Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Independents Disapprove Of Obama’s Job Performance

At least in the domestic realm. Those are the latest poll results tracking the president’s job performance approval by CNN/Opinion Research Corp.

Obama retains majority support on foreign affairs at this point (although I don’t expect that to remain favorable for long), but a majority of independents, the key to his electoral victory last year, are not at all impressed with this performance domestically:

Fifty-three percent of independents questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday say they disapprove of how Obama’s handling his duties in the White House, with 43 percent in approval. That result marks the first time in a CNN poll that a majority of independents give the president’s performance a thumbs-down.

Here’s the key line in the article:

“Obama won a majority of the vote among independents last year, and that helped put him in the White House,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Losing their support makes it more difficult for Obama to govern from the center.”

So that leads the question, “how does Obama recapture this key electoral demographic”? The obvious answer is by moving toward the center. But if he does that he’ll have to scrap the more controversial parts of his health care insurance reform bill and there’ll be hell to pay with his base.

But it is even more complicated than that.

Is the fight over health care responsible for the downturn in Obama’s numbers?

“Yes, in part, but his standing on some other issues has taken an even bigger tumble,” adds Holland. “Among all Americans, his rating on health care has dropped 13 points since March. Compare that to his 16 point drop on the deficit and 17 point dip on taxes and it looks like there is growing discontent with Obama’s overall domestic agenda — not just his health care policy.”

Again, emphasis on the point the left seems incapable of grasping – independents disapprove of the whole domestic agenda – health care insurance reform is only the flash point.

So coming up with a new bill aimed at the health care issue, even if more acceptable than what is presently being proposed isn’t going to necessarily change the approval rating or bring independents back into the Obama (and Democratic) fold.

As an aside, this is interesting as well:

The survey also indicates that 37 percent of Americans think the media has treated Obama fairly, down 18 points from February. One in four say the media has been too critical of the president, up seven points from February and 36 percent say the media has not been critical enough, up 10 points.

If you add the 37% who think the media has treated Obama fairly, with the 18% who’ve dropped out of that category you just about have the percentage of the vote which elected Obama. My guess is that 37% that think he been treated fairly are mostly the independents he and the Democrats have been losing over the past few months.

Back to the topic – it is fish or cut bait time for Obama and the health care debate is where he’ll finally have to show his true colors. Is he going to try to woo the independents back by proposing moderate reforms and attempting to move back toward the center? Or will he double down, push the controversial portions of the legislation his base demands and all but declare his liberal colors? He’s not going to be able to please both his base and independents. So he’s going to have to make a decision and make it soon – look for his “major speech” on health care to be that decision point.

~McQ

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Liberals Still Don’t Get It

Robert Reich has to be the poster boy for why liberals are only about 20% of our population. If it weren’t for the quiet backwaters of academia where, apparently they’re pretty much left alone to survive and breed, they wouldn’t have much of a chance of making it anywhere else.

Here’s his latest riff:

What we learned in August is something we’ve long known but keep forgetting: The most important difference between America’s Democratic left and Republican right is that the left has ideas and the right has discipline. Obama and progressive supporters of health care were outmaneuvered in August — not because the right had any better idea for solving the health care mess but because the rights’ attack on the Democrats’ idea was far more disciplined than was the Democrats’ ability to sell it.

A) my 5 year old grandson has ideas. But when they involve matches and curtains, we have a tendency to step in and prevent him from bringing his ideas to fruition. Call that “discipline” if you wish, but just because a group has ideas doesn’t mean they’re worth 2 cents. And in the case of health care insurance reform, they’re worth a negative 1.5 trillion dollars we can’t afford and would put government intrusion and control and new and unprecedented levels.

B) as usual you see a liberal who believes that the message isnt the problem, but the obfuscation of the right that prevented the message from being properly received. Really? It appeared that the audiences of the townhall meetings attacking the plan had actually read more of the proposed legislation than those on stage trying to defend it. They knew what the “message” was and rejected it.

C) and most important – this isn’t just about health care. This is about TARP, porkulus, “stimulus”, GM, the financial system, cap-and-trade and 9 trillion dollar deficits. Those are all ideas that have been proposed or passed by this Congress or administration. The “idea” that has traction is that these are all bad ‘ideas’. However, the left seems not to understand that point and we continue to hear tone-deaf analysis such as Reich’s contending that they only need to sharpen up their “message” a bit and impose a little discipline and all will be well.

Reich then gets into bit of classic cognitive dissonance and projection:

You want to know why the left has ideas and the right has discipline? Because people who like ideas and dislike authority tend to identify with the Democratic left, while people who feel threatened by new ideas and more comfortable in a disciplined and ordered world tend to identify with the Republican right. Democrats and progressives let a thousand flowers bloom. Republicans and the right issue directives. This has been the yin and yang of American politics and culture. But it means that the Democratic left’s new ideas often fall victim to its own notorious lack of organization and to the right’s highly-organized fear mongering.

How can you not laugh outloud at someone who will claim, in the shadow of the biggest attempted takeover of the private sector by government since WWII that those who “dislike authority tend to identify with the Democratic left”.

Given OFA and the unions and the predominant collectivist mentality of the left, that’s laughable on its face.

Also lost in Mr. Reich’s fantasy analysis is the fact that the idea laden left is losing independent support at a rate unseen in decades. It isn’t just the right rejecting these “ideas”, it is the center and even center left.

All of this leaves Reich to conclude:

August is coming to a close, and congressional recess is about over. History is not destiny, and Democrats and progressives can yet enact meaningful health care reform — with a public option. But to do so, we’ll need to be far more disciplined about it. All of us, from Obama on down.

This is what you end up with when you start from a false premise. Believing that all you have to do is impose a little discipline (to those authority hating but collectivist lefties) and sharpen your messaging, and your ideas about how to burn the house down will be accepted with open arms.

Amazing.

~McQ

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Obama To Finally Lay Out His Health Care Insurance Reform Goals

Under the department of “it’s about time” we learn this from Marc Ambinder:

Next week, President Obama is going to give Democrats a health care plan they can begin to sell.

He plans to list specific goals that any health insurance reform plan that arrives at his desk must achieve, according to Democratic strategists familiar with the plan. Some of these “goals” have already been agreed to, including new anti-discrimination restrictions on insurance companies. Others will be new, including the level of subsidies he expects to give the uninsured so they can buy into the system.

Obama will also specify a “pay for” mechanism he prefers, and will specify an income level below which he does not want to see taxed.

I guess Democrats feel it’s better late than never, but if health care insurance reform is Obama’s highest priority and signature issue, shouldn’t this have been something handed to Congress on January 21st instead of something finally cobbled together in September?

And doesn’t this again demonstrate both a lack of executive experience and leadership we’ve been talking about for the past two days? In a word: yes.

As to the cite above, one of the more interesting aspects of his plan will be how he plans on paying for it or, as Marc Ambinder says “what income level below which he does not want to see taxed”.

This will be interesting as well:

He will insist upon a mechanism to cut costs and increase competition among insurance companies — and perhaps will even specify a percentage rate — and he will say that his preferred mechanism remains a government-subsidized public health insurance option, but he will remain agnostic about whether the plan must include a robust public option.

This is the holy grail to much of the liberal left. If he bails on this, he’s going to be seen as a milquetoast by that part of the base. One of the things that is irritating the left is the fact that they have majorities in both houses of Congress and they aren’t just ramming through what the liberals want. The reality-based community refuses to face the reality of actual governing but that’s not a particular surprise.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see, depending on what he lays out, whether the bulk of his criticism and resistance comes from the left or right – or both.

Though officials would not provide the numbers Obama plans to use, they say that the goal is to give his side — Democrats — a true presidential plan that they can sell. That includes the rebranding of several consensus initiatives, like the insurance reforms, as his own. The effect of this sales job, if it works, will be to associate the president with parts of the reform bills that are almost certainly likely to pass — assuming the Senate doesn’t bog down.

There’s one problem with all of that though – by finally issuing the guidance and goals for this plan that he should have issued the day after he took office, he is tacitly acknowledging that what has been produced by Congress to this point is a non-starter. How well that will go over in there remains to be seen. And how well his “rebranding” will do remains to be seen – to resurrect a saying which became a cliche during the campaign, you can put lipstick on a pig …

Per Ambinder, this setting out of Presidential “specifics” is meant to “sooth the concerns of the Democratic caucus”. I’m wondering if this may not be a little to far down the track for that to happen.

Then there’s this:

The budget reconciliation process remains a cudgel — it’s still the weapon of last resort, and President Obama has told his advisers that he does not want to ask Congress to use the mechanism until it becomes necessary, politically — that is, until the public understands that the popular elements of reform will not pass without using it.

If you think selling the legislative monstrosity Obama – Kennedy – Chappaquiddick Memorial Health Care Insurance Reform Bill is going to be tough, try selling a resistant public with the song and dance that it was necessary to use parliamentary tricks to ram through what couldn’t be passed under normal Congressional rules. I’m sure that’ll impress the heck out of everyone and make them more than willing to support the party in power at the next election.

I’m of the opinion that because this is so late in coming, Obama’s “plan” may end up further muddying the water instead of clarifying it. And if so, September may end up being about as kind to Obama and the Democrats as was August.

~McQ

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Afghanistan: Political Will Or Political Cynicism?

For all the rhetoric about Afghanistan being “the ‘good’ war” and where we should be concentrating the fight that we heard during the campaign, it really comes as no surprise to me that politicians, the chattering class, and the liberal left is now pitching abandonment of the effort there just when we are seriously considering that which is necessary to turn the fight around.

The problem?

As usual it has to do with political will.

The new commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has done his assessment of the situation and has rendered his report.

“The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort.”

Read that carefully – two words in particular are aimed primarily at one particular sphere of influence – the political. What McChrystal is saying to the political community is, “I think we can be successful if we follow the revised strategy I’ve set forward, but without the “commitment and resolve” from the political community to see this through, it will all be for naught.”

Anthony Cordesman, who was involved in McChrystal’s assessment, delivers what I would characterize as a pretty succinct and honest appraisal of why we’re in the situation we’re in now:

The most critical reason has been resources. Between 2002 and 2008 the United States never provided the forces, money or leadership necessary to win, effectively wasting more than half a decade.

Our country left a power vacuum in most of Afghanistan that the Taliban and other jihadist insurgents could exploit and occupy, and Washington did not respond when the U.S. Embassy team in Kabul requested more resources.

The Bush administration gave priority to sending forces to Iraq, it blustered about the successes of civilian aid efforts in Afghanistan that were grossly undermanned and underresourced, and it did not react to the growing corruption of Hamid Karzai’s government or the major problems created by national caveats and restrictions on the use of allied forces and aid.

It treated Pakistan as an ally when it was clear to U.S. experts on the scene that the Pakistani military and intelligence service did (and do) tolerate al-Qaeda and Afghan sanctuaries and still try to manipulate Afghan Pashtuns to Pakistan’s advantage.

Further, it never developed an integrated civil-military plan or operational effort even within the U.S. team in Afghanistan; left far too much of the aid effort focused on failed development programs; and denied the reality of insurgent successes in ways that gave insurgents the initiative well into 2009.

Like it or not, Afghanistan has been the second priority when it came to resources. Turning it around is going to take both time and more resources – something, if you read the pundits and politicians today, many are not willing to do.

Cordesman says that “most experts” agree that US troop levels in Afghanistan need to be increased by “three to eight more brigade combat teams”. But he also stresses that those BCTs would primarily be engaged in training Afghan troops and making them “full partners rather than tools”. The need for that training is past critical and was highlighted as a problem when 4,000 plus Marines pushed into Helmand province and only 600 Afghan troops (around a battalion) were able to participate.

However Cordesman’s last point about civil-military plans is just as critical and just as on-point. These programs are critical and lacking. A big plus up in that area is required to turn the situation around.

Militarily, what we must do is “take, hold and keep the Afghan population secure”. Classic COIN.

Just as important but glaringly lacking at the moment is the other and equally important side of the process:

[S]ecure local governance and economic activity to give Afghans reason to trust their government and allied forces. They must build the provincial, district and local government capabilities that the Kabul government cannot and will not build for them. No outcome of the recent presidential election can make up for the critical flaws in a grossly overcentralized government that is corrupt, is often a tool of power brokers and narco-traffickers, and lacks basic capacity in virtually every ministry.

Hamid Karzai is nothing more than the mayor of Kabul in reality. One of the critical tasks we faced and overcame in Iraq was teaching Iraqis at every level how to build those necessary government capabilities and then link them all together in a single functioning entity. While certainly not perfect, it provided a decent basis for governance that they’ve been able to assess and refine as they’ve gained experience.

That task has yet to be done in Afghanistan.

And it may never be done either.

Why?

Because the “good war” that the left claimed was legitimate and necessary to fight is suddenly neither.

We’re now treated to daily editorials and op/eds wondering if Afghanistan is Obama’s Vietnam or whether we find ourselves in yet another “quagmire”.

And it is reported that even conservative commenter George Will is preparing to come out against our continued presence there, rationalizing such a pull-out with a foolish solution (his column is now available):

“[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.”

Of course such a strategy will secure neither Afghanistan or Pakistan and certainly do nothing at all toward eliminating the al Qaeda threat. Instead it would give the organization a much freer hand in both countries.

Politicians have also begun to weigh in with rationalizations for pulling out of Afghanistan that can only be characterized as ignorant. Take Sen. Russ Feingold who claims he was for the war before he decided now to be against it. And, per Feingold, if we only listen to him, we can have our cake and eat it too:

We need to start discussing a flexible timetable to bring our brave troops out of Afghanistan. Proposing a timetable doesn’t mean giving up our ability to go after al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Far from it: We should continue a more focused military mission that includes targeted strikes on Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, and we should step up our long-term civilian efforts to deal with the corruption in the Afghan government that has helped the Taliban to thrive. But we must recognize that our troop presence contributes to resentment in some quarters and hinders our ability to achieve our broader national security goals.

Of course Feingold’s solution expects the Taliban and al Qaeda to remain quiescent and cooperate with his plan by leaving the population, the government and our “long-term civilian efforts” alone after we pull our troops out and Afghanistan unable to defend itself.

There are other political moves afoot as well as Cordesman points out. Speaking of the realities of the Afghanistan situation and the required support necessary to change it successfully, he says:

Unfortunately, strong elements in the White House, State Department and other agencies seem determined to ignore these realities. They are pressuring the president to direct Eikenberry and McChrystal to come to Washington to present a broad set of strategic concepts rather than specific requests for troops, more civilians, money and an integrated civil-military plan for action. They are pushing to prevent a fully integrated civil-military effort, and to avoid giving Eikenberry and McChrystal all the authority they need to try to force more unity of effort from allied forces and the U.N.-led aid effort.

And his conclusion, based on that is as true as it is unacceptable:

If these elements succeed, President Obama will be as much a failed wartime president as George W. Bush. He may succeed in lowering the political, military and financial profile of the war for up to a year, but in the process he will squander our last hope of winning. This would only trade one set of political problems for a far worse set in the future and leave us with an enduring regional mess and sanctuary for extremism. We have a reasonable chance of victory if we properly outfit and empower our new team in Afghanistan; we face certain defeat if we do not.

It will be interesting to see how the Obama team reacts to the McChrystal report. If, as Cordesman suggests, he attempts to put off a decision by caving into the pressure to have Generals Eikenberry and McChrystal provide a series of dog-and-pony shows outlining “a broad set of strategic concepts”, then I’d conclude that the political will to carry the mission to a successful conclusion is likely not there.

What we’ll instead see is a series of these sorts of delays used to push a decision on commitment further and further out until it is politically safe for the administration to pull the plug. That, of course, would be 2012 with a second term safely secured. If my cynical prediction is correct, you’ll see the effort in Afghanistan given enough support to keep it from collapsing but really not furthering the effort toward success.

If that is indeed how it plays out, then politicians will be trading the lives of our soldiers for time to successfully secure their political future. That is both immoral and totally unacceptable.

Afghanistan is a salvageable. But it will take a long time, a full commitment to the mission, patience and above all, political will.

If the political will is not there, the administration owes it to our troops to do its “cutting and running” now, and let the political chips fall where they may.

If, instead, they string this thing out until it is politically acceptable to do that, they deserve to be banished to the lowest level of hell, there to toil in agonized perpetuity for putting politics above the lives of our soldiers.

~McQ

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People Opposed To Cap-And-Trade

As Congress members slink back into Washington DC to get trauma treatment for their townhall wounds, a new Rasmussen poll indicates cap-and-trade legislation isn’t much more popular than health care insurance reform.

The survey of 1,000 adults showed 35 percent of Americans favor the climate change bill, while 40 percent oppose it.

Nearly one adult in four — 24 percent — are not sure whether passage of the bill is a good idea — findings which reflect virtually the same results as in late June.

While that may not seem overwhelming, it changes dramatically when the question of cost to the person being polled is brought up:

On economic impact of the legislation, 56 percent said they are unwilling to pay more in taxes and utility costs to generate cleaner energy and fight global warming, the same number who expressed that opinion in June.

Another poll mirrored the results. Of those polled in a Washington Post/ABC poll 52% supported cap-and-trade legislation, until cost was introduced into the questioning:

When asked if a cap and trade program “significantly lowered greenhouse gases but raised your monthly electrical bill by 25 dollars a month” – then only 39 percent support cap and trade while 59 percent oppose it.

The Heritage Foundation modeled the current pending legislation and found that on average it would increase electricity prices by $32.67 a month. But that’s just part of it:

But that’s just one small chapter in the book on how an average family of four’s pocketbook would be hit. Cap and trade is a massive tax on energy across the board – so your electricity bills will rise and so will everything else – gasoline, natural gas, and home heating oil. Add it up and the family of four energy expenditures increase on average by $69 per month from 2012-2035. Because the carbon caps become more stringent in subsequent years, the costs are highest in 2035 at $103 per month in the form of direct higher energy prices.

And we’re still not done – also added into the mix are the indirect costs these price increases will bring:

The energy tax also hits producers. As the higher production costs ripple through the economy, the household pocketbooks get hit again and again when producers pass costs onto the consumers. If you look at the total energy tax from Waxman-Markey, it works out to an average of $2,979 annually from 2012-2035 for a household of four. By 2035 alone, the total cost is over $4,600.

Now that $32.65 a month for the family of four has grown to $248.25 brought on solely by the imposition of cap-and-trade. Add to that the cost of the proposed health care insurance reform, the bailouts, the unstimulating “stimulus” and the pork laden emergency spending bill, plus a 10 year budget that puts us 9 trillion further in debt and you can begin to understand why the American people are angry and the clueless Congress and administration are seeking trauma care.

Like one woman said at one of the townhall meetings, echoing Adm. Yamamoto’s WWII quote, “I think you’ve awakened a sleeping giant”.

I certainly hope so. And if so, hopefully cap-and-trade will go the way of the Dodo bird, and become an extinct idea. Cap-and-trade is based on dubious and unsubstantiated science and it is obviously detrimental to the economic health of this nation. It should be abandoned immediately.

~McQ

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If Obama Is Losing Paul Krugman, Can The Rest Of The Left Be Far Behind?

Interesting article by Howard Kurtz which asks the question in the title. But before we go there, let’s allow Mary Anastasia O’Grady to set the stage for you:

If the Obama administration were a flotilla of ships, it might be sending out an SOS right about now. ObamaCare has hit the political equivalent of an iceberg. And last week the president’s international prestige was broadsided by the Scots, who set free the Lockerbie bomber without the least consideration of American concerns. Mr. Obama’s campaign promise of restoring common sense to budget management is sleeping with the fishes.

This administration needs a win. Or more accurately, it can’t bear another loss right now.

Of course what she’s talking about is the administration’s foreign policy and in particular Honduras. However that has become a bit of a side-show in comparison with the domestic politics now thundering from DC to the townhalls of America.

Kurtz is noticing a disturbing trend if your an Obama administration fan. The base is not happy. And they’re starting to sound off about it.

He cites Krugman, Clarence Page, David Corn and Frank Rich as part of the leftist chattering class losing confidence in the chosen one.

That can’t be good. But some of it is inevitable:

A president is going to be smacked around from the moment he takes office and the uplifting rhetoric of campaign rallies meets the gritty reality of governing.

But what Kurtz is talking about isn’t the “inevitable”. It’s more than that. It carries more than a hint of disillusionment. He quotes David Corn, for instance, claiming that some of Obama’s policies:

“… have caused concern, if not outright anger, among certain liberal commentators and bloggers. It’s been a more conventional White House than many people expected or desired. . . . He’s made compromises that have some people concerned about his adherence to principle.”

For Corn and the liberal left, he’s been much more “conventional” than expected and that bothers them. “Change” was read by them to mean much more radical change than they’ve seen. The question, of course, is were they mistaken on what they interpreted change to mean or, to extend O’Grady’s metaphor, is the reality of governing causing the liberal ship to founder? Either way the Corn contingent isn’t going to be happy.

Arrianna Huffington, among others I’m sure, spots the problem I talked about yesterday – lack of leadership:

Arianna Huffington has lamented Obama’s “lack of leadership,” asking: “How could someone with a renowned ability to inspire, communicate complex ideas, and connect with voters find himself in this position?”

For the reasons I covered yesterday, this isn’t likely to improve. And that again is because it is one thing to communicate complex ideas and another to implement them. The former takes nothing more than a competent rhetorician while the latter demands a leader.

And even Paul Krugman is getting that creepy feeling that a leadership deficit is becoming more and more evident:

“Mr. Obama was never going to get everything his supporters wanted. But there’s a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line.”

So why this sudden disenchantment? As Kurtz points out, Obama’s history was known to everyone – the Krugmans, Richs, Corns and Huffingtons of this world:

It’s easy to forget, in light of Obama’s global celebrity, that five years ago he was a state senator in Illinois. Given his short tenure as a national figure, Obama finds himself having to prove, at least to the opinion-mongers, what he’s really made of. “Is He Weak?” asked a recent Jim Hoagland column, on foreign policy, in The Post.

Is he weak? Well, again, given that 5 years ago he was hanging out in the Illinois State Senate and since that he’s spent 2 years as a junior Senator in DC what would a reasonable person expect? What has he done that would indicate he’d be something else?

Of course this was all brought up prior to the election and waved away by the same pundits who are now, suddenly, finding out that their knight in shining armor is actually Don Quixote.

Now suddenly Obama isn’t living up to their expectations.

The president’s liberal critics tend to cluster around particular issues. Some see health reform as making or breaking Obama’s first term. Others are disappointed at the pace of withdrawal from Iraq, the escalation in Afghanistan and the delay in closing Guantanamo Bay. Still others argue that Obama should be leading the charge to investigate terrorism-related abuses during the Bush administration.

Of course that’s why the DoJ decision to pursue charges against the CIA is seen as a political sop to this part of Obama’s base (something which will eventually blow up in the administration’s face). But the bottom line is Obama just isn’t meeting the expectations of those who worked so hard to put him in office.

The reason for that is evident for some and becoming more evident to others. Krugman has figured it out although he can’t quite bring himself to say it and even Arrianna Huffington is beginning to understand the real problem – there’s a leadership vacuum in Washington, and it isn’t likely to be filled anytime soon. And liberals better get used to being both disappointed and disenchanted.

~McQ

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Here’s A Pro-Business City

Yeah, you probably thought immediately, “he’s being facetious and talking about New York city”. Ah, you got me. From Jacob Sullum at Reason:

Vince Nastri III paid $9,000 for the coffee machine he installed in his lower Manhattan tobacco shop. Now it could cost him thousands of dollars more. The city’s health department is threatening him with fines, saying he is operating a “food-service establishment” without a permit, even though the coffee is free. Nastri could apply for a permit, but then his customers would no longer be allowed to smoke.

Damned if he does, no coffee if he doesn’t. Tell me, since when did it become any government’s job to decide whether or not you could offer free coffee to customers of your establishment if you chose to do so?

And does this mean that lawyer’s and doctor’s offices which offer free coffee to clients and patients are “operating a food-service establishment without a permit”, or is this really just a bit of selective targeting and enforcement to harass an out of favor business?

Well, unless I see a lot of citations in the coming months citing business establishments of all types and sizes who provide coffee to their employees or customers as “operating a food establishment without a permit”, I’ll have to conclude its the latter.

~McQ

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Dodd: Obama Must “Step Up”

Politico carries a story today quoting Sen. Chris Dodd saying President Obama needs to “step up” and give Congress “more of a framework to work with on health care reform”.

Or translated into common language that everyone can understand, Dodd is saying it is time for Obama to “step up” and lead.

There’s a problem, however – Obama has never led anything. He’s not a leader although he’s in the ultimate leadership job. His background, as many pointed out ad nauseum during the campaign, isn’t one of leadership. And when he was questioned about that fact, his claimed his successful campaign for the presidency proved his leadership abilities. If that’s not an acknowledgment of a paper thin leadership resume, I don’t know what is.

It has become even more obvious in this health care debate that he lacks the attributes of a leader. His first reaction to opposition was defensive. He and many in Congress attacked those who opposed him (and that continues today).

He then went into campaign mode, not understanding that doing so doesn’t constitute leadership on an issue. Unlike a leader, he’d literally outsourced his signature agenda item to Congress. Then, without apparently realizing it, his statements during his staged townhalls were diametrically opposed to what was actually in the House bill. It ended up hurting his credibility further.

Other examples of his lack of leadership experience and skills have been evident as well. He’s been dismissive of those who oppose him, preferring to wave away or ignore their criticism. He’s rarely involved himself in the nuts and bolts of legislation thereby leaving it to the liberal leaders of Congress to fashion the legislation in their own image, not his. Consequently he’s not seen as a strong leader even by his own party – thus the comment by Dodd.

I’ve heard people say that some people are born leaders. If that is true, Barack Obama isn’t one of them. Charismatic, intelligent and charming?

Yes.

A leader?

No.

My years in the military have convinced me that the vast majority of good leaders are made, not born. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I never served with one. However I have watched the development of good solid leaders throughout my career. In fact I was a part of the process, as it is the job of all leaders to train and mentor the next generation of leaders.

From the raw material of recruits and junior officers to Command Sergeants Major and Generals, these leaders were trained, tested, mentored and tested again. To gain the top rank they eventually earn they met the tests and gain the leadership experience necessary at every level to move on up the ladder one rung at a time.

Barack Obama has never been developed as a leader nor has he had to endure the tests a leader must endure. While I’m sure he’d deny it, he’s led a privileged life in which his charm, intelligence, charisma and a good helping of guile have been his primary means of advancement. And his political career has been perfectly tailored to take advantage of those attributes. Centered in the legislative branch where those are valued assets, he’s never been tasked to lead. Leadership in those venues is only vested in a few and with his short tenure at each level, leadership responsibilities were never vested in him. In general, it is one of the reasons that Senators rarely make good Presidents.

So he comes by his lack of leadership honestly – it is simply not something which was necessary in the track his life has taken to this point – but now finds himself in a real dilemma

He’s not a leader.

He really doesn’t know how to be a leader.

But he pursued and won a job that demands a set of skills he, to this point, doesn’t possess. That’s why reversion to what he knows – campaign mode – is his natural answer to “stepping up”. Given the attributes he does have, he feels that if he can just get in front of the media and the people, he can use his charm, charisma, intelligence and guile to convince them to back his agenda just as he was able to do during the election cycle.

What he doesn’t seem to realize is that’s not leadership. His days of uncontested speech loaded with glittering generalities and factual inaccuracies are over. “Feel good” transitions into “make good” when the presidency is won. Instead of talking about what can be, he’s now stuck with talking about what is. And “what is” can be fact checked.

He’s disconnected, not seeming to understand that it isn’t Congress’s job to read his mind and churn out legislation to match his desires. Instead it is his job to work with Congress to make that happen. He seems to want to reign, not lead.

As it stands now, Dodd is asking for something that Obama hasn’t the experience or ability to deliver. Of course Obama’s surrounded by smart advisers who must also understand this problem and are most likely working diligently to find some way to correct it. But again experience says leaders aren’t born or made overnight. And the presidency is far and away much to critical and demanding a job for someone to first be learning what leadership is all about and how to apply it.

~McQ

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Costa Rican President Wants To Change The Constitution Too

As you recall when Honduras invoked its Constitution and kicked out its sitting president for violating it, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica stepped forward and volunteered to act as an intermediary to help settle the “crisis”.

It was, apparently, only a “crisis” to those outside Honduras and now we’re beginning to understand why. It seems Arias wasn’t at all the honest broker everyone thought he was. Cato@Liberty reports:

President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica has joined the trend in Latin America of calling for a new constitution that would expand executive powers and get rid of “unnecessary checks” on the president’s authority. Although Arias has less than 9 months left in office and can’t run for reelection, his brother and current minister of the presidency — a primer minister of sorts — has openly said he’s interested in running for president in 2014. A new constitution with expanded executive powers would fit him just fine.

But Arias is also apparently at war with the media which to this point is still free and able to oppose the changes for which Arias is calling. The Arias argument against the media sound very familiar:

However, the most disturbing aspect of Arias’ call was his harsh criticism of the media. Borrowing from the script of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Arias described news outlets as “corporations interested in making a profit” that don’t necessarily pursue the “public good.” He asked the media to “tone down” its criticism of government officials, and said that journalists “should understand their role within a higher framework.” He complained that news outlets claim to represent the public interest, without any control or accountability.

This is precisely the formula followed by the new leftist despots in Central and South America. Use the system to subvert the system and expand the executive’s power to a defacto dictatorship. The first step, of course, is to rewrite the country’s constitution to abet their grab for power. And, of course, along the way it is critical that they silence and then control the media.

This formula isn’t a hard one to discern, and the the result is obvious. Despotic governments imposing ruinous socialism while a muted press is powerless to do anything about it.

And where is the US is all of this? Busily engaged in undermining the one government, Honduras, which has actually stepped up to thwart the formula and enforce its constitution.

As Ed Morrisey asks:

The US should be on the side of self-determination and the rule of law. Instead, we’ve ended up on the side of power-grabbing future despots and potential ruling cliques of nepotism. How did this happen, and why hasn’t the national media shined its light on Arias’ interests in this dispute? Could it be that it would make Obama look like a bumbling fool on the international stage — or worse?

Good questions with no easy answers. However, one has to wonder why the media hasn’t gotten into the details of what is happening in Honduras and why it is so heavily opposed by the players in the region, such as Chavez, Ortega and Correa. There’s an unacknowledged revolution going on which is neither good for the people of the region nor good for the US and we seem to be not only blind to the fact, but implicitly and perhaps unknowingly aiding it. And now we find Arias too is a player.

Honduras is the only country in the region saying “no” to the trend and they’re under increasingly heavy fire to give in. In fact reports now say the Obama administration is contemplating cutting off foreign aid to Honduras unless they reinstall Mel Zelaya in the presidency. The willing ignorance the US is displaying concerning the problem in Honduras cannot be seen as anything but pandering to the likes of Chavez, Correa and Castro. It certainly isn’t based in respect for a nation’s laws and their right to self-determination – and that certainly makes the Obama administration look foolish on the international stage.

~McQ

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Congress: Get Rid Of Them All

According to Rasmussen, if given the choice of a single vote to turn out or keep all the members of Congress, 57% would vote to boot ’em:

If they could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, just 25% of voters nationwide would keep the current batch of legislators.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 57% would vote to replace the entire Congress and start all over again. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure how they would vote.

Of course that’s more of a feel-good poll than reality since we all know that incumbents are usually reelected and that happens because for the most part those in each Congressional district feel the problem is the rest of Congress and not their guy or gal.

However, it is a number which does point to the underlying unrest among the population – and not just about health care.

Back in October, prior to the election which saw increasing Dem margins, 59% said given a single vote to turn out the whole Congress, they’d do so. That was in the middle of the “crisis” and frenzy of TARP.

Obviously “turning them out” wasn’t something which happened then, but the fact that we had a rather historical presidential election can be assumed to have had some salutary effect. 2010, on the other hand, is a purely Congressional election year. Again, the probability of turning the whole Congress over is practically nil. But it could be a bloody year for incumbents as we’re seeing some of the early polls indicate. If the anger remains at this level and the politicians continue to ignore it as they seem to be doing, I predict that 20 seat losses in the House may be considered the best outcome to be hoped for when election day rolls around.

~McQ

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