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Monday, April 26, 2010
Intellectual Betters?

Interesting paragraph from Richard Posner's book Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline that I caught from a reference in Paul Hollander's The End of Commitment: Intellectuals, Revolutionaries, and Political Morality in the Twentieth Century:

A proclivity for taking extreme positions, a taste for universals and abstractions, a desire for moral purity, a lack of worldliness, and intellectual arrogance work together to induce in many academic public intellectuals selective empathy, a selective sense of justice, an insensitivity to context...an impatience with prudence and sobriety, a lack of realism and excessive self-confidence.

Sound like anyone you know?

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Monday, March 29, 2010
Sound Off Like Ya Got a Pair

Breaking news out of the Department of Obama Approval Rating Reclamation. Next week the President will be immersing himself in America's national past time. No, not deeply bowing to foreign princes and potentates. That's what he likes to do while he's on the clock. We're talking about something fun, one with deeper roots in American history:

President Obama will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day at Nationals Park, continuing a tradition that began 100 years ago and making him the second sitting president to throw the pitch since baseball returned to Washington in 2005.

To paraphrase our distinguished vice president, that's a big f***ing pitch. Most politicians never risk getting in front of an audience that hasn't been handpicked for undying fealty to their ideology. To say nothing of an audience with direct access to alcohol. And foam fingers. Most importantly, this is mere weeks after Obama orchestrated the passage of highly controversial legislation, in the face of disapproval from a majority of Americans. For a population that feels its politicians are actively refusing to listen to them, these may be the ingredients for the mother of all booing opportunities. A "boopportunity", if you will.

We of course condemn any violence, or the shouting of epithets and obscenities (real or imagined). But booing poorly performing elected officials is a legitimate exercise in free speech, as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and bailing out Chevrolet. If a politician is going to attempt to trade on his position in order to grab the spotlight at non-political public events, then those in attendance get to provide immediate feedback on his performance. That may mean cheers, that may mean boos. That's the chance you take when you step into the arena.

Of all possible public audiences, the Washington DC crowd is as sympathetic as Obama could ever hope to find. With the number of government employees and clients residing the area, it's possible he will get cheered. But then again, who knows? There have to be some people in DC who aren't net tax consumers or who like their health insurance. If nothing else, this particular crowd owes a few boos in order to at least appear to be bipartisan. See President Bush in 2005:





On the local front, I've not seen any reports about politicians making appearances at the Twins opener in Target Field. I can only image the reception an Al Franken, Betty McCollum, or Jim Oberstar might get. It might be worth them trying to horn in on the limelight, just to hear the reaction. I doubt they will be there though. Not a good fit and they know better than to openly subject themselves to public opinion like that. For them, the people may have to save their boos for the next time they encounter them on a ballot.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010
The Emperor Has No Garment

Question for all those Catholics out there who voted for Barack Obama because--despite his clear and consistent views and record on abortion, stem cells, and other life issues--he would do more to help promote "social justice." You know people like Douglas Kmiec and other ProLife ProObama folks who claimed that being pro-life was more than just opposing abortion and anyway as president Obama would take actions that would "drastically" reduce the number of abortions.

More than a year into the Obama presidency, what exactly has President Obama done that in any way could justify your vote? What has he done in the name of "social justice" that President Bush didn't do? The stimulus package and extending unemployment benefits seem like pretty weak tea given the expectations. What about health care? Last time, I checked the USCCB still opposed any bill that included funding for abortion and the President seems intent on ramming just that through.

What about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that left-leaning Catholics have opposed? Still going on. Guantanamo Bay? Still open. The anti-terror provisions of the Patriot Act and other executive powers claimed by the Bush Administration to fight terrorism? Still being used by the Obama Administration.

So while it's perfectly clear to see the moral ground that has been lost under President Obama when it comes to abortion and stem cells, it difficult for me to see what pro-Obama Catholics can claim has been gained since his election. Douglas Kmiec got a sweet gig as U.S. Ambassador to Malta, but what about the rest of you?

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Smoking 'Em Out

Caught a report on CNN this morning on a matter that seems to have grave consequences for our nation. Apparently our Commander in Chief--despite repeated promises to the contrary--continues to sneak in a smoke or two during his long days at the White House. Sanjay Gupta--perhaps still bitter about not being Obama's Surgeon General--was the lead babbling busy body to weigh in on how terrible this was, both for the health of President Obama and more importantly, for efforts to get Americans to quit smoking. This renewed concern about President Obama's personal habit was brought about by the news that after his annual physical, his doctor had recommended that he quit smoking. The burning issue was addressed again yesterday when White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs explained that President Obama was chewing nicotine gum to help stave off his cravings, but occasionally would "fall off the wagon." Gibbs would not elaborate on how many cigarettes a day President Obama was smoking or where and when he was getting his nic fix in. Appointing a special prosecutor seems to be in order to get to the bottom of this pressing matter.

Of all that things that President Obama has done or will do in the future, I can't think of too many that I have less interest in than whether he smokes or not. His smoking habit has no impact on anyone other than himself and it's none of our business whether he pounds a couple of nails each day or not. Frankly, when faced with a creaking economy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a soon-to-be nuclear Iran, and a building debt/entitlement crisis I don't blame the guy for wanting to light up a heater or two. If I was in his shoes, I'd probably be chain-smoking throughout the day, at least when I was out of the public eye.

And if the President does find some solace and enjoyment in the occasional cigarette, maybe we'd all be better off if he indulged more often. Perhaps he wouldn't have come off as short and cranky at times during last week's health care summit if he'd only stepped out a few times for a smoke break during the day. Again, if I had to spend a whole day in a room full of Senators and Congressmen talking about health care, I'd be dying for a smoke too. For a guy who seems to be in excellent health overall, is it really that awful that he has what seems to be minor tobacco vice?

On a purely personal level, President Obama's stealthy smoking actually makes him more likeable to me. The fact that he's willing to commit a major Nanny State no-no and buck the tremendous societal pressure (often from his own ideological allies) to conform to the "smoking is always evil" convention is deserving of a certain amount of respect.

In the year-plus of the Age of Obama so far, there hasn't been a lot to like from the Obama White House. One thing that I have appreciated is the Obama's willingness in particular areas to conduct themselves as responsible adults and make no apologies for it. Sure, the "beer summit" was hackneyed and largely pointless, but I liked the fact that the President was willing to publicly drink a beer without worrying about the "message this was sending to children" or his need to act as some sort of perfectly abstinent role model for the country. Same thing for the Wednesday cocktail hour which the Obama's reinstated at the White House. They both send the message that adults can enjoy themselves by drinking in moderation without suffering negative consequences. That's a much more realistic role for Americans to model.

So if the President wants to fire up a heater or two after a long day spent talking with Joe Biden, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, I for one will not blame him. If you've got 'em sir, go ahead and smoke 'em.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010
Don't Have To Admit It's Getting Better

Yesterday's WSJ contained a special section called State of the Nation:

A year into the Obama administration, we asked Americans how they're feeling about the president and politics. We found a lot of weariness, a few glimmers of optimism, and not much good news for Democrats.

The section was broken down into various areas such as the economy, health care, national security, etc. and polling data and opinion pieces germane to each area were presented. One area that was included was race relations. Now, you might think that the election of the country's first African-American president would be the latest sign of the progress that the United States has made in this area. But Marc Morial--president of the National Urban League--advises us that there is Still So Far To Go:

And when you factor in the seemingly never-ending cycle of racial incidents, like the arrest in his home of Prof. Henry Louis Gates, the refusal of a Louisiana justice of the peace to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple, and the expulsion of black kids from a Philadelphia swimming pool, it is clear that there is nothing postracial about America in the year 2010. For African-Americans, especially, these are both the best of times and the worst of times.

While I'm sure we all appreciate a Dickens reference when we read it, I have to question whether the one that Morial chooses is really appropriate for this situation. Does he honestly believe that 2010 is in any way the worst of times for African-Americans? Worse than Jim Crow era segregation laws? Worse than public lynchings? Worse than slavery? Please.

But the doors of opportunity and inclusion have yet to be fully opened to people of color. And with our economy currently in the grips of a great recession, new immigrants of color as well as African-Americans are facing increasing racial and ethnic hostility. Hate crimes and other incidents of discrimination are rising, as is hateful rhetoric on some conservative talk shows and town-hall meetings.

Morial offers no evidence to back his assertions of increases in "racial and ethnic hostility," "hate crimes and other incidents of discrimination," and "hateful rhetoric on some conservative talk shows (gee thanks for the modifier) and town-hall meetings." He could be basing his claim that hate crimes are rising on the FBI's annual report even though those statistics have been shown to be useless for year to year comparisons. His definition of "hateful rhetoric" essentially boils down to anything said in opposition to President Obama.

You may wonder why a leader of a civil rights organization would choose to focus relentlessly on the negative during of time of unparalleled achievement by African-Americans in so many facets of American life.

It is clear that we and our partners in the civil rights movement are needed now more than ever. While it is true that we have a black president of extraordinary vision and talent, it is also true that some would still rather view him and all African-Americans through the outdated prism of assumed inferiority. And so, as much as he and we would like to announce the arrival of a postracial America, our work is not yet done.

When your livelihood depends on keeping the racial grievance pot boiling, your work will never be done.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Change to Stale Performance Review Answers We Can Believe In

By far the most painful question to answer during a performance review is:

"Can you tell me what your primary work-related weaknesses are?"

Painful because honesty is typically not an option. Telling the reviewer that you have a habit of undermining your coworkers and management through the spreading of malicious rumors or that you've figured out a way to work only 45 minutes out of every 8 hour work day without anyone noticing will tend to negatively affect your prospects for getting a raise or keeping your job. Telling the reviewer that you have figured out a way to steal enough pencils and staplers from the office to finance a lake cabin and your children's college fund may even get you arrested. No, the smart move is to avoid going into your personal fault inventory at all.

Unfortunately, you can't just clam up either. Responding by saying "no comment" is really suspicious and leads the interviewer to immediately assume you're hiding an increasingly voracious methamphetamine habit that will soon erode your attendance rate, production levels, and your ability to keep your teeth from falling out of your head during a sales call.

Sitting there motionless and keeping entirely silent is weird too. That is, unless you're using the deaf angle and you tell end up telling the reviewer that your main weakness is that you're losing your hearing. Not a bad play for sympathy reasons and for introducing the notion that firing you is discriminatory behavior with severe legal repercussions. But this gambit requires a high degree of commitment, forcing you to pretend to have a hearing problem for perhaps years or even decades to come. That's a lot of work in order to avoid one difficult question.

Ideally, the response to an inquiry of your primary job-related weaknesses must be both succinct and self-serving. As veterans of the job market have learned, there are only two acceptable options:

1) I work too hard.

2) I'm a perfectionist.

And these problems plague our society. According to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of human resources professionals on the primary problems facing business in America, 82% said their employees work too hard and 73% are overcapacity for perfectionists.

In other words, the jig may soon be up. These answers are getting stale. Before we know it employers will catch on. Then they'll start prefacing the dreaded question by saying "Besides the fact that you work too hard and/or are a perfectionist, what are you're greatest work-related weaknesses?" It's like when Wheel of Fortune started giving away the STRLN for the bonus round and then used harder phrases without those letters. We're doomed!

Fear not, America. Just when you thought all was lost and we were out of hope, in steps The One.

President Obama interviewed by ABC News on the subject of his performance during his first year in office:

The president said he made a mistake in assuming that if he focused on policy decisions, the American people would understand the reasoning behind them.

"That I do think is a mistake of mine," Obama said. "I think the assumption was if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on this provision or that law or if we're making a good rational decision here, then people will get it."

Instead, the president said the American people ended up with a "feeling of remoteness and detachment" from the policymakers in Washington who are making big decisions.

I didn't think I was possible, but we now have a third answer to that most painful of performance review questions.

3) I've been so busy making the big decisions for this company, so immersed in the complexities and technical details of my job, I haven't taken the time to come down to your level and explain what I'm doing. This has left you feeling remote and detached from the good things I'm doing every day. I need to do a better job of making sure you can understand what I'm doing and why.

If the workers of America can peddle that line of shinola with the same sincerity as Barack Obama, it's got to be good for at least a half a point off the unemployment numbers next quarter.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010
Bo Knows Hardball

Everybody else has an online journal, why not Bo, the conservative dog in the White House?

Right now, I'm sitting in the Oval Office with Barry, Axelrod and Chief of Staff and resident kneecapper, Rahm Emanuel, while the three chumps cool their heels in the waiting room. Barry's staring out the window, going JFK on us, trying to figure out which precise upward angle of the chin registers that weary-but-resolute toughness that the press corps laps up. If he sticks that jaw up any higher he's going to drown in a drizzle if you ask me, but the pose does seem to bring a flush to the freshly sculpted cheeks of Andrea Mitchell.

Have I mentioned that I'm a conservative? Yeah, I eat the kibble that the cook dumps in my bowl, but I can take care of myself. I killed a couple of squirrels a few weeks ago, just to prove that I don't need handouts. I still eat the kibble though. This White House is Lib-Central; you don't eat the kibble, they start thinking you're uppity and snip-snip the soft and tender places. No thanks. It's not so bad living here, but if I didn't have a sense of humor, I'd throw myself under the wheels of the vice-presidential limo when Joe Biden's doing donuts in the parking lot.

The three rubes? David Frum, David Brooks and Peggy Noonan, three GOP-approved media yappers. Pathetic. I can't even tell the two Davids apart. Couple of constipated white guys who look like they got beat up a lot in junior high and never forgot it. One of them wrote some sappy article about how proud he was to have a president like Barry because he had a crisp crease in his trousers, but don't ask me which one it was. Real genius. Yeah, next time let's elect Mr. Blackwell president. He's still alive, isn't he? Peggy...she smells good, like mahogany and oranges, but she's confusing. One minute she's in a fugue state about Barry's cool elegance, like he's Fred Astaire with the nuclear football, the next she's all weepy about teenagers who don't know who Ronald Reagan was, and how just yesterday she was talking to an old friend about the delicious chocolate macaroons they served at this little shop on Third Avenue back when Republicans didn't raise their voices, or nominate trailer trash for high office. You get the idea. Just another loony old broad with a column. Maureen Dowd without the desperation.


Bo knows his media yappers well.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Mysterious Ways

Is President Barack Obama actually at heart a secret THEOCON?!?! Joe Carter connects the dots (while cleverly pretending not to) at A First Things Blog:

If you haven't heard the latest rumor/conspiracy theory--and you probably haven't since I'm just now putting this out there in order to debunk it before anyone else connects the dots--it goes something like this: A First Things article which revived interest in theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and connected his views with the Global War on Terror influenced David Brooks, who in turn influenced Barack Obama, who used the idea (mixed with progressive elements) as the basis for the Obama Doctrine.

We're through the looking glass here people.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009
Thin Air At The Summit

If you were at a meeting at work and heard a leader unleash the following stream of meaningless clichés and buzz words, what would you honestly think of that person?

So we can't make any ill-considered decisions right now. Even with the best of intentions, we're going to have to be surgical and we're going to have to be creative. We're going to have to be smart and strategic. And we'll need to look beyond the old standbys and fallbacks, and come up with the best ideas that give us the biggest bang for the buck.

So I need everybody here to bring their A game here today. I'm going to be asking some tough questions. I will be listening for some good answers.

And I don't want to just brainstorm up at 30,000 feet. I want details in our discussion today.


Now, what would you think if that speaker was the President of the United States of America?

I'm surprised that President Obama didn't also ask everyone at the "jobs summit" to give 110%, think outside the box, and look for low hanging fruit to help grow the economy.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Hammer Time

The most recent edition of National Review features Charles Krauthammer on its cover and has a good piece on the indispensible intellectual/pundit by Jay Nordlinger called Critic-in-Chief (sub req):

So, Charles Krauthammer has not exactly been a wallflower or nonentity. But since January 20, 2009, his fame, reach, and popularity has burgeoned. That is because he has been a brilliant critic of President Obama: a persistent, fearless, profound critic of Obama. Indeed, many conservatives, and some liberals as well, consider him the critic-in-chief. He has been on Obama's case constantly, for his errors and follies in policy both foreign and domestic. In a column last month, he said that the "commander-in-chief, young Hamlet, frets, demurs, agonizes." Krauthammer was speaking of the Afghan War. Only in August, Obama had declared Afghanistan to be "a war of necessity." Now the president seemed very much unsure. Krauthammer concluded his column, "Does anything he says remain operative beyond the fading of the audience applause?"

Krauthammer also has a big television presence, a tremendous platform: appearing almost every night on Fox News, specifically Special Report with Bret Baier, where he gives commentary. Fox has rattled the president and his administration, as they have not bothered disguising. Krauthammer is a key part of what you may call the Fox resistance to Obama. There is precedent for the intellectual as television star: Malcolm Muggeridge in Britain, William F. Buckley Jr. in America. But the precedents are few.


There are few precedents indeed for the role that Krauthammer is now playing. His columns are must-reads and I find myself tuning in to Special Report whenever I have the chance chiefly in the hope of catching a few minutes of Krauthammer's expounding on the issues of the day. His language is precise and analytical and, like a surgeon wielding a scalpel, he uses words to cut to the heart of the manner with an almost clinical style. Most importantly, he was one of the first critics to be able to articulate what President Obama is really all about. He's now got Obama down cold which makes his analysis so insightful and convincing.

It might seem unlikely that a man who was born (correction) raised in Quebec, trained as a psychiatrist, once a speechwriter for Walter Mondale, and a writer for the New Republic would become one of the foremost conservative critics of the Age of Obama. But fate has worked in favor of conservatives in the case of Krauthammer and we're fortunate to have his voice leading the resistance. It isn't always an easy role either.

Every columnist writes a "soft" column now and then--a column about sports, or fashion, or maybe a beloved former teacher. All summer long, Krauthammer was wanting to write a column about the Washington Nationals, the baseball team. But he never had the opportunity, because "Obama keeps coming at me like a fire hose."

And it doesn't look like the deluge is going to let up anytime soon.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Getting Well Soon

Dear President Obama-

Just wanted to drop you a note and thank you for everything. As you know, last January we were in pretty rough shape. Our obituary was being written and some were ready to dump our corpse on the dead cart. Now, thanks to your arrogance, overreach, and utter disdain for any notion of compromise, we're feeling much better.

Let's be honest here. Had you actually lived up to your campaign promises to move beyond partisan politics and bring the country together for common purposes, you probably could have buried us for a good while. Most of the country was willing to believe and gave you the chance to practice what you had preached. Again, we're thankful that you chose to follow a different path.

More honesty requires us to admit that we really haven't done much to deserve this kindness either. Most of are leaders are still clueless about the growing backlash that you've unleashed and what they should do about it. Heck, some of them are still playing the moderate game without really understanding the last thing the American public is looking for right is squishiness.

We hope it's not too much to ask that you continue to help us down this road to recovery for oh...about the next three-hundred-sixty-five days or so. Keep trying to ram those unpopular health care and cap and trade bills through Congress and by this time next year we'll be the picture of health. In fact, you probably won't even recognize us anymore.

Yours in eternal gratitude,

The Republican Party

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Monday, October 19, 2009
Presidential Portrait?

Our four-year-old son was looking through a book of Pablo Picasso paintings. When he came to this particular work...

...he shouted "That's Barack Obama!"

We were surprised because we weren't sure that he even knew who President Obama was (we we're not big into political indoctrination at this age) and that he knew what he looked like enough to find such a similarity with a Picasso self-portrait. If you take a close look you can see that the boy is on to something here. He may just have an eye for separated at births. That's my boy.

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Friday, October 16, 2009
The Voice of a New Generation?

Saw a billboard this morning for local lefty talk radio station AM 950 touting their new tag line:

"The Voice of the Obama Generation"

I found it unusual that a radio station (or any media outlet for that matter) would tether themselves so concretely to a particular political figure. It would have been impossible to imagine a right-wing station like AM1280 The Patriot linking themselves in such a way to President Bush, even at the height of his popularity.

Despite claims that conservative media are "mouthpieces of the Republican Party" they've almost always been more about conservative political philosophy than Republican Party politics. Sometimes there is more overlap between those two areas than others, but there's also plenty of tension which has usually been pretty evident in conservative media.

Alternative motto which would also be appropriate for AM 950:

"The Voice of the Obama Administration"

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Thursday, September 17, 2009
Welcome To The Kitchen Mr. Obama

A lot of talk lately about "civility" or lack therefore of in American politics. Apparently, all the town hall attendees, tea party protesters, and talk radio shock jocks have crossed a line of decorum that has previously been rigorously observed in our political realm. If we could only return to the glory days of discourse when political opponents respected the boundaries of civilized conversation and operated under a sort of Marquess of Queensberry rules of rhetoric, our society would be so much better off.

When I hear these lamentations about the "loss of civility" that supposedly mars our political process these days, I wonder when this era of good feelings and political civility that we've allegedly now lost is imagined to have occurred. For when I look back on the last forty-plus years of presidential politics, I'm hard pressed to recognize it.

How civilized was it when protesters outside the White House taunted Lyndon Johnson with "Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids have you killed today"?

Does anyone think opponents of Richard Nixon--who were hardly shy about expressing their seething hatred--accorded him any measure of civility?

I'm too young to remember myself, but when it comes to Gerald Ford his opposition may indeed have behaved in a civil manner. Of course, since the country was already laughing at his antics and pratfalls on a regular basis, they probably didn't feel the need to attack him much anyway. A president who goes around encouraging people to wear Whip Inflation Now buttons is really his own worst enemy.

By the time his administration mercifully came to an end, Jimmy Carter was ridiculed as an impotent, ineffectual bumpkin.

When Ronald Reagan was not being portrayed by his opponents as an affable jelly-bean eating dunce literally asleep at the switch, he was being demonized as a bloodthirsty warmonger who wanted to toss orphans out in the streets and make the elderly subsist on dog food before he unleashed nuclear Armageddon on the planet.

If you've ever watched the excellent documentary "The War Room" you know the manner in which George H.W. Bush was vilified by the Clinton crew.

Who of course had their own turn as targets of incivility over Whitewater, Vince Foster, and of course that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. According to his critics, a blue dress was the least of the stains left by President Clinton.

It's arguable that no president in modern history was more maligned by his opponents than George W. Bush. The examples of incivility directed his way are far too numerous to even begin to list here (although you can see good examples here).

But the absence of civility in politics is hardly a recent trend. You won't find a great deal of civility in the way opponents treated Truman or Roosevelt. Prior to America's entry into the Second World War, many Republicans regarded FDR as a greater threat to the country than any foreign enemy.

The Founding Fathers were hardly exempt from crude and rude political attacks. The claims made about and charges leveled at Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and yes even George Washington (gasp!) were far outside the boundaries of what one would now consider civil discourse.

So should Joe Wilson get a pass for his outburst during President Obama's speech? No. His behavior was inappropriate and out of line. But let's not pretend that the tenor and tone of the opposition to President Obama that we're seeing today is especially unusual or ahistorical. It's the way that politics has been played at the presidential level pretty much from the get go. You could say that it comes with the Oval Office.

Finally, let's stop equating opposition to or even incivility towards President Obama with racism. You may note that the skin color of the previous occupants of the White House hardly made them immune from experiencing it as well.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009
The Untouchables

Scene from the Obama health care rally in Minneapolis today:

A man in a wheelchair shouted at those headed inside: "Look at all of you - socialists! Shame on you guys!"

An Obama supporter, also in a wheelchair and with a missing arm, yelled back. "Who bought your wheelchair?"


They bring a guy in a wheelchair, you bring a guy in a wheelchair missing an arm. That's the Chicago way!

For some reason this exchange also reminds me of an NHL bench clearing brawl where the two goalies end up squaring off. Unlikely combatants, not something you see every day.

For more on what you might have heard inside the Obama rally, check out this post at the Nihilist in Golf Pants.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009
No More Words

Ben from Infinite Monkeys had his 7-year-old son analyze President Obama's back-to-school speech:

Me: So, Benjamin, you heard the president speak today. What did you think?

Benjamin: Mmmm. Naw.

Me: What do you mean? You didn't hear it or...?

Benjamin: I didn't like it.

Me: Why not?

Benjamin: Well, I couldn't really understand most of the words, and there was a lot of talking.


Nothing drives a young boy to distraction like a lot of talking. Maybe next year President Obama can deliver his speech to kids while going through the Wipeout course. Might help keep his target audience more interested.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009
The Obama Jungen?

On Tuesday September 8, President Obama will make a televised appearance in classrooms all over America to speak to the country's elementary school children. This event has drawn the ire or many conservatives. They believe that this president, who had claimed to be post-partisan, will offer an indoctrination to our kids that will amount to an unopposed attack on his political opponents.

The administration refutes this claim and says the president will speak about American principles of hard work and education:

During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation's children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.

So what should a responsible school administrator do? Do they believe that President Obama is providing a non-political talk about the importance of education or do they think that he will brainwash his captive audience toward his political agenda? Not surprisingly, most public school administrators take the administration's word at face value and will air his address with no questions asked. A few conservative administrators won't chance controversy and refuse to let the president into their classrooms.

Fortunately, parents who sacrifice to send their children to private school may end up with the best alternative. The Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul recently sent the following advice to it's school administrators (please forgive the lack of a link):

. . . some of our Catholic schools across the country are choosing to tape the President?s address, preview it, and then make the decision whether or not to share it with students in age-appropriate gatherings. We would recommend this as a prudent method in alignment with how you already bring speakers and groups into your buildings.

This makes all the sense in the world. There is no reason this address needs to be shown live. If it is an inspirational non-partisan message, then the kids should see it. However, if it is controversial political propaganda then they should pass.

I for one welcome my president to reinforce universal themes of hard work, education and avoidance of drugs.

The Elder Concurs: I applaud the prudent approach the Archdiocese is taking on the matter. While the original DOE lesson plan that was to accompany the speech was out of line, there's nothing inherently wrong with the President speaking to America's schoolchildren. Conservatives need to be careful not to overreact to everything Obama that comes down the pike. There's enough real issues to be concerned about without having to gin up outrage over relatively unimportant matters like this one. Best to keep our powder dry. (Note: the last idiom was employed for rhetorical purposes only and should in no way be taken in its literal sense.)

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Friday, August 21, 2009
Obama's Birth Certificate

One of my goals upon joining Fraters Libertas was to get to the bottom of this Obama Birth Certificate controversy. Unfortunately, the Elder rejected my expense request for an investigatory trip to Honolulu, citing the poor economy. How convenient for President Obama that his mishandling of the economy has squelched an investigation that may have led to his being frog-marched out of the White House.

Although we will now never know the truth about Obama's Birth Certificate, I was able to uncover an even more damaging document. Obama's Certificate of Liberal Birth:

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Blatant Totalitarianism

Camille Paglia is the rarest of birds in many respects. Lately, what's set her apart from the crowd is the fact that she's a supporter of President Obama who has managed to maintain her intellectual honesty:

And what do Democrats stand for, if they are so ready to defame concerned citizens as the "mob" -- a word betraying a Marie Antoinette delusion of superiority to ordinary mortals. I thought my party was populist, attentive to the needs and wishes of those outside the power structure. And as a product of the 1960s, I thought the Democratic party was passionately committed to freedom of thought and speech.

But somehow liberals have drifted into a strange servility toward big government, which they revere as a godlike foster father-mother who can dispense all bounty and magically heal all ills. The ethical collapse of the left was nowhere more evident than in the near total silence of liberal media and Web sites at the Obama administration's outrageous solicitation to private citizens to report unacceptable "casual conversations" to the White House. If Republicans had done this, there would have been an angry explosion by Democrats from coast to coast. I was stunned at the failure of liberals to see the blatant totalitarianism in this incident, which the president should have immediately denounced. His failure to do so implicates him in it.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009
To Infinity And Beyond

On Sunday, I noticed a vehicle driven by an Obamalyte that bore a green and blue bumper sticker that read:

For The Whole World
Barack Obama

I've never noticed this particular sticker before, but recognize the sentiments. A couple of thoughts:

Firstly, President Obama is most decidedly NOT "for the whole world." He's President of the United States of America, not the world. His chief duty is to protect and defend our country, our Constitution, and our citizens. His decisions should always be made in the best interest of the United States. Most of the time--in my opinion at least--the best interests of the US are also the best interests of "the whole world" (however you manage to define it.) However, at times they will not be and in those situations I fully expect that President Obama--like every US president who has proceeded him--to act according to what's best for the United States.

Secondly, (as my wife noted when I mentioned this to her) isn't this bumper sticker an example of the "American arrogance" that the Obamaphytes so decried in President Bush? Maybe "the whole world" doesn't want the guiding light of The One to save them. Maybe they'd rather just work things out on their own and look to their own leaders for their hope and change. It's a shocking thing to consider, but maybe the whole world doesn't really need Barack Obama after all.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009
Course Correction

The temptation to compare Presidents to their predecessors is one that seems to prove impossible for pundits to resist. Immediately after Barack Obama's election, many fawning media types sought to cast him as a historical figure by linking him to Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. of late, many on the right have tried to portray Obama as the second coming of Jimmy Carter (no Atomizer, that is not a good thing).

While it is still way too early in the game to say which presidency Obama's will most come to resemble, I think you can make a case for the possibility that it parallels that of Bill Clinton. Not that President Obama would approve of being grouped together with Clinton. It's quite clear that he wants an F.D.R. like legacy and is willing to use the L.B.J. like strategies to achieve it. But whether President Obama ends up being labeled as another F.D.R., Carter, or Clinton may have less to do what he wishes than with where political and economic realities push him.

How could Obama's presidency come to resemble Clinton's? Three ways.

Obama has decided that he needs to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the crisis environment and Democratic control of Congress to push his pet programs through as quickly as possible. He realizes that there probably won't be a better time to get what he wants done than the present and he's going to try to make hay while he can. The signature achievement that he most wants to be remembered for is health care reform. But in his haste to get a bill (any bill) passed, he's set himself up for a fall if his health care plans end up getting tripped up.

As Ramesh Ponnuru notes in the July 20th edition of National Review (sub req) losing the health care battle would likely force Obama to take in his sails and tack back to the center:

President Obama has not staked his presidency on health care as overtly as Clinton did in 1993. But no piece of legislation is more important to his claim to have inaugurated a new political era in which Clintonian compromise with conservatism is no longer necessary. If the Democrats cannot enact a liberal bill, Obama will have proven unable to deliver the change liberals have been waiting for. His presidency will, on its own terms, have failed. That does not mean that Obama cannot go on to have a successful presidency--but if he does it will be different, and less liberal, than the one he hopes to have.

It certainly would not be his "Waterloo" as some of Obama's foes have ill-advisedly claimed, but it would change the course of his presidency.

The economy may also have a lot to say about the path the Obama presidency takes. While it's impossible to predict exactly what the economy is going to like a year from now, it sure doesn't look like we're going to be in the midst of a robust recovery. We may be growing again, but that growth is likely to be painfully slow and anemic. And that growth is not going to be driving a significant resurgence in job creation.

Considering how big a factor the economy is in the outcome of elections, that does not bode well for the Democrats in 2010. It's unlikely that the Republicans could take back both the House and the Senate and they make not control either after 2010. But the Democratic majorities in both bodies are likely to reduced, perhaps greatly. This will force President Obama to actually practice some of the bipartisan consensus seeking that he preached during the campaign and move his policies back toward the center. Maybe not as much as Clinton was forced to after 1994, but far more than he would choose to on his own.

Unlike those of a more pessimistic bent, I believe that the U.S. economy will recover sometime. Despite the drags and unnecessary burdens that Obama and the Democrats will place on it, the economy is just to resilient not to bounce back. And while nothing is certain, it seems reasonable to imagine that the bounce will occur before 2012. Which could greatly enhance Obama's chance of reelection.

If the economy starts humming along nicely again sometime in 2011, it will probably be too soon for Congressional Republicans to take any credit for it. So as has usually been the case in the past, the President will reap the rewards whether he deserves to or not. Barring any major foreign blow ups or significant scandals, a good economy would likely be enough for voters to give President Obama a second term. Much as they did Bill Clinton in 1996.

A health care defeat that alters his course. A mid-term election result that forces him to move right. And a growing economy that helps get him reelected. You can see why Barack Obama could end following in Bill Clinton's footsteps. He might not be real happy about such a result, but it almost certainly would be a better one for the country.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Promises Broken

In yesterday's WSJ Roger Altman--former deputy secretary of the Treasury in the first Clinton administration--wrote that it's not a matter of if President Obama will raise taxes but when. And he thinks that in order to get a grip on the growing budget deficits, it will be soon:

Only five months after Inauguration Day, the focus of Washington's economic and domestic policy is already shifting. This reflects the emergence of much larger budget deficits than anyone expected. Indeed, federal deficits may average a stunning $1 trillion annually over the next 10 years. This worsened outlook is stirring unease on Main Street and beginning to reorder priorities for President Barack Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership. By 2010, reducing the deficit will become their primary focus.

Why has the deficit outlook changed? Two main reasons: The burst of spending in recent years and the growing likelihood of a weak economic recovery. The latter would mean considerably lower federal revenues, the compiling of more interest on our growing debt, and thus higher deficits. Yes, the President's Council of Economic Advisors is still forecasting a traditional cyclical recovery -- i.e., real growth of 3.2% next year and 4% in 2011. But the latest data suggests that we're on a much slower path. Probably along the lines of the most recent Goldman Sachs and International Monetary Fund forecasts, whose growth rates average about 2% for 2010-2011.

A speedy recovery is highly unlikely given the financial condition of American households, whose spending represents 70% of GDP. Household net worth has fallen more than 20% since its mid-2007 peak. This drop began just when household debt reached 130% of income, a modern record. This lethal combination has forced households to lower their spending to reduce their debt. So far, however, they have just begun to pay it down. This implies subdued spending and weak national growth for some time.


Altman goes on to suggest that some form of VAT will be considered and acknowledges that getting it passed will be an immense challenge for President Obama especially in light of his oft-repeated campaign promise to not increase taxes on those earning less than $250K a year.

The first President Bush's infamous "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge ended up being a millstone around his political neck that helped sink his chances for reelection to a second term. Could a breaking of President Obama's promise not to raise taxes on "middle-class" Americans have the same impact?

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Party Killers

You know, the last time we had the Iranians over to the US Embassy for a gathering, they liked it so much, they refused to leave. It's like we were hostages or something!

Literally, actually. You may remember, late 1970's, binding and gagging, beatings, public humiliations, mock executions, etc.

I ain't exactly Emily Post, but I don't believe that proper decorum dictates that earns you an automatic invitation back for another party.

On the other hand, Barack Obama, an elegant man (as Sean Penn calls him), believes it's time to let bygones be bygones. Forgive and forget already! He invited Iranian officials worldwide to come to US Embassies for a party. Not just any party mind you, but a party to celebrate America on the anniversary of its founding, July 4th.

Putting aside the astounding historical ignorance (or apathy) revealed by his extending any invitation to that same hostage taking Iranian regime to come to a US Embassy, what's truly striking is Obama's naïveté in thinking the Iranians would accept an invitation to a party to celebrate America.

This Wall Street Journal article, previously excerpted on Fraters Libertas, bears repeating. Read it and wonder just what might have happened during the Embassy party singing of "America the Beautiful" had the Iranians accepted:

Chanting "Death to America! Death to Israel!" has been the way Iranians applaud for over a quarter-century. When the soccer team from Isfahan scores a goal against the soccer team from Shiraz, its fans cheer wildly: "Death to America! Death to Israel!"

At the end of an exquisitely performed sitar solo, the genteel audience in a concert hall in Tabriz shows its appreciation by loudly heaping imprecations upon "International Arrogance" (the USA) and "its Bastard Offspring" (the Jewish state).

Even during the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Iranian participants have replaced their traditionally pious ejaculations of "I am at your service, O Lord, there is none like unto you!" with responsive Persian cursing sessions aimed at the Hebrew- and English-speaking enemies of everything that is holy.

Like the daily "Two Minutes Hate" in George Orwell's "1984," this venom-spewing is the mantra upon which an entire generation of Iranians has been raised.

Another awkward moment no doubt would have ensued when the American flag was raised, as the Iranians only previous experience with Old Glory is best summarized in this picture.

It seems the leadership of Iran isn't as ready to forgive and forget as Barack Obama. Let's hope he figures out that rather stark and obvious fact soon.

Or, alternatively, we can hope that Iran gets some similarly elegant men in charge during the next 4 - 8 years, so we can put that Great Satan talk behind us, and get down to some serious Fourth of July partying with the mullahs.

For more on potential problems with inviting Iranians to Fourth of July parties, check out this post at the Nihilist in Golf Pants.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Half A Mo'

One of the more troubling aspects of the way the "loyal opposition" conducted themselves during the Bush years was the tendency of liberals to almost immediately criticize and second guess President Bush's foreign policy decisions. These knee-jerk critiques often proved to pointless and unfounded over time as events played out. And many who defended Bush's decisions oft gave deference to the office of POTUS with the rationale that unless you were privy to the same information and intelligence the president was, you couldn't necessarily accurately judge the merits of those decisions.

Now, it appears that much of this deference has disappeared as conservative commentators are flailing President Obama for his reaction (or lack of) to the turmoil in Iran following the election. I'm not going to pretend that I have the foggiest idea what's really going on in Iran because I don't. But while there is widespread acceptance that the election was highly fraudulent if not stolen in most quarters, there are also authoritative voices who say that however imperfect the election may have been Ahmadinejad did actually win.

At this point, I don't think we know enough to draw decisive conclusions about what really happened. But I am willing to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt and assume that he knows a lot more than we do about the Iranian election and his reticence to act or speak more forcefully may be based on his enhanced view of the unfolding events.

I also think that we should tread carefully when it comes to supporting and encouraging the budding protest movement in Iran. There are real and practical limits to what the U.S. could or would be willing to do and we need to be smart about not letting the rhetoric outpace that reality.

In today's WSJ, Bret Stephens--one of the critics of President Obama's silence--makes a very apt historical comparison:

Someday a future president may have to apologize to Iranians for Mr. Obama's nonfeasance, just as Mr. Obama apologized for the Eisenhower administration's meddling. But the better Eisenhower parallel is with Hungary in 1956. Then as now a popular uprising coalesced around a figure (Imre Nagy in Hungary; Mir Hossein Mousavi in Iran), who had once been a creature of the system. Then as now it was buoyed by inspiring American rhetoric about freedom and democracy coming over Voice of America airwaves.

And then as now the administration effectively turned its back on the uprising when U.S. support could have made a difference. Hungary would spend the next 33 years in the Soviet embrace. One senses a similar fate for Iran, where Mr. Ahmadinejad's "victory" signals the ultimate ascendancy of the ultra-militants in the Revolutionary Guards Corps and the paramilitary Basij, intent on getting what they want and doing as they please even in defiance of their old clerical masters. Which means: Get ready for a second installment of the Iranian cultural revolution. Mr. Ahmadinejad signaled as much when he promised to go after the corrupt elements of the old regime, particularly the circle around former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who openly opposed the incumbent prior to Friday's poll.


While I agree with Stephens that Hungary in 1956 provides a good parallel to Iran today, I draw a very different lesson from him. One of the tragedies of the Hungarian uprising against the Soviets was that they were lead to believe that the West would come to their aid in their moment of need and stop the Soviets from crushing their bid for freedom. But the reality was that the West--in particular the United States--was not about to go to war with the USSR over Hungary. So at the end of the day, all of the moral support in the world meant nothing when the Soviets rolled their tanks in.

Today, we are not going to go to war with Iran to support those in the streets of Tehran demonstrating against the regime. And while it's true that there are a whole host of things we can do short of war to show our support, we should be careful not to make promises we can't deliver on or set unrealistic expectations among the Iranian dissidents.

Given that perspective, I'm not yet ready to jump on board the bandwagon demanding that President Obama immediately do more. Let's give the president a little more time and his office a little more of the deference on foreign affairs that it deserves. Patience and prudence.

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Friday, June 05, 2009
Left Unsaid

There was one glaring omission in President Obama's speech to the "Muslim world" that hasn't gotten nearly enough attention. While he saw fit to expand the duties of the President of the United States to now include combating prejudice against Islam:

And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

He apparently didn't feel it necessary to mention the persecution of fellow Christians going on in too many places in the Muslim world. With a few exceptions, I've barely seen this mentioned anywhere in the post-speech analysis and opining.

Christian Freedom International Challenges Obama's Silence on Christian Persecution in His Address to Muslim World:

Christian Freedom International (CFI), a humanitarian organization that assists persecuted Christians around the world, is dismayed about President Barack Obama's failure to address the monumental crisis of Christian persecution in Muslim-majority nations during a speech he gave earlier today in Cairo, Egypt.

"We're very disappointed in what he said...and more so about what he didn't say," says CFI president Jim Jacobson.

In his speech, Obama promised the Muslim world a new relationship with the United States based on mutual interest and respect, although CFI questions why the President did not place a stronger demand on Muslims to reciprocate the effort. "According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 17 of the 27 countries targeted for religious persecution contains a Muslim majority--including Egypt," says Jacobson. "President Obama has said that the West has been perceived by Muslims to be hostile to the traditions of Islam, but the fact is that no Christian majority society anywhere today oppresses Muslims."

Jacobson has cited other omissions of religious persecution in Obama's speech, saying that while the President claimed that "Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance," there is no freedom in Muslim-majority countries for Christians to freely practice their own religion, attend publicly funded universities such as Al-Azhar, or even freedom to wear clothing other than Islam's traditional head scarves and burqas.


We're not talking about stereotyping here, we're talking about persecution. In what has been heralded as an "open and honest" speech, the President's failure to even touch on this topic demonstrates that in reality it was anything but that.

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Monday, May 18, 2009
The President's Dictionary

  • common ground

    noun

    a theoretical place where conservatives agree to accept the outcome of arguments over a particular issue and liberals agree to consider moderating the impact: finding a common ground on abortion

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Monday, May 04, 2009
Cradle To Crib

I've commented before on my fears about the growth of Adolescent America and worried about what will become of the country when too many people decide that they'd rather abdicate "grownup" responsibility to the government than have to deal with it themselves.

Now, in a piece at Intellectual Conservative, Gary Larson worries that we're witnessing the rise of the "baby class" as explempfied by their Infant-In-Chief:

Meanwhile, we veterans (me, of Vietnam) are now set up by a left-leaning bureaucracy (Dept. of Homeland Security, of ALL people) as a suspect group of domestic terrorists. Nope, it doesn't get more grossly insulting than that, the ingratitude of the Far Left, toward those who protected their asses physically. Rough men with guns we were.

Babies likely did not serve in the military. They did not put their lives on the line for their country, or on hold to rejoin civilians. DHS dunce Janet Napolitano, one of the kids who doesn't "get it," should hang her head in shame for targeting us GIs.

Babies' newly chosen leader, Kid Obama, is their water-walker, their Messiah. Even while releasing classified secrets to our enemies, now joined by file photos to be used as hate-propaganda and recruitment tools, the rest of the babies support him, say the polls. Lord knows why; it is a phenomenon that transcends logic. But then, he is the whirling dervish. Such activity suggests accomplishment. It is the opposite.

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Monday, April 20, 2009
Hail Columbia

If President Obama is looking for an opportunity to tack to the center on the economic front, challenge liberal special interest groups, and show nervous free marketeers that he's more Clinton than Carter, free trade would seem to present an obvious opening. This report on New Movement on Colombia Trade Pact (WSJ sub req) is an encouraging sign:

President Barack Obama discussed a pending free-trade agreement with his Colombian counterpart Saturday and dispatched his trade representative to discuss U.S. concerns over Colombia's treatment of labor leaders.

At the Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain, Mr. Obama asked to be seated next to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and the pair discussed the deal, U.S. officials said. During his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama had voiced opposition to the pact, citing violence toward labor organizers in Colombia. The deal, which would allow free trade between the two nations, is awaiting ratification in the U.S. Senate and has already been approved by Colombia's congress.

Since taking office, Mr. Obama has struck a more-positive tone on free trade than he often did during the campaign. He and aides have spoken out against protectionism, and in Mexico last week he declined to raise the question of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite a pledge to do so last year.


I'll believe it when I see it, but if Mr. Obama does follow through and get a free-trade deal with Columbia done, he should be cheered. It's also nice to know that he spent at least some time at the Summit of the Americas talking with our allies and not our enemies.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009
Been There

A brief excerpt that appeared in the opinion pages of today's Wall Street Journal:

Doris Kearns Goodwin on Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Great Society, in "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream":

In his determination to get Congress and America moving again, Johnson demanded support for the Great Society and confidence in the capacity of government to improve all the conditions of society as matters of faith. . . . The intensity of his own belief strengthened his formidable persuasive powers. . . . In so expansive an era, filled with such benevolent intentions, the boundaries between fact and fiction, between the present and the future, no longer held. . . .

And so it went in message after message. The subjects might change, but the essentials remained the same: in the opening, an expression of dire need; in the middle, a vague proposal; in the end, a buoyant description of the anticipated results -- all contained in an analysis presented in a manner that often failed to distinguish between expectations and established realities. . . .

[T]he need for haste often resulted in a failure to define the precise nature and requirements of social objectives. Legislative solutions were often devised and rushed into law before the problems were understood . . . Pass the bill now, worry about its effects and implementation later -- this was the White House strategy.


Sound familiar?

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Obama Administration Idea Resembles Dystopian Science Fiction Movie

Barack Obama's science advisor's idea to combat the threat of global warming:
John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.
Some future president's science advisor's idea to combat the threat of global machine tyranny. From The Matrix:
What is known is that it was the humans who "scorched the sky", blocking out the sun's rays, in an attempt at machine genocide -- since the machines needed solar power to survive. In response and retaliation the machines subdued the humans and made them into sources of energy -- batteries, in effect. Each human now floats in his or her own personal vat, a warm and womblike environment, while the machines feed in essential nutrients, in exchange for the energy they need.
Why do I get the feeling that this outcome wouldn't be all together awful as far the current Administration is concerned? It's the ultimate in nanny statism! And think of the health care savings.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Morality Taps Out

When I was watching last night's press conference and heard this exchange...

Q: In your remarks on stem cell research earlier this month, you talked about a majority consensus in determining whether or not this is the right thing to do, to federally fund embryonic stem cell research. I'm just wondering, though, how much you, personally, wrestled with the morality or ethics of federally funding this kind of research, especially given the fact that science so far has shown a lot of progress with adult stem cells, but not a lot with embryonic.

OBAMA: Okay. I think it's a legitimate question. I wrestle with these issues every day, as I mentioned to -- I think in an interview a couple of days ago. By the time an issue reaches my desk, it's a hard issue. If it was an easy issue, somebody else would have solved it and it wouldn't have reached me.

Look, I believe that it is very important for us to have strong moral guidelines, ethical guidelines when it comes to stem cell research or anything that touches on, you know, the issues of possible cloning or issues related to, you know, the human life sciences. I think those issues are all critical, and I've said so before. I wrestle with it on stem cell, I wrestle with it on issues like abortion.


...the image that came to my mind regarding the kind of "wrestling" President Obama was going through was this:

Yes, I think it's safe to say the outcomes of President Obama's wrestling matches on life issues are very much predetermined.

But that wasn't even close to being the most disingenuous statement by President Obama last night. That distinction involved this response when asked about the ballooning deficits he's proposing and the mounting debt that will result:

Now, the alternative is to stand pat and to simply say we are just going to not invest in health care, we're not going to take on energy; we'll wait until the next time that gas gets to $4 a gallon; we will not improve our schools, and we'll allow China or India or other countries to lap our young people in terms of their performance; we will settle on lower growth rates; and we will continue to contract, both as an economy and our ability to provide a better life for our kids.

Yup that's it. We either spend trillions of dollars to expand the scale and scope of our government to unprecedented levels or we do nothing. It's amazing that no one calls him out for presenting these absurdly false choices.

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Friday, March 13, 2009
Elegant Exercises In Wishful Thinking

One of the big hitters in President Obama's new health care proposal is his plan to push for use of electronic medical records throughout the system. He claims this will save $80 billion a year and result in better efficiency for providers and better care for patients.

On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer. But, as we're coming to discover about many of Mr. Obama's grand plans, when you start looking into the details you find that things don't quite add up.

Dr. Jerome Groopman and Dr. Pamela Hartzband did a little digging to find out exactly how electronic medical records would save $80 billion a year and penned a piece in yesterday's WSJ called Obama's $80 Billion Exaggeration:

Last week, President Barack Obama convened a health-care summit in Washington to identify programs that would improve quality and restrain burgeoning costs. He stated that all his policies would be based on rigorous scientific evidence of benefit. The flagship proposal presented by the president at this gathering was the national adoption of electronic medical records -- a computer-based system that would contain every patient's clinical history, laboratory results, and treatments. This, he said, would save some $80 billion a year, safeguard against medical errors, reduce malpractice lawsuits, and greatly facilitate both preventive care and ongoing therapy of the chronically ill.

Following his announcement, we spoke with fellow physicians at the Harvard teaching hospitals, where electronic medical records have been in use for years. All of us were dumbfounded, wondering how such dramatic claims of cost-saving and quality improvement could be true.

The basis for the president's proposal is a theoretical study published in 2005 by the RAND Corporation, funded by companies including Hewlett-Packard and Xerox that stand to financially benefit from such an electronic system. And, as the RAND policy analysts readily admit in their report, there was no compelling evidence at the time to support their theoretical claims. Moreover, in the four years since the report, considerable data have been obtained that undermine their claims. The RAND study and the Obama proposal it spawned appear to be an elegant exercise in wishful thinking.


So we have a theoretical study backed by no compelling evidence whose conclusions have since been questioned by follow-up data. Seems like a rock solid foundation to base your claims on, no? This appears to be another case where Mr. Obama has already decided what the policy will be and almost as an afterthought tries to line up the facts to support it.

Before you dismiss this as nothing more than the latest distortion from the neo con wing nuts who frequent the WSJ's editorial pages, consider how the doctors close their piece:

We both voted for President Obama, in part because of his pragmatic approach to problems, belief in empirical data, and openness to changing his mind when those data contradict his initial approach to a problem. We need the president to apply real scientific rigor to fix our health-care system rather than rely on elegant exercises in wishful thinking.

Elegant exercises in wishful thinking. That has to be the most apt description of the Obama Administration that I've yet come across.

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Friday, March 06, 2009
Which Way To Your America?

Yesterday, at his "health care summit" (is anyone else already tired of these dog & pony show White House meetings where hundreds gather to supposedly come up with solutions to intractable problems in ONE DAY?) President Obama said that rising health care costs were the biggest issue facing the American economy. Some verbatim quotes:

And today, there are those who say we should defer health care reform once again, that at a time of economic crisis, we simply can't afford to fix our health care system as well.

Well, let me be clear. The same soaring costs that are straining families' budgets are sinking our businesses and eating up our government's budget, too. Too many small businesses can't insure their employees. Major American corporations are struggling to compete with their foreign counterparts, and companies of all sizes are shipping their jobs overseas or shutting their doors for good.

Medicare costs are consuming our federal budget. I don't have to tell members of Congress this. Medicaid is overwhelming our state budgets. I don't need to tell governors and state legislatures that.


Medicare and Medicaid--two government programs--are busting state and federal budgets. The fix? More government health care programs.

That's why we cannot delay this discussion any longer. That's why today's forum is so important, because health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it's a fiscal imperative. If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy and get our federal budget under control, then we have to address the crushing costs of health care this year in this administration.

Are rising health care costs really the most pressing economic issue facing most Americans? What about the plummeting stock market? Soaring umemployment rates? The crash in real estate values? Ballooning budget deficits? Or our nearly insolvent financial system?

Now Mr. Obama and other big government health care proponents would argue that health care costs are driving much of the economic pain that we're feeling today. But as Sally Pipes argues in today's WSJ, the facts (as reported by the Congressional Budget Office) simply don't support this claim:

Health care certainly plays a major role in the U.S. economy, and by almost any objective account a highly positive role. It employs 13 million Americans and accounts for one out of 10 jobs. But the assertion that the costs of providing health insurance cripples American corporations in the global economy is simply wrong.

CBO director Douglas W. Elmendorf explained this last week to the Senate Committee on Finance, which is chaired by Max Baucus, a leading proponent of government health care. The point is that for employers, health care is merely a part of total compensation: It reduces cash compensation for employees but it does not increase costs of employment. To argue otherwise is to argue for lower total U.S. compensation -- that is, lower wages for U.S. workers. Said Mr. Elmendorf, "the costs of providing health insurance to their workers are not a competitive disadvantage to U.S.-based firms."

Another common argument for more government insurance is that the uninsured shift costs to private payers when they avail themselves of the health-care safety net -- thus jacking up health-care premiums in the private sector. Many reform advocates make this claim, including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D., Mass.) and Sen. Baucus in an op-ed in this newspaper.

This is not the case. In the first place, a recent CBO report ("Key Issues in Analyzing Major Health Insurance Proposals, " December 2008) is clear on one issue: Working to achieve universal coverage through expanding government's role in health care will increase total costs and therefore either increase premiums or taxes, not reduce them. As for the argument that the uninsured shift costs, Mr. Elmendorf was quite direct dispelling this myth in his testimony before Mr. Baucus's committee. "Overall," he said, "the effect of uncompensated care on private-sector payment rates appears to be limited."

In fact, insofar as there is a cost shift, it derives from the government programs Medicare and Medicaid, which reimburse providers at rates roughly 20% to 40% lower than the private providers. This has been detailed by the widely used and quoted health consultant firm, the Lewin Group. But this is conveniently ignored by those who want to expand government health care.


Pipes goes on to note that according to the CBO, most of the growth in health care costs is due to advances in technology and treatments:

"Studies attribute the bulk of the cost of growth to the development of new treatments and other medical technologies," the CBO notes in a report issued last December, later adding, "Given the central role of medical technology in cost growth, reducing or slowing spending over the long term would probably require decreasing the pace of adopting new treatments and procedures or limiting the breadth of their application."

Which boils down to rationing care. Funny, Mr. Obama didn't happen to mention anything about that in his health care chat. Instead he talked about how his reforms will "lower costs for everyone, improve quality for everyone and expand coverage to all Americans." And create jobs, reduce the deficit, and cure cancer.

But there are a lot of people who are desperate. There's a lot of desperation out there. Today, I want them and the people like them across this country to know that I have not forgotten them -- we have not forgotten them. They are why we're here today -- to start delivering the change they demanded at the polls in November, that they have continued to demand since the election. And if we're successful, if we can pass comprehensive reform, these folks will see their costs come down. They'll get the car they need. And we'll help our businesses create jobs again so our economy can grow.

And a car? Who says we can't have it all?

I know that there is broad dissatisfaction with our current health care system. And that a lot of Americans have struggled because of it. Lord knows how many heart tugging personal stories we heard during the campaign about health care related problems.

But again, I question whether rising health care costs are really the primary economic concern facing most American families right now. It isn't for mine or for anyone I know. Like the whole "everyone knows someone who's losing their house" claim, I wonder if I'm the outlier.

In Pipes' piece she cites a December Gallop poll showing that by a 49%-41% margin, Americans favor maintaining the current model. The problem is that no one is going to turn out at a "health care community discussion" to say that they're okay with the way things work now. And no politician is going to call out a citizen from the crowd and say "Joining here today is Jane Smith. While she's got some complaints, she's generally happy with the way her health care plan works today."

I expect that a lot of Americans are going to be in for a rude surprise when they finally realize just what President Obama's ambitious health care reforms really will mean for them and their families. I also fear that by the time they do, it will be too late.

UPDATE: Charles Kratuhammer has an astute analysis of how President Obama has misdiagnosed what truly ails the economy.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Let's Agree That You Shouldn't Disagree

With time and increased exposure what may seem like insignificant personal characteristics can go from being mild irritants to catalysts for driving people to the edge of madness (and beyond). Consider the now infamous smirk of George W. Bush. At the beginning of his presidency, few probably took much notice of it and those who did likely didn't think much of it. By the end of his eight years in office, the mere sight of the smirking Bush would send liberals into a vein-bursting red-faced state of rage.

Watching and listening to President Obama last night, I once again detected a personal trait of his that hasn't been much remarked upon yet, but may cause his opponents to foam like rabid dogs after being exposed to it for the next four (maybe eight?) years.

For all his talk of unity, compromise, and bipartisanship, Barack Obama is a man who doesn't suffer opposition gladly. He's like the boss who has an "open door policy," but is visibly annoyed if anyone actually dares cross his threshold with a problem.

When Obama starts to speak specifically about said opposition, as he did last night, you can notice subtle changes in his demeanor. His tone becomes edgier. His speech becomes more chopped. His neck and facial muscles become tighter. It would be an exaggeration to say that he's outright snippy, but he's it's apparent that he's irritated that people don't agree with his grand proposals and he ain't at all happy about it.

I first picked up on this a couple of times during the campaign, but never made much of it. Seeing it on display again last night made me realize that this little behavior quirk is fairly annoying to anyone who hasn't bought into the "better living through hope and change" program. I predict that Obama's impatience with opposition will only become more pronounced as the days and years go on and those of us on the receiving end of his glaring irritation will only become more angered by it.

[ Before you dismiss this as nothing more thab the delusional rantings of a deranged wingnut consider that my emminetly sensible wife has observed the same behavior in our Commander in Chief.]

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Popularity Not Yet Capitalized Upon

Being Mr. Congeniality is enough to make you President of the United States. But that doesn't get you very far in Tehran. Iran responds to the Obama charm offensive mentioned yesterday:

"When they say policy would change, it means they would end America's military presence around the world," he said, referring to U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.

"Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said.

Back to you, President Obama. As he's already made his humble, concilliatory, non-beligerant face, I'm not sure what other arrows he has in the quiver. But he's got to have someting else, right?

A primary reason for to vote for Obama was this power he was supposed to have. Not to do what any garden variety Democrat candidate would do. Certainly not to do what former Presidents have done. But, due to his unique abilities and magnetism, he would end the intractable problems we face, and make everyone feel good about it at the same time.

Well, were waiting .......

Obviously he can't end the US military presence around the world and drop to his knees and beg forgivness of the Iranian mullahs, that would make many Americans feel bad. And, it seems, he won't be able to sweet talk the Iranians out of their nukes and their wishes to end Israel. But there's got to be a third way, right? Something George Bush or John McCain wouldn't have been able to do. Something not even Hillary and John Edwards could do.

No idea what that would be. Seems like it would have to be magic or divine intervention or something. Whatever it might be, I'm keeping hope alive that those campaign pledges are going to work out as promised.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Charm Offensive: Next Mission

Last week, we heard President Obama's popularity alone just might be enough to make formerly opposed foreign countries agree to start taking the rabble from Guantanamo Bay off of our hands.

Still waiting on that to pay off. (tick tick tick tick tick) But I'm keeping hope alive.

Now, we have a story on Obama's recent interview on an Arabic TV network. He addressed, among other things, our country's rather contentious relationship with Iran. The purpose, according to Politico:

The interview with the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya Network was a dramatic piece of public diplomacy aimed at capitalizing on the new American president's international popularity
It would almost be worth having Obama as President if he could accomplish on the international scene, in pursuit of US interests, what his worshipful admirers in the Democratic party have been assuring us he can do, through the power of his presence alone.

Imagine, getting beyond the stale, intractable politics of the past and putting aside childish things (minor items like taking our diplomats hostage, killing our soldiers in Iraq, funding terrorism around the region, etc.), and getting Iran to drop its ambition of acquiring nuclear weapons, just because they like his face.

BTW, here's the face he chose for this particular charm offensive:

President Barack Obama presented a humble and conciliatory face of America to the Islamic world Monday in the first formal interview since he assumed office, stressing his own Muslim ties and hopes for a Palestinian state, and avoiding a belligerent tone -- even when asked if America could "live with" an Iranian nuclear weapon.
I can see why our avowed enemies might like that particular face.

Less clear is at what point that leads them to buckle in their decades long ambitions to do such things as wipe Israel off the face of the Earth.

I guess the theory, grossly simplified, is that Iran and company only want this because the US has been mean (belligerent) to them. If we are conciliatory and humble to them, they will behave likewise and we can talk out all of our disagreements.

Sounds great in a third grade dispute at recess sort of way. But before you schedule your summer vacation for Tehran, lets get a closer look at the second party we are attempting to engage in this foreign policy therapy session.

From today's Wall Street Journal, an article by Ze'ev Maghen on the nature of modern Iran:

Chanting "Death to America! Death to Israel!" has been the way Iranians applaud for over a quarter-century. When the soccer team from Isfahan scores a goal against the soccer team from Shiraz, its fans cheer wildly: "Death to America! Death to Israel!"

At the end of an exquisitely performed sitar solo, the genteel audience in a concert hall in Tabriz shows its appreciation by loudly heaping imprecations upon "International Arrogance" (the USA) and "its Bastard Offspring" (the Jewish state).

Even during the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Iranian participants have replaced their traditionally pious ejaculations of "I am at your service, O Lord, there is none like unto you!" with responsive Persian cursing sessions aimed at the Hebrew- and English-speaking enemies of everything that is holy.

Like the daily "Two Minutes Hate" in George Orwell's "1984," this venom-spewing is the mantra upon which an entire generation of Iranians has been raised.

Yes, but what is 25 years of a culture being indoctrinated in venom and hatred toward the US, compared to the presence of Barack Obama?

On this one, I'm more than happy to join the enthusiasm of 53% of my fellow Americans and get behind the hope that only Barack Obama can bring. Get ready Iran, change is coming.

Any time now.

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2009-10 NARN LOON O' THE WEEK

3/20--Rick Perriello
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10/31--Levi Johnston
10/24--Alan Grayson
10/17--Rick Sanchez
10/10--Barbara Boxer
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9/19--Jimmy Carter
9/5--Chris Matthews
8/29--Dan Savage
8/22--Brad Pitt
8/15--Chris Matthews
8/8--Barbara Boxer
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7/11--Maddow/Klobuchar
7/4--Al Franken
6/13--David Letterman
6/6--Harry Reid
5/30--Drew Barrymore
5/23--Jesse Ventura
5/16--Wanda Sykes
5/9--Alren Specter
5/2--Nancy Pelosi
4/25--Janeane Garofalo
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3/28--Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
3/21--Charles Grassley
3/14--Seymour Hersh
3/7--DL Hughley
2/28--Sean Penn
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2/14--Chuck Schumer
2/7--Nancy Pelosi
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