Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Even Bob Herbert notices the lack of presidential leadership

He doesn’t come right out and say it, but it is certainly evident in his column.  If even a lapdog like Bob Herbert is noticing it – it must be pretty darn evident to everyone else:

President Obama missed his opportunity early last year to rally the public behind a call for shared sacrifice and a great national mission to rebuild the United States in a way that would create employment for millions and establish a gleaming new industrial platform for the great advances of the 21st century.

It would have taken fire and imagination, but the public was poised to respond to bold leadership. If the Republicans had balked, and they would have, the president had the option of taking his case to the people, as Truman did in his great underdog campaign of 1948.

But, he didn’t do any of that. 

Herbert’s ideas of what he should have done are pure poo.  However the underlying point of why he didn’t is what’s important.  Whatever the plan, there was no leadership evident or apparently available to enthuse Americans, move the ball forward and rally support for whatever plan there was.

None.

Instead we got a few carefully orchestrated campaign style events where themes such as “shared sacrifice” were mouthed, but then the president never visibly showed anyone what that meant.  In fact, we saw the guy calling for “shared sacrifice” golfing repeatedly and now on a 5 vacations since July marathon.  When you’re calling for “shared sacrifice”, perception is reality and that reality is critical to the success of your attempt.  When leadership essentially excepts themselves from things like “shared sacrifice” those from whom they ask it feel no remorse in excepting themselves as well.

This is what Obama has never, ever gotten.  Real leaders lead by example.  Say what you will about him but George Bush understood that and refused to play golf while the nation was at war because he thought it was inappropriate and set the wrong example.

Obama doesn’t understand that basic point, apparently.  That’s because the man isn’t a leader.  And, as mentioned, when even your media lapdogs start pointing that out, it has to be so evident that even they can’t ignore it any longer.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

[tweetmeme only_single=”false”]
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Obama argues against letting the Bush tax cuts expire

I know, you’re going,” say what!?

A year ago, probably when Obama thought we’d be out of the recessionary woods by now and only 20% of the “stimulus” had been spent, he was questioned while in Elkhart, IN, about the economics of a tax hike during a recession.  The question was submitted by an Elkhart resident (Scott Ferguson) and asked by Chuck Todd of SNBC.  Todd asked, “Explain how raising taxes on anyone during a deep recession is going to help with the economy.”

Obama said it wouldn’t:

“Well—first of all, he’s right. Normally you don’t raise taxes in a recession, which is why we haven’t and why we’ve instead cut taxes. So I guess what I’d say to Scott is—his economics are right. You don’t raise taxes in a recession. We haven’t raised taxes in a recession.”

Absolutely true to that point.  But the larger point is the admission – “you don’t raise taxes in a recession”.

Todd riposted with “But you might for health care. You might for the high—for some of the wealthiest.”

Obama responded very emphatically:

We have not proposed a tax hike for the wealthy that would take effect in the middle of a recession. Even the proposals that have come out of Congress—which by the way, were different from the proposals I put forward—still wouldn’t kick in until after the recession was over. So he’s absolutely right, the last thing you want to do is to raise taxes in the middle of a recession because that would just suck up—take more demand out of the economy and put businesses further in a hole.

Emphasis added, but wow – exactly.  It is “the last thing you want to do” and it will “put businesses further in a hole”.

So that was then and this is now – everyone who is actually having to deal with what is going on know we’re still in a recession.  But technically, we’ve had the “two consecutive quarters of growth” necessary to claim we’re in a recovery.  The fact that the “growth” was pretty much all government spending – borrowed money – doesn’t count.  The technical definition wins out.

That means he can, with a straight face, claim that letting those tax cuts expire is OK because we’re no longer in a recession.

Of course that’s just ludicrous to anyone who has two brain cells to rub together.  It is unwise and economically the wrong thing to do.  But, as Turbo Tax Timmy Geithner has decided, when asked about those expiring tax hikes, “The country can withstand that. The economy can withstand that. I think it’s good policy.”

Is it?  Or is it good “ideology”?

Tax the rich – a liberal mantra for decades.  Take the seed corn and pass it out to those who will eat it instead of plant it.  Ensure that those of the investor class have less to invest. Put businesses in a deeper hole.  Give the money to government which can obviously spend it more wisely than can the private side.

The $787 billion dollar “stimulus”? 

Move along, citizen – nothing to see here.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

[tweetmeme only_single=”false”]
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Quote of the day – Prince of fools edition

It’s actually from a commenter at Free Republic, found in an on-line article I was reading. It is interesting for a number of reasons, but I think it distills very well the real problem we face here in this country – and it isn’t politicians:

"The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. … The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. … The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. … It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president." – Prager Zeitung

We talk about "due dilligence" a lot when it comes to journalists doing their job or politicians doing theirs. What about the electorate? Doesn’t it too have a duty in that regard?

An educated, informed and engaged electorate is vital to any democratic form of government – at any level. Without it you get – well, what we’ve gotten and have gotten for quite a few years.

How do you reverse that? How do you engage people who show no real interest in the effects of politics – something that increasingly touches every aspect of their everyday life? How do you educate and inform a public that seems less inclined to involving themselves in the substance of debate about the importance of issues and more inclined toward the theater that is modern political campaigns?

Barack Obama won on the Unicorn and Moon Pony ticket. His promises were whatever you wanted them to be. You want change? You define it then. Hope? Same process – take the blank slate and write what you want. Whatever you want it to be is what it will be. Count on it.

And amazingly a majority of Americans bought into it – hook, line and sinker.

So I find the quote to be on the mark.  Unfortunately, the solution to the problem remains a mystery.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

[tweetmeme only_single=”false”]
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Is the "Bush card" the new "get out of jail free" card

It sure seems to me to be how many Democrats view it. If in trouble, ethically challenged, or just doing a miserable job, blame Bush. It has become the all purpose, "get out of jail free" card for Democrats, or so they seem to think.

The latest example?  Why the Democratic Representative from Los Angeles, Maxine Waters.  Instead of answering direct questions concerning her role is obtaining TARP funds for a bank in which her husband had an interest and sat on the board of directors, we got this:

 

Embattled Rep. Maxine Waters on Friday blamed the Bush administration for her ethics problems — saying she had to intervene with the Treasury Department on behalf of minority-owned banks seeking federal bailout funds — including one tied to her husband — because the Treasury Department wouldn’t schedule its own appointments.

[…]

"The question at this point should not be why I called Secretary Paulson, but why I had to," she said. "The question at this point should be why a trade association representing over 100 minority banks could not get a meeting at the height of the crisis."

Actually those aren’t the questions that should be asked.  Instead they should be asking, “why didn’t you disclose the fact that your husband had a position in one of these banks when you came begging for money?”   Or, “if you did nothing ethically wrong, then why is it this information wasn’t volunteered initially when you contacted Sec. Paulson?”   And finally, “would you have contacted the Secretary if a bank in which your husband had an interest hadn’t been part of that association”?

I mean there were plenty of banks in trouble at the time – why that particular association?  Why that particular bank?

This finger pointing and blame-shifting is getting old.  When the meeting Waters demanded took place -surprise, surprise- the officers of only one bank showed up – OneUnited, her husband’s bank.  Payoff (or ripoff if you prefer)?  50 million of your dollars.

Yet somehow it is the Bush administration’s fault.  In fact, everything that is wrong in America isn’t the fault of the Democrats.  Oh no.  They – the masters of victimhood – are the victims of that awful and scurrilous George W. Bush.

*sigh*

Even a third-grader would have learned by now that trying to shift blame on someone else for something you’ve done rarely if ever works.  Democrats have yet to come to that realization.  But, as we’ve often noted here, the pubic certainly has, and for the most part are sick and tired of the whining, crying and attempts to duck responsibility for their actions.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

[tweetmeme only_single=”false”]
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Dale’s Observations For 2010-08-13

SC's Alvin Greene indicted for showing porn to a coed. When I was in college, we didn't have today's access to porn. So, we just had sex. #

RT @mattklewis: Can't be good for Linda McMahon that an ex-WWE star died of heart failure at age 29.| Or that the rest die before 50. #

Iran says the Bushehr nuclear reactor will go live 21 Aug. Isn't it great to see Iran turning away from carbon usage? http://bbc.in/acoRPC #

Retail Sales Tepid, Inflation at 40-Year Low. http://bit.ly/c1wc2G #

I've always hated Oracle, both the technology and the company. Things like this is why. Legal extortion. http://bit.ly/bnoN6d #

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

A Mosque Too Far?

This post, in its original form, was previously posted at the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, August 11, 2010. The following post has been updated for today.

Plans to build an Islamic cultural center right next door to the site of the greatest attack on American soil have generated plenty of controversy. And as plans continue to move forward, more is promised still. Questions as to where the money is coming from to build it, and who exactly its leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, really is are likely unresolvable, yet add fuel to the already contentious debate. In fact, today new questions were raised as to the connections of Rauf and his organization (the Cordoba Initiative) to Iran:

Two weeks ago the Cordoba Initiative website featured a photograph of the project’s chairman, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, and Iranian Mohammad Javad Larijani at an event that the Initiative sponsored in Malaysia in 2008. This week, the photograph … has disappeared.

Larijani was the Iranian representative who defended Iran’s abysmal human rights record before the UN Human Rights Council in February and June of this year. Among other things, Larijani told the Council: “Torture is one thing and punishment is another thing. … This is a conceptual dispute. Some forms of these punishments should not be considered torture according to our law.” By which he meant flogging, amputation, stoning, and the criminalization of homosexuality, which are all part of Iranian legal standards. Larijani added: “Iran [has a] firm commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. … The Islamic Republic of Iran … is a democracy,” which would be news to the pro-democracy activists murdered or confined to Iranian prisons since last year’s fraudulent elections.

There may be nothing to these sorts of queries, and it may be that Mr. Rauf and his organization are earnest peace-seekers. Even so, the plan to place a $100 Million structure dedicated to Islam right next to Ground Zero has understandably caused a lot of questions to be asked, although few have elicited answers. Writing for the Ottawa Citizen, Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah think they can settle one of the burning issues, however: why a mosque at Ground Zero?

When we try to understand the reasoning behind building a mosque at the epicentre of the worst-ever attack on the U.S., we wonder why its proponents don’t build a monument to those who died in the attack?

New York currently boasts at least 30 mosques so it’s not as if there is pressing need to find space for worshippers. The fact we Muslims know the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation to thumb our noses at the infidel. The proposal has been made in bad faith and in Islamic parlance, such an act is referred to as “Fitna,” meaning “mischief-making” that is clearly forbidden in the Koran. […]

Let’s not forget that a mosque is an exclusive place of worship for Muslims and not an inviting community centre. Most Americans are wary of mosques due to the hard core rhetoric that is used in pulpits. And rightly so. As Muslims we are dismayed that our co-religionists have such little consideration for their fellow citizens and wish to rub salt in their wounds and pretend they are applying a balm to sooth the pain.

The Koran implores Muslims to speak the truth, even if it hurts the one who utters the truth. Today we speak the truth, knowing very well Muslims have forgotten this crucial injunction from Allah.

The article’s writers are both authors about Islamic politics and culture as well as board members of the Muslim Canadian Congress. Now, I don’t know if Raza and Fatah are correct in their assertions, but I have a good reason to believe they may be. Several in fact, two of which I’ve seen personally.

I was once able to visit Istanbul and Jerusalem where I eagerly toured both the Hagia Sophia and the remains of what is believed to be Solomon’s Temple (typically referred to as the Western Wall). Both of these deeply religious sites have been converted to Muslim uses by the building of mosques.

The original Hagia Sophia was a church built by the Emperor Constantine some time in the fourth century, which was subsequently razed on a few different occasions. The Emperor Justinian I erected the current structure in the 530’s, and it still stands as one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in existence. However, when Constantinople finally became Istanbul for good, the Hagia Sophia saw a dramatic change:

… Hagia Sophia remained a functioning church until May 29, 1453, when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered triumphantly into the city of Constantinople. He was amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and immediately converted it into his imperial mosque.

Hagia Sophia served as the principal mosque of Istanbul for almost 500 years. It became a model for many of the Ottoman mosques of Istanbul such as the Blue Mosque [ed. – which is within sight of of the Hagia Sophia], the Suleiman Mosque, the Shehzade Mosque and the Rustem Pasha Mosque.

No major structural changes were made at first; the addition of a mihrab (prayer niche), minbar (pulpit) and a wooden minaret made a mosque out of the church. At some early point, all the faces depicted in the church’s mosaics were covered in plaster due to the Islamic prohibition of figurative imagery. Various additions were made over the centuries by successive sultans.

In short, the conquerors replaced a mighty cultural symbol of the vanquished with one of their own. Fairly standard really, but I still found it a bit odd to walk into one of the oldest Christian churches in the world only to be confronted with giant symbols of Islam everywhere.

Visiting Jerusalem was just as puzzling. I knew that the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall) was all that was left of Herod’s expansion of the Temple Mount, but I had not realized that atop it sat not one, but two Islamic holy sites: The Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque. These two religious sites replaced and took over what is considered the holiest of all places on Earth by the Jews, who are forbidden from entering either.

There are, of course, other examples, but it’s not as if this sort of conquering behavior is the sole province of Muslims. Indeed, the al-Aqsa Mosque was itself taken over as a church for a brief time by Crusaders.

Even so, it cannot be denied that erecting mosques and other holy sites upon or near places of great cultural significance to their enemies is something to which Muslims seem historically inclined. And while most Muslims may not consider themselves at war with the West, or Americans as an enemy of Islam, those who took down the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 most certainly did, and still do. That is why I think that Raza and Fatah may be right.

To erect a monument in the form of the Ground Zero Mosque to the nihilistic, death-loving 9/11 terrorists is a slap in the face of everyone they murdered on that day, those who gave up their lives to rescue the survivors, and all of their families and friends. It would be allowing a symbol of enemy victory to desecrate hallowed ground.

Bruce made a great argument as to why, despite whatever intentions the mosque’s benefactors may have, it’s an affront to individual property rights and the rule of law to use the government to prevent the Ground Zero Mosque from being built.

Basically, I think he’s right. But I can’t help thinking that if, say, a group of Japanese decided to by some property right next to Pearl Harbor in order to erect a monument or shrine, we as American citizens might find some peaceful and non-coercive way of stopping that from happening.

As for the Ground Zero Mosque, we’ll just have to wait and see.

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Apparently things were just too darn transparent

So the solution, of course, is to make things a bit more opaque while still pretending to be “transparent”.  And how does one do that?  By kicking the guy dedicated to that job – the so-called “ethics czar” – upstairs, and shifting those responsiblities elsewhere.  Like to someone who is known not to favor transparency at all.

Obama transferred "ethics czar" Norm Eisen to the Czech Republic to serve as U.S. ambassador. Some of Eisen’s duties will be handed to Domestic Policy Council member Steven Croley, but most of them, it appears, will shift over to the already-full docket of White House Counsel Bob Bauer.

Bauer is an insider’s insider.  And in his own words and actions, doesn’t at all favor disclosure of public affairs, at least not like President Transparency promised:

Bauer’s own words — gathered by the diligent folks at the Sunlight Foundation — show disdain for openness and far greater belief in the good intentions of those in power than of those trying to check the powerful. In December 2006, when the Federal Election Commission proposed more precise disclosure requirements for parties, Bauer took aim at the practice of muckraking enabled by such disclosure.

On his blog, Bauer derided the notion "that politicians and parties are pictured as forever trying to get away with something," saying this was an idea for which "there is a market, its product cheaply manufactured and cheaply sold." In other words — we keep too close an eye on our leaders.

And there’s more:

In August 2006 Bauer blogged, "disclosure is a mostly unquestioned virtue deserving to be questioned." This is the man the White House has put in charge of making this the most open White House ever.

Most telling might have been Bauer’s statements about proposed regulations of 527 organizations: "If it’s not done with 527 activity as we have seen, it will be done in other ways," he told the Senate rules committee.

"There are other directions, to be sure, that people are actively considering as we speak. Without tipping my hand or those of others who are professionally creative, the money will find an outlet."

So there you go, another political promise from the man who gave us “hope” and “change” quietly changed so that it still conform with the letter of the promise – i.e. there’s still someone in charge of “transparency” – but not its spirit.

If this isn’t a Rahmbo (Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel) move, I don’t know what is. It has his fingerprints all over it.

I know – big surprise.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

[tweetmeme only_single=”false”]
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Turkey continues to sell gasoline to Iran despite sanctions

So now what?

We had the tough talk from Obama and the State Department about “new” sanctions designed to bring Iran to its knees over the development of nuclear weapons.

But now the administration is face with walking the walk concerning those sanctions.  And apparently Turkey isn’t at all worried or concerned about the US’s reaction:

Ankara will continue to permit Turkish companies to sell gasoline to Iran, despite US sanctions against fuel exports to Islamic regime, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

"If the preference of the private sector is to sell these products to Iran, we will help them," said Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.

Tupras, Turkey’s sole oil refiner and gasoline exporter, expressed little fear of retribution from US Treasury officials who have the power to ban sanctions violators from accessing the US banking system or receiving US contracts.

"For us, Iran is more important than America because we get crude oil from them. We don’t get anything from America," a Tupras official was quoted as saying.

It seems that Turkey has figured out that our new motto is “Speak loudly and carry no stick”.  No fear and certainly no respect is shown in the statement by the Tupras official.  And Minister Yildiz is obviously waving away any official concern with his statement.

Two things are demonstrated by their stance.  A) Turkey is “all in” in it’s support of the “Islamic world”.  It has obviously made a choice between the being a part of the coalition of Middle Eastern Islamic countries and the West and NATO.  B) Turkey has been given absolutely no reason to believe we’ll actually enforce our sanctions and thus demonstrates no respect for them or the US.

I’m not sure that would have been the case 2 short years ago.  While Turkey was certainly moving away from the Western orbit at the time, their overt hostility to the US wasn’t at all evident.  And my guess is they knew the US would enforce sanctions then.  However, they have deduced that the US is a weak horse right now, and they plan to build their credibility in Middle East at our expense.  Defying the “Great Satan” is a great way to do that. 

And, of course, there’s the China problem.  China too is shipping in gasoline.  So in order to enforce sanctions against Turkey the US would have to do the same against China.  Oh – and our “good friends” the Russians as well.  Yeah, that’s right, Russia and China are both selling gasoline to Iran, and have come to no harm.  What’s the risk of bucking the US?  Turkey figures it to be nil.  And, it appears, they’re right.

The tough “new” sanctions, it appears, are a farce and our “friends” see no risk it flouting them.  It sort of boils down to the old western adage of “if you’re going to wear a gun, you have to be ready to use it”.  Apparently these three have figured out the gun the administration is wearing is empty.

There’s something to be said for respect and fear in foreign policy – but you have to actually do something (or be willing to do it) before the world community will heed what you say.  This administration’s weapons are words, not deeds.  And the expected result is on display in this little scenario, a scenario that you can expect to see replayed over and over and over again as long as it is in power.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

[tweetmeme only_single=”false”]
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Stupidest Thing I Heard Today

Henceforth to be titled “STIHT”.

Almost every day I’m confronted with beyond-ridiculous statements that turn me sideways. I literally cringe when I hear/read them. A little monologue automatically goes off in my head (OK, and out loud once in awhile as well) that serves — for my purposes — to make the bad thing stop. Because the stupidity has become relentless, I feel the need to rant publicly. Hence STIHT.

So, as I’m finishing my day, leisurely pondering the conclusion of the TV show I was watching, that nasally, self-indulgent voice of Sex In The City’s primary protagonist wistfully bleats “Someone once said that two halves make a whole.” Let me tell you: the sinews, tendons and synapses controlling my fingers’ hasty dispatch of power to the source of such inanity were so swift as to make Mercury look like Kurt Rambis. My sanity was saved with a flick of the wrist.

Why? Well, allow me to rant.

No one, in the history of all intellectual life, has ever said “two halves make a whole”. Sure, someone has actually said those words. But I can assure you that, apart from the confines of the writer’s room for Sex In The City, no one who said them was met with anything less than a Potsie-perfect “Duh.”

Because the profound thing about the statement, to the extent there is anything, is not that two halves make a whole, but instead that a “whole” can be split into two halves. That wisdom has been known since at least the time of Ur, and probably for quite a bit before that.

Put simply, there is nothing remotely profound in the statement that “two halves make a whole” since the only revelatory thing of the entire statement is the complete converse — i.e. that a whole can be split into two equal parts called “halves.” That “someone once said” such an unenlightening statement may in fact be true, but it doesn’t prove anything apart from the utter vacuity of the person proposing such statement to have meaning at all.

Now for the anticipated FAQ’s:

“So what’s the point of your rant?”

Stupid things piss me off. Writing about their stupidity seems better than punching holes in walls (yeah, you’ve been there).

“But why do I care?”

Why would I know? Or care?

“I mean, why should I bother reading your rants?”

Don’t bother. I write them to keep down on my drywall and putty expenses (OK, and for entertainment purposes). Consider it like a reality show — public therapy.

“But would Snooki approve?”

No. Punching walls is mandatory in her world.

“Are there midgets involved?”

Oh, just wait until my next rant. I mean, they’re not even real people.

“Is Daniel Tosh funnier than you?” (See last link)

Who are you! Tell me your name! Who sent you! I have RIGHT to know who you are!

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Buy Dale’s Books!