Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Infinity Padlock

December 26, 2009

What was that game we’d play as kids when you wanted to lock something in so the other person couldn’t change it?   You might tell your friend that you’re good at something.  They reply, “I’m better.”  Then, you say, “I’m the best! Infinity padlock!”  I think.

Anyway, looks like Senator Harry Reid is playing that game with the health care bill.

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Sarah Palin on Oprah

December 23, 2009

I finally got to see Sarah Palin on Oprah.  Decent stuff.  I noticed the same thing that several conservative talk show hosts noticed as well, there was no shots of the audience.  The way it was edited, it seemed like there was no audience at all.  I’d be interested to know the real story on that.  Conservative talkers seemed to think Oprah didn’t want to show an audience full of people nodding in agreement with Sarah.

Here are a few observations I have.

1.  People need to wake up to the heavily clouded media lens. If you haven’t seen this Oprah, watch it and listen closely to Sarah’s side of story about the Katie Couric interview.  The journalistic standards in the country are very low.  I’m not saying that Couric should have taken it any easier on Palin.  But, an honest viewer has to see that the media did take it much, much easier on Obama and Biden to the point of propaganda.  I think only now, a year later, the media is starting to fidget with the idea of asking Obama some tough questions.  All you need to do is simply imagine if Palin or Bush would have been remotely tied to an organization like ACORN.  We would have heard the end of it.

2. Would-have, could-haves. When Palin explained her side of the story about her response to Couric’s question about what specific magazines and newspaper Palin read, I believe her.  She said she was frustrated.  She thought it wasn’t a question that would have been asked any other candidate and felt it was an insult to her and Alaskans.  Oprah did us a service in showing that footage from the Couric interview and Palin’s story fits with the reaction and body language I saw.  If I could do it over again for Palin, I’d just simply have turned the question around on Couric.  What magazines and newspapers do you read?

3.  Recommendation for Palin. Figure out how to clearly communicate why you stepped down as Governor.  Whatever it is that she’s saying doesn’t come through well.  I can’t tell if it’s because the attention that followed her from the campaign was hindering her ability to lead Alaska’s government or if she felt she could have a bigger impact in the U.S. in a private role.  Whatever the reason, it still isn’t coming through in a compelling fashion.

4.  Oprah? Oprah was harping hard on the degree to which Palin said she was handled during the campaign, like how she was scripted and clothes picked out and provided for her.  Oprah.  Wake up.  Your guy is handled as well.   He doesn’t pick out or pay for his suits.  Michelle doesn’t either.  He has a team of speechwriters, consultants, stylists and advisers to make him and her appear as they do.  Oprah, look at yourself, you don’t do all the work to make you look good all by yourself.  You have a rather large team to make it all happen.

But on the other, I think the handling is telling of our society.  Politicians are products.  They are made up by polls and focus groups. They are, generally, who we want them to be (or who their consultants think we want them to be).  They’re phony.  It would be refreshing to see a real person running for office.  I would love to hear a politicians say, “This is what I believe in, this is what I’m going to do, this is what you’ll get if you vote for me.  If you don’t want those things, vote for the other candidate.”

Free Lunch?

December 9, 2009

Thomas Sowell’s column produced this thought.

Many believe politicians can provide them with a free lunch, not realizing politicians are no miracle workers.  They’re more like tricksters.   Their greatest trick of all: conning you to believe that you didn’t pay for you lunch, when indeed you will pay a little from your next 30 lunches not only to cover the cost of your lunch today, but the politicians’ lunch as well.  By the time you’ve finishing paying for you lunch today, they’ve signed you up for another free lunch and you’re happy about it and you vote for them again.

Disproportionate Power

December 6, 2009

I found the excellent response from Lee Jamison in the comments section of this post on Cafe Hayek.   Thanks Lee Jamison.  Very well said.

Martinbrock makes a comment down the way that clssical liberals oppose disproportionate power. It is a measure of the fog in which they live that their political solution to diproportionate power is… disproportionate power.
Professor Boudreaux makes a great point here. Political liberals are essentially gullible fools, convinced that there is an easily identifiably group of better, more intelligent people to whom we may grant vast political power for the healing of the world. No such group of people exists. In every group of people promising the salvation of the world and the economy through their auspices there are equal populations of avarice and criminality.

I am as much, if not more, of a classical liberal than the vast majority of political liberals but I recognize political liberalism as a sham, a means of getting disproportionate power without even having to prove the posession of any practical skill. I also recognize in mega-corporate capitalism the exact same grasping for a consolidation of disproportionate power. What politcal liberals fail most completely to recognize is that these two strains of power-mongers have far more in common with each other (else no company would be too big to fail, would it, Martin?) than they have with the common population.

The genius of the American political system as it was designed was not that it handed power to the right people. It was that it understood the powerful could be used to counter each other’s greed for even more power. Fools now take the fruits of that balance for granted, seeing only flaws, and seek to eliminate the balances that hobble those who flatter us and promise us paradise, if only we will let them lay a few chains on us.

I share Lee Jamison’s appreciation for the genius of the American political system or more specifically, the Constitution.  The Founders wanted to creat a government that protected against disproportionate power from others and itself.  They did this because they had experienced government with disproportionate power and felt it hurt its citizens .

However, the reality is that we’ve moved far beyond the Constitution.  We’ve given more power to the government than the Founders ever desired.  Part of the problem is with speical interests.  Much legislation has been bought by special interests.

The other problem is the igorance of the electorate of the purpose of government and the reasons the Founders attempted to design a limited government.  This ignorance also comes in the form of hubris that we know better than the Founders.

Get Around It

December 4, 2009

In this column, Larry Elder writes about NPR’s treatment of the climategate story.  I enjoyed the column.  I especially enjoyed these two sentences:

One crosses the line from scientist to advocate when, if faced with conflicting or unexpected data, the scientist tries to get around it rather than to understand it. If data causes a re-examination of previously held assumptions, so be it.

Very well said.  We all need someone to keep us honest, even scientists.  Groupthink is a feedback problem that hides the truth.  The problems that led up to the deadly explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 was a result of groupthink among NASA scientists and engineers.   Hmmm…

Politicians nor the Media Can be Trusted

November 25, 2009

Stossel gives us perfectly valid reasons to distrust our government officials in his piece, We Pay Them to Lie to Us.

…when Harry Reid says he’ll give 30 million additional people health coverage while cutting the deficit, improving health care and reducing its cost, it’s not entertaining. It’s incredible.

The politicians have a hat full of tricks to make their schemes look cheaper than they are. The new revenues will pour in during Year One, but health care spending won’t begin until Year Three or Four. To this the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner asks, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could count a whole month’s income, but only two weeks’ expenditures in your household budget?”

From the start, Obama has promised to pay for half the “reform” cost by cutting Medicare by half a trillion over 10 years. But, Tanner asks, “how likely is it that those cuts will take place? After all, this is an administration that will pay seniors $250 to make up for the fact that they didn’t get a Social Security cost-of-living increase this year (because the cost of living didn’t increase). And Congress is in the process of repealing a scheduled increase in Medicare premiums.”

Walter Williams asks a great question in his, A Minority View: Voluntarism or Self-Interest?

Say you want a nice three-bedroom house. Which human motivation do you think would get you the house sooner: the generosity of builders or the builders’ desire to earn some money?

Just about everyone would agree that there would be massive shortages and discontent if there were a congressional mandate that we must depend on our fellow man’s generosity for our home, our car, our food and thousands of other items that we use. Why then must a person depend on his fellow man’s generosity for an item like bone marrow that might mean the difference between life and death? There is no rhyme or reason for the congressional prohibition of bone marrow other than arbitrary unconstitutional abuse of power that far too many Americans tolerate and would like to see extended to other areas of our lives.

Thomas Sowell gives us more reason to distrust politicians in, Solving Whose Problem?

No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems– of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.

Many of the things the government does that may seem stupid are not stupid at all, from the standpoint of the elected officials or bureaucrats who do these things.

The current economic downturn that has cost millions of people their jobs began with successive administrations of both parties pushing banks and other lenders to make mortgage loans to people whose incomes, credit history and inability or unwillingness to make a substantial down payment on a house made them bad risks.

Was that stupid? Not at all. The money that was being put at risk was not the politicians’ money, and in most cases was not even the government’s money.

No one pushed these reckless mortgage lending policies more than Congressman Barney Frank, who brushed aside warnings about risk, and said in 2003 that he wanted to “roll the dice” even more in the housing markets. But it would very rash to bet against Congressman Frank’s getting re-elected in 2010.

Very few people are likely to connect the dots back to those members of Congress who voted for bigger mortgage guarantees and bailouts by the FHA. So the Congressmen’s and the bureaucrats’ jobs are safe, even if millions of other people’s jobs are not.

Congressman Barney Frank is not about to cut back on risky mortgage loan guarantees by the FHA. He recently announced that he plans to introduce legislation to raise the limit on FHA loan guarantees even more.

Congressman Frank will make himself popular with people who get those loans and with banks that make these high-risk loans where they can pocket the profits and pass the risk on to the FHA.

As I read through Sowell’s piece, the question “where’s the missing check and balance?” kept rolling through my mind.  How can the citizen’s of Barney Frank’s district continue to elect him?  Why aren’t others checking and balancing him in Congress?   I keep coming back to the media.  The media isn’t doing its job.  We simply don’t know.

The media carries stories that fit its mental model and weeds out stories that don’t.    The work John Zeigler did after the Obama election keeps surfacing in my mind.  You can see his work here.  Ziegler demonstrated through interviews just how much effect the media’s story lines have.   It’s very subtle.  It’s incubated in my mind for the better part of six months.

The people Ziegler interviewed knew negative facts about McCain and Palin cold.  They might as well have been reciting the alphabet.  They didn’t know the negative fact about Obama or Biden nearly so well.  I didn’t know those facts well and I’m plugged into conservative media.

I’m reminded of the Ziegler work when I see an ACORN story bust and then vaporize quickly with no ties to Obama.  Had that been an organization that W or Cheney was affiliated with in the past, we’d still be hearing new information from different angles.  Or when I saw the long lines waiting for H1N1 flu vaccine or Wall Street getting a hold of the vaccine early.  Under W, that would have been panned as Bush not liking poor people, but I never saw an angle linking that to Obama.  If the global warming e-mails that surfaced this week turn out to be legit, I wonder which media outlet will dare call Gore out for being a snake oil salesman?  Palin releases her book and gets 11 fact checkers assigned by the Associated Press, while Obama didn’t have one.

The media has completely lost its objectivity – if it ever had it.  It’s finally losing its credibility with the masses.  The question is, will it try to restore by starting to ask the tough questions and doing the investigative work on its own?

Sarah Palin Lacks Spark

November 22, 2009

Writing in the Kansas City Star, E. Thomas McClanahan explains what Sarah Palin is missing.  I agree. Writes McClanahan:

What I found ran for a mere 13 pages, written in prose that was utterly dead. She believes in America and our free enterprise system. The market should be allowed to work. Our foreign policy should be peace through strength. Energy independence is critical. We need to get federal spending under control.

OK, agreed. But where’s the insight, the persuasive spark that might make a skeptical reader say, “I hadn’t thought of that”? What I read only reinforced the perceptions Palin created with her disastrous Katie Couric interview and the jarringly disjointed speech she gave this year when resigning as Alaska’s governor.

I wrote this e-mail to McClanahan in response to his column:

Good column today on Sarah Palin.

You articulated it well.  I think conservatives like Palin because we don’t have a Reagan, we desperately want one and nobody except for her seems even remotely interested in taking the charge. I think another reason we like her is that she doesn’t give the Left home field advantage by accepting their premise.  Many others make that mistake and end up looking like sell outs to conservatives.  John McCain and even George W Bush come to mind.  She keeps the conversation on her turf and takes a great deal of abuse for it (something Reagan did as well).

I think your key insight in today’s column was that her conservative-speak doesn’t have a spark.  It’s like she’s reading from something she doesn’t quite understand.  To give it that spark, she needs to take it a step further and explain why free markets work, why foreign policy is peace through strength and why Federal spending needs to be controlled.  She also needs to explain why conservatives want limited government. That’s what Reagan could do in a few short, easy sentences that made perfect sense to moderates.

Change

November 20, 2009

Turns out it worked in the 80s too.  Thanks to Raoul Lufberry for the link.  Obama: The Woody Boyd Candidate

Fraser masterminds Woody’s campaign as a social experiment: He is convinced that anyone, even a bumpkin, can get elected, simply by spouting vague cliches. His advice to Woody? Don’t be specific on the campaign trail – just repeat empty slogans like “change.”

When I saw this, I burst out laughing – perhaps this is where Axelrod & Co. received their inspiration for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign theme, I surmised.

But to Fraser, Indiana-born Woody was clearly an idiot. Fraser, being a Harvard educated, Eastern seaboard-dwelling intellectual, naturally shared the prejudices of his breed; that anyone from fly-over country must be mentally deficient.

For my own part, if we had a Woody Boyd for president, I would sleep soundly. It is men like Fraser Crane, with their smug airs of moral and intellectual superiority, who think they know all and think they especially know what is best for others, who frighten me. It is rulers like that who bring ruin and call it “reform.”

Here’s a YouTube clip from the episode.

Weekly Roundup

November 20, 2009

First, from Walter Williams, A Minority View: Excused Horrors.

Nazis were responsible for the deaths of 20 million of their own people and those in nations they conquered. Between 1917 and 1983, Stalin and his successors murdered, or were otherwise responsible for the deaths of, 62 million of their own people. Between 1949 and 1987, Mao Tsetung and his successors were responsible for the deaths of 76 million Chinese.

For decades after World War II, people have hunted down and sought punishment for Nazi murderers. How much hunting down and seeking punishment for Stalinist and Maoist murderers?

…the reason why the world’s leftists give the world’s most horrible murderers a pass is because they sympathize with their socioeconomic goals, which include government ownership and/or control over the means of production. In the U.S., the call is for government control, through regulations, as opposed to ownership. Unfortunately, it matters little whether there is a Democratically or Republican-controlled Congress and White House; the march toward greater government control continues. It just happens at a quicker pace with Democrats in charge.

In Worse Than Taxes, John Stossel makes the point that while taxes are bad enough, what’s worse – and gets little attention – is government spending.

[California and New York] would have big surpluses had they just grown their governments in pace with inflation. But of course they didn’t. Now the politicians act like their current deficits are something imposed on them by the recession.

Had the government of New York state grown at the rate of population and inflation over the past 10 years, it would have a $14 billion surplus today. Instead, spending grew at twice the rate of inflation (http://tinyurl.com/yguvfpm). So New York has a $3 billion deficit.

Stossel quotes Walter Williams:

It reminds me of Walter Williams’ riff: “Politicians are worse than thieves. At least when thieves take your money, they don’t expect you to thank them for it.”

And Milton Friedman:

The true burden of government, the late Milton Friedman said, is the spending level. Taxation is just one way government gets money. The other ways — borrowing and inflation — are equally burdens on the people. (State governments can’t inflate, but they sure can borrow.)

All Politicians Are Narcissists

November 18, 2009

This post at Cafe Hayek reminded me of one my key rules: 

Assume all politicians are narcissist. 

Even the one’s I vote for.   I do not trust them.  I will not spend much energy defending them.  That’s why I love the design of checks and balances in our government.  It’s tough to get a bunch of narcissists to agree with eachother.

Same goes for most people in the entertainment biz. 

The only exception is when I hear a blatant misrepresentation.  For example, my two word defense to people who call Rush Limbaugh racist is “prove it”.  He may be.  I don’t know.  I can’t get into his mind to see what he really thinks.  But, to make that judgement I need evidence.

If I catch myself falling for one of these guys (Sarah Palin), I remind myself of my key rule.  Sarah wrote a book with a big picture of her on the cover.  I’m sure I’ll read it.  Good for her.  I’m sure she wrote really good things.  But, there’s a big picture of her on the cover.  She’s a narcissist.   

 Now, I can already hear some asking, “aren’t you a hypocrite?  You tell others to prove Rush is racist, but you assume all politicians are racist.” 

For that, I’d give you some credit.  However, I’d point out that my rule is, first and foremost, a defense mechanism meant to keep me from getting too disappointed when humans turn out to be humans. 

Second, I can believe someone is a narcissist, but still hear them out on their beliefs about how the world works and decide whether I agree or not.  It would not be easy to do that with someone who I believe is a racist, which is the exact reason why people call Rush racist.  Those people don’t want you to listen to what he has to say.