Monthly Archives: September 2010
Call in number: (718) 664-9614
Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.
Cuba – So Fidel, the “Cuban model” doesn’t work for you guys? What happened?
Mid-term elections – are they about voting for the Republicans or against the Democrats?
Krugman – Did the guy just go on a bender or what?
Economic policy – why has it taken 20 months for the administration to finally consider tax cuts?
The amazing shrinking presidency – could lack of leadership have something to do with it?
Maureen Dowd asks, “[h]ow did the first president of color become so colorless?” Or, where’s the Obama mojo that attracted so many independents and some Republicans – enough to see him convincingly elected to the presidency.
Answer – it takes theater to elect a president any more and they had good theater. It takes leadership to be a successful president and, at least to some of us, it was evident while reviewing the resume of then candidate Obama that he was way short in that department.
And now, as you might imagine, that’s showing up in spades. Dowd notes that independents are leaving Obama in droves and, using her sister as an example (“Peggy” who is supposedly a Republican who opposed the war in Iraq and therefore swung her support over to Obama) lays out the reasons. “Peggy” – as I read this – hit me more as an Olympia Snowe Republican than a conservative Republican:
Peggy thinks the president has done fine managing W.’s messes in Iraq and Afghanistan. And she lights up at the mention of his vice president, Joe Biden. But she thinks Obama has to get “a backbone” if he wants to lure her back to the fold. “He promised us everything, saying he would turn the country around, and he did nothing the first year,” Peggy says. “He piddled around when he had 60 votes. He could have pushed through the health care bill but spent months haggling on it because he wanted to bring some Republicans on board. He was trying too hard to compromise when he didn’t need the Republicans and they were never going to like him. Any idiot could see that.
“He could have gotten it through while Teddy Kennedy was still alive — he owed the Kennedys something — and then the bill was watered down.
My guess is that’s MoDo putting words in her sister’s mouth – if, in reality her sister really is a Republican. But I can’t imagine anyone of an even slightly conservative bent saying anything like "Peggy" did above.
However, MoDo goes on quoting Peggy’s thoughts and this seems much more likely of the person Dowd described:
“He hasn’t saved the economy, and now he’s admitting he’s made very little progress. You can’t for four years blame the person who used to be president. Obama tries to compromise too much, and he doesn’t look like a strong leader. I don’t watch him anymore. I’m turned off by him. I think he’s an elitist. He went down to the gulf, telling everyone to take a vacation down there, and then he goes to Martha’s Vineyard. He does what he wants but then he tells us to do other things.
“I want him in that White House acting like a president, not out on the campaign trail. Not when the country is going down the toilet.”
That sounds more like a independent or “moderate Republican” disillusioned by what all of us have seen and noted. A total lack of awareness about how leadership works. No understanding of how a leader should set the example and what leadership requires of a leader. Totally tone deaf. Obama’s fallback for his lack of leadership skills and complaints about that is to hit the campaign trail again. It is campaigning he feels comfortable doing and speeches are his preferred form of leadership – because campaigning requires lots of wonderfully crafted words but very little actual doing.
Obama’s coming problem in 2012 is he’ll have an actual record to examine– something he hasn’t really had before – and trust me, we all know it is going to be minutely examined. Those like “Peggy” have pretty much realized how poor that record really is and are already looking for other candidates (“Peggy” supposedly is interested in voting for Mitt Romney if he runs but thinks anyone would be “nuts” to vote for Sarah Palin – I assume that’s now an obligatory part of most lefty’ pundits columns – the gratuitous shot at Palin).
Frank Rich – another dependable administration media lap dog – is all excited about some “forceful speeches” Obama has given. Speaking of dogs, he’s very happy with how the president supposedly struck back at his critics saying they spoke about him “like a dog”. Wow – there’s the Obama of old.
But, even Rich knows he’s pushing a false line wrapped in a false hope:
For Obama to make Americans believe he does understand their problems and close the enthusiasm gap, he cannot merely make changes of campaign style. Sporadic photo ops in shirtsleeves or factory settings persuade no one; a few terrific speeches can’t always ride to the rescue.
In fact, that’s precisely the answer Obama always gives when confronted with a problem. Hey, I”ll go out and work the crowd and talk about it. It worked getting me elected, perhaps it will work now.
Uh, no – the campaign is over. Some one needs to tell the president and his staff that’s the case. Like “Peggy” said, she “wants him in the White House acting like a president”.
Faint hope of that ever happening.
Rich gives Obama this advice:
As many have noted, the obvious political model for Obama this year is Franklin Roosevelt, who at his legendary 1936 Madison Square Garden rally declared that he welcomed the “hatred” of his enemies in the realms of “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.” As the historian David Kennedy writes in his definitive book on the period, “Freedom from Fear,” Roosevelt “had little to lose by alienating the right,” including those in the corporate elite, with such invective; they already detested him as vehemently as the Business Roundtable crowd does Obama.
Though F.D.R. was predictably accused of “class warfare,” his antibusiness “radicalism,” was, in Kennedy’s words, “a carefully staged political performance, an attack not on the capitalist system itself but on a few high-profile capitalists.” Roosevelt was trying to co-opt the populist rage of his economically despondent era, some of it uncannily Tea Party-esque in its hysteria, before it threatened that system, let alone his presidency. Only the crazy right confused F.D.R. with communists for taking on capitalism’s greediest players, and since our crazy right has portrayed Obama as a communist, socialist and Nazi for months, he’s already paid that political price without gaining any of the benefits of bringing on this fight in earnest.
F.D.R. presided over a landslide in 1936. The best the Democrats can hope for in 2010 is smaller-than-expected losses. To achieve even that, Obama will have to give an F.D.R.-size performance — which he can do credibly and forcibly only if he really means it. So far, his administration’s seeming coziness with some of the same powerful interests now vilifying him has left middle-class voters, including Democrats suffering that enthusiasm gap, confused as to which side he is on. If ever there was a time for him to clear up the ambiguity, this is it.
Short version: hate is fine if you hate the right people – play that class warfare game, do some engaging but “F.D.R.-size” political theater, and the enthusiasm gap will start to close.
Really? One wonders where Mr. Rich has been hanging out. That’s all we’ve seen from this administration – political theater. Very little that most voters would consider to be “progress” has been seen. And despite the fact that Democrats would love to tout health care as “progress”, politically they know it is an albatross around their necks.
So they’re left with a bad economic situation, a greatly diminished presidency and “Peggy” and the Indies all headed to Redland. And Rich’s answer is “do F.D.R. theater”, snub Republicans and engage in some heavy class-warfare. That after telling him at another point “he cannot merely make changes of campaign style.” Yeah, no confusion in lefty ranks … none whatsoever.
In reality, all of that is an example of lefty style jargon that never directly states the problem but dances all around it. However they do know what he has to do to remedy the problem. If he or MoDo had just said “get off the campaign trail and actually do something … lead!” they could have saved a whole bunch of column space in the NYT for something else worth reading.
A post I did in September of 2006, originally entitled “September 11th, 2001 – “We Lost David”. It is the ongoing fulfillment of a promise made in the last sentence of the post. This is what 9/11 should be about.
Each week I do a tribute on Boston’s WRKO 680am called “Someone You Should Know” about a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman who’s been awarded a medal for valor in combat. Those medals represent their actions above and beyond the call of duty. But, as we all know, valor and courage aren’t exclusive to the military or combat. And no better example of that is what the courageous men and women of fire, rescue and police did that awful day in September of 2001 when terrorists attacked our country by flying commercial aircraft into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
A few weeks ago I signed on to an effort called the “2996 Project” organized by a blog to do a tribute to each and every one of those who died on that day. Three thousand bloggers are participating. The names were assigned randomly. When you signed up, you got whoever was next.
I was honored to draw the name of David Halderman Jr.
Of course, I never knew David Halderman. I’d never previously seen his name or if I had, it never registered beyond that of a person who’d died that day in those barbaric attacks. But when I began to research David, I found a man for whom my admiration and respect knew no bounds.
You see, David Halderman was a firefighter with Squad 18 of FDNY.
On that grim day in September, FDNY lost 343 of its finest who, disregarding their own safety, rushed toward the scene of the disaster while others were running away. It is estimated they saved over 20,000 souls that day. In the finest tradition of firefighters everywhere, they never hesitated. David Halderman, Jr. was among them.
Squad 18 is located in Greenwich Village. When the towers were hit, Squad 18 responded immediately. All seven firefighters on duty that morning were lost.
A visitor to New York just prior to 9/11 happened to remember Squad 18 for a particular reason:
This past Labor Day weekend, one of the youngest attendees, my nephew Beau, was walking with his mom and aunt past Firehouse #18 in Greenwich Village. Beau asked if they could stop. Three firefighters took the time to show Beau and his sister the fire truck and posed for some pictures.
Among the three firefighters who so made those visitors feel so welcome was David.
After returning home to Alaska, and following the terrible events of 9/11, Beau asked his mom if the guys in the picture were OK. After checking back with Squad #18, and showing them the picture, my sister in New York learned that “Chris and Harry made it. We lost David.” The photograph was the last picture taken of him.
As I looked further and further into the life of David Halderman, I found a man who was worthy of love, admiration and respect. He was a 2nd generation firefighter, following in the footsteps of his father and namesake who had very recently died. His brother also was with FDNY.
The fact that he’d taken time out of his day to spend with a young visitor from Alaska seemed something completely in character for him. The fact he’d responded immediately to the disaster of the World Trade Center came as no surprise either. His mother remembers the night before:
On Monday night, David Halderman called his mother in Brentwood to comfort her, as he has done regularly since his father died on Aug. 8.
“I asked him to have a good night, to be careful, to be safe, and I told him I loved him,” his mother, Geraldine Halderman, said. “That was the last time I spoke to him.”
“I love you, take care of yourself.” That was how David Halderman always ended his telephone conversations with his mother.
The next day fate and tragedy took David Halderman while performing the duty to which he’d dedicated his life:
On Tuesday morning, Halderman, a firefighter with Engine-Squad 18 in the West Village, entered the World Trade Center to help victims escape. He is now among the missing city firefighters.
“He was in the building when it collapsed,” Geraldine Halderman said. “They found his helmet. That’s all they found.”
The helmet was identified by its badge – No. 10652, the same badge number used by Halderman’s late father.
Where do we get such men? In the face of every human instinct which tells us to flee, they resist that and walk into danger, risking their lives to help others escape and live. Courage and valor are rare commodities. That’s why we revere and reward them. Those attributes were displayed by hundreds of the fire and rescue people who responded with David Halderman Jr. on that grim and horrid day in September of 2001. As a nation watched in stunned horror, men like David were saving lives.
A few days ago, David’s mother left this message on his memorial site:
Dear David, Five Years! My son you are in my thoughts and prayers every day. I have moved from the house where you grew up,it was too much for me alone. I carry all my memories in my heart. I know you are with me always, you are the voice within me that says “don’t be afraid” when I am sad or anxious. The ache in my heart remains, dulled with time but always present even through the laughter and happy times. There have been weddings and a birth since you left us,and you have been missed so much and remembered at those times. I love you forever.
Life goes on but the hurt never goes away, and mothers suffer a special agony which comes with losing their children. But we are all poorer for the loss of David and those like him. It is they who define what is good and right about us. It is they who show us what man can be. It is they who give us hope for the future.
September 11th is the day to remember those, who like David Halderman Jr., gave their lives in the service of others. I didn’t know David Halderman before this year. But I do now. He was a man to both admire and respect. And every subsequent September 11th I will remember and honor his name. It is the least we can do for the heros among us.
I’m coming to believe there’s a perpetual “silly season” among many pundits and wannabe pundits. The punditry market is so saturated that even the barely marginal among them are landing gigs on cable TV.
I’ve been monitoring, as I’m sure most of you have, this preacher who wants to burn Korans on Saturday. He has every right to do so, but as with the mosque builders in NYC, it is an insensitive and culturally inappropriate thing to do.
That said, to the point of my first sentence, the “silly season”. One of the main contributors to that, of course, is Keith Olberman who I assume fancies himself as a serious pundit, or commenter (and other than the left, the only who considers him to be that).
Yet this was the extent of his original contribution to the Koran burning story:
MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann was one of the first to call attention to the Limbaugh/Jones nexus when he posted news of it on Twitter overnight: " ‘Rev.’ Terry Jones was classmate of none other than Rush Limbaugh (Cape Central class of ’69). Coincidence?"
What in the hell does that mean except to say “hey I’m dumb enough to believe correlation is causation”.
My first reaction to this “revelation” was “so”? My second and continuing reaction to it is, “so”? I mean of all the mindless nonsense to append to a story that’s been blown all out of proportion to begin with, this pretty much takes the cake.
Guilt by association, correlation is causation, pick your fallacy, Olberman does and probably has committed them all. Thankfully he’s not watched by many except brainiacs like this commenter:
While this is not surprising, it is amazing. Amazing that I didn’t see the similarity in opinions and call this ahead of time. But, if you have ever been to Cape Girardeau you would understand. This was and is part of the South, I think it is further south on a GPS than Lexington, KY.
The inmates are truly in charge of the asylum. Too bad Olberman doesn’t have a "stupidest person in the world" segment – he could be the first nominee. The commenter could be #2.
Not that its “role” has been much more than a third-world debating club to this point, but apparently it is tired of that and wants to move on to a more glorious and important role. That’s per George Russell reporting at Fox News. Russell reports that UN Sec Gen Ban ki-Moon and about 60 of his top lieutenants spend the Labor Day weekend at a resort in Austria plotting their takeover of the world. Talk about "mission creep".
Here’s what he was able to glean from the “position papers” that were used at the meeting and what they included:
– how to restore “climate change” as a top global priority after the fiasco of last year’s Copenhagen summit;
– how to continue to try to make global redistribution of wealth the real basis of that climate agenda, and widen the discussion further to encompass the idea of “global public goods”;
– how to keep growing U.N. peacekeeping efforts into missions involved in the police, courts, legal systems and other aspects of strife-torn countries;
– how to capitalize on the global tide of migrants from poor nations to rich ones, to encompass a new “international migration governance framework”;
– how to make “clever” use of new technologies to deepen direct ties with what the U.N. calls “civil society,” meaning novel ways to bypass its member nation states and deal directly with constituencies that support U.N. agendas.
Of course the biggest problem that faces the UN in each of those areas is that old anachronism, at least in the UN’s view – national sovereignty. Each of the above would require severe weakening of national sovereignty and, frankly, that’s what the UN would like to see.
That’s because the UN sees itself as the “go to” organization for global governance, which it obviously feels is “the next step” in the utopian evolution of man.
Hammering away at perceptions that nation-states cannot adequately meet global challenges, but the U.N. can, is a major theme of the position papers, which were assembled by a variety of U.N. think tanks, task forces and institutions, including the United Nations Development Program, and the U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
This is an organization so inept it can’t carry on a proper peace keeping mission and so corrupt it gives organized crime a bad name. This is the same organization that has included Libya on the Human Rights Commission and whose peace keepers have been cited for cases of rape and child molestation, and stood by doing nothing while Hezbollah rearmed itself in Lebanon.
Yet it feels it could handle the role of global governor and chief of wealth redistribution. And that, of course, would start with their primary potential cash cow – climate change:
Rolling just about every U.N. mantra into one, the paper declares that “nothing is more crucial to preventing run-away climate change than lifting billions out of poverty, protecting our planet and fostering long-term peace and prosperity for all.”
And to do that, the paper suggests, equally dramatic shifts in political power may be needed. “Is the global governance structure, still dominated by national sovereignty, capable of responding with the coherence and speed needed?” it asks. “Or do we need to push the ‘reset’ button and rethink global governance to meet the 50-50-50 Challenge?”
Not only that – a little behavior modification might be in order:
“The real challenge comes from the exponential growth of the global consumerist society driven by ever higher aspirations of the upper and middle layers in rich countries as well as the expanding demand of emerging middle-class in developing countries. Our true ambition should be therefore creating incentives for the profound transformation of attitudes and consumption styles.”
And, of course, as you might imagine, the foregone conclusion of each of these position papers is the UN is the organization best suited to take on the job of global governance:
“At the practical level, through the U.N. system we have all kinds of expertise and capacities, even if not adequate resources, to actually do something,” the paper notes.
Really? Can anyone point to a system anywhere, to include our own governmental system, which is more inept, corrupt or unable to do much of anything it was chartered to do? Is that anyone who actually believes that nation-states are going to willingly give up their sovereignty to a group of bureaucrats who’ve demonstrated neither “expertise” nor “capacities” to do much of anything but waste money?
And speaking of money, that’s part of the plan as well:
It is “urgent to secure U.N. participation” at regular meetings of the G-20 finance ministers and their deputies,” according to one of the papers, a group that the U.N. Secretariat, based in New York City and Geneva, does not interact with very much.
“The much paraded reform of financial governance institutions has not gone far enough,” the position paper for the U.N. leadership’s keynote session asserts, and the voting power of emerging players and developing world, in general, which demand a greater say on these matters, remains inadequate.”
The answer? “An enhanced political will is clearly needed to avoid return to status quo, to push forward regulatory mechanisms, and improve financial governance.”
Or, said another way, the third world demands a seat at the table and a say in how the first world handles its money – and, most likely how it is to be redistributed.
The group also see peace keeping as a means of nation building UN style:
In essence, as another paper observes, the U.N. peacekeeping effort is transforming into a new kind of supervisory organism in which not only conflicts but also national institutions and cultures must be regulated for longer and longer periods of time.
“Even where a semblance of stability is achieved,” the paper by Ban’s peace-building support office argues, the achievement of peace may involve more than “adopting a constitution or holding elections.” It adds that “more fundamental change may be needed in a country’s institutions and political culture as well as in public perceptions and attitudes.”
It was quite a meeting if the position papers were any indication. How much if any of the agenda will see the light of day much less be achieved is anyone’s guess. But the fact remains those are the ambitions of the UN leadership today. The problem is I have no confidence that the administration now in place in the US wouldn’t look favorably at much of what is outlined above. That, of course, would be disastrous – both to the US and the world.
Our national debt–and other obligations/entitlements–now exceeds the annual economic output of the entirety of human civilization. And that’s an optimistic estimate.
Because as I read this chart, what is being proposed by the Obama administration is about what remains unspent from “Porkulus I”, er, the first stimulus bill:
We already know this hasn’t worked. That’s the implied reason for the second stimulus (although unstated, of course). So there’s no reason to assume the second stimulus – mostly a smaller repeat of what failed in the previous rendition – is going to do any good either.
Here, I have an idea – go ahead with the $65 billion in remaining tax cuts, combine them with the tax cuts in the new stimulus and cancel all spending left in the first and that proposed in the second.
And watch Paul Krugman melt down. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Your “Econ 101” lesson for the day is a lesson politicians never seem to grasp, although they do love to harp on is “greedy corporations” outsourcing “American jobs”. In effect, they play off of free market decisions necessary to maintain competitiveness in order to characterize corporations as the bad guys (and, naturally, they and government as the white knights).
Of course the market decision I’m speaking of concerns doing what is necessary to remain competitive in highly competitive markets. And, one of the highest costs of production is headcount or the workers. So in a free market, competitive industries are going to seek the lowest cost possible for labor to remain competitive.
That may mean moving to a new country for labor intensive industries where labor costs are lower.
But sometimes it isn’t “greedy corporations” that drive American jobs offshore. Sometimes it is the US Government. Take light bulbs for instance:
The last major GE factory making ordinary incandescent light bulbs in the United States is closing this month, marking a small, sad exit for a product and company that can trace their roots to Thomas Alva Edison’s innovations in the 1870s.
Wait, you say, there’s still a demand for light bulbs! Of course there is – but thanks to government intrusion, that demand, by law, is only for a particular kind – not the incandescent types that we actually manufactured here. Instead of letting the market decide which type of light bulb it wanted, the government decided to mandate it. And what you are now allowed to “demand” is a compact fluorescent, or CFL.
What made the plant here vulnerable is, in part, a 2007 energy conservation measure passed by Congress that set standards essentially banning ordinary incandescents by 2014. The law will force millions of American households to switch to more efficient bulbs.
The resulting savings in energy and greenhouse-gas emissions are expected to be immense. But the move also had unintended consequences.
Rather than setting off a boom in the U.S. manufacture of replacement lights, the leading replacement lights are compact fluorescents, or CFLs, which are made almost entirely overseas, mostly in China.
Consisting of glass tubes twisted into a spiral, they require more hand labor, which is cheaper there. So though they were first developed by American engineers in the 1970s, none of the major brands make CFLs in the United States.
CFLs, as noted, are more labor intensive to manufacture than are incandescent bulbs.
China’s labor costs are far less than the US’s. Therefore, the US government’s mandate ending the use of incandesents by 2014 and mandating CFLs be purchased in their place drove the domestic lighting industry – and the jobs it produced – off shore. And all based on dubious science and the apparent belief that energy production is finite and waning.
Oh, and “how about those green jobs?” Another promise shipped off to China.
When you screw that CFL in some family in China will thank you. And when you pay your taxes some of which go toward unemployment benefits for former light bulb manufacturers here – make sure you thank the politicians for the job well done. I’m sure those former GE workers will.
We could have told him that 50 years ago:
Fidel Castro told a visiting American journalist that Cuba’s communist economic model doesn’t work, a rare comment on domestic affairs from a man who has conspicuously steered clear of local issues since stepping down four years ago.
Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked if Cuba’s economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore" Goldberg wrote Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.
The state controls well over 90 percent of the economy, paying workers salaries of about $20 a month in return for free health care and education, and nearly free transportation and housing. At least a portion of every citizen’s food needs are sold to them through ration books at heavily subsidized prices.
Of course the "Cuban model" only “worked” while the USSR existed. It was essentially based in heavy subsidies paid Cuba by the USSR for being its main proxy in the Americas. And the USSR’s woes most firmly underlined the problems with a centralized demand economy run by the state. Even so, Cuba continued on along that vein even after their greatest benefactor and financial supporter collapsed like a wet paper box. Now, finally, after pushing Cuba into poverty, Castro admits socialism is a bust.
China, while still totalitarian, recognized the economic problems soon enough to avert a similar disaster by loosening up economically. Cuba and North Korea, though, have continued to use the disastrous economic model and are basket cases (Cuba has instituted some modest economic changes, but not enough to break the dependency on the state the government of Cuba had ingrained on multiple generations of its population).
Of course Castro’s admission comes to late for the people of Venezuela who’ve been roped into a Cuba-style socialist government by strong man Hugo Chavez. Predictably, the Venezuelan economy is in shambles.
You have to wonder how many more ruined economies it will take before the socialists of the world (or wannabes) recognize that their brand of government and economics is a disaster and has probably ruined more lives than any other economic system in history.
Barbara Lisa Murkowski here.”
“Yo, Babs. I hear you lookin for some DC smack.”
“What? How did you get this number?”
“Oh, a friend of yours gave it to me. He says you ain’t feelin too good. Had your usual fix taken away a couple of weeks ago. Got the monkey on your back, he says.”
“Heh, heh. Sure. Look, you want to hear what I got or not?”
“Well, it won’t hurt to listen, I suppose.”
“Well, the LPers are open to reason. I think I can get you a ballot spot.”
“Those guys? First, they don’t seem to want to talk to me. Second, it’s a long shot that I can win by running under their ticket.”
“Well, sure, it ain’t as high quality as what you’re used to. But it’ll keep the withdrawal pangs away for a few months. I bet right now you’re feelin like that’s enough. Eh?”
“Look, I can stand it if I have too. I have dignity, you know. I could always take a job as a lobbyist.”
“Sure you can, sure you can. I’m just sayin, I think I can arrange a deal to get you that fix, uh, I mean nomination. I mean, I’d hate to see you walkin K Street.”
“How much will it cost me?”
“No more than you got. Hey, I want to help. I hate to see a lady suffer. And from what I hear, you got the DC habit pretty bad.”
“Well, it would certainly be hard to turn my back on the people of Alaska. I’ve done so much to bring home the bacon for them. It just feels so good to get the goodies for them, you know?”
“Sure, sure, you and me in the same business, giving people stuff that makes em feel good.”
“Well, seeing as how we’re both so public-spirited, I think we can definitely work together.”