Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Predictions

With the New Year upon us, it’s time for New Years Resolutions and predictions. Let’s stick with predictions. What shall 2014 bring? Economic recovery? Enlarged Twinkies? The end of life as we know it? Read on!

Prediction No. 1: Obamacare causes three people to lose insurance for every one person who gets fake insurance under Obamacare. In a pre-election panic, the Democrats vote overwhelmingly to deny they passed the individual mandate and to blame Obamacare on the Republicans.

Prediction No. 2: Joe Biden gets arrested doing a knock-out robbery of Hillary Clinton. He claimed he only wanted her mojo but couldn't find it before the cops came.

Prediction No. 3: Mark Levin leaves his mic on and is overheard admitting that he’s a liberal concern troll whose goal is to disgrace conservatism... and he lives in a committed relationship with fellow troll Rick Santorum.

Prediction No. 4: Scientists find life on Pluto... a race of animated fleas.

Prediction No. 5: Obama offers praise for Rush Limbaugh, causing Rush to denounce himself.

Prediction No. 6: Denver wins the Super Bowl in a blizzard. Some baseball team wins that World Series thing whenever that happens.

Prediction No. 7: Sarah Palin learns to read and finally reads Uncle Phil's interview.

Prediction No. 8: Harry Reid caught following Uncle Phil's advice.

Prediction No. 9: Ridley Scott’s movie about Moses proves so successful that the studios immediately green light “Moses II: Into The Promised Land.”

Prediction No. 10: In attempt to boost historically bad approval ratings (lower than typhoid), Obama announces he's gay and admits that the Mrs. and kids are rentals.

Prediction No. 11: After overdosing on hate, bile and hypocrisy, MSNBC hosts finally begin their transformation into Morlocks.

What do you think is going to happen in 2014?
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas!! Happy Holidays!! Competent Kwanza!! Happy That Other Thing!!

We're going to take a little break officially until January 2. Unofficially, we'll probably post something before then. But in the meantime, take some time off, see the real world.

Christmas is an amazing time of year. This is the one time of year we get a glimpse of what the world would be like if we all lived the way we know we should. And that's a great glimpse. I love this time of year. I love the festive spirit, the sights, the sounds and the smells. This is a happy time when people feel charitable, forgiving and friendly. It is the one time of year we all try to live up to our better natures. So take this opportunity to think about the people you love, the things that make you happy, and focus on the good side of life. Think about how you can be a better person to those around you and enjoy the Christmas spirit. Merry Christmas everyone (and assorted holidays)!

As always, consider this an open thread.
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Would You Buy Insurance From This Guy?

Really? What are they thinking? Here is the latest ad that hit Twitter this week courtesy of Organizing for Action (formerly known as Obama For America) to sell insurance to all those young folks who have to buy insurance before December 23, 2013 to make it work...

I mean, would you buy insurance because this guy wants you to?

Maybe it's the adult onesie pajamas or the hot cocoa or that "all knowing" smirk, but really? Who are these people who are making these ads? Do they think young adults are idiots? Don't answer that...

This was after these very popular ads:

This one is great.

Oh, and this...

Oh, and just in case you need some pointers on how to "start the conversation", here's a helpfu list to get you started. Just a hint. Make sure when going home for the holiday you send an e-mail around and politely ask your friends and relatives to make sure that they pack their social security cards, pay stubs, and other employment information in their carry-on. That will make for a really fun holiday around the Holiday Tree with all of those holiday gifts. Frankly, I'd rather my guests pack an extra bottle of wine or holiday cookies, but that's just me.

Please make this stop...it's embarrassing.

Oh, but not half as embarrassing as this...

But then, would you buy insurance from any of these jokers either?
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Words Have Meaning!!

Have you ever thought about how a single line of dialog can change a movie? It's true. A single line of dialog can convey enough information to completely change a character, a plot point or even a theme. Indeed, think about the infamous "Noooooooooo!" from George Lucas and how that completely changed the nature of Darth Vader.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mandela: A Retrospective

Since his death, Nelson Mandela has been the subject of a slough of memoriams, odes, and general remembrances--as it should be. But as he himself acknowledged, we ought to acknowledge his accomplishments without deifying him. Which apparently is kind of hard.

Being just about the youngest person on this blog, Mandela has perhaps evoked different feelings for my generation than for older ones, perhaps. We look at him basically the same way we look at Gandhi--both were kind, saintly guys who stood up to the oppressive, racist and all-around mean government, got put in prison for it, and then late in life were vindicated and became international symbols of peace and equality. Seriously, if you asked most teens and 20-somethings to name three people who are for sure in heaven (besides Grandma), most would name Mandela, Gandhi, and probably Mother Teresa.

Despite (or because of) this, most of those same people also have little grasp of who Mandela was, or what he did to become famous. Heck, until recently I didn't know why he was in prison in the first place. So, for the sake of understanding him fully, a balanced and completely accurate analysis is in order. But instead you get my hackery.

First things first: No one can take away from the fact that after he got out of prison, Mandela was an inspirational figure, and did far better as a political leader than he might have. Especially compared with some nearby thugs like Zimbabwe's Mugabe, Mandela had a fairly good record--he didn't starve the country in some bizarre redistribution scheme, and he didn't inaugurate official racial retaliation or anything like that. And just as importantly, he relinquished power legally and peacefully, which again is more than can be said for a lot of post-colonial rulers. So yeah, post-apartheid South Africa was definitely not the worst place to live, and Mandela deserves a good deal of the credit for that.

At the same time, it would be wrong to deny that during the past twenty years or so, the country has seen a real decline in some quarters. One of the most obvious has been the AIDS epidemic, which, clearly, neither he nor anyone else was responsible for; but he has since been criticized for denying it was a problem even when it clearly was. Given that, by some estimates, a third of South Africa had the disease by the turn of the century, this seems rather odd. More glaringly, he pushed for what he called a "deracialization" of the economy, which in practice meant aggressive affirmative action and a transfer of wealth that did improve the position of many blacks, but at the expense of impoverishing many whites.

Another thing--a lot of people seem to be under the impression (again, this included me) that Mandela was just like Gandhi or MLK in his consistent advocacy of nonviolence. Granted, it's hard to find specific evidence of that advocacy, but he's famous for being peaceful and was played by Morgan Freeman, so he must have at some point.

Well...not so much. Ever heard of "necklacing"? I hadn't. It refers to some ANC terrorists' practice of hanging a tire around white captives' necks and setting it on fire. That's the sort of thing for which ANC leaders such as Mandela (who did not carry out such acts himself but founded the party faction that did) got put in prison for in the first place. Granted, Mandela rejected anything resembling a "race war" when he became president--for which we should all be grateful--but many radicals continued to carry out barbaric murders against whites, many of whom, it should be said, retaliated in kind. This violence, combined with AIDS and the economic disruption, has caused a mass exodus of white South Africans--perhaps a million since the early '90s. Not that they've been the only victims, by a long shot. Black-on-black crime has been even more endemic, including some of the world's highest rates of rape and murder.

How much of this post-apartheid atmosphere was by design? Well, I guess that depends on whether you think Mandela was, as many on the far Right (and some not on the far Right) have been arguing since his death, an out-and-out Communist out for racial vengeance. "Madiba"s record with the officially Marxist African National Congress has been...well, complicated. He was definitely not a Communist ideologue when he joined the ANC back in the late '40s, but became one for a while thereafter. He seems not to have been by the time he left prison, but for an extended period of time, he was happy to make common cause with all sorts of international left-wing goons. As much of a scandal as Obama shaking hands with Raul Castro at the memorial service was, the fact is the latter wouldn't have been there at all if Mandela hadn't been very friendly with the Castros, regarding them as comrades in the fight for racial liberation and such.


What's the ultimate takeaway here? I suppose most people would say Mandela was the "father of his country," in a way, just as Washington was over here, so let's compare. (That's probably not very fair, but shut up.) Lots of similarities could be drawn--wanting to appear above the partisan fray, for example--but the chief difference, I think, is that Washington, like all the Founding Fathers, was a great believer in the rule of law and keenly aware of the dangers of extra-legal, retaliatory violence, especially when committed in the name of an abstract cause. Mandela appears to have learned this lesson late, and only partially.

That's not to say he bears the blame for all South Africa's ills; far from it. You can't lay those problems on one person, and again, he did far better than those aware of his early career might have feared. But movements which use violent means, even in pursuit of good ends (and not all the ANC's goals were good), tend to be corrupted by them over time; and if those movements gain power, the country will tend to reflect that corruption. So, broadly speaking, I think it's clear that South Africa today reveals the good and the bad of Nelson Mandela's impact. And hopefully it reveals some lessons in what to do and not do if you're the leader of such a movement.
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Monday, December 16, 2013

The Lesson of Gene Autry

Gene Autry is a national icon. He rose from telegraph operator to Hollywood hero to owner of the Los Angeles Angels. He was known as a humble and decent man who made lifelong friends. He was a beloved hero to millions. He was also a solid conservative who supported Ike, Nixon, Goldwater and Reagan. Over the past few months, I’ve watched almost his entire film catalog and I’ve found many interesting lessons in these films. But there is one I want to talk about today.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Film Friday: Three O’Clock High

Three O’Clock High is an interesting film. You could call it a forgotten film, except that no one knew about it in the first place, plus it’s not really forgotten – it seems to have found a fan base. I like it a good deal. What makes Three O’Clock High so interesting to me today, however, is why I think it never caught on: it’s a dark comedy that was too “real” for people to enjoy.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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The New Ryan Budget: Pros and Cons

Less than two weeks before Christmas, folks. Snow's on the ground, the presents are getting wrapped, there's more polls showing Obama lower than a snake's belly: Yep, that must mean it's time for another budget fight! Wait, what?

Yeah, I'll be honest; the new Ryan-Murray budget deal, removing the budget cuts from the sequester in favor of cuts at a later date, announced earlier this week caught me off guard. So did all the attacks immediately made by other conservatives, and the congratulating going around between Democrats and mainstream GOPers. (The latter probably has something to do with the former, I'd imagine.) I'm still working through what this budget has to say, and if you've seen something I haven't, feel free to call me out on it. As for what I have found so far, it's a mix of good and bad--but more of the bad, I'm inclined to think.

Pro: It Keeps Us Focused On ObamaCare. This one is pretty straightforward. The RMS Obama has finally met its iceberg, in the form of an awful ACA rollout, and the Prez's approval ratings are hitting new lows. (Smiles all around.) The bad news is still coming in, too, and each new piece of information makes the Democrats look worse. So why should we derail that train with a new fight over government funding and another threat of shutdown? As Jonah Goldberg points out at NRO, we would essentially be risking all the goodwill we might have built up in the past month or so "over what amount to rounding errors in the budget and the debt."

Pro: Mandatory Spending Cuts! (ish) The budget deal requires that increases in discretionary spending have to be balanced out by cuts to entitlements. Some of those cuts are kind of weak--federal employees have to pay more into their pension plans, for example, but only those employees hired after the fact--but they do still set good precedents. Hey, every little bit helps.

Con: Taxation Surprise! Taxation surprises are never fun, and this is no exception. One of the provisions in the budget deal is a procedural alteration that would allow Senate Democrats to pass tax increases and send them to the House with a mere 51 votes, not the usual 60. Now, it sounds worse than it is. The Senate can already do this via reconciliation, and in any case, it doesn't mean the House has to play ball--on paper. However, anything which makes it easier for Harry Reid to put the burden on House Republicans, especially where taxes are concerned, is hardly something to cheer about.

Con: The Budget Is Just Plain Screwy. Simple math: It approves the spending of $600 billion, at minimum, over a ten-year period while reducing the deficit by only $20 billion, and that through higher fees. There are real savings, further down the road; but not until 2022-23 and later. If we could trust that those cuts would in fact happen then, it might be different, but is anyone willing to extend that trust? Because I'm not. And, some of those "fees" are really egregious examples of intrusive government--like an increase in how much the feds can charge us for a passenger flight. Which I didn't even know they did, and isn't that creepy.

Final judgment on this plan? Eh, I don't have one. It's not a good budget, but then I don't think anyone on the Right, establishment, Tea Party, or whoever, is claiming that. What it really comes down to, I think, is whether you believe that under the present political circumstances, this is the best possible budget we can hope to pass right now. And there's a good argument that it is.

Mainly, where I think Ryan did screw up on this plan is by rolling it out on such short notice, and then by demanding a full vote on it so quickly. We talk a lot here about paying attention to the political realities; one of those realities is that when you blindside a large chunk of your own party (deliberately or not), they're not going to like it very much. By not getting everyone on the same page earlier, Ryan, Boehner, and other leaders caused a very visible divide in the GOP ranks, made worse by the intramural shouting match of the past couple days. Obama and his cronies are playing for keeps in this political game. We need to make sure our side is too.
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Wishes Open Thread

Let's get this holiday season started off right. Chanukah is over and all the candles have been lit and the Christmas season has officially begun. I propose that for today, we take it down a notch. Instead of concentrating on what is wrong in the world, let's concentrate on what is right. This is what the season is all about. It's about sharing with family and friends, sharing with others, and trying to bring out the best in humanity, or at least it should be.

Sometimes the true meaning of Christmas gets lost in the frenzied quest for the perfect gifts or giving the perfect party. But let me refresh your memory:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men. - Luke 2:10

So, in the spirit of the Christmas season, let's make a list, check it twice, and share what Christmas means to us. Feel free to share your favorite family traditions, your secret Christmas present wish list, your favorite song, your favorite Christmas memory, or maybe your dreams and wishes for a brighter future.

And to get us started, let me be the first to say "MERRY CHRISTMAS"! There, I said it and I am not taking it back.
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Toon-arama: How The Grinch Stole Christmas

How The Grinch Stole Christmas is perhaps my favorite Christmas cartoon. What I love about it most is how it has several layers of meaning and those layers become more apparent to you as you grow older. It is, in essence, a cartoon you must see many times over your life to fully understand. Consider some of these ideas:

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Teacher's Unions Struggling

American education is much better than people realize. In fact, there’s a lot of deceit in the claims that it isn’t. These claims are typically made based on raw numbers without mentioning that the numbers are typically all well within the margin of error... meaning any difference is statistically meaningless. They also use measures which don’t relate to educational performance to “measure schools.” Anyway, that’s not the point today. Today, we’re talking about unions.

The biggest impediment to improving education, aside from irresponsible parents, has been teachers unions. They stand in the way of reforms, protect rotten eggs, and generally don’t give a darn about students. Even the left is catching on to this. So it was interesting to see an article at Politico which outlined the problems the teacher’s unions are facing and why they’re on the ropes. Here is what you need to know:

Falling Membership: Although teacher’s union membership is reported at 4.5 million, it’s actually only 3.8 million (the result of double counting people who are in both unions). The NEA has lost 7% of its membership since 2009. The reason for the fall is (1) teacher layoffs, (2) retirements, (3) the rise of non-union charter schools, and (4) states like Michigan and Wisconsin which are allowing teachers to opt-out. So things will get worse. In fact, the National Right to Work Committee is starting a campaign to end compulsory union membership in Missouri, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. In Wisconsin, after these laws were passed, the AFT lost 65% of its members in the state and the NEA lost 19%.

In response, the AFT is trying to increase their membership by expanding to public defenders, dental hygienists, police, maintenance workers, nurses, and lifeguards. Yeah, that’ll work.

Financial Problems: While the unions bring in $2 billion per year, the number is shrinking. They also overspend. The AFT runs at a deficit, having to take out a line of credit. And the NEA has cut spending 12% to stay level.

PR Attacks: Later this year, former Solicitor General Theodore Olson will bring suit to try to overturn teacher protections like tenure, which the unions put into California law. He intends to fight a PR campaign in the process in which he paints the unions as obstructionists who protect their members at all costs. This includes pointing out the number of teachers who have sexually harassed students, who don’t prepare lesson plans, and who come to work drunk, yet are not punished. In a famous example, the Los Angeles Times reported that the LA Unified School District spend 10 years and $3.5 million to fire seven teachers... and only managed to get four of them. He is being funded by Silicon Valley billionaire David Welch.

A similar campaign is being fought in New York by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, who will be financing a social media campaign accusing NYC unions of protecting teachers who harass students. This is on the heels of Waiting for Superman, in which a liberal filmmaker took on the unions and had a mega hit.

The NEA President squeals that this is unfair as it distorts the picture by focusing on the bad apples... waaaah!! And he argues that unions don’t protect bad teachers, they just make sure that everyone follows the process. That’s delusional and if the NEA thinks parents will buy that, then they’re crazy.

Interestingly, while the unions claim they are winning, support for labor unions has fallen below 50% for the first time in 2012. And only 32% of Americans have a positive view of teachers unions.

Revolutions! The unions are having a lot of internal problems. A number of teachers are furious that the unions have agreed to Common Core, which they see as imposing requirements on them. Yep. A number are furious that the unions have agreed to the use of tying student testing to pay, hiring/firing, and closing of schools at the local level, even as they continue to fight against those things nationally.

More interestingly, as the Baby Boomers retire, it turns out that the replacements aren’t so enamored of a system that rewards teachers based on longevity and they aren’t as protective of pensions. These same people also have very different views about education and politics, and they now constitute about half of all teachers. So it can’t remain business as usual for the unions much longer. The unions say they are trying to “evolve” to satisfy all their members, but this is a significant divide. Interestingly, 31% of new teachers hold a negative view of their own unions, up from 17% only a few years ago.

Turncoats! Wealthy donors have started funding candidates who are willing to break with the unions on issues like charter schools and merit pay. Even some prominent Democrats are now on the other side. Philadelphia, Chicago and Denver all have mayors who have opposed the unions on these key issues. Jerry Brown in California actually vetoed a union bill that would have made layoffs harder and more expensive. Pension cuts are coming to, even in Democratic states.

In response, the unions are seeking Republican allies, but you know what? F-you. You can’t be the heart and soul of the Democratic Party for decades and then get us to help you just because the Democrats started cheating on you.

Pathetic Response: To save their butts, the unions are doing a number of things that aren’t going to matter. For example, they have created a public-private partnership to revitalize schools in McDowell County, W.Va. I’m sure the meth industry will be thrilled. They are trying to come up with ways to improve innovation and they are trying to figure out how to recruit better teachers... oh, and they’re going to have protest marches. Yawn. By the time someone starts doing what they should have been doing all along to save their jobs, the writing is on the wall.

These are not good times for teachers unions. They face legal pressure, economic problems, unfriendly legislators, falling and hostile membership, changing demographics, hostile public relationships campaigns, and well-funded and determined opponents. That’s bad for unions, but great for students.

Things are much better in the education system than people realize, and look for them to keep getting better soon.
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Monday, December 9, 2013

Obama = Mandela? Ha!

The passing of Nelson Mandela brings with it quite a few interesting lessons and I think we should discuss those today, because Barack Obama in particular seems to have forgotten them... or never learned them.

If you’ve paid attention to Mandela, then you really have to be impressed. Here was a man who certainlydidn’t seem like a statesmen. He was an agitator. And having spent years in a pretty rotten prison, it seemed even less likely that he would make a good leader. In fact, I think most people at the time probably thought he was about to become the next African warlord who started a civil war to drive out whites and destroyed his country without helping anyone but his friends.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, he took off on a very reasoned course. Indeed, even though his party, the African National Congress, was essentially a thuggish communist party, he rejected communism and redistribution. He worked with the whites rather than against them, hoping to trade his goodwill and lack of retribution for their continued expertise. He took down all the laws that ensconced inequality, he neutered the secret police, dramatically shrunk their military and put the resources into helping the people, and he turned South Africa into an honest broker which helped fix a lot of Africa’s bigger problems.

That’s pretty impressive. And in the end, I think you have to rate him as one of the few people to change the world in a positive way. Is South Africa perfect? Hardly. They still have rampant poverty. They are awash in murderous crime. But he avoided the bloodbath and brain drain everyone predicted. Did he end inequality? No, but he stripped the inequality from the law and he did his best to set the country on the right course economically. At this point, most everyone outside the fringe left and fringe right genuinely respect him for what he did.

So let’s talk about the lessons Obama hasn’t learned from this.

Inclusion: Why did Mandela succeed? Mandela had the rare desire among politicians to want to make the world better for everyone. He didn’t see himself as the leader of the blacks or the ANC, he saw himself as the leader of the country. So when he took over, he resisted the ANC push to confiscate white property, to jam blacks into all the political jobs, and to push a communist ideology. Instead, he took his role as President seriously and he tried to balance the interests of whites, blacks, including the ANC’s political enemies who are primarily Zulus, rich, poor and everyone else. The result wasn’t as dramatic as many on the left hoped, but it was stable and it was productive.

Now compare Obama. When Obama ran in 2008, he sounded like a moderate. He talked about being pragmatic and working with everyone. Then he took office. He faced nothing like the divides Mandela faced, yet his first term was marred by hyper-partisanship as defined by his utterance of: “We won.” He didn’t bother with natural disasters that affected states that didn’t vote for him. He played favorites to help his friends and supporters to the point of harassing his opponents. And when it came time to work with the Republicans, he instead choose belligerence. And the result has been a wasted presidency that achieved nothing and whose few achievements are falling apart because he lacks the friends he needs to repair the mistakes he made.

Inequality: Obama gave a speech the other day in which he whined about inequality. As I noted the other day, inequality is a growing problem for many reasons and conservatives would be wise to grab this issue, but let’s not lose perspective. Comparing inequality in America to inequality in South Africa, as Obama did, is like comparing a paper cut to a bullet wound... from a 50 caliber. Inequality here is a question of fairness, of lower incomes and of slowed opportunity. In South Africa, it’s a question of abject poverty and life and death. Obama using Mandela to whine about inequality in America, is a sick joke. At best it’s evidence that Obama doesn’t know jack-sh*t about the world and has no sense of perspective.

Oppression: And that brings us to the third point. So many people want to feel oppressed today. Obama wants you to believe that blacks in America are oppressed because states want everyone to show ID when they vote or because cops stop and frisk people who look like gangbangers. Palin wants you to believe that Christians are oppressed because Walmart greeters are told to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Gays want you to believe they are oppressed because they can get all the substance of marriage, and the trappings, but not the official word. And so on. This is all phony oppression. This is oppression for jerkoffs.

What Mandela faced was actual oppression. He spent 27 years in prison in a country where the government made opponents disappear. Torture and murder by the state were a fact. This was a country where the law specifically placed limits on where you could live and what you could do if you were black or “colored.” It was separate and very unequal. Only the votes of whites (and before 1930 males) counted. There were few civil rights, and certainly nothing like Americans enjoy.

So it’s pretty shocking when Obama, who apparently got walked through college and through Harvard Law School and who was given a job he didn’t earn at the University of Chicago and then in the Illinois legislature, compares his life favorably to Mandela. I don’t know Mr. Mandela, Barack, but it’s pretty obvious you’re no Mandela... you’re not even close.

Finally, let me go back to the issue of inequality. Obama whined about inequality the other day and he talked about how unequal things became in the US between 1979 and 2007. That is true. As I point out in my book, the rich got a LOT richer (+275%)... corporations got a LOT richer (Dow up 2,200%)... government got a LOT richer (budget increase 714%)... but the middle class (-12%) and the poor (-26%) got a lot poorer.

But what Obama forgot to mention was that things got way worse under his term. Indeed, 2008-2013 has seen a shocking growth in inequality to its highest point since the 1930s. So during a period of the most massive increase in government spending since LBJ’s Great Society began, in a period where government spending essentially doubled to pay for various “stimulus” bills and to bail out bank and unions, when the Fed spent trillions to prop up the economy, when Obama imposed massive numbers of regulations... inequality skyrocketed.

Inequality is a problem, but any comparison to the inequality faced by Mandela is a joke. Inequality is a problem, but the things Obama wants are not the solutions – Mandela himself rejected them. Inequality is a problem, but Obama’s cronyist policies have only made it worse. Inequality is a problem, but liberalism is not the answer... it is the cause.

With the passing of Mandela, the world has lost a man who truly did change the world for the better. And seeing Obama trying to wrap himself in the mantel of this great man is like watching a dwarf try on the armor of a giant. It tells us nothing of Mandela, but it speaks volumes about the deficiencies of Obama... Obama who does not understand true oppression, true inequality, or how good he’s had it, and Obama who couldn’t spell the words “statesmen,” much less act like one.
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Friday, December 6, 2013

Film Friday: The Hobbit (2012)

The Hobbit is one of my favorite books. It is a great book. It’s also made to order to be turned into a movie because, unlike a lot of classics, this one reads like a film. It has very clearly described scenes and characters and lots of action, all of which will present a fun adventure. Even more importantly, it has great characters whose depth unfolds through their actions and the dialog. What could go wrong?

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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Moar Friday Hits

Back by popular demand (and because I need to shift a more substantive article to next week), here are a few quick hits to round up the week's stories in post-partum depression and liberal failures, but mainly liberal failures.

Just A Reminder: Universal Health Care Is Terrible And Will Probably Murder You In Your Sleep

Okay, maybe that's a bit strong. But in the ObamaCare debate, we were always reminded by liberals how awesome socialized medicine is overseas, so turnabout's fair play, I think. Anyway, the link is to an article from the Daily Telegraph, which found that under Britain's NHS, over 1,100 nursing home residents have died since 2003, not because of their illnesses or old age but because of severe dehydration--despite the homes having adequate numbers of staff and (of course) good ratings from the government review boards, the patients weren't getting enough water. As if that wasn't bad enough, nearly three times as many died over the same period from malnutrition or bed sores. Yikes.

It's been noted before that the Brits remain stubbornly positive about their health care system, partly because it does work under certain circumstances but partly because they just don't want to admit defeat. One wonders how many stories like this they have to hear for that to change. (Just to show Britain's not the one bad apple, here's a story from Canada about how the wait times to see a doctor have become so long, the Great White North's considering re-privatizing some of its health care. Good times, good times.)

Rule Of Thumb: Always Fact-Check A #HATECRIME!!!!!! Story

This seems to be a running theme lately--messages bashing an ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation get reported, community crackdown on anything slightly offensive ensues, everyone gets lectured by higher-ups on the need to be respectful and accepting of others....and then it turns out the victim and the perpetrator are one and the same. Of course. No sooner did New York's Vassar College start a witch hunt, I mean launch a task force to find out who was writing messages like "F--k N-----s" and "Hey Tranny, Know Your Place," then it turned out the transsexual student who filed the hate speech report was the one who wrote them in the first place...and was also a vice-president of student government, and a member of the investigating task force. Ohhhh.

I could go into detail on other stories, like the Boston-area high school which ended its football season early (but not the requisite candlelight vigils) when racist graffiti was scrawled on one of the players' houses, then found out his mom did it to get attention; but I'll let you read through that one on your own.

GOP Hypocrisy? Eh, Not So Much

Among the things liberals (especially those in the media) just LOVE doing, calling out the Republicans for hypocrisy, or at least betraying their constituents' own interests, stands near the top of the list. Take this Time article noting that congressional Republicans have voted to scale back the food stamp program (not that much, mind you), despite the fact that, on average, a GOP lawmaker is likely to have a higher proportion of his constituents on food stamps than is a Democrat. The implication is clear enough: Republicans care more about their ideology than they do about helping real people, and also Democratic voters are usually more successful and probably smarter, too. Except, not only is a sizable chunk of the data on which the article based this claim missing, that which is present shows the results are really all over the map, with red states such as Idaho, Nebraska and even West by God Virginia (!!!) relying on food stamps than, say, "progressive" Oregon. Oops.

Though, even if the evidence had borne out Time's claims, I'm not sure what that would prove. Given that the Left relies on some watered-down quasi-Marxist rhetoric about class conflict to make many of its claims, wouldn't such proof show that rich people are not mean jerks who want to screw over the poor?

Paging Descartes....

And finally, just to reassure you that you really may be smarter than a big chunk of the population, check out this article from the so-called Scientific American which basically says that, because scientists are a bit vague on the boundaries between life and non-life and because you can sorta think of organisms as just really complex machines, "life" doesn't actually exist at all. I briefly toyed with the idea of laying out an objection to this, but you know, on that rare occasion when you find an article so patently dumb you don't have to waste breath refuting it, it's best to take advantage of it. Just go into the weekend with the knowledge that you know more about the world than some "scientists" do.

If you've got other good stories, mention them in the comments, by all means. Otherwise, enjoy.
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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Caption This - Biden In China

I don't know about you, but I haven't been so nervous about US-China relations since Nixon went to China in 1972. No, really, I mean it. Biden could say anything or do something Biden-ish and, well, things could happen.

Like this:

Dear Lord, what was he doing? No, really, what was he doing? I am as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. So, what is better to calm the nerves than poking a little fun at our leaders, right? So....{{{{drum roll, please}}}}}...Caption this!

At least he holstered the Biden finger guns...

Do your stuff or change the subject.

Oh, and if you just don't want to think about Biden in China, here's something else to ponder:
Pizza is round, comes in a square box, and is cut into triangles.
Is that a random confluence of geometry or by design?
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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hollywood And Holidays

We’ve touched upon this a couple times in the past: Hollywood doesn’t do the holidays well. That’s kind of fascinating if you think about it, since the holidays seem like they are ready-made for storytelling. Not only are they well defined, they are a common experience, and they have their own emotional base. That should make for a heck of a fertile ground for stories. So what’s wrong?

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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Why Leftist Talk Radio Is Doomed

There was an interesting article last weekend at Politico about Leftist Talk Radio. They were lamenting the fact that the right has monopolized talk radio and they put together a plan for the left to get back into the game. It’s a silly plan but it’s worth discussing because it shows how delusional they are. The plan came in five parts, most of which were fantasy or denial. Let’s examine each.

(1) We Need A Sugar Daddy: "You got money, Mr. Billionaire? Me make radio long time." Apparently, they want a billionaire like the Evil Koch Brothers™ to fund Leftist Talk Radio no matter how much money they lose. Normally, I would say that’s a silly plan but that seems to be how the left works: it’s essentially owned and operated by billionaires... like Haim Saban (Hillary Clinton’s sugar daddy), Warren Buffett (Barack Obama’s sugar daddy), George Soros (Sugar Daddy of the Progressive Movement), Carlos Slim (the New York Times’s sugar daddy), etc.

The problem with praying for a sugar daddy, however, is that money isn’t the problem: lack of popularity is the problem. In fact, this billionaire idea is pure denial. This is leftists thinking that somehow they’ve been kept from reaching the public by “right wing radio station owners.” Hardly. Leftists have had dozens of chances to get radio programs, television programs, and even whole networks (MSNBC) and channels (NPR)... and the public ain’t buying it.

(2) Somebody Famous Save Me: Leftist Talk Radio needs a star! LOL! Uh, yeah. But they need to make a great video first before they can get Eddie Van Halen. This is what is called a paradox and it’s amazing they would toss this out there as a solution. If Leftist Talk Radio needs a star, they’re going to need to earn it, and that means coming up with a formula that pulls in listeners first.

(3) Who Needs Radio: Sour grapes time. Did you know that radio is dying? Maybe getting on the radio isn’t worth it after all? You know what Leftist Talk Radio should do? They should do something different that reaches more people in a better way... use technology to do what no one else has done and win the day. Woo hoo!

Yeah. Good luck. First of all, that's just platitudes - there's no substance here. Secondly, this is what podcasting was supposed to be and internet radio and youtube and all those things that turned out to be so obscure that only a handful of people pay any attention to them. Like it or not, the public gets their news through (1) television, (2) radio, and (3) a handful of internet portals. That’s it, folks. The further you get from those, the more you disappear into the mist.

(4) Market Timing: Elections are always good for talk radio, so maybe with an election coming up, now would be a good time to do something! Yep, only, the “something” is the problem.

(5) Don’t Shill For The Democrats: Finally, let’s talk substance, because this is where the answer lies. Of course, they struggle getting there. Their main point is that they need to stop being shills for the Democrats.

Oh boy. First, let me point out that the fringe left, which is where their talkers come from, are not shills for Democrats. Sure, they pimp for people like Obama and Pelosi, but that’s because they view those Democrats as fellow travelers. As anyone who ventures to leftist sites can tell you, when they don’t think a Democrat is far left enough, they have no problem tearing them apart. And if they don’t like the Democrat, they will stay home or vote freak, just like the fringe right. So let’s not pretend that Leftist Talk Radio was destroyed because it was too loyal.

The problem has been winning over an audience. For some reason, which I’m about to explain, Leftist Talk Radio has not been able to win an audience. The Politico article attributes this to leftists being too “professional” and not entertaining enough, but that’s a crock. There is nothing professional about the left. They have copied the exact formula all the right-wing guys use... seething anger, style over substance, pick your facts carefully, make grandiose pronouncements about the end of the America, etc. They are clones. It just hasn’t worked on the left. Why not?

Well, having given this some thought, the problem is that the fringe left isn’t built the same way as the fringe right. The fringe right follows one ideological goal, whether they want to believe this or not: NO! They are opposed to everything. That makes them a very easy audience to grab, because they all have the same interest, and it makes them easy to sell... you just have to hate everything unless the public hates it, then you embrace it. Simple.

The fringe left isn’t built that way. The fringe left consists of a half-dozen small groups, each of whom cares ONLY about their issue. How do you attract an audience when your potential audience wants to hear only environmentalism or feminism or race baiting or socialism or gay issues or anti-corporate rants or anti-military rants or anti-religious rants... and not a word about the rest. That’s the real problem on the left. The Democrats have overcome that because they can pet each group and tell them "You're my favorite." But talk radio can't do that. And that is why I think Leftist Talk Radio is doomed, because there is no common interest that unites the left. That means there's no solution that will let any one talker get a large audience.

Interesting problem.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Obamacare Daily Disaster Update

I’ll bet you hoped that while you were away clogging your arteries with turkey, gravy and pie, that Obamacare would just go away. It hasn’t. Like a husky zombie who’s zeroed in on dorm full of cowering brain surgeons, it just keeps coming... and it will never stop until somebody puts it out of its misery. Here’s the latest:

It Works... When Nobody’s Looking: Obama claims they got the website working, but then promptly told people not to use it so they didn’t break it. If you can’t use it, then it doesn’t work. As aside, did you know they haven't built the mechanism for processing payments yet? Or that they haven't yet fixed the ability of the website to accurately transmit data, like user identities and enrollment data. But hey, the website "works" now... whatever that means.

Not My Problem: The National Association of Health Underwriters undertook a little survey last week. They found that only 30% of doctors were willing to treat Obamacare patients because of the low reimbursement rates, few specialists will take Obamacare insurance, none of the major hospitals will take Obamacare insurance, and the four biggest insurers (United Healthcare, Aetna, Cigna, Coventry) have refused to participate in the exchanges.

So if you ever manage to get Obamacare, you might as well use the policy to wipe your rear end because that’s about all it’s worth... nobody’s going to take it.

In Triplicate: Because they haven’t been able to work out how the small business part of Obamacare is supposed to work, Obama has delayed that part for a year. He recommends that you contact an insurance broker... uh, a what? An insurance broker? You mean, there are people out there whose job it is to help others shop for insurance? In light of this shocking discovery, I’m left wondering why we need the Obamacare website at all? Oh, that’s right, because only a Democrat would get the government to do something the private market already does, not be able to make it work, and then call it a legacy.

Except For All The Rest: Obama claimed this weekend that “he’s got nowhere to go but up.” That’s optimistic. What he meant was that things are as bad as they can get on Obamacare, so as they fix the problems, his popularity will rise again.

//snicker snicker If you say so, moron.

Actually, what Obama doesn’t get is that the moment the ship hits the iceberg may seem like the bottom of the barrel, but that’s only the beginning. Obama still needs to get the website fixed so it’s no longer a “third world experience.” The experts say that could take years and require a total start-over. Then he has the problem that nobody actually wants his insurance because it’s overpriced and worthless. And as we get closer to forced-signup day, you’ll hear more and more horror stories about smokers and sick people all getting hit with several thousand in monthly fees. You’ll hear about more and more people losing their insurance until the number reaches around 80 million... each of whom will remember his bazillion promises about letting them keep their insurance. The people who do get coverage will discover what a deductible means and that they can’t find doctors. Rates will keep rising at every turn. The few reputable insurers who are involved with back out, the less reputable will go bankrupt. And soon enough, the Democrats will realize that their best strategy is to blast the zombie, so they will smear it themselves.

Yeah, that crunching, screeching sound you hear as the ice rips the hole in Obama’s legacy, that’s just the beginning.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

The Pope’s Apostolic Confusica

I like a lot of what the new Pope has done. In particular, he’s done a lot to push the Church back to its actual mission of spreading religion and away from being about money and politics. Interestingly, he’s done all of that with only a change in tone too, and without a change in doctrine. His latest issue is a little more troubling however... perhaps.

Last week, Pope Fancis issued an 84-page document called an apostolic exhortation. Think of it as his platform. This seems to be a document aimed at pissing off both sides. For example, he did say that the Church needs to bring more women into decision-making positions with the Church, but he affirmed the Church’s opposition to female priests. In fact, he said it “is not a question open to discussion.” He also affirmed the Church’s opposition to abortion. Both of those will upset progressives.

Pissing off the other side, he wrote what I want to talk about today. Specifically, he wrote about capitalism and poverty and what he said is problematic. Before I tell you my problems with it, however, let me explain what I think he really meant substantively, because when you strip out the ideology, what he says actually makes a lot of sense. Observe:

The Pope’s main concern was about extreme inequality. And you know, I can’t disagree with him. My problem with extreme inequality is that it takes away the stake people feel in society and they start to support radical ideas because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by upending the system. That is why, historically, extreme inequality has led to bloodshed, revolution and typically some form of communism. And in fact, the Pope does note that “unequal distribution of wealth inevitably leads to violence.” So he is being practical in his discussion, i.e. he’s not just saying “it’s not fair.”

And don’t think this isn’t a problem in the US. For decades in the US, any poor person could work their way up to the middle class simply by learning their job, working hard, and staying out of trouble. Those who aspired to more could go further through education or imitative. You could literally go from the assembly line to the boardroom over the course of your life if you proved your merit. Further, the majority of the people who were wealthy earned it by providing some product or service that people needed. They were compensated by the free market and we saw them as heroes for their achievements: they made the world better. The keys were this: (1) wealth was generally earned, (2) political power had little to do with the earning of wealth, and (3) you could work your way up the ladder to each level.

Over the past few decades this has changed. For one thing, the wealthy today rarely earn their wealth through the private market. Instead, they enter the worlds of law or finance, and their wealth comes from the misuse of the legal system to force their way into transactions. In other words, they actually “earn” their wealth by setting up toll booths to clog the free market system, and what they earn is stripped away from companies and people who could otherwise use it invent new products and employ more people. Moreover, their pay does not come from free market mechanisms, it comes from monopoly pricing. Thus, today’s rich make a hell of a lot more money than the rich in the past and they are “earning” it without providing anything useful to society... to the contrary, they are hindering society. Thus, they have gone from heroes to villains.

But this still wouldn’t be a problem if things were going well at the bottom... but they’re not. As I outline in my book, middle class and poor incomes have been sinking badly since the 1970s, even as rich incomes soared (incomes are more unequal today, in the age of Obama, than they’ve been at any time since the age of the Robber Barons). Moreover, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to move up the ladders and to stay on the level you are at. Unlike the past, if you learn your job, work hard and stay out of trouble these days, nothing is guaranteed anymore. Now you need an education, or you will find the ceiling is very low. But even getting an education guarantees you nothing but debt.

The result of this is a poor class who see welfare as their better option and feels entitled because they feel they have gotten screwed by society. You have a middle class that is struggling, which is increasingly turning to “eat the rich” policies, who are also starting to rely on benefits, who see the stock market as fixed, and who see the government becoming a tool for wealth generation on the backs of the middle class who are expected to pick up the tab. That hasn’t led to violence yet in America, but it is the sort of thing that has led to violence elsewhere, and it is the sort of thing which leads people to start supporting destructive policies like increases in welfare for their own class... or worse.

This is why I agree with the Pope’s concerns and why I think conservatives need to start trying to address this issue.

So what is problematic? Well, the Pope’s rhetoric is the problem. He wraps this message in some very anti-capitalist statements. For example, he called capitalism “brutal” and “a new tyranny,” and he complained about “rampant consumerism.” Grr.

First, he’s wrong about consumerism. Consumerism is the ultimate in democracy in action. Consumerism is how billions of humans express their opinions to the businesses and governments around them. It is how we the people reward the good guys who make our lives better and cause the bad guys to fail by ignoring them and their goods. And anything we can do to give consumers more power and more choice, the better. What I think the Pope is really upset about is “materialism,” which is a very different thing. That’s about people choosing stuff over people. He should not be confusing that with consumerism.

Secondly, he’s wrong about “capitalism.” Capitalism is the only way to lift people out of poverty. So attacking “capitalism” is foolish and counter-productive. And again, I think he’s misspoken. I think what he’s really talking about is cronyism, which is obvious from his calls for the reformation of the financial systems.

So the problem is this. Either the Pope simply misused his words or spoken poorly, or he means his rhetoric and is saying something much bigger than what appears to be the substance he intended. If that’s the case, then he’s a fool. If he only misspoke, then that’s fine, except that as someone with this powerful of a bully pulpit, he needs to take more care to speak clearly. His choice of words will wrongly feed statists everywhere. Moreover, for someone whose goal has been to get the Church back to its mission of spreading religion, it’s rather foolish to delve into economic ideology. Further, he offers no solutions by way of guidance. All he says is that unfettered capitalism is bad, but a welfare state is not the answer. So what does he want? It’s not clear.

I get the sense that what he’s talking about is equality of opportunity. He talks about striving to provide work, healthcare and education to all citizens. Those really are the inputs to people living productive lives. In fact, I would suggest that conservatives need a platform that is strong on each of those points: creating jobs and opportunity, improving education, and finding ways to make healthcare cheap and universally available. I also get the sense he’s actually talking about things conservatives should like, and if we could discuss this with him, we would probably find we agree. Indeed, notice that at no point does he call for minimum wages or guaranteed incomes, he never says the government has a duty to hand out these things, and he specifically disdains the welfare mentality.

So ultimately, we probably should be embracing this... BUT his attacks on consumerism and capitalism make it very, very hard to embrace his statement. By saying these things, he has given aid and comfort to people who favor redistribution. He has muddied what he said with sufficient contradictions that it is not possible to know precisely what he wants, which makes it hard to say, “Sure, I agree.” And he has wrongly attacked the very tools it will take to make his goals possible. Frustrating.

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