a blind eye to injustice that does not affect us directly), this scenario allows time to heal the wounds and happiness to return.

But in the second scenario, where the boss keeps firing people, there is no certainty. Thus, we instinctively fear that one day it will be us. Moreover, the unpleasantness of seeing our colleagues fired cannot be healed by time because the wound is refreshed every day that more people are fired. Thus, even if it's the same number of people fired, the "moral" effects are much worse in the second scenario.

The same is true in politics. If you keep raising taxes over and over, people will fear that their taxes will be next. If you cut benefits or fire employees or impose regulations, the results are the same. The longer you stretch out the pain, the more upset people will be, the greater the number of people who will be upset, and the longer the pain will last.

Obama, however, fails to grasp this concept.

When Obama came to power, there were a lot of “cruel actions” that had to be taken. We had a recession that was being prolonged with overly-generous government benefits. We had a banking industry that was out of control and sucking the public treasury dry. We had foreign “friends” who were harming our interests. We had a public sector that was over-paid and under-worked. We had a deficit that was too large to be sustained. Thus, Obama needed to cut federal pay and benefits, fire workers, cut off the banks, regulate and break up the “too big to fail” institutions, and slap down our ungrateful friends. He did none of these things. But the need to do them didn’t go away. So rather than taking these actions and getting them over with, Obama now imposes the prospect that he will be taking these steps over the next one, two, and three years. This is exactly what Machiavelli warned never to do. Rather than inflicting the pain once on a defined set of people, Obama has created a situation of uncertainty where no one knows who will be next to suffer, and everyone fears it might be them, and no one knows when the pain will end.

Even the legislation Obama proposes violates this principle. For example, ObamaCare slowly hands out the pain by triggering new provisions slowly, year after year. The same is true with his proposed cap and trade system, which brings on an increasing amount of regulation and restrictions each year, and with each of his other proposals; they drip out the pain like Chinese water torture.

Thus, Obama has undertaken a course of action that leads to a fearful and angry population that is nervously awaiting the next cruel act to beset them. And time can never heal these wounds, because they are constantly refreshed.

2. Patronage

Obama also fails to grasp the other side of the coin. Machiavelli tells us that when a leader hands out benefits, i.e. patronage, they should do so slowly over time. There are several reasons for this. First, this prevents recipients from getting everything they are going to get at once and then becoming ungrateful. Keep in mind that the same human trait that lets us move beyond bad things also makes good feelings fade into memory; hence the adage “what have you done for me lately?” Spreading out benefits keeps those good feelings fresh. Moreover, if people come to expect (or depend upon) favors from their ruler, then they will be loath to replace them. But if they think the benefits have stopped, then they have no reason to remain loyal.

Obama is doing this wrong as well. When he came to power, he handed out all kinds of benefits on day one. He gave GM to the unions. He gave a wad of cash to various interest groups. He handed out massive increases in benefits, pay raises to government employees, money to states and businesses, and he promised free lunches to everyone in the form of a massive stimulus plan to spur job growth. But that was then and this is now, and what has he given lately? Indeed, since the golden handouts of the first few weeks, Obama has given out nothing, and there’s nothing left on the schedule to be handed out.

Think about this. If you were an Obama supporter, either on the left or the near-left, what has Obama given you since that first week and what has he done to make you think you’ll get anything else if you continue to support him? Environmental protection? No. Jobs? No. Any more increases coming in benefits? No. You got everything you’re ever going to get.


This is why Obama’s popularity has steadily collapsed and why it stays down so relentlessly. He has created an environment of anger and fear by slowly dripping out cruel acts, and by delaying others that everyone knows must still be coming. At the same time, whatever benefits he handed out when he first took office have long since faded into memory and there is no prospect of any more coming. These are the exact conditions that Machiavelli warned his Prince to avoid, and this is why Obama's poll numbers stay down without respite.

Who knew an ancient text could teach us so much?

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Primary Game

With primary season coming to an end, I find myself wondering about our primary system. Should we allow non-party people to participate? Should we allow caucuses or anything less than a full primary? What has particularly raised these issues is what is going on in California, where ballot initiative Proposition 14 is looking to open California’s primaries and, basically, combine them.

Proposition 14, which currently has 60% support, would amend the California state constitution to make primaries open and non-partisan. The ostensible idea behind this is to let unaffiliated voters have a say in the selection of candidates. The thinking is that this would lead to more moderate candidates. But would it really?

Under the new system, everyone regardless of party, would receive the same ballot with the same list of candidates. The top two vote-getters would then face off in the general election. Thus, theoretically, Pelosi would face a second Democrat in November. Similarly, two Republicans could square off against each other in Orange County. And this would likely happen a lot. . . but there's a twist. For while a study by the Centre for Government Studies found that more than 1/3 of the races for the state legislature or Congress could have produced runoffs between members of the same party if this system had been in place over the past few elections, almost all of these would have happened in overwhelmingly Democratic districts in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

So I guess the question becomes, could the few Republicans in these districts, combined with the few independents and the few Democrats who would never vote for a Republican but might vote for a moderate Democrat, produce enough votes to toss out someone like a Pelosi in favor of a moderate Democrat? I must admit that I like the idea of tossing out Pelosi, even if it’s with another Democrat, but I don’t think this will work.

Democrats have shown time and again that they are much more susceptible to groupthink than Republicans, so I see this as a much greater danger for the Republicans. Indeed, this sounds like an easy way to game the system by running a large number of Republicans and keeping the number of Democratic candidates small, so that you end up spreading the Republican vote and routinely getting two Democrats. In fact, I'm sure there are dozens of RINOs salivating at the chance to hurt their own party.

Moreover, Washington State ran this kind of system for 70 years until 2003, and they continued to produce reliably liberal Democrats. And I find it interesting that Democrats support this plan in liberal states, but don’t even mention it in deeply conservative states. That’s rather telling in and of itself. What this sounds like to me is nothing more than a gimmick with the potential for freezing out the less popular party, which in California happens to be the Republicans. And that’s not the only reason I oppose it.

I also oppose this measure because political parties are private organizations that should have the right under the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of association, to choose who their nominees are and to decide who gets to vote to make that decision. State governments should not be allowed to tell parties that they must let non-party members choose party candidates.

Further, I am troubled by adding more gamesmanship to our electoral system. Politics is dirty enough already without adding more opportunities to game the system. I don’t think it helps the reputation of our democracy when we use a caucus system that results in candidates claiming that the other candidate shipped voters in to rig the system, when we use open primaries that let one party manipulate the selection process of the other party, and when we don’t require voters to produce identification and we don’t pursue people who commit election fraud or intimidation. I certainly don’t think it will help our reputation when 1/3 of the races in California suddenly feature only Democratic candidates.

This is a bad idea.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Problem With The America Right -- A Realistic View

In my last article, I took apart an article from The Economist which purported to outline the problems with the American right. Their arguments were of course, garbage. Basically, they concluded that the problem with the American right is that it doesn’t do the bidding of the left. Boo hoo. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with the right. Here are the problems as I see them.

1. Poor Communication Skills.

The biggest problem with the right, and the one that has frustrated me to no end for decades, is that the right is very poor at communicating:
Conservative Politicians Don’t Understand The Principles
First, few of our politicians actually understand the principles for which they stand. The most obvious example is John McCain, who showed during the last election that he didn’t know the difference between an “earmark” and a deficit, didn’t understand how the Federal budget works, didn’t understand how or why free market principles work, didn’t understand when regulation is necessary and when it isn’t, and didn’t have a clue how tax cuts stimulate economic activity. Basically, he knew the buzzwords but doesn’t understand the principles.

What this means is that McCain and the rest are incapable of explaining those principles to the public in a way that is understandable and persuasive. It also means that McCain and the rest are incapable of coming up with conservative, free market solutions to the nation’s problems. More than anything, this is what keeps the public wary of Republicans -- they don’t know what we stand for, we can’t seem to explain it, and we often seem not to have any solutions to offer.

This is why sixty percent of the American public shares conservative views, but only forty percent are willing to identify themselves as “conservatives.”
Conservative “Thinkers” Don’t Understand Politics
Secondly, most of the “thinkers” on the right who understand the principles don’t understand politics. This harms our ability to reach the public. Indeed, for years now, it seems that conservatives have been incapable of speaking English. Whenever they speak about budget matters or tax policy, they speak in terms of line items and supplemental measures, and they use heavy economic and accounting lingo. This is the political equivalent of sleeping pills. The public wants to know what you stand for, they don’t want to have to take a masters course in accounting just to follow what you’re saying.

Moreover, these thinkers live too much in the land of pure theory. They never understand that politics is not played on a field of pure logic where all values are clearly defined. It is played on the field of emotional appeals where believability trumps fact and imagery trumps truth. By not getting this, these thinkers repeatedly prove themselves incapable of coming up with compelling arguments, and they routinely come up with arguments that only anger the public.

For example, it is absolutely true that increasing unemployment benefits will increase the incentive for people to stay unemployed. That’s undeniable. Yet using that argument to oppose an increase in unemployment benefits during a recession is political poison. But conservatives stupidly did this because they assumed the public would see the logic of their position. They didn’t. They saw conservatives being “uncaring.”

This same impulse causes these thinkers to fall into traps set by the left. For example, the left loves to frame capitalism as “survival of the fittest,” which scares the heck out of the unfit. But the right, rather than refuting this mischaracterization, almost revels in it. Indeed, they pound their chest and say, “absolutely, and that makes us great.” But in reality, capitalism is about reallocating resources to create better opportunities for everyone. Firms that sell things no one wants go under, and new firms put those resources to better uses, and everyone benefits. Capitalism doesn't abandon people. It is socialism that leaves people behind in perpetual ghettos of joblessness and shortages.

Sadly, the right never fights back on these mischaracterizations because it doesn’t understand the power that emotional appeals have. Instead, it sits around telling itself, “no one is going to believe that, because that’s wrong.” But that’s not how humans work. Of all the recent conservatives, only Reagan understood the need to fight back on this front.
Conservative Activists Live In A Bubble
A lot of people won't like this one, but it’s true: conservative activists are a problem.

Politics is about persuading the public that your goals are worthy of being put into law. But activists (left and right) rarely understand the public. Indeed, they tend to live in bubbles because they surround themselves with people who share their views. This causes them to become increasingly extremist in their thinking because there is no one to put the breaks on their “enthusiasm,” and it causes them to lose touch with the public because everyone they know agrees with them. This also causes them to wrongly assume that the public supports them.

As a result of this, when activists open their mouths, they often advocate things that are genuinely shocking or scary to the public. And this is a problem. Indeed, moving public opinion is like steering an oil tanker: you need to nudge it inch by inch, winning its trust the entire way. That means taking only the steps the public will accept. When the public sees that the world hasn't ended, then you ask for the next step -- not before. But activists don’t want to hear this because they “know” that the public is "really” behind them, because that’s all they hear from their friends.

And of course, this leads to disaster because the public may share some of the activists' views, but they definitely haven't hit the same level of extremism. Thus, while the public may accept "limit this" or "regulate that," it freaks out when it starts hearing “ban this” or “ban that” or “eliminate that.” Nor does it understand whatever nuance the activists are using. For example, when activists say “eliminate the Department of Education,” the public hears “end public education,” not “free education from federal interference.” When activists whine about certain books or television shows, the public hears this as “ban books” or "ban films," and they wonder what restrictions the activists are planning to heap onto a culture that the public generally likes. It doesn't help that so many on the right proudly proclaim how they "never watch television" or something similar. This is also why the nostalgia that besets so many on the right is so fatal to public opinion: no one outside the bubble wants to return to 1950.

The key to effective persuasion is to offer the public steps that they consider acceptable. That means finding ways to make your goals seem like their goals. But the activists don’t get this because they assume that the public is secretly already with them -- and quite a few actually don’t care at all what the public thinks, they are so obsessively focused on their pet peeve that they want it ensconced in law no matter what the public thinks. This makes the activists a problem because they tend to turn off and scare the public a great deal.

What makes this worse is that the media ignores or downplays the fruitier activists on the left, but it highlights those on the right. Further, the thinkers and politicians mentioned above are very poor at handling the activists, thus the public tends to think that these activists speak for the right as a whole.

2. No Plan.

And that brings me to the second big problem. The right has no plan at the moment. The reason for this is a combination of the above factors. Conservative politicians have no plan because they don’t understand conservative principles. Conservative thinkers offer plans, but they aren’t politically feasibly. And the activists are screaming for things that sound insane.

This makes the right very easy to characterize as the “party of NO” and as the party of extremists. This is what makes it so difficult to convince the missing 20% who share conservative views that they should be on the side of the conservatives.

Conservatives need to draw up a short platform of maybe ten points, based on actual conservative principles, to brand themselves. This platform needs to be spelled out in easy to understand, highly visual, and emotionally-grabbing language. These principles should not be vague or generic (e.g. “we’re patriotic”), and they should not be a laundry list prepared by activists (e.g. "eliminate the Department of Education") or lobbyists (e.g. "increase insurance coverage for all"). They need to be real principles. And this platform must be written to reach the modern public, i.e. it should not be written by people who like to image themselves living in 1776.

3. Too Many Knee Jerk Reactions.

Finally, too many conservatives have become knee-jerk thinkers. Just because the other side advocates something, doesn’t mean it’s bad. Just because someone you like advocates something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. And stop circling the wagons around rotten eggs. When someone is corrupt, they are bad for us all around. If someone is stupid, they aren’t going to represent us well. And just because the left attacks someone, doesn’t mean they are a good representatives for our side. I hear this all the time: “they are attacking X because they fear X.” Really? Is that why you poke fun at Biden? Because you fear him?

Ditto the blog world. I’m amazed at how shrill and hyperbolic the blogosphere is. I still remember clearly how we told you that Obama was a fool from day one. But at the same time, conservative bloggers everywhere else were lost in a world of fantasy paranoia where Obama was the fulfillment of a secret master plan by Muslims and long dead evil-genius leftists to convert us into the Soviet Union redux. Even today, reading most blogs is like listening to air raid sirens. . . “Wwwwwaaaaaaah!! Obama did ___ today! He’s Hitler! He’s a socialist! He’s planning to destroy the country! There has never been a graver threat to our country that what he did today. . . at least until tomorrow!” Many on talk radio are no better.

Knee jerk reactions and paranoia have been the domain of the left for decades now. Conservatives are thinkers. Our views require understanding and thought, and they need intelligent, capable salespeople. Leave the knee jerk stuff to the left.

That's what I see as wrong with the American right today. Thoughts?

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Monday, June 21, 2010

"The Problem With The American Right" -- They Aren't Leftists

I should stop reading The Economist, I really should. All it does is anger me. In the June 13 print issue, they did a story titled: “What’s wrong with America’s right.” Of course, their conclusion is that the problem with the right is that it’s not the left. But what else do you expect from an “unbiased” magazine that routinely spits out increasingly far left tripe?

First, they start with a strawman set up by telling us how this should be “happy days” for the Republicans! Apparently the public is “jaded” about the lack of jobs, and Obama’s “perceived failure” to get a grip on the oil spill is not playing well either. And did you know his popularity is around 50% and that 60% of the public think the country is on the wrong track? But somehow, these still aren't happy times for Republicans. This must be the fault of something being wrong with the American right!

This is, of course, the beginning of the propaganda. First, Obama’s approval rating is between 40% and 45%, which doesn’t round up to 50%. And it’s 68% who say the country is on the wrong track, that doesn’t round down to 60% either. It's funny how both rounding mistakes favor the left, isn't it? And it’s funny how people were “right to be upset” about 6% unemployment under Bush, but are “jaded” now that they’re upset about 10% under Obama. And as for this “perceived failure” garbage, even leftists are starting to get upset at Obama’s lies, neglect, over-promises, misplaced “ass kicking” and general do-nothing-ness about the Gulf.

Secondly, polls are showing the Republicans with the highest support among the public since 1994. The Democrats are at historic lows in the polls, including a recent NPR poll that found that 49% of Americans think the Democratic Party is “too liberal.” Republicans are likely to sweep the House and have a decent shot at the Senate. The same NPR poll just mentioned showed that a majority of Americans (55%) want their Republican incumbents re-elected, but only 41% want their Democratic incumbent re-elected. Moreover, Republican voters (and Republican leaning independents) are very energized about this election, Democrats are not -- 62% compared to 37%). Most polls also show that Obama is unlikely to get re-elected. Republicans are winning the governors races in a dramatic fashion, and Democrats are dropping out of races all over the country. So who says these aren't these happy days?

After setting up their fake premise, The Economist moved on to diagnosing the problem. Here's what they think is wrong with the right:

1. “The Republicans at the moment are less a party than an ongoing civil war (with, from a centrist point of view, the wrong side usually winning).” Really? This old canard?

Isn’t it funny how self-described “centrists” never ask the question “what’s wrong with the left?” They ask this about the right all the time, but they never can seem to bring themselves to look at the left. Sure, they point out that Clinton was a “playa” and that Obama might be “too perfect” for what we mere mortals deserve, but that’s about as far as they get. They seem incapable of noticing the war going on in the Democratic ranks between the far left and the “moderates,” and the tribalism that has stymied the Democrats' entire agenda, but somehow the fact that Republicans don’t all agree means “civil war.” Of course, despite this “civil war,” they also always seem to conclude that somehow the Republicans have uniform opinions. . . which is, after all, the premise of The Economist's article.

2. The right consists of “the old intolerant, gun-toting, immigrant-bashing, mainly southern right,” which is “egged on by a hysterical blogosphere and the ravings of Fox News blowhards.” Yeah, that’s not a far-left mischaracterization there.

Forget that 75% of Americans believe the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own guns, and that 69% believe that cities don’t have the power to ban handguns and that only 39% think that stricter gun control laws are needed. . . only right wing racist Southern Republicans support gun rights. Forget that 70% of Americans support Arizona’s law and oppose illegal immigration. Forget that Republicans dominate every part of the country that is not part of a big city. And, as for Fox, forget that The Economist has never called out a single left-wing news organization for bias and, in the same issue, even called The Los Angeles Times “respected” and “unbiased.”

When 70% of the public believes something that you think is extremist, then you are the extremist. Sorry Economist, you’re living in a leftist bubble.

3. “As for ideas, the Republicans seem to be reducing themselves into exactly what the Democrats say they are: the nasty party of No.” Funny, I see the Republicans offering all kinds of alternatives on every bill. . . it’s the Democrats who are saying “my way or nothing.”

4. “Do Republicans favor state bail-outs for banks or not? If they are against them, as they protest, why are they doing everything they can to sabotage a financial-reform bill that will make them less likely?”

Well, for starters, because the bill you’re whining about would have made bailouts more likely, not less. It even sets up a tax fund to support future bailouts. Secondly, the Democrats can pass this bill if they want to, so don’t blame anyone else. Third, even if this bill stopped bailouts, that’s not all that’s in the bill. The bill includes all kinds of bad things. Hence, your stupid argument is like saying, “isn't Roosevelt a hypocrite for opposing Hitler's policies? After all, Hitler's policies will lead to massive economic stimulus.”

5. “During the row over health care, the right demanded smaller deficits but refused to countenance any cuts in medical spending on the elderly.” Funny, I don’t remember that. It seems to me Republicans were opposed to Obama's socialist approach and never said they wouldn’t countenance cuts in government programs if they led to real reform. And aren't you the people who favor all government spending any ways, so why are you upset by this? Also, aren’t Republicans supposed to be heartless bastards who want to toss old people out into the streets? At least try to keep your propaganda straight.

6. “Is the party of ‘drill, baby, drill’ in favor of tighter regulation of oil companies or not? If not, why it is berating Mr. Obama for events a mile beneath the ocean?” How do you spell “strawman” in British?

Seriously, if The Economist can’t tell the difference between arguments favoring increased drilling and arguments against government failure to do its inspection job and requiring compliance with safety regulations, or if it can’t tell the difference between arguments to reduce pointless government regulation and complaints about (1) Obama’s dithering, (2) his absenteeism, (3) his whining and faked “ass kicking,” (4) his lies, (5) his total failure of leadership, (6) his failure and refusal to reform the government, (7) his self-serving finger pointing, and (8) his cozy relationship with industry, then The Economist needs to fire its incompetent staff and start over.

7. “Many of America’s most prominent business leaders are privately as disappointed by the right as they are by the statist Mr. Obama.” Oh no!

You mean the same quasi-socialists who want to use the government treasury to enrich themselves, to protect their financial bets, and who wanted things like ObamaCare to unload their healthcare costs onto taxpayers? You mean we’ve lost those guys? Whatever will we do?

Let’s put this all together. The problem with the American right is that they (1) don’t suffer from groupthink, (2) that they believe the things 70% of the American public believes about ObamaCare, deficits, immigrants, and guns, (3) that they have a voice in the blogosphere and on Fox News, (4) that Democrats voted down all of the alternative bills they offered (and The Economist apparently didn’t know about those bills), (5) that they won’t pass the Democrats’ financial regulation bill, (6) that they opposed ObamaCare, (7) that they are critical of Obama’s mishandling of the BP spill, and (8) that big-business socialists don’t like them.

Sounds like the “problem with the right” is that they aren’t the left.

Or maybe, the problem really is with the left. Maybe the problem is that the left, as evidenced by the “centrist” Economist (LOL!), doesn’t seem to understand how far out of touch they are with the American people?

Maybe I should cancel that subscription after all.

(P.S. Tomorrow night I'll give my take on the real problems with the American right.)

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Thursday, June 17, 2010


I know most of you don’t care about foreign affairs, but this one is kind of interesting. Ever since Castro came to power, he’s been trying to spread his revolution around the world. They’ve funded and supplied leftist rebels throughout South and Central America. They sent troops to Angola. And now, it looks like they’ve conquered Venezuela. Seriously.

When Hugo Chavez came to power in Venezuela, he did so democratically and with the backing of the vast number of peasants in Venezuela. Since that time, he’s signed all kinds of bilateral agreements with Cuba where Cuba provided technical know-how and advisors in exchange for oil, oil which bankrupt Cuba desperately needs since it lost its Soviet backers.

So how many Cubans are we talking about? At last count, Cuba has about 40,000 “advisors” in Venezuela. What’s more, they seem to be running the place. Here are some of things the Cubans control:
• Cubans control the training of the national police, an organization created last year and modeled on the Cuban secret police.

• Cuban agents occupy key posts in Venezuela’s military intelligence agency.

• Cubans built the digital radio communications system used by the security forces, which gives them access to antenna locations and radio frequencies.

• Cubans run the electrical system.

• Cubans control the ports.

• Cubans designed and control the computerized identification card system, which includes personal information on all residents.

• Cubans designed and control the passport control and immigration systems.

• Cubans designed and control the health care system.

• Cubans designed and control the public registries, the business registries, and the notary system.
In fact, Cuban control is so thorough that Cuban advisors are known to wield more power than the Venezuelan officials whom they supposedly advise. Coffee growers, for example, say they answer directly to Cuba’s former trade minister Barbara Castillo, rather than the Venezuelans who supposedly run the trade ministry.

In another example, the former Venezuelan ambassador to the U.N. protested the seizure of his farm by turning over his ownership documents to the Cuban embassy rather than the Venezuelan authorities.

Chavez himself accidentally acknowledged this reality last year when he announced that a large number of medical clinics would be closing. His slip up was admitting that he had heard about this from Castro, rather than any Venezuelan officials, because data from the medical system goes to Cuba before it gets released to the Venezuelan government.

Chavez tries to downplay this, saying that: “Cuba helps us modestly with some things that I’m not going to detail. Everything Cuba does for Venezuela is to strengthen the homeland.”

But others aren’t buying it. Froilan Barrios of the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers says that the “oil and petrochemicals [industries] are completely penetrated by Cuban G2,” which is Castro’s intelligence service. He also says that when they threatened a strike in the oil industry, Cuban officials threatened them. Coincidentally, Venezuela sends 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba. Moreover, the government will not allow the unionization of worksites run by the Cubans.

The military isn’t happy about this either. Former Brigadier General Antonio Rivero resigned in protest because of the control Cuba exerts over their military. Says Rivero, “They’ve crossed a line. They’ve gone beyond what should be permitted and what an alliance should be.” He specifically complains about Cuban officials running high level meetings, training snipers, and establishing a system of bunkers around the country where weapons are being concealed. He speculates that if Chavez loses in the next election, the Cubans could “become part of a guerrilla force.”

Interestingly, when Chavez flies to Cuba, he does so on board Cuban military jets. He also uses Cuban intelligence to spy on dissidents.

Castro and Chavez even got a time share on Sean Penn’s affections.

Sounds like a puppet state to me.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Obama Exposes Liberal Hypocrisy

For nearly three decades now, the left has whined about dozens of issues. Of course, as most of us on the right recognized, they were lying. They didn’t really care about environmentalism or whistleblowers or a dozen other issues. What they cared about was using these issues as Trojan horses to get their socialist views pushed into law. Basically, these were fronts for leftist Democrats. And now their record of silence in the face of the actions of Team Obama have proven this beyond any doubt.

1. Environmentalists: Let’s start with the most obvious. Environmentalists more than any others on the left have exposed themselves during this administration. They have turned a blind eye to everything Obama has done because they don’t care about the environment, they care about electing leftists. In fact, it’s gotten so obvious that even the left-friendly Politico has noticed.

Consider the BP spill. Had the BP spill occurred under Bush, there would be an enviro-palooza going on right now in the Gulf with dope smoking hippies and celebrities as far as the eye can see spewing out hateful statements about Bush. But with Obama in power, we hear nothing but silence. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. We have heard from environmentalists, just not what we should have heard:
• Last week, a dozen environmentalist groups bought a full page ad in The Washington Post to thank Obama for putting a hold on an Alaskan oil drilling project.

• Sierra Club chairman Carl Pope recently said, “President Obama is the best environmental president we’ve had since Teddy Roosevelt.”
So Obama continues Bush’s evil policies and suddenly those policies become acceptable? And Obama fails utterly to get a grip on the BP disaster, but he gets a free pass? And for anyone who thinks Obama has just been a victim of circumstance in the BP disaster, check out this lengthy attack on Obama’s mismanagement of the BP crisis by Rolling Stone: Click here. It’s eye opening about the lies and failures of Team Obama. . . too bad “environmentalists” apparently can’t read.

And, of course, this isn’t the first time the enviro-left has been silent in the face of Obama continuing evil Bush policies. While American environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund got down on their knees and praised Obama’s Copenhagen adventure, the rest of the world was saying things like:
• “Progressives worked their heart out for a guy who has gutted one of the most progressive ideas of the last century.”

• One European diplomat called Obama’s plan “a shitty, shitty deal.”

• The UK Independent called this “. . .a historic failure that will live in infamy.”

• The African delegation complained that this deal “condemns their continent to a century of devastating temperature rises.”
So the lesson is simple. Whine when the Republicans do something. . . anything, but turn the whining into praise when leftists do the exact same thing.

2. Guantanamo Bay: Do you remember how Guantanamo Bay was destroying America’s reputation? In fact, you might remember there were rallies, articles, protests, lawsuits, etc., all aimed at undoing this thing that we were told was worse than Hitler’s concentration camps. Well, Gitmo is still open for business. Moreover, Obama has tried repeatedly to take away even the legal rights that Bush gave the prisoners there. So what does the left say now? Nothing. They’ve gone silent. Once again, they whine when Republicans do something, but don’t make a peep about the same (or worse) thing when Democrats do it.

3. War: Iraq was evil. Evil Bush was planning to attack Iran. Evil Bush was killing civilians in Afghanistan -- he was using drones, "a war crime." Protests, whining, tears in bongs everywhere. Now Obama is in charge. We’re still in Iraq. We’re still in Afghanistan. Obama has expanded the use of drones, killing more civilians than ever. He’s dropped bombs on Pakistan. And the left says. . . jack. Nada. Zip. Even Code Pink has gone on to protest the Israelis because they see nothing wrong in the US anymore.

4. Influence Peddling/Lobbyists: The Democrats almost can’t say the word Republican without attaching words like “lobbyist”. In fact, they created whole foundations to point the finger at Republican connections to lobbyists. But Team Obama is riddled with lobbyists and influence peddlers, as are the staffs of every important Democrat in Congress. Favors have been handed out to special interests, access and jobs are routinely sold, and the influence peddling is at its most intense point since the Gilded Age. Yet, nary a peep from these leftist groups.

5. Medical Coverage for the Poor: Evil Republicans and greedy doctors once prevented 43 million Americans (34 million if you exclude illegals) from getting health insurance. The horror. This is a crime worse than anything Hitler did. But along came Obama, and he passed ObamaCare, which Team Obama itself estimates will leave 22 million Americans (31 million if you count illegals) without coverage. And the left says, “thanks Obama for giving us universal coverage.” Anyone see a problem with that?

6. Medicare: For decades now, AARP and their fellow travelers have put out the message that the Republicans want to destroy Medicare. Now Team Obama proposes $500 billion in cuts from the one trillion dollar program, and AARP not only does not object, they actually put out ads claiming this will be good for seniors?

7. Illegals: The evil Bush people were deporting thousands of illegal aliens back to Mexico. This was a crime against humanity of epic proportion. . . except of course when every other country does this, including Mexico. Since Obama took over, he’s stepped up the number of deportations dramatically. And the left says. . . nada. Indeed, according to the left, Arizona is the bad guy for enforcing the same law Obama is enforcing.

8. Whistleblowers and Open Government: The Democrats routinely criticized the Republicans for having closed door meetings, for not releasing records, and for failing to protect whistleblowers. Now Obama has had more closed door meetings than Bush ever did, can’t seem to release a document except by court order, and has criminally pursued more whistleblowers that Bush and Clinton combined. And the left says. . . well, nothing.

I can go on and on: free speech groups stopped complaining about Muslim efforts to pass criminal bans on anti-religious speech, the ADL stopped complaining about anti-Semitism, black groups are fine with the racist attacks on black politicians who challenge favored Democrats, consumer groups stopped complaining about Chinese goods, unions suddenly love Obama’s Bush-created trade policies, no one seems to care about Obama’s non-handling of the Nashville floods (what floods?) or his mismanagement of the Haiti crisis, and suddenly no one on the left comments on the betrayal of Tibet, Obama’s continuing evil Bush policies in South America, North Korea, the Middle East and Iran, the sleaze and sex scandals coming out of Democratic ranks, the use of the federal treasury as a piggy bank for big-corporate America, etc., etc., etc.

The silence is deafening.

In each instance, Obama has done the same that the left whined about for years. And in each instance, Obama’s conduct has been met either with total silence from leftist “activists” or even praise.

What this tells us is that the left’s words are not to be taken seriously. Their membership in various causes is nothing more than a front to support leftist Democrats. Nothing they tell us about their goals can be trusted.

Thanks Barack for clearing that up for us.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Cost of "Fixing" Global Warming

Sometimes I run across information that is too interesting to ignore, especially when the MSM has chosen to ignore it or doesn’t see its real meaning. A week or so ago, several members of the MSM were reporting that. . . well, forget what they were saying because it was all garbage. But what was interesting, was that the data they presented gives us a hint of how our economy would look if we “fixed” global warming.

Here’s the deal: the enviro-left has decided that a reduction of 20% in the amount of carbon emissions will save the planet from the evil humans intent on heating it up. Ignore for a moment the fact that they pulled the 20% figure out of each other’s rear ends (and that some are now suggesting 30%). Ignore also the fact that the warming they are talking about would be a boon to the world, particularly agriculture. Ignore also that the temperature of our planet is controlled by the sun, not carbon emissions. Ignore also the fact that mankind produces only 3% of the carbon in the atmosphere -- the rest comes from volcanoes and decaying “biomass” -- and thus, what we do is entirely irrelevant.

Basically, ignore for the moment that this theory is stupider than the idea that evil spirits cause disease and that bleeding someone with leaches will cure them. Instead, let’s just take them at their silly little words this time.

Ok, now that we know the ground rules, let’s get to the point. At the height of the Great Recession in 2008, economic activity slowed because that’s what happens during recessions. This slowing resulted in a reduction in carbon emissions in Europe and America of approximately one third of the 20% that the left is hoping to achieve. In other words, around 6%. That 6% translated into unemployment of 10% in the United States, with real unemployment drifting just above 17%. It also resulted in a dramatically slowed economy -- a drop of 3.9% of GNP, which brought with it a corresponding drop in tax revenues.

If we assume a straight-line effect, then achieving the goal of a 20% reduction in carbon emissions would mean damage to our economy equal to 3.3 times the effect of the Great Recession. That means, to achieve that 20% goal, unemployment would have gone to 21.5%, with real unemployment going to around 36.5%! The effect on GNP would be at least a drop of 12.9%. And that would be a permanent drop, not a temporary drop.

And there’s more to this, because we really can’t assume a straight line effect. Indeed, it’s always harder to squeeze the last few percentage points out of anything than it is to get the first few. So we should expect these numbers to be higher yet.

Moreover, the effects will be disproportionately felt by poor and middle class people as their food, gas and electricity costs will skyrocket. That means less mobility and less flexibility for finding new jobs. It also means a significantly higher cost to government benefits. And all of those things make the numbers worse again.

I would say that a 25% unemployment rate (40% real) is not out of the question based on these figures.

So the next time they tell you about the promise of green jobs or some such garbage, or they try to sell you the line that going green won’t hurt the economy, think back on 2008 and remember that we were only 1/3 of the way to utopia at that point. Anybody want to finish that journey?

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Monday, June 14, 2010

The "Root Causes of Terrorism"? How About "Hate"?

John Brennan is Obama’s deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security. He’s also a fool. You might remember Brennan as the guy who couldn’t tell us why Islamic terrorists want to kill us, even though bin Laden wrote a letter spelling it out clearly. Well now Brennan has opened his mouth again. Apparently, John thinks terrorists are victims, and he thinks holy war is justified.

One of the most perverted ideas liberals ever came up with was the idea that criminals aren’t responsible for their actions. Indeed, nothing highlights liberal stupidity more than this idea that criminals are “victims” of “root causes,” i.e. that criminals don’t murder, steal, rape or torture of their own free will, but they do it because they are victims of poverty or discrimination or cycles of violence. . . anything other than personal responsibility. Of course, liberals are major hypocrites, so this doesn’t apply to white collar criminals or “hate crime” criminals or anyone else they don’t like, but it does apply to just about every other run-of-the-mill murderer, thief, rapist or child molester.

This theory is of course crap. There simply is no nicer way to say it. It fails to account for the fact that humans have free will and can make up their own minds how they want to act. And it completely misunderstands human nature in that it doesn’t recognize that people do act for many reasons, and many of those reasons are indeed down right evil. It also denigrates those who have risen above a bad start in life, and encourages others never to try. And it endangers everyone else just so that liberals can feel smug.

Over the years, liberals have occasionally tried to expand this thinking into foreign relations. That’s why liberals excuse the mass murders in places like China and Africa as being the result of events that happened 200 years ago, and why they excuse corruption and dictatorship as “cultural.”

Well, now John Brennan is applying that same stupidity to terrorism. Yep. According to Brennan “violent extremists” are victims of “political, economic and social forces.”

This would be laughable if it wasn’t so asinine. There is no political, economic or social force that causes someone to go out and kill innocent people. Billionaire playboys like Osama bin Laden and the children-of-privilege terrorists of Al Qaeda are not driven by political, economic or social forces. They drive themselves. And what motivates them is hate. Hate that wells up from personality defects, and which is re-enforced by a hate-filled “religion” that teaches its adherents to see the world as divided between believers and infidels.

And that’s not the worst problem with Brennan’s thinking. Brennan claims that:
“Jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate about murdering innocent men, women and children.”
Ok, let’s take a look at this sucker. First, “jihad” is a word that can, in one sense, mean “a purification,” as Brennan claims. But its broader meaning is to wage a holy war against the infidels. What Brennan is doing by taking an ultra narrow interpretation of this word is the equivalent of interpreting the word “purge” as used by Stalin to mean “to clean out,” and ignoring what was done to those dissidents who were purged. Thus, either Brennan does not understand that he’s endorsing holy war, and he should be fired because he’s stupid and not qualified, or he is actively endorsing holy war, in which event he should be fired as a collaborator.

Secondly, Brennan is repeating a canard that Muslim-apologists keep repeating ceaselessly: “Islam does not condone . . . blah blah . . . against innocent men, women and children.” And this is true, to a degree. But what Brennan and the other apologists fail to mention is that only believers are considered “innocents,” and that the rules of Islam do not apply to infidels. To discuss Islam without addressing this distinction that it draws is dishonest at best.

To put this into perspective, the best Western equivalent that comes to mind is the distinction between humans and animals. Let’s put it this way, Brennan is saying the equivalent of “cattle have nothing to fear because American law forbids murder.” That's an absolutely true statement of American law, but it misses the crucial distinction that animals are not protected by laws that protect humans. The same is true with Islam, where the rules don't apply to dealings with infidels.

Finally, even if Brennan were somehow right in his interpretation of Islam, what does it matter when 1.4 billion Muslims follow a different interpretation of Islam than the one he espouses? Unless those 1.4 billion suddenly decide that Brennan is some new prophet, then it doesn’t matter what spin Brennan puts on their religion. We need to deal with their religion as it really is, not as arrogant John Brennan thinks it should be. Indeed, Brennan is spitting out nothing more than the modern version of the racist "noble savage" idea that liberals fell in love with in the Victorian era.

Brennan is not a man who should ever be put in the position of trying to understand or stop an enemy of this country. It is obviously beyond his ability. And that makes him at best a fool, and not-at-best a collaborator. It’s time for him to resign. Or better yet, send him to Pakistan and let him do an internship as a hostage of the religion of peace, so that he can get some first hand knowledge on this issue.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Guess Who's Losing Their Health Care Plan. . . You

Last week, the Democrats began their big putsch. . . er, push to convince the American people that ObamaCare isn’t a clusterfudge of epic proportions. They're spending $125 million on this campaign, which will be headed by tax cheat Tom "MegaLobbyist" Daschle -- I guess Obama does employ lobbyists after all. . . every chance he gets. Sadly for them, reality blew up in their faces in the form of a leaked memo that highlights something that anyone with a brain already knew, but which will come as a great surprise to Democratic voters: you’re going to lose your employer health care plans. Gee, who could have seen this coming?

The Democrats have a huge problem. See it turns out that for reasons that elude the Democrats, the pesky American public has never taken to ObamaCare. Recent polls show that 63% not only don’t like it, but actively want it repealed. Sixty-three percent is a stunningly large number, and there is nothing in our history that has been as unpopular. Indeed, most people tend to accept legislation once it passes as a settled fact of life and they move on -- which is what the Democrats were counting on happening here as well. But that didn’t happen.

And the reasons for this are obvious. First, ObamaCare is a financial disaster waiting to happen. Indeed, everyone knows that the $940 billion cost estimate was phony. We knew it was based on false estimates, unrealistic expectations, and bad math, and we are being proven right. For example, we’ve already heard (1) that the cost estimate for the second ten years, when all of the benefits finally kick in, is around $1.6 trillion, as compared to the falsified $940 billion sales price for the first ten years, (2) that discretionary spending will be $115 billion higher than expected in the first ten years, (3) that the $500 billion in Medicare cuts used to generate the $940 bill price tag won’t happen, because the Democrats are eliminating them with a “doctor’s fix,” and that the fix will actually cost more than expected -- $276 billion, and (4) that there are no cost containment measures in the bill, meaning all the estimates are far too low.

ObamaCare also is endangering Medicare, which is why seniors are angrier than everybody else. You simply can’t cut $500 billion from Medicare without cutting services -- no matter how much the Democrats repeat that lie. To delay the collapse of Medicare until it can be somebody else's problem, Democrats are struggling to pass the doctor’s fix, which is intended to prevent a 21% cut in the reimbursement rate from kicking in. That cut is scheduled to have taken effect June 1, 2010, but they've illegally delayed it while they try to find the money to pass the fix. Even without that 21% cut, doctors are already losing money on every Medicare patient they see and doctors are dropping Medicare patients at record numbers because of it. Seniors know this.

The Democrats are trying to counter seniors’ fears by flat out lying that there will be no benefit cuts, with Obama making ludicrously false claims that he wants to increase doctor reimbursements, and by touting the $250 checks the government is about to send out to some seniors to plug the “donut hole” in the Medicare prescription benefit, but that’s small comfort. . . you’re going to lose your doctor and no one will treat you, but here’s $250, don’t spend it all in one place gramps.

And now the biggest reason yet to oppose ObamaCare has been exposed. The whole time the Democrats were trying to pass ObamaCare, they kept attacking anyone who said that people would lose their employer-sponsored health plans. Does anyone remember Obama assuring everyone: “if you like your current plan, you can keep it.” They even put out ridiculous CBO estimates that said that only around 5% of people might lose their employer plans.

But now a memo has leaked out from the administration (a joint memo by the Department of Labor, HHS and the IRS) that estimates that within three years, 51% of the working public will lose their current employer plans. Yes, 51% within three years. That’s every other one of you. And, of course, the rest of you can be sure that you’ll follow in the next three years.

Going into damage mode, the administration is now claiming this memo was just preliminary. They are also trying to sell you on the idea that what you get instead will be so much better. Yeah, sure. Of course, you’ll be paying for that on your own, but that’s a minor detail right?

The reality is simple to see for anyone who isn’t a moron. Employers are paying close to $5,000 per single employee and $13,000 per married employee to provide health care every year. They can dump your plan and pay only a fine of a couple hundred dollars instead. What do you think your loving, caring employer will do? Why do you think the Business Roundtable is salivating? The Business Roundtable, for those who don’t know, is a collection of the CEOs of the largest companies who routinely advocate corporate socialism under the guise of “free markets.” They expressed confidence in this memo and endorsed ObamaCare because they want to shift their employee health care costs onto the taxpayer's backs.

Rational people don’t spend money they don’t need to. And if companies can dump their plans and save an average of $9,000 per employee each year, don’t you think they will? They might even offer you a couple thousand to make the pain go down easier. . . but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The reality is that the Democrats, as usual, lied from the get-go. Only this time, the public never bought the lie. And the few who did, are about to find out that they’ve been had. The morons who expected free coverage on day one have already learned that they’ve been had, with more to come -- just wait for the fines to kick in! Those with uninsurable conditions have learned that they’ve been had. Seniors have learned that they’ve been had. And now working Democrats, few and far between I know but there are some, are about to learn that they’ve been had too.

I wonder how they’ll spin this to be Bush’s fault?

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

El Presidente Demagogue

Sometimes politicians make it so easy to point out their stupidity and hypocrisy that it feels like taking candy from a voter. That was the case with Mexican President Felipe Calderon the other day, who demonstrated that he’s a top notch demagogue who is happy to exploit any tragedy he can to help his sagging political career. Check this out.

A week or so ago, a tragedy occurred along the U.S./Mexico border. Anastacio Hernandez, who was in this country illegally, was being deported by federal Border Patrol agents. They were in California. According to the Border Patrol agents, when they removed Hernandez’s handcuffs at the border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, he turned on them and wrestled both to the ground. One of the agents pulled out a stun gun and shocked Hernandez. Hernandez died a few hours later from that shock.

This is a tragedy on many levels. It’s a tragedy that Hernandez is dead. His death was entirely avoidable if he had simply crossed into Mexico rather than pointlessly fighting the Border Patrol. And it’s a tragedy that these two Border Patrol agents will have to live with having caused a death. Moreover, it's a tragedy that every leftist in Congress will now try to exploit this tragedy by calling for the heads of the two Border Patrol agents who do not appear to have done anything wrong. They will also call for hearings on stun guns, one of many causes on the left.

And chief among the exploiters, getting a solid head start, was Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who saw in this tragedy an opportunity to raise his Obama-like popularity ratings (41%). Calderon began by completely losing all sense of reality, by describing what happened as “torture” and stating that “a death with that degree of violence is truly a unacceptable violation.”

So a guy gets shot with a stun gun, as in “don’t taze me bro,” after he chooses to fight two cops who are letting him go, and he dies because of a freak set of circumstances, and that’s a “degree of violence” that is unacceptable? Really? That’s torture? Seriously?

How does that compare with corrupt Mexican police and drug gangs torture-killing thousands of citizens in Mexico over the past several years in ways that are too graphic to discuss? Where is the condemnation for the illegals who have been brutally killing Arizona ranchers? How about the bodies they’re pulling out of the abandoned mine in Mexico? The deputies found decapitated on Mexican highways? The murder of family members when you can’t get at the principal? The execution style killings of politicians? Any of this ring any bells Felipe? And let’s not forget that Hernandez started it.

Then Calderon tossed in Arizona’s immigration law, claiming that it “opens a Pandora’s box of the worst abuses in the history of humanity.” Really? Asking people for identification is the same as the Holocaust, or the genocides in Cambodia, Turkey, Rawanda, Sudan, and so on? It’s the same as Stalin’s mass murders and purges? It’s the same as the slave trade or Islamic terrorists blowing up school girls? It’s the same as what’s going on in Mexico right now? Me thinks someone needs some perspective.

Not to mention that this has nothing to do with Arizona’s law. This took place in California. And if you don’t know where Tijuana is, then buy a map seƱor. Secondly, these were federal agents enforcing federal law -- these weren’t Arizona cops. And let’s not forget that Mexico’s “laws” are much harsher when it comes to illegals, and that Mexico’s “justice” system actually is brutal and corrupt, not pretend brutal like you’re making out the US system to be.

Maybe exploiting and demagoguing a tragedy is good politics in Mexico, but it certainly sucks here. And maybe if you would do something to make Mexico something other than a cesspool of violence and despair, then this whole problem wouldn’t have come up in the first place? Maybe it's time to shut the heck up el Presidente?

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