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Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Wrong Side of History

David Harsanyi explains that It's me, not you, Mitt in the Denver Post:

It is possible to see--if one dares to dream--some authentic fiscal conservative emerging to take a shot at the presidency in 2012. While Romney has the required drive, intellect and temperament, he is wrong on the fundamental ideological question of this time: health care.

In fact, Romney's illogical and unconvincing defense of his own health care plan is not only a deal breaker, it allows folks like White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to tell reporters that Obamacare is similar to a plan enacted (and still defended) by a leading Republican contender in 2012. And Gibbs is right.

Let's concede momentarily that the GOP will win back enough seats in 2010 to make it thornier for Democrats to push through any other comprehensive assaults on the economy. Let's concede also then that health care reform becomes the defining legislative accomplishment of Barack Obama's first term.

By 2012, many of the hidden costs of this reform will have surfaced, while the bulk of the alleged benefits still will not have kicked in. Barring some earth-shattering geopolitical event, candidate Romney will be impelled to spend a noteworthy chunk of his time pointing out differences and/or defending comparisons between the two plans--effectively eliminating the issue that holds potentially the greatest impact for Republicans.

As Harsanyi notes, and as I mentioned last week, so far Romney's attempts to explain why RomneyCare was not a precursor to and a watered down version of Obamacare have failed miserably. Simply calling it a "conservative alternative" does not make it so. Unless and until Romney is ready to swallow hard and issue a heartfelt mea culpa about the error of the RomneyCare ways, he has no chance to be the GOP standard bearer in 2012.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010
Let's Play Massa And Servants

I have long argued that the people of Minnesota are the most easily duped voters in the nation. Any minor celebrity can get elected to the highest office. Saturday Night Live's minor contributor Al Franken is currently Senator. NFL Hall of Famer Alan Page sits on the state's Supreme Court. Pro wrestler Jesse Ventura was Governor.

If there is one state that rivals Minnesota in bad selection it is New York. The people of New York have a habit of letting carpetbaggers with Presidential aspirations walz into their state and use their Senate seat as a launching pad for their national campaign. Hillary Clinton and Robert Kennedy are examples.

Now New Yorkers can now be embarrassed that they elected Eric Massa to Congress. Suddenly Democratic leadership has determined his behavior isn't fit for someone in congress. No one cared about his behavior until he dared cross his party leadership on health care reform, but once he did, we found out about his sexual advances to young male staffers:

In hindsight, Democratic insiders wondered about activities that before had just seemed odd. They said Massa hired a surprisingly large percentage of young gay men, and paid them so little that staffers were forced to live in the house with him

He admitted in a pair of bizarre cable interviews that he "tickled" staffers, but he denied charges of repeated groping.

But new bombshells erupted yesterday, the biggest reported by The Atlantic online, which quoted past shipmates of Massa charging he used his status as a commander to subject underlings to abusive sexual advances.

Former Massa shipmate Peter Clarke recalled how a friend who roomed with Massa during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Stuart Borsch, was made extremely uncomfortable by Massa in a hotel on leave.

"Stuart's at the edge of the bed ... and [Massa] starts massaging him," Clarke said. "Massa said, 'You'll have to get one of my special massages.' He called them 'Massa Massages.' "

They made a guy leave Congress just for that? Watch out Barney Frank!


Friday, March 05, 2010
If You Don't Expect Too Much From Me You Might Not Be Let Down

Harry Reid reassured Americans today that this messy unemployment problem is finally over. Take it away, Harry:

"Today is a big day in America. Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today which is really good."

Well thank God for that. Now they can finally focus on things Americans really care about like global warming, government control of health care and destroying Toyota.

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Friday, February 19, 2010
Hanging Together

If you're an American of the conservative political persuasion, you probably believe that all in all, things are looking up for those who share your views. Especially compared to where conservatives were sitting just one year ago when it appeared that we would be facing a prolonged period of wandering in the political wilderness. When you consider that President Obama's major initiatives have now been stalled or stopped, the rise of the Tea Parties, the election outcomes in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, and the way the 2010 election appears to be shaping up, conservatives could be justified in feeling cautiously optimistic that the tide has turned much sooner than anyone could have expected a year ago when President Obama and his fellow progressives appeared absolutely ascendant.

Thus, you might be surprised to read the opening 'graph in this morning's WSJ story on CPAC:

The divisions roiling American conservatives were on display Thursday at an annual gathering of activists, with the movement's emerging leaders directly challenging the Republican establishment.

Got it? There aren't just divisions within the movement, these divisions are ROILING American conservatives. Funny, I don't feel particularly "roiled" at the moment. Sure, there are differences between conservatives as there always are within any group, especially one brought together by political philosophies and principles. But, as the progressives discovered during the eight year regime of George W. Bush, it's amazing how shared opposition can bring you together.

There may be a lot of debate between conservatives about the best way forward--as again there always has been--but for the most part that debate appears to be healthy. At this point what unites conservatives--opposition to President Obama's progressive agenda--seems to be a heck of lot stronger than what divides us.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Going Viral

Long-time Fraters reader James from Folsom, California e-mails to report a disturbing outbreak in his neck of the woods:

Wellstone Progressive Democrats of Sacramento on Facebook

Seriously? Of Sacramento?

Honestly. Wellstone Progressive Democrats of Sacramento? Good God, make it stop.

I blame you (and I especially blame you for the Wellstone school song--which you guys "performed" on the NARN oh so long ago--bouncing around in my head right now.)

My school is Wellstone
I go to Wellstone...

Shoot me.

There's no denying that The Wellstone School Song is one catchy little ditty. It's also good to know that in the Age of Obama, aspiring leftists across the country still hold a candle for Saint Wellstone. Be the change James. Be the change.


Friday, February 12, 2010
We'd All Love To See The Plan

Yesterday, I caught Representative Paul Ryan's appearance on the Bill Bennett radio show and was impressed with the comprehensive plan Ryan has laid out to try to restore some fiscal sanity to the federal budget.

Today, Robert Samuelson writes on Paul Ryan's Lonely Challenge:

Ryan rejects this consensus. He would make choices now. Here are some features of his plan:

-- Social Security: For those 55 or older today, the program would remain unchanged. For those younger, benefits would be reduced -- with no cuts for the poorest workers. Workers 55 or younger in 2011 could establish individual investment accounts that would be funded with part of their payroll taxes. Government would guarantee a return equal to inflation.

-- Medicare: Current recipients and those enrolling in the next decade would continue under today's program, though wealthier recipients would pay somewhat higher premiums. In 2021, Medicare would become a voucher program for new recipients (those today 54 or younger). With vouchers, recipients would buy Medicare-certified private insurance. In today's dollars, the vouchers would ultimately grow to $11,000. Eligibility ages for Medicare and Social Security would slowly increase toward 69 and 70, respectively.

-- Spending Freeze: From 2010 to 2019, "non-defense discretionary spending" -- about a sixth of the federal budget, including everything from housing to parks to education -- would be frozen at 2009 levels.

-- Simpler Taxes: Taxpayers could choose between today's system or a streamlined replacement with no deductions and virtually no special tax breaks. Above a tax-free amount ($39,000 for a family of four), taxpayers would pay only two rates: 10 percent up to $100,000 for joint filers and 25 percent on income more than that.

Samuelson goes on to note that Ryan's plan is far from perfect. It still wouldn't balance the federal budget until 2063(!!!), which means it doesn't go far enough in raising revenues (read taxes) or cutting spending. But at least he has a plan and a place where we can begin the discussion. Unlike the Democrats:

But the larger point is that Ryan is trying to start a conversation on the desirable role and limits of government. He's trying to make it possible to talk about sensitive issues -- mainly Social Security and Medicare -- without being vilified. President Obama recognized that when he called Ryan's plan a "serious proposal." But since then, Democrats have resorted to ritualistic denunciations of him as pillaging Social Security and Medicare. Legitimate debate becomes impossible. If Democrats don't like Ryan's vision, the proper response is to design and defend their own plan. The fact that they don't have one is a national embarrassment.

What's even more embarrassing is the way that most of the media continues to let President Obama get away with setting up rhetorical strawman--"there are some who say we should do nothing"--and putting on the pretense that there are no alternatives to the course of actions that he and the Democrats support. There are plenty of Republican proposals out there that address the critical problems facing the country. Ryan's plan is by far the most specific and realistic approach to controlling spending and deficits that either party has laid out. Democrats may not agree with it, but it's time they stop pretending that Republicans are nothing more than the party of "no" when in fact they are the ones with nothing to offer.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Okay, Now What?

Over the many months of a presidential campaign, it's usually difficult to pinpoint the precise moment when the balance was tipped decisively in favor of one candidate and the outcome all but decided. However, the 2008 contest between Obama and McCain was an exception. When you look at the weekly polling data--either through most of the individual pollsters or especially in aggregate--you can clearly see that something happened in late-September that allowed Obama to pull away from what had been a close race (some polls even showed McCain ahead) and cruise to victory in November.

The event that triggered this turning point was the collapse of the stock market and the government's efforts to stop the freefall and save the economy. But it wasn't the event itself that turned the tide as much as the candidate's reaction to it. John McCain suspended his campaign and went back to Washington to supposedly lead the way in working out a plan. At the time, I thought it was a bold move that would help highlight McCain's concern for putting the good of the country over politics. Of course, I assumed that McCain actually had some idea of what the end game might be.

Judging from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's memoir "On the Brink," that assumption was wildly optimistic. Here's an excerpt that appeared in Saturday's Wall Street Journal:

By protocol, the president turned to call on the speaker of the House. And when Nancy Pelosi spoke, it was clear the Democrats had done their homework and had planned a skillful response for McCain.

Ms. Pelosi said that Obama would represent the Democrats. Then Obama sketched the broad outlines of the problem and stressed the need for immediate action. He said the Democrats had been working closely with me; he ran through the rough terms of the morning's discussion on the Hill, then mentioned the need for adjustments on oversight and executive compensation, as well as help for homeowners. He spoke without notes--much less a teleprompter--and spoke eloquently. "The Democrats will deliver the votes," he asserted.

Then he sprang the trap that the Democrats had set: "Yesterday, Senator McCain and I issued a joint statement, saying in one voice that this is no time to be playing politics. And on the way here, we were on the brink of a deal. Now, there are those who think we should start from scratch?. If we are indeed starting over, the consequences could well be severe."

But, of course, there was no deal yet. [Rep. Spencer] Bachus [R., Ala.] had been maneuvered into giving credibility to the appearance of one. But he, [House Minority Leader John] Boehner and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell had since issued statements disclaiming the idea that there ever had been a deal. Now Obama and the Democrats were skillfully setting up the story line that McCain's intervention had polarized the situation and that Republicans were walking away from an agreement. It was brilliant political theater that was about to degenerate into farce. Skipping protocol, the president turned to McCain to offer him a chance to respond: "I think it's fair that I give you the chance to speak next."

But McCain demurred. "I'll wait my turn," he said. It was an incredible moment, in every sense. This was supposed to be McCain's meeting--he'd called it, not the president, who had simply accommodated the Republican candidate's wishes. Now it looked as if McCain had no plan at all--his idea had been to suspend his campaign and summon us all to this meeting. It was not a strategy, it was a political gambit, and the Democrats had matched it with one of their own.

Boehner said he was trying to find a way to get House Republicans on board. "I am not talking about a totally new deal, but we do need to tweak the core part of the program," he said.

Decorum started to evaporate as the meeting broke into multiple side conversations with people talking over each other. [Sen. Richard] Shelby [R., Ala.] waved a sheaf of papers, claiming they were from more than 100 economists who all thought TARP was a bad idea. The president jumped in to say, "No, this is a situation where we need to act. We don't have time to have hearings with a bunch of economists."

Finally, raising his voice over the din, Obama said loudly, "I'd like to hear what Senator McCain has to say, since we haven't heard from him yet."

The room went silent and all eyes shifted to McCain, who sat quietly in his chair, holding a single note card. He glanced at it quickly and proceeded to make a few general points. He said that many members had legitimate concerns and that I had begun to head in the right direction on executive pay and oversight. He mentioned that Boehner was trying to move his caucus the best he could and that we ought to give him the space to do that. He added he had confidence the consensus could be reached quickly.

As he spoke, I could see Obama chuckling. McCain's comments were anticlimactic, to say the least. His return to Washington was impulsive and risky, and I don't think he had a plan in mind. If anything, his gambit only came back to hurt him, as he was pilloried in the press afterward, and in the end, I don't believe his maneuver significantly influenced the TARP legislative process. A number of people I respect on the Hill believe McCain ended up being helpful by focusing public attention on TARP and galvanizing Congress to action. And John later did find ways for House Republicans to support legislation. But Democrats absolutely did not want him to get any credit. They wanted the economic issue as their own. Accusing McCain of blowing up a nondeal was just hardball political tactics. But when it came right down to it, he had little to say in the forum he himself had called.

One of the biggest fears that many conservatives had about McCain was that beneath the talk of patriotism, service, and duty, there wasn't much of a foundation of core principles that would help McCain grapple with tough choices and guide his decision making, especially when it came to economic matters. If Paulson's accounts of what transpired in those September 2008 meetings are correct, those fears would seem to have been validated.


Saturday, February 06, 2010
No Sugar Tonight In My Tea

The left's seething hatred of the new conservative movement (regretfully, in my opinion, labelled as the tea party movement) continues to permeate the mainstream media. The latest example comes from yesterday's Washington Post (via today's St. Paul Pioneer Press). In describing events at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville yesterday, Post reporter Philip Rucker writes:
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., offered a fiery defense on Friday of Judeo-Christian faith and traditional American values, but there was no prayer or Pledge of Allegiance to open the convention. Nor was there an American flag in the convention hall.
Rucker is clearly attempting to undermine Tancredo's comments with completely unwarranted implications of hypocrisy. Oh sure...they talk (with FIRE) about Judeo-Christian and American values but where are the prayers and where are the flags and where are all of the other things that we would normally mock the movement about displaying had they actually been present?

The frustrating thing is that I'm absolutely certain Rucker would have written a similar condescending paragraph had prayers and flags been in abundance at the convention. I'm sure it would have read something like this:
In a convention hall still echoing with the rote prayers of the faithful and the required pledge of the patriotic, Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., offered a fiery defense on Friday of Judeo-Christian faith and traditional American values. Convention goers dutifully waved their American flags as Tancredo delivered his speech in front of an garishly enormous Stars and Stripes.
Okay, my projection of a non-existent Philip Rucker paragraph may be a bit over the top but the point is that these guys aren't even attempting to cover the conservative movement fairly. The bias is there and it is going to make it into the story despite the movement's growing popularity.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010
What Can Brown Do For You?

In an attempt to mock the Minneapolis StarTribune's lack of resources or will to cover real news stories, I have travelled to the scene of the monumental Senate election that will take place on Tuesday, January 19. Big spending, soft on crime Martha Coakley takes on mushy moderate Scott Brown and the nation is riveted, at least the part of the nation that isn't obsessing over Brett Favre's Vikings playoff debut.

Since Boston is your average ultra-liberal city, I chose the small town of Northampton in the western end of the state as my base for reporting. The state is in a frenzy with advertising. While listening to the Alice Cooper radio show out of Springfield, every commercial break featured a Martha Coakley ad. Cooper's radio show isn't what one would expect. He plays some good old tunes from the likes of Harry Nilsson, but mixes in wussy rock stylings of Foreigner, but I digress.

The biggest surprise to this reporter was the relatively even-handed coverage of the election. The Daily Hampshire Gazette (maybe Sisyphus can check to see if they are a Pulitzer Peer of the Strib) ran two articles on the race in their weekend edition of the paper published this morning. One article featured a horse-race style recap: Coakley was expected to win easily but stumbled and is now trailing in some polls.

A second article details the fact that the Democrats are throwing the kitchen sink into a last ditch campaign effort, with visits from President Clinton yesterday, President Obama today and Vice President Biden making accusations about Brown. The article paints the administration as desperate and panicked:

What changed from earlier in the week when the White House announced that the president wouldn't travel to Massachusetts? 'He got invited,' said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. That invitation, Gibbs said, came Friday, one day after a Suffolk University survey signaled a possible death knell for the 60-vote Senate supermajority the president has been relying upon to pass his health-care bill and other initiatives through Congress before November's midterm elections.

The article goes on to suggest that the Democrats will attempt to delay Brown's certification as long as possible, in the event he wins.

The one thing missing from the coverage has been a description of the antics that Acorn and SEIU are preparing to ensure that Coakley wins. My analysis is that most of the shenanigans will need to be imported, since Massachusetts isn't used to close Senate elections. I'm keeping my eyes out for Al Franken's advisors.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Mind If We Watch?

Last month, I noted that the CEO of the company that I work for was becoming more and more publicly outspoken about the dangers in the looming health care reform bill. Today, he has another op-ed that appeared on our internal website and I imagine will soon be published in the St. Louis Business Journal. Here's an excerpt:

Simply, the changes being proposed will have the negative effect of discouraging U.S. employers from hiring as the economy recovers, and will force them to pass on increased costs to employees and/or drop their health insurance benefits to let employees shop elsewhere or move to a government-based plan.

We have an opportunity to create real healthcare reform and make a difference now with smart, targeted, incremental programs, such as: giving small businesses and individuals access to interstate insurance pools; implementing medical malpractice reforms; requiring medical price transparency; and supporting community-based health centers that serve the uninsured, to name several.

Healthcare reform is a complex issue and there is room for honest disagreement on the best way it can be achieved. However, the Senate bill and the House companion fail to solve problems and instead increase government debt, decrease U.S. competitiveness and create one more reason for investment from around the world, as well as jobs, to go elsewhere. This is not the legacy any of us want for our nation.

I must add that equally as troubling is that Congressional leaders now want to slam the door on open debate at this critical point in the process of considering legislation that completely changes the nature of U.S. national health care policy. We can only hope that the Senate and House will do what Americans expect of them, and thats play by the same rules of fairness and openness they set for others and that are established by law. Negotiations and discussions to resolve issues going forward should be conducted in a transparent manner in Conference Committee. I completely agree with Senator Claire McCaskills position stated so clearly last week on this: let the C-Span cameras in.

Saint Paul may have just found a new business hero.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Fickle In The Middle

Scene from "Simpson's" episode 3F20 Much Apu About Nothing:

The mail arrives.

Homer: Woo-hoo! A perfect day. Zero bears and one big fat hairy paycheck. [opens it up]
Hey! How come my pay is so low?...Bear patrol tax! This is an outrage! It's the biggest tax increase in history!

Lisa: Actually, Dad, it's the smallest tax increase in history.

Homer: Let the bears pay the bear tax. I pay the Homer tax.

Lisa: That's homeowner tax.

Homer: Well, anyway, I'm still outraged.

Later in front of the mayor's office, the mob is back, yelling "Down with taxes! Down with taxes!"

Quimby: Are those morons getting dumber or just louder?

Assistant: [checks his clipboard] Dumber, sir.

Quimby: They want the bear patrol but they won't pay taxes for it.

There's no denying that less than a year into his administration the bloom is already off the Obama rose for many Americans. His approval ratings have steadily declined since last spring and many of his most prominent policies--including those that he campaigned heavily on--no longer enjoy support from the majority of voters.

Like most conservatives I welcome these developments and hope that they are a sign that the American people are still mostly center-right in their political outlook and have been turned off by President Obama's leftward veer. But I also wonder if there's a more disturbing angle to the rather sudden turnabout in American public opinion. Have the American people--or at least the moderate middle portion of the population--become like the residents of Springfield who want the bear patrol, but don't want to pay for it?

Victor Davis Hanson explained how these incompatible views have helped wreck havoc in California in a piece in the November 23rd edition of National Review (sub req):

What went wrong is not just gerrymandered legislative districts, activist judges, ballot propositions, and constitutional requirements for two-thirds majorities. Those are manifestations of a deeper malady, the residue of past efforts, both conservative and liberal, to shake up the state. Conservative Californians--sick of crime and high taxes--passed ballot propositions to restrict the options of liberal public officials, who during budget crises often had cut essential services to shock voters into approving questionable pet entitlements. Liberal environmentalists used the same referendum process to institutionalize much of their no-growth agenda. Neither side worried about the resulting costs--or the underlying reasons for which the state had so much criminal activity to begin with, or for which those who had homes in nice places did not want others to have the same opportunity.

In short, the problem is us--the mercurial public of California. A certain therapeutic mindset of wanting things without regard for what they'll cost has set in. While this is a common trend in contemporary America, it has become gospel here in California.

During the campaign last year, independent voters liked hearing Obama promise them that he would reduce health care costs, get people around the world to like us once again, and keep the seas from rising because of global warming. Now that they realize that bringing these promises to fruition means restricting their medical choices, prostrating ourselves before the world (figuratively and literally), and stunting our prospects for economic growth they're not so sanguine about the reality of President Obama.

The pace of these moderate mood swings has likely been exacerbated by the non-stop nature of the political news cycle and the desire for immediate gratification spawned by our consumer culture. There's no longer time for a pause, a chance to let things play out and develop. We need it and we need it now. President Obama has been criticized for remaining in campaign mode even after taking office, but maybe that's a recognition on his part on the need to constantly demonstrate to these independents that you're meeting their ever changing needs.

For the moment, the fickle nature of moderate voters is working in favor of conservatives. But there lies a danger in this unwillingness of the middle to commit to a course whether that course heads left or right. In order to address the long term problems facing the country, at some point there's going to have to be a period of relative political stability. With more and more Americans identifying themselves as part of the middle, their willingness to hold the center will determine whether we see such stability anytime in the near future.


Monday, December 07, 2009
When Worlds Collide

It's not every day that I read a memo posted on our company's intranet from the CEO and then see that same memo appear at Power Line, but today that's exactly what happened. The memo is based on an op-ed penned by David Farr and Scott Johnson has posted it in its entirety.

Major manufacturers today must compete in global markets if they want to survive, prosper, and grow. Emerson is no exception. We compete head-to-head with Asian and European companies here at home and in virtually every market of the world. The ability to manage quality, innovation, logistics, customer support, manufacturing cost and many other factors determines which companies survive or don't.

Emerson has expanded globally to diversify and ensure that we can continue to win against intense global competition. We are well positioned to grow profitably in the USA and in international markets, like China and India.

At a recent Chicago investment conference, I stated in strong terms that excessive federal spending and costly legislation are destroying the ability of U.S. manufacturers to compete globally, and to successfully invest in the U.S. Yes, Emerson is a St. Louis headquartered company with 30,000 U.S. jobs, but we must compete around the world.

I spoke in very strong terms to underscore the issues I believe our nation is facing. I understand that some don't share my concerns. However, I believe our great country is threatened as the global economic leader if we don't change our government's course. The issues we face are not Democratic or Republican issues, or just business issues. They are real and impact every American, today and in the future.

Farr then lays how the burgeoning Federal debt, pending health care legislation, and US tax policy are hurting American manufacturers and their ability to compete. If President Obama is truly concerned about "creating" and "saving" jobs for Americans he would do well to listen to people like Farr who run the companies that truly drive economic growth. Companies that want to invest in grow in the US, but won't hesitate to go elsewhere if that's what they need to do to survive.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009
All the Wrong Reasons

I see some merit to Chad's comments from the other day about the perils of providing unconditional support to Sarah Palin based on reasons other than her individual merit.

Then I saw that MinnPost approvingly commented and linked to the sentiment.

This is good.
If the Democrats, feminists, media elites, and Beltway insiders like Chad's ideas, then they must deserve our full-fledged opposition.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009
All The Right Reasons

Caught a good bit of Rush's interview with Sarah Palin today over the lunch hour. I thought her performance was decent if a little uneven. She displayed the same down-home folksy Palin charm that we saw on the campaign trail last year. And there's no denying that there's a certain appeal to that. But she was also very vague (perhaps intentionally so) on most of the issues they discussed. She must have used the words "common sense" a dozen times, although exactly what that meant as far as policy solutions go was not clear. Northing in the interview really changed my existing impression of her.

While I'm far from Palin's biggest fan, I am willing to listen to what she has to say (as I did today) and I remain open to the possibility that she has a significant role to play in the conservative movement (did I really just use the "m" word?). However, I am going to judge her on the merits of her words and actions. Just because liberals and the media exhibit open disdain for Palin does not automatically mean that conservatives should embrace her.

That's one of the painful lessons that conservatives (myself included) should have learned after eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. Too often we were willing to give Bush a pass in areas where he deserved criticism for fear of doing anything to aid and abet the left (and the media) in their relentless quest to destroy his presidency. When we witnessed the incessant and often unfair attacks on Bush on almost a daily basis, our reaction was to circle the wagons around him and close ranks.

There's nothing wrong with defending a politician whom you generally agree with when they're under assault, especially when that assault is being mounted by forces that you adamantly oppose. But that defense should not extend to a blanket of support of all the actions that a politician undertakes or policies they espouse.

Again, I think that on too many occasions conservatives fell into that trap with President Bush. And I think that some degree of the conservative backing that Palin enjoys is similarly founded. If the Democrats, feminists, media elites, and Beltway insiders despise her so, then she must deserve our full-fledged support. While that sentiment is understandable, it's one that conservatives should resist this time around. Let Sarah Palin earn our support. And let her earn it for all the right reasons.


Friday, November 13, 2009
The Same Cat With Different Stripes?

Matthew Continetti has an interesting piece in today's WSJ that asks Can Sarah Palin Make a Comeback?:

Could Ms. Palin follow Reagan's example? Maybe. She'd need to return to her 2006 playbook.

In Alaska, Ms. Palin didn't run as a culture warrior. She focused on issues with overwhelming public support: ethics reform, a revised oil tax, and more competition and transparency in the effort to build a natural gas pipeline. She took the conservative vote for granted and focused on winning independents and even some Democrats.

The 2006 Palin model looks a lot like the approach that Virginia's next governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, used to win his election last week. It means applying conservative principles to problems like the economy, health care, and out-of-control federal spending. It means addressing voter concern that big government and big business are in cahoots, heaping expensive burdens on small businesses and individual entrepreneurs.

During her book tour, Ms. Palin is sure to mention that the Obama administration's opposition to offshore drilling and domestic nuclear power, and its support for an onerous cap-and-trade scheme, will raise energy prices across the board. But she also might spend less time discussing campaign intrigue and Alaska trivia, and more time outlining how to spur job creation through tax reform.

Continetti obviously believes she can come back if she follows his advice to win over independents. A more intriguing question might be: would a Sarah Palin comeback be good for Republicans? The answer is not quite as obvious to me.

Consider what we learned about Palin so far. She's physically attractive and has the energy and personal magnetism that give her a certain star quality. She carries with her some of the hopes and dreams of a demographic group that hasn't been represented in the presidency before. When delivering prepared remarks, she's a gifted speaker who can inspire and motivate. However, when off the teleprompter she has a tendency to make gaffes and ramble. She has little experience in foreign policy and it's difficult to discern her underlying political philosophy.

Is that really what America is going to be looking for in 2012?

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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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Friday, October 16, 2009
The "N" Word

David Harsanyi says that instead of seeing it as a stigma, Republicans should embarce being the party of NO:

Now, as unlikely as it is, history also offers Republicans an unexpected opportunity to remake their party, to find an ideological center, to use politics to thwart a movement that is antithetical to every tenet they've been rhetorically peddling since Ronald Reagan.

Of course, Republicans will increasingly be accused of being ideologues. If only.

Is ideology something to be dismissed as a barrier to progress? Isn't ideology a framework of ideas that politicians should be using to inform their decisions?

Mavericks dismiss ideology because it would bind them to consistent and principled votes. John McCain, for example, often displays the muddled and mercurial thinking of a person with no political, intellectual or economic philosophy.

There is plenty of room for dissent in political parties. But when it comes to health care reform, Republicans--powerless to stop meatloaf from being served in the Senate mess, much less a bill--do have a chance to embrace the ideals they've been pretending to champion for a decade with one straightforward, graceful and honorable word: "no."

They have no moral or civic or political obligation to embrace bipartisanship. History might even be telling them not to.


Friday, September 18, 2009
Civil Servants

David Harsanyi says Civility is overrated:

If you've been paying attention lately, you may be under the impression that the United States was spiraling into mass incivility.

The evidence keeps mounting: Congressman Joe Wilson yelling. Serena Williams yelling. Kanye West...whatever. All of these uncouth characters have been strung together by critics to establish, indisputably, that there is a societal explosion of boorish and coarse behavior.

On the political front, columnist Kathleen Parker calls this "a political era of uninhibited belligerence." House speaker Nancy Pelosi, lamenting an imaginary climate of violence, wishes "we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made."

Such a preposterous statement should be actionable. Pelosi, who only recently compared her political opponents to Nazis, isn't exactly a paragon of civil discourse. American politics has always been unsightly. Most of the time, in fact, far worse than today.

Have we transformed into so brittle a citizenry that we are unable to handle a raucous debate over the future of the country? If things were quiet, subdued and "civil" in America today, as Pelosi surely wishes, it would only be proof that democracy wasn't working.

It's no accident, either, that those in power are generally the ones choking up about the lack of decorum. The truth is, we could use far less bogus civility in Washington.


Thursday, September 10, 2009
Down the (Communist) Rabitt Hole

I've been waiting.

Ever since I read the news early Sunday morning (late Saturday night if you're in Santa Monica) that the beloved founder of Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement was no longer working at the White House. The victim of vicious smears, he resigned.

A tough environment for jobs, coming home to roost.

Nobody, no where, no how, has had the temerity to raise the issue of "Communists in the White House!" So passe is the notion of revolutionary Marxist-Leninist "intellectuals" in the academy, in the arts, in the unions and in the Democrat Party, that they no longer merit attention.

The notion of "smearing" someone with the label (of self-professed Communist) has lost it's cachet along with the long forgotten epithet of "McCarthyism". Today's thirty-second attention span generation can't be bothered to waste time texting or tweeting such terms, much less understanding their historical context or factual foundation, emanating from the "witch-hunts" of yore.

Let's be honest. The communist "threat" died with the glorious experiment formerly known as the Soviet Union. A moribund ideology, left on the scrap heap of history. (Hat-tip Ronaldus Maximus) And so it is. Except.

Except Communist China. Except Communist North Korea. Except Communist South Africa. Except Communist Zimbabwe. Except Communist Venezuela.

Except SEIU. Except ACORN. Except Code Pink. Except Move-On.Org. Except Bill Ayers.

And except Van Jones. The highly valued, highly regarded, widely respected (?) and highly sought-after (former) Special Assistant to the President of the United States of America.

"Sure, sure" say the sceptics and nay-sayers, groaning and rolling their eyes. "Thin gruel that, Crazy Uke. Hardly anyone noticed, and even less people care." Maybe.

Maybe professing allegiance to an ideology that consumed EIGHTY-FIVE TO ONE HUNDRED MILLION LIVES during a sixty to seventy year slice of the twentieth century no longer causes concern, or for that matter a raised eyebrow. (The Black Book of Communism)Most of this genocidal madness occurring during peace-time, and was committed against a compliant and cowering citizenry by it's own dictatorial rulers. How are these ancient historical events and long-forgotten tragedies meaningful today?

The reality of the situation is this. The President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, has for his entire life has been surrounded, influenced, shaped, guided, advised and assisted by those who professed allegiance and swore fealty to that ideology. It is readily apparent that this unsettling phenomenon continues to this day.

No one, including your aghast interlocutor, suggests or intimates that devastation, destruction or death camps are imminent, resulting from the above noted current state of affairs. It is passing curious however, that no one (NY Times, CBS, MSNBC, finds the situation disturbing on it's face.

Two more thoughts, for your individual consideration, before I leave.

The appeal and root core of the Communist creed is the notion of the perfectibility of man, by virtue of a perfected ideological understanding. Unfortunately the true-believers who are charged with delivering and administering our promised salvation, inevitably fall prey to human failings and human conceit. Leading to the devaluing of all other human thought, belief, ideology and faith. In fact, to the very devaluing of human life itself.

With predictable results.

And so it seems, in the face of odles and boodles of crisises hither and yon, the enlightened elite hasten us, the polity, towards urgent solutions, unavoidable actions and decisive decisions based on what THEY KNOW is best for US.

And those who question or oppose? Enemies, obstuctionsists, fear-mongers and worse.

Why hurry to pass legislation to solve a health-care "crisis" when the cure won't take effect for years?

Why hurry to pass legislation to stimulate (?) growth in the face of an economic "crisis", when that "stimulus" won't be spent for years?

Why hurry to pass legislation to shackle economic and industrial growth to solve a climate-change "crisis" when that policy won't be implemented for years? (A crisis whose central premise continues to disapate in the face of honest scepticism and true science.)

Because Van Jones says so, and he's a member of the elitist cadre that's been appointed (selected not elected!) to lead us to the Promised Land. He and his fellow travlers.

Understand also, that this cursed ideology is antithetical to the system of governance we enjoy, and to the philosophical underpinings that engendered it. Personal property. Personal liberty. Personal responsibility. Political, religious and philosophical pluralism.

Take Honduras for example. Is it inconceivable and unconscionable that the world's oldest democratic republic would reject the will of the Honduran people as evidenced by a free and fair election.

And yet this stands as the current foreign policy of our elected government. Cleary a position based on the enlighted understanding and superior intellect of the perfected ideologues currently steering our ship of state. And not so much the citizens of Honduras.


There are Socialists, Communists, Marxist-Leninists and revolutionaries imbeded in our government apparat. And what if you don't personally fear their ideology, or share concern over their beliefs?

Be aware.

They are striving mightly to impose their enlightenment on you.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009
Moses, Saint Peter, and Ted Kennedy Walk Into A Bar...

And the winner for worst historical analogy when eulogizing Ted Kennedy goes to Joan Vennochi of The Boston Globe (via NRO's The Corner):

Like all figures in history--and like those in the Bible, for that matter--Kennedy came with flaws. Moses had a temper. Peter betrayed Jesus. Kennedy had Chappaquiddick, a moment of tremendous moral collapse.

Let's see here. Moses did get angry at times, but he also lead the Israelites out of slavery to the Promised Land. Peter did deny Jesus (the betrayal was by that other guy for the thirty pieces of silver), but he also became the Rock of the Church and was martyred in the name of Christ. Kennedy left a woman to die and never accepted responsibility for his cowardly actions. Yeah, I see how they're comparable.


Monday, August 24, 2009
They know how to take Colorado, they just don't know how to hold Colorado

Back in March, I had a post on the dramatic fashion in which Democrats had turned the political tables in Colorado and what lessons that red to blue state reversal might hold for the rest of the country.

Today, Michael Barone has a piece in which he reports that the Democrats' Colorado Gold Rush Is Turning Into a Bust:

The Colorado model showed how dedicated leftists could produce victories for Democratic candidates. It doesn't seem to have been as useful a guide for how those Democrats, once elected, could govern in a way that produces sustained public approval.

And that's really the most important part.


Sunday, August 09, 2009
Free Radicals

David Harsanyi presents the new rules for radicals:

In today's world, the "radicals" are the ones who protest the takeover of a huge swath of the economy by government bureaucrats who have proven they can't even run a program that gives free money away to car buyers properly. It is radicals who want to preserve the pillars of a system that over 80 percent of Americans still believe works--though certainly not perfectly.

In this new world, radicals are the ones who protest adding trillions to our debt and who have the temerity to ask if legislators have read the bills they sign. You've seen them. Those radicals who are ranting and raving about silly things like the Constitution.


Thursday, July 02, 2009
Removing All Doubt

To follow up on Saint Paul's post on Mark Sanford's loose lips and on behalf of married men everywhere I'd like to take this opportunity to call on Governor Sanford to kindly shut the hell up. It was bad enough when he destroyed the sanctity of two of our favorite innocent activities forever.

"So what are you going to do this weekend when I'm out of town with the kids, honey?"

"Nothing much. Thought I might take a long solo hike on the Appalachian Trail."


"So what are you going to do this weekend when I'm out of town with the kids, honey?"

"Nothing much. Thought I might fly down to Argentina, drive along the coast, and do some deep thinking."

Now he's forever soiled yet another of our traditional weekend getaways. How do you think this is going to go over from now on?

"So what are you going to do this weekend when I'm out of town with the kids, honey?"

"Nothing much. Thought I might get together with some friends and blow off steam."

Thanks for nothing Governor. When it comes to Sanfords, Mark should heed the advice of Fred and "Shut up, dummy!"

If the whole sordid Sanford scandal has any positive side at all it may be the new sexual euphemisms that come out of it.

"I'd like to hike through her Appalachian Trail."


"Looking forward to your date, dude?"

"Oh yeah. Definitely goin' to be some crying in Argentina tonight."

"Blowing off steam" however sounds a bit too literal to qualify.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Sanford Is a Joke

For some reason, Gov. Mark Sanford sat down with the Associated Press over two days to give even more details on his romantic conquests. This part stood out:

He acknowledged that he had casual encounters with other women while he was married but before he met Chapur, on trips outside the country to "blow off steam" with male friends.

Pundits nationwide are perplexed as to why he insists on unnecessarily confessing these details to the press, to the further detriment of his career and reputation. I think his motivation can best be found in this classic Borscht Belt quality joke:

An 80 year old man went into the confessional and told the priest the following:

"Father, I am an 80 year old man, I'm married, I have 4 children and 11 grandchildren. Last night I strayed and had an affair with two 18 year old girls. We partied and made love all night long."

The priest said, "My son, when was the last time you were at confession?"

The old man said, "I have never been to confession, I'm Jewish."

The priest said, "Then why are you here telling me this?"

The old man said, "Father, I'm telling everyone!"


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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Thursday, June 25, 2009
Hearts and Minds

Although I didn't get a chance to watch Mark Sanford's entire pathetic press conference yesterday, I was struck by the fact that during those parts of it I did see Sanford spent a lot of time talking about his heart:

And that is, I suspect, a continual process all through life of getting one's heart right in life. And so I would never stand before you as one who just says, Yo, I'm completely right with regard to my heart on all things. But what I would say is I'm committed to trying to get my heart right because the one thing that Cubby and all the others have told me is that the odyssey that we're all on in life is with regard to heart--not what I want or what you want, but in other words, indeed, this larger notion of truly trying to put other people first.

And I suspect if I'd really put this other person first, I wouldn't have jeopardized her life as I have. I certainly wouldn't have done it to my wife. I wouldn't have done it to my boys. I wouldn't have done it to the Tom Davises of the world. This was selfishness on my part. And for that, I'm most apologetic.

What the hell? This is sort of silly romantic drivel that one might to hear from a self-help author on "Oprah" or one of the self-absorbed man-boys on MTV's "The Real World." But not from a forty-nine year old governor of a state who previously had aspirations to become the leader of the free world.

Instead of worrying about "getting one's heart right" Sanford should be focused on getting his head right. It's really sad that a man in his position would fall into the trap of believing the crap about "your heart's always right" and "go with your heart" as if we're helpless to resist emotional impulses. Yes, you have a heart, but you also have a head and it's never a good thing to completely allow one or the other to guide your life.

The other thing that bothered me about Sanford's commitment to "get my heart right" is that this isn't all about his heart. Sanford is a Christian (Episcopal) and I know that he talked about his faith during the press conference. However, I'm surprised that a bigger part of his contrition wasn't focused on the sins he committed against God. It's great that you're going to work on getting your heart right Gov, but how about getting right with God? When you blindly follow your heart (or other parts of the anatomy) you easily can stray from God's path.


Saturday, June 20, 2009
Day Dreams Of My Father

In an otherwise ordinary New York Times story on President Obama's message to fathers, we discover this nugget:

After the session Friday, Mr. Obama's guests headed to the South Lawn for barbecue cooked by the celebrity chef Bobby Flay and mentoring sessions between youths and local fathers, celebrity fathers and every other type of father. In one mentoring group under a tree, the White House budget director, Peter R. Orszag, sat wearing sunglasses and looking poised to offer mentoring but was seemingly unsure of exactly what to say to the 11 young men assembled before him.

No worry. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. soon appeared. "Orszag!" he yelled, then sat next to him and talked at length with the young men.

Is there any other way VP Biden communicates? You don't see a lot of stories with the line "VP Biden was short and to the point in his remarks today." One can only imagine what it was like to be on the receiving end of Mr. Biden's mentoring. At least there was probably some good shade under the tree.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Wrestling with a Pig

Karl Rove and James Carville are apparently on a mini debate tour around the country, speaking at Madison Square Garden last night and the Chicago Theater tonight. Don't see a broadcast outlet for these. Charlie Rose is the moderator, but his PBS program isn't scheduled to show it. Hopefully the entirety of these will see the light of day at some point. The insights of the political masterminds behind the last 16 years of Presidential administrations will be must see viewing.

Or at least it should be. So far, I can only find the 4 minute segment provided by CNN from the New York debate, shown below. Unfortunately, it indicates we'll be getting something less than the full intellectual potential. Rove is his normal self. Intelligent, civilized, engaging with ideas, bringing unique insights to the conversation. However, Carville is as you remember him from nearly every media appearance he makes. Loud, BS-laden, emotional, hyperbolic, interrupting, distracting, obfuscating. And, unfortunately, winning over the audience. Reminds me of the 1992 election.

It also reminds me of the the Michael Medved-Ed Schultz debate the Patriot and Air America hosted last year. You come prepared to enjoy your supremely qualified champion engage in the forum of ideas and debate. Then soon after it starts you realize the over matched opponent is dedicated to dragging it down into a confused cesspool of shouting, name-calling, insults, cliched one-liners, misdirection, and misinformation. All to the tittering and applause of the half-soused Daily Kos chat room rabble that lap up the inane "observations". (h/t Newman)


If the entire debate is played by these Carville rules of order, one thing is certain. Like the Medved-Schultz debate, there will no winners, only losers.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Mr. Bad Example

Stu Kreisman is an Emmy award winning writer-producer. It says so right in the byline of his blog at the Huffington Post. Impressive credits too: SCTV, Saturday Night Live, Night Court, Cheers, Newhart. He's also written for Homeboys in Outer Space.

His work at the HuffPo reveals the man's dynamic range as well. He puts aside the comedy entirely and adopts the very convincing persona of an indignant, uncompromising, seething, retribution seeking zealot in this post about the unforgivable sins of David Feherty. Excerpts:
David Feherty insulted every person who puts on a uniform to fight for the United States. He cast them all as hate mongers willing to assassinate members of the government that Feherty and his pals don't care for. And for that he must be punished.

There is no way I can watch Feherty on a CBS golf telecast ever again without thinking of how much he disrespects the political process of his adopted country and slanders the troops. Others have been fired for less. Failure to terminate Feherty's contract will just tar everyone involved in professional golf and at CBS. This was not a slip of the tongue. It was a threat.

Well, he's certainly entitled to his opinion. And I see it is not an entirely subjective one. For Stu Kreisman doesn't just go around making judgments on other people's actions based on abstract concepts of proper behavior. No, Stu Kreisman bases his judgments on the examples of civilized behavior, morality and rhetorical restraint of others. In particular, this paragon of virtue:
[Feherty] has defended himself by saying that he supports the troops, made a trip to the Mideast and visits them in hospitals. Well good for him but guess what? Thousands of other people do the same thing without any publicity. I highly doubt any of them engage in a conversation that would cause a soldier to threaten a member of congress. Al Franken has been doing USO shows for years with minimal publicity, but Franken is probably not the type of patriot Feherty or his friends at the PGA cotton to. Visiting the troops does not give you a free pass to smear them.
I'm sensing Kreisman may not be a daily Fraters Libertas reader. To get him up-to-date, from yesterday's post, the words of Al Franken while on national TV self-promoting his work with the USO in Iraq:
I actually had an officer who - I obviously won't say who he was - who said to me, listen, George W. Bush is my commander in chief. I have to respect him. But if I got Rumsfeld in my sights, I would not hesitate to squeeze off a couple rounds.


Questions for Mr. Kreisman.

Stu, bubie, if you had known about his comments in 2005, would you have called for the firing of Al Franken from his Air America radio show?

Now that you know about them, how about Al Franken's assuming a position in the US Senate? Should he withdraw from the election contest? Should he concede the seat to Norm Coleman?

By the Kreisman standard, Franken has insulted every person who puts on a uniform to fight for the United States, cast them as hate mongers who would assassinate members of the government Franken and his pals don't care for. Failure to terminate him will tar every Minnesotan. Tar every member of the US Senate (and I didn't think that was possible any more). Visiting the troops does not give Franken a pass to smear them!

This is an opportunity for a bipartisan profile in courage. The stridently liberal Kreisman has set an objective standard for abhorrent behavior and now he gets a chance to demonstrate that it is not mere political gamesmanship. Be a profile in courage, start the Dump Franken movement at Huff Po now!

Failure to do so can be interpreted as his Feherty post being in the tradition of most of his work, comedy. Not quite as funny as Homeboys in Outer Space. Then again, his blog doesn't have a laugh track to tell us where the jokes are.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009
When Fragging Government Officials Was Still Funny

CBS sportscaster David Feherty has visited the troops in Iraq a couple of times. This experience and what he heard from the troops apparently informed his recent controversial comments in D Magazine. Comments which have led to national media outrage, pressure groups calling for his firing, his employers denouncing him, and ultimately an apology and retraction of his comments as inappropriate and unacceptable.

The full context of his universally reviled comments:
My own experience visiting the troops in the Middle East, I can tell you this, though: despite how the conflict has been portrayed by our glorious media, if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Osama bin Laden, there's a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death.
Even shock-academic Camile Paglia was taken aback. Her comments in Salon Magazine indicate she thinks this is a new level of public indecency:
I was utterly horrified to hear Dallas-based talk show host Mark Davis, subbing for Rush Limbaugh, laughingly and approvingly read a passage from a Dallas magazine article by CBS sportscaster David Feherty claiming that "any U.S. soldier," given a gun with two bullets and stuck in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden, would use both bullets on Pelosi and strangle the other two.

How have we come to this pass in America where the assassination of top government officials is fodder for snide jokes on national radio?
To be sure, she's right about the impropriety of these kinds of gutter level, unfunny jokes being carelessly thrown around in the mass media. But she's dead wrong in assessing this as a new low for national broadcasting. There's nothing new about celebrities in the entertainment business going to Iraq and coming back trying to play soldiers' fragging fantasies for laughs.

From January of 2005, on MSNBC, Chris Matthews interviewing none other than the presumptive next Senator from the Great state of Minnesota who had these remarkably similar comments to Faherty:

I actually had an officer who - I obviously won't say who he was - who said to me, listen, George W. Bush is my commander in chief. I have to respect him. But if I got Rumsfeld in my sights, I would not hesitate to squeeze off a couple rounds.


(Originally linked to in this Fraters post in 2005.)

Not clear is whether it was Franken and/or Matthews who was laughing it up. Only the MSNBC transcriptionist knows for sure.

Needless to say, there was no controversy over Franken's comments on national TV. He tells his stories about the assassination of top government officials, gets his laughs, gets the unqualified support of liberals and the Democrat party, and merrily goes on his way to (probably) getting elected to the US Senate. What a country!

If only the media deemed the comments of a liberal US Senate candidate as important as a conservative CBS golf analyst, we might have been spared this whole recount drama. Even in Minnesota, I have to believe that's worth at least 322 votes for Norm Coleman.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Coming Home To Roost

The news yesterday that Arlen Specter had officially flown the GOP coop is the latest example of the dangerous game that Republicans play when they try to appease mushy moderates for perceived political gain. In the long run, such calculated coddled more often than not comes back to blow up in the party's face as it has with Specter.

Obviously hindsight is 20/20 and there's not necessarily a lot to be gained by saying "We told you so," but with the case of Specter the defector I think it is helpful to recall that Republicans had a chance to avoid this fate had they acted differently back in 2004. Here's something that I posted in November 2004 chiding those who told us we had to support Specter at the time:

I for one have had enough of the "stability" in the Senate offered by the likes of Specter, Chafee, and Snowe. When Specter was challenged in the Republican primary by conservative Pat Toomey, many commentators on the right (including yours truly) backed Toomey. Unfortunately, President Bush, Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania's other senator), and Hugh supported Specter and helped him fend off Toomey.

Hugh Hewitt is an intelligent, generous man of unquestionable integrity who has done much to help the conservative cause (to say nothing of the blogosphere) through his talk radio show, his blog, and his books. But he was wrong about Specter in the Pennsylvania primary and he's wrong about him now.

Again, this isn't about me being right and Hugh being wrong (although that does bring me some measure of pleasure). It's about Republicans getting away from the short-sighted thinking about immediate political gain (or loss) and thinking about the long-term principles, integrity, and strength of the party. That might mean losing some battles today. However, it will make us a stronger party tomorrow, less vulnerable to the shifting allegiances of wobblers like Specter.

In this particular case, even the practical political realities of the time suggest that Republicans would have been better off choosing Toomey over Specter in 2004. While there's no guarantee that he would have won the general election in 2004, I gotta think his chances would have been better than in 2010.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tead Off?

Everyone knows that today is Tax Day. And unless you've been living under a rock (or getting your news solely from traditional media sources) you have probably heard about the many "Tea Parties" taking place today across the fruited plain. While I understand the motives behind those participating and hope they get an impressive turnout, I find myself ambivalent about the whole Tea Party movement (if it can yet be described that way).

Perhaps it's the natural conservative inclination to view protests in general with a skeptical eye, especially regarding their efficacy. In regard to the Tea Parties in particular, I'm still struggling to grasp what they're really about and what they really hope to achieve. I understand that people are mad as hell and they're not gonna take it anymore. However, it's not clear to me exactly what they're mad about and what they're not gonna take anymore. Is it bailouts? Spending? Tax increases? Expansion of government control? All of the above? None of the above? Some of the above?

The answer may be that this just the beginning and that as various groups and individuals continue to coalesce together, a more coherent and defined message about issues and aims will emerge. But right now I wonder how all this is going to play to the majority of Americans standing on the sidelines. Will they dismiss the Tea Party protesters as nothing more than a bunch of freaks in tricorne hats or will they consider that maybe there's a message there that they need to consider? Given the way the media is sure to cover the events, I expect far more of the former reaction.

Another problem with the Tea Parties is the name itself. Yes, I understand that they're trying to recapture the revolutionary spirit of the famous 1773 Boston Tea Party. But you gotta admit "Tea Party" is not a name that naturally conveys action or inspires interest. Dude, what are you doing tonight? Going down to the capitol to attend a Tea Party. Okay, well have fun with that.

And the original Tea Party was a direct act against British attempts to tax tea that the colonists felt violated their rights. Today, no one is proposing to increase taxes on tea (at least as far as I know) and even if they did, the reaction would likely be far more muted. While many Americans still drink tea at least occasionally (including yours truly), the beverage does not play nearly as prominent role in American life as it did during the colonial era.

But there are present attempts to tax other drinks. Drinks that Americans will likely get far more excited about showing up at a rally in their name. From an editorial in today's WSJ called This Tax Is for You:

Today is the dreaded April 15, but at least in Oregon it's even going to cost you more to drown in your tax sorrows. In their sober unwisdom, the state's pols plan to raise taxes by 1,900% on . . . beer. The tax would catapult to $52.21 from $2.60 a barrel. The money is intended to reduce Oregon's $3 billion budget deficit and, ostensibly, to pay for drug treatment.

If it passes, Oregon will overnight become the most taxing state for suds, one-third higher than the next highest beer tax state, Alaska. The state may do this even though Oregon is the second largest microbrewery producer in the U.S. The beer industry and its 96 breweries contribute 5,000 jobs and $2.25 billion to state GDP. Kurt Widmer of Widmer Brewing Co. says the tax would 'devastate our company and small breweries throughout the state.' Adds Joe Henchman, director of state projects at the Tax Foundation, 'This microbrewery industry has gravitated to Oregon in part due to low beer taxes.'

Get your grubby taxing paws off my Widmer Original Drifter Pale Ale! See, now that's how you get people mad as hell.

For Oregon to enact punitive taxes on its homegrown beer industry makes as much sense as Idaho slapping an excise tax on potatoes or for New York to tax stock trading. Even without the tax increase, taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in a glass of beer, according to the Oregon Brewers Guild.

But Democrats who run the legislature are desperate for the revenues to help pay for Oregon's 27.9% increase in the general fund budget last year. If they have their way, every time a worker steps up to the bar and orders a cold one, his tab will rise by an extra $1.25 to $1.50 a pint. Half of these taxes will be paid by Oregonians with an income below $45,000 a year. Voters might want to remember this the next time Democrats in Salem profess to be the party of Joe Six Pack.

How many Joe Six Packs are really going to show up for anything as fey sounding as a "Tea Party" anyway? But if you called it a "Beer Party" you'd have to keep people away with sticks. Sure, there might be a little confusion about what they really were getting into, but that confusion is just an opportunity for education. And, unlike the original Tea Party, there isn't a chance in hell that Americans are going to destroy something as precious as beer as a form of protest. But instead of throwing our beer into the harbor, what if we drank it instead? (chug, chug, chug) Just try taxing this now, Governor!

So go on and enjoy yourself at a local Tea Party today. But think about how much better it would be if we called it a Beer Party.


Thursday, March 19, 2009
Defining Wild Down

There was a time, perhaps not so long ago, when the employees of the City Pages would have defined a "wild" time as nothing less than a booze-fueled late brunch at a hip Uptown bistro, followed by a crypto-anarchist protest rally in front of a government building downtown, followed by post-protest bong session with some squatters in a Dinkytown tenement, followed by an in-store book signing with a dark, nihilistic, cult fave comic book author, followed by a meal of Oaxacan tacos at an acceptably grungy and ethnic Lake Street eatery, followed by drinking conspicuously downscale beer and listening to ironically popular music from the 70's on the juke box at the CC Club , followed by an Entry show by an up and coming angry, reggae-rap-ska-Mbaqanga fusion band from Japan, followed by a midnight showing of a film featuring an autopsy being performed to the music of Sleater-Keany at the Uptown, followed by all night, E-fueled, glow stick twirling rave at an abandoned Nordeast warehouse.

How times have changed. From today's City Pages:

Vice President Biden will be arriving in St. Cloud this morning for a town hall meeting about the economic stimulus and the middle class. Biden along with the Middle Class Task Force will arrive at the at St. Cloud Regional Airport at 10:15 a.m. for a 11:30 a.m. event at the New Flyer of America in St. Cloud.

Get ready for a wild afternoon!
Two theories: Either the years of fast living have finally caught up to the City Pages staff and its permanently altered their perception of reality. Or, the presence of Joe Biden is more powerful than any drug.

OK, third theory. The Barack Obama halo effect on liberals is even more powerful than we believed.

For some realism associated with the Joe Biden visit, check out the Nihilist in Golf Pants.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Down To Business

Sometimes no matter how many times you repeat something, it seems like the message never gets through. This happens to parents with young children on a regular basis, but also occurs in the political sphere. Even though you think the message should be glaringly obvious to everyone by now, you really can't repeat it enough.

So even though I've done my level best to beat down the tireless trope that "big business is conservative," it's clearly one of those situations where there's no such thing as over communication.

Back in high school French class we would strap on enormous headphones to listen to audio tapes of Gallic phrases preceded by the instruction "ecoutez et repetez." So please indulge me and ecoutez et repetez the following:

Big business has no interest in advancing policies based on free market principles.

Big business' only interest in politics is supporting the party that can better advance their interests at the time.

Got it? Good. The latest evidence of this truth comes in an article by Kevin D. Williamson in the March 9th edition of National Review called Losing Gordon Gekko (sub req):

In 2006 and 2008, Wall Street poured money on Democrats. Big Wall Street firms that made major political contributions--including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, UBS, and Lehman--gave the majority of their contributions to Democrats. The hedge funds followed suit, as they are inclined to do--they depend on the big Wall Street institutions to clear their trades. And it wasn't just Wall Street: Democrats led in six of the ten big-business sectors tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics: law, health care, defense contractors, communications/electronics, finance/insurance/real estate, and the catch-all category that includes chemical firms, retailers, manufacturers, food processors, and other industrial operators. Republicans held on to agriculture--which is, not coincidentally, the industry in which they are the least interested in practicing capitalism: It's not the philosophical commitment to free markets that opens up corporate checkbooks, but the promise of favorable exceptions to those principles.

So why is the bulls-and-bears set going donkey? Partly it's self-interest: Wall Street loves a tax break, but Big Money has over the years found a lot to love about Big Government. Those carbon-offset exchanges may be clearinghouses for products that are, in essence, imaginary, but they are going to make a real bundle for the bankers who set them up--and, since they'll inevitably have the support of government, there will be relatively little risk involved. And Democrats' anti-war talk hasn't spooked the defense contractors. For all the conspiracy-mongering about Halliburton Republicans, now that Democrats control defense appropriations it's no surprise to find the likes of Rep. Ike Skelton, the Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, enjoying the support of military providers such as Armor Holdings Inc. What is surprising is that Democrats now lead Republicans overall in financial support from defense firms.

Remember, big business isn't about politics or principles. It's about business. Red? Blue? Whichever brings more green.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Isn't That Special?

A couple of items that caught my eye from today's Remarks by President Obama on Contracting:

* We will stop outsourcing services that should be performed by the government and open up the contracting process to small businesses.

Outsourcing services has been a tool that companies have long-employed to contain costs. Usually when they look at what can or should be outsourced, they try to define what their core compentencies are. It's not always possible, but desirable to outsource as much of your non-core work as possible, while keeping your core compentencies in-house.

Trying to line up government and businesses (or families around the kitchen table) often leads to inapt comparisons. However, in this situation I think it would be valid to ask Mr. Obama how he plans to define those services that "should" be performed by the government. In his view, what are the core compentencies of the federal government?

* Now, none of this will be easy. We'll have to end old ways of doing business. We'll have to take on entrenched special interests.

Ah yes, Mr. Obama will mount his trusty steed and once again sally forth to battle those "entrenched special interests." In this case, special interests being defense contractors who donate money to campaigns and lobby government to try to win business.

Which is of course completely different from labor unions who donate money to campaigns and lobby to have more services performed by the government. Said services performed by government employees who more often than not just happen to be dues paying members of these same unions. The difference is completely clear, isn't it?


Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Remain Calm

Lately when I've been listening to conservative talk radio, I've noticed what seems to be a growing sense of panic among many on the right. You hear it on the national shows and it was especially evident on last week's NARN First Team broadcast where caller after caller voiced their despair with the present political circumstances and offered little in the way of hope for the future.

The consensus was that something needs to be done now to avert catastrophe. What was really eye opening was hearing more than a few callers say that it was past the time for mere politics and more drastic action was required. When pressed on what that action should entail, few details were forthcoming, but the frustration nearing desperation in the voice of these callers was clear.

Now it's true that there have always been a very small minority on the right who called for extreme action: stock up on guns & ammo and move to the country, stop paying your taxes, overthrow the government, etc. However, only six weeks in to the glorious Age of Obama, it seems like this radical sentiment is attracting more support.

Even more disturbing is the defeatist attitude and doom and gloom outlook that has griped the psyches of a far broader group of conservatives. There's a sense that each day the country is slinking closer and closer to some sort of government-driven statist society and that each day that passes only makes this decline more and more irreversible.

Allow me to play the starry-eyed optimist for a moment and provide some advice and perspective. If you can step back from the day to day for a moment and expand your timeframe, you might see that things aren't as bad or as hopeless as they may now appear.

First, some advice. As conservatives we like to consider ourselves to be more realistic about the circumstances of the world and more mature in our outlook (funny that liberals think the same about themselves). So let's not act like petulant teenagers and pout because we didn't get our way. We lost a couple of elections. But it's not the end of the world as we know. Don't repeat the hysteria of the left during the Bush years. No one "stole" your country. This is still America. Still the best country in the world and still the last best hope for mankind.

Next, get some perspective. Believe it or not, things have been worse. In 1974, the wake of Watergate and Ford's pardon of Nixon, the Democrats picked up four seats in the Senate (after the special election in New Hampshire) and held a 61-38 advantage. In the House, Democrats picked up 49 seats to give them a commanding 291-144 advantage.

No one wanted to admit they were a Republican in those days. In 1974, Democrats enjoyed a 22 point lead over the GOP in party identification. In 1975, it was a 25 point spread. In 1977, the first year of Jimmy Carter's administration, it increased to 27 points. And yet from the depths of '74 it was only six years (yes, painful long years) to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

A lot can happen in six years. Remember what things were like in 2002? The GOP picked up two Senate seats to gain a 51-49 edge. They won eight more seats in the House to increase their majority. President Bush was enjoying approval ratings of 70%, the party identification gap was the narrowest it had ever been (+3% for the Dems), and people were seriously asking if the Democratic party would splinter into bickering factions in the near future. Yes, while it seems like a world away today, that was only SIX years ago.

So yes, things don't look so rosy at the moment. But it's helpful to remember that this is just the early stages of the Obama administration. There's still plenty of time for more overreach, failure of his policies once enacted, and voter backlash at the ballot box. While there is no guarantee of it, time very well may be on our side.

And don't overreact to Bobby Jindal's less than stellar outing last week. Remember that he's only thirty-seven, a full ten years younger than President Obama. He still has a lot of time to find his footing and comfort on the national stage. No reason to rush him at this point or panic when he missteps. He may be the "next Ronald Reagan" or he may not. But we have some time to find out.

In the meantime, we should try to avoid falling into some of the same pitfalls that have plagued us of late. I was dismayed to learn that Mitt Romney was the 2012 candidate of choice in a straw poll at CPAC. The surest way to extend the Republican wilderness stay would be to nominate Romney in 2012. He is not the voice to lead a reborn and renewed conservative movement and putting him in the driver's seat is just going to lead to more spinning of wheels.


Monday, March 02, 2009
Married To The Mob

Last week there was much fuss made about Northern Trust having the temerity to sponsor a golf tournament after having received TARP funds from the federal government. On Saturday, John Paul Newport--the Wall Street Journal's golf guy--attempted to restore rationality to the proceedings by explaining that Northern Trust was simply doing what businesses do best (sub req):

Building up business by developing closer relationships with clients is, of course, the main reason many companies sponsor golf tournaments. Northern Trust's agenda last week also included seminars for clients, such as one on the credit crunch. In undertaking such commitments, sponsors tend to be rigorous in their analysis of the substantial costs versus the benefits, just as they are for all marketing and advertising layouts. As business propositions, underwriting tournaments can make sense on many levels, especially for companies like Northern Trust, which cater to high-net-worth individuals and for whom personal relationships are central.

But never mind all that, because last year Northern Trust accepted $1.6 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds, despite record profits of $795 million and a solid balance sheet. The bank, in a letter to shareholders this week, said it didn't seek the funds but accepted them to accommodate "the government's goal of gaining the participation of all major banks in the United States." Whatever the reason, taking the money changed everything. It turned all of the bank's business practices, especially those that smack of cultural excess, into red meat for politicians and others looking to direct public outrage about the state of the economy.

Within hours of the TMZ report, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts wrote a letter to Northern Trust, co-signed by 17 others, demanding that it return to the federal government all the money it "frittered away on these lavish events" at the golf tournament. The New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a sarcastic column the next day headlined "I Ponied Up for Sheryl Crow?" Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly hopped on the bandwagon Thursday, commending Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts (an unlikely bedfellow) for proposing legislation that "would prevent any recipient of TARP funds from hosting, sponsoring, or paying for conferences, holiday parties and entertainment events."

This is another example of why I dislike O'Reilly. When the news of the Northern Trust "scandal" first broke last week and politicians like Barney Frank were scrambling for microphones to begin the ritual denunciations of yet another greedy company, Rush Limbaugh went after them hard, explaining what their real motives were and revealing their hypocrisy. Not necessarily an easy argument to make.

So what does O'Reilly do? He lazily throws in with the hoary rhetoric of the populist demagogues and embraces their mob mentality. All in the interests of looking out for "the folks" as he assures us. That sort of easily manufactured and stoked faux outrage is part of his stock and trade and I'm frankly quite tired of it.

The Northern Trust incident is yet another warning to companies that they should absolutely avoid taking a dime from the government if at all possible. While the cash may seem like a God send at the time, in reality it's a corrupt bargain, a deal with the devil. And we all know that the devil will get his due.

Once you enter into such a "partnership" with the government, you leave all of your business practices open to question and query. You get guys like Barney Frank poking and prodding around in areas that you would normally keep off limits to his ilk. Everything you do is subject to public exposure and criticism whether it be your sponsorship of golf tournaments, the off-site conferences you host, and even the money you spend promoting your company and selling your product through commercials.

A scene from "Goodfellas" comes to mind:



WE SEE MARTY swimming the length of a pool, surrounded by adoring MODELS in bathing suits.

MARTY'S TV (V.O.): They'll stay put even in a typhoon. And I should know. I'm the president of the company.

WE SEE MARTY and HENRY standing near television set commercial is repeated over and over. MARTY is taking bets on the phone and complaining to HENRY. WE SEE an agitated JIMMY BURKE in BG poking at wigs and looking toward HENRY and MARTY

MARTY: (complaining sotto voice to Henry while taking bets on the phone) Jimmy's busting my chops. (into phone) Okay, give 'em eight to five on Cleveland. (hangs up phone and to Henry, while nervously eyeing in the other room) He wants three points over the vig. From me? I don't believe this s***?

HENRY: (pleading) Marty. Please. You know Jimmy. You borrowed his money. Pay 'em.

MARTY: (so outraged his voice gets louder) I didn't agree to three points over the vig.- What am I nuts? I didn't need it that much.

HENRY: (getting exasperated) What are you gonna do? Fight with him? He wants his money.

MARTY: F*** 'em. I never paid points. I always did the right thing. Did I ever bust his balls? Did I? Did I? I could have dropped a dime a million times, and I wouldn't have had to pay dick.

HENRY: (getting annoyed) Marty, you're talking crazy. Drop a dime? Call the cops? Don't even let anybody hear such bulls***. Hey, why don't you just pay the man his money and shut the f*** up.

WE SEE JIMMY in BG start toward HENRY and MARTY when he hears HENRY raise his voice.WE SEE JIMMY come up behind MARTY and wrap the long telephone extension cord around MARTY's neck. WE SEE MARTY's eyes begin to pop. WE SEE HENRY try to get his hands between the wire and MARTY's neck while trying to get JIMMY to stop.

JIMMY: (total fury) You got money for your bulls*** television, don't you? I gotta watch you swimming back and forth on TV all night long, don't I? You got money for that, but you don't have my money?

HENRY: Jimmy. He'll be okay. He's good for it. Relax.


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