Questions and Observations
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I finally got around to setting up a QandO Facebook page (as you’ll see I actually started to do it in January and then, for whatever reason – life? – dropped the project). There’s no question that Facebook, despite those that would deride it, is a big player in social media. And it’s a way to both expand the reach of QandO and to expand what we talk about as well. We’ve never been able to put up everything we’d like to talk about on QandO, but the Facebook format allows us to link to things we’ve seen in passing that are interesting and discuss them. To me that’s a plus.
On August 29th, QandO will be 9 years old. That’s very old in blog years. This addition to the QandO format is, to me, a vital part of the on-line evolution that’s taking place and necessary to keep QandO fresh and get it in front of more people. Blogs aren’t going away, but there are other platforms that are becoming a part of the mix. This adds, it doesn’t detract, to the QandO brand. We most likely should have done it sooner.
Anyway, go, like it, share it, get more folks to read it.
Welcome to 2011.
For those of you who never thought you’d make it this far, I know the feeling – but here we are.
A quick note of thanks to the loyal QandO readers. We rolled past 7,000,000 visitors this last year (that’s a little over a million for each year we’ve been online) and we’re about roll past 11,000,000 page views according to Sitemeter. Our server stats give us much higher numbers, but since Sitemeter is a common to many sites we’ll just mention the numbers it gives.
Although writing for QandO is a lot of fun, I really enjoy the comments and I especially enjoy our loyal band of commenters. It is an excellent community and part of what makes the blog popular. You make my day many times and I appreciate both the fact that you comment frequently and, for the most part, leave well reasoned and many times humorous takes on the posts/topics of the day.
2011 promises to be an interesting year both politically and personally. New opportunities on both horizons make the year promising, at least on the first day. We’ll see how it pans out.
So, here’s hoping you, your family and other loved ones have a great and prosperous New Year in 2011. And again, thanks for reading QandO.
Lots to comment on, little time in which to do it (it is a holiday weekend after all). But here are some stories that caught my eye that I may do a more extensive commentary on at a future date.
Thomas Friedman pens a column in which he explores what it will mean if America is no longer the superpower of the world. Quoting Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert, he makes the case that our debt and the subsequent frugality it will require is essentially going to make us retrench and probably withdraw much of our foreign aid (not just money, but troops and fleets, etc., which have helped keep the peace over the years). He notes that when Great Britain gave up its “global governance role”, the US stepped in. The question is, when the US pulls back and creates the expected power vacuum, what country will try to fill the role?
After all, Europe is rich but wimpy. China is rich nationally but still dirt poor on a per capita basis and, therefore, will be compelled to remain focused inwardly and regionally. Russia, drunk on oil, can cause trouble but not project power. “Therefore, the world will be a more disorderly and dangerous place,” Mandelbaum predicts.
Cast your eyes toward a the Middle East. While Turkey and Iran don’t have what it takes to step into the shoes the US has filled, each certainly feel that the withdrawal of us influence presages a much greater leadership role for them in their respective region. China may feel the same thing about the Far East. Friedman concludes:
An America in hock will have no hawks — or at least none that anyone will take seriously.
That’s true, I believe – at least while a Democrat is in the White House or Democrats control Congress – not because they’re suddenly frugal, but because they’d prefer to spend the money on other things.
But this is my favorite paragraph:
America is about to learn a very hard lesson: You can borrow your way to prosperity over the short run but not to geopolitical power over the long run. That requires a real and growing economic engine. And, for us, the short run is now over. There was a time when thinking seriously about American foreign policy did not require thinking seriously about economic policy. That time is also over.
Some of us Americans have know this was a probable result for years. Welcome on board, Mr. Friedman. It’s about freakin’ time.
If you read no other column today, read George Will’s about the global warming industry.
The collapsing crusade for legislation to combat climate change raises a question: Has ever a political movement made so little of so many advantages? Its implosion has continued since "the Cluster of Copenhagen, when world leaders assembled for the single most unproductive and chaotic global gathering ever held." So says Walter Russell Mead, who has an explanation: Bambi became Godzilla.
In essence, it’s analogous to something else we discussed not to long ago, the UAW is now "management". Will’s point is the former "skeptics" – environmentalists – are now the establishment. Funny how that works.
According to the New York Times, Democratic leaders are in the middle of doing what can only be characterized as “political triage” concerning the upcoming House mid-term elections. Reality, as they say, has finally penetrated the happy talk and leaders are taking a brutal look at the chances of all their House members:
In the next two weeks, Democratic leaders will review new polls and other data that show whether vulnerable incumbents have a path to victory. If not, the party is poised to redirect money to concentrate on trying to protect up to two dozen lawmakers who appear to be in the strongest position to fend off their challengers.
My guess is the Blue Dog contingent is about to be cut loose. The leadership probably figures that losing those seat isn’t as big a problem as losing seats in which automatic votes for whatever the leadership puts forward are assured. That would be members of the Progressive caucus and the Congressional Black caucus for instance. The good news for Democrats is most of them are found in what are considered “safe” districts. So they’ll go in the “will live with minimal treatment” category.
The Blue Dogs will most likely go into the “mortal” category and receive little money or backing. They’ll simply let them die, politically It is those in the big middle, in perhaps marginal districts that could go either way or those who’ve survived tight races previously in districts that may lean slightly to the Democratic side which will get the money. These “critical but can be saved” members will get the lion’s share of the money and support allocated for the mid-terms.
Whether they can save enough of them to avoid the magic 39 seats the GOP needs, however, remains to be seen. My guess is it would require a miracle – and possibly that would require some of the Blue Dogs to squeak out a victory. But if those patients are left to pass quietly away when some might have been saved, the Dems may rue the day they decided to pitch them outside the tent and leave them to be brutalized by the political elements. Or said another way – the Dems may outsmart themselves, this strategy could easily blow up badly in their faces and it may be they that assure the 39th seat by not fighting for all of them.
For new readers, Questions and Observations is, in full, what QandO means.
- Still pining for that “public option” Bunky? Well you might want to take a gander at a public option our government has been operating for quite some time. That would be the Indian Health Service for Native Americans. It would be no pun to say the natives are restless about the service they get.
- Irwin Stelzer lays out 7 lessons learned from Cash for Clunkers. My favorite is “government forecasters are really bad at their job”. Wow, there’s a surprise. Anyone – can you name a single major program that was touted by government at one cost that didn’t actually end up costing far, far more than their estimate?
- It appears that President Obama’s pledge that “95% of Americans won’t see their taxes go up one dime” is being modified to add “but I didn’t say anything about a nickle – or a bunch of nickles”. Yes, given the rosy deficit projections that we’ve seen it appears higher taxes – much higher taxes – are now in the “when” not “if” category. As the Brookings Institute’s William Gale said:
“If you rule out inflating our way out of the problem and defaulting on the debt, there are two ways: Cut spending or raise taxes”.
Of course, I’m on the “cut spending” bandwagon personally.
- Here’s an announcement that should warm the cockles of your heart – Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc., the California Housing Loan Insurance Fund (CaHLIF) and Freddie Mac, have put together a program that allows teachers working within the state to purchase a home with a downpayment of just $500. Wait a minute – isn’t that exactly the sort program that supposedly got us into this mess in the first place?
- Investors Business Daily finds that its rather roundly panned claim that Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have fared well under the NHS is, in fact, correct, but certainly not for the reason that he isn’t British. In fact, Hawking didn’t fare well at all with the NHS which didn’t even provide what anyone would call minimal care for his condition. His care ended up being provided for by private donations and private health care providers.
- Apparently Democratic Colorado Representative Betsy Markey didn’t get the talking points memo in which President Obama claims there won’t be any cuts to Medicare benefits. Either that or she’s actually read the bill and in a fit of honesty said, to a constituent asking about that very point:
“There’s going to be some people who are going to have to give up some things, honestly, for all of this to work. But we have to do this because we’re Americans.”
Actually we don’t have to do this and for precisely the same reason.
- The real astroturfing of townhalls has begun in earnest as Organizing For America – the successor to the campaign’s “Obama For America” – begins to finally stage a supposed “grassroots” push back against the rabble from the other side. Of course OFA claims they’re all about grassroots movements. BTW, if you’re wondering which side is which at a townhall, OFA is the “grassroots” organization with same color t-shirts and the preprinted signs.
- Wandering through Europe, Roger Simon is hardly surprised that the predominant English language news channels carried there are the BBC and CNN International. What did surprise him was discovering English language Al Jazerra and finding it more balanced and better than the BBC or CNN International.
- Anyone know who or what really saved the whales? Well it wasn’t Greenpeace – whales were saved well before Greenpeace ever became an organization. No it was actually capitalism and the petroleum industry which saved them. When petroleum became available in large quantities and at a low cost, the whale oil business went extinct almost over night. You’re not likely to read that in any environmental, animal liberation, “man is an eco-tumor” literature you might pick up. But think about it …
For new readers, “QandO” is short for “Questions and Observations”.
- “Scientific proof” that Islam is the “correct religion” thanks to an electron- microscope. Yes, “molecules took beautiful shapes everytime they are exposed to air vibrations from reading the holy Quran or saying the word islam or the muslim call to prayer.” But is there scientific consensus?
- Apparently Hamas and al-Qaeda are fighting it out for the Gaza strip. 13 dead and 100 injured. Only al-Qaeda would declare Hamas as being “too liberal”. So how will the San Francisco anti-Israel protesters protest this? My guess is that somehow Bush will be the blame. Also note how hard the report tip-toes around identifying the Hamas opponents as al-Qaeda
- 60 Brooklyn New York seniors gave Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner an ear-full, with one of them calling him a crook who was trying to bankrupt the country. Weiner’s response? “You have a lot of good talking points”. Yeah, my guess is her “talking points” were in reaction to his talking points. You have to hope the Dems keep handling all of their constituent protesters in such an appallingly ham-fisted manner. Hard to turn old folks in a deep blue district into racist red-necks though, isn’t it?
- Zomblog does a terrific retrospective of the Bush/Hitler meme during the last 8 years that exposes the faux-outrage of both the media and the left for what it is. It’s a rather interesting reminder of how casual and how widespread it was. Just as interesting is the amnesia that both the media and left are seemingly suffering right now.
- Funny stuff. Exurban League has found the “new and improved” lefty bumper sticker and Tom Bevan has another example of a vicious and racist anti-Obama poster.
- Lefties are up in arms with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey after he came out in a WSJ editorial against Obama’s health care reform. You see, Mackey’s company self-insures and provides its own health care coverage. And it works. Mackey tops it off by saying we should be moving toward “less government control and more individual empowerment”. Liberals are enraged and boycotting, believing Mackey is biting the hand that fed him. I guess the entrepreneurial capitalist won out over the sniveling collectivist. He knows what got him where he is and it wasn’t government. Me? I’ve never shopped at Whole Foods, but I’m going to now.
- In all of this health care stuff, let’s not forget about cap-and-trade. The Heritage Foundation has a new analysis out. If the bill is passed and signed into law as is, look for a 58% increase in gas prices, a 90% increase in electricity prices, and a $3000 per family increase in goods and services. At a national level, we’ll see a loss of 9.4 trillion in aggregate GDP between 2012 and 2035 as well as a loss of 2.5 million jobs by 2035. Other than that, it’s a peachy keen bit of legislation.
- And for our “bad salesman tip” of the week – remember when you’re trying to sell government health care as an alternative to private health care, alway invoke UPS and FedEx as the good example and the USPS as the screwed up example. Heh … sometimes you just have to know when to shut up.
- Congressman Bart Stupak, D-MI validates the contention that most of the Democrats put party over country. Stupak told Detroit News columnist Frank Beckmann that protests weren’t going to deter him from voting yes on health care. He said, “We’re not going to allow a small, vocal minority to dissuade us (from) our goal.” IOW, “screw you folks, I’m just going through the motions in these townhalls, Nancy Pelosi has my vote”
For new readers, the title is what the shortened “QandO” stands for.
- I thought one of the things the Obama administration was promising it wouldn’t do was use signing statements to ignore the law? Apparently not.
- It would appear that a witch-hunt for “extremists” in the military is building. First we had the DHS warning claiming veterans might be recruited by right-wing extremist organizations. Then Alcee Hastings proposes law (a law already on the books, btw) to prohibit “extremists” from joining the military. Now the Southern Poverty Law Center is asking Congress to investigate the military based on a couple of postings it found on a suspect website. The premise, of course, is because we now have a black Democratic president, there is more of a threat from such extremists who might be in the military.
- Government’s attempt to regulate every aspect of your life takes another step in that direction, but in an unexpected area – licensing yoga teachers. Of course, government knows so much about yoga to begin with. In fact, all this will do is add cost and paperwork to something which is at the moment, self-regulated by the market. What it will do for yoga is present an government imposed bar to entry. And, of course, create another revenue stream where none previously existed.
- Electric cars? The panacea? Not according to the Government Accounting Office which claims, at best, they’d reduce CO2 emissions by 4 – 5% but would see that negated by increased travel because users would drive more believing their use isn’t a threat to the environment. And then there’s the lithium problem.
- Does it bother anyone else that Obama’s White House science adviser (John Holdren) has advocated forced abortions, involuntary sterilization, and government seizing the children of single mothers and giving them to couples to raise? And then there’s Ruth Bader Ginzburg.
- David Brooks sat through an entire dinner with a Republican Senator’s hand on his inner thigh? Really? Why? And what does that say about David Brooks?
- Corporations which have taken taxpayer money are on notice not to book meetings at fancy resorts. But government (which exists on nothing but taxpayer money)? No problem.
- Mark Steyn wonders if the era of “soft despotism” has begun here? It’s a good description of what is going on I think. For the record, Obama isn’t the initiator of it, he’s just an accelerant. The only problem with “soft despotism” is it usually turns to the garden-variety hard despotism after a while.
- Timing is everything, isn’t it? In the midst of the recession, the federal minimum wage is scheduled to increase by 70 cents an hour to $7.25 on July 24th. That’ll certainly help the recovery and create jobs, won’t it?
I’ll add more as I find them – check back throughout the day.
For new readers, the title is what the shortened “QandO” means.
- Whether you love her, hate her or really don’t care, it is hard too argue against the assertion that Sarah Palin effectively ended any national aspirations she might have had by announcing her pending resignation (assuming there isn’t some extremely compelling private family reason for doing so). The first thing any political opponent is going to say is “she quit on the citizens of Alaska, will she quit on you?”
- The story about the Washington Post selling access to the Obama administration isn’t just about the WaPo. Seems to me there had to be some a) knowledge of the plan and b) cooperation from the White House for it to have been as far along as it was. After all, the first “salon” was scheduled to be held at the publisher’s home in 2 weeks. Is anyone exploring that angle?
- How concerned is Saudi Arabia with the probability of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons? Apparently enough to make it known they’ll turn a blind eye to any Israeli incursion which crosses the kingdom in order to strike Iran.
- Apparently the scales have finally fallen from Colin Powell’s eyes concerning Obama and the direction he’s taking this country. Formerly Powell’s message was that American’s wanted more government and were willing to pay for it. He now says he’s concerned with the number of programs, the legislation associated with them and the cost of the additional government they’ll entail. “We can’t pay for it,” he’s now saying? Better late than never, I suppose, but this just underscores my disaffection with Powell politically.
- Speaking of Sarah Palin, apparently the federal investigation rumors (FBI looking into irregularities concerning the sports complex in Wasilla, etc.) and pending indictment are false. An FBI spokesman in Alaska has said there is no pending indictment or ongoing investigations of her. Concerning the ongoing rumor he says, “it’s just not true”.
- The after effects of the recent “election” in Iran continue to eat away at the foundation of the “Islamic Republic”. The Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum split with Ayotallah Khamenei declaring both the election and the new govenrment “illegitimate”. That is a very public and unprecedented challenge to Khamenei’s power. Additionally Moussavi’s campaign has released a report that outlines the election violations in detail. These are very serious challenges to the regime’s legitimacy.
- Speaking of Iran, it appears that while the world is ready to ratchet up the pressure on the regime in light of its brutal put down of pro-democracy protesters, the Obama administration is apparently prepared to block any sanctions agreed upon at the G8 summit. I swear I can’t figure that bunch out – support the dictator in Iran and mischaracterize a legal use of constitutional power in Honduras in support of another would-be dictator there.
- Did you know that Hitler had a 600 mph stealth bomber almost ready for production when the allies overran Germany? Check out the pics and description of the HO 2-29.
- The law of unintended consequences continues to operate unabated. Governments, desperate for revenue, have raised property taxes all across the country. Homeowners, knowing their home values have plummeted, are filing an unprecedented number of appeals. Those appeals are costing the governments huge amounts of money in refunds and attorney’s fees. However, homeowners should note that if they don’t appeal, the government will gladly screw them to the wall with an unjustified tax increase. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?