Free Markets, Free People

New York Times


The usual "self-absorbed baby-boomers" article

I do get tired of these sorts of articles – this one in the New York Times. It is entitled "Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65". The word I object too is "self-absorbed" as a description for an entire generation. It’s nonsense. My generation is no more self-absorbed than any other. Are there factions of it which fit the bill? Yeah, but they exist in every other generation as well.

The Times notes that today marks the first of my generation turning 65. Whoop freakin’ wee. The only one absorbed by that are the authors of the article.

Though other generations, from the Greatest to the Millennial, may mutter that it’s time to get over yourselves, this birthday actually matters. According to the Pew Research Center, for the next 19 years, about 10,000 people “will cross that threshold” every day — and many of them, whether through exercise or Botox, have no intention of ceding to others what they consider rightfully theirs: youth.

This means that the 79 million baby boomers, about 26 percent of this country’s population, will be redefining what it means to be older, and placing greater demands on the social safety net. They are living longer, working longer and, researchers say, nursing some disappointment about how their lives have turned out. The self-aware, or self-absorbed, feel less self-fulfilled, and thus are racked with self-pity.

Really? So "some researchers say" we’re "nursing disappointment about how their lives have turned out?"

That certainly doesn’t include me.  Heck, I’m in the middle of starting a new venture and I’m excited about life.  And self-pity is for losers.  Life is life – you deal with it as it comes along.  But do I feel less "self-fulfilled”?  Uh, no.  Have I had some set backs in life.  Hasn’t everyone?  I’ve also had some wonderful and unexpected successes as well.  But I’m damn sure not to the point where I’m assessing my life – I’ll probably be working at something until I die.

And by the way, folks, I don’t chase “youth”.  I chase “health”.  Youth is fleeting and can’t be recaptured and I don’t see more of an “absorption” by baby boomers with “youth” than I saw with the so-called “Greatest generation” or with those now in middle age. 

As for the “social safety net”, who the heck put it in place for the most part?  It wasn’t Baby Boomers.  And no one has mentioned any of the Greatest Generation turning up their noses at the net or not feeling some sense of “entitlement”.  It was they and the previous generation who are mostly responsible for its existence, not Boomers.

The Times seems to realize it is in deep water with its attempt at generalization:

Ascribing personality traits to a bloc of 79 million people is a fool’s endeavor. For one thing, people born in 1964 wouldn’t know the once-ubiquitous television hero Sky King if he landed his trusty Songbird on their front lawns, just as people born in 1946 wouldn’t quite know what to make of one of Sky King’s successors, the big-headed H. R. Pufnstuf.

Yeah, I remember Sky King (and many others).  But I also remember Vietnam and a large contingent who fought there because they were trying to live up to what the previous generation had done as a “duty”.  And the reason I find these sorts of generalizations of my generation offensive is found in the NYT’s very next paragraph:

For another, the never-ending celebration of the hippie contingent of boomers tends to overshadow the Young Americans for Freedom contingent. After all, while some boomers were trying to “levitate” the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War, other boomers were fighting in that war.

That’s correct.  And those same Boomers are responsible in large part for building the finest volunteer military the nation has ever fielded bar none.   And some Boomers are still on active duty today.  But this single paragraph best explains the problem I have – the Bill Ayers contingent of my generation does not represent me or the huge majority of my peers.  What happened is the “never-ending celebration” of the “hippie contingent” – again something the Greatest Generation was responsible for – forever tainted my generation with the stereotype of the “self-absorbed” Baby Boomer (just as it did with any number of cruel myths about Vietnam and Vietnam vets).   

Here’s another generalization:

Previous generations were raised to speak only when spoken to, and to endure in self-denying silence. But baby boomers were raised on the more nurturing, child-as-individual teachings of Dr. Benjamin Spock, and then placed under the spell of television, whose advertisers marketed their wares directly to children. Parents were cut out of the sale — except, of course, for the actual purchase of that coonskin cap or Barbie doll.

“It created a sense of entitlement that had not existed before,” Mr. Gillon said. “We became more concerned with our own emotional well-being, whereas to older generations that was considered soft and fluffy.”

Well much of this skipped my household. I was raised in a "speak only when spoken too" home. And while Benjamin Spock’s (another of the Greatest Generation) works were read and applied in some ways, my upbringing wasn’t at all like this generalization would like to pretend it was. And that goes with my peers – of course I was raised in and around the Army, so I can also say my upbringing might have been somewhat more "traditional" than that of others. But I’d never generalize about it.

And I never have had a "sense of entitlement" about much of anything – but to pretend it never “existed before" is to deny the existence of Social Security prior to the Baby Boom generation. It was created in 1935 for heaven sake and it established as much a sense of entitlement as has anything since. My generation had nothing to do with its beginnings nor have they been the first to demand this "entitlement".

But there’s a basis for the "sense of entitlement" as it pertains to Social Security or Medicare – government has been taking my money for both programs for decades. And while other, later generations may believe that neither will be available when they reach the age to benefit from them, don’t you even begin to believe they won’t have a "sense of entitlement" if they do.

As for the “soft and fluffy” nonsense, I’ll again point to the war in Vietnam.  Not soft, not fluffy, 246 Medals of Honor awarded primarily to Baby Boomers in a 10 year war. 

Every generation that I know of thinks the following generation is softer and more self-absorbed than they were.  They all worry about “what will happen to the country” when the next generation takes over, yet somehow, we manage to find the grit, determination, leadership, and ability to see it all through.

And lord save us from the sociologists:

A study by two sociologists, Julie Phillips of Rutgers University and Ellen Idler of Emory University, indicates that the suicide rate for middle-aged people, notably baby boomers without college degrees, rose from 1999 to 2005. And Paul Taylor, the executive vice president of the Pew Center, summed up a recent survey of his generation this way:

“We’re pretty glum.”

This gloominess appears to be linked to the struggling economy, the demands of middle age and a general sense of lofty goals not met by the generation that once sang of teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony, and then buying it a Coke.

Bull squat.  A paean to a tiny fraction of a generation that believed in unicorns and moon ponies.  Most of the rest of us were and are pretty darn grounded in reality and aren’t’ glum at all.  In fact, I’m elated each day when I open my eyes and am still among the living.  It’s the start to what I hope will be a good day.  Ok, I’m kidding about that, but you know what, I resent the hell out of some academic characterizing me as “glum” because I happen to have been born in a particular time period – like a characterization such as “glum” can be applied because we appeared in a particular span of time.  That just a crock of academic crap. 

My guess, given the “struggling economy” and how it has impacted lives all over the nation, we’d find parts of many generations “glum”.

So on this first day of the new year, let me start it out right – stick up you fundament, New York Times.  Your article is BS and you know it – not that I’m particularly surprised.  You’re in the middle of trying to perpetuate another myth. That three layers of editors sure are earning their pay, aren’t they?

~McQ


House votes to keep current tax rate

Dear media, the House vote last night – which sends the bill to President Obama for his signature – wasn’t an $801 billion tax cut bill, as the NYT headline blares. Certainly there are tax cuts in it, but not to the tune of $801 billion. Nor did "millionaires" get a “tax cut. “

All that happened is the House voted to maintain the current income tax rate for everyone. Nothing changes. No one gets "more" in terms of tax savings than they do right now and have gotten for most of a decade.  Well, except, perhaps, those who don’t pay any taxes into the system.  They may get more in the way of a “refundable credit”.

So quit spinning this as something it isn’t.  There is no permanent tax rate.  They aren’t “Bush era tax cuts”.  They’re the current tax rate. Period.

Keeping that rate doesn’t "cost" the government one red cent, because they never had the money to begin with. Pretending that somehow anticipated revenue from an increase in taxes is somehow a "cost" is a perversion of the English language as well as a misuse of an economic term.

Quit it.

Thank you.

~McQ


New York Times suddenly discovers governing as a priority for new GOP majority

A New York Times editorial is all over the place today in its hysterical concern that Republicans are going to spend all their time investigating what Democrats have been doing these past 2 years. Let me say upfront that while there are certainly things which need investigation, the GOP can indeed hurt themselves if the investigations seem to be excessive or perceived to be "witch hunts". However, perhaps the most interesting part of the editorial is its title, an obvious shot directed at the GOP’s supposed preference for investigating over what the NYT feels is its real job – "Try Something Hard: Governing".

Funny – I don’t remember the NYT admonishing Congressional Democrats or the administration to do that when the obvious focus of both should have been jobs and the economy and not a horrific health care bill.

Also understand the premise the NYT tries to advance here. Using a Darrell Issa quote, "I want seven hearings a week times 40 weeks", they attempt to imply that’s all Republicans will be doing. That will hardly be the case.

Then we’re treated to absurdities like this:

This combativeness from the new House majority is an early symptom of its preference for politicking over the tougher job of governing in hard times. Its plans already feature the low cunning of snipping budget lines so the Internal Revenue Service cannot enforce key provisions of the health care reform law. (Why not defund Postal Service document deliverers while they’re at it?)

Why not – while the NYT calls it "low cunning", it is indeed a method by which the legislative chamber "governs". The NYT and similar media voices seemed to understand that when Democrats in Congress threatened to defund the war in Iraq. Now it’s "a feature of low cunning". A cry to govern by the NYT with a follow up criticism of doing so by the means the House is able to employ.  Absurd. 

Regulation?  Well, last time I looked it was Congress who decided what regulations were and agencies who enforced them as the law provided by Congress said.  Apparently that’s not the case anymore per the NYT:

The new majority will showcase hearings devoted to what Representative Fred Upton, the ranking Republican on the energy committee, called a “war on the regulatory state.” What he means by that is the Environmental Protection Agency’s daring to accept scientific evidence that human activity is driving global warming. Similar hearings, rooted in the vindictive rhetoric of the 2010 campaign, are likely for the new consumer protection bureau, immigration enforcement, and more.

How 2008 of the NYT to claim the EPA is accepting “scientific evidence” in its drive to regulate CO2.  Obviously the carrier pigeon hasn’t made it to the Grey Lady yet that says not only is the “science” not settled, it is in total disarray and largely discredited.  More importantly it isn’t up to the EPA to decided what science it is or isn’t going to accept.  Its job is to enforce the law as it is written and amended by Congress.  And to this point, there’s nothing in the law which allows the EPA the power or authority they are attempting to assume.  What the Republican Congress wants to do is make that abundantly clear to the bureaucrats there.  That’s governing.  That’s oversight.

The same for the activist who has been named to the Consumer Protection Agency – the job there is to enforce existing law, not make it up as you go or enforce it arbitrarily according to an ideological agenda.  And of course, immigration “enforcement”, which is again being arbitrarily applied by the bureaucrats as they see fit vs. applying it as the law demands, is in the same boat. 

Reining in the bureaucracies as they attempt to overstep their bounds time and time again is “governing”.  It is “oversight”.  And those are two jobs the Democratic Congress has done poorly if at all as witnessed by the examples I’ve given.  And there are plenty more.

The Times acknowledges, even after its ignorant tirade above, that it is the job of Congress to oversee how the laws it has passed are implemented and followed.  And that it also has a duty to oversee the executive branch.

In principle, Congress’s oversight of the executive branch can be a vital necessity. Politically, however, both parties push its limits from time to time. Now is no time for myriad searches for sensational distractions when the nation’s voters cry out for solid progress.

This is the only worthwhile paragraph in the entire NYT editorial.  If taken alone, it speaks perfect sense.  When taken in the context of the rest of the editorial, it is a pitch for no investigations, since it is obvious that while the Times is pretending to call on the GOP House to “govern” it really doesn’t want it doing anything in that area which may point to administration malpractice or malfeasance or allowing executive agencies to interpret law as it sees fit instead of as it is written.

Tough cookies.  To paraphrase Barack Obama – “they won”.

~McQ


NYT and climate change

The New York Times editorializes today on the fact that many of the Republicans running for Senate who have a good chance to win reject the notion of man-made global warming.  The canard used is a familiar one:

The candidates are not simply rejecting solutions, like putting a price on carbon, though these, too, are demonized. They are re-running the strategy of denial perfected by Mr. Cheney a decade ago, repudiating years of peer-reviewed findings about global warming and creating an alternative reality in which climate change is a hoax or conspiracy.

Really?  Or are they instead, like Carly Fiorina, “not sure”.  I’m certainly not sure.  And neither is science if you actually take the time to look into it.  There’s more and more coming out daily about the uncertainty within the scientific community that anything that has been theorized before is correct.  There is no “consensus” except in the propaganda cobbled together in the politically driven and discredited IPCC report.

So do I think it is a purposeful hoax?  Not in the beginning, but now you have to wonder as those who’ve been shown their “science” is deficient appear to want to double-down.  Is it a conspiracy?  Not as one is generally thought of but again, as this continues and more comes out about this subject, the less credible those who claim previous findings are settled science appear.

For instance, speaking of peer reviewed work, this study recently came to light (check out the excellent graphic at the link):

In “Short-lived uncertainty?” Joyce E. Penner et al. note that several short-lived atmospheric pollutants—such as methane, tropospheric ozone precursors and black-carbon aerosols—contribute to atmospheric warming while others, particularly scattering aerosols, cool the climate. Figuring out exactly how great the impacts of these other forcings are can radically change the way historical climate change is interpreted. So great is the uncertainty that the IPCC’s future climate predictions, which are all based on biased assumptions about climate sensitivity, are most certainly untrustworthy. As stated in the article:

It is at present impossible to accurately determine climate sensitivity (defined as the equilibrium warming in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations) from past records, partly because carbon dioxide and short-lived species have increased together over the industrial era. Warming over the past 100 years is consistent with high climate sensitivity to atmospheric carbon dioxide combined with a large cooling effect from short-lived aerosol pollutants, but it could equally be attributed to a low climate sensitivity coupled with a small effect from aerosols. These two possibilities lead to very different projections for future climate change.

Again we see science noting that as we get more and more into the details of climate, we find we know much less than we thought. Hardly "settled science" then. Dr. Penner goes on to point out the complexity of climate science and what they’re just now learning and what is still unknown:

Of the short-lived species, methane, tropospheric ozone and black carbon are key contributors to global warming, augmenting the radiative forcing of carbon dioxide by 65%. Others—such as sulphate, nitrate and organic aerosols—cause a negative radiative forcing, offsetting a fraction of the warming owing to carbon dioxide. Yet other short-lived species, such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds, can modify the abundance of both the climate-warming and climate-cooling compounds, and thereby affect climate change.

Quantifying the combined impact of short-lived species on Earth’s radiative forcing is complex. Short-lived pollutants—particularly those with an atmospheric lifetime of less than two months—tend to be poorly mixed, and concentrate close to their sources. This uneven distribution, combined with physical and chemical heterogeneities in the atmosphere, means that the impact of short-lived species on radiative forcing can vary by more than a factor of ten with location or time of emission. The situation is further complicated by nonlinear chemical reactions between short-lived species in polluted areas, as well as by the interactions of clouds with aerosols and ozone. These processes add further uncertainty to the estimates of radiative forcing.

What she’s basically saying is they’re just now actually beginning to identify and get into all the complexities that are the climate. They’re discovering variables that can either intensify or mitigate. They can also heat or cool. And sometimes the same variable can do both. If anyone thinks the models that have been cited as the basis of the "settled science" used all these variables and used them correctly, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in buying.

Which brings us back to point one – the NYT claiming that the GOP are deniers and implying they’re anti-science.  No, they’re just not as gullible as the NYT and many on the left who want believe that man is ruining the planet and see it as a justification for even more government control of our lives.  They’re skeptics – thank goodness – as are most respectable and reputable scientists.  Climate science, as Dr. Penner’s work points out, is in its infancy.  Making policy decisions based on questionable science is a fool’s work.  Thankfully the GOP has realized this and taken a stand against rushing into horribly expensive solutions which will hurt the economy and further extend the government’s already extensive intrusion into our lives.

I’ll say this now – if and when science – and not the climate hustlers of today – is able to prove to my satisfaction that a) man has a significant role in climate change and b) changing behavior would be beneficial and something that could actually be accomplished without impoverishing the world, I’ll listen.   Until then, I remain a skeptic – and the more new science I see, the more I think I’m right to be a skeptic.

~McQ


Premise check – who has first claim to your earnings?

Richard Thaler, a professor of economics and behavioral science at the Booth School of Business at the Univ. of Chicago, writes a justification in the NY Times for increasing taxes on the rich.

It’s a curious effort. To end up where Thaler does, the premise one must use is “other’s have more of a claim on the money of those earning $250,000 than they do”. If you believe that, then it is easy to buy into the subsequent arguments Thaler makes in the article. For instance:

There is another possible argument for including the rich in these tax cuts, one based on “fairness.” By this reasoning, the wealthy are entitled to low tax rates because they have temporarily had them, and it would now be unfair to take them back.

But by that same argument, unemployment insurance should never expire, and every day should be your birthday. “Temporary” has no meaning if it bestows a permanent right.

The question comes down to whether we want a society in which the rich take an ever-increasing share of the pie, or prefer to return to conditions that allow all classes to anticipate an increasing standard of living.

Per Thaler, if you earn – note the word, "earn" – more than $250,000, wanting to keep what you earn is the same as desiring "unemployment insurance should never expire". If ever there was an example of a false equivalence, this one takes the cake. Per Thaler, earning equals a hand out.  If however, you believe government has first claim, Thaler’s comparison makes sense.

Note also Thaler’s implicit point that in reality you have no "permanent right" to your own earnings.  The only entity with that “right”, apparently, is government (and that’s primarily because they can enforce their “right” at the point of a gun).  Therefore it claims first right to what you earn and every "right" to arbitrarily decide what is "enough" for you to keep.

If you’re still having a problem understanding the absolutely abhorrent premise under which Thaler and much of the left operate, or believing that’s actually the case, let’s go back in the article to the first paragraph:

Want to give affluent households a present worth $700 billion over the next decade? In a period of high unemployment and fiscal austerity, this idea may seem laughable. Amazingly, though, it is getting traction in Washington.

"Present"? Again, how is it a "present" when the person or persons who earned the money are allowed keep it, unless you believe others have first claim on it?

This is the stealth premise that the left operates on consistently. It underlies every argument made to increase the taxes not only on the rich, but everyone. And that’s what many of those not seeing their tax increased don’t seem to understand when they applaud the class warfare the left uses to demonize the rich. They’re as susceptible to arbitrarily increased taxes once economic conditions improve as the rich are now – and it is all because of this premise which says “government has first claim on your earnings, not you”.

Unfortunately, it is something the GOP either doesn’t understand or is incapable of explaining.   It is a premise which must be challenged and exposed each and every time it is trotted out to substantiate tax increases for anyone.

And yes, that includes the rich.

~McQ


Left pundits wonder why Obama’s presidency is shrinking away.

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.

~McQ


Questions and Observations #7

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.

A sample:

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.

~McQ


Per the NYT – How Obama could save Obama (and the Democrats)

This magic formula for doing what the title suggests is courtesy of a New York Times editorial. After the appropriate amount of "the obstructionist GOP", and "poor Obama inherited this mess" whining, the NYT gets down to what it considers to be the brass tacks of the situation:

The question then is whether Mr. Obama will lead. He cannot force Congress to act, but he could pre-empt Republicans’ diatribes — on the deficit, on small business, on taxes — with tough truths and a big mission that would tie together the strategies and the sacrifices that will be needed to put the economy right.

The first sentence pretty much shoots the whole thing in the foot, doesn’t it?  Even if you agree 100% with the NYT formula for political success, getting Obama to lead on anything is simply not very likely.  He’s not a leader in a job that demands such a type.  He’s, at best, a policy wonk.  And judging by his economic policies not a very good one.

But back to the magic show that the NYT claims could save the left.  Per the editorial, the country needs “tough truths” and a “big mission” with which to motivate the people enough to “put the economy right”.

Here’s an idea – how about policies which enable businesses by providing incentives to get off the cash they’re piling up, expand and hire?  Settle the markets down by backing off government regulation, and intrusiveness.  Back off new taxes and roll back some old ones.  Stop spending money we don’t have.  Make a real attempt to address the deficit.

Or:

Mr. Obama also needs to inspire Americans who have been ground down by the economic crisis and Washington’s small-bore sniping. He needs to rally the nation around a big idea — a project that is worth sacrificing for, worth paying for, worth working for. One that lets them know that there is more ahead than just a return to a status quo of lopsided growth in which corporate profits surge while jobs and incomes lag.

That mission could be the “21st century infrastructure,” that Mr. Obama mentioned on a multi-city trip this month, “not just roads and bridges, but faster Internet access and high-speed rail.” It could be energy independence, with high-tech green jobs and a real chance for addressing global warming. Either of the above would make sense, economically and politically.

Mr. Obama and his economic team had clearly hoped for an economic rebound in time for the midterm elections. They are not going to get it. The economic damage they inherited was too deep, and the economic stimulus they pushed through Congress, for all of the fight, was too small. Standing back is not doing the country or his party any good. We believe Americans are ready for hard truths and big ideas.

Wait – didn’t we just pour almost a trillion borrowed dollars into that “big mission”?  Wasn’t it all about shovel ready infrastructure projects?  And hasn’t it been a spectacular failure.

Certainly there are “infrastructure” needs that require addressing.  But when you have an official unemployment rate of 9.5% (and an unofficial and much more accurate one well into double digits), people aren’t going to be impressed by “faster internet” and “green projects” that never seem to get anywhere and cost and arm and a leg.  And high-speed rail?  Really?

Oh, and the “chance to address global warming” is what – a chance to increase taxes, cripple businesses and make it even less likely that unemployment will improve.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Anyone who thinks people hurting economically would be impressed with this nonsense, even if Obama could and would lead, have to be living in an ivory tower somewhere.   People want jobs, not high speed rail or faster internet.  They don’t care if their job is a ‘green job’, they just want a freakin’ job.   And global warming – the majority of the population doesn’t even agree it’s happening much less wanting costly government programs that address it by taking money from them.

Why is it the left doesn’t seem to understand that it is time to put the agenda aside and focus on the nuts and bolts of creating jobs? The need is immediate – not some 5 to 10 years away.

The reason is because such a focus would mean actually admitting that their present agenda is hurting such an effort as well as acknowledging that government may not be the answer (instead, getting government out of the way actually is the answer).

So we get these sorts of pathetic pleas to a man who couldn’t lead a group of 5 year olds to an ice cream truck to essentially keep the agenda alive by disguising it as something it is not – a way to fix our economic problems.

Clue to the NYT.  Yes, the people are open for tough talk about shared sacrifice.  The rally in DC this weekend underlines that.  Here’s the problem for the left – the sacrifice they first want and expect to see is at the expense of this bloated, wasteful and ineffective national government that has its fingers in way to many pies.  Until they see real spending cuts, real downsizing and real governmental reform that benefits them and the engine of the economy – businesses – they’re uninterested in any nonsense about more government or more government spending or 21st century agendas.

To continue a theme, this ain’t rocket science, but it certainly is something that seems to be beyond the capacity of the left to grasp.  As it turns out, November will most likely reward them properly for their consistent inability to do so.

~McQ


Guantanamo’s lesson for the Obama administration

The New York Times tells us that closing the Guantanamo facility has "faded as a priority." The once adamant insistence by candidate and later President Obama that the facility must be closed to erase the blight on America’s image has now run smack dab into reality. The New York Times prefers to write it off to “political resistance”, implying political foes on the right are responsible for Obama’s inability to close Guantanamo. In fact the Obama Justice Department has been no more successful in determining what to do with the detainees at “Gitmo” than was the Bush administration. That is the problem area that can’t be resolved.

The reality they face is very simple – those incarcerated are very dangerous people whose sole goal in life is to kill as many Americans as they can by whatever means they have at their disposal. Releasing them back into the world would simply allow them to again engage in achieving their goals.

The Obama administration has fretted and fussed over their inability to close the detention center. They’ve installed commissions to study the problem, they’ve explored various possible solutions and none have provided a resolution to the problem of what to do with these detainees.

If you can’t release the detainees, they obviously have to be kept somewhere.  That is the core of Obama’s problem.  His claim that Gitmo is a stain on the image of the United States and is used by our enemies as a recruiting tool presupposes that closing the facility (and, one assumes, releasing the detainees) would remove that stain and the claimed “recruiting tool” Guantanamo provides.

The final attempt at a solution involved Congressional Democrats putting forward a plan to use a closed prison facility in Illinois to house the Guantanamo detainees and allowing the administration to close the detention center there. This idea was certainly met with political resistance when Americans became aware of the plan. Common sense says you don’t move dangerous detainees in an isolated facility off-shore into the heart of your country and provide violent radicals with an opportunity to bring terrorism to America in an attempt to rescue those being held.

But that plan also shifted the debate in a subtle way that many missed. By considering the plan, the administration tacitly admitted that what they saw as a “stain” on America’s image was, in fact, a necessary “stain.” That image, of course, had to do with holding these detainees without trial in an American facility. Its name happened to be Guantanamo. But moving them to an inland prison doesn’t change the image. It merely changes the name and location of the prison. It was clear, at that point, that the administration had no idea how it could close Gitmo safely and remove that “stain.”  The best it could do was transfer the “stain” to Illinois.

So it has chosen to let the closing of the Guantanamo facility “fade in priority.” Another naive campaign promise squashed by reality. The world is full of dangerous people who wish us ill.  The job of keeping us safe falls to the federal government. For an administration which likes to present teachable moments, this should be one for them.

Guantanamo exists for a very important purpose directly tied to the government’s job of keeping us safe. The administration has now explored that point in seemingly every possible way and the facility remains open and functioning. Perhaps it is time they made peace with that fact and turned their concentration toward keeping the citizens of the US safe instead of worrying about imaginary “stains.”


Remember who has been in charge from "day one"

It is important to note because that’s the claim made by the president and this is the reality of the situation:

From the beginning, the effort has been bedeviled by a lack of preparation, organization, urgency and clear lines of authority among federal, state and local officials, as well as BP. As a result, officials and experts say, the damage to the coastline and wildlife has been worse than it might have been if the response had been faster and orchestrated more effectively.

Also don’t forget that in addition to claiming to be in charge from “day one”, it was claimed that BP was doing what the government told it to do as it pertains to clean up, containment, even “plug[ging] the damn hole”.

And yet the New York Times calls the effort “chaotic”.

The other day, President Obama called the spill an echo of 9/11. Of course that’s preposterous. But it certainly is giving off more than a faint whiff of Katrina smell. At least as it pertains to the preception that the federal response then was slow and fell short of expectations.

We’re almost 60 days into this and the quoted paragraph is describing the scene today. Obama is visiting the Gulf region again and will address the nation on Wednesday night from the Oval office.

My only question is how much blame-shifting and scape-goating with the one in charge from “day one” engage in that night?

~McQ