Archive for January, 2010

Obama would “rather be a really good one-term president” …

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment

“than a mediocre two-term president.”

I like this guy a little more after reading that.

Finally, a goal we can all agree on, the president’s first truly bipartisan aspiration. Now, let’s all work together on making sure Obama is a really good one-term president.

Categories: President Obama

E.J. Dionne hates it when the shoe is on the other foot

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Boy, leftist totalitarians like E.J. Dionne sure do hate it when the shoe is on the other foot, don’t they?

The Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision last week giving American corporations the right to unlimited political spending was an astonishing display of judicial arrogance, overreach and unjustified activism.

Turning its back on a century of practice and decades of precedent, a narrow right-wing majority on the court decided to change the American political system by tilting it decisively in favor of corporate interests.

The right could say the same about hundreds of Supreme Court decisions — a few of which this latest decision reversed. It’s not judicial activism to return rights clearly spelled out in the Constitution to those from whom they were stripped by leftist tinkerers (both in Congress and on a truly activist court) who over the years haven’t wanted their power taken from them by those who could fund strong campaigns against them.

Besides, there are some virtues and values we must hold to, whether doing so sends our country straight to hell (or the bottom of the nation-state food chain) or not. One of them is that any and everyone who wants to and has the means should be able to contribute whatever they want to the political process, and that includes corporations, which are run by — you guessed it — people who make a lot of money that, for all we know, they might make precisely so they can influence the political process.

What matters in politics is not who has the money. As long as we enforce transparency, we’ll know who’s running the commercials. Or is Dionne suggesting people are too stupid to judge politicians for themselves? Sure, AIG could run $2 million in ads against a candidate, but couldn’t that candidate get corporate money to defend himself — or attack AIG? Fellas like Dionne act as if the only people with money are evil Republicans who seek to rule politicians in Washington for their own financial gain. But the Supreme Court decision applies to unions and corporations of all stripes. (So, again — what’s the stop these big bad corporations from fighting those Dionne is worried about? The answer: nothing, really, now that the Supreme Court has rightly declared that political activism is barred from no one — rich or poor.)

But this whining is consistent with Dionne’s world view, which is that Americans are too dumb to think for themselves and incapable of judging truth from fiction. Me, I am confident that both sides stand to gain from this Supreme Court decision, making it basically a wash, and if I’m wrong, if people are too dumb and uninformed to sift through the noise of campaigns, then they’ll get the government they deserve. And if this nation goes down in flames as a result, then at least it was free (if only in this narrow aspect) for the duration of the ride to decide on a different course.

Kill Fannie & Freddie, but don’t replace them

January 23, 2010 1 comment

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is probably right about abolishing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which, as the article states, buy “loans from lenders, insuring them against default and supplying fresh cash to make more loans.” But replacing them with a single government-run entity because, according to Frank, “it’s important for the government to continue to play a role in fostering housing affordability,” is exactly the wrong thing to do since it’s precisely that notion that makes home-buying unaffordable for most in this country.

Artificially increasing demand for something necessarily diminishes its supply because more people exist in the market to drive up prices. This is one of the most fundamental laws of economics, and it’s one just about every school of economic thought agrees on.

The best thing the government can do to make housing more affordable is to get out of the process altogether. Let lenders keep their loans, rather than get them off their books by packaging and selling them to another entity that then sells them as securities. This would inject more sanity into the lending process, as lenders would no longer be tempted to sell homes to people who probably can’t afford them, as they do now because they won’t have to worry about the toxicity of subprime loans once they sell them to an entity like Fannie or Freddie (or whatever do-gooders like Frank and his ilk are eventually able to replace them with). Fewer people buying homes means existing home prices would have to come down to reach demand-and-supply equilibrium.

Computer prices have dropped; DVD players can now be bought for about what two DVDs cost; cars, flat-screen TVs, treadmills, plastic surgery — all of these once-outrageously-expensive things have become affordable to just about everyone, because — so far — the government has not established a right to them that must be facilitated by some government program. The market has worked.

But what prices have risen, instead of dropped, over the years? Tuitions, medical-care costs, home prices, and the cost of hiring new workers, to name a few — all things the government has determined it needs to “help” people to afford.

Curious, isn’t it?

Obama reverses course on Gitmo detainees

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

I thought Obama’s opposition during the campaign to the indefinite detention of terrorists in Gitmo was categorical. I guess I was wrong. (That’s my passive-aggressive way of saying he was wrong.)

Categories: Uncategorized

David Henderson and Lawrence O’Donnell: Two “healther” conspiracy theorists on the level of truthers and birthers

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Apparently, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell secretly wants Obamacare to pass and worked during the debate this past fall and winter to make exactly that happen. This latest breaking nonsense is postulated here on the lefty blog, HuffingtonPost by blogger Lawrence O’Donnell, but the hat tip goes to David Henderson, where I first read it here.

I don’t know Mr. McConnell; I’ve only met him once. He very well may secretly hope Obamacare passes so that he and Republicans can win next fall on a platform of Obamacare’s repeal. This is far-fetched — and I’d say patently false — but not because I know Mitch or his intentions (keep up here; I just said I don’t). And neither does O’Donnell. But I’m fine accepting O’Donnell’s premise that Republicans are politically retarded and self-destructively opportunistic, for the sake of argument, if Mr. O’Donnell will admit that he can’t know McConnell or his motives either. We’d then have only have the facts – the reality of parliamentary procedure, which O’Donnell claims to understand – to help us decide who’s right.

Senate Republicans held Democrats to a 60-vote standard on just about everything they could during this past year’s debate on health care. This was their simple strategy: The bill is controversial enough that they’re having a tough time getting all 60 Dems on board, right? Well, okay, make them get to 60 every time, at every turn, on all amendments, all procedures — everything.

In turn, Reid’s standard for Republicans was the same; Two can play at that game, Reid may have thought, so he required the same 60-vote standard of all Republican amendments. Yes, O’Donnell, McConnell had to “agree,” in a very technical sense, to this 60-vote arrangement, but only because if he hadn’t, Reid could have simply taken the ball home and denied any and all Republican amendments to the bill. Reid has that power as Senate Majority Leader.

The amendment O’Donnell mentioned in his post failed because it didn’t reach the agreed-upon 60-vote threshold, but clearly McConnell’s hands were tied in making that agreement. After all, had McConnell stopped (or never started) holding Dems to a 60-vote standard and instead let everything Democratic through with 51-vote thresholds, how much worse would the bill have been (to Republican eyes) upon its final vote, and who would have been blamed for not fighting hard enough? (Answer: McConnell. And Republicans.) And McConnell, according to O’Donnell, should have done this why? So one of the “four” amendments Republicans devised could have passed? In what world would this have been a solid legislative strategy to TRULY oppose the Democrats’ bill?

And now about the alleged four amendments Senate Republicans offered — only four Republican amendments and five motions? Really? O’Donnell is wrong there, too. Reid was, again, in charge of how many Republican amendments made it to the floor. Republicans offered dozens — more than 60, if I remember correctly (not counting the literally hundreds offered in both the Health and Finance committees by their respective Republican members when each committee considered a version of health care last year) — but just about all were denied floor votes by the Democratic leadership.

The reason Republicans are fighting this tooth and nail, and not pretending to, is precisely because the bill has been so hard for Democrats to pass even with their huge majorities and a Democrat in the White House. In other words, if it’s been this hard to pass with the planets so aligned in their favor, imagine what a Republican repeal would take. No, not the hypothetical 52 Henderson suggests Republicans could get in the Senate. It would require more than 60 votes in the Senate, a strong majority in the House, and a Republican in the White House, and even then, it would require very strong political will to reverse something so many millions of American mooches will have come to rely on. (What’s curious is that Henderson happens to point out that this “strategy” would fail because there’s a Democrat in the White House who’d veto their repeal, yet somehow McConnell and his Republicans are dumb enough to think it just might work?)

Which takes us back to the beginning. This theory could only possibly make sense to healthers like Henderson and O’Donnell.

Anniversary celebrations of Obama’s first year … really?

January 21, 2010 1 comment

When Dubya hit his first year in office, there weren’t any celebrations, any parties held by random groups of Americans gathering for Hopesicles and Yes-We-Can’dy as they watched the HBO movie that chronicled his historic campaign. (And indeed, it was historic, if liberals are right that the man is certifiably retarded.) While this goes without saying in retrospect, at the time of his one-year anniversary, he was both personally and politically more popular than Obama is today on his. (Far more so, actually: according to Gallup, his average approval rating during his first year was over 67% and he only reached Obama’s current low approval rating in his fourth year.) So, what gives? Why weren’t conservatives gathering in their homes across the nation to creepily and cult-ishly celebrate Dubya (or Bush I, or Reagan, and so on)?

The difference is primarily in how conservatives and liberals see their political leaders: conservatives see mere politicians where liberals see social saviors. This is a widespread conservative critique of Obamism, to be sure, but it bears repeating on days like today when the mania is so abundant and ripe for picking (on).

And besides, what’s an anniversary celebration? Or what is it supposed to be? Typically such celebrations commemorate something deeply personal or spiritual or in which one has made a substantial personal investment — the date of one’s wedding, the date on which a loved one passed on, one more year of life successfully lived, and even, yes, the date on which you, yourself (Mr. Obama) or your close advisers and friends and colleagues are celebrating your first year in office.

But Joe Voter somewhere in Los Angeles hosting a party to celebrate a public servant’s year mark? That’s not an anniversary celebration. That’s some form of worship. Or creepy. Your call, but it can only be one or the other, or both.

Categories: President Obama, Society

Maybe we need a Nanny State after all

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

In the parking lot of my Nashville hotel, there’s a sign on every light pole disclaiming the hotel’s refusal of liability for damaged or stolen or robbed cars. Fair enough. I guess that would be an okay sign. But these signs go a bit further: “Remove valuables – lock car – take keys,” the signs continue. Gee, thanks for the instructions. (Note to self: always take keys! This hotel is onto something!)

It’s easy to blame the hotels — and city governments, and peanut-butter manufactureers (“WARNING: This product contains peanuts”), and restaurants — for treating their patrons like children, but my hunch is this is a chicken-or-the-egg thing. Companies’ corporate leadership likely doesn’t sit around, as a public service, coming up with ways to instruct their customers on the most mundane, seemingly obvious steps they can take to protect themselves. Instead, it’s likely driven by dumb patrons who have come in screaming frantically from the parking lot, “Help, help! My car is gone! I don’t understand this! I made sure to leave my car unlocked and I even left the keys in the ignition, yet it’s gone! You guys owe me a car! This is some kinda bulls–t!” and then launched a lawsuit in which the prevailing argument was that, hey, there weren’t any signs in the lot warning people to lock their cars.

Enough of that happens, you start to put up signs. You might be thinking right now, “Thanks, Cap’n Obvious,” but you know you’ve thought to yourself upon seeing such signs, “How stupid does Management think we are?” The answer is, every bit as stupid as the last lawsuit that cleaned them out of a few million in legal fees. It’s madness out there.

So maybe the Nanny State is a reaction to a people and culture whining and screaming for someone to tell them at every turn what to do next. Or a culture of personal irresponsibility in which everyone is a victim. Perhaps the Nanny State hasn’t been imposed from above, but demanded from below. So, fellow conservatives — is the problem our leaders, or is it our neighbors?

On my way back into the hotel a few minutes ago, I noticed half a dozen cigarette butts littered — get this — around the base of what should be a universally recognized (by smokers, at least) cigarette disposal (you know, the long-necked thingies with the wide-based receptacles). Then I noticed there wasn’t a sign telling smokers what to do next with their filthy cigarettes — and suddenly the mess made perfect sense.

Categories: Society

The more Dems fear ’10, the worse for us

January 10, 2010 Leave a comment

All the arbitrary — and constantly shifting (first it was August, then it was Thanksgiving, then Christmas, and now the latest deadline of Obama’s SOTU address is in question) — deadlines for wrapping up healthcare, we all know, had little to do with the dire need for the policy’s implementation. Since the bulk of the benefits don’t kick in for another high-school or college career or so, the “America can’t wait any longer for change” mantra that drove Democrats to cobble together whatever they could shove through the halls of Congress had nothing to do with getting people to the doctor’s office tomorrow and everything to do with passing policy that would stand virtually no chance in the world of passing next January.

And that was before it became clear that the Democrats will be in a world of hurt next November; yes, the rush this past year was based largely on probability, on history — on the sense that all good things come to an end, that their popularity wasn’t likely to last for long. But now? Their majority’s dilution — if not outright loss in the House — is all but assured. The question really is over to what extent their majorities will suffer, not whether they will.

This makes 2010 an extremely dangerous year for conservatism. Card check, the financial system’s overhaul, cap-and-trade, the student-loan system’s takeover, and, of course, the health-care bill that has yet to be signed into law — all these things will take on a much greater sense of urgency.

Any conservative who’s excited about November has a lot to worry about until then.

Categories: Uncategorized

Some lefties actually have the stones to defend Obama’s broken C-SPAN promise

January 8, 2010 2 comments

For the most part, the left side of the blogosphere has remained curiously silent over the president’s broken, eight-time campaign pledge to air health-care negotiations on C-SPAN. This is largely because it’s indefensible, even to his sympathizers; after all, for a man who won, at least in part, on his promise of greater transparency in Washington to renege on the easiest, least controversial action he can take — setting up one damn camera in a room while non-sensitive, national-security-unrelated policy is hashed out — bears no defense.

But some gave it the ol’ college try. I searched Google Blogs and here’s the first defense I found at the Mildly Relevant Thoughts (MRT) blog.

As the blog-post’s URL implies (“…republicans-attack-obama-on-cspan-promise/”), the defense — undoubtedly impossible to make — can only be made with a strong offense. What’s wrong here is not Obama’s broken promise, MRT says, but is instead those attacking Republicans! Those jerks!

MRT’s first argument is the tried and true, liberal fallback — the good ol’ hypocrisy charge. Republican policy negotiations when they were in charge, he says, weren’t transparent, so the Democrats’ can be, too. The problem is, by definition, this makes Democrats — not Republicans — the hypocrites, because Republicans didn’t campaign on transparency. Republicans who excoriate Obama today for not televising the negotiations may not care at all about transparency, generally, or the C-SPAN coverage, specifically; what they’re doing, simply, is pointing out that obviously Democrats don’t either. Might I add that MRT is guilty of the et tu toque fallacy: “You’re a jerk, so I get to be one, too!” What is this, MRT — the fifth grade?

His next argument is equally as shallow: “We all know politicians make promises and won’t be able to keep all of them.” This might make sense if Obama had been unsuccessful in starting the health-care debate at all; had he not been able to convince Congress to take up the legislation, then obviously there’d be nothing for C-SPAN to cover — right? But to then hold him accountable for not inviting C-SPAN to cover debates that never happened would be silly, and no one would level that charge. But he’s having the debate. Setting up a camera in the room, therefore — as he promised — is hardly the kind of hard choice a politician has to make in terms of what he can conceivably accomplish. This second argument, then, is utter nonsense. C-SPAN says they’ll have all the resources Obama needs to help him keep his promise. Period.

His final argument might have made sense in 1992, before the advent of cable news and the internet, but whether anyone watches C-SPAN as a matter of course could not possibly be less relevant in 2010. YouTube, Fox News, CNN, talk radio, AP, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, bloggers – they’d all have a grand old time playing and transcribing clips of the negotiations.

But see, that’s precisely what the president, Congressional Democrats, and apparently MRT must keep from happening at all costs.

Movie review: Avatarded

January 7, 2010 1 comment

Despite negative reviews by a few of my conservative friends — whose politics and movie taste I largely share — I saw Avatar last night. I went with another conservative friend of mine; both of us felt like it was important enough a cultural moment that it deserved our attention. I was both pleasantly surprised and thoroughly disgusted by the film, entertained to no end by the action and CGI, but drained intellectually (not of intellectual energy, but of intellect — literally) by its politics.

Again, the special effects were fantastic; my eyes were locked on the screen the entire time, and while the graphics every so often weren’t great — the human (or rather, the Avatard/Na’vi) movement, CGI’s Achilles’ heal, still felt robotic — I knew going in that the technology isn’t quite there yet and wasn’t bothered by it. Avatarded took the technology as far as it currently can go, so I give it an A+ there.

I’m not going to regurgitate any of the conservative critiques of the movie’s politics; they (here and here you’ll find two of the best) were spot-on. But they didn’t focus on one key line the way they should have.

At one point, the army general — the movie’s primary antagonist — is preparing his troops to attack Pandora and says, simply: “We’re going to fight terror with terror!”

Before I continue, two facts are abundantly clear: First, the corporate-militarist or militarist-corporate conglomerate (in the movie, the military general takes orders from the corporate dude) represents American imperialism — graciously, the movie’s creators limited their America hating to the 2000-2008 period in our history — and second, the Na’vi people are unquestionably peaceful.

So, what “terror” is the movie’s corporatist military fighting with terror? Of course, no terror at all. And that’s the point the movie’s creators are trying to make. Some might dismiss this as an awkwardly forced line, jammed in there by sloppy writers who had a list of Bushisms they needed to litter throughout at random and they unwittingly inserted this one where it didn’t truly fit.

I don’t think so.

They waited years to put this movie out; there was nothing haphazard about its production. That line — of so many Bushisms or conservative aphorisms they could have chosen — is there for a reason. These idiots honestly believe the Bush administration waged the Iraq war to get at its oil (represented by the cleverly named — and by that I mean not cleverly named — Unobtainium the corporate-military is after in the movie), a common enough charge that it’s not all that surprising to hear it mindlessly repeated by the unthinking left in Hollywood. The movie seems to imply that Iraq’s leaders weren’t terrorists, but were instead peace-loving and -seeking citizens of the world — victims, that Republican Guard, I tell ya.

If Avatarded‘s creators hadn’t drawn such obvious and intellectually dishonest and sloppy connections to the last U.S. administration, they’d have written a movie nearly everyone could love. After all, who alive today actually thinks it should be okay to take over another country and kill its people because it has a valuable resource beneath it? (According to liberals, the answer is: all conservatives.) They could have kept the same basic plot — random imperialist planet goes after a peaceful planet’s resources — and left out the blunt-force intellectual trauma imposed by their lack of subtlety in connecting it to our last president’s war against a brutal dictator. (On a side note, I don’t know a single conservative who believes in going to war for resources, yet it’s what the movie reduced American conservatives to: resource-hungry, imperialistic mass murderers whose president went after peace-loving Saddam and his Iraqis for their oil. There’s enough to attack about us that’s true — like that we don’t want gays to marry, for one, and we don’t want to pay for the government to give people health care — without having to make up this silly caricature.)

I dunno, maybe one day Mel Gibson or some other rich Hollywood conservative’ll throw a few hundred million into a conservative-themed, futuristic, CGI masterpiece like this one. But until then, liberal drivel will drive CGI’s growth (like porn the internet’s), forcing those who want to watch it unfold to sit through the Hollywood left’s inane, nihilistic, incoherent morality plays.

Categories: Avatar, Movie review