Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Weekly Bidenism

Today we're introducing a new feature: The Weekly Bidenism. Joe Biden is a liar. He's also perhaps the dumbest politician this country has ever produced. This guy makes Forrest Gump look like Einstein. And we think that such carefully cultivated stupidity deserves a little appreciation. So every Sunday morning from now on (notice we're starting on a Saturday night), we will post a Bidenisms or two for you to enjoy. . . and to make you wonder how this man could possibly ever be put a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

Today we start with a classic in which Joe tells us how smart he is. During the Robert Bork hearings, it was discovered that Slow Joe had been disciplined as a first year law student for plagiarism (something he has a history of doing). On April 3, 1987, at a campaign stop in Claremont, New Hampshire, he was asked about that and a slew of recent reports about other instances of plagiarism. Joe angrily attacked the questioner:
"I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect. I went to law school on a full academic scholarship, the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship. . . . I went back to law school and, in fact, ended up in the top half of my class. I won the international moot court competition. I was the outstanding student in the political science department at the end of my year. I graduated with three degrees from undergraduate school and 165 credits, only needed 123 credits, and I'd be delighted to sit down and compare my IQ to yours, if you'd like, Frank."
While this is not a very nice (or smart) thing for a politician to say, what makes this a Bidenism is a certain lack of candor here, and Biden's follow up comments.

For example, it turns out that Biden did not go to school on a full academic scholarship. He received a partial scholarship, and it was based on financial need. . . not academic credentials.

Moreover, while Biden claims he ended up in the top half of his class, his law school records show that he finished 76th out of 85. That puts him almost in the bottom 10%.

And while Biden claims he won an international moot court competition, Newsweek noted that he'd never listed this on his resume.

His three degrees also turned out to be a single degree with a double major, and his law degree.

When all of this was exposed, Biden first responded with a true Bidenism:
"I exaggerate when I'm angry, but I've never gone around telling people things that aren't true about me."
So exaggerations are true?

He then responded angrily:
"I don't understand all this. [expletive] I guess every single word I've ever said is going to be dissected now."
No Joe, just the stupid ones. . .

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New York State of Mind - Notes from an Emigrant

This is going to be a busy, busy weekend in New York City. The NY Yankees are going to win the World Series, someone will win the New York City Marathon, and this is the final weekend before Election Tuesday 2009. Phew, no wonder we're the "City That Never Sleeps"! Who has time?

In Sports News: It's a war on Philadelphia this week. The Yankees are pitted against the Philadephia Phillies (a/k/a “Frillies”). As of now, each team has won one game. Though, in true Yankee fashion, we are already planning the ticker tape parade WHEN we win. As I reported last week, Mayor Bloomberg's mayoral legacy hangs in the balance because he is the only NY Mayor to NOT preside over a Yankee World Series championship. If the Yankees lose, he must be re-elected to ensure another chance at bat. If the Yankees win, we don't need him anymore. Either way, the people of New York City win...

In other sports news: To further the war with Philadelphia, the New York Giants play the Philadelphia Eagles tomorrow. And if that's not enough to disrupt our lives, the New York Marathon will be run tomorrow. YEY, I love to watch people run while I sit in a lawn chair sipping a margarita.

And in Pre-election news:

NY-23 Alert: If any of you have been following the three-way race for New York District 23 in Upstate New York there has been a breaking news this morning. Bill Owens (Democrat), Dede Scozzafava (Republican), and Doug Hoffman (Conservative) have been locked in a three-way contest to fill the seat in New York Congressional District 23 left empty by John McHugh, a Republican who was appointed as Secretary of the Army by President Obama earlier this year. The special election race was further complicated when Sarah Palin, Tom Pawlenty, and Fred Thompson bucked the Republican Party by endorsing the Conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman, over the Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava. It has now been reported on Fox News this morning that Scozzafava has suspended her campaign. In her announcement, she cited low poll numbers and low campaign funding, but stopped short in endorsing either candidate stating that her supporters should decide for themselves. Scozzafava has been in the more liberal wing of the Republican Party while Hoffman, an accountant, has been described as a Reagan conservative outsider. According the Fox News report, this could mean a possible first victory for Conservative independents and Tea-Partiers in a traditionally Republican district (yes, they do exist in New York).

Local Election News: Mayor Bloomberg is still spending money like a drunken billionaire and leads significantly in his bid for Mayor against Bill "The Democrat" Thompson. We will see on Tuesday what money can buy...

National Political News: Representative Charles "Tax Cheat" Rangel continues to be investigated by the House "Ethics" Committee. Still no answer from the Ethics Committee but, because of a leaked secret report made public by accident, we now know that there are several others under investigation including Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson of California, and John Murtha of Pennsylvania. Now I know "innocent until proven guilty" but really, Nancy, what's it going to take? We want rulings now. By the way, the poor unfortunate who accidently posted the secret report on a public access website has lost her job. Was this deducted from the jobs "created and saved"?

Other News - The USS New York will be making her maiden voyage to New York on Monday. For those of you who do not know, the USS New York is the newest San Antonio Class ADL (amphibious dock landing) in the Navy and was built in part by steel salvaged from the World Trade Center. And as if fated to be the ship built from adversity, it was newly laid down in Avondale, Louisiana outside New Orleans at the same time Hurricane Katrina blew in 2005. The ship will be pulling into New York harbor early Monday morning, steaming by the Statue of Liberty, and, in a touching moment, will come to a full stop in front of the World Trade Center site and executing a 21-gun salute to honor those lost in 9/11. But don't worry, we have been duly warned that there will be very loud gun fire on Monday morning, so hopefully no one will be forced to run. Maybe the Whitehouse press liaison can learn a few things from the US Navy. The USS New York will be berthing along side the newly renovated USS Intrepid on the Hudson River through Veterans Day.

Next week - Who knows? We don't sleep here...
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Our StimulusTax Money Well-Spent After All

And you thought that the 15% or so of the stimulus money spent so far was being wasted on silly things. Well, we're here to tell you otherwise. The Democrats know where their priorities are, and have spent accordingly. Thanks to a recent report from the Senate Republicans, we now get to look at a few of the projects our commandeered money has been used for. I'm impressed. See if you are.

$300,000 FOR MAPPING RADIOACTIVE RABBIT FECES: The State of Washington hired a contractor to rent a helicopter to fly 50 feet over the outback of the state to find out all those vital things we need to know about radioactive rabbits. With highly-sophisticated scanners, the helicopter covered an area of 13.7 square miles. The concept was to find out the effects on the wildlife of areas which were affected by nuclear fallout. Of course, no bomb was ever dropped or tested in Washington, and the Hanford Nuclear Plant has been given a 0% emissions report card each and every time it was routinely but intensely investigated by both private and public agencies. One comment from the California radical director of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment pretty well summed it up: "It was kind of funny, in a sick way."

$4200 to $5500 TAX CREDIT FOR PURCHASING GOLF CARTS: It seems that the cash-for-clunkers and fuel-efficient automobiles plans of the Obama administration have fared very well. In a fine bit of creativity, some citizens discovered that the lowly golf cart is a very fuel-efficient vehicle indeed. By combining federal tax incentives for purchasing electric cars with state incentives for fuel-efficiency, happy duffers are finding that they can get a really nice golf cart nearly free. Now that number in the headline may not sound like much, until you multiply its per-vehicle number by the actual number of golf carts actually purchased. Welfare recipients get free cheese. Golfers get free motorized carts.

$219,000 TO STUDY THE SEX LIVES OF FEMALE COLLEGE FRESHMEN: Now frankly, I think this is a study that needs to be done, but I would have been glad to do it for far less than that sum. The "Women's Health Project" being conducted by Syracuse University professor of psychology and medicine Michael Carey will interview five hundred Syracuse University freshwomen to check out what kind of sex they enjoy, and how often. Critics have said it's a misuse of stimulus funds which will produce no discernible economic benefit. To them I say, "it sounds pretty stimulating to me."

$1,000,000 TO RENOVATE THE SUNSET STRIP: Nothing to see here. It's just another $1 million or so to go along with the $7 million already set aside for the project. I see it as a perfectly reasonable exercise of government power to revitalize an area much beloved of the druggies, hippies and anti-war protesters from the 60s who now pine for a memorial to their youth. After all, not everyone from the 60s was able to get a job as a radical university professor.

$2.3 MILLION FOR BUG RESEARCH IN CONNECTICUT: No, we're not talking about the bugs that the Democrats have placed in Joe Liebermann's office, or the ones the Republicans have placed in Chris Dodd's office. These are real bugs. The research involved more than just observation. It provides for raising multiple generations of the Asian longhorned beetle, the nun moth, and my personal favorite, the woolly adelgid (aka "the infamous predator of the hemlock). And there's never anything normal about the use of these funds. They first went to the US Forest Service, and they used it to fund a non-forest rehabilitation of a quarantine research facility. But at least it's better than the last US Forest Service moneyfest for the study of forests in Washington, DC.

$6 MILLION FOR A SNOWMAKING FACILITY IN THE 15TH SNOWIEST CITY IN THE UNITED STATES: Yep, that's Duluth, Minnesota. I'm sure the locals were thrilled to find that they would now be able to shiver all 365 days of the year.

$500,000 TO STUDY SOCIAL NETWORKS LIKE FACEBOOK: Since Facebook and the other social networks are free to the user, we must find a crisis to exploit. That crisis was found by Landon Cox, A Duke University assistant professor of computer science. His concern is the issue of privacy. The good professor now has half a million bucks to intrude into the privacy of Facebook users.

$380,000 TO SPAY AND NEUTER PETS IN WICHITA, KANSAS: It is a proven fact that fertile dogs and cats produce very little in economic rewards. Females particularly tend to drag down the economy by taking a few days off work each month, and then become completely economically unproductive after giving birth. Males are even less useful to the economy, since they tend to spend most of their time sniffing around for available females rather than sticking to their jobs. So--off with their organs!

$3.4 MILLION FOR A TURTLE TUNNEL IN FLORIDA: This doesn't do a lot for the economy, but those turtles are just do damned cute. So the money will be used to create an "ecopassage" across a highway in Tallahassee, Florida. You see, without the passage, automobiles tend to make the turtles larger, but also flatter. With the passage, the little cuties can just march from their nesting sites straight to the sea without getting run over by an eco-unfriendly automobile or truck.

$30 MILLION FOR A SPRING TRAINING BASEBALL COMPLEX FOR THE ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS AND THE COLORADO ROCKIES: This facility will be built on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian lands near Scottsdale, Arizona, to a total tune of $100 million. Publicly-funded sports facilities are frequently complete boondoggles, but here we can look at the bright side. Only 1/3 of the funds will come from the stimulus package.

We're used to the government wasting our tax money on silly projects. But this bill was supposed to do one thing, and one thing only--stimulate the economy, not just create jobs where the only ones who benefit economically are the ones who already have jobs or will get jobs because of the projects. It was an economic stimulus package, not a job-perpetuation or job-creation package.

In March, President Obama pledged that the stimulus funding would be closely watched to ensure it is properly spent. Well, another promise broken. "And so I've said before--I know Joe [Biden] emphasized this point to you earlier--if we see money being misspent, we're going to put a stop to it, and we will call it out and we will publicize it," said The One. So how come I got my information from a Republican Senate report?

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Question: Nothing To Fear But . . . ahhhhh!

With Halloween approaching and botox crazed Nancy Pelosi lurking in your bushes, tell us what scares the heck out of you? Ghosts, gouls, zombies? Satan, Santa, clowns? The dark, the light, the twilight? And tell us why we too should be afraid. . . very afraid! [+] Read More...

Obama Hates Us, This We Know

Back in November, the Obama election machine was brimming with love, peace, brotherhood and fair reason, promising us a government that was both transparent and nonpartisan. Kumbaya! We're all going to join hands and skip into the Promised Land. Those who did not vote for him would be welcome at the table, and a new era of fraternity would begin. To paraphrase Dinah Washington, "what a difference a year makes."

The Obamassiah has turned out to be the most thin-skinned, doctrinaire, suppressor of dissent and disagrement since the paranoid Richard Nixon prepared his enemies list. Now I've been around a very long time in the political arena, and I know that politics ain't beanbag. Any man (or woman) with the ego to run for president is not going to be your average choirboy. It's tough, it's mean, and you're going to step on toes and have your own toes stepped on. So if a president develops an animosity towards those who have treated him unfairly, or at least who he thinks have treated him unfairly, it's understandable. Any president who pretends to love everyone is a liar, and is planning on finding a way to stick the knife in if the opportunity presents itself.

Truman publicly denounced anyone who didn't think his daughter was the greatest opera diva of all time. Eisenhower was a vocal foe of the military-industrial complex. JFK had an ongoing grudge against the Washington Post. LBJ was a notorious slapper-downer of those who got in his way. Carter could be very nasty toward those who didn't take his piety seriously enough. Reagan was extremely affable, but he was not above the use of "there he goes again" when confronted with an opponent who spouted left wing nonsense. Clinton had an ongoing donnybrook with The American Spectator and anyone else who accused him of serial womanizing. Bush II was not above insulting or temporarily banishing news reporters whom he considered to be falsely undermining his war efforts.

But Obama and Nixon are the only ones in my memory where the dislike translated into the concept of "enemies." The enemies are out to get them, professionally, politically and personally. And Obama seems to go even one step farther. His lock on the mainstream media is almost perfection, but there are still a few enemies who just won't go away, and they need to be gotten rid of by any means necessary. So Fox News Channel has been marginalized as an enemy, and not even a legitimate news organization. Rush Limbaugh is an enemy who speaks in no uncertain terms of hoping Obama fails (meaning he hopes his policies fail). News radio is an enemy which must be destroyed by curing it with a "fairness" doctrine and back door maneuvering to kill the free speech of those who oppose the president.

Obama has "community organizations" working hard to silence the nay-sayers, threatens lawsuits and even criminal prosecutions against those who disagree with his politics, and has even gone so far as to set up a national e-mail snitch list to get citizens to rat on each other in order to ferret out the enemies who would bear false witness.

All those other presidents knew that it was all politics, and that if someone got personal about it, they'd hit back personally whenever possible. But they never saw an opponent as an enemy of both the president and the state. And they never spent so much valuable time and presidential currency on trying to deligitimize the enemies they imagined in their paranoid heads. Only Nixon and Obama have made this so personal, so vicious, and so dishonest. They both exhibit an absolute lack of comprehension of the concept of a "loyal opposition."

The problem has become so acute that Senator Lamar Alexander, a very gentle sort of moderate/conservative Republican actually addressed the issue on the Senate floor. He urged Obama to lay off on the assaults on those who disagree with the White House. Alexander pleaded with the president to quit squandering every opportunity to "work together on the truly presidential issues--creating jobs, reducing health care costs, reducing the debt, creating clean energy." And then he dropped the comparison bomb: "I have an uneasy feeling only ten months into this new administration that we are beginning to see the symptoms of this same kind of animus displayed by Nixon developing in the Obama administration."

As Gary Andres at The Weekly Standard has said: "After ten months in office, a clear pattern has emerged. Instead of hope and change, it's blame and attack. Obama rarely gives a speech about a pressing national problem without blaming George W. Bush. For many Americans, it's getting old. It makes the president look small and petty. Does he want America's respect or its pity?"

Nixon developed his paranoid style during the McCarthy era, taking a real issue of communists in government and using it to tar his political rivals as enemies. He won his Senate Seat in California from Helen Gehagan Douglas by accusing her of communist sympathies even though all proof was that she was nothing more than a lifelong liberal. He had deep feelings of inadequacy because he wasn't part of the Ivy League intelligentsia which he so often had to face with his Duke University credentials. Obama has the Ivy League record, but his real credentials remain obscure, his academic career a complete secret and therefore a complete mystery, and seems to be covering up his own feelings of inadequacy by high-falluting speeches and pretensions to elegance. Underneath, he's just another sneaky politician who got his political training in the dirty politics of Chicago. Not exactly the Harvard Yard. Add a belief in the concept that if you don't agree you're dangerous and out to get me, and you have a formula for enemies lists.

Presidents with this kind of philosophy regarding the opposition hire aides who see things the same way and are willing to do what the president wants to rid the nation of the enemies. Nixon had John Ehrlichman and H. R. Haldeman, Obama has Rahm Emmanuel and Valerie Jarrett. This president even considers people in his own party to be enemies if they disagree with his pet projects. "We routinely hear about phone calls from the president's staff to congressional Democrats expressing White House dissatisfaction if someone says anything out of line with Obama's policies," said an unidentified Congressional aide to Gary Andres in his Weekly Standard article.

I can't tell you about hope, but I am pretty sure that this style of ad hominem politics isn't going to change while Obama remains in office. His inability to compromise or see the other guy's point of view is deeply ingrained and probably unalterable. It will be interesting to see at what point in the Obama presidency the situation will have deteriorated so badly for him that he announces to the American public "I'm no socialist (despite all the mounting evidence to the contrary)." And considering his nearly open hostility to Israel, I am even left wondering if he will blame the failure of his administration on "a group which stabbed us in the back."
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The Mouse That Called Obama’s Bluff. . .

Want some actual news you haven’t heard anywhere: Honduras just won. Seriously. Funny that the MSM hasn’t mentioned this. Image, the entire world, standing shoulder to shoulder. . . led by the greatest power the world has ever known. . . guided by the greatest leader that country has ever produced. . . a man so compelling and hopeful that he deserves the Nobel Prize just for being. . . and Honduras just humbled them all.

Here’s the set up: In one corner, we have the current government of Honduras. They tossed their former president (Manuel Zelaya) out of the country when he tried to make himself into a Hugo Chavez-like dictator. (If you don’t know the background, or why this was not a coup, then read my prior article: HERE. I’ll wait for ya.)

In the other corner, we have the world. . . literally. Every other country in the world is doing their internationalist best to demand that Honduras allow Zelaya to return to power.

Here’s the twist: On November 29 of this year, there will be an election in Honduras. That election was already scheduled to take place before Zelaya got expelled, and will be between two men who had no involvement in the “coup.” The winner will become the new President, ending Zelaya's term. Democracy at work.

The current government in Honduras hopes that this election will make the Zelaya issue moot, and that the world will leave them alone thereafter. The international community, however, has loudly proclaimed that it will not recognize the results of that election unless Zelaya is first returned to power to serve out his term.

Except. . . Team Obama has now signaled (very quietly) that they will accept the election and move on. Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooaal!!!!!

Honduras wins! Honduras wins! Honduras wins! Honduras wins!

Oh, the humanity!!!

This represents a truly humiliating moment for Team Obama and for the internationalists. For years, the internationalists have told us that international pressure could solve any problem without the need for evil, dirty force. War was history, international law had killed it. Team Obama bought into that hook, line and sinker, and based their entire foreign policy on talk and hope. Now tiny Honduras, with its seven million people, has exposed that policy in all its gloriousless impotence.

** Update: Speak of the devil, this morning they announced a "deal" where Zelaya gets to appeal directly to Congress (which opposes him 5-1) to be restored. In exchange, we, the US, will recognize the election later this month. Annoyingly, but not unexpectedly, the AP is calling this total surrender an "Obama victory" even though it gives the Hondurans everything they wanted and Obama achieved none of his goals!

Here’s a little background on how this debacle developed. . .

From the outset, every single country in the world declared that they would do their able best to force little Honduras to accept the return of then-President Manuel Zelaya. They would (and did) blockade the country in violation of their treaties and their obligations under the World Trade Organization. They would stop sending aid and tourists. They warned that the coup leaders would be arrested. Chavez threatened to invade (he's a little sweet on Zelaya). All unless the evil coup plotters (leftists now described as “conservatives”) promised to immediately restore Zelaya to power and to submit to his terrible wrath.

And Honduras responded, “Bite me.”

Thus began an interesting series of negotiations between Micheletti, Zelaya and the International Community. (As an aside, as you read this, keep in mind the following quote from Zelaya about Micheletti: “I have no confidence in Micheletti. He changes his attitude from one minute to the next.”)
Micheletti’s Position
From the beginning, Micheletti took the position that Zelaya may not return to Honduras, unless he faces charges for what he’s done -- like stealing several million dollars from the Honduras Central Bank. Micheletti also declared that he will serve out the remainder of Zelaya’s term until the election scheduled for November 29.

On August 28, Micheletti changed his position slightly, saying that he would agree to allow Zelaya to return to Honduras under an amnesty if Zelaya renounced his claims to the presidency. Micheletti also offered to step down as President as part of the deal.

That’s it. Funny, I don’t see the attitude changing Zelaya does, perhaps I’m missing something? Let’s see how Zelaya did. . .
Zelaya’s Positions
Zelaya took the initial position that he needed to be restored immediately to serve out his full term and that the coup plotters had to face punishment for their crimes. He then went about making threats.

July 15: Zelaya asserts that “Hondurans have a right to insurrection.” Hey, who doesn’t?

July 18: Zelaya’s foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, says that Zelaya was returning to wage a “final battle” against those who ousted him. Let’s get ready to rumble!

July 21: Zelaya says that he would return soon and that “It is impossible to sustain a regime with bayonets. The world will not allow it, starting with the United States.” Oh oh, is that reliance on Obama I’m hearing?

July 23: Saying that United States sponsored talks have broken down, Zelaya declares that he will cross the border into Honduras. He dismisses concerns about the possibility of violence.

When the United States warns that it does not support this trip to the border (“Any step that would add to the risk of violence in Honduras or in the area, we think would be unwise.”) Zelaya responds: “Defending our rights is not an act of violence. . . we are going to seek dialogue.”

July 24: Zelaya bravely arrives at the border between Nicaragua and Honduras. . . on the Nicaraguan side. He stays only thirty minutes and only symbolically steps into Honduras. He explains: “I am not afraid, but I’m not crazy either. There could be violence and I don’t want to be the cause.” I guess encouraging an insurrection is not promoting violence?

He goes on to note that: “The best thing is to reach an understanding that respects the will of the people.” Though he also calls on the United States to not accept the results of the November 29 election unless he is restored to power first. So I guess “will of the people” doesn’t mean the Honduran people?

July 26: After Hillary “Yoda” Clinton calls his move “reeeeckless,” Zelaya responds that she should “stop avoiding the issue. Secretary Clinton should confront the dictatorship with force.” So much for not being the cause of violence.

July 30: Man of peace Zelaya suggests that the Honduran military should rebel.

August 1: Zelaya vows to return to power through peaceful means and denies that he’s rallying groups of armed supporters. Assures Zelaya: “We do not use arms. I am not forming any armed military force, although I have the means to do it.”

August 5: Zelaya tells the Mexican Senate: “The United States is the one that really has the power to impose measures that go beyond diplomacy.” Which begs the question, what lies beyond diplomacy? The answer is usually war, isn’t it?

September 21: Zelaya bravely sneaks across the border in the trunk of a car and beats cheeks for the Brazilian Embassy.

September 27: Uber-Pacifist Zelaya, a virtual modern day Gandhi, declares over the radio: “I call on you to mobilize throughout Honduras, and that everyone who can come to Tegucigalpa to fight in the final offensive.” Thereafter, we get an answer to the old hippie refrain: “what if we had a war and nobody came?” Answer: Idiots end up living in other people’s embassies.
The International Community’s Incredible Shrinking Posture
Finally, we take a look at how the international community, led by Barack “The Second Coming” Obama demonstrated its impotence.

July 21: The United States gets off to a muscular start, declaring that it wants “the constitutional order” in Honduras “restored. . . now.” By this, they meant they wanted Zelaya returned to power immediately.

To make this happen, Obama cut $16.5 million in military aid to Honduras -- that will teach them. Obama also revoked the diplomatic visas of the four top members of Honduras’ government, preventing them from clubbing in Miami on weekends. The United States also sent President Oscar “The Grouch” Arias of Costa Rica to negotiate a resolution with both parties.

July 21: Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim adds to the pressure, warning that these talks are taking too long. Another Brazilian diplomat warned that “the negotiations must not reward a coup.”

July 22: The United States ups the ante by warning Honduras that it would impose tough sanction if Zelaya is not returned. Harrumph harrumph.

July 23: Then things start to go squishy. Upon learning that Zelaya was planning to return to Honduras from his luxury suite at the Venezuela Hilton, the United States suddenly announces that it doesn’t support this move: “we think [this move] would be unwise.”

Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, added his voice of caution: “It’s important to make an effort to avoid a likely confrontation.” Cluck. . . cluck.

July 24: Hillary Clinton states that: “President Zelaya’s effort to reach the border is reckless.” Cluck. . . cluck. . . bwak!

August 5: The United States heroically softens its stance, stating that no further sanctions would be coming. Run away! Run away! Whimpers Richard “The Vermin” Verma, of the State Department, “we reject calls for crippling economic sanctions and made clear that all states should seek to facilitate a solution without calls for violence and with respect for the principle of nonintervention.” Nonintervention? Except of course, when it comes to deciding who should rule Honduras.

September 21: Zelaya sneaks across the border even after Team Obama specifically told him not to do this. The United States responds by warning all sides to exercise caution, but takes no action.

September 27: In response to claims that the dastardly Honduran military surrounded the Brazilian embassy and “blasted music” at the building (like the US did in Panama), the United Nations Security Council condemns the Honduran government, but takes no action.

And now, Team Obama decides to give in to the mean old Hondurans. So much for the magical power of dialogue.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

“Film School Follies: Parts 7 & 8 – Two For Twice the Price”

By ScottDS

The first day of photography class was like the first day of school all over again. We were finished with our core classes and now the film curriculum proper would begin. A good 2/3 of the students were strangers – I knew the two Mikes and a couple others and that was it. This class excited me since photography was one of those hobbies I’d tell people I’d like to take up one day but, as of this writing, it still hasn’t happened.

“Photography: The One Who Got Away”

I honestly can’t recall the teacher’s name or the names of the various lab assistants and I couldn’t find my notes for this class so I’ll be flying blind here for a page or two. It was our understanding that we would spend much of the time in the school’s darkroom developing our own photos. It’s safe to say that mine is the last generation to be raised with film; I’m sure my dad’s sixth grade students know only of digital technology.

We were given 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras. In short (courtesy of, when you look through the viewfinder of a camera, the image that you see is the result of light being filtered through the lens. Inside the lens, glass elements focus the light into a tiny beam that shines into the camera. The beam of light strikes an angled mirror, reflecting upward and through a prism that filters it into a viewable image for the viewfinder. When you press the shutter-release button to take a picture, a device within the lens (aperture) partially closes to control the amount of light that enters the camera, preventing overexposure of the film. Next, the angled mirror lifts out of the way, creating a short moment of darkness within the viewfinder. Then the shutter quickly opens and closes, briefly exposing the film to the light. The mirror and aperture then return to their normal positions. As light hits the film, it activates a “silver halide salt” coating, converting it into metallic silver, which forms an inverse of the image upon the film (the picture is reversed to its proper form when transferred from film to photo paper).

Most SLRs offer interchangeable lenses and offer a variety of ways in which to manipulate the aperture and shutter speed. (Hard to believe there was a time when you couldn’t do this!) Basically, the focal length is the distance between the lens and the film. The longer the focal length, the narrower your field of view and vice versa (a telephoto lens would have a focal length of, say, 600mm whereas a wide angle lens would have a focal length of 28mm). The aperture is the opening in the lens that controls how much light reaches the film. The size of the aperture is measured in F stops which correspond to fractions of the focal length of the lens. An F2 is half the focal length, an F4 is a quarter, etc. Oddly, the higher the F number, the smaller the aperture. The shutter speed is the length of time the shutter is open. The slower the speed (measured in fractions), the longer the exposure time, and vice versa. I can continue with technical jargon but, in all honesty, this was the first class to really frak with my head and even most of the material above came from elsewhere. I highly recommend how-to books by John Hedgecoe if you’re interested in the inner, outer, and meta workings of photography.

The highlight of this class was our trip to St. Augustine, almost two hours each way. It was Mike and me, along with a few new friends: Gema (from South Florida; had already earned a Bachelor’s from FSU), Ryan (from Maine, and currently freelances as a professional photographer), and Matt (from Indiana, and I haven’t spoken to him in two years). Luckily, it turned out to be a beautiful day. It was also very cold: I know, we live in Florida, but the winters can still get plenty chilly! We visited and took photos of the beach, the docks, a cemetery, a lighthouse, Flagler College, the Casa Monica Hotel, the Castillo de San Marcos, and a few other tourist spots. It was one of the first days where everything seemed to click (pun intended) and we all had a good time.

We also went to downtown Orlando at night (unthinkable today with the high crime rate) to take photos. We literally parked in front of City Hall on Orange Avenue and just walked around. We also went to downtown Winter Park one night as well. A few of us stepped into a church and it was actually my first time inside a non-Jewish religious building. We had to assemble portfolios but I had to fudge some of the figures. We were supposed to note our aperture, F stop, etc. but, as I indicated, it was all very confusing for me (this was one of those classes where good math skills would pay off). I got a decent grade but some students’ work was simply outstanding. One day, we poured our photos onto the teacher’s desk and he presented them to the class on the overhead. One student (Gary, but he wanted people to call him “Scoot” – God knows why) had taken a self-portrait: my memories are spotty but I vaguely recall a knife and some fake blood. Yeah… A couple other students (two fun, hard-working brothers from Kansas) actually parodied Scoot’s photo and had it presented during another class!

The darkroom was an interesting experience. I have to say I enjoyed the red lighting (I referred to it as Hunt for Red October lighting). In total darkness, we would have to open the film canister, cut off the end tab to make a straight edge, insert the edge into a slot on a small reel, and then thread the film, cutting off the film from the spool. Then we would drop the reel into a small tank and, in the light, pour eight ounces of developer into the tank, slowly agitating it. After pouring out the developer, we’d pour in a stop bath (to ensure termination of the development process). Then we’d pour in a fixer (which removes the unexposed silver). After all this, we’d rinse the film and hang it up to dry. Then we’d cut the film into strips and make a contact print. Using an enlarger, we would then expose each strip and from that we’d make prints utilizing roughly the same process described above. (I am not doing justice to this process at all.) We did practice darkroom procedures in class so we wouldn’t fumble around too much in the dark. I enjoyed this whole process but it does require patience and an eye for detail. Patience was also required when I attempted to ask one girl to see the nude photos she had developed…

“Screenwriting: The Write Stuff”

…I later found out they weren’t completely nude but still rather risqué with her arms placed strategically across her chest. In screenwriting class, which was being taught concurrent with photography, Mike walked in one day and said, “Scott, I happened to be standing next to Claudia when she was developing her nude photos.” Claudia – the girl with the “I (Heart) Nerds” shirt from an earlier blog – was already the apple of my eye but, per usual, I was too chicken to do anything about it. Sometime after my catatonia ended, I saw the photos (albeit the size of postage stamps) and I simply feigned interest in the technical aspects while mentally drooling and cursing my timidity. One classmate (who is hovering just north of the big 4-0 and considered an “elder statesman” of the class) referred to Claudia as “the prize.” She was attractive, had a lovely smile, and was into anime – all the girls I like seem to be into anime for some reason. I don’t get it!

Anyway, screenwriting was taught by a geeky fellow named Dustin Lee (he reminded me of the short guy from the film Baseketball) and, for some reason, many students didn’t like him. I feel this was a mistake but, if you didn’t want to write a script, you had the option of writing a report on a film. About a third of the students chose this option. I decided to write a script – your typical “boy meets girl” story. I cringe as I recall trying to work in a joke at the expense of my old rabbi (he was arrested for online solicitation of a minor). Mike, on the other hand, was working on a story about kids and had even written a foodfight scene but soon realized it would’ve been completely impractical to stage one with our limited resources. The way it worked was that the teachers would get together and choose what scripts would be filmed – one in digital, four in 16mm, and three in 35mm. Most of the students wanted their scripts shot in 35mm simply because we would have (slightly) more time and access to locations. Mike and I soon combined forces.

One fateful night, we accompanied a friend of ours from the audio curriculum to a tattoo parlor. Standing outside Chrome Lotus on Colonial Drive, we brainstormed and soon came upon an idea: a schlub and his two friends sneak into a school darkroom to get a glimpse at a girl’s nude photo. A few hours later, we had four pages completed… and a title: In the Nude. If memory serves, our scripts were to be only eight or so pages long. Mike would walk around or lie on my couch as I fiddled on my laptop, utilizing a program called Final Draft. The next phase would involve a critique from the teacher. Thankfully, Dustin liked the script (he even recognized the Star Trek reference) and said our first draft resembled most students’ third drafts. I also took Claudia to lunch to get her opinion – since the story was “inspired by true events,” I wanted her approval. Thankfully, I got it and she even insisted on paying the bill. I offered to take her out to lunch again so I could return the favor. I still kick myself for not making a move.

Screenplays are blueprints, not the final product. All motion picture scripts (and I mean all of them) consist of a front cover (heavier card stock), a title page, the script itself, and a back cover (ditto), all three-hole punched and bound with two brass fasteners. Most scripts are 90-110 pages. Some cardinal rules for beginners: no fancy covers, artwork, or illustrations; don’t number the scenes (this is done later); only 12-point Courier or Courier New font (NO exceptions); don’t justify the right margins; don’t indicate what draft it is; don’t indicate camera movements or edits unless absolutely necessary; and spelling, grammar, and punctuation need to be perfect! Left margins are set at 1.5 inches, dialogue at 2.5 inches, character names at 3.7 inches, and parentheticals (actors’ instructions, like “holding the phone”) at 3.1 inches. Page numbers appear in the upper right corner and most scripts begin with FADE IN. A typical scene heading indicates interior (INT) or exterior (EXT), along with the location (SCOTT’S BEDROOM) and time of day (usually DAY or NIGHT but I’ve also seen DUSK, MIDNIGHT, etc.)

We had the shy “Scooter” who pined for “Anna” and, with his two friends “Matt” and “Ronnie” in tow, would sneak into their school’s darkroom to get a glimpse at this holy grail photo. We started the action in the darkroom where the boys overhear Anna’s friends talking about “nude photos.” The fire alarm goes off and everyone leaves the room. Anna admits she left “that photo” in the room but her friends convince her not to worry – the room is locked and won't be opened until class the next day. The boys overhear this and decide to take action. Yes, we resorted to the old cliché of crawling through air ducts. They reach the photo lab, Scooter falls to the ground, goes over to Anna’s station and finds her photos – they’re not nude photos; just nice self-portraits, complete with Anna’s beautiful smile. Scooter decides to leave the photos but Matt comes running up behind him, grabs the photos, and makes a run for it. He manages to get back up to the air vent but Scooter falls again. He sees the top photo of Anna (which fell out of Matt’s pocket) and says, “Maybe there won’t ever be an us, but if there ever is, I’ll know I never had to lie to you.” On the outside, Matt and Ronnie thumb through the photos until they come across the last one: a nude photo… of Anna’s boyfriend. Whoops!

Mike and I were (and still are) very proud of our work. It’s not Citizen Kane but, hey, it’s something! Much to our delight, the more classmates who found out what we were writing, the more they wanted to work on the film, assuming the teachers selected it to be produced. The cliché of student films is that they’re all dark and depressing stories about tortured souls. We took a somewhat lighter approach. Another student (Ryan) wrote a script about a Canadian corporation and the attempts to frame the lone American employee (this script would later become the bane of my existence). Gema wrote a script and Mike remembers asking her, “What the hell are you doing?” And Mike #2 couldn’t come up with an idea so a bunch of us went to his place and came up with a ridiculous alien encounter tale. Five of us literally improvised it on the spot just so he would have something to bring into class the next day!

Bloggus Interruptus

I was recently selected to be a test subject for a NASA study. It’s a long story but I will be flying to Texas next week where I will be staying in a hospital (UTMB in Galveston) for 57 days. I’ll still be able to post comments but I most likely will not be able to continue blogging. I don’t know my schedule and I won’t have any of my notes. So this will be the last Film School Follies entry for 2009. Again, I’ll still be around – I simply won’t be able to devote 110% of my attention to the blog.

Recommended Reading:

Goldman, William. Adventures in the Screen Trade. New York: Warner Books, 1983.

Goldman, William. Which Lie Did I Tell?. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.

Hedgecoe, John. The New Manual of Photography. New York: DK Publishing, 2003.

Trottier, David. The Screenwriter’s Bible: 4th Ed. Beverly Hills: Silman-James Press, 2005.

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San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

Another day, another journal entry. The wind has been blowing so hard it loosened some sheet metal on the roof, and last night was like sleeping inside a bass drum since I live on the top floor of the building (I laughingly call it the penthouse). My assistant, Kitty Kelly, is not too pleased. She thinks it's thunder. But this morning the sky is gorgeous, the Bay is blue, and the wind has let up a bit. Now if the temperature would get above 50 degrees, we'll have a beautiful San Francisco day.

NOTE: In the interest of protecting The City's status as a sanctuary city, another law will cease to be enforced which initially has nothing to do with immigrants. This coming Sunday, SF cops will no longer enforce the law requiring that those caught in a traffic stop who cannot produce a valid driver's license will have their cars impounded. Instead, unlicensed drivers will be given twenty minutes and the use of a cell phone to get someone with a valid driver's license and proof of insurance to come to pick up the car and the unlicensed driver. The law always seemed a bit draconian to me, but that isn't the only reason behind the sudden period of grace.

The underlying reason is that a very large percentage of unlicensed drivers in San Francisco are here illegally. Thus--we're picking on the poor, downtrodden, and wretched refuse of somebody else's teeming shores. So while this new policy protects the occasional slob in a hurry who forgot to stick his wallet in his pants while running off to work, it really protects the illegal who didn't just forget the wallet, but forgot the insurance and the immigration laws as well. That puts San Francisco to the left of Berkeley, which recognizes that the issue is driver's licenses and insurance, not immigration status.

The new police chief said "San Francisco is trying to be sensitive to all of the communities we serve. We recognize that this is a problem within the Hispanic community, where people working here can't get a driver's license because of their immigration status." Well, boo freaking hoo. Those are weasel-words for saying "we'll risk public safety in order to avoid calling attention to an unlicensed driver's illegal immigration status." Police officers who obviously chose to remain anonymous had a different take. "People without licenses are often lousy drivers and this change means more dangerous streets for everyone else." And "These are the same people who are sailing through stop signs and injuring people."

The message is if you're here illegally, you can now drive around town without a driver's license and insurance. You now have a license not to have a license. Needless to say, Supervisor David Campos and the Latino politicians are delighted with the decision. Most San Franciscans, not so much.

Note: An eleven year old boy was recently stabbed multiple times on a Muni bus, and a dead body found on another. Let's check the videotapes to see who might have done these things. Oops--no can do. The camera/recorders weren't working on either bus. A study has shown that of the 960 vehicles equipped with camera/recorders, 22 percent were completely non-functional and another 30 percent were only partially functional. That means only 48 percent actually served any kind of protection or investigative purpose. Muni claims to have worked on the problem and gotten it down to only 20% non-functional or semi-functional. But that means that you still have a one in five chance of being mugged or murdered without any surveillance to bring help or discover who the perpetrator was. And this is the same Muni that tells me my buses are on schedule most of the time. Well, I know that's a lie.

Note: Remember that Labor Day [planned] one-day shutdown of the Bay Bridge that ended up being nearly two full days? Some major repairs had to be performed to make the old section of the east spans safer until the new span is completed (some time between now and the beginning of the next century). How did that work out? OK, I'll tell you. On Monday night, high winds began to blow throughout the Bay Area. The bridge was not spared. And suddenly, a driver had his hood lifted and his windshield smashed by a flying four inch-thick cable which was whipping all over the roadway. Traffic screeched to a halt, and other cars were damaged by the flying cable and the heavy anchor which had fallen from above and embedded itself into the roadway.

No coincidence, this. The very anchor stay and cable which caused this mess were exactly the same ones that caused the extra day's delay over the Labor Day weekend. And now the busiest route between San Francisco and the East Bay is closed indefinitely for further evaluation and repair. That causes major transportation problems for between 250,000 and 300,00 daily commuters. We're about to experience a traffic jam of epic proportions for an unknown period of time.

My take on this is that the repairs are being performed by the same agencies and contractors who are building the new span. If their work won't withstand a 50-60 mile an hour wind, how is it going to withstand a 7.0-8.0 magnitude earthquake? And that is the underlying purpose behind this massive repair and massive building project in the first place. I think I'll take BART.

Note: Never a dull moment for activists in The City. Youth With a Mission drop-in center just had a major celebration, complete with star performers and athletes serving up food and good cheer to the unfortunate in the City's Tenderloin district. The event celebrates the second annual fundraiser for One x One (say, one by one), a group dedicated to health issues and quality of life for children in the poor sections of town. A very good cause, I might add. Actor David Arquette, MLB player Nomar Garciaparra, Laila Ali (boxer, and daughter of Muhammad Ali), and ESPN sports commentator Jay Bilas handed out boxes of mushrooms to older women, and food bags to poor families.

After the event in the Tenderloin, the celebrities then went to the fund-raiser at Bimbo's 365 Club in North Beach, where they were joined by Charlize Theron though not by actor Matt Damon who was scheduled to be there, but must have gotten side-tracked finding something new to blame Bush for. They didn't raise a lot of money, and even some locals who support the cause groused that "the food pantry event never seemed like anything more than a made-for-media photo op."

But what made the event at Bimbo's worthwhile was the moment when a street denizen broke through the door, began shouting incoherently and demanding money from the participants. Does this sort of thing happen in Beverly Hills? Workers from the Center, who were invited to the fund-raiser, said the man was a regular. They steered him over to the piano, where we're told he played a few songs, then got up voluntarily and left. As Chronicle writer C. W. Nevius said, "welcome to San Francisco."

Note: Our favorite local writer, Mark Morford, wrote another doomsday article this week. But it's too lengthy to rip apart here, and actually contains some truths. So instead, I will simply link to the article for you to read at your leisure: 10 Amazing Truths. Needless to say, all the bad things are caused by Republicans.
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The Sound of Theme Music

Do you want to know why Obama hasn't done anything about Afghanistan? Well, we've uncovered the minutes of a secret meeting of Team Obama to discuss "Afghanistan." I warn you, this is distrubing.

(click to enlarge if you can't read the transcript)

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Repealing Baucus

Having examined the Baucus bill and explained why it might not pass (and now seen the opposition grow), it’s time to talk about repealing this bill if it does pass. Can this bill be repealed. Yes. . . and I would think surprisingly easily. Here’s why.

From A Technical Standpoint, Repeal Would Be Easy

Technically speaking, repealing a law is simple: you just pass another law that repeals the first one. The government speaks through the United States Code. If you want it to shut it up, or change the way it speaks, you just pass a law that deletes or amends the relevant portion of the code.

Yet, this is often not as easy as it sounds. Some laws work their way into the system like weeds, intertwining themselves with dozens of others. This makes it difficult to repeal the law because of the disruption that would be caused the intertwined laws. Consider, for example, social security. Tax law, identification laws, disability law, employment law, medical record privacy laws, and many others rely on the Social Security Act to make their components work. If Social Security were to be repealed, each of those other laws would need to be amended as well.

The Baucus bill, however, is not like social security. The Baucus bill creates stand alone requirements that can easily be removed without causing significant disruption to any other laws or programs.

From A Political Standpoint, Repeal Should Be Easy As Well

As repeal is technically possible, we must next ask whether repeal will be politically possible. To determine that, one must examine who will fight to save the law and who will fight to repeal it, and then determine whether enough legislators will decide that repeal is in their best interests. In this case, few will defend the law and many (both interest groups and the public) will favor its repeal.

If we assume that Baucus passes largely along the lines of what has been proposed (instead of the harder left version proposed by the House), here are the likely consequences:

First, right out of the gates, the public is going to get rather angry because. . .
Misled Supporters. This bill’s supporters have been misled. Most of the bill's supporters will be shocked to discover that almost none of them will qualify for free health care under the bill. In fact, if you make more than 133% of the poverty level, not only won’t you get coverage, but you will be forced to buy insurance or be fined. Some recent polls suggest that 60% of supporters expect to get free health care from this bill. In reality, less than 1% of the public will qualify for this. That's called disillusionment, a powerful force for killing support.

All Pain, No Gain. Baucus has written this bill in a way that all of the “bads” (tax increases, cuts to Medicare) kick in right away, but the “goods” (subsidies, limits on insurers) don’t kick in for years. For three years, this bill be all pain and no gain to the public.

Increased Costs for Everyone. The portion of the public that has private insurance, 60%, will find their insurance costs going up almost immediately. The insurers have estimated that the new requirements will increase the cost of a typical policy by $3,000 to $4,000 per year.

Benefits Tax. Many members of the public will suddenly find their benefits being taxed at a 40% rate. This is the excise tax on so-called “Cadillac benefits” plans. This will apply to approximately 14% of families and 19% of singles in 2013 (despite indexing, this will increase to 31% and 34% by 2019).

Doctor Shortage (Phase I). Seniors are going to find that the low rates paid under Medicare/Medicaid continue to force more and more doctors out of the system -- the rest will complain bitterly about cuts, as they do now. With further cuts of 21% and another 40% planned, this could drive out a great many more. Also, with the addition of several million freeloaders to the system, seniors will find the system suddenly becoming very crowded and grievance ridden.
Then, the law of unintended consequences is going to kick in as the plan’s elements slowly take effect. These will convert the public’s anger to rage:
Failing Insurers. Profits in the insurance industry average about 6% a year, with last year’s profits being around 2%. Those margins are too low for small insurers to continue under the pricing limits imposed by Baucus. Thus, as Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) observed, most of the nation’s 1300 insurers will go out of business. So what you ask? Well, chances are that the insurance that you currently have -- the insurance the Democrats promised you could keep -- comes from one of these 1300 insurers. Whoops.

Doctor Shortage (Phase II). Wherever the government becomes responsible for paying for health care, it will pay only the current Medicare rates, which are already causing a revolt among doctors. Expect that doctors will refuse to participate in such plans, causing a serious shortage of available doctors. Essentially, you will have a two tiered system -- one for the rich, with doctors, and one for the rest of us, without doctors.

Doctor Shortage (Phase III). The more the government takes control of the medical profession, the fewer people will go to medical school. This will slowly lead to a doctor shortage, which might become apparent within a few years. Watch medical school entrance exam scores for a drop in quality of applicants.

Hospital Bankruptcies. Hospitals have been going broke all over the country, in no small part because of Medicare/Medicaid rates. The government will now withhold another $155 billion from hospitals under those programs. It will also continue to refuse to provide full reimbursement for illegal aliens. Expect this to result in a significant increase in the number of hospital bankruptcies.

Job Market Changes. As the employer mandates kick in, employers will switch to more temporary workers (in place of permanent workers) and will reduce part time workers’ hours to below 30 hours per week to avoid fines and the need to provide insurance.
Then, right when the effects of the bill are starting to become obvious, the new programs will break the Federal budget. While the Democrats claim the budget can absorb one trillion dollars over ten years, this bill far exceeds that.

Right now this bill extends insurance to 12 million more people -- five million of whom fall into the highest cost range (uninsurables). Applying the 2007 Medicare rates, this will cost at least $133.2 billion per year. It also provides subsidies to 67% of Americans. How much is not clear because the formula depends on the cost of the policies -- they’re capped at 10% of the cost of the policy. This could be as high as $2,000 per person, but realistically will be only a fraction of that. Let’s assume an average of $200 per eligible person, all 210 million of them. That works out to a yearly cost of $40.2 billion.

Even ignoring all other costs and the inevitable increase in costs that will arise from forcing another 25 million people into a system that has no capacity to take them, these two costs alone come to $173.2 billion per year, or $1.7 trillion over ten years -- double the Democratic estimates. That’s also more than the budget deficit in 2007 ($162 billion) for which Bush was so roundly (and rightfully) criticized.

To offset this, the Democrats have proposed a $12.1 billion per year tax on drug makers, device makers, and insurers. However, most of that will be passed right back to the government in increased costs. Beyond this, the Democrats are still looking for ways to pay for this.

If you want proof of the likelihood of budget disaster, look at the experience of various states that have tried to do what the Democrats are doing now. Hawaii, Oregon, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Maine have all created some version of government-run health care, and all are a mess. Hawaii’s Prepaid Healthcare Act resulted in higher costs, fewer insurers, and doubled the number of uninsureds. Moreover, the program was so expensive, it had to be discontinued for children.

Maine’s six year old “Dirigo Health” plan has managed to cover only 18,800 of the state’s 130,000 uninsured, has cost many people their private insurance, and has run away premium costs.

After three years, Massachusetts’ “universal coverage plan” caused costs to explode, resulted in waiting lists, and still left thousands uninsured. Tennessee’s plan for low-income people, caused insurers and doctors to leave the state and has repeatedly flirted with insolvency. Oregon creates an annual list, based on budget constraints, that identifies which treatments it will cover and which it won’t.

What Should The Republicans Do

Based on all of the above, the public should be quite happy to see this plan repealed. Moreover, there is no constituency to lobby to keep this thing alive. Indeed, the biggest mistake the Democrats made was not merging Medicare into this new program. Thus, opponents cannot be charged with trying to destroy Medicare by trying to destroy Obama/PelosiCare.

But this alone is unlikely to lead to a repeal, the Republicans will need to generate sufficient pressure that even Democrats support repeal. Here’s how to do that:

1. Set up the criticism now. Tell people what is going to happen so that they know where to lay the blame when their health care costs go up, their taxes go up, they lose their insurance because their insurer goes broke, their doctor refuses to take their new insurance, they are told their jobs will be made temporary positions, their part time hours are cut, the budget deficit skyrockets, and they experience massive delays and incompetence in their dealings with the health care system. Pointing this out now, lets people attribute a cause, which focuses anger and will go a long way to selling the arguments to be made later.

2. Don’t talk about repeal, talk about replacement. Come up with a real plan, not the usual Republican garbage about giving more subsidies to insurance providers, and tell people that you intend to replace Obama/PelosiCare with a plan that will work. Start talking about this now, so that Republicans can claim they tried to change this horrid system before it took effect, and keep talking about it.

3. Generate the proof. Don’t rely on the media to investigate the effects of Obama/PelosiCare or on people to come to their own conclusions. Work with the interest groups to do the studies that back up what is happening and attribute it to Obama/PelosiCare. Do studies pointing out how health care costs go up. Point out permanent jobs lost, reductions in the number of doctors or hospitals or nurses or numbers of insurers. And most importantly, keep pounding away at how many people remain without insurance so that people understand that this was all done for nothing. Indeed, point out that Obama/PelosiCare is spending $1.7 trillion to cover 12 million people, whereas we could have bought them all private insurance for $54 billion a year without destroying every else’s health care.

4. Sell the problem. Finally, Republicans need a unified, continuous attack on the program. They need to run on a visible platform of replacing Obama/PelosiCare. And they need to focus on the key themes:
• Obama/PelosiCare is all pain, no gain. Are you better off? Is your health care better or cheaper?

• Obama/PelosiCare was futile: 30+ million people remain unemployed.

• Obama/PelosiCare was an incredible waste of money. Rather than spending $1.7 trillion to cover 12 million people, we could have bought them all private insurance for $54 billion a year.

• Obama/PelosiCare is bankrupting Medicare.

• Obama/PelosiCare is bankrupting the country. Every other government function is being squeezed or ignored to pay for this turkey. And we’re going deeper and deeper into debt every day because of this plan.
With no one supporting this bill, an angry public, and active interest group opposition, Obama/PelosiCare will become an albatross that hangs around every Democratic neck -- particularly if Obama loses in 2012. This will guarantee ever increasing Republican majorities until they either have the numbers to repeal the bill or the Democrats decide to stop standing in the way. Using the “replace not repeal” plan should hasten their abandonment of Obama/PelosiCare.

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Captioning: Size Does Matter

Seen here, Barack Obama uses the latest in scientific hardware to examine his re-election chances. That or Biden's brain. Or could something else be going on?

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Ahnuld Burns The State Constitution

The Terminator just joined the liberals and RINOs in Sacramento in defying the will of the people of the State of California by burning another portion of the state constitution. That portion is legally known as Article I, Section 31, and is commonly known as the California Civil Rights Initiative. It clearly states that "The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."

Apparently, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is still better at reading German (or Austrian, if you happen to be Barack Obama) than he is at reading plain English. Passed in 1996 by a clear majority of fifty-four percent, the measure was upheld by the California Supreme Court and upon federal appeal, unanimously upheld by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Details, details. And petty constitutional details do not get in the way of social engineering liberal Democrats and RINOs.

The state legislature recently passed legislation which directs state agencies to award government contracts to the lowest responsible bidder, subcontracting fifteen percent of the work to minority-owned businesses and five percent to female-owned businesses. This assures that even the lowest qualified bidder will be disqualified until fifteen percent of contracts are awarded to minority businesses and five percent to businesses owned by women, regardless of the clear wording of the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI). The inmates have taken over the asylum.

On July 26, Governor Schwarzenegger signed the bill without comment (and without understanding, I would guess). Thus, California law is now in direct conflict with its own constitution and logically in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and 14th Amendment to the federal constitution. In a state already bogged down in multiple bureaucratic problems, facing bankruptcy and in complete disarray, the governor has chosen to make the problem worse. There will be immediate challenges to the legislation, and racial division is once again stoked as if this hadn't all been hashed out fully, completely and definitively thirteen years ago.

Former University of California Regent and conservative activist Ward Connerly was successful in getting the initiative passed, and moved on to get the same measure passed in thirteen other states so far. Of those, only California and Michigan have show consistent intentions to sidestep the provisions of the law. But this is beyond sidestepping--it's outright defiance.

My old friends at the Pacific Legal Foundation have already filed suit against the state (Ward Connerly and the American Rights Foundation are co-plaintiffs in the case). Here's what Connerly had to say: "These new quotas are a destructive and illegal attempt to pull California backward--back to a time when government routinely judged people by their skin color and sex. By enacting Proposition 209 (the CCRI), California voters clearly said that they wanted to move beyond that era of division, discrimination, and animosity. Unfortunately, the message still hasn't gotten through to many state lawmakers and, apparently, not even to the governor. The courts are going to have to instruct them that their constitutional duty is to defend equal rights and equal opportunity, not undermine them."

Liberals and big-government types love to play with constitutional provisions which leave what the state is allowed to do open to multiple interpretations. But they generally won't purposely go out of their way to ignore (or defy) a constitutional provision which clearly says what the government cannot do. And CCRI couldn't say it any more clearly: "Don't even think of performing any state action on the basis of minority status." Ahnuld and the legislature did exactly what they are forbidden in no uncertain terms to do. So far, there doesn't seem to be a single spokesman for the governor, the assembly or the state senate who is willing to make any statement of justification for their action.

There isn't even an economic justification for the action, particularly in a time of budget and monetary crisis. As Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Sharon Browne says: "The governor and the legislature also disregarded principles of sound budgeting, because projects are more expensive when they don't go the the lowest responsible bidder."

Any first year law student can tell you that the "subcontracting" ploy which avoids directly addressing the contractors themselves is a distinction without a difference. It's a non-operative legal fiction. It is a basic of constitutional law that you cannot do that which is constitutional (lowest bidder contractors)in an unconstitutional manner (the minorities subcontractor provision). Think of it this way. If for national security reasons, the Congress determines that a top-secret intercontinental ballistic missile must be entirely produced by American contractors, no agency is then allowed to write a contract with the contractor that says "but 15% of the parts being manufactured must be subcontracted out to North Korea."

I find myself asking the same question asked by La Shawn Barber at "Why did these elected representatives ignore the will of the people and bring back government-mandated racial discrimination?"
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Harry Reid’s Mistake On The Public Option

Not a full post tonight, but I wanted to update everyone on Harry Reid’s public option mistake and on who is important in the Senate right now (** cough cough call them cough **). As you know, I wrote the other day that I thought they would have a problem passing the Baucus bill. One of the reasons listed was the public option debate. Guess what. . .

You may have heard that yesterday, Harry Reid announced that the Baucus bill would include a public option. In fact, he selected a public option that states could “opt out of”, and that was that -- the end. At the time, the left declared this a victory and their friends in the media trumpeted the coming of ObamaCare.

But as I watched Harry give his press conference, it was clear that he was nervous. Sure, he was angry -- lashing out at Republicans, and he was smug, but he refused to answer whether he was sure that he had the 60 votes he needs for cloture, i.e. to prevent a filibuster. He had clearly gambled.

Not more than five minutes after his lips stopped flapping, CNBC announced that Olympia Snowe was very upset by this. And while she did not say that she would not vote closure, she indicated that she could not support a bill with an “opt out” or “opt in” provision. Whoops. (FYI, Reid then attacked her, commenting that she has been “frightened” into dropping her support. Sounds sexist to me.)

This morning, Joe Lieberman, who is fast becoming my favorite Democrat, announced that he would not support this bill. But even more so, he noted that he would filibuster the bill if it continues to include a public option:
“I’ve told Sen. Reid that if the bill stays as it is now, I will vote against cloture. I can’t see a way in which I could vote for cloture on any bill that contained a creation of a government-operated-run insurance company. It’s just asking for trouble – in the end, the taxpayers are going to pay and probably all people will have health insurance are going to see their premiums go up because there’s going to be cost shifting as there has been for Medicare and Medicaid.”
Honestly, Lieberman’s opposition was unexpected. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled. I just didn’t think he would stand in the way of this.

With Lieberman and Snowe bolting, Reid cannot bring the bill for a vote because he’s only got 59 votes. Even worse for Reid, Lieberman and Snowe’s defections are now encouraging others to start wavering. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La) both had already voiced reservations and have now confirmed their reservations (though they have stopped short of saying they won’t vote for the bill). But now, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del) says that he is unhappy with the bill and will seek to make changes on the Senate floor. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind) also has voiced concerns over the bill and now will not say which way he will vote on cloture (Bayh is upset about $40 billion in taxes imposed on medical equipment providers).

So while this battle is far from over, it looks like Harry’s declaration proved to be a total disaster. And I suspect that the longer this goes without resolution, the greater the chance that more Democrats will revolt -- not to mention that they still need to merge this with a House bill that is entirely unpalatable to most of the Senate.

If you feel like calling or writing anyone in Congress, these would be the people. Tell them that you see a vote for closure as a vote for the public option. . . and you don’t want a public option.

In the meantime, get some popcorn, kick back, and watch the fall out from Harry’s bomb.

** UPDATE: Olympia Snowe has now said that she will vote against cloture. Thus, Reid does not have the sixty votes he needs.

(FYI, I will put up an article outlining why the Baucus bill can be repealed tomorrow night. Thanks for your patience.)

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Through The Legal Looking Glass--The Goldstone Report

Those of us who grew up comfortably with our constitutional form of government and limitations on the prosecutorial powers of the state should become educated quickly on international law. The Goldstone Report (more correctly known as The Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Commission on the Gaza Conflict) was recently approved by the U.N. Human Rights Commission on a 25-6 vote. Naturally, it condemned Israel on every level for its "oppression" of the "Palestinians." But it is not the pro forma hatred of Israel that matters. It's the implications for future actions in international legal forums that is truly at issue.

The press worldwide has been feeding lies and half-truths and moral equivalencies to the willing fools who read them for years. So why was the Goldstone Report not simply another opportunity to blacken the name of Israel? There is a genuine and sinister reason for the issuance of the Report. Unlike the newspaper and television calumnies, the Report sets real things in motion. And the most important of those is that it provides an official excuse for domestic courts worldwide who are in bed with the Islamists to exercise otherwise tenuous jurisdiction over Israelis who have committed alleged war crimes. This is the doctrine of "universal jurisdiction" which is totally unacceptable to Americans (whether it is unacceptable to Obama remains to be seen).

The theory (like so many bad theories which lead to horrendous unintended results) is that if a citizen of a nation commits a war crime, and that nation is unwilling to prosecute the alleged war criminal under ordinary rules of jurisdiction, then any nation which agrees that a crime against humanity has been committed can arrest and try the alleged human rights violator. Of course, this being a rule that applies in places without the concepts of Anglo-American jurisprudence, little niceties such as due process and separation between prosecutors and trial courts are simply not worth discussing. Universal jurisdiction is only supposed to be applied when very particular circumstances are present (e.g., a "lawless" nation with no firm rules on what is legal and what isn't). But if a nation with a commonly-accepted system of law has decided that no law has been violated within its territorial boundaries, then the universal jurisdiction of the various nations and the International Criminal Court have no independent right to pursue prosecution.

But there's a catch. Who gets to determine if a nation has a commonly-accepted system of law? Well, the U.N., of course. Although the Goldstone Report does not specifically state that Israel lacks that commonly-accepted system of law, its 650 pages make it clear that by the standards of the U.N., Israel either lacks that system, or has inhumanely chosen to ignore those standards. And since legal niceties don't bother the U.N., that's good enough for them.

The whole report was a monumental set-up. The fix was in before Goldstone ever lifted a finger. He concluded that no amount of argument was ever sufficient to justify Israel's use of operational necessity, self-defense, or military attacks on areas where the Palestinians launch attacks and use civilians as shields. Any civilian killed was considered to be an "intended victim." The Report dismisses all those acts as "premeditated crimes."

The next step was to determine that Israel's operation in Gaza during the missile strikes being launched by the Palestinians into Israel was a systematic effort to oppress the Palestinian people. Goldstone's phony investigation concluded that the incidental razing of a chicken farm that produced eggs for Gaza and the Israeli shelling of a sewage system were clear war crimes, but called the Palestinians' use of Gazan human shields to be mere speculation. The anti-missile operations in Gaza were therefore a systematic policy of repression that has systematically deprived people in Gaza of their freedom.

And finally, because Israel refuses to acknowledge that any of this nonsense has any legal meaning at all after hundreds of civil and military court investigations of Israeli Defense Forces, the report concludes that Israel has shown itself to be unwilling to respond to the repression. Therefore, "The Mission supports the reliance on universal jurisdiction as an avenue for States to investigate violations of the 'grave breach' provisions of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to prevent impunity and promote international accountability."

Simply put, the Report allows such nations as Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Iran to declare open season on any Israeli who happens to wander within their territorial limits. They, you see, are nations of law--unlike Israel. And our brave President Obama, though not endorsing the Report, was instrumental in approving of the investigation in the first place, and has steadfastly refused to disavow the Report or support our longtime ally, Israel. Since Obama and his Attorney General don't much care for or know about American constitutional due process, why should they concern themselves with foreign jurisdictions?
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By Writer X

A few posts back, a Commentarama reader asked about self-publishing versus traditional publishing. While I don’t have much experience with self-publishing, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a part of me regularly dreams of chucking the hassles of traditional publishing and skipping down the road less traveled. Self-publishing offers an author more control of her manuscript, larger royalties, no agents, no picky editors, publishing what she wants, when she wants it. What’s not to like? Sign me up!

Not so fast.

Even so, more authors are flocking to self-publishing for a variety of reasons, making it less like the road less traveled and more like the interstate at rush hour, especially when you look at the growing number of small and self-publishing presses compared to only a handful of traditional publishing companies. And I can’t blame anyone for refusing to go through the traditional hoops of finding a literary agent, an editor, and then finally building a fan base only to deal with various levels of rejection along the way. I call it the 1-10 Pain Scale, like when you’re in the hospital emergency room for a gash in your hand (true story) and the nurse asks you, “How would you rate the pain on a scale from one to ten?” The pain in my hand was a -1 compared to the 10++ pain I’ve experienced over the years. And still do.

Here’s the little I do know about self-publishing:

1. There are lots of companies from which to choose: AuthorHouse, Booksurge, iUniverse, Lulu, PublishAmerica, Outskirts Press, Trafford, Tate. There are lots more but these are some of the publishers—also called vanity presses or Print-on-Demand (POD)— that advertise regularly in writers’ magazines that I read. They vary in size, cost, and available networks with which to sell your book. Some have direct links to Amazon and intricate domestic and international distribution channels. Very cool. As an aside, I also know several authors who’ve started their own small publishing companies to publish their works, using a third company to produce the books, and then hit the road to sell them.

2. All of the companies listed above offer publishing packages and a là carte services, depending on how much or how little you need and wish to spend—e.g. securing the ISBN number, cover design, editing services, book promotion, book quality (hard cover versus paperback). Their prices are all over the place, from nominal to thousands of dollars.

3. Some publishers like Lulu even let you publish e-books only and promote your book on its site. Not too shabby! And very cheap.

4. You set the price of your book allowing, of course, for the publisher’s take. You earn much more per book (the royalty) than you would with a traditional publisher; however, you’re 100% responsible for the promotion of your book.

5. Some best-selling fiction and non-fiction authors went the self-publishing route and found fame and fortune after having been rejected by traditional publishers. Examples: THE SHACK, ERAGON, and even those CHICKEN SOUP folksy books. I ask you: Is there a CHICKEN SOUP for someone’s soul that hasn’t been written??

6. You can publish your book TODAY. How cool is that? Very tempting!

7. There are a few literary agents (out of hundreds) who don’t mind if you’ve self-published before you’ve opted to go the traditional route. These mostly technically savvy agents are still the exception, however. For some reason, most agents still equate self-publishing with failure. In other words, their thinking is that if your writing is good, you should be able to find an agent and sell a book to which I say: If only it were so simple. Not all good writers are good at self-promotion. It takes self-promotion to find an agent in the first place! But self-promotion is a critical part of an author’s overall success, too. It’s a Catch-22. We must like it or lump it.

8. Despite the allure, the odds of success are still not in favor of the self-published author. As an example, according to a January 2009 New York Times article, AuthorHouse reported selling more than 2.5 million books in 2008–which sounds like a lot, but averages out to around 41 sales per title. In other words: Don’t quit your day job. Certainly, though, some self-published authors do better than others.

9. There are no $$ advances given to authors who choose the self-publishing route.

Personally, I do believe that self-publishing will continue to gain popularity especially as authors and readers demand faster time to publication and more people opt for e-books instead of hardcovers and paperbacks. Consumers will benefit from more reading choices—perhaps even too much choice. That said, traditional publishing may go the way of the dinosaur but don’t expect traditional publishers to go quietly. They are starting to dip their toes, reluctantly, into the e-book waters but there are still plenty of consumers like me who still haven’t warmed up to the idea of reading books on a computer screen the size of an index card.

I also think that self-publishing, particularly for non-fiction authors with a sizeable audience, is actually a very good idea. Because of the content of your book, it might be beneficial to publish sooner rather than later if your idea/book might become stale in another year or two. From that perspective, it might make better business sense to self-publish.

Before you decide to self-publish, talk to people who’ve done it. Visit message boards and blogs. Compare the different companies, their costs, tools, and reputations. Don’t simply be swayed by the flashy web sites or eager online salespeople, touting only the advantages of self-publishing. A few additional things to consider: How many books do you have to sell before you can break even on your investment? Are you willing to pound the pavement and visit bookstores, schools, and libraries in your state? Across the country? What about selling internationally? Will it makes sense for you to hire a publicist to help with promotion?

I think self-publishing and traditional publishing are both exciting. Yet both come with headaches. I suppose it just depends on which headache you find less painful.

Is there something specific you’d like to see covered in the Commentarama writing series? Don’t hesitate to leave a request with your comment, email Commentarama, or email me directly at All G-rated requests will be considered. All X-rated requests will be forwarded to

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