Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Third world debating society elects itself world’s envoy in case of alien contact

Because we all know that ET would much prefer to speak with an “obscure Malaysian astrophysicist”, for sure:

THE United Nations was set today to appoint an obscure Malaysian astrophysicist to act as Earth’s first contact for any aliens that may come visiting.

Mazlan Othman, the head of the UN’s little-known Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa), is to describe her potential new role next week at a scientific conference at the Royal Society’s Kavli conference centre in Buckinghamshire.

She is scheduled to tell delegates that the recent discovery of hundreds of planets around other stars has made the detection of extraterrestrial life more likely than ever before – and that means the UN must be ready to coordinate humanity’s response to any “first contact”.

You’ve got to love the UN deciding to glom on to this.  Hey, another reason to increase dues. 

Can you imagine a worse institution to have represent humanity than the UN?  And frankly, if intelligent aliens ever turned up here and were first greeted by representatives of the UN, my guess is we’d be a cinder fairly quickly after that, being deemed by the aliens as not intelligent enough to warrant further survival. 

However, in Dr. Othman’s case, I have to profess some admiration.  She certainly has established herself in a secure job for, well, millennia if she can figure out how to stay alive that long.

And yes folks, your tax dollars, in the form of UN dues, will indeed go toward paying for her new duties.

Live long and prosper.

~McQ

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Hugo Chavez wishes he had Obama’s approval numbers

That’s right – even at their lowest ebb right now, Obama’s are better numbers than Hugo has (although Harry Reid would probably kill for Hugo’s numbers):

In a survey last month, Consultores 21 found that only 36 percent of Venezuelans approved of Chavez’s performance, a seven-year low.

Any guess why? Yeah, I know, a real stumper. Let’s channel Bill Clinton’s campaign message for a minute. Ah, yes, there it is – "it’s the economy, stupid." Do you know what the Venezuelan economy looks like right now?

The Economist magazine provides statistics weekly on 57 nations, from the United States to Estonia. Its most recent report forecasts that gross domestic product in Venezuela will decline by 5.5 percent in 2010. Next worst is Greece, with a 3.9 percent decline. Greece, of course, came close to defaulting on its debt earlier this year, and analysts at Morgan Stanley worry that Venezuela is moving in the same direction.

“Our new baseline of at least three years of economic contraction suggests the risks to Venezuela’s ability to honor its international financial commitments may be on the rise,” wrote Daniel Volberg and Giuliana Pardelli in a June report, at the same time predicting that GDP will fall by 6.2 percent in 2010. “While most of Latin America, in line with the globe, has been in recovery mode since last year, Venezuela has seen an intensifying downturn in activity,” they added.

So that’s GDP, the single best measure of economic health. When it comes to inflation, no one is close to Venezuela. Consumer prices are already up 31 percent for 2010 and are expected to rise more by year-end. Only two of the remaining 56 nations monitored by the Economist are suffering double-digit inflation: India and Egypt, both with 11 percent price increases.

Venezuela’s stagflation is all the more remarkable because, as the No. 8 oil-producing nation in the world, the country should be benefiting handsomely from high oil prices.

And it most likely would be doing so if it didn’t have an idiot who thinks socialism works at the helm.

Chavez has spent a lot of time, however, consolidating the organs of government power under his control and stomping out any opposition media in an attempt to keep Venezuelans in the dark (and not just from the rolling blackouts that plague the country) as to what is happening. But economics have a way of running those sorts of blockades when the reality of them sets in on the populace:

But even a news blackout would not prevent Venezuelans from knowing firsthand what is happening to their nation’s economy. Retail sales were down 12 percent in the first half of the year; sales of food, beverages, and tobacco in specialty stores were off 30 percent. Chavez slapped on permanent exchange controls to prevent “the oligarchy from taking U.S. dollars and depositing them in banks around the world.” But like most such controls, they have only panicked investors and businesses and led to more capital flight. Figures from the Central Bank of Venezuela showed $9 billion in capital outflows in the first half of the year.

Venezuelans go to the polls tomorrow in a similar situation to the US – midterm elections and a ruling party that has proven to be inept and corrupt. It is parliament they’ll be voting for. And given the shape of the country, the censorship, inflation, crime (Caracas is more dangerous than Baghdad) and economic disaster Venezuelans have been experiencing the opposition does indeed have some "hope" for "change".

Whether Hugo actually allows that, of course, is another matter altogether.

~McQ

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Liberty Pundits podcast

I did an hour and a half podcast yesterday with Liberty Pundit’s Clyde Middleton. It was a blast. It was a very wide ranging discussion covering all sorts of topics of interest in politics and beyond. My thanks to Clyde for the exceptional experience. That was my first shot at a show that long and he made it seem easy.

If you’re so inclined to listen, you can find it here. Let me also recommend highly the blog itself. Very well done and informative as well.

Clyde will be on our podcast tomorrow so make sure to listen in. Also, as a reminder, I’ll be doing my usual Sunday night segment on Boston’s WRKO 680am at 7pm called “Someone You Should Know”, where I tell the story of one of our members of the military and their tale of valor. You can tune in live or go hear the recording at Pundit Review.

~McQ

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Stupid voters, why don’t you believe us?

John Kerry has it all figured out. It’s not the Democrats that are the problem – it’s the voters:

“We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening,” Kerry told reporters after touring the Boston Medical Center yesterday.

Simple slogans? Like "hope and change?"  “If you like your doctor…”?  Or my personal favorite, “

It’s Bush’s fault”.

Ah, the irony.

Kerry’s cluelessness is endemic within the Democratic party and, to a lesser extent, the GOP. They simply don’t get it.

They can’t imagine that it is their agenda, narrative or anything else that’s at fault.  They’re the ruling elite, for heaven sake – how could what they want to impose be anything but wonderful, well thought out and necessary?  It has to be the people’s fault for not paying attention to or understanding the issues as they should – from the elite’s point of view.

Interestingly, Kerry demonstrates the same sort of frustration the people suffer.  He believes the people aren’t listening.  The people know, given the outcome of legislation like ObamaCare, that the ruling elite aren’t listening.  The problem for Kerry and the like is the people have the final say.

I’m sure they find that fact a bit, well, distasteful.

I’m of the opinion that any politician that believes what John Kerry expresses here is vulnerable.  It may only increase vulnerability a negligible degree depending on the state, but it is an attitude that is one which definitely alienates voters.  Keep it up and even the bluest (or reddest) state will turn then out.  MA has definitely proven that Kerry’s seat is not safe.  Heck, even Barney Frank is in a race for a change.

All this to say until these nimrods in both parties figure out that blaming the public for their failures is self-defeating and, frankly, stupid, nothing will change.  If the public isn’t on board with a politicians agenda, it damn sure isn’t the public’s fault, Mr. Kerry. Oh, here’s a thought – maybe it’s the agenda!

~McQ

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GOP’s plan for health care is rubbish

The GOP’s “Pledge” health care section is, well, screwed up.

Big time.

For instance, on the one hand they say this:

The American people wanted one thing out of health care reform: lower costs,which President Obama and Democrats in Washington promised, but did not deliver. Instead of expanding the size and scope of government with more debt, higher taxes,and burdensome mandates, Americans are calling for reforms that lower costs for families and small businesses, increase access to affordable, high-quality care and strengthen the doctor-patient relationship. We have a plan to do just that.

First the premise – anyone, do you remember Americans “calling for reforms that lower costs for families and small business?” Yeah, neither do I. I certainly remember a whole raft of politicians making their inept handling of government run insurance systems like Medicare and Medicaid and running up the cost of health care seem like Americans were calling for that.

What, in fact, Americans were calling for was for government to back off and spend less. But now, it appears, even the GOP has swallowed the poison premise. They have bought into the “need” for health care reform and so entitle their section on it “repeal and replace”.

Replace? Where did “replace” come from? Was anyone out in flyover land talking about replacing one bad government program with another? I certainly don’t remember it.

And zero in on the word “mandates” in the cite above. I believe the word “burdensome” is used in front of it and the implication is these “burdensome mandates” will actually increase both government size and scope as well as cost.

So what do the Republicans put forward as a part of their plan?

Ensure Access for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions

Health care should be accessible for all,regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses. We will expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage. We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick. We will incentivize states to develop innovative programs that lower premiums and reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

Is that a fact?

Back to the premise they’ve bought into – if “Americans” were calling for health care reform that “lowered costs”, can anyone tell me how this does that?

Who is going to pay for these “mandates” on insurance companies? Why everyone is. This is a universal mandate which will require everyone with an insurance policy to kick in and fund health care costs with no spending caps.

It.Will.Not.Lower.Costs.

It will drive them up!

This isn’t “access to health care”, this is an unlimited license to spend other people’s money via a legal mandate on insurance companies that would essentially require them to do so.

They supposedly spent a long time putting this together and “listening” to “Americans”. Sounds more like they sat in a few of Obama’s campaign stops and town halls to me.

It’s rubbish.

~McQ

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Hippie punching the professional left

Is the carefully nurtured relationship begun by the then Obama campaign between them and the "professional left" fraying at the edges?

Apparently some among the progressive blogosphere are tired of carrying the administration’s water:

On a conference call to give the progressives their marching orders was our friend David Axelrod smoozing the bloggers. :

"You play a great role in informing people about the stakes of elections," Axelrod told the bloggers. "One of the reasons I was eager to expend time was to enlist you."

But that didn’t set particularly well with at least one blogger – Susan Madrak of Crooks and Liars:

That tension burst out into the open when Madrak directly asked Axelrod: "Have you ever heard of hippie punching?" That prompted a long silence from Axelrod.

"You want us to help you, the first thing I would suggest is enough of the hippie punching," Madrak added. "We’re the girl you’ll take under the bleachers but you won’t be seen with in the light of day."

Yeah, well, guess what – they actually expected the administration to do what it said it was going to do.  Apparently, like the woman who confronted the President at the most recent town hall, they’re dead tired of defending him.

Fun stuff.  My guess is Robert Gibbs will have a coronary.  But it is very indicative of the tension and lack of trust that now exists between two groups that were once simpatico.  

The problem can be distilled into an easily digestible sentence – the administration has not done what it promised the “professional left” it would do.

So – is this just a fight or is it a break up? 

Where would the professional left go?  Who would they support?  How would they get anything done … anything at all? 

Well that depends I think.  Many of those Gibbs tagged as the “professional left” are a part of the radical left.  They’d actually be quite comfortable if there was a real “progressive” third party choice.  At the moment there isn’t and Obama, who they were gulled into thinking was the answer to all their liberal dreams, hasn’t fulfilled the promises they wrote on the blank slate Obama presented.

Not much of a surprise for those who’ve observed politics for more than a day.

But back to the conference call:

"To the extent that we shouldn’t get involved in intramural skirmishing, I couldn’t agree more," Axelrod said. "We just can’t afford that. There are big things at stake here."

Madrak replied that Axelrod was missing the point — that the criticism of the left made it tougher for bloggers like herself to motivate the base. "Don’t make our jobs harder," she said.

"Right back at’cha. Right back at’cha," Axelrod replied, a bit testily, an apparent reference to blogospheric criticism of the administration.

This isn’t going to get any better.  If anything, it is going to get worse.  And whoever replaces Axelrod and takes over the outreach has their work cut out for them.  As Greg Sargent concludes:

At any rate, for Axelrod to plead with liberal bloggers for their help turning out the base, only to get accused of "hippie punching," is an iconic moment in Campaign 2010.

Indeed.

~McQ

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GOP’s Pledge? Just words …

That’s my initial reaction. Can’t help it. Been there, done this.

Sure, I understand the urge to be something other than the party of “no”.  I understand the desire to tell the American people what you stand for, and not necessarily only what you’re against.  Ok … got it.

But until and unless substantial change is enabled and accomplished by the GOP, this is just another in a long line of promises that ended up on the ash heap of history.

Oh certainly, much of it sounds wonderful – on the surface.  In fact, to the right, this is much like the sounds the left heard from the Obama campaign.  The reality, as they learned, isn’t anywhere close to what was promised.

Then there’s the recent GOP history.  An all Republican Congress led by a Republican President gave us Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind among many other things which would be directly opposed to what is promised in “A Pledge to America”.

Steven Taylor does a good job of hitting most of my objections to a quick read of the “Pledge”:

I would take the whole affair far more seriously if the Pledge contained even the outline of real plan to deal with the country’s structural fiscal problems.  Caps on spending, especially ones that seems to partially exclude security-based spending, always sound good, but aren’t a solution to the problem (not by a long shot).  I am willing to accept the notion that one has to start somewhere, but this is nibbling around the edges.  This pledge does not seriously address the major issue facing the country.

As Taylor points out, it’s mostly warmed over GOP talking points, which, to this point have mostly remained talking points vs. action.  And the “Pledge” does indeed seem vague in a lot of areas.  Perhaps instead of calling it a “Pledge” or a “plan” it would be better to call it a “blueprint” or “outline” – detailed plan to follow.

Certainly this will please much of the base – but frankly, they didn’t need much pleasing.  They’re already eager to hit the polling booths.  What one has to wonder – especially with the obligatory social con stuff thrown in when it wasn’t necessary – is what the independents will think.  Certainly they have been seen by polling data to at least be abandoning the Democrats – but does that necessarily mean they’ll embrace the GOP?  The social con inclusion in what should have basically been a small government plan sort of argues against the whole premise of small less intrusive government, doesn’t it? 

It will be interesting to see how indies respond.

I’m going to be reading the “Pledge” more closely and will respond with more detail, but at the moment, those are my thoughts.  How about yours?

~McQ

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GOP’s Pledge? Just words …

That’s my initial reaction. Can’t help it. Been there, done this.

Sure, I understand the urge to be something other than the party of “no”.  I understand the desire to tell the American people what you stand for, and not necessarily only what you’re against.  Ok … got it.

But until and unless substantial change is enabled and accomplished by the GOP, this is just another in a long line of promises that ended up on the ash heap of history.

Oh certainly, much of it sounds wonderful – on the surface.  In fact, to the right, this is much like the sounds the left heard from the Obama campaign.  The reality, as they learned, isn’t anywhere close to what was promised.

Then there’s the recent GOP history.  An all Republican Congress led by a Republican President gave us Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind among many other things which would be directly opposed to what is promised in “A Pledge to America”.

Steven Taylor does a good job of hitting most of my objections to a quick read of the “Pledge”:

I would take the whole affair far more seriously if the Pledge contained even the outline of real plan to deal with the country’s structural fiscal problems.  Caps on spending, especially ones that seems to partially exclude security-based spending, always sound good, but aren’t a solution to the problem (not by a long shot).  I am willing to accept the notion that one has to start somewhere, but this is nibbling around the edges.  This pledge does not seriously address the major issue facing the country.

As Taylor points out, it’s mostly warmed over GOP talking points, which, to this point have mostly remained talking points vs. action.  And the “Pledge” does indeed seem vague in a lot of areas.  Perhaps instead of calling it a “Pledge” or a “plan” it would be better to call it a “blueprint” or “outline” – detailed plan to follow.

Certainly this will please much of the base – but frankly, they didn’t need much pleasing.  They’re already eager to hit the polling booths.  What one has to wonder – especially with the obligatory social con stuff thrown in when it wasn’t necessary – is what the independents will think.  Certainly they been seen by polling data to at least be abandoning the Democrats – but does that mean they’ll embrace the GOP?  The social con inclusion in what should have basically been a small government plan sort of argues against the whole premise, doesn’t it? 

It will be interesting to see how indies respond.

I’m going to be reading the “Pledge” more closely and will respond with more detail, but at the moment, those are my thoughts.  How about yours?

~McQ

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The White House shuffle

Good news or bad news? What do my favorite political junkies think?

President Obama’s inner circle will likely be losing some key players. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante reports that sources say David Axelrod, the president’s closest advisor, will move to Chicago next spring.

Axelrod is expected to reassume his role as campaign manager in Mr. Obama’s 2012 reelection bid. A potential, if not likely, replacement for Axelrod is current White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
The dominoes don’t stop there. Rahm Emanuel, the president’s Chief of Staff, may leave the White House as soon as next month.

Part of the problems of this administration –other than the inept leadership provided by the President – can be found in those which Obama has surrounded himself.  That’s most true of any administration, but for this one in particular, it’s been particularly evident that many of them haven’t a clue, and they could only buy one with your money.

All kidding aside, while Axelrod may have been a great campaign manager, I’d have to say he’s been a bust as an adviser and spin doctor.  He’s out of his depth.  He belongs exactly from whence he came, running a campaign.  There he has the experience and the knowledge to be successful.  But politics and the daily grind of governing aren’t his cup of tea.

As for Emanuel, as much as I don’t care for the man, to me he’s the “reality” anchor there.  He knows intimately how the system works and who within the system must be used to accomplish whatever the agenda is.  He’s also, based on what I’ve read, been the guy who has tried to keep them more toward the center  – not at all very successfully – because he has a good idea of what can and can’t be foisted upon the American people without losing political viability.  ObamaCare, again as I understand it, was a battle he lost.

So whether this is good news or bad news depends largely on who will replace each of these people (same with his fleeing economic team).  Will a political operative take Axelrod’s place who knows the in’s and out’s of governing and is better able to present the administration’s views?   Will the person who replaces Emanuel be more radical and less pragmatic than the present Chief of Staff?

Frankly I don’t care particularly for either of the men filling the posts they have, but the story isn’t in the fact they’re leaving – it will be found in those who replace them and what they will bring to the job and how that will effect the direction of the administration in the future.

~McQ

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It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool …

Here is an amazing letter to the editor at a college newspaper from a person who gives himself the title of "academic professional". I’ve looked at it off and on for a couple of days trying to figure out how to excerpt it and talk about this, well, fool. As it turns out, the best way to present it is to present it whole since excerpting it only takes away from the totality of the nonsense this "academic professional" is spouting.

In fact, as I read it, I have to tell you that it immediately reminded me of another “academic professional” that visits the comment section of our blog fairly regularly.  The only difference I can see is the “academic professional” I quote below actually is a part of a major university instead of some backwoods school.  Other than that, either could have written this:

The vast majority of 9/11 observances in this country cannot be seen as politically neutral events. Implicit in their nature are the notions that lives lost at the World Trade Center are more valuable than lives lost in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere; that the motives of the 9/11 attackers had nothing to do with genuine grievances in the Islamic world regarding American imperialism; and that the U.S. has been justified in the subsequent killing of hundreds of thousands in so-called retaliation.

The observance at Saturday’s football game was no different. A moment of silence was followed by a military airplane flyover; in between, Block-I students chanted “USA, USA.” This was neither patriotism nor remembrance in any justifiable sense, but politicization, militarism, propaganda and bellicosity. The University is a public institution that encompasses the political views of all, not just the most (falsely) “patriotic.” Athletic planners should cease such exploitation for political purposes. They might at least consider how most Muslim students, American or otherwise, would respond to this nativist display; or better, Muslims and others that live their lives under the threat of our planes, drones and soldiers.

The overwhelmingly white, privileged, Block-I students should be ashamed of their obnoxious, fake-macho, chicken-hawk chant, while poverty-drafted members of their cohort fight and die in illegal and immoral wars for the control of oil. University administrators need to eliminate from all events such “patriotic” observances, which in this country cannot be separated from implicit justifications for state-sponsored killing.

David Green,

University Academic Professional

You can dissect that to your heart’s content, and it is still, on whole, some of the most misguided stupidity you’re likely to see this side of Maine. 

Of course 9.11 observances aren’t politically neutral.  That neutrality died the day we lost 3,000 people to Islamic jihadist extremists who had been at war with us for years.  How did this yahoo get stuck in time on September 10th, 2001 for heaven sake? 

That sort of absurdly out-of-touch idiocy permeates the entire little screed.  And if you want to see the definition of “non neutrality” at work, read this “academic professional’s” denigration of his student’s nationalism, patriotism and – yes, wait for it – color.

And then there’s the “stereotypes-r-us” portion.  “Overwhelmingly white, privileged … students”.  Wars fought by “poverty-drafted members of their cohort”.  “Illegal” (authorized by Congress per the Constitution) and “immoral” (yeah, can’t hit back when smacked in the face with a sledge hammer – that’s immoral) and all for oil.

All the leftist canards rolled into one can be found in it – yeah, be ashamed of your country, your military, your patriotism and yourselves you bastards because it makes “David Green, academic professional” uneasy.

How freakin’ ‘60s of the dope.

Tell you what, David Green, academic professional – instead of you telling everyone what they’ve done to offend you, why don’t I tell you what about you offends me.

Your very existence offends me. Your smug but ignorant arrogance offends me.   The fact that you don’t know the difference between grassroots patriotism and “nativism” offends me.  The fact that you have no idea of who makes up our military (although it comes as no surprise, really) offends me.  The fact that you clearly don’t know what the words “illegal” or “immoral” mean, but have no problem throwing them around like you do offends me.

But what offends me most is what you must be doing to the young minds which come under your power while attending your university.  If what you’ve written is any indication of how you teach, then your students or their parents ought to demand an immediate refund.  Because it is not only fact free, but shows absolutely no evidence of critical thinking.

One of the great things about America is everyone is free to express their opinion.  However, doing so is not without consequence, because then those who don’t agree get to express theirs.  My opinion of you, David Green, academic professional, is below that of the Congressional Democratic leadership.  And I provide the bottom side of their 8% popularity rating.

The good news for you is you are precisely where you belong.  Outside the academic ivory tower, facing the reality anyone else does, it’s my guess surviving for 15 minutes would be the high side of an estimate of how long you’d last.

Now, crawl back under your academic rock, where you belong, and hush.

~McQ

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