Friday

Health Care at a glance...


Your New Health Care System



Rube Goldberg would be proud.






Had enough yet?

Three Charts that Will Infuriate Taxpayers

"Every small-government voter should see these graphs — and vote on Election Day."

Health care disaster, bloated Public salaries and pensions and Union handouts, and all the while the private sector is crumbling beneath a crushing new wave of regulation and proposed tax hikes... People losing their health care they were assured they could keep if they liked, health care costs going up and in some cases spiking when we were promised this would bend the cost curve to magically make things cheaper, unemployment hovering just below 10% (minus the people who have given up looking as hopelessness has set in) when we were assured things would improve to at least 8% if we just let the government spend us a trillion dollars further into debt...

And yet Obama thinks he just isn't selling this to us well enough, because that's the *only* reason people could be this ready to dump him and his party. Blitheringly stupid arrogance... there's no other way to describe it.

Though, what I should have said, is people are losing their health care they were promised they could keep if they liked unless of course their company gets special dispensation from our new health care high priests on a case by case basis because treating citizens unequally under the law has always worked out for us so well before... /sarcasm






Tuesday

O'Donnell Flunks 1st Amendment

Christine O'Donnell: "Where in the Constitution is the Separation of Church and State?"



Republican Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell today challenged her Democratic opponent Chris Coons on his statement that the Constitution disallowed the integration of religion into the federal government, asking, "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?"

Not surprising when this is the quality of the candidate the Republicans run, it's one of the few "safe" seats for the Democrats in an otherwise deservedly horrible political climate.

1st Amendment to the United States Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."


Of course, O'Donnells campaign is now trying to back pedal from her horrid performance by saying that she was merely pointing out that the words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the 1st Amendment, which while factual, entirely misses the point.

The words "separation of church and state" appear in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists in 1802:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." -Thomas Jefferson

but the concept in principle is clear in the 1st Amendment itself. It's further backed by comments from James Madison, the principle drafter of the Bill of Rights:

"practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government is essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States." -James Madison

"We are teaching the world the great truth that Govts. do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Govt." - James Madison


These should make it clear that the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment was not an afterthought or unimportant, but vital to the full meaning of it's text. And, it is absolutely essential in practice to prohibit that establishment in order to guarantee full religious liberty in this country, or in fact, anywhere. People must be free to exercise their religion, but also necessary to safeguard religious liberty is the prohibition against the government establishing religion and thus forcing someone elses religion on you against your will. This has been backed up by a plethora of Supreme Court precedent.

The far religious right would like you to think this solely means that the government can not establish a recognized national religion, but this is entirely disingenuous in the same way that the far left would like you to think that the 2nd Amendment only guarantees the right to form militias and does not guarantee individuals the right to bear arms. It's highly selective reading of a very broad statement which utterly ignores the context of the time in which it was written. Indeed, it is entirely insufficient to merely protect an individuals right to freely exercise their religion when a government is still free to engage in preferring one religion over another or over no religion at all, if your ultimate goal is to maintain the highest standard of religious liberty.

Only when it is your goal to begin trampling on the sacred civil liberty of religious freedom will you find it inconvenient to have that establishment clause intact. That desire is the result of a religious majority which wants to begin imposing its will upon religious minorities and curtailing freedoms, rather than a will to protect the religious liberty of the majority. In principle it is the same as the conflict between your fundamental right to life and to pursue happiness. While a deplorable way to be, a person might find that in order to pursue their own happiness they might like to kill or harm another person. But your right to pursue happiness in this case ends where another persons right to life begins. Thus, you are not fully free in the sense that this is not a system of anarchy. In that same way, your right to freely exercise your religion ends where another persons right to not have the government establish religion over them begins.

It's an important concept, and tied directly into the question of Intelligent Design vs. the scientific theory of Evolution and whether or not public schools have the right to teach I.D. or Creationism in class. In terms of Creationism, we have settled law on the matter which prohibits schools from doing this as it violates the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment. Dressed up in another format however, it's become Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory, despite some extraordinary claims by it's proponents. It makes a claim much like Creationism it's predecessor that is ultimately grounded in the supernatural, and thus not falsifiable by empirical tests. It is not science by design in fact, it is pseudoscience, and more of a political movement with the sole intent of bypassing the Constitution and begin teaching Creationist ideas in public once again.

This is why in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in 2005, Judge John E. Jones III ruled:

"The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board's ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

and probably why the voters in PA decided to eliminate all 8 Dover school board members who voted in favor of forcing Intelligent Design into the school science curriculum right afterwards.

But apparently Christine O'Donnell doesn't understand that. Of course, her brilliant mind also can't come up with basic Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with, including Roe vs. Wade when asked, not on the spot or as some sort of "gotcha" media as was often quoted against Sarah Palin by the far right, but as part of a political debate she supposedly prepared for. And then, she had no idea what the 14th and 16th Amendments were either... but who can fault her when at 27 minus two (18 & 21) which basically nullify each other we have so many that no human could *possibly* remember them all?






Don't Ask Don't Tell Suspended

Judge orders military to stop enforcing 'don't ask, don't tell'

"U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' permanent worldwide injunction orders the military "immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced" under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy."

This is welcome news, it's about time the discriminatory practice was halted. Our fellow gay and lesbian citizens who bravely and actively choose to serve our country deserve our respect and our thanks, not our derision. I also have full faith that our national defense will not be compromised by the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell, because I think those who fear that our military's morale will be undermined by the decision simply severely underestimate the strength of character our veterans and active service members possess.






Wednesday

Bi-partisan Opposition to the Health Care Law

POLL: Dislike of healthcare law crosses party lines, 1 in 4 Dems want repeal

"President Obama predicted in the spring that the new law would become popular as people learned more about it. But the poll shows Republicans strongly oppose it, independents are wary of it and a surprising number of Democrats also want it overturned."

I'm surprised the numbers of Democrats surveyed are as high as they are opposed to the health care law (and maybe this is just poor polling, who knows...) but it appears the opposition to the health care law is growing stronger, not weaker with time as more of it's failure is becoming apparent, and that opposition is g...rowing into a bi-partisan force. Repeal will be difficult, particularly so long as Obama remains President, but the voter unease about the law may have the fundamentals to support it eventually.






Congress Can't Repeal Economics

Congress Can't Repeal Economics

"It's raining! I don't like it! Why hasn't Congress passed the Good Weather Act and the Everybody Happy Act? Sound dumb? Why is it any dumber than a law called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which promised to cover more for less money?"

Turns out the Patient Protection & "Affordable" Care Act did "bend the cost curve"... it just bent it upwards and will continue to do so at a staggering and alarming rate.

Why?

There's no such thing as a free lunch. It's a simple statement, but it's economic meaning is clear, there's always an opportunity cost. Those extra costs being dumped on to people who didn't have to bear them before are going to mean that many who liked the insurance they had, will no longer be able to keep it, contrary to the promise of our President.

Which makes the next article I'm about to link, not all that surprising...






Monday

"One Nation" Union Rally Flops

At 'One Nation' rally, a unionized show of unity

"Organizers will deny that the march was a total union job, compared to the more grassroots character of tea party gatherings. And it's true that union allies like the NAACP also played a big part in staging "One Nation Working Together." But it's safe to say the rally would have been nothing without labor's money and organizing strength."

The "One Nation" rally in D.C. appears to have flopped. Credible independent and non-partisan estimates conclude it was only about 1/3 the size of Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally.

I don't like Glenn Beck. He's darkly amusing in a paranoid and outrageous unintended comedic sense, but as for politics, he's crazy. Every time I've listened to him it just seems to be one big conspiracy theory bleeding into another.

I'm also put off by his insistence that I need to worship his God in order to really put this country on the right path. When that's used as a major divisive issue, it's going to leave me disconnected. I don't understand why when I'm basically someone in favor of similar fiscal policy, I've got to be made a target to be looked at as something foreign and "other". It's the same major problem that I have with the Republican party at large, the inevitable descent into the culture wars...

But the aftermath of the two different rallies leaves a stunning difference evident. Beck did hawk his rally for a very long time, so there was some marketing advantage to his right off the bat, but the "One Nation" rally had the backing of Big Labor, including groups which *required* their members to attend.

Cursory glances through YouTube & Google images (with a healthy dose of skepticism in case of doctoring) show not only crowd size differences, but a very different outcome after they dispersed. There was very little litter left after Beck's rally while massive amounts of pre-printed Union signs and trash left all over the national parks, and memorials to our fallen after the Union one. And while the crazy fringe was toned down at Beck's rally at his specific request (because let's face it there's been a lot of crazy signs at many other Tea Party rallies & protests by seemingly unhinged individuals), there were plenty of extreme Socialist, Communist groups at the Union one.

I'm not sure where that leaves things. I think it should probably frighten the crap out of the Democrats. I'm also wary of turning things over to people who may misread the change in leadership to not just be mandate to get our fiscal house in order by cutting the governments size and it's burden upon us, but to also start demanding that we all start conforming to their religion as well.

I guess that leaves me interested to see what Jon Stewart & Steven Colbert can drum up though at the end of the month. Of any of the rallies, that's the one I'd want to attend.






Friday

MA Gov Race: Tim Cahill's Running Mate Quits

APNewsBreak: Cahill running mate quitting race

"Independent gubernatorial candidate Timothy Cahill suffered another high-level defection Friday, as his running mate Paul Loscocco announced he was abandoning his campaign for lieutenant governor and instead endorsing Republican Charles Baker."

I guess Tim Cahill is finished. His numbers were already in the tank, but this will probably be more devastating than he will be able to recover from. I'd liked Tim Cahill until he started running full bore on pro-Union stances subsequently tarnishing the fiscally sound footing he started on.

I guess that leaves a pretty clear choice for Massachusetts residents now.

The race is likely down between Charlie Baker and Deval Patrick at this point, statistically it was that way anyway, but now I have to wonder if Cahill will swallow his pride and step out.

Thankfully from my perspective, there's no social conservative in the race. Charlie Baker while a Republican, is unabashedly pro-same sex marriage (even walked in the gay pride parade to show his support), pro-choice, pro-stem cell research, pro-evolution while supporting a business friendly approach to government. That's big for me, that points to his true Libertarian principle that he'd bring to governing the State.

So, while there isn't a lot of difference then socially between Baker (R) and Patrick (D) there is a massive difference between them fiscally.

Deval Patrick has raised taxes on us 8 times since taking office (and I will admit I voted for him), and has hedged on whether he'd respect the will of the voters if we opt to roll back the sales tax through a proposition. He's backed increasing the gas tax in the State by a whopping 19 cents a gallon. He's backed the federal plan to sell out MA children to lower median standards in education from the MCAS that kept us at the top of the country in terms of school performance, all to take in what amount to chump change for the budget. He's done that while simultaneously caving to union demands to inhibit the growth charter schools which have shown to be proven methods to help close the achievement gap suffered by those in failing inner city schools. Patrick also denied the citizens of MA the freedom to build and operate casinos, quashing the job creation this could have spurred in a time of economic pain (and not stopping people from gambling anyway who simply cross State lines to give their business to casinos like Fox Wood and Mohegan Sun in CT), all because he was too arrogant to accept defeat in a game of political chicken with the Democratic legislature which had the audacity to authorize two slot parlors instead of the one Patrick wanted.

And while Patrick is busy figuring out how he can keep pilfering more and more out of the taxpayers pockets? In just the first months as Governor, he spent $11,000 on drapes for his office in the State House, changed the States car lease over to Cadillacs from Ford Crown Victorias, and hired a staff assistant for $75,000 a year for his wife. He admitted his mistake and reimbursed the State for the drapes and covered the difference for the car, and let the staff assistant resign, but is this the kind of instincts you want in fiscal judgment from someone who is the last resort and stop gap against an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature? Building on that *solid* record of judgment, in 2008 he appointed a neighbor who contributed heavily to his campaign for Governor to the newly appointed position of Director of Real Estate Services... at $120,000 a year when the State was already facing a $1.4 BILLION budget shortfall.

Massachusetts is on the path to face the same sort of meltdown California is currently experiencing in terms of overpromised benefits to the public sector while it keeps squeezing the life out of the private sector and creating incentives for business to leave the State and set up elsewhere that isn't so hostile.

The Legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic. The chance of any meaningful check and balance in the system within the Legislature is non-existent. The Governor is the last chance to drop some common sense into the political process with their veto pen when the system is as brokenly out of balance as it currently is on Beacon Hill.

So the question is: If both choices you have for governor are socially liberal and don't appear to be a threat to civil liberties... Do you want a rubber stamp on profligate spending and an ever expanding tax burden and put the pedal to the metal on government growth? Or do you want some kind of check and balance available to question whether we can afford to keep on this path?

I liken the situation to cell growth and cancer. When the body is functioning normally, your cells reproduce at a normal rate and things stay in balance... but if cancerous cells start growing out of control? Untreated, that usually leads to death.

I may not be in this State forever, but I'd like to not contribute to killing its economy by letting the government grow out of control and crowd out private sector investment. The government is great at confiscating value and redistributing it. And make no mistake, there is a place for some of that so long as it's done in a sensible and limited manner, because the private market is certainly not perfect and there are real human concerns which do need to be attended to which aren't always able to be addressed through pure capitalism.

But it takes the private sector to create and generate real value. You can't keep enjoying golden eggs when you kill the goose that lays them.

So, I'll be voting accordingly.






Thursday

More Health Care Disruption Courtesy of "Reform"

McDonald's May Drop Health Plan

"Having to drop our current mini-med offering would represent a huge disruption to our 29,500 participants," said McDonald's memo, "It would deny our people this current benefit that positively impacts their lives and protects their health—and would leave many without an affordable, comparably design alternative until 2014."

"McDonald's move is the latest indication of possible unintended consequences from the health overhaul."

Weren't you supposed to be able to keep your insurance if you liked it under the "Affordable" Health Care for America Act? Wasn't that the promise from our President and the Democrats?

Turns out, like most of their other fairy tale promises on this, it's a load of bs. And the pain of the slow drip poison they've intravenously fed into all of us hasn't even really begun.

Of course, according to some arrogant sobs on the far left, these plans weren't worthy of being called insurance anyway:

Ronald McDonald v. Health Care Reform -Jonathan Cohn

Yep, that's right, no protection at all is apparently better than some you can afford. Oh, that's right, it's not the intent to get people affordable health care, the intent is to force people to rely on an overreaching government to control your life. How convenient then, this law is already beginning to destroy the coverage people once had, and will lead to massive cost spikes as already admitted by the Congressional Budget Office, which will force even more people from the plans they once had and enjoyed...






Libertarians more credible than Democrats on Gay Rights

Libertarians fight to break cycle of battered gay voter syndrome

"President Obama and the Democrats had almost a year of complete control of the federal government: the Presidency, the House, and a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate. They could have repealed 'don't ask don't tell.' They could have gotten rid of the Defense of Marriage Act. But they didn't do either of those things. That's a complete and total betrayal of all the promises they made to gay and lesbian voters for years."

I'm a registered Independent, not a Libertarian party member, though obviously my political leanings are their direction, and I don't try to hide that fact. But, I think they have a very good point here, and I wanted to share it.






Democrats sacrifice Social issues to Progressive Fiscal Irresponsibility

ObamaCare’s First Major Casualties: Gays and Aliens

"It takes hard work to squander the kind of political clout Democrats have in this Congress, but they have managed quite nicely as yesterday’s debacle with the defense appropriations bill eloquently demonstrates."

Democrats had massive majorities in the House, and a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, as well as controlling the Presidency, and yet the Democrats supporters are still whining that the Republicans are the ones who stood in the way of their "progress".

Let's be clear as the President likes to say. Yesterday's filibuster of the defense appropriations bill was predictable and unfortunate. Republicans stood against it, and the opposition to it was even bi-partisan as some Democrats stood against it as well.

The bill would have ended "Don't Ask Don't Tell" the discriminatory practice which bars the hard working and courageous men and women who fight and defend our nation from openly admitting to being gay or lesbian if they are - and which has lead to the dismissal of qualified service members from our armed forces at a time when military recruitment has been suffering. Israel, one of the best military fighting forces in the world has had gay and lesbian service members serving their country for a long time. To think that the United States of America would not remain the most advanced and powerful military might in the world if we allowed gay and lesbian citizens to defend our country is almost beyond belief. I think it's on the way out. I can understand some of the objections to the bill yesterday, at least in terms of waiting for the military to make their reports as was originally agreed, but this policy needs to be terminated one way or another. The military will adjust, and they will be just as strong afterward, there is good reason we have such faith in them as a nation.

The bill would also have allowed a pathway to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants, who know no other home but our country, who have no "home" in their parents native countries to go to, and who do not find themselves in their predicament of their own fault. We stand as a nation to benefit from the productive lives they can live here, as they contribute to our economy, and continue to assimilate just as every wave of immigrant children have done in this country in the past. So it's difficult to see something like this blocked, when it didn't need to be as controversial as it wound up being.

But the fault has to be laid at the feet of the Democrats, and particularly with the ugly way they decided to play the game with their health care reform fiasco. They had overwhelming majorities able to enact what they would have willed over the last two years, but rather than trying to form a sensible compromise on legislation in towards the center, they left their far left and extreme flank run wild and dictate the terms of how legislation was going to go forward. Those extreme progressives still did not get everything they wanted and may still be disappointed, but they prevented any sort of reasonable and bi-partisan compromise from occurring - and soured the relationship between the parties to the hyper-partisan levels that we are currently experiencing.

And so, when sensible legislation like this comes along, when compromise certainly *could* have been had here, there's no political good will or capital left to be spent from the other side. All it would have taken was the inclusion of a few of the good ideas the Republicans actually had in the health care debate to be inserted into legislation, things like allowing insurers to compete across State lines, or tackling tort reform, and we might have seen a different end. Instead, the Democrats decided they wanted to get ugly and flat out rejected compromise towards Republican positions that weren't being required by their own moderates.

So here we are... 40 days before the election which is looking to be a Republican landslide, and the Democrats having squandered their opportunity to lead on health care reform the public isn't growing fonder of as they claimed we would, but in fact more resistant to. The great aspects of social liberalism have been sacrificed to the worst elements of their fiscal liberalism, and in return the country is probably going to punish them for it. It's sad, and ultimately rather pathetic.






Government Motors Failure

GM: Car-buncle On The Body Politic

"The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported that after two years of government cash and stewardship by handpicked political operatives, the company would have to sell its stock at $134 just to break even and pay back its bailout. That's $39 higher than the stock's historic high, reached in 2000 at the top of the SUV and credit boom.

In short, don't count on it."


Your hard earned money taken from you as tax dollars at work...

GM has only repaid under 10 billion of the loan we were forced to grant them as a handout to the Democrats union supporters, with around 40 billion still owed back in the form of stock at this point. If we're to break even - just to break even, not to make any sort of actual return like we might have done if the cash had been used wisely - then GM's stock after their IPO will need to hit records they've never come close to achieving before. And don't forget the extra handouts they gave to them in the form of "Cash for Clunkers" which is currently hurting those at the bottom of the economic ladder the most since massive amounts of perfectly serviceable used cars were literally destroyed creating a lack of cheap vehicles on the market and driving prices for those vehicles to record unattainable highs.

"The Money Hole" from The Onion appears to be pretty on target...







Lower taxes lead to economic growth? Amazing!

Swedish conservatives bucked the recession by lowering taxes – and won re-election

"Fredrik Reinfeldt... His response to the recession was to cut taxes, a move his critics said the country could not afford. The European Commission warned him it would end in tears. But instead, the lower taxes were a spur to growth and Sweden now has the fastest-growing economy in the Western world...."

Lower taxes lead to economic growth? Amazing! It's almost like when the government stops pilfering major amounts of money out of the private sectors pockets, they have more cash to spend on hiring new people, creating new jobs, and investing in new capital. Who would have thought?






Monday

Efficient Government, Not Anarchy

The Anti-Government Straw Man

Last week, Congressman Paul Ryan and I published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Size of Government and the Choice This Fall.” The article argues that Americans must make a choice in favor of their traditional free enterprise system or else they will lose it. Why? Because otherwise the choice will be made for them—a rejection of free enterprise and an embrace of big government, not in one fell swoop but one seemingly small, creeping government expansion at a time.

I linked the article being referenced a week ago, and was following some of the articles written in reaction to it. I think Brooks makes an important point. We are not choosing between anarchy and utter totalitarianism, but between views which can pull in those directions. Now, I don't completely buy the Republican ...line on wanting smaller government, again they like big government meddling in your personal life even if you aren't harming anyone, in contrast to the Libertarian platform. But the idea is good if usually flawed in Republican execution.

But limited and smaller government do not mean anarchy, and those who would try to spook you away from that liberation by invoking it's spectre usually do so maliciously. Those seeking smaller government are not looking to become a failed state like Somalia, as is often times the usual joke made on the far left these days.

There is a place for the State to enforce just law, law which protects the people from which it derives it's legitimacy from harm from each other or outside forces while maintaining their freedom of those people so long as they do not violate others rights - part of which includes enforcing property rights. There is a place for government to step in when private markets fail to deliver due to various market failures as Brooks makes mention of in his piece. There is a place for fire & police protection, for public education, protecting consumers against monopoly power, or negative externalities like pollution... as well as having a minimal and efficient social safety net.

What becomes problematic is when the government tries to expand beyond these sensible limits. When that happens, tyranny begins to become a factor. Special interest groups either with money or a direct line to powerful ears start to take more from people than they'd otherwise be able normally - leading to abominations like the auto-bailouts and other forms of corporate welfare. It will lead to others feeling like they are entitled to make other decisions for you, like what kinds of chemicals you are allowed to imbibe or smoke so long as you don't act in ways which are dangerous to others - or what kinds of health care decisions you are allowed to make... "Death Panels" were overblown and still are for now, but it's only a matter of scale and scope when you get down to it, being forced to wait for treatments on the say so bureaucrats is a step in that direction ultimately. And, though I lack the time to write more as I need to get to class, there are many many other examples I'm sure you've read me ranting about over the course of my posts.

And so this is why it's necessary to tangle with keeping the government under control. Again, handing power to the Republicans certainly doesn't guarantee that will happen, but presently they seem to be listening to the deafening demand of the electorate to at least do this economically and get their crap in line.

The alternative is to just keep walking down the road to eventual serfdom unless you are one of those ruling elites.






Saturday

Record Federal Spending...

Hey, Look at Me, I'm a Conservative Dupe or, What Part of Massive Increases in Federal Spending Don't You Understand?

"It's Bush's spending policies - recall that he increased inflation-adjusted outlays by 104 percent! - that were his major contribution to deficits, not his tax cuts."


Something to bear in mind in the current tax-lapse debate...

Did the Bush Tax Cuts add to the deficit? Yes, but the larger contribution came from increased spending, something libertarians have been and at this point the far right are also lambasting the Republicans from the last 10 yrs about. At least they're starting to get that has to change, that "Fiscal Responsibility" aren't just words, they have meaning

But the other side of the debate seems only to want to focus on the tax cuts. To them, it is anathema that you might keep taxes low for everyone so that the economy has the ability to grow and function so that most of us get the chance to lift our own boats with the rising tide, and that rising tide gives us the means with which to help lift those who can not do so on their own.

The left often likes to sneer at "trickle down" economics as some form of voodoo, but the alternative they embrace is trickle up poverty. Government spending can stimulate the economy, and there are legitimate discussions on whether there are multiplier effects involved or not, but taxing also depresses an economy and you need to pay for spending somehow. When you depress the means by which small businesses and the most productive aspects of the economy can function, or threaten to and force them to function in fear of an uncertain future, things will not go well.






Wednesday

Woodhill Curve

Hate the Laffer Curve? Try Woodhill's

"Liberals don't like the Laffer Curve. If you have any doubts, Google "‘Laffer Curve' +discredited" and peruse the 13,400 hits you get. Well, if Liberals hate the Laffer Curve (and they do), they are really going to hate the Woodhill Curve."

This article probably gets bogged down in some technical terms if you've never taken any economics, but if you are into this sort of thing, it's a very interesting read.






Monday

What is our National Economic Aspiration?

The Size of Government and the Choice This Fall

In polls, Americans overwhelmingly prefer small government and low taxes to the alternative. Yet they've been given big government, one program at a time.

What we must choose is our aspiration, not whether we want to zero out the state... finding the right level of government for Americans is simply impossible unless we decide which ideal we prefer: a free enterprise society with a solid but limited safety net, or a cradle-to-grave, redistributive welfare state. Most Americans believe in assisting those temporarily down on their luck and those who cannot help themselves, as well as a public-private system of pensions for a secure retirement. But a clear majority believes that income redistribution and government care should be the exception and not the rule.


I think it's very important that we do choose what we aspire to be as a nation. However, I also caution that *if* we aspire to be a nation with limited government interference in our lives, yet with government that does provide some oversight to make sure people are operating honestly, that the rule of law is established and people's rights are respected including property rights & privacy both economic and civil, and that necessary services which the private market place will in fact fail to provide as "public goods" in the economic sense of the term things like national defense, infrastructure, police & fire services, etc... then the Republicans are not necessarily the best choice to ensure that end.

Republicans have shown they too love big government, albeit in different ways than the Democrats. Republicans can tend towards wanting to interfere in your personal life on issues they consider to be "moral". They'd often like to dictate what a woman can choose to do with her body in terms of pregnancy even before the fetus has developed the capacity to have any sense of it's surroundings or awareness. They'd like to dictate what relationships are acceptable between consenting adults and which they will hand out rights and privileges under the law to based upon their religious understanding. They'd like to dictate what chemicals you can take into your body even if by doing so you are harming no one other than yourself, including being fine with some which are statistically more dangerous than others they take exception to and go on to ban all uses of including legitimate physician approved medicinal use. They have even in some cases intruded into your personal affairs with Big Brother-like draconian laws intended to aid law enforcement but which have a chilling effect on personal privacy.

These may not be the big issues of today, but they are important to bear in mind.

Today we're on the verge of a fiscal nightmare, and economic stagnation. We face the threat of an ballooning government bureaucracy, more invasive government meddling in your personal health care decisions, crushing tax burdens, and government playing favorites picking and choosing winners and losers in the private marketplace as handouts to their special interest groups instead of letting We the People decide what goods and services we desire most and letting those decision separate the wheat from the chaff. Important to remember, recent Republican governance did not address these issues, and in some cases made it them far worse.

The public's disgust with these issues is growing daily, and politicians have taken notice. Moderate Democrats are running from their own party and distancing themselves from Progressives, and Republicans like sharks have picked up the scent of blood in the water. The Republicans may be more trustworthy than the Democrats to tackle these current big ticket economic issues, but they do not necessarily represent the answer to our problems - as they have proven in the past.

Ideologically the Libertarian platform, which is only partially embraced by the Republicans as a subset of the party, is the only one to support both your personal civil and economic freedoms and liberties. But due to our entrenched two party system, voting for a Libertarian candidate may represent the loss of the chance to provide some check and balance against the current Democratic majority.

I will both share my mind writing about the issues I see as important, and respect that many of you who read what I write will have vastly different opinions from my own. I will never encourage anyone to vote in any particular manner, at the end of the day every man and woman has to make up their own mind as to what is most important to them and cast their vote accordingly. The only thing I would suggest, is that before you make up your mind, you try to do so from as informed a position as possible. Decisions we make matter at a local level, individual candidates matter more than party affiliation, principle does in fact matter. My sincere hope is that when you go to the polling station, you've taken the time to carefully consider who you choose, whoever that ends up being.






"Zero Tolerance" for Political or Economic Dissent

Gangster Government Stifles Criticism of Obamacare

"The threat to use government regulation to destroy or harm someone's business because they disagree with government officials is thuggery. Like the Obama administration's transfer of money from Chrysler bondholders to its political allies in the United Auto Workers, it is a form of gangster government."

The Obama Administration is prepared to try and silence critics of the new health care law any way they can. Solely due to the burdens of this new law, health insurance companies have had to raise prices, which means higher costs for health care for us. But that isn't politically convenient for the Democrats in power... who lied and promised a fantasy that the legislation would lower costs, particularly right now before an election.

So, they are now trying to do damage control, for the entirely predictable negative effects of their "victory". It now becomes a blame game. They don't want to take responsibility for the pain and suffering they've caused and are going to ramp up causing as this behemoth continues to crush people. They want us to blame the insurance companies who have been forced to have to alter their business plans as a result of the changes they made.

They want to limit the insurance companies abilities to raise rates to a business destroying 1-2% when the costs of doing business are going up by a constricting 7-9% in some cases. So they want to inflict artificial price caps on the market, which in economic terms ALWAYS leads to rationing, because they don't like the realities of what they caused. Maybe this is their effort to completely gut and destroy the private insurance industry and move us towards their ultimate goal of completely government run single payer health care... maybe they just don't understand or want to understand economic reality... who knows?

Up here in MA, our private insurers have been forced to continually ramp up premiums, and just this year our dear Governor tried to stop that from happening by fiat - something the companies had to take to fight tooth and nail so that they did not have to eat themselves alive under the burden of our pilot program and go on to contribute even more to our economic woes and unemployment problems.

The Democrats in Washington now seem prepared to do the same. Rather than admit they messed up, they're going to try and enforce an untenable position. The insurance companies have to destroy themselves by complying with their dictate to hold to 1-2% increases (and remember this is only newly admitted, when it was sold to the public it was going to bend the cost curve and lower costs) which will force them to run at a loss under the new realities of the health care law, something no business can do for that long. Or the companies will be forcibly excluded from participating in the insurance exchanges. This is how it goes when you stop letting the private market place efficiently adjust to new market equilibriums - there's no other option but force.

No, you won't be allowed to decide if you want to jump ship to a new insurer who may have lower costs, or to determine exactly how much and what kinds of insurance you need or want; and let the myriad decisions of people like us figure out the best options as some inefficient insurers go bust and other efficient ones prosper ensuring they offer a better service. Instead, the elites in Washington have decided they know how to run things for you better. You will buy insurance or you will be punitively taxed. Insurance companies will eat themselves alive for the cause, or they will be driven into the ground anyway.

Under this plan, there is no alternative but eventual total government control of your health care, it will just sneak up on you so you settle into the reality slowly and don't make a fuss. Obama bypassed the nomination process for Dr. Berwick for Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the man who adores the ailing British socialized single payer system. Now, his Health and Human Services Secretary is giving us yet another taste of what is to come.

She won't tolerate anyone disagreeing with the Democrats fanciful vision of their health care law, or so help her she'll drive them out of business. But don't worry, you'll love this law in time, we've been reassured by the Democratic leadership that after people get a chance to see what's in the bill and see it in action, it's going to be awesome. On this track, it's only a matter of time before you will be forced to have to love this law, because while dissent against the Republicans was the highest form of patriotism, dissent against the Democrats will be met with "zero tolerance".






Wednesday

Taxed Enough Already?

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Iranian Protests Continue

Crisis in Iran Sparks Global Guerrilla Cyberwar

"The election crisis in Iran has ignited a full-on guerrilla cyberwar, with Twitterers and techies across the globe pitching in to help protesters in that country access the Internet, and official Iranian government Web sites being knocked offline."

The protests against the s"election" of President Ahmadinejad continue with surprising intensity today. It is difficult to know exactly what is going on as the Iranian government has cracked down on almost all reporting, all video footage, and is trying to restrict all instant messaging, texting, email, phone, and other communication.

Twitter however has seemed to manage to become the medium of choice for Iranians looking to get their message out to the world as the government tries to squelch and censor them.

Although it may be the case that Iran did in fact elect Ahmadinejad, there are reported problems with the % vote for Ahmadinejad due to irregularities in the vote. Some areas are reporting up to 140% of the population voting, others showing clear statistical anomalies, there were some polling stations were shut down before they were intended to, and of course the fact that 3 hrs after the polls closed they had somehow managed to do a manual count of millions of paper ballots.

In the mean time, people world-wide are trying to stand with the Iranian people, looking to assist them getting around the censors with proxy servers, and putting the Iranian government who is brutally trying to stifle dissent on the defensive by taxing their resources through Denial of Service attacks against their websites and servers.

It will be interesting to see what Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei decides to do here. He at first backed Ahmadinejad's election as a divine proclamation, but has seen backpedaled calling for investigation into election fraud. It would be difficult for him to completely backpedal and back Moussavi without undermining his own authority, but the situation may be rising to a head where he needs to throw Ahmadinejad under the bus to preserve any of his own authority at all. Time will tell.

The U.S. and President Obama have taken a cautious approach so as not to add fuel to the fire of the hardline supporters in Iran. While it would be in our best interest to see that the supporters of Mir Hossein Moussavi are victorious, it would harm their effort if the U.S. injected itself too heavily into the situation and appeared as meddling. The best that can be hoped for is for them to manage the victory themselves, despite the military and governments objections.

The situation is tense, but it is my fervent hope that the voice of the Iranian people is heard. It may well be that the Iranian people called for the re-election of Ahmadinejad, though I continue to hope not, and if it is their voice needs to be respected as they are a sovereign nation. But if that is not the case, then the widespread election fraud must be fought tooth and nail. The voice of their people deserves to be respected no matter what.






Thursday

G20 Protests turn Violent & Destructive

Protests Turn Ugly in London



Violent actions by ignorant people. Capitalism has been one of the main driving forces for the betterment of humanity since it's inception, and driven industry, innovation, progress, new technology, medical advancements, and just about every modern marvel we have to be thankful for. But apparently some people would like to tear all of that down and go live in a world full of poverty and squalor because they're too lazy to make a better life for themselves in a good and working system.






Wednesday

Google: Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity

Introducing CADIE!

All your personal World Wide Website belong to CADIE

This is one of the better April Fools jokes I've seen today. Check out CADIEs home page and Gmail Autopilot. RAINBOWS AND PANDAS! Oh god, it's transcended it's makers...

Funny stuff.






Monday

Obama lifts ban on Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research



Perpetuating a Needless Stem-Cell War
Obama's decision is bad ethics, bad science, and bad politics

"President Obama today fulfilled his campaign promise to lift federal-funding restrictions on research involving the destruction of human embryos. He couldn't have done so at a more inappropriate time"

I'm getting a real kick out of all the crying from the radical right over this. The last few weeks I was starting to lose some of my hope for President Obama with all the leftist economic bunk that's been getting approved. But this has given me new hope again. It's refreshing to see a President actually putting Science back to the forefront of the nations consciousness, "restoring scientific integrity to government decision making", rather than an out and out war on science like the last Administration.






Friday

NY Post's "Racist" Cartoon

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Commentary: NY Post cartoon is racist and careless

"The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist," he said, referencing a news release the civil rights activist sent out blasting the paper and demanding an apology.

Delonas, the cartoonist, said to CNN, "It's absolutely friggin ridiculous. Do you really think I'm saying Obama should be shot? I didn't see that in the cartoon. The chimpanzee was a major story in the Post. Every paper in New York, except The New York Times, covered the chimpanzee story. It's just ridiculous. It's about the economic stimulus bill. If you're going to make that about anybody, it would be [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, which it's not."



Post sorry for controversial chimp cartoon
New York Post says the image was exploited by longtime antagonists


After two days of protests, the paper posted an editorial on its Web site Thursday saying the cartoon was meant to mock the federal economic stimulus bill, but "to those who were offended by the image, we apologize."

The editorial also says some people who have long-standing differences with the paper saw the cartoon "as an opportunity for payback."

The editorial calls them "opportunists" and says: "To them, no apology is due."


If the paper wants to apologize, I have no problems with it - but I'm going to re-state something I wrote to my Facebook page ealier:

I take offense to racism when it's present, it exists, and still does even with the new President breaking a high level racial barrier, and it's real and its ugly when it occurs. I really have no tolerance for any form of ignorant bigotry and hatred.

That said, those making such a huge deal over this being "racist" are really fishing. Obama didn't "write" the Stimulus bill, that was left to Congress (and was unfortunate that it was at that - I'd have rathered had Obama be the driving force behind the language of the bill).

It's hard in fact to see this as anything other than what the Cartoonist described as his motivation - lampooning a current event and the broad array of the halfwit politicians that cobbled together such a pork laden spend-happy sure to cause problems in the future stimulus package around fear as the primary motivator.

Really... to say this was aimed at Obama because he was black takes the context of this cartoon so far away from what is actually depicted it's hard to see those making a big deal out of it as anything other than opportunists. I'm all for combating racism and it's real, very ugly, and harmful effects. But when you stretch reality to this level of ridiculousness, you do nothing but harm your own cause.


Really look at that cartoon. Is there anything there that would suggest to you the artist meant to convey Obama as a monkey? Anything? There's not the slightest hint of Obama-like-ness to that chimp, and cartoon artists are notorious for making clear allusions when mocking someone particular. If the artist was making a subtle reference to Obama as a monkey, don't you think they'd have put some kind of Obama-like reference on the monkey? Some kind of facial features... or hair, or ears... Something? Anything at all?

Obama didn't write the Stimulus bill, and at best its only something he supported. So you probably have a lot of dumb / ignorant (take your pick) people thinking to themselves that Obama actually wrote the bill which makes them think the reference is clearly about him and therefore racist. And if that had been the case, had the artist put Obama-like features on the monkey, I'd agree, it'd be racially insensitive at best, and down-right racist at worst. But he didn't. Anyone trying to claim that's what the artist here intended is just stretching so far it's ridiculous.






MtG Quiz


Take the Magic: The Gathering 'What Color Are You?' Quiz.













Saturday

"Buy American" Bad News

'Buy American' Rule in Stimulus Bill Sparks Protest
U.S. businesses and trading partners are up in arms over a provision the House bill that prohibits the purchase of foreign iron and steel for any stimulus-funded infrastructure project.


Yet John Murphy, vice president of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said 50 million Americans whose jobs depend on exports would pay the price.

"If the U.S. raises these barriers to international business, we're likely to see massive retaliation around the world," he said.


Insanity. First off, the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act ia widely acknowledged as one of the major contributing factors to driving the economy into a deep and unresponsive Depression during the Great Depression. Retaliatory tariffs were enacted across the globe and trade was choked off almost entirely adding fuel to the fire. "Protectionism" almost always hurts way more and way more people than it might help in the short run.

House Democrats have passed a version of the Stimulus bill that would inject crazy amounts of cash into the economy, plenty of which is going to be wasted on pet projects and pork instead of narrowly targeting key areas to help bolster production - but wait! Businesses are having trouble dealing with the downturn in the economy, they're losing money, having to lay people off - so what do the Democrats think will work to fix it? Force those businesses to have to buy raw materials at a more expensive price even if they could get it cheaper from foreign suppliers - just to line the pockets of union steel plants,

This is completely outrageous, rather than let the taxpayers keep the money and let them decide what to do with it in the private market (there's not enough tax cuts to provide immediate relief) they are going to force business to adhere to inefficient and horribly unfair government interference.

This is exactly the kind of nonsense I can't stand about the Democrats. I'm happy to see social conservative junk getting overturned, but they drive me absolutely nuts when it comes to fiscal suff - it's like they have a bunch of baboons making their economic policy objectives.






'Buy American' Rule in Stimulus Bill Sparks Protest
U.S. businesses and trading partners are up in arms over a provision the House bill that prohibits the purchase of foreign iron and steel for any stimulus-funded infrastructure project.






Thursday

Red State / Blue State? Country swings *slightly* Indigo

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Gallup on Nationwide Partisanship

"... So, what's the upshot of Gallup's findings? Unsurprisingly, they find that the country has moved left. Below is a reproduction of their partisanship results from 2002, 2006, and 2008."

The country clearly took a bit of a left turn this year rallying behind Barack Obama. There were far more "Blue" States this year than happened in 2004, or even in 2000. But did the country really move that far to the left?

Here's a map broken down by County of the 2004 Presidential Election (Republican George W. Bush beat Democrat John Kerry 286 / 252 for a solid Electoral victory) - country looked very "Red" State by State
Red State Blue State 2004

Here's a map broken down by County of the 2008 Presidential Election (Democrat Barack Obama beat Republican John McCain 365 / 173 for a landslide Electoral victory) - country looked a lot more "Blue", particularly in a cartogram by population.
2008 Election by County

Now, broken down by County, the country is definitely a wash of purple, with some clumps of Blue, and clumps of Red... but how much has really changed from 2004 to 2008? Sure the Red of the Mid-west is more muted in 2008, and the Blue of the West Coast, North East, and Central North is a bit more prominent - but there's little change from one map to another really... at least by county to county. Cartograms that weighted the size by the population would definitely show more Blue this time around, but the reality is the Popular vote was pretty divided in 2000, 2004, and 2008, and the Electoral maps don't really show that.

Did the country take a sharp left turn then? Clearly the answer is no. We're still basically the same country we were a few years ago, there were just more of us tired of the incompetence of the last administration and not frightened out of our sense of reason by terrorist attacks this time around.

The Democratic Leadership would do well to remember that if they care to hold on to power in 2010. The country wanted competent and workable leadership, not a drunk orgy of spending on pet projects that will have little real and lasting positive impact on the country. Infrastructure spending is good, we probably need that. Spending on extraneous things for the sake of government spending is bad.

As stated in the article above - the demographic change in partisanship swung pretty heavily from Republican to Democrat in just a few years even while the Republicans were thinking they had a good shot at establishing a lasting majority. The country can swing back too if they Democrats really foul things up - something they should try to avoid, or we might be looking at very different election maps in 2010 and 2012.






Tuesday

Barack Obama sworn in a 44th President of the United States of America

Obama's inaugural speech



Full text of the Inaugural Speech quoted for posterity - it really was a fantastic speech:

"My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort -- even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment -- a moment that will define a generation -- it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."






Friday

Power-hungry Pelosi

Pelosi Turns Back the Clock on House Reform
Moderate Democrats will be frozen out.


"Every two years the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives introduces a new set of rules to govern the body. Normally, this event passes with barely a yawn from the public. But the changes pushed through on Tuesday by Democrats will have real-world consequences for fiscal conservatives of both parties.

Gone are term limits for committee chairmen, a big comeback for seniority over merit. Cost containment measures on Medicare, one of the fastest growing programs, are simply suspended for this Congress.

Tax increases now will be easier to pass, because opponents will not be allowed to offer a simple motion to strike any increase without making up for the "lost revenue." In addition, tax cuts are made more difficult, because they cannot be offset with spending cuts. The new rules will mean that the only way to push for a tax cut will be to propose a tax increase elsewhere."


I'm really beginning to hate Pelosi more and more. You always hope when a political party takes power, they can exercise some self restraint and not try and dismantle the protections in place to give some check and balance to the political system. 8 years ago when the Republicans took control of the Presidency, House, and Senate, they started talking about getting rid of the Filibuster so they could ram legislation through. The Democrats cried foul about it, and it never went through, but fast forward to today... The Democrats are about to control both Houses of Congress and the Presidency in a few days, and they have talked about ending the Filibuster, and started trying to dismantle rules to protect the minority and empower themselves.

The whole thing is interesting and a little bit sickening to watch from the outside.

Neither party has a lock on what's good for this country, so it's a bad idea to let either one of them ram legislation through, and run roughshod over the other. While civil liberties will probably (and I really really hope) enjoy some resurgence from where they've been curtailed during Bush's reign of terror, we're about to enter a whole new era of attacks on personal liberty and freedom. This time, it's going to come from the Left, and it's going to take the form of too much government spending, interference in the free market, over-regulation, and crowding out of private investment. It's going to cause growth of bloated government bureaucracy, and put pressure on the economy to further Inflation.

Actually... keep an eye on that. Inflation. You're going to hear more about it in not too long because all the tampering and "Stimulus" everyone is trying between the Fed and the Government, is going to come back to bite us all in the ass in probably not too long once things have recovered from the current slump.

I still think Obama leans towards fiscal restraint - and his choices in terms of the Cabinet and other positions of authority concerning the economy (with the exception of some of his Labor picks) bear that out - but we'll see.

Anyway, back to Pelosi...

When Obama takes control of the Executive branch, he really needs to exert his power and put a muzzle on her, she's turning into an out of control rabid animal that's going to do the Democrats a lot of harm in a couple years.

Pelosi just seems to be drunk on power and unable to remember what it was like to be in the minority only a few years ago. That's always dangerous, because things never stay the same, politics, much like a lot of other things in life, tends to be cyclical. Power swings between sides, and if one side dismantles too many protections, when the other side gets control, they're that much worse off. I guarantee you now that the Democrats are going to take the Presidency, there are a number of Republicans gnashing their teeth over the fact that Bush expanded the powers of the Office to unprecedented levels in one of the biggest power grabs in government in history. The same will be felt in a couple years when the Republicans re-take control of the House about Pelosi by the Democrats.

She's used to being the voice of the Party over the last few years, far more vocal than Reid. But she's not the top Democrat anymore, so I think, and I hope, that Obama puts her in her place, and forces her to calm the hell down, and exercise restraint. Restraint is good for the long term growth and welfare of the party. Excess, particularly in power in politics, has the almost inevitable movement towards corruption for the party in the position to enjoy it.

Anyway, here's hoping Obama gets Pelosi under control. There's not all that many people in this country as far to the Left fiscally as she is - and if she pushes her harmful ideology the party will be met with backlash in not too long. We saw it in the Republican revolution of 1994, we could see it again in 2010, unless someone puts some checks on her.






Tuesday

Israeli Defense Force, Hamas, and the Palestinian People.

Israel Hits Second U.N. School, Blasts Way Into Southern Gaza

"Israel isn't commenting on Tuesday's airstrikes, but it has accused Hamas of using schools, mosques and residential areas for cover and staging grounds for terrorist attacks.

Earlier Tuesday there was an attack that killed three at a school in the Gaza city itself."


I've been mostly silent on this issue since it's started. I spoke about it with my wife a few times, but I've yet to commit anything to writing... mostly because I've been reading a lot about the issue, and trying to come to grips with the reality of the situation - there is a metric ton of propaganda being spewed from both sides, so it's tough to really know exactly what's going on.

If you listen to the Israeli's and their supporters:

Israel is the victim. Hamas has been bombarding their civilian areas outside of the Gaza area with almost constant rocket fire. The rocket fire is deadly, and has caused a slow but steady stream of destruction, terror, and death which has been largely not reported because no one attack was ever major enough to merit the coverage. Israel has the right to defend itself, it's patience has run out, and therefore it's actions are justified. Israel has been measured and restrained in it's use of force, and only killed Hamas targets. Anyone who disagrees is either stupid, an anti-Semite, or a terrorist themselves.

If you listen to the Palestinians and their supporters:

The Palestinian people are the victims. The Israeli hardliners are heading into a political election season and have been trying to drum up support by agitating a crisis, spreading fear among their own people to justify harsh tactics and responding to it the only way they know how. Caused directly by Israeli occupation and blockades the region has been left politically unstable, with the people having little to no infrastructure, prospects, and hope of a better tomorrow without outside help. The Palestinian people democratically elected Hamas as its leadership and Israeli's have been looking for any excuse to annhilate them because they refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist. Their history of keeping the Palestinian people in what is essentially an open air prison, at the hands of a tyranical oppressor State (Israel) has lead to the radicalization of certain elements of the Palestinians and lead directly to the response of the people in electing Hamas. Hamas rocket fire has happened but been mostly a nuisance and the Israeli response has been brutal and far beyond degree that has been inflicted upon them. Israel has been careless, caused hundreds if not thousands of civilian casualties among them women and children of which they willingly get pictures out to the media, and caused a humanitarian crisis by cutting off food, energy, and medical supplies to the area.

What's the truth?

Hard to say, both sides claim to be the victim, and in some ways, both are. It's pretty clear Israel's hardnose actions and response along with colonialist expansion over the years has caused some of its own problems. It has engendered a lot of hate among it's Arab neighbors for the way its conducted itself. It's treated the Palestinian people pretty terribly throughout the years, while they Palestinian people have been used as a proxy weapon by their Arab neighbors who are quite legitimately anti-Semitic in many cases.

The Palestinian people on the other hand really fouled things up when they democratically elected Hamas to lead them. They put an equally hardline and extremist faction in power, and don't have the power to stop them from agitating for conflict when it's causing a reaction that has lead to the death and suffering of the people it's supposed to lead. Hamas isn't stupid. They know they don't have the power to fight and destroy Israel. The best they can do is to push Israel until it over-reacts (which it has a rich history of doing) and then play to international sympathy at the plight of the Palestnian people which they are using as an unwitting weapon in terms of casualties themselves. Such tactics worked a little while back with Hezbolla & Lebanon, and they appear to be working now.

Israel has been attacking Police Stations (and yes, according to International Law, Police Officers are civilians), Mosques, Schools to get at Hamas. Hamas rocket bombardment is not just a nuisance, it is trying to spread fear, terror, and strife and yes, death - among the Israeli civilians caught in the conflict, and it is lethal and very destructive. While Israel has a right to defend itself certainly, the death toll has rapidly climbed in Gaza, and the suffering of the civilian Palestinian population is being complicated further by the blockade of food, clean water, medical supplies, and energy. Hamas is hiding behind the Palestinian people using them as a human shield, and Israel has seen fit to justify any action they want at all to themselves on the premise of defending themselves, including crushing those people, if it gets the at Hamas.

With every Palestinian death, the population is further terrorized by Israel, and undoubtedly further radicalized in the process - good for Hamas, and good for the Israeli hardliners who are in fact up for a political election cycle. With the staggeringly unequal casualties mounting, International Good-will is beginning to turn against Israel - maybe bad for Israel, they still seem to have the unqualified support of the United States no matter how much civilian death they cause, so maybe not - and good for Hamas, because as we saw with the Hezbollah conflict earlier, International pressure does work.

What is clear is that thinking the broad military action (bombing - discriminant but with unfortunate civilian "collateral damage" *I dislike using the term, civilian death is never a good thing and should not be casually overlooked - and now it appears ground occupation) of Israel has gone to far is not anti-Semitic just because Israel is a Jewish State. Israel does have a right to defend itself. Israel doesn't have the right other than in the "might makes right" sense to proceed into genocidal-like policies (not limited to bombing civilian sites, but also including its insistence on starving the Palestinian people and causing as much human suffering as possible by denying them medical assistance), which I think are quite rightly evaporating its International support. What is also clear is that Israel is not going to get the Palestinian people to blame Hamas for the situation when they are the ones lobbing bombs and cutting off supplies.

Overall the situation is a mess. George Bush has given blind support to Israel as an Ally engendering that same International ill-will towards us while the United Nations, and the Red Cross saying that Israel is causing a Humanitarian crises. Neither of which has a record of being anti-Semitic, so there is a real problem.

The best solution would of course be for both sides to enter another cease-fire agreement. But while that is in the best interest of the civilian population of both Israel and Gaza, it is not in the best interest of the leadership of either State. The leadership in Hamas is extremist. The hardliners in Israel want to get elected. Both of them benefit from continued aggression, destruction, and killing between the two. Palestine will never be able to recover to a politically moderate and stable area until Israel stops destroying everything they have and choking them to death. At this point, that might not even be possible given the tension levels and hatred that has been spawned across both sides.

It's becoming more and more likely in my mind that a two State solution just isn't going to work. A single State solution might not work either, but it could have some benefits, and would at least address some of the problems if the Palestinians could rise to leadership as well. While we try and keep everyone separate, it's just going to allow the problems to go on.

It's a horrible, tragic mess... and I don't know where the answer is.






Sunday

Happy Holidays to Everyone!

{Happy, Merry} {Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Modranct, Dong zhi, Diwali, Eid ul-Adha, Yalda, Matariki, Saturnalia, Festival of the Unconquered Sun, Festivus, Feast of the Winter Veil} to all!

Hope your Holiday Season is blessed with peace, prosperity, and health for you and your family!






Thursday

Obama picks Rev. Rick Warren for Inaugural Ceremony

Obama's inaugural choice sparks outrage

" Warren, one of the most influential religious leaders in the nation, has championed issues such as a reduction of global poverty, human rights abuses and the AIDS epidemic.

But the founder of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has also adhered to socially conservative stances -- including his opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights that puts him at odds with many in the Democratic Party, especially the party's most liberal wing."


I'm not a huge fan of Rick Warren. Despite his stances on things like global poverty & human rights abuses, I have difficulty getting past his stance on gay marriage. I believe that the gay marriage issue is one of equal protection under the law, and that to deny gay couples the right to marry, is to define them as something other than normal citizens, and that should be Unconsitutional based on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I don't see it as a religious issue, because Marriage as defined by the State is an inherently civil matter. No one is asking Churches to open up and recognize gay marriages religiously. Anyway, I think Rick Warren is dead wrong on the issue, and his backing of CA Prop 8 had a very negative consequence, one that still might do a lot of damage to the country in terms of equal rights.

That said... I think he's a brilliant pick for Obama. Obama has proved time and again to be a very shrewd politician. Picking Rick Warren will mollify the Evangelicals on the right somewhat. While this might piss off some of the very liberal and gay rights crowd (and I am among the latter group, as a heterosexual male, I support gay rights), it buys Obama some political capital to play with. It reminds me of a Thomas Jefferson move. Jefferson was one of the founding fathers most directly responsible for moving the early Country towards a strict Separation of Church and State. He was a fierce opponent of the religious interfering with government - and yet - after elected President, he attended Church more and more regularly and very publicly. Why? Because it helped disarm his opponents while he still worked to overturn what they were trying to accomplish. It was an extremely successful strategy that lead to an Era of freedom of and from religion in the U.S. spanning the next few Presidents terms.

I do believe Obama will help move gay rights forward in this country - maybe not to the extent that some people want to see, myself included, but I believe he will help. When he does, and the Evangelicals get up in arms about it, he'll be able to point back at the Inaugural and his selection of Rick Warren and say that he understands them too. It sends a powerful message of governance from the center. It's something Bush promised to do with his "Uniter not a divider" rhetoric, but failed to deliver.

Anyway, I'm not too worried. In terms of gay marriage, the cat is out of the bag. While many States have been enacting bans on gay marriage, others are realizing that it is probably for the better to recognize it. New Jersey sounds like they will be the next to allow it - and while California is still in limbo, it might swing back to the right side of this debate. And eventually there will be enough problems that the U.S. Supreme Court will be forced to deal with it - and unless Conservatives really stuff the bench, I would be shocked if they didn't find the issue based on the Equal Protection Clause, and overturn all those Jim-Crow-like bans.

Anyway - I don't think Rick Warren is indicative of Obama not caring about Gay rights. He's not going to push the issue too far and spend too much political capital on it, but I would be extremely surprised if he didn't really support gay marriage rights - despite his campaign rhetoric on supporting Civil Unions but not Gay Marriage.