Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Iowa Girl Conceived After Father's Death Not Entitled to Benefits

In a case showcasing the rare capacity of our legal system to use common sense, a federal appeals court has struck down a lower court's ruling which had granted social security death benefits to a girl whose father died before she was conceived.  There is talk that the case is headed to the Supreme Court. 

Had the father died AFTER conception, I would have no problem supporting a death benefit.  But the frozen sperm of a dead man delivered downrange to conception does not create an orphaned child.  It simply created a single mother.

Monday, August 29, 2011

WaPost Confuses Cause and Effect

The headline on this morning's story is "Consumer Fears Put Economy on the Brink", indicating that our current state of economic torpor is somehow the result of the hesitations of bespooked consumers.  And while such consumer attitudes do play a role in recessions and recoveries, the behavior of consumers is generally believed to be rational in its response to the economic environment, while the article seems to pay little or no attention to the policies that may have contributed to the growing sense of angst. 

Put another way, consumers are spooked because they see an uncomfortably liberal President leading from behind and a Congress beholden to the extremes of its base(s).  They are increasingly wary of the basic fiscal stability of their country and their own future prosperity--let alone that of their children (which used to be an American birthright--or so it seemed). 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Much Ado About Irene

The Kitten, a Kitten and a Cat (Mowgli) inspect the damage.
Well, it's now Sunday afternoon and Irene has come and gone, leaving us relatively untouched.  A tree here and there has returned to the great organic cycle, and my grill was toppled in the high winds, but the storm surge wasn't much to talk about and we seem to have held up ok.

The renovation has left us a little vulnerable--no gutters and soft ground around the new parts mean water intrusion...and the dormers/roofing job created a bit of room for water around the chimney--as they need to install new flashing.

Irene turned about to be more hype than hurricane, but I suppose I'll take'em that way all the time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Genius is rare,. It's not just about pure intelligence, it's more abstract, more mercurial than that. It's a combination of factors coming together at the right time. As one of my favorite poets (apart from CW) said, "Genius creates, and taste preserves. Taste is the good sense of genius; without taste, genius is only sublime folly. ".

We all stand on each other shoulders and original thought is practically unheard of, but every once in a while we see it. Every once in while someone comes along and changes everything. That is Steve Jobs.

He isn't an electrical or software engineer. He didn't attend Stanford or Berkeley, in fact he barely went to college at all. What he did do is change the landscape, and not in just one industry, but of the World. He made products that were fun, cool, intuitive and well, just seemed right.

Back in the 90's during Jobs' exile from Apple, he was asked what he thought of Bill Gates and Microsoft. He replied they had worked hard and deserved their success, and then after a long pause he said "but they have no taste".

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Perry Takes Lead Over Romney

Looks like Texas Governor Rick Perry picked a good time to hop into the race.  According to some polls, he's lapped the field and has a double digit lead on Mitt Romney.  A Romney/Perry race would be wonderful---clearly, these two are well-differentiated, and it would be a difficult thing indeed to conjure up an informed voter who would have trouble choosing twixt the two.  I'm hoping this puts a little fight into Mitt and he steps things up a bit in the months to come.  Perry will be a great candidate, and he will be hard to defeat in the primaries.  But he can be beaten. Five debates in Iowa in the next couple of months will give Perry a number of chances to sell himself to more moderate voters--if he can't, he's toast.

Not as Cool as the Bibi-Obama Comparison Photo...

But you get the point. Why does President Obama always come out on the losing end of these side-by-side comparisons?

On the Coming of Autumn

Each of us is, I believe, inclined more favorably toward one of our four seasons.  The Kitten is a summer person--her youth here on the Eastern Shore was one of water sports, sailing, crabbing, fishing--all sorts of summer merriment.  In her 20's, she spent most summers in the Caribbean teaching sailing, and to this day, she gets giddy at summer's approach and laments its departure.

On the other hand, I am a fall person.  My fondest memories of childhood--to the extent that I have such things--are gauzy recollections of a little nip in the air, school starting again, the bus-stop in the morning, a brisk Saturday high school football game, the sound of Keith Jackson's voice calling a college game.  I am drawn to the colors of autumn and I am energized by the changing of the leaves.  My move here to Easton a few years ago brought with it the sounds of the annual migration of waterfowl, as the spot where my bed now sits is 69 feet from a protected cove favored by traveling geese and ducks.  The Kitten barely hears the geese these days, not from some auditory issue; rather, I think she's simply "over" it having lived here so long.  Not me.  The first sounds of the geese--which I heard two nights ago--are a signal to me that the long, hot, summer is over--and that great things are just around the corner.  They are loud--very loud, and the noise is a stark discontinuity to the general quiet that prevails here.  But it is a noise I adore, and look forward to more winged transients. 

The Weather Channel tells me that 90 degree temperatures await me tomorrow, but I know such things are simply the dying gasps of a season whose days are numbered.  Soon, the cove will be covered with migrating birds so thick you could walk across them as stepping stones, were they to accommodate you.  The sorghum will be harvested in our fields, which will be thick with resident deer who will pick over the leavings of the harvest.  I will rise in the dark and I soon will eat dinner in the dark--both of which are ok with me.

You can keep summer. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A New Gilded Age?

From high atop the lofty perch of unreality that is a tenured position at Harvard, comes this bit of doggerel from the the "Matthew J. Sterling, Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy" Dr. Alexander Keyssar.  Oh yeah-he's also a Huffington Post columnist. 

In his piece, Dr. Keyssar takes us on an historical walk through time, from the 1890's up to 1965, in which he lays out what he calls:

"...a truly grand bargain.  The terms were straightforward if not systematically articulated. Capitalism would endure, as would almost all large corporations. Huge railroads, banks and other enterprises — with a few exceptions — would cease to be threatened with nationalization or breakup. Moreover, the state would service and promote private business. In exchange, the federal government adopted a series of far-reaching reforms to shield and empower citizens, safeguarding society’s democratic character. First came the regulation of business and banking to protect consumers, limit the power of individual corporations and prevent anti-competitive practices. The principle underlying measures such as the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890), the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) and the Glass-Steagall Act (1933) — which insured bank deposits and separated investment from commercial banking — was that government was responsible for protecting society against the shortcomings of a market economy." 

After these measures, Keyssar moves onto praising labor law changes of the early 20th century, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid legislation of the 60'.  All of this is to support his contention that there was this "grand bargain", and that capitalism was allowed to survive (apparently Dr. Keyssar believes it was on its butt in the early 20th century) only because this fabric of social legislation was passed to smooth out its rough edges.
But now, "...that bargain — with its vision of balance between private interests and public welfare, workers and employers, the wealthy and the poor — has been under attack by conservatives for decades. And the attacks have been escalating."  And further...."  ...but viewed collectively, it’s difficult not to see a determined campaign to dismantle a broad societal bargain that served much of the nation well for decades. To a historian, the agenda of today’s conservatives looks like a bizarre effort to return to the Gilded Age, an era with little regulation of business, no social insurance and no legal protections for workers."

To a historian?  Well, maybe to a seriously politically biased historian.

Putting aside for the moment the acceptability that voters in 1890 bought into a "bargain" that in any way constrains us to day, has Dr. Keyssar paid ANY attention to the news of the past three years?  Has he seen the tremendous economic turmoil of the recession?  Has he any clue as to the cosmic debt crisis this country faces? 

Perhaps Dr. Keyssar might consider poking his head out of the Harvard faculty lounge long enough to realize that much of what he describes as enlightened social legislation is at least partially--and in some cases overwhelmingly--responsible for the pickle we now find ourselves in.

As the good Dr.'s field is history, perhaps he could take a quick demography class, and realize that life expectancy in 1935--the year Social Security was passed--was 59.9 for men and 63.9 for women.  The program allowed for benefits at 65.  Oh--and how about.....birth control?  In 1950, each retiree was supported by 16 workers.  Today, the number is 3.3.  It will be 2 workers for every retiree in 2025.  Fewer and fewer worker are supporting a pension benefit and healtcare for more and more aging Americans.  You're damn right Conservatives are trying to change things, because Dr. Keyssar--they simply can't go on as they were. Social security, medicare and medicaid are simply on unsustainable growth trajectories, largely because people like Dr. Keyssar continue to peddle the manure that we are somehow obligated or locked into a financial national suicide pact.

Unions and collective bargaining?  C'mon, Dr. Keyssar, we're in no danger of going back to sweatshops--the labor agenda of the first half of the 20th century is now public law, and millions of Americans walked away from unionization in the past 40 years because their rights were sufficiently protected WITHOUT a union, and unions were closely identified with corruption and organized crime.  Where unionization has increased is in the public sector, where politicians sit across the table from public sector union reps at negotiation time, and then seek support of those same reps next time they run.  The result is a public debt crisis at the state and local level that makes many of our states (can you say "California"?) look a lot like Greece.

Conservatives recognized a long time ago that the gravy train has to end, that we simply cannot sustain an advanced economy--let alone Dr. Keyssar's "bargain"--unless fundamental reforms are made.

Folks--this view--the view of Dr. Keyssar--is what underpins much of liberal thinking.  You need to read his piece--he sounds reasonable, and the things he seeks to protect seem worthy of protecting.  But who pays the bills?  What happens when the money runs out?  Dr. Keyssar issues his ruminations from Cambridge, where the rich and liberal of America send their sons and daughters to pay nearly $50K a year in tuition to have a socialist professor decry the excesses of a capitalist system which provided them with the means to send their future community organizers there.  Something is wrong folks,very wrong.  And I submit that Dr. Keyssar's approach is a big part of it.

Gilded Age, Dr. Keyssar?  No sir.  A new Age of Reason.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Let's Talk a Little Racism :)

Eric Holder said America is "essentially a nation of cowards" when it comes to issues of race. I could not agree more! For most people it's a minefield and, well, best not go there. I am not one of those people. I am immune to charges of racism because I freely admit I am a racist...according to Mr. Holder's understanding of the term. I couldn't help but be a racist because I am not a leftist, and by the way so are most of you.

The left is forever defining and redefining racism. We've seen it with many of President Obama supporters, you're either with him or you're obviously a racist. But what has Mr. Obama's policies done to the black community? This week Maxine Waters was railing about black unemployment, which she clearly blames on Obama. Is that racism? If it is by whom, Obama or the black community or Maxine Waters? Illiteracy is 49% in Detroit , a mostly black city run by black mayors for nearly forty years. Is that racism? By just about any measure blacks are little better off today than they were under the Jim Crow laws of the Old South (look it up). Which system is more racist, Lester Maddox's Georgia or Barack Obama's Welfare State?

The point is there is racism, but it comes in many guises. The left shouldn't be allowed to decide what is or isn't racism. Rick Perry is not Bull Connor, Bill Clinton was not the first black President, and I am not a racist because I oppose Mr. Obama and his leftist policies.

A Framework for Intervention

I generally do my defense and foreign policy stuff over on the other blog--I've got one up there today that offers a framework for humanitarian military interventions. 

Day 4: Romney HQ Des Moines, IA

Day 4 brought more phone calls.  Once we finished going through the 2008 precinct leaders, we then attacked a database of folks who at some point indicated that they were supporting Mitt in 2008--that is, a less committed group than those who served last time as precinct leaders.

As an outside political animal, you get inundated with the same crap over and over again (from Iowans) about why it is so important that their state be first, how they do the rest of our work for us, how retail politics vets candidates, yada, yada, yada--that you forget that maybe not all Iowans feel that way.  Lots of hangups yesterday from folks who either A) don't support Mitt anymore or B) think its too early to call.  Then again, some folks were ready to have a little chat--and those chats turn out to be a lot of fun.

Had one yesterday with a man who said that he and his wife are trying to chose between Michelle Bachman and Mitt Romney--this interested me, as from where I sit, the two are fairly wide apart on the political scale.  "They both seem like good, honest people" was the answer.  Hmmmm....Ok.  In the grand scheme of that which someone might use to vet a candidate--goodness and honesty have to rank up there.

We hit Hooters for lunch, and I of course--had wings.  An observation, if  you'll allow?  Have Hooters Girls moved away from the horrible orange shorts, the oppressive hose, and the little cut t-shirts?  Because what I was confronted with yesterday was some kind of a mix between a Victoria's Secret show and the Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  No two dressed alike, and all looked like they were appearing in 1986 Madonna videos.  Has there been a change of corporate policy?  Was I consulted?  Not that I'm complaining, of course.

Both Phil and Chris are off to do personal things today, so I decided to end my volunteer week in Iowa at the end of the day yesterday.  It was a great experience, and I'm glad I did it.  What it takes to elect someone President is HUGE, and looking at it from under the iceberg is a whole new perspective.  I'm looking forward to seeing what I can help whip up in Talbot County, MD when I get home.

Big Fat Friday Free For All

Coming to you live, from Downtown Des Moines, it is once again Big Fat Friday! What's on you mind?  Share, folks.  Share!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ron Paul has Enthusiastic Supporters

The evidence? One of them has taken out a full-page ad in a Texas paper, seeking anyone who may have had sex with Rick Perry.

The man running the ad, Mr. Robert Morrow, is the President of the Committee of Sexual Hypocrisy which helps women publicize their dealings with Christian-buzzword spouting family-values hypocrites. (Mr. Morrow is also the lone member of the Committee). He claims to know Perry is a womanizer because he himself is a frequest patronizer of strip clubs and has great contacts in the strip club world.

This is really sleazy, and is sure to bring out a bunch of frauds. I don't believe Perry is a womanizer, but even if he is and goes down in flames because of it, Ron Paul is hardly going to be the benefactor of that flame-out.

Day 3: Romney HQ, Des Moines, IA

I've settled into a routine here in Des Moines, and the week is nearly over.  Yesterday (Wednesday) was a good day, as I got to interact with voters a bit.

The day started early, and I banged out 4 hours of work work before heading over to HQ.  My "volunteer' day essentially is a 1030 to 5 or 5:30 gig, though its clear I can come and go as I please.  They are genuinely grateful to have any help that they can get.  Spent the first half of my day finishing off the database I'd been working on, which consisted of looking at the entries that were email addresses only and seeing if I would "walk the dog backwards" to fill out the rest of the info on them.  Some were surprisingly easy (for example, "bryan.mcgrath" in an email would be a big clue) but others were more difficult.

The last half of the day was spent calling 2008 precinct leaders and asking them to do the same job in 2012.  To recall, a precinct leader's job is to 1) do a 1 minute or so speech to the other assembled caucus-goers on behalf of the candidate and 2) build support for your man.  Most were not home, and I left a message on their voice mail.  Maybe a quarter answered the phone, and half of those re-upped for 2012. Those who didn't were--to be honest--simply too old, they felt like they couldn't be counted on to carry out the job.  My three days with Iowa voting roles leads me to believe the Republican Party here is 1) older and 2) more male than the average, even for an old and male party.  Every time I come across a 25 year old Republican female voter in listings, I want to dance a little jig....

Had a delightful conversation with a woman whose son was the target of the call, but who wasn't at home.  She was clearly an aged woman, but a pistol.  Full of opinions, mostly about Barack Obama (not good) and Michelle Bachman (not good either).  I kept it on the up and up, not wanting to be cited in a Des Moines Register article about campaign trash talk, and explained that we simply feel Mitt is the man for the time, etc...

One or two just said "no" and hung up.  Those were surprising, as these people had 1) served as precinct leaders before and 2) had already been called once simply to gauge their support for Romney.  I suggested it could be my Maryland cellphone number was off-putting (we aren't using a phone bank, just three guys sitting in a room on their cell phones) but the field director said to drive on.

For my gustatory pleasures, having skipped breakfast, I hit the Colonel for some grilled chicken at lunch time.  I'm not sure grilled chicken is much of a hit at KFC, as it seems about 50/50 that when I order it, there are only one or two old-maid pieces left.  At meal times.  So I bought two orig recipe thighs and wolfed them down.  After work (and 45 minutes of penance on the stationary bike) I headed down the street to the 801 Chophouse for a delightful 12 ounce filet mignon and Brussel sprouts.  Back to the room then, to plow through more of The Count of Monte Cristo.  A great book--but man, is it long....

I've convinced my two compatriots that we should alight to Hooters at lunch today, for the wings of course.  The intern (Chris) suggested a great cigar place close by also.  More tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


You can't pick up a newspaper or watch a cable show these days without some Democratic apparatchik claiming the stimulus was too small. The party line seems to be it saved us from a depression but to really get the economy going it needed to be at least twice as big (some have suggested 3 trillion... that's right, 3 trillion!). So, what we must do now is raise taxes immediately on the "rich" and spend, spend spend; this time around on infrastructure. Yeah, that's the ticket, infrastructure.

I vaguely remember FDR trying this very thing with the WPA. Oh we got some dams built but it did very little to revive the economy. Hank Morganthau (FDR's Treasury Sec.) said "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work ... After eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... And an enormous debt to boot!".

Adding to the confusion of our liberal friends is the fallacy that WW II with it's massive expenditures brought us out of the Great Depression. You may recall from Mrs. Piaski's tenth grade history class that Britain had been fighting two long years before the U.S. entered the war. Now the Luftwaffe made it very difficult for our British cousins to keep up with all the little things one needs in a war, so we gave the Brits lots of support with Lend-Lease and other programs. But before we gave Churchill his Gold AMEX, we emptied the Bank of England. A paying customer is what stimulated the American economy, not tax and spend or borrow and spend.

Government stimulus spending never works. It may improve one sector over another, but you are robbing Peter to pay Paul. The money is either coming out of the economy in the form of taxes, or out of the credit markets and thereby drying up money for productive private sector borrowing, or the government is printing money and diluting the value of the currency. Putting unearned money into the economy does nothing for productivity and creates dependency. It's like a perpetual motion machine, it sounds great and it looks good and by golly it just might work, but it never does.

Day 2: Romney HQ, Des Moines, Iowa

Sorry a bit late getting to this folks--I returned from dinner last night and settled in with "The Count of Monte Cristo" only to fall asleep with it....

Day 2:  much like day 1.  I awoke early, as is my custom, and did a bunch of admin work associated with the job I'm vacationing from in order to volunteer.  I hit the Marriott for a fat omelet and then headed in at 1030.  My day's labor?  Database management.  You see, the colossal database that I created the day before was had a number of dupes, and a significant amount of missing information.  I spent the day trying to find that information--sort of like detective work.  For instance--the database I am putting together has first name, last name, email, zip code and county.  That's it.  So let's say there's someone named Bill Shuster from Davenport, and his email is wmfshu@cfu.org.  There is no zip.  There is no country.  So I enter Bill Shuster into a database of Iowa voters into which the campaign has access--and I start hunting.  Perhaps it turns out six Bill Shusters.  Invariably, two will be registered dems--so I dismiss them leaving me with three R's and an independent.  The easy kill is to find someone named "William F. Shuster" who is a Republican--if I do, I consider it a match, locate his zip and county, and then consider it complete.  I did stuff like this all day, and there's probably another day's work left to complete the database.

The news of the day seemed to be Governor Perry's impolitic description of the Fed Chairman.  Don't know as I agree with the Gov on that one, but one has to wonder whether we'll hear more of that kind of political Turette's from  Perry.

After work, I had a steak at Outback (and the wings--way too much food) and then came back to the hotel where I apparently passed out from over-consumption.

Today I'm told, I'll be on the phones.  Here's why.  The Iowa Caucus  is a strange beast, unlike other electoral processes. On the big night, in order to register one's vote, you have to ALL SHOW UP at the precinct location at a certain time.  Once there, ALL THE CANDIDATES have reps who give a one or two minute final wrapup speech in support of their candidate (these are called Precinct Leads).  There are 99 counties in Iowa all divided up each into scores of precincts.  Therefore, a candidate looking to compete in the precinct needs to have a precinct lead identified and the appropriate talking points etc. provided to him or her.

Romney's campaign has the list of its precinct leads from last time, and we're going to start calling each of them to see if we can count on them to perform the same role in February.  Phil (the full-time staffer), Chris (the college student "intern") and I will make these calls all day, presumably. Chris is an Iowan, the son of a state pol and a college student in DC.  He's a smart kid, with an easy, ironic manner that makes me chuckle as I listen to his stories.

The big mystery to me (and to Jon Stewart, apparently) is why no one seems to take Ron Paul seriously.  I've written here that he will be a top three guy--probably all the way to the convention--because he can raise money and because he's got a message popular with many.  It mystifies me how he is so ignored--by the media and by the other campaigns.

Monday, August 15, 2011

By All Means Mr. Buffett...

please pay more. More in-depth analysis of the op-ed and policy ramifications here, here, and here. For my part, I don't understand why he doesn't just put his money where his op-ed suggests it ought to be compelled to go. "It's only right, but I'll only do it if you make me." That's just rich.

Walker's Wisconsin Win

No, I'm not talking about the recent recall elections, though they were nice.  The win I'm talking about is his policy win.  It seems that the good news keeps rolling in, news of school districts and local governments throughout the Badger State able now to close gaps in budgets AND keep teachers on the job.  Where is the mayhem?  Where is the destruction of Western Civilization as we know it?  Were not the very human rights of Wisconsin educators stripped from them by gubernatorial fiat?  Of course not.  That was just union, liberal, Democrat hyperventilation designed to do one thing, and one thing only--preserve and extend the union's power.  Walker called their bluff and we are beginning to see the wisdom of his ways.

Day 1: Romney HQ Des Moines Iowa

Let's start with the logistics.  I landed in Des Moines yesterday afteroon after two easy flights, switching planes in Memphis.  Grabbed my rental car (Prius--really like these things) at the airport and headed downtown--a 4.5 mile trip of no real consequence.  I checked into my way overpriced Hotel (it is a Hyatt--but apparently one of their lesser marques....) and then headed in search of vittles.  Ate a decent steak down the street from the hotel, then returned for the night to my iPad/Kindle app--I'm reading The Count of Monte Cristo and it is riveting....

I contacted Iowa Romney Director Sara Craig this morning, and she asked me to join them at 1030, after they'd gotten some meetings out of the way.  This enabled me to amble over to the Marriott, were I was told a better breakfast awaited me than in my hotel.   I downed a fabulous three egg omelet and was on my way.

Romney has a modest operation in Iowa this time around; he went for broke here in 2008 and then underperformed, sorta knocking him on his butt early.  This time, he basically ignored the straw poll and let Tim Pawlenty be the guy who bet everything on Iowa (Pawlenty even rented the same sprawling HQ building that Romney had then).  Romney is very much campaigning for the Iowa Caucuses in February--but just didn't feel the Straw Poll was worth the effort.  So the downscale operation is housed at the consulting firm where Sara works--and after some introductions and chatter about the big news (Gov. Perry is in town), I headed off to another office where I was put to work by Phil, a full-time staffer and a big Mitt fan.  Phil's 26 or so, and a graduate of Catholic U (got my MA there, so we had something to chat about).  Phil's been living and breathing Iowa for over a year, and he really seems to have a pretty deep understanding of what is going on, what Romney's strategy is, and how to make it happen.  Best of all though, Phil was ready for me, in that he had some tasks all lined up to put me on.

I can pretty much sum up my day's labor by saying that I merged databases.  Seriously.  I had a bunch of excel spreadsheets in various states of quality, which were the result of countless meetings/meet and greets throughout the state.  Order needed to be brought to this chaos--and that is just the kind of task I like.  And so, that is what I did--so that by the time I left this afternoon, I had thousands of names neatly arrayed with their emails, zipcodes and counties....which was what the folks "in Boston" want.  Far from complete, the product I left off with today has hundreds if not thousands of missing zips and counties that I will labor to locate via the interwebs and other useful databases which I have been given access to.

Governor Perry's entrance into the race was--as I said--big news here in Iowa.  I listened to a radio program this morning where he was the guest, and he acquitted himself well.  I'd like to see Perry and Bachman pick up where Bachman and Pawlenty left off, but I think Perry's going to aim squarely at Romney throughout.  We'll see how that shakes out.

It really is amazing how this place (Iowa) is obsessed with politics.  It's all over the newspapers, the news shows, the radio--and this is days AFTER the caucus is over.  I imagine it stays at a pretty fair level through the Fall and then gets ridiculous in November/December. Maybe I'll come back out for that....

So far, so good.  I liked doing what I did today--I know it sounds menial and boring, but it is necessary stuff and I think it will be helpful. 


Once again CW lives the life we all wish we could. He's off to Iowa to do a little politicking for the Romney campaign. Plus, the Iowa State Fair is happening now! I don't know about you, but I'm absolutely green with envy.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Off to Iowa

In a few hours, I'll be off to Iowa for a week of volunteering on the Romney for President effort there.  In an act of cosmic bad timing, I'll arrive the day AFTER the Iowa Straw Poll, which Governor Romney did not contest.  That's ok--Iowa's still a hotbed of activity, and it is a great place to see how things get done on the ground.  I have absolutely no idea what it is I'll be doing this week, but I do know that I'll be blogging here about it.  Always wanted to go to Iowa, so now I'll get my chance.  One disappointment is that the Des Moines minor league club is on the road all week--again, bad timing.

As for the Iowa Straw Poll and its results--well, that's what you get in a straw poll.  Whoever's got the most motivated ground game, ready to bus folks in from the four corners of the state...will win.  Rep. Bachman's got a good bit of support there, and Ron Paul's folks are always energized.  I wouldn't put too much credence on what happened there yesterday, especially given Governor Perry's entrance into the race.

I think initially, Perry's hat in the ring hurts everyone, but it hurts Romney least.  Let's face it--Perry and Romney are pretty different, even within the right portion of the spectrum.  My suspicion is that Perry will suck up the oxygen currently supplying Bachman, Cain, Santorum, Pawlenty and things will eventually turn into a two-man race between Perry and Romney--as differentiated choices.  That will be a good campaign, and it will provide 1) a clear choice for Republicans and 2) two men who would be better Presidents than Barack Obama. I certainly hope that the race remains civil--as at some point--Perry and Romney would make a pretty good ticket, irrespective of who leads it.

UPDATE:  T-Paw's out, not surprising.  A good man and an able Governor...but didn't catch fire.

Some guys go to baseball fantasy camp...I go to work on a campaign.  Whatever floats your boat, huh?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The 10 to 1 Question and the Republican Quandary

I believe Barack Obama becomes more beatable every day, though he should probably still be favored in 2012 at this point.  Republicans are making up ground, and the slate of candidates is getting plenty of exposure.  So far, so good.  Then we get to the debate the other night, and this question:

“Democrats will demand that savings come from a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, maybe $3 in cuts for every $1 in higher taxes,” York noted. “Is there any ratio of cuts to taxes that you would accept? Three to one? Four to one? Or even 10 to one?”

Every single one of them answered no.  There was no conceivable deal for them that involved even a token tax increase.  This my friends, is the nature of the Republican Quandary.  No matter who we nominate, Barack Obama will have sufficient evidence of the intractability and the extremism of the modern Republican Party, and he would need only point directly at this exchange.   He'll be able to say to moderate, swing voters (who I believe, are trending our way), "look--I'm the only hope you have against an onslaught in which these guys control everything.  Look how irrational they are--they'd walk away from a deal in which spending were cut 10 dollars for every 1 dollar.  They are worse than Yassir Arafat when it comes to not being able to recognize the deal of a lifetime.  You cannot trust the future of this country to them."  Do I believe this?  No.  Do I believe Dems will say it?  Absolutely.  Will it work?  Probably.

Every active Republican Presidential candidate save Rick Perry--who will almost certainly be asked this question immediately--is on the record as saying there were no formula in which they would support raising revenue/taxes.  Want to hear how I would answer that question?

"Byron, of course I would take that deal.  And you know what?  So would every other person standing on this stage--if they were the occupant of the White House.  Those who say they wouldn't are either lying outright or are not ready to be President.  Do you realize what this deal would mean?  It means you could balance the budget NEXT YEAR.  Not ten years down the road after we've piled up another couple of trillion in debt--but NEXT YEAR.  It means that in the course of one year, we could deprive the federal government of substantial portion of the drain it represents on private activity and free markets--unleashing the real and raw power of both.  I honestly don't care if the answer to this question means the end of my candidacy.  I'm not going to lie to my Party, and I'm not going to treat the Republican electorate like children from whom I withhold bad news.  So yes--I would take the deal."

What is AMAZING to me is that all eight of them thought that their chances of being nominated were good enough that they didn't need to (or shouldn't) differentiate themselves from the others on this question.  Some would say that is a sign of how strongly held the notion of no taxes is within the Republican Party.  Perhaps.  But I would suggest that it also bespeaks a certain level of "tell the primary voters what they want to hear and then tack back to the center in the general election" tactics.  I don't think that's what voters want anymore.  I think they want leadership.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Trouble With Romney...

It's been said that our best Presidents have been principled Republicans or unprincipled Democrats, in other words those who adhere to a clear political philosophy and those who are more pragmatic and go with the flow. I'll leave it to you to decide which presidents were which but in my view Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton are clear examples of the validity of this model.

So, where does Romney fit? Is he an ideologue or a pragmatist? Is he a Reaganite or a typical New England Republican in the mold of his political predecessors Jacob Javits, Lowell Weicker and Nelson Rockefeller (or more recently Judd Gregg and Arlen Specter)? At this point in time, can we afford a "centrist" Republican with a record of not only compromise with the opposition, but the wrong compromises. Can this man lead us in repealing Obamacare? Can he reform entitlements? Does Mitt Romney have the requisite belief in democratic capitalism to defend it from its depraved authoritarian detractors? Or, is he a "go slow Democrat", a RINO Republican who just wants to manage the welfare state better?

I think Romney's record speaks for itself. My conclusion is four years ago maybe, but at this point in time he is the wrong man (or woman) for the job.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wisconsin to Unions: PISS OFF!

This election could be devastating for the unions and the Democratic Party. A lot of money and resources were poured into this state with the intent of regaining the momentum lost in the mid-terms. And let's not forget, this is a home field loss, Wisconsin is a pro-union state.

I think the American people are starting to get it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a Hair Hero

In a move that makes us question no longer why their circulation is falling, the NY Times has declared Debbie Wasserman Schultz a 'Hair Hero.' Sez the Times: she's a serious, passionate voice for progressive politics in this country and she's not afraid to have hair that's passionate too.
I don't know about passionate hair, but every time I see a picture of this woman I'm reminded of the 'hair gel' scene in There's Something About Mary.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why Not Take Responsibility, Mr. Obama?

Barack Obama has spent two-and-a-half years blaming George W. Bush for virtually everything--but certainly for the economy he inherited.  Some of it--especially early on--hurt; because it was the truth.  But after a while, the "blame George" game became tired, and un-presidential.  Even the press (sorta) picked up on it.

Now, our credit rating has been lowered.  The market lost 5.5-6% of its value today, depending on which index you choose.  Markets are panicking, confidence is dropping, fingers are pointing, and alibi's are forming.  But what of taking responsibility?  What of taking charge?  What of owning up, and saying "the buck stops here?"

The President is failing on virtually every level these days; sadly, even the great triumph of the killing of Bin Laden appears diminished today as 30 lives are snuffed out in Eastern Afghanistan.  The war is his, now, just like the economy is his.  And while I would seriously like to see the President lose the next election, as an American, I'd like for him to lose from a position of strength--with the economy on the rebound and a spring back in the national step.  But how to get there.

Well--the first step is to lead.  Yep.  That's it.  Lead.  Stop blaming others.  It isn't the Tea Party, it isn't George Bush, it isn't the S&P and yes Mr. President--it really isn't you either.  Where we are is the result of a witches brew of dysfunction, and while it isn't Mr. Obama's fault--it is his JOB to work on turning it around.  Mr. Obama had a chance today, and he blew it.  Here's what he should have said in the Rose Garden today.  Actually, he should have said it in a statement from Camp David Saturday--waiting 72 hours was ridiculous.  But here goes.

"My fellow Americans.  On Friday, the Standard and Poors Corporation downgraded the credit rating of the United States one level, from AAA to AA+.  This is not a good thing--I won't try to tell you otherwise.  Since such things as credit ratings have existed, we have been AAA.  To be President at the time of this downgrade is not one of my proudest moments, and while it is too early to tell what the impact will be on our ability to borrow money to fund continuing operations of our government, the markets are rendering their judgment even as I speak."

"My administration made a mistake this weekend--I made a mistake.  We never should have questioned either the competence or the integrity of S and P in their judgment.  They made their decision, and after what we as a nation watched for the past six weeks, it is hard to argue that it wasn't a good decision."

"Ladies and Gentlemen--we are in a bind.  One party in our great democratic system largely rejects any attempt to raise additional revenue for the general treasury; and the other party largely rejects any attempt to rein in entitlement spending.  Given the size of our national debt and those two political realities, any body attempting to adjudge our fiscal health would be seriously questioned were they not to reach the same conclusion S and P reached."

"So--from this day forward.  No more blame.  No more talking about what I inherited.  No more blaming things on the Tea Party, or S and P.  No--we're out of the blame game, and I'm going to ask all of you to hold me to it.  My administration is now in the "get busy" game, and my single minded goal is to regain our AAA rating by the end of my first term".

"I'm betting my Presidency on this.  I believe that if--working with the Congress--I am able to help bring about economic and fiscal conditions that warrant our movement back to AAA--I will win a second term.  I will run and win on my record, or I will run and lose on it.  Nothing could be more simple.  From this day forward--any member of my administration who blames someone or something else for our problems--will get a warning from my Chief of Staff.   A second offense is a firing offense.  For myself and the Vice President--I'll let the national press do its job of holding us to our word, and the voters will then rehire or fire us as required in 2012."

"What, you may ask, if we haven't achieved the AAA rating by the time of the election?  Well, I trust the American people to make the right decision.  If we've put people back to work; if the markets are slowly and steadily growing; if we do what is right to get us back in the center of the channel and not headed toward the rocks---well then I believe I'll get four more years."

"So that's it.  No more blame.  Just action.  To that end, I am inviting John Boehner and Harry Reid to take office space in the White House.  West Wing.  I've kicked out a few of my assistants, and John, Harry and I are going to keep at this.  Now I know they've got lots to do--but nothing any of us does is more important than getting this ship back on course. I figure at the very least--we can spend Monday's talking and working.  Every Monday.  And probably some more time during the week.  We don't have "war cabinets" in the US, but that's sorta what I'm proposing.  If they want me to come over there once a week and work--well I'll do that too.  Just give me an office.  With a view."

"So no more recrimination, no more finger pointing, no more blame.  I've spent a lot of time in this office trying to compare myself to Ronald Reagan--but that's not what we need.  We need a little Harry Truman.  The buck stops here.  The buck stops with me.  Thank you."

Hil-la-ry! Hil-la-ry! Hil-la-ry

Ross Douthat's blog has a nice bit today on bitter Democrats who now wish that Hillary Clinton had won the nomination.  With the stock market tanking (again), unemployment stubbornly hanging about 9%, and debt for as far as the eye can see--Hillary's looking good again to a lot of disenchanted Dems. 

Well,  there's no way Hillary would have governed to the left of Mr. Obama--so THE MOST disenchanted Democrats--the far left--would hardly be in a better position had she won the nomination.

But my oh my, how sweet it would be if she jumped ship and mounted a primary challenge.  You know Bill's in the living room yelling "run baby, run!"  He'd LOVE another four years in the White House, even if it were as "First Gentleman".  The more Mr. Obama's presidency struggles, the more likely she is to consider a challenge.  She could wrap herself in patriotism and party, and she could win (the nomination).

Oh how wonderful that would be....

The Debt Clock

Have a look at this scary little widget.

Thanks to my favorite lefty Larry Grossman for the steer.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Renovation at One

Bagheera allows us to share his bed. 
That's right folks, we're now one year into our 7 month renovation (but who is counting?).  Here are some photos of the latest.

Barack Obama, Failed Storyteller

Don't read this post on a full stomach, as you may have the opportunity to re-experience its contents.  It seems that Barack Obama is letting down his base, and into the fray rides Drew Westen, an academic and Democratic activist (but I repeat myself) to explain why this is.  Apparently, the man who has used more words in public in 2.5 years than all of his predecessors combined (ok, that's not true.  But it feels that way and darn it, what I feel is what is important--not what is, dammit)  has failed in his job of constructing and retelling a compelling vision or narrative.  Dr. Westen would have had the President say the following at his inaugural in January of 2009: 

“I know you’re scared and angry. Many of you have lost your jobs, your homes, your hope. This was a disaster, but it was not a natural disaster. It was made by Wall Street gamblers who speculated with your lives and futures. It was made by conservative extremists who told us that if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. But it didn’t work out. And it didn’t work out 80 years ago, when the same people sold our grandparents the same bill of goods, with the same results. But we learned something from our grandparents about how to fix it, and we will draw on their wisdom. We will restore business confidence the old-fashioned way: by putting money back in the pockets of working Americans by putting them back to work, and by restoring integrity to our financial markets and demanding it of those who want to run them. I can’t promise that we won’t make mistakes along the way. But I can promise you that they will be honest mistakes, and that your government has your back again.” 

First of all, that someone with multiple degrees would believe this gack is incomprehensible.  But it is the standard liberal line never to "blame the victim" so it must have been the "Wall Street gamblers" (who supported candidate Obama in droves...) and not its countless co-conspirators, like Barney Frank, Acorn, Fannie and Freddie and George Bush's "ownership society".  And it certainly wasn't the grasping and rapacious American public who believed it was a human right to live in and and "own" a 3000 square foot colonial with granite counters.   But I digress.

Dr. Westen believes that the President has lost his passion, that his capacity to ride the fence and lead from behind is not serving the country well.  It is indeed sad that Dr. Westen's "thrill" is gone.  But Westen buries in his fourscreen cri de coeur a "possibility" for why Mr. Obama has turned out to be such a disappointment.  And here, Westen gets it right:

A second possibility is that he is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted "present" (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues. 

Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then.  And you've found it, Dr. Westen.

Hollywood to the Rescue!

Maureen Dowd's column this morning contains the usual Dowd-esque drivel, with one exception-her mention that a film chronicling the bin Laden killing will be released in October 2012.

The White House believes this will be an October surprise. They're counting on a portrayal that will 'no doubt reflect the President's cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds.'

Vanity Fair describes it this way: if the Barack Obama character is portrayed as a strong leader whose military savvy wrought great success and security, it could improve the President's image among audience members. It might even convert some undecideds.

Refresh my memory on how many voters were moved by Fahrenheit 911 in 2004?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Hey S&P--Didn't you hear? We compromised!"

Here's what Standard and Poor's thinks of our 'great compromise' in the debt ceiling debate. Problem is, we failed to make the cuts necessary to secure ourselves the AAA rating from S&P. Sure, we're still AA+ (reminds me of today's self-esteem-based grading systems) but until we get a hard and fast $4T in debt reductions, they just aren't ready to put their own good, albeit odd, name on the line to say we made enough of a course change to head ourselves away from the deficit spending shoals. And they have little confidence that Washington has the je ne c'est quoi to do the necessary follow on work they left hanging out until after the election. If Bush had made pushing corrective action until after the election a single deal breaker on any legislation, our health care system would have buckled under the epidemic of apoplexy from the left. Yet it received nary a sniffle of attention. Hey, but we got that compromise. Woohooo!!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Media CAN Locate a Transcript

The Huffington Post brings us the breaking news today that Texas governor Rick Perry was a lousy student at Texas A&M.

This is news, claims HuffPo, because apparently he has some ideas regarding the Texas university system that have been deemed controversial...by the Washington Post. And surely the reason that he wants to make changes to the system, says HuffPo, is because he performed so poorly in it.

You can read the Post's piece here and determine if you think it's controversial, but that's not really the point of this post. Turns out, it really is easy to obtain a Presidential candidate's college transcript.

I personally don't care all that much about O's college transcripts, but why ARE they under lock and key? And why doesn't the press have any interest whatsoever in unearthing them?

Reportedly Perry was a fine 'yell leader.' (And apparently he came into his stunning good looks later in life).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

While weeding out my email inbox this morning, I stumbled across a note from none other than Michelle Obama. Subject line: Gray Hairs. Read and enjoy along with me:

'Every day, I see Barack make choices that he knows will affect every single American family. That's no small task for anyone - and proof that he's earning every one of those gray hairs.

This has been a busy week in Washington, but today happens to be Barack's 50th birthday. I'm writing to you because this year, the girls and I would like to do something different. I'm asking friends and supporters of this campaign to wish him a happy birthday by signing his card, and sharing why you're on this journey with us.

Your names and notes will become part of a book that tells the story of this campaign-who's building it, why we're in this thing, and what he means to us. We'll send a copy to Barack and send one to our campaign offices across the country.

Sign the card for Barack: http://mybarackobama.com/Birthday-Card

It still amazes me that no matter how many decisions and distractions he's faced with every day, he's always able to focus on the bigger picture. One way he does that is by making time for stories and letters from people like you--because he knows this job isn't about him, but the millions of folks around the country he's fighting for. '

A golden opportunity to tell him just what he means to us. Go ahead, Hammer.

We're All Racists Now

I knew we crackers are racist, I just didn't know it was genetic.

Unfortunately we're going to see a lot more divisive reporting and editorials along these lines from the media as they try to energize the President's base. The numbers crunch like this: Minorities and the hard left account for about 35% of the vote. Out of that vote most would never consider voting for a Republican, but they may stay home. Obama's only option is to play the race card and the class warfare card to get these people going. He'll worry about making up the difference with independents later.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Great, We Won?

Before we start looking forward to all the prosperity our wise and tireless politicians have bestowed upon us, maybe we should read the fine print. I think you'll find not much has changed other than the Obama-Card now has 2.4 trillion more "No Hassle" reward points. And lest we forget, Mr. Obama doesn't have to deal with these tawdry and vulgar money issues again until after reelection.

And what was it exactly we got?

Krugman Gets the Vapors

Taking to his divan, NYT Opinion Columnist and Nobel Price Economist (got to say that!) Paul Krugman is suffering from a case of post-deal vapors.  Poor fellow.  

It's kind of fun watching the Times' two best female opinion columnists (Krugman and Maureen Dowd) vie for the title of who is more let down by men.

Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titantic--or--We Have a Deal

It looks like the President and the Congress--its leaders at least--have come up with a deal to raise the debt limit.  It is notable for a few of things:  1) no tax or revenue increase; 2) the cut to the defense budget is $350B over ten years (less than the $400B the President had called for and the $800B in many of the competing visions); 3) it grants the government borrowing authority through the 2012 election; 4) it projects "spending cuts" of up to $2.7 trillion over ten years, though only about $1.0 trillion is up front--the rest would theoretically come as the result of a "tri-partisan" commission (whatever that means) that will meet this year to find the rest of the cuts.  If it doesn't, automatic "triggers" would then kick in which would cause draconian cuts in discretionary spending; 5) it sets the stage for a balanced budget amendment vote in both chambers.  Ok, now some analysis.

First of all, although I find him to be an insufferable prig, Ezra Klein of the Washington Post has a pretty good rundown on the deal and how the triggers and such work.  Read it here

The deal does one thing well--it provides for the debt ceiling to be raised, in two stages, averting the crisis of default.  The first stage would occur immediately and the second stage, next year.  This appears to be the President's major victory in all this--that he would not have to deal with another messy debt ceiling fight in the 2012 Presidential Election year.  On much of the rest, he compromised. 

The deal cuts spending--but on the whole, not very much.  The deck chairs on the Titanic have been rearranged.  The real culprit in our certain decline into insolvency--health care--remains virtually untouched.  Yes, there is a provision in the trigger mechanism to cut medicare provider reimbursements, but such cuts serve only to drive providers from the system, creating new political pressures on the Congress to reverse them.

There are no revenue additions in the plan--either tax hikes or adjustments to revenue expenditures.  This is a short term victory for Republicans, though it may be Pyrrhic.  Broadening the tax base to generate sufficiently predictable revenue was part of the Bowles-Simpson recommendations AND it is part of Saint Paul of Ryan's Roadmap.

The agreement to hold votes on a balanced budget amendment is an interesting one--this will cause quite a stir in the Senate (though it could still be filibustered) as there are a number of vulnerable Dems up for re-election who might find it hard to buck current Democratic thinking on the issue.  We'll have to wait and see.

So--everybody got something they wanted--the President got the debt ceiling raised until his (hoped for) second term.  The House Republicans got spending cuts equal to the debt limit increase (sort of) and a balanced budget amendment vote in the Senate.  I'm sure Congressional Democrats got something out of the deal (lest they would not have agreed to it), but I'm not sure what it is.

As for real reform, this "deal" does nothing.  It does nothing to reform our ridiculous tax code which punishes work, investment and saving.  It does nothing to control spiraling out of control entitlement spending, especially on heath care.  It sets up yet another "commission" to come up with another trillion and a half dollars in cuts which--if they aren't agreed upon--trigger draconian cuts to discretionary spending that no Congress will actually make. 

What did the deal do?   It moved the iceberg just a little bit farther on the horizon.   But it is still there, and we're headed right for it. 
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