"A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take away everything you have."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pole-Vaulting to Oblivion

Health care reform is back in the news! Obama has unveiled his new health care reform plan -- which is just a recycled version of the old Senate bill, tweaked a little bit to satisfy liberal House Democrats. The White House and the Democratic leadership in Congress have made it clear they are willing to move forward without Republican support and are trying to push it through using a budget tool called reconciliation which enables the bill to pass the Senate without requiring 60 votes. Obama is also holding a sham health care summit with Republicans to try to hoodwink the dumbest voters into thinking he is "bipartisan."

I don't know whether this legislative effort will succeed or not. I'm sure the Democrats can get 51 votes in the Senate for the bill, but I'm not sure they can get the required 218 votes in the House. The House health care bill passed back in November with 220 votes, two votes to spare. Since then, one of those 220 congressmen has died, one has resigned, and one has changed his vote. In addition, Bart Stupak and at least a couple other pro-life Democrats who previously voted for the House bill will not vote for the bill that Obama has presented because it provides taxpayer funding for abortion. This means the Democrats must persuade at least four of the forty or so Democrats that previously voted against the bill to vote for it, without losing any other votes of Democrats who previously voted for it. This is no easy task, since the health care reform bill is even more politically toxic today than it was back in November.

So maybe the Democrats will succeed, maybe they won't. I pray for the sake of our country's future that they don't. But whether they succeed or not, this move is political suicide for them. Obama and the Democrats in Congress have not deviated even the slightest bit from their intention to pass a trillion dollar comprehensive, government-run health care reform bill from the day they first unveiled this legislation back in June 2009. Since then, we have had spontaneous Tea Party demonstrations and a march on Washington with close to half a million people showing up. We have had hundreds of town hall meetings around the country, with large numbers of people showing up in Democrat and Republican states and districts to voice their anger over the health care bill. We have had poll after poll after poll showing sizable and consistent majorities of Americans oppose the Democrats' approach to health care reform. We had devastating Democratic losses in three states that previously voted for Obama -- Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. The Massachusetts result was most compelling, as one of the most Democratic electorates in the country voted for a Republican who explicitly promised to be the 41st vote against the health care bill. And the Democrats act as though nothing has happened. Nothing. From their behavior, it might as well be June 2009. Despite the intense opposition and anger of the American people, the defeats at the ballot box, the necessity of bypassing normal Senate rules, and the peril many of their incumbents face in this year's election, Obama, Reid, and Pelosi will get their precious comprehensive health care reform passed. In the immortal words of Nancy Pelosi, "You go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, you go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed for the American people.” She forgot to add the words "whether they want it or not."

As I said before, this is political suicide for the Democrats. You cannot pass a bill which nearly half of all Americans "strongly" oppose and only 20% of all Americans "strongly" support and not expect to pay a price for it, especially when the bill in question is this large, important, and high-profile. By my count, at least 50 to 60 Democratic House seats are vulnerable in the 2010 election, and that list could grow as more GOP challengers jump into the fray. The Republicans only have 5 or 6 vulnerable seats to defend. Most of the vulnerable Democratic House seats are in districts that John McCain won in 2008 (a time in which Obama was far more popular with the public than he is now) and almost all of them are in districts that George W. Bush won in 2004. Many of these Democrats are going to have to defend their vote in favor of health care reform or cap-and-trade or both, and both of those pieces of legislation are intensely unpopular back home. Unemployment is in double digits in most of their districts, with little hope of improvement in the near future. Political prognosticator Charlie Cook said recently that if current trends continue, it's hard for him to see how the Democrats will keep control of the House. And remember, most gubernatorial and state legislature seats are up for grabs this election cycle as well. If the GOP wipes out at the ballot box in these races, they will control House redistricting that could put them in a strong position for the next decade. But Obama and Pelosi and Reid are purposely sticking their finger in the public's eye in an election year, just to pass their agenda. I'm just left shaking my head. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind seeing the Democrats self-destruct like this. But I just can't believe they are being this stupid and defiant toward the will of the American people. I can't believe I ever thought Obama was a smart politician.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Global Warming Hoax

A few months ago, the scientific community was rocked by the leaking of a series of email conversations from scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, one of the world's premier "climate change" research institutions. The emails revealed evidence of the deliberate suppression and discarding of scientific data that did not agree with the institution's conclusions about global warming as well as attempts to discredit scientific skeptics. At the center of this controversy was the director of the Climatic Research Unit, Dr. Phil Jones, who was forced to resign his position.

Dr. Jones is making more headlines this week. He has shockingly admitted that there has been no "statistically significant" global warming over the past 15 years. He has also acknowledged that it is possible that the earth was even warmer during the Medieval Period than it is now -- which calls into question whether man-made carbon emissions are a significant cause of global warming. And finally, he has admitted that he has lost much of the data supporting his claims about man-made global warming, which explains why he refused Freedom of Information Act requests for this data. At the same time, new research by American and British scientists is casting doubt on the conclusions of the most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which offered doomsday scenarios about devastating effects of climate change on human and animal life.

You probably don't know about this if you get your news from the mainstream American media, but the ClimateGate email scandal mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistakes and fraud in "climate change" science. A recent editorial in The Orange County Register lists out 19 significant recent scandals involving bogus global warming scientific claims. It is well worth reading to get a sense of how badly the science has been manipulated. And finally, check out this helpful online "Global Warming Handbook," for a summary of the many erroneous assumptions and methods used by global warming advocates.

The scariest thing of all is that our government wants to pass comprehensive legislation costing our government hundreds of billions of dollars and significantly raising our individual energy costs based on this junk science.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Some answers for Martha...

In this post, Martha C asked some good questions about the economy and how to explain her conservative viewpoints to liberals. Fiscal conservatives and liberals have vastly different points of view, which can make conversations between liberals and conservatives extremely difficult. Adding to the confusion is the fact that liberals and conservatives can say the same words and mean entirely different things.

I am not an economist. I am just a lowly graduate assistant in the computer science department at my university. Still, I think I can address at least a couple of Martha's points.

Most liberals are motivated by a pretty fundamental hatred of/disrespect for "big business" (even little business) -- they mostly grew up being taught that owners of businesses are cold, uncaring, selfish people who are out to rip off as many people as they can, etc. I wonder whether Palin or Scott Brown or others could talk about the fact that there ARE a lot of selfish, greedy, dishonest people in business; and that many of them have hurt others on their way to success. Then they could go on to say, BUT it's also a fact that the success of these people DOES create jobs for others and creates wealth in the community, which in turn provides a bigger tax base, etc. Maybe it could help, too, to throw this in: Every NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB fan can think of some hot shot player that is totally obnoxious and is earning an obscene amount of money. But they realize that the player brings crowds, wins games, etc., which creates jobs and other good stuff in the community, so they don't talk about trying to get rid of that player (unless the bad behavior is totally extreme). I think this is an honest approach that could work with people. They might even buy the idea that there are just as many fat-cat, dishonest crooks in government as there are in the private sector.

Martha mentions "greed". This is a word that gets casually tossed around a lot in political debates. In an interview with Phil Donahue, Milton Friedman describes greed as "individuals pursuing their separate interests". He also points out that this "greed" is not unique to countries like the U.S., which have capitalist economies. Every nation's economy is based on greed -- it's just a matter of whose greed. At some point, greed became a dirty word. However, greed is what makes our economy work. In order to acquire more money to satisfy my greed, I must serve other people by producing some good or service that somebody else wants.

I also want to address Martha's discussion of "obscene" salaries. I think that Martha was mostly using this word in a tongue-in-cheek way, but there are many people who rail against the "obscene" profits of the insurance industry and other "fat cats" in "big business". (A quick Google search for "obscene profits" will give you some good quotes.)

The use of the phrase "obscene profits" reveals a lot about the underlying attitudes of the speaker. Consider Martha's example of the "obscene" salaries earned by professional athletes. A person who describes athletes' salaries as "obscene" is implicitly saying that he disagrees with the spending habits of millions of fans. Whether you are railing against the "obscene" profits of professional athletes or the "obscene" bonuses of company executives, this is an extremely arrogant attitude. Then again, big government is all about arrogant paternalism.

The whole other side to this that isn't explained well enough (for those of us without economics backgrounds) is WHY government spending on infrastructure projects isn't as helpful to the economy as the same about of money would be in the form of tax cuts.

First of all, infrastructure is necessary for a strong economy. You must be able to get goods from point A to point B. However, I think Martha is referring to the makework projects in the Democrats' "stimulus package". This bill was passed, based on the economic fallacy that spending a bunch of money will produce additional wealth. Politicians with this view would argue that these projects will inject money into the economy, which will be spent, and re-spent, and re-spent....

Anyone who looks at this more closely can see that this makes no sense. This is just a case of politicians (and the people who voted for them) falling for the Broken Window Fallacy. Economist Frederic Bastiat describes a vandal, who throws a brick through the window of a shop. A crowd forms, and instead of becoming angry at the vandal, people in the crowd suggest that the vandal has done a great service. The broken window has provided a job for the glazier, who produces windows. The glazier will use his profits to buy bread from the baker, and so on. However, the people in the crowd have ignored an obvious question: how would the shopkeeper have spent his money if he did not have to buy a new window? He might have used his extra income to buy a new suit from the tailor. After spending money on a window, the shopkeeper cannot afford a new suit, so the tailor is out of a job. In actuality, the vandal did not create any jobs or wealth. The entire economy is poorer by the amount of one window.

In the same way, the "stimulus package" creates jobs in the construction industry, which politicians are all too happy to take credit for. On the other hand, taxation stifles the creation of new jobs in the private sector. This results in highly visible beneficiaries of new construction jobs and invisible victims, who would have been hired had this bill not been passed. Therefore, politicians can take all the credit and receive none of the blame, which is just how they like it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In Defense of Obama

The title of this post may come as a bit of a shock to some of you. After all, I've been relentlessly critical of Obama from the inception of this blog. I still think that his foreign policy, domestic policy, and national security policy are doing great damage to our country. I am in the process of writing a harsh critique of his State of the Union address.

However, I am starting to be bothered by an over-the-top tone to some of the recent attacks on Obama. A good example of this is the uproar over the following comments Obama made during a townhall meeting in New Hampshire a couple of days ago: “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.” This comment is getting a lot of attention in some quarters. Several elected Nevada officials, including Senator Reid, have criticized Obama's comments as hurting Las Vegas's struggling economy, which is based heavily on tourism. The mayor of Las Vegas went even further, saying that Obama was not welcome in his city.

Now I can understand why Nevada politicians would be quick to defend their city. That's their job. But conservatives are making too big a deal out of this. I am a fan of Mark Levin, but he went way overboard on this during his radio show Tuesday evening. After playing Obama's comments, he ranted about how Las Vegas is the symbol of American capitalism and Obama hates Vegas because he hates capitalism and he hates for people to have fun and enjoy life. Come on. And this morning on the radio, they were still replaying Obama's comments and talking about them.

I think Obama's comments are pretty innocuous. He was making a point about how Americans know to cut back on their spending in tough economic times, and the government should do the same. Very reasonable point. (Too bad he isn't practicing what he preaches, unveiling another huge, bloated, $3.55 trillion budget this week.) He mentioned Sin City because it is a universally recognized destination for people who want to spend their money on non-essential entertainment. (He mentioned buying a boat too -- should boat manufacturers and sellers be outraged?) And give me a break, Vegas is not the symbol of American capitalism. In my opinion, it is more the symbol of American decadence and extravagance. (Although I'm not saying there aren't legitimate activities and reasons to go there.) Of course, in a free society people have the right to behave decadently and extravagantly if they choose. But nothing Obama said can be reasonably construed as counseling people not to visit Vegas.

So here's my point in talking about this. Do conservatives not have enough legitimate policy criticisms of Obama? There are so many more important things to be focusing on. If we're going to defeat the Democrats in November, we have to substantively show why the Democrats' ideas are so harmful to our country and present Americans with an alternative policy agenda that will make our country stronger. It's what we're trying to do on this blog. And it's what two recently successful Republicans did -- Bob McDonnell and Scott Brown. These candidates did not run as squishy moderates -- but they stayed focused on issues and refused to engage in harsh personal attacks like their opponents. And both were very successful with independent voters. As I said before, I like Mark Levin, but of late his radio shows have been sounding increasingly hysterical, with a lot of shouting and name-calling. I know he's upset with what the Democrats in Washington are doing, and so am I. But these antics just turn people off. We didn't like it when the left launched daily cheap shots against Bush. Let's not take petty cheap shots at Obama either.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Obama and Terrorism

This post is a response to Island Boy's comment on my previous post about how Obama's national security decisions are making us less safe. This issue is so important that I decided to respond with a full post instead of merely a responding comment. If there were ever an issue with life-or-death significance, this is it. I want to demonstrate three things in this post. 1.) The Bush Administration's tough approach to terrorism is both moral and necessary. 2.) The Obama Administration's weak approach to terrorism is immoral and dangerous. 3.) The evidence demonstrates that Obama's weak approach to terrorism is not working.

1.) Island Boy makes the following claim: "If we torture and waterboard terrorists, then are we any better than the terrorists we are trying to capture? Who gives us this divine right to do as we are please with another human? Nate, I guess you subscribe to 'an eye for an eye' belief." This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of the Bush Administration's "enhanced interrogation techniques," which are not the same as torture. The purpose of these techniques is not to take vengeance on people we don't like. It is to obtain valuable information about future planned attacks and terrorist activities that will enable us to stop those attacks, capture more terrorists, and in the process save many innocent human lives. There is no conceivable moral equivalency between us and the terrorists. Terrorists blow up innocent civilians, including women and children. CIA & military interrogators use tough, but not inhumane, methods to extract information from hardened killers in order to protect those innocent civilians. Terrorists are evil, violent murderers; CIA & military interrogators are heroes who work tirelessly to keep us safe day and night. There is no comparison between torture and enhanced interrogation techniques (including waterboarding). Torture is used by totalitarian regimes to inflict permanent physical harm on people they don't like. Saddam Hussein made torture chambers for his political opponents. Islamic countries in the Middle East sentence women and girls guilty of "unchastity" to have their arms sawed off or to be gang-raped. By contrast, our country under Bush subjected a select few of the most dangerous, top-level capture foreign terrorists to techniques like sleep deprivation, aggressive questioning, loud music, and drowning simulations to frighten hardened killers into giving up vital information for our national security. There were less than 30 terrorists who were interrogated in this way, and only three of them were waterboarded. No serious or permanent physical harm was done to any of them, and in each case we received valuable information about planned terrorist attacks that we had been previously unable to obtain. Thousands of lives were saved as a result of these targeted interrogations. This is the very definition of moral and right, at least in my book. These terrorists are being treated far better than they deserve -- reasonable living conditions, plenty of food and water, freedom to practice their religion of hate, no immediate execution. So don't claim "human rights" violations to me.

2.) By contrast, the Obama Administration has completely abandoned the "tough" approach to terrorism. His Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, abandoned the term "terrorism" in favor of the words "man-caused disaster." This sends a clear message that we are unwilling to recognize evil for what it is and confront it; instead we prefer to sugarcoat it. Obama is trying to shut down Guantanamo Bay, which means that dangerous terrorists will either be released overseas or brought to the U.S. The first option invites dangerous killers to kill more U.S. citizens, and the second option puts Americans at risk of having dangerous killers present in their communities. This sends a clear message that we are willing to compromise the security of Americans in order to appear "nice" to the world. Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, has announced that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, will receive a civilian trial in the U.S. along with numerous other foreign terrorists. Such a move gives foreign terrorists many constitutional and legal rights reserved only for U.S. citizens, offers them a huge public forum to spout their hatred for the U.S., puts the safety and security of American cities and communities at risk, risks the public release of a huge amount of classified intelligence information, and offers the opportunity that killers might go free based on any number of technicalities or procedural violations -- all at huge expense to taxpayers. This sends a clear message to terrorists all over the world that if they are caught by America they will be treated like U.S. citizens instead of the enemy combatants they are, and encourages them to believe that our country is more concerned about cultivating a non-threatening image abroad than protecting our citizens and giving justice to terrorists. After the failed Christmas Day attack, a vacationing Obama waited three days to give an extremely brief, detached public statement before quickly heading back to the golf course. This sends the message that our president doesn't think terrorist attacks are that big of a deal. Once the Christmas Day bomber was captured, he was only interrogated for about 50 minutes by the FBI before being read his Miranda rights and "lawyering up." Even though the initial interview revealed he could provide significant information about terrorist activities, as soon as this non-U.S. citizen was given a lawyer and constitutional rights, he clammed up and completely stopped cooperating. No one from the CIA and no terrorist experts ever had a chance to interview him or to follow up on any important information. People could lose their lives because of this mistake; yet no one in the Obama Administration was held accountable for this. This sends the message to terrorists that if captured they have nothing to fear from us. Obama's Attorney General has opened an investigation into the CIA for alleged human rights violations that were legal at the time they were committed. This sends the message to the CIA that they should be more focused on protecting themselves from internal investigations than tracking down terrorists, and encourages terrorists that our country is weak and disunited.

I could go on and on with these examples. All of them send the message that we don't take terrorism seriously, that we aren't going to be aggressive in tracking terrorists down and interrogating them, that we are more interested in being popular in the world than in keeping our citizens safe. These terrorists have spent their lives in a world of violence, have been taught hatred from their youngest years, and are hardened to the worst of cruelties. In their society, freedom and democracy are non-existent. The strong rule the weak. The only language they know is force. They perceive our gestures of goodwill not as a reason for them to renounce violence, but as an admission by us of weakness and defeat. Repeatedly backing away from confrontation with a bully just encourages his behavior rather than stopping it. This is far more true with hardened terrorists.

3.) In light of my previous analysis, it makes sense that radical Islamic terrorism would be emboldened by Obama's actions. And when we look at the evidence, we find that this is the case. Internationally, terrorist attacks spiked by almost 50% in 2009 compared with 2008, including significant increases in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Twelve terrorist incidents occurred on U.S. soil in 2009, compared with an average of less than three per year each year of the Bush Administration after 9/11. Of course, the worst of these was the only actual successful terrorist attack on our soil since 9/11 - the Fort Hood shootings. And we know that there were many warning signs prior to the attack that were ignored due to an obsession with political correctness. There were also the Christmas Day bombing and the plot to bomb NYC targets. Terrorist "chatter" is up significantly in recent months. Bin Laden recently released another videotape, and he doesn't seem very impressed with Mr. "Nice Guy" Obama. Iran continues to ignore our attempts at engagement and defy our repeated cooperation deadlines. The terrorists are becoming more active, not less. Obama's response cannot be prevention techniques like "full body scans." This just eats into our liberties. We have to go after the terrorists and destroy them. Or they will destroy us. This is a life-or-death struggle, and Obama and his people seem oblivious.

The Washington Post Gets It Right Again!

Here's another great opinion piece by a left-wing Washington Post columnist. I rarely agree with Richard Cohen, but in this article he does a great job of explaining why Obama's naive national security policy is putting Americans in danger. From the handling of the Christmas Day bomber to the civilian trial for KSM to the closing of Guantanamo, this administration has been persistantly showing an unwillingness to stand up to radical Islamic terrorism. As bad as Obama's domestic policy has been, I think his prosecution of the "War on Terror" is even more dangerous for our country.

The Washington Post Gets It Right!

This is a great opinion piece about the ridiculous controversy over the "pro-life" commercial that Tim Tebow (Univ. of FL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner) and his mom are doing for the Super Bowl. Sally Jenkins, although pro-choice, does a great job of showing that feminist groups like the National Organization for Women are really trying to squelch the very "choice" and "tolerance" they claim to support. I am still amazed that this article was published by the Washington Post.