Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hitting the Ground Sauntering

In one of his first acts as president, Obama signed several executive orders. I caught a clip of the press conference on the radio.

He first says the United States "will not torture". I'll get to that in a moment. My attention was really captured by, "we will close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and determine how to deal with those who have been held there". At this point, I began to wonder what the hell the transition team was spending their time on if not determining what they were going to do Day 1. Then I wondered, "close Gitmo first, figure out what to do with them later?"

So I've got this initial bad taste in my mouth as I read some more details of things in the following days. The Truth On Gitmo brought to my attention What the President’s Executive Order really means:
. . . Contrary to reports, Obama did not shut down Gitmo. Rather, he issued an order saying he will (or, to be precise, he intends to and is willing to commit in advance to) shut down Gitmo in a year’s time. This, to mix a metaphor, is kicking the can as far down the road as he possibly can without being penalized for delay of game. Or, to mix yet another metaphor, Obama is promising to write a popular book in a year’s time and is happy to pocket a sizable advance of good will and commentary now; book to be written later. Until then, however, other actions, like the shuttering of other detention centers, will have an immediate impact.
About that Presidential Executive Order on Interrogations…, notes that far from being something new and different, Obama may have just rescinded and reissued Bush policy:
It’s not. It IS the Bush Administration’s 2007 Executive Order 13440.
About this point I'm thinking, "Great. Obama's big deal on torture is merely a regurgitation of existing US policy under Bush; but of course the press goes wild. Still we're going to close Gitmo and then figure out what to do." At this point I'm more or less speechless and shaking my head, rolling my eyes.

Then it turns out (and I'm shocked -- shocked!) that there is recidivism from Gitmo:
Return to Jihad

Two former Guantánamo detainees appear in a newly released al Qaeda propaganda video, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that monitors terrorist media. The former Guantánamo inmates have been identified as Said Ali al Shihri and Abu Hareth Muhammad al Awfi. Al Awfi is also known as Mohamed Atiq Awayd al Harbi, a kunya (or nickname) meaning that he is from the al Harbi tribe on the Arabian peninsula.

According to a report that first appeared in The New York Times last week, al Shihri was recently identified as the deputy of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen and may have played a direct role in al Qaeda’s attack on the American embassy in Sana'a, Yemen's capital, in September of 2008. That attack killed ten civilians, along with six terrorists. Al Awfi has been identified as an al Qaeda field commander.
So what do we have here? Reissuing of bad old Bush interrogation policy under an Obama letterhead to placate the press, but effectively changing nothing? Kicking decision-making further down the road with regard to enemy combatants? What other big decisions will Obama put on the back burner? Maybe a Clear and Present Danger?
Before issuing such a "bold initiative" and "outreach" toward the theocrats ruling in Tehran, Mr. Obama's advisers should have shown their boss the report provided late last month to French President Nicolas Sarkozy from a nonpartisan parliamentary commission on Iran's nuclear program. The report details Tehran's success in circumventing U.N. sanctions and concludes that Iranian scientists already have the know-how to build a nuclear weapon and that unless action is taken to prevent it, they will possess all necessary technology, equipment and fissile material to deploy nuclear weapons no later than the end of next year, "perhaps sooner."
All of this reminds me of one of the things I really hated about the Clinton era: the opinion-poll presidency. I like to think of it as "the long-term goal of the month". There really wasn't much of an executive branch under Clinton. Maybe Obama will usher in a new Republican Revolution, but I'm not holding my breath. I think the stakes or more serious now than 15 years ago, and I don't feel that Obama is up to the task.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Roe v Wade Anniversary

Let me begin with an introductory link or two. In First Day, First Attack On Pro-Life Cause, we have a segue from the immaculation inauguration to the Obama Administration.
Thursday is the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, when thousands of Pro-Lifers annually descend on Washington for the March for Life.

So, it is “above his pay grade” to decide what human life is, but he can use MY TAX DOLLARS to kill human life without bothering his conscience a wit. That is the logic of Goebbels, not Lincoln or anyone else.
Yes. Isn't that quaint. Well, It Was 36 Years Ago Today…
Today though, on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade – the Supreme Court decision that struck down nearly all state bans and restrictions on abortion — it seems somehow appropriate to discuss the matter.

First up, is there anyone who is willing to argue that Roe v. Wade is a well-written decision? Regardless of one’s position on the issue, it’s a mess. It invented entire legal concepts to back up its decision, and shows every sign of backwards reasoning — coming up with the decision on the case, then working from there to find some rationale to justify it. Other Supreme Court rulings have been just plain wrong-headed — Plessy v. Ferguson comes to mind — but they were usually based on existing laws and a careful study of the Constitution. Not here, though — Justice Blackmun found an implied right to privacy within the 9th and 14th Amendment, and declared that abortion fell in there somewhere.
It does seem appropriate, and I agree that it is a legal mess. The legal side is something I hadn't really thought about until I happened upon Roe V Wade - The Unconstitutional Decision. I not only recommend reading it, I also recommend revisiting it on occasion. I have quoted several paragraphs from the article here:
First, it would seem apparent that the unborn was not specifically mentioned at the time because the framers of the Constitution did not have adequate medical knowledge to know what we do now about the biology of the unborn; or, they assumed that it would be clear that the unborn was covered, since they didn't deem it necessary to specify that each stage of a person's development was constitutionally protected. The Court seemed perfectly content to ignore these very real possibilities, and placed the liberty of the woman above the unborn's right to live.

Secondly, The Ninth Amendment, which the Court used to justify their position in Griswold, ironically, directly contradicts this decision. As discussed earlier, the Ninth Amendment states that "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The word retain, designates that the rights expressly guaranteed by the constitutional text should not be interpreted so as to deny rights not specified, but that preexisted in the Constitution. One would assume that the Court would have questioned whether the "right" to terminate a pregnancy would "deny or disparage" a right "retained" by the people. Had the Court questioned this, its distinction between "potential" and "full" human life would have been seen as an obvious violation of the right to life.

The right to life? Yes, the right to life - ever heard of that? It's one of those unalienable rights that's mentioned in the nation's charter, the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal" and are endowed by their Creator with the certain unalienable rights, one being the right to life. The Declaration is clear that this right belongs equally to all human beings. Thus, under this definition of the right to life, there can be no distinction based upon whether human life is "potential" or full. Yet, that is the core distinction of Roe v Wade, and it directly contradicts the right to life retained by the people according to the Ninth Amendment! So ironically, the Ninth Amendment was used to justify a newly found, unmentioned right to privacy that magically extends to the right to abort, when in fact, denying the unborn rights based on the fact that the unborn is inside, rather than outside the womb, contradicts the Ninth Amendment! In addition, the Court used the Ninth Amendment to justify this unmentioned right to privacy, yet then turned around and denied the unborn rights because the unborn child was not specifically mentioned! So how can we say that we have a constitutional right to privacy that extends to abortion even though it is not mentioned in the Constitution, and then turn around and deny rights to another human because the unborn wasn't specifically mentioned!? Roe actually extended this nonexistent right, saying the 14th amendment went even further than the Bill of Rights.
(Reminder to read the whole thing.)
Ridden with contradictions and highly debatable constitutional decisions, I hope that one day Roe v Wade is chalked up, just like Dred Scott v Sanford, as one of the grievous errors of the Supreme Court, and overturned. Until then, it seems as if the discrimination will continue against those who are unable speak for themselves - the type of discrimination the Constitution should fight against, not justify.
I find myself in very much agreement with the arguments presented above. In addition, I remember not long ago having happened upon “Right to life” vs. “License to kill”: A Libertarian Case for the Pro-Life Position. This article is well worth visiting in full as well. My thoughts on abortion are generally shared there in the mix of the last two linked articles.

Update: One more link for good measure: Why Roe v. Wade Needs to be Overturned.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Odds and Ends

RedState: America’s First African-American (Acting) President brought to my attention this bit of trivia:

The Volokh Conspiracy relays the legal analysis of one Professor Ken Katkin, who wonders in print who was president betwen the time President Bush’s term expired at noon on Tuesday, and President Obama took the oath of office late at 12:04. Its a thought experiment more than anything, but its a fun one.
Skipping ahead a bit...
(11) Accordingly, from 12:00 noon until 12:01 p.m. (when Vice President Biden took the oath of office and became Vice President), Condoleeza Rice was momentarily the Acting President of the United States, our first African-American President.
Congratulations, Condoleezza Rice, our first African-American (Acting) President, and first female president too! Which, of course, makes President Barack Obama our second black President.
Libertarian Republican: Sarah Palin: Ever the optimist, her hearts in the right place, but... I have to admire her persistent optimism.

iowahawk: Hope. Change. Apocalyptic Garbage Blizzards. Damn environmentalists.

Moonbattery: Hitler on Hollyweirdo Pledge of Fealty to Obama. Also, What Obamunists Want of Their God:
7. Ban private health insurance.
6. Revoke the Bush tax cuts, plunging us farther into recession.
5. Permanently close facilities to incarcerate bloodthirsty terrorists who are trying to kill us.
4. Waste still more fortunes on light rail boondoggles.
3. Stop teaching abstinence and train children how to fornicate.
2. Become the "greenest" country in the world, despite the totalitarian measures this would require and the economic collapse it would cause.
1. End marijuana prohibition.
American Thinker: The smoker-in-chief -- I've got no problem with that, maybe smokers will regain a shred of dignity.

Ace continues to make me laugh at titles like these:
Here are some interesting observations from The Patriot Room: A Conservative’s View of Gandhi’s 7 Blunders.

Obama Tipping His Hand to the Military?

LGF notes that Obama Snubs Medal of Honor Ball:
Another milestone for our new President: he’s the first President in 56 years to snub the American Legion’s “Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball.”
The American Legion sponsors the ball, which recognizes recipients of Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. It started in 1953 for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first inauguration.

Event co-sponsors include 13 other veterans service organizations, among them the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
DrewM has a few words on this as well:
No time for Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipients or paralyzed vets? Yeah, honeymoon...over.
Obama did manage to make it to the Commander in Chief's Ball which was a good thing. Of course in 2005 George W. Bush managed to find time to make it to both balls.
Is this a sign of the respect our military can expect from President Obama?

Update: Whoops! Missed a post at BlackFive, where other inauguration balls that Obama did attend were pointed out. Priorities, I guess.

Same Thing, Only Different

A picture is worth a thousand words, but this video does an impressive job of encapsulating media bias -- especially with regard to Bush for the past 8 years.

Jonah Goldberg finds that "this segment from the Daily Show was pretty revealing." GatewayPundit calls it Bush III, as does the Anchoress:
Obama = Bush 3?

Oh, the headline is just there to piss some people off, but I was really shocked (and somewhat gratified) to see this bit by the Daily Show.

“YOU’RE the same rhetoric!”

Hey, credit Jon Stewart with daring to acknowledge what no one in the press will, even if he’d rather not: that the “arrogant swaggering cowboy” did the things he did, and said what he said, because those are the things you do and say to terrorists, whether the Upper West Side likes it, or not.
She goes on to add,
As an aside, did you note the hesitancy of the audience to laugh at this stuff? They’re really so besotted, they think they’re not supposed to laugh or question President Obama, who Hollywood is declaring we must “pledge to serve.”
And besides, as we’ve heard for the last 8 years, dissent is still “the highest form of patriotism,” and we learned yesterday, “it’s cool again to be patriotic!”
The Bookworm went with the takeaway that Obama's rhetoric is Hopeynochangey: "I’m no great fan of Jon Stewart’s almost nihilistic humor, but this one pretty much nailed it." The same for Hot Air:
Obama’s inaugural address not so Changey

Overheard on the Mall by a Telegraph correspondent: “I thought the speech was sh*t.” Ah, but even The One’s turds are gilded and smell of roses, Juan Williams reminds us, thanks to the media’s racially-tinged reluctance to spoil an historic moment they helped create.

Bush’s own speechwriter, Michael Gerson, found it interesting but cliche. Which, given what you’re about to see, makes perfect sense. Exit question: Is the difference between the “Italian food” and “Chinese food” here a simple matter of Obama delivering his speech in the cadence of Black English?
The Daily Show FINALLY Notices the Bush/Obama Mind-Meld from Flopping Aces and the Heritage blog both seem to side on the Bush equals Obama side:
Did President Obama’s Speech Sound Familiar?

If you thought parts of President Obama’s speech yesterday sounded familiar, or conservative, you may be on to something. Jon Stewart certainly took notice.
It doesn't even need to be Bush, by the way: Didn’t McCain Say The Same Thing President Obama?

It's amazing how all the 'stupid' and 'idiotic' rhetoric is now like poetry from Heaven when all that has changed as the person speaking the words. If the words aren't all that bad, how 'wonderful' could things have been if the media had thought highly of them during the Bush years?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Adults Have Left the White House

Leave it to Liberals to loudly and proudly act like bratty teenagers with their parents away and the house to themselves. In the past day or two, all of the long-lost memories of the Clintons leaving the White House stealing furniture and the staff vandalizing keyboards have come rushing back.

The Anchoress captures quite a number of examples of juvenile and classless behavior.
In fact, Jay Nordlinger sums up my take on the speech, very neatly:
3. What a great, great shame that Chief Justice Roberts screwed up the oath-administering. A great shame. This is a video clip for all time — an “iconic moment.” I’m sure he feels terrible about it. Possibly, he was “nervous as a whore in church,” as an old southern friend of mine used to say. Obama wasn’t.

4. I thought Obama did the minimum about Bush — the barest minimum: “I thank him for his service,” or something. He could have done a lot more: not with more words, but with better, truer, more gracious words. Bush has certainly done a lot. For one thing, he is passing on to his successor the means with which to fight the War on Terror.

5. Obama said something like, “It’s time to quit putting off the unpleasant decisions.” Geez: Making unpleasant decisions, in both the domestic and foreign spheres, was Bush’s specialty. In fact, he sacrificed a good deal of political popularity because of it.

6. I liked Obama’s nod to Dorothy Fields, the lyricist — who wrote, “Pick yourself up, take a deep breath, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” And, by the way, my favorite recording of that song — a Kern song — is by McNair and Previn, on this album.

7. Obama talked about “restoring science to its rightful place.” I thought that was a cheap, stupid shot. The opinion-makers will love it, of course.

8. He suggested — more like said — that Bush had jettisoned American ideals in order to pursue security. That is a slander, pure and simple. Slandering your predecessor is not a good way to start a presidency.

Indeed. One of the most egregious untruths told again and again (and now accepted as “true” by people with incurious minds) is the absolute LIE that President Bush was “against science” especially as pertains to Stem Cell Research. I’ve written about the lies and distortions about Bush’s excellent policy often and often. The bottom line: President Bush SUPPORTED Stem Cell Research, and his strictures on EMBRYONIC scr related to beginning NEW embryonic lines. Gah, I’m sick of saying it - but go check “Embryonic Stem Cells” or “Stem Cell Research” in my categories. It was, as Nordlinger says, a VERY cheap shot. And yes, #8 is slander. But “this is politics.” And clearly Bush forgave him, as he’s forgiven a ton of slander these past years.
Things started popping up in my Reader this morning. For warmups, there was I Pledge, Pledge of Obama Allegiance video that ruffled feathers. True North was not happy with Hollywood either: Casting Off The Shackles Of Immense Weath, Position And Prestige
Andrew Breitbart at Big Hollywood on the cavalcade of hypocritical celebs who, mirabile dictu, are pledging to change the world for the better now that Bush is out of office.
But about 10am Central Time it started to pick up.
Let's not forget the media:
So this is The "Era of Maturity?" Odd how the misbehaving lummoxes were at both ends of the Bush era, but from the Left both times. How long before the grown-ups return?

Update: Here are two more from the day after as a bit of followup.

Inaugural Blessings

How about a bit of irreverent humor to kick off the Obama Administration?

He Ventured Forth to Bring Light to the World
And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the

Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”

H/T Leo_Pusateri

Monday, January 19, 2009

Let Freedom Ring

When I was young, I hadn't discovered that I was a Conservative. Now, I hear things in a better way.

Some parts that stand out most to me are:
  • "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

  • "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

  • "Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics—will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
In my opinion, today's Liberals have wrongly claimed that they bear this torch lit decades ago. (I don't necessarily equate Republicans with Conservatives, nor Democrats with Liberals. But in large measure, the intended meaning is presented if you interchange each set of terms.)

I see Conservatism: The ideology of diversity:
Aren’t you sick of Democrats claiming forever that they are the party of diversity, and tolerance? They talk and talk, and the crusty old GOP delivers. We don’t care about the identity of the person, as long as he/she shares our values and principles. We don’t care about the gender, sexual orientation or a few unorthodox ideas in a person. All we ask is, “Is the person capable of doing the job at hand? Does he/she share a good portion of our values?”


We don’t care if these people are men or women, straight or gay. White, black or brown. They are where they are because of their principles, values and expertise. As long as you follow the basic tenets of conservatism, we don’t nitpick your position on every little thing. We don’t even mind pro-choice people, as long as a rabid pro-choice position is not the primary badge you wear.
In the context of the Republican Party being but a vehicle for advancing Conservative goals, I understand Why Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican
Today, Democrats, in pursuit of their socialist agenda, are fighting to keep blacks poor, angry and voting for Democrats. Examples of how egregiously Democrats act to keep blacks in poverty are numerous.
Conservatives seek freedom. We should keep in mind the words of Dr. King as we continue the struggle to bring freedom. I reject the Orwellian newspeak that seeks to disallow freedom of thought under the guise of diversity. It's a start, but King's words were a start too.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Farewell to Bush

In the past week there have been a lot of Bush farewells. I think I've found that I've probably got nothing new to add. The Bush Thankathon at Flopping Aces and The Anchoress' Thank You, President Bush cover things very well. What I can add, I suppose, is some of the impressions I will be left with.
  • I will remember, of course, the terrorist attach on 9/11. On thing I recall is feeling a lot better to have President Bush at the helm, as opposed to a President Gore.

  • And for that matter, for the second term I am glad not to have had President Kerry.

  • For election 2004, I also remember voting in large part for SCOTUS. Roberts and Alito were justification of that vote to me.
I will mostly remember it as an era in which the mainstream media lost their collective minds. The examples of bias are legion, so much so that it is now next to impossible to even attempt to summarize how absolutely derelict 'journalists' were in their duty.

I wish Bush had discovered his veto pen much sooner, and I can't count the number of times I wish 'bipartisanship' had been flushed down the toilet. If only he could have been able to articulate conservative positions and push them in Congress. His first term utterly wasted the opportunity of a lifetime on domestic policy. But given the requisite focus on Islamofascist terrorism, I can cut him some slack.

I will retain, also, all of the images of a president moved with emotion. Choking back tears in the aftermaths of the tragedies that our nation faced -- not a saccharin "I feel your pain". Never in my lifetime will I ever expect to see a man so utterly savaged on a day-in, day-out basis.

How will history judge President George W. Bush? Time will tell. The effects of the War in Iraq will not be known for years to come. Nor will the extent of the state of the American and the global economy. Do I think he could have been better? Of course. Do I think things could have been worse were he not the 43rd president of the United States. Definitely.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Cause and Effect

Earlier today in the feed, I had commented on an item I shared: Unemployment Hits 7.2%, 16-Year High (January 9, 2009).
Back in September and October, as Obama was looking more and more likely of becoming the next president, I was forwarding material about businesses getting cold feet over an Obama administration (contemplating higher taxes, more regulation, etc.), and those business preparing to shed jobs in that scenario.
I hadn't really read more than the title by the point -- my memory was flooded with recollections of a number of articles I'd seen just a few months ago.

Looking back, I see that there were -- unsurprisingly -- earlier articles that were saying the same thing, but there wasn't the sense of urgency until closer to the November election. For example, in Big Mac: The Taxpayer-Friendly Candidate (June 11, 2008), Lawrence Kudlow makes clear the understanding of the candidates as of this past summer:
The McCain-Obama contrast couldn't be more stark. Obama wants to use the tax system to redistribute income and wealth, not to grow the economy. He constantly talks about rewarding work over wealth. This is pure class warfare.

Obama doesn't seem to understand that our nation was founded on the principle of equality of opportunity, and that private enterprise, not government, is the main economic driver. Obama intensely dislikes businesses. He would repeal all the Bush tax cuts and raise the corporate tax.
A similar note is struck in Democrats Drive an Economic Downturn (July 10, 2008):
Remember the grief Dick Cheney received in late 2000, and then President Bush in early 2001, when they were accused of “talking down the economy”?

In summer of 2008, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, presidential candidate Barack Obama, and Senate majority leader Harry Reid aren’t merely talking the economy down; they’re taking it down.

They have created what I am calling the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy.
Businesses and investors are responding to their total lack of seriousness by battening down the hatches and preparing for the worst.

Businesspeople now face ugly realities. Their full ugliness has only come to the fore in the past month or so, as energy prices have reached record highs, and as the clamor for Washington to act has grown.
Fast forward a couple months later -- I was interested in several letters I'd seen. Let's start with this one, Scaling Down (September 29, 2008).
Just thought I’d send some thoughts from small-business America. My husband’s business is a canary in the coalmine. When tax policies are favorable to business, he hires more guys, buys more goods, etc. When he is taxed more heavily, he fires people, doesn’t buy anything new, etc. Well, duh. So, at the mere thought of a President Obama, he has paid off his debt, canceled new spending, and jotted a list of whom to “let go.”

The first of the guys will get the news tomorrow. And these are not minimum-wage earners. These are “rich” guys, making between $200,000 and $250,000 a year.

My husband will make sure that we’re okay, money-wise, but he won’t give himself a paycheck that will just be sent to Washington. He’ll make sure that he’s not in “rich guy” tax territory. So, he will not spend his money, not show a profit, and scale his workforce down to the bare minimum.

Multiply this scenario across the country and you’ll see the Obama effect: unemployment, recession, etc. No business owner will vote for this man, but many a “middle-class worker” will vote himself out of a job. Sad the Republican can’t articulate this.
Or how about Step up, folks! Watch as the Obama hand is quicker than the eye (October 10 2008)?
And now, America, we introduce the Great Obama! The world’s most gifted political magician! A thing of wonder. A thing of awe. Just watch him defy politics, economics, even gravity! (And hold your applause until the end, please.)

To kick off our show tonight, Mr. Obama will give 95% of American working families a tax cut, even though 40% of Americans today don’t pay income taxes! How can our star enact such mathemagic? How can he “cut” zero? Abracadabra! It’s called a “refundable tax credit.” It involves the federal government taking money from those who do pay taxes, and writing checks to those who don’t. Yes, yes, in the real world this is known as “welfare,” but please try not to ruin the show.

For his next trick, the Great Obama will jumpstart the economy, and he’ll do it by raising taxes on the very businesses that are today adrift in a financial tsunami! That will include all those among the top 1% of taxpayers who are in fact small-business owners, and the nation’s biggest employers who currently pay some of the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world. Mr. Obama will, with a flick of his fingers, show them how to create more jobs with less money. It’s simple, really. He has a wand.
Maybe Joe the Plumber and Mark the Trucker (October 16, 2008)?
I always like to read what you write, particularly when you stand for life. Good take on Joe. I am married to Mark the Trucker. He owns a small transportation business (approx 15 employees). He started with one truck in 1978. I'm pretty proud of him. He was also my high school sweetheart and still a hunk.

Anyway, the point I want to make is that small businesses are usually S-Corps or LLCs, and that means what they cannot deduct as business expenses is taxed as personal income. That puts most small business in a higher tax bracket than the one they would qualify for if only their real earnings were taxed. Also, this predicament disqualifies their children from receiving financial aid for college—we are "wealthy" by FAFSA standards.

In the transport industry an owner has to keep sinking-fund, so to speak. Engines blow up, accidents happen, and the price of replacing an 18 wheel tractor or a specialty trailer is very expensive. My husband is taxed a higher rate on income that is really not income. He puts a large percentage of it back into his business, as I know most entrepreneurs do. We live on a modest percentage of what appears "wealth" to Senator Obama.

My husband's employees understand that. They see how we live and they respect their boss because he pays a fair wage and does provide health care and contribute to their 401ks. He's not a Fat Cat or Robber Baron.

They recognize every time they pass through the toll booth and the EZ Pass registers that their boss is being taxed. They see more taxes when they fuel his rigs. They know that Interstate permits are more taxes. He pays Unemployment and Workman's Comp, as well as half of their Social Security taxes. They recognize this.

And Kathryn they all vote Republican.

My gut feeling is that Joe works for a man like my husband, and wants to buy the business. Joe is like my husband and his employees. They work hard and dream bigger. There are a lot of Joes and Marks out here and they all don't own businesses yet, but they dream. They know less government is best government. I sent that Joe clip to my husband as soon as it became available on Youtube. He has passed it around. Thanks for reading this far.
But the next two really start to drive the message home. In a Letter from a small business owner (October 25, 2008), the message is mixed in with a sense of irony.
Dear Fellow Business Owners,

As a business owner who employs 30 people, I have resigned myself to the fact that Barack Obama will be our next president, and that my taxes and fees will go up in a BIG way.

To compensate for these increases, I figure that the Customer will have to see an increase in my fees to them of about 8 to 10%. I will also have to lay off six of my employees. This really bothered me as I believe we are family here and didn't know how to choose who will have to go. So, this is what I did.

I strolled thru the parking lot and found eight Obama bumper stickers on my employees' cars. I have decided these folks will be the first to be laid off.

I can't think of another fair way to approach this problem. If you have a better idea, let me know.

I am sending this letter to all business owners that I know.
New Company Policies (October 26, 2008) may be more tongue-in-cheek, but it echoes the same theme.
As of November 5, 2008, our company will implement a few new policies that are in keeping with new, inspiring themes of change and fairness:
  1. All salespeople will be pooling their sales and bonuses into a common account that will be divided equally between all of you. This will serve to give those of you who are underachieving a "fair shake".

  2. All staff-level workers (non-Manager positions) will be pooling their wages, including overtime, into a common account, dividing it equally amongst you. This will help those who are "too busy for overtime" to reap the rewards from those who have more spare time and can work extra hours.

  3. All top management will now be referred to as "the government." We will not participate in this "pooling" experience because the law doesn't apply to us.

  4. The "government" will give eloquent speeches to all employees every week, encouraging its workers to continue to work hard "for the good of all".

  5. We anticipate that the employees will be thrilled with these new policies because it's "good to spread the wealth around". Those of you who have underachieved will finally get an opportunity; those of you who have worked hard and had success will feel more "patriotic".

  6. The last few people who were hired should clean out their desks. Don't feel bad, though, because there will be free healthcare, free handouts, free oil for heating your home, free food stamps, and you can stay in your home for as long as you want even if you can't pay your mortgage. If you appeal directly to our Democratic Congress, you might even get a free flat screen TV and a coupon for free haircuts.
If for any reason you are not happy with the new policies, please contact your Democratic Congress c/o the Capitol Building, Washington DC. They are well-known for responding to inquiries in a timely fashion.
On a forum I visit, the topic of attributing the economic downturn to Obama had arisen. Some were wondering how Obama could receive any blame if he hadn't even "done" anything yet. (Doing nothing didn't stop him from becoming president. [/aside]) I responded with this:
I was thinking of mentioning Intrade vs Obama earlier; thankfully Doug Ross must have been thinking of the same thing. And his output is likely much nicer and more colorful: Barack Obama and The Wisdom of Crowds.

A followup: A brief postscript to this week's Wisdom of Crowds post.
Now I've decided to do a little graphing of my own:

As it became clear that Obama would be the next president, the market reacted.

I haven't even mentioned the bailouts and all that. Of course this played a significant role -- but electing more Democrats in Congress probably didn't help, as the infamous Burning Down the House video made clear.

So am I surprised that unemployment has risen? Hardly. The American people voted to raise unemployment. And taxes on the middle class. And burden us with more government regulations. And trade some of our freedoms for a sense of security (what's that Ben Franklin quote?). I suppose we'll all just blame Bush.

Update: I happened upon 'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years a bit late. Better late than never.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Technical Note

I'm always tinkering with web gadgets, but I just wanted to mention some of the recent changes.

If you hadn't noticed, I don't tend to post blog entries very regularly. But I do pass many an item on through my feeds (I may have mentioned this previously).
You may notice that I have a few blog posts that I've accumulated, I hope you enjoy them. But if you haven't noticed yet, most of what I "post" is via the microblogging of Google Reader shares and Tweets. On the upper right I have tried to highlight my Reader Shared Items and its feed (a quick sample is at the top of this blog), and Twitter links. That tends to be the majority of my activity at present.
Many of the gadgets I toy around with are RSS-centric. It took me a while, but the other day I wandered to FeedBurner and reburned a couple of feeds there. I have been getting involved with Twitter lately, and one recent addition to my online meanderings was #diggcons. The two blend together nicely in that I can insert the linkies for Digg This!, Stumble This!, Twit This!, etc. into the feed. I hope this adds ease and utility for subscribers.

My tweeps (map gadget), meet my feed. Subscribers, meet my similar-but-not-the-same Twitter.

One final note to those who have taken the time to send me replies in Twitter or commented on my blog posts: thank you for taking the time to do so.

Senator Smalley

I'm just shaking my head. I try to be somehow amused by articles that pass by:
And those are just a few among many, but let me add to it today's Jason Lewis Show:

I don't care to be one who goes with the "they stole the election", though there are plenty of things that could be mentioned -- or were mentioned in the above articles and podcast. But what struck me as I listened to some morning radio, is that this particular race could have easily turned out quite differently. And it could have turned out in favor of a Republican candidate very easily; Franken made himself very, very beatable (as if in a rational world that any effort would be necessary).

The real problem that may have slipped by in all the commotion, to me at least, is that Sen. Coleman was defeated because of his record. Because he's a RINO. Because he was not a very good representative of conservatives. Here is one measure, compiled from Citizens Against Government Waste's 2007 data.

This vote has similarities to Tim Pawlenty's 2006 re-election. And this was going right along with the '06 midterms.
The incumbent majority party, the Republican Party had controlled the house since the 1994 election and was defeated by the Democrats who won a majority in the House ending 12 years in opposition.
This whole thing is just a glimpse into the Republican party that discarded fiscal conservatism and went on a spending spree. Here is Clue #1 to the GOP: if you want to win in future elections, you need to run fiscal conservatives. If Coleman had acted as a fiscal conservative, he would be inside the beltway for another term.

The election is over, the recount is done as far as I care. In my opinion, the lunatics are now running the asylum. So let me wish Sen. Smalley Franken the best. I'm still shaking my head.