Saturday, July 31, 2010

Really, Congressman Hoyer?

Is it possible that the Democrats are so out of touch that they don't realize that we talk amongst ourselves now on something Al Gore invented called the "world wide web"? If the twisted logic of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is any proof, then I would have to say the answer is a resounding "Yes" they are...

Steny Hoyer had this to say about the pending sunset of the Bush Tax Cuts:
“We have no intention of allowing the Republican tax increase — that their policies would lead to — to go into effect for working Americans, period. We’re going to act and make sure that the Republican phase out and increase in taxes does not end as they provided for in the laws they passed.”
Oh, just go to the tape -

If you look behind Mr. Hoyer's head, I think that backdrop reads: "We Make It Up, America!"
Hmmm, that is not quite how I remember it, so this is where the "world wide web" [or I think they call it the "interwebs" something like that anyway] comes in really handy. In a few short seconds, I found the most interesting information about how Mr. Hoyer voted on Tax Reform in the last ten years including those pending "Republican Tax Increases":
  • Voted YES on extending AMT exemptions to avoid hitting middle-income. (Jun 2008)
  • Voted YES on paying for AMT relief by closing offshore business loopholes. (Dec 2007)
  • Voted NO on retaining reduced taxes on capital gains dividends. (Dec 2005)
  • Voted NO on providing tax relief and simplification. (Sep 2004)
  • Voted NO on making permanent an increase in the child tax credit. (May 2004)
  • Voted NO on permanently eliminating the marriage penalty. (Apr 2004)
  • Voted NO on making the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Apr 2002)
  • Voted NO on $99 B economic stimulus: capital gains income tax cuts. (Oct 2001)
  • Voted NO on Tax cut package of $958 B over 10 years. (May 2001)
  • Voted NO on eliminating the Estate Tax ("death tax"). (Apr 2001)
  • Voted NO on eliminating the "marriage penalty". (Jul 2000)
  • Voted NO on $46 billion in tax cuts for small business. (Mar 2000)
Across the board, Congressman Hoyer voted "No" on any kind of tax relief. Well, except for voting "Yes" to extend tax cuts in the form of exemptions to the AMT a/k/a the "millionaires' tax". And now, he wants to take CREDIT for the tax cuts for which he would have denied us and wants to now blame the Republicans for the pending "increase" that we wouldn't be facing if the Republicans did not have to include the "sunset" clause to get the other Democrats to vote for the tax relief in the first place.

Does he really thinks that we are all really THAT stupid that we won't talk amongst ourselves [see "world wide web"] and see him for the hypocrite that he is? If the above is any proof, then I would have to say the answer is a resounding "Yes", he really does...
[+]

A Tale Of Two Executives

Yesterday, I discussed Barack Obama, who isn't really an executive, but he plays one on TV. Today, given the Gulf spill, I want to talk about a real executive--Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana. Tapped to deliver the Republican response to Obama's first State of the Union address, Jindal gave a less than inspired performance.

I predicted that given his bona fides and drive to succeed rather than to win, Jindal would recover and go on to a notable career in government. The past few weeks have proven me right. While Obama was speechifying, Jindal was acting. While Obama was golfing, Jindal was working. While Obama was glorifying the efficiency of the federal government, Jindal was organizing and putting real people on the front lines of the disaster. While Obama was golfing, Jindal was working into the wee hours. While Obama was golfing, Jindal was rolling up his sleeves and helping his fellow citizens. While Obama was golfing, well, you get the idea.

Many Republicans gave up on Jindal far too easily after the State of the Union debacle, and the Democrats counted him down and out. Both forget that Bill Clinton first burst on the national scene by giving one of the lengthiest, one of the worst, and one of the least remembered keynote addresses in the entire history of the Democratic Party. Since that ho-hum performance, Jindal has gone on to be one of the most successful state chief executives in Louisiana history. He knows when to fight, and he knows when a losing battle is just a losing battle. But the reaction to the Gulf oil spill has been a dramatic contrast between the empty suit in the White House and the dynamo in the Louisiana state house.

Louisiana politics were a Democratic-controlled showplace of hopeless incompetence and corruption even before Katrina exposed the cancer. The Democratic mayor of New Orleans ignored Bush administration warnings about the lack of preparedness for a serious hurricane, and when Katrina hit, he had totally failed to activate local resources in advance of the floods. Afterwards, he made Obama-like speeches while waiting for the feds to bail him out, all the while blaming Bush for his own failures. The Democratic governor agonized, whined and cried like a baby when Katrina hit, but was so busy boo-hooing that she neglected to declare the state of emergency which would have allowed the Bush administration to act in accord with the Constitution.

In total contrast, when the Gulf spill first occurred, Jindal mobilized his emergency management team, got all his state resources in place at the sites of the coming oil slick, and at the very first opportunity declared an emergency that would allow the federal government to act without an unconstitutional invasion of a sovereign state.

Prior to the BP spill but after Katrina, and unlike the former New Orleans mayor and former Louisiana governor, Jindal was able to get the recovery in New Orleans moving, requesting federal assistance only in those areas where state resources were already exhausted or unavailable. In the wake of the economic crash, he pulled Louisiana unemployment below the national average, even though Louisiana under Democratic governments had for decades been well above the national average even during boom times.

Jindal used his power and considerable intelligence to build Louisiana's energy-production sector. That was a major part of Louisiana's economic recovery which was occurring faster than in most other states. And oil was a major part of that recovery. In reaction to the Gulf spill, Jindal garnered his resources and prepared to fend off the encroaching oil. Oil doesn't kill economies, people kill economies. Obama and his gang of econuts and socialists saw things differently. So they imposed a moratorium on all Gulf oil production while they figured out how to make sure only America was permanently prevented from drilling in deep Gulf waters. Jindal worked for less dependence on foreign oil, Obama worked to assure nearly total reliance on foreign oil while his administration of Harry Potters wave their wands to create viable solar and wind energy sources.

If Jindal had shown the same fire and brimstone in his State of the Union reply as he did in attacking the moratorium, he might very well have become the Republican front-runner for President in 2012. But as Ecclesiastes tells us, there's a time and a season for everything. This is quickly becoming Jindal's time and season. While Obama and his Keystone Kops experts dithered, Jindal had early on proposed to dredge around the barrier islands and create berms to keep the spill from coming ashore. Many petro-engineers believe the plan might have worked, but even if it were only partially successful, it's better than anything the Obamists came up with. The problem was that Louisiana doesn't have enough machinery and manpower to mount such an effort on its own. The federal government did, but refused to consider the plan.

In actuality, Jindal had to fight to get the Obama administration to allow him to use state workers and equipment in waters beyond Louisiana jurisdiction. By the time permission was granted, it was too late. The oil was already washing up on Louisiana's coast. But at least Jindal had people on the beaches ready to do whatever could be done to minimize the damage. Meanwhile, Jindal had gone to court to stop the bureaucratic imposition of a moratorium which would deeply wound Louisiana's economy already being damaged by the oil coming ashore. He won, but the Obamists did an end-run and imposed a moratorium anyway.

Jindal addressed his troops (real and metaphorical): "We don't have time for meetings. We don't have time for red tape and bureaucracy. We're literally in a war to save our coast. Every hour matters. Every day matters." It was downright Churchillian. Later, Jindal attended a rally of support for Gulf oil workers now put out of work by the moratorium, and spoke boldly at the rally. "I want to send a clear message to Washington, DC. Our people don't want a BP check, our people don't want an unemployment check, our people want this arbitrary moratorium to end so they can get back to work." Well, there's a novel concept. Working instead of waiting for handouts from the government and money damages from a corporation. It sounds to me a lot like throwing down the gauntlet.

While Obama alternates between vacations and his permanent campaign, Jindal concentrates on doing the very best job he can in his current position and giving little thought to the next election or the one after that. Jindal is a powerful intellect, with real, public and provable academic credentials that make Obama look like he went to a rural junior college. He wasn't much more than a kid when he was given major executive responsibilities. At age 25, Jindal was made the head of Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals. He took a bankrupt, incompetent and even dangerous medical service and turned it into an efficient and modern health care system. At age 28, after successfully putting together a profitable plan for Louisiana's use of federal tobacco settlement funds, Jindal was appointed the youngest-ever president of the University of Louisiana system. Academic performance at the University increased dramatically.

In 2000, Jindal was appointed by President George Bush to be the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation, and he was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate in 2001. By age 30, Jindal already had three times the executive experience that Obama has today. And that doesn't include his current service as governor.

The difference in executive experience and understanding of the requirements of the job show up like a neon sign on Broadway. The BP spill put their names up in lights. Jindal jumped in, ordered, delegated, and acted quickly and efficiently in regard to the Gulf. Obama proved he is OK at golf.
[+]

Friday, July 30, 2010

Shyster President Lies Again

Our faux lawyer, phony President has done it again. He has again lied about a major holding in the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. This makes the second time. Once in the State of the Union Address, and again last Monday. The first time could have been a mistake. The second time was a lie. Oddly, it's a lie that is aimed at bringing those awful nativist, xenophobic Republicans and Independents into the suppression of free speech camp.

Just in case you've forgotten what the Supreme Court ruling was, the court found that massive restrictions on corporate campaign and political ads are unconstitutional. Putting corporations which receive their funds from voluntary investments from free Americans on a level field with unions that extort their funds from unwilling forced members is not acceptable to the Obamacrats. So Obama lied at the State of the Union address, ultimately prompting Justice Sam Alito to mouth the famous "not true." The alleged Constitutional law professor and Harvard Law editor has had plenty of time to correct his mistake (if it was a mistake), but has chosen instead to repeat the lie. "The Supreme Court campaign-finance ruling allows foreign entities to pour money into US elections."

This time the lie supports his agenda of getting the corporations off the field so the unions and leftist Democrats can win by default. It was made in a Rose Garden speech touting the union-beloved DISCLOSE Act, which effectively requires so much disclosure from corporations in a political ad that there's no time left for the politics. Says the legal genius: "Because of the Supreme Court's decision earlier this year in the Citizens United case, big corporations--even foreign-controlled ones--are now allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on American elections." For a grandiose President who considers himself a "citizen of the world," that's a pretty strange argument along with being a lie.

He also used the populist expression "special interests" several times to describe corporations, even though he is convinced that big labor is not a special interest. Remember that the "I" in SEIU stands for International. But that's OK, because unions represent the workers of the world united in losing their chains. How can that be a special interest?

Hence, the DISCLOSE Act. The Senate was scheduled to pass the bill on Tuesday, but Republicans and a few moderate Democrats were able to prevent a successful cloture vote on the bill, scoring a victory for free speech and the rule of law. Beside being union-friendly, the Obamists had managed to carve out a few exceptions for ads produced by formerly patriotic corporate organizations. As I've mentioned before, that's the danger inherent in single-issue organizations--throw them a bone on their special issue, and they'll sell out their fellow patriots in a hot New York minute.

One of the juicier provisions of the Act is the requirement of personal appearance in the ad of the CEO of the corporation sponsoring the ad to say that he or she "personally approves of the message." And it required as well that the top funder of the commercial also appear. Then there's the long list of contributors that must be disclosed in the ad if they fit into a certain level of monetary contribution to the message. By some mysterious calculus, the union members whose forced dues go into paying for political ads of which they likely disapprove do not rise to that monetary level, so there's no list of contributors required for union-sponsored ads other than the name of the union itself. Unions also regularly cook the books to show that the percentage of union dues used legally for political purposes is dramatically lower than the true percentage.

The Supreme Court ruling kept in place the rule that neither unions nor corporations can contribute directly to a candidate's campaign, but pretty much everything else is fair game. It also left in place the rule that blocks direct foreign contributions to candidate political campaigns, and changed nothing--absolutely nothing--in existing legislation regarding foreign involvement in issue campaigns. Still, lest some furriners become involved, the DISCLOSE Act specifically aimed its guns at corporations by not only keeping foreign corporations out of American politics, but also American corporations in which 20% or more of the shares are owned by those nasty foreign folks. If the same rule were applied to the SEIU, it would be the political death of the union, considering how many of their members are not American citizens and are often illegal aliens.

The rules that the Supreme Court left untouched include FEC Regulation 11 CFR 110.20(i) which says "A foreign national shall not direct, dictate, control, or directly or indirectly participate in the decision-making process of any person, such as a corporation, labor organization, political committee, or political organization with regard to such person's Federal or non-Federal election-related activities . . . . and 2 USC 441-Section 441(e) prohibiting foreign donations to political campaigns. The restrictions were left untouched, Mr. Obama. Untouched. And you bloody well know it.

The Court went out of its way to stay out of the political arena in the decision, stating per Justice Kennedy, "we need not reach the question whether the Government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nation's political process." In case the great Chicago professor of constitutional law doesn't understand what that means, the Court was making it clear that the participation of foreigners in elections is a matter solely for the political branches, and not for the Court, and therefore the Court will not rule on the issue. So quit lying, Mr. President.

[+]

The End of Toontown

I’m a big fan of cartoons. Done right, cartoons are the purest form of escapism. They are also a fascinating storytelling medium because they literally have no bounds. You can use any type of characters, any style of drawing, and any storylines. The story need not even make sense or follow conventional story-telling techniques, and deus ex machina reigns supreme. At least, that’s how it was. Modern cartoons depress me because they’ve surrendered their unreality and they replaced it with an uncomfortable mimicking of the real world.

Now before I start, let me say that there are a handful of amazing cartoons today. For example, Up and Wall-E are incredibly subtle and intelligent movies. And South Park is the best social satire since Rocky & Bullwinkle, and Futurama is what The Simpsons once was. But then it starts to get a little iffy.

The problem with so many modern cartoons is that they’ve discarded the very things that made cartoons such a wonderful medium. They've tried to grow up, and in the process they lost the fairy dust. Consider what modern cartoons have lost:

1. Cartoon Physics: The biggest loss to the cartoon world is the loss of cartoon physics. What is cartoon physics? It’s the physical reality in which cartoons used to operate. In other words, this is what let toons run off a cliff, but not fall until they became conscious of their mistake. This is why traps never sprang on good guys, only bad guys, why good guys could pass through solid walls painted to resemble tunnels, but bad guys couldn’t, and so on. This was the innocence of their world.

(FYI, many of these rules are on display in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, an excellent film that really shows a love for its subject matter. . . “You could [escape from those handcuffs] the whole time?!” “No, only when it was funny!”)

Unlike cartoons of yesteryear, today’s cartoon characters live in a world that largely approximates our own. The physics of their world is slightly exaggerated, but not by much, and certainly nowhere near as much as it used to be. If you run off a cliff, you fall. If you walk into a wall, you hit the wall. Thus, many of the most memorable moments from cartoons of old could not be repeated today. But more importantly, this has made modern cartoons much more “real-world” in their look and feel, and this has killed their essence. Indeed, there is little distinction today between cartoons and live-action movies.

In addition to the sadness of this loss, there is a danger element as well. If we take at face value the complaint people used to make about kids not being able to tell the difference between cartoon violence and the real world, what should we make of modern cartoons? In the past, when you smacked a cartoon cat in the face with a frying pan, something unreal happened: its face took the shape of the frying pan before it returned to normal. Nothing similar happens today. In fact, the outlandishness of the violence is gone today, i.e. it is much more real. But since cartoon violence still doesn’t result in realistic injury, are we not sending a worse signal today than we were in the past?

Also, doesn’t the violence seem a little more disturbing? When Jerry smacks Tom with a hammer, we laughed. But would we laugh if someone smacked Dug from Up with a hammer or would we recoil?

2. Indestructibility: By the same token, cartoon characters have lost their indestructibility. I’m not saying modern cartoon characters can be killed, but you certainly get the feeling they could. Think about it. In the past, you could blast a toon full of holes and water poured out when they drank. They could take an explosion, a shotgun to the face, a dissection from falling knives or any one of a dozen other Rube Goldbergian deaths. . . but they never died. They weren’t even hurt.

Yet, today’s characters get hurt when they are assaulted. They scream and try to avoid the danger, rather than facing the inevitable with a sarcastic stoicism and a sign that reads “Help!” Modern cartoonists even wrap their injuries in bandages and let them express the pain they’ve endured. Seriously, think about this: is there anything you can think of that could kill Bugs Bunny? Now, what about Buzz Lightyear?

Once again, the problem here is that we are wiping out the consequence free world that makes cartoons so escapist. In their place, we are seeing real world consequences, that change the look, feel, spirit and purpose of cartoons. Indeed, rather than dealing with fantasy, cartoons now become nothing more than live action films done on the cheap with computer graphics instead of film and sets.

3. That’s “Daffy,” Not “Stupidy”: Something else that really bothers me is the change in the kinds of defects cartoon characters display. It used to be that toons suffered from a variety of defects, all brought about by “bad” characteristics. In other words, their flaws were the result of inflated egos, hubris, obsessions, and other negative human traits. This made them daffy, and it made it easy to laugh at the egotistical jerks as their elaborate schemes blew up in their faces.

But modern cartoons are different. Now villains all suffer from megalomania and sidekicks all suffer from low self-esteem. Gone are the overly-elaborate plans, the Yosemite Sams who blinded themselves with anger, and the Elmer Fudds who could always be talked into making a huge mistake. Gone are the "tragic" villains, in the classic sense of having a tragic flaw. In their place are characters who are simply stupid, pathetic or rotten. Consequently, the very nature of the characters has become more nasty and less interesting.

4. Voices In My Head: Modern cartoons also have given up on finding talent like Mel Blanc. Instead, they now use famous actors to play the majority of the parts. This is done to help market these cartoons. But in the process, we’ve lost the believability of the characters. Indeed, you no longer see Bullwinkle or Scooby Doo, you see Robin Williams, Dan Aykroyd or a dozen pop stars. It’s like hiring Tom Cruise and Arnold Schwarzenegger to star in Star Wars just because they’re famous, not because they fit the part. This makes it so much harder to “get into” the cartoon. Also, doesn’t this just reinforce our vapid celebrity culture?

5. $$$$: Finally, we come to the blatant commercialization. In the past, cartoons were drawn to satisfy the creative process. Animators created what they envisioned and they pioneered various interest techniques to improve their processes. Today, cartoon characters are designed to make merchandizing easier. When sales considerations trump creative considerations, we all lose.

That’s my problem with modern cartoons. At one point, these were pure escapist fun, though they often held interesting satire and hidden meanings. But today, they’ve mostly become disturbingly realistic and bland. In fact, part of what made cartoons so fun in the past was seeing how creative the cartoonists could be. But today’s cartoons are so restrictive that they might as well shoot them as live action films and just convert them to cartoons with a paint program.

To me, this represents a real loss of innocence and creativity.

[+]

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vacation. . . All Obama Ever Wanted

Prepare to be outraged. Sometimes I wonder why Obama got himself elected President. He doesn’t seem to like our allies, our country, or even his job. But then something comes along to remind me exactly why he and the missus took the job. . . taxpayer-funded vacations.

Like some 14th Century despot, our Kenyan Overlord and his Klingon wife seem to view the Treasury as their own personal piggy bank. Be it divebombing New York City on Air Force One for date night, overnighting in Chicago just to see the old digs, or taxpayer-funded parties at all hours of the night at the White House, the Obamas do love a free vacation. Indeed, you may have noticed a plethora of taxpayer-funded trips:
• January-February 2009: No major vacations. . . Obama wants to make a good first impression on the job.

• March/April 2009: Obama and Lady Obama visit Britain where Lady Obama pats the Queen on the royal tush before going shopping, as Obama hands out i-pods with his own speeches on them.

Coppin' a Queen size feel. . . we are not amused.

• June 2009: Obama and Lady Obama visit France, where Obama does a few D-day-ish-y things while Lady Obama and the kids go a shoppin' in Paris and take in the touristy sights. Later they do a little swinging with Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife.

• July 2009: Obama brings the missus to Russia so she can shop while he gives away our nuclear deterrent to a group of smirking former KGB types. He also brings batteries for the defective reset button Hillary brought a few weeks before.

Shop til the taxpayer drops. . . oh, and wear Muppet fur, it's more humane.

• August 2009: Obama takes the family for a much needed vacation to the Grand Canyon in hateful Arizona.

• August 2009: Obama takes the family for an even much more needed vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, where all effete anti-Americans eventually end up.

• September 2009: Obama, Lady Obama and Oprah Winfrey fly to Copenhagen so they can pimp for Chicago to win the Olympics. . . and do a little shopping.

• December 2009: Obama and the missus go to Oslo so he can pick up a Nobel Prize he won from Publisher’s Clearing House, and she can do a little shopping. Apparently, the Obamas were so deeply into their opulent vacation that they snubbed King Harald of Norway by blowing off a dinner invite. . . he cried.

• December 2009/January 2010: Obama takes Christmas off in Hawaii, where it takes him a couple days to realize there was an attempted man-made disasterist bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight. But then, explosions in Detroit aren’t really news.

• April 2010: With BP oil flowing freely in the Gulf and Obama’s golf game suffering from media attention, Obama decided to duck out for a quick family vacation in Asheville, North Carolina, home of the “You’re-Paying-For-This-Taxpayer” Corn Dog.

• May 2010: Obama takes his second vacation since the BP oil spill began. This time he went to Chicago, far away from that pesky Memorial Day ceremony taking place at Arlington Cemetery. Who cares about the dead anyways, what did they ever do for us? Besides, they don’t vote. . . except in Chicago.

What's your most expensive room?

• July 2010: Obama took the family to Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine to relax as a reward for skillfully avoiding even the appearance of competence in the BP disaster.

• August 2010: Lady O and the kids are heading to Spain for a “private mother-daughter” trip, where they will do touristy things like meet the King and Queen of Spain. You haven't lived until you've done the running of the Queens.

• August 2010: Before heading back to the Vineyards for a much needed third vacation this August, Obama and the family are headed to Florida to show tourists that they should visit Florida despite the BP oil spill. . . in Louisiana.

• August 19, 2010: Obama will take the family to Martha’s Vineyard, for a much needed vacation.
And this doesn’t even count things like the May 2009 trip to New York, where Lady Obama gorged herself on lobster and Klingon Gahch while Obama partied hardy with Wanda Sykes in the other room. Or July 21, when a whole heap ‘o country folks done come to the White House to sing to our hard-vacationing President. Or the more than 40 times Obama has played golf since becoming President.

Baby got back. . . swing.

How many vacation days did you get last year? And did the taxpayers pay for them?

[+]

The Long March To Economic Ruin

The photo introducing this post is Old Roundtop, the first oil gusher in the United States. From that well grew an entire industry that contributed heavily to the growth of American wealth and success in all strata of society throughout most of the 20th Century. From that discovery in Texas in 1901, we have come to a point in history where politicians, environmental cuckoos, socialists, Luddites and plain damned fools want to destroy America's ability to produce that vital "black gold."

Currently, liberal demagoguery centers around the Gulf BP oil spill. The Democrats who are so fond of claiming that Republicans use tragedies for political purposes are using the BP tragedy to advance their agenda of taxing energy to death, and destroying America's abundant sources of energy. Though the current realization among eco-weenies is that they cannot pass their massive economy-destroying Cap 'n Tax legislation in its original form because of an immense public backlash, they are still determined to pass it piecemeal.

The CLEAR Act is an integral portion of that stealth scheme. CLEAR stands for Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources. Putting all of that together in one proposed law is a towering example of massive government power-grabbing on a scale so colossal as to make the Founders spin in their graves. And mind you, it's only a part of the grand Cap 'N Tax scheme. CLEAR is being pushed through Congress on the backs of energy-consumers and energy-producers alike, all in the guise of protecting us helpless morons from ourselves and a repeat of the BP oil spill.

The bill provides the usual snake-oil accounting involved in carbon-offset voodoo. But be sure to note the L stands for "land." Gulf drilling is only one facet of this plot to shut down all American oil production. But the Democrats know a good crisis when they see one, and they're going to exploit it. While we're shutting down deep water drilling, we might as well shut down all land operations as well, just in case some oil baron decided to try to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

Remember also that the act won't stop oil drilling in the Gulf. It will just stop American oil drilling. Obama's current moratorium is a good start, but it's important to make sure that it becomes permanent along with the land drilling prohibitions. You see, like Obama health care, this won't cost the taxpayers a dime, will have a very positive effect on the economy, and as a bonus will force the ignorant public away from gas-guzzling and into modern green technology. In no time at all, without oil and its dirtier cousin, coal, we'll all be driving cars powered by batteries, running manufacturing plants powered by wind and living in houses lighted, heated and cooled by the sun. Everything else will be powered by the newly-discovered, clean and locally abundant element Omnipowerum. The latter was discovered by Al Gore, who will have the sole patent on its production and distribution.

Back to the CLEAR Act. The act is scheduled for a vote on Friday of this week in the House. It cleared the Energy Committee unanimously with a provision for an independent investigation into the disastrous Gulf spill. It's bad enough that the Republicans on the committee voted for this huge government intrusion into the energy industries, but the only sop given to them for their submission was the investigation. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has stripped the bill of that one small bit of sanity.

The original version would have provided for a bipartisan, independent National Commission on Outer Continental Shelf Oil Spill Prevention. It would have addressed how to avoid future disasters, but didn't contemplate avoiding them by eliminating all drilling once and for all. The commission set up by Barack Obama was purely comprised of leftists, eco-freaks, environmental activists, socialists and other know-nothings. Unlike the Obama commission, the Congressional commission would have included people of all environmental persuasions, and specifically would have included experts in petroleum engineering. There was not a single one on the Obama commission.

A Senate committee has also approved an independent commission of experts to study how to avoid another Deepwater Horizon disaster, but if Pelosi has acted, can Reid be far behind? By eliminating the independent commission in the House, Pelosi has provided cover for Obama and his administration's failure to prevent, then minimize, the damage now occurring. Some of the major failures which resulted in the oil spill are the direct responsibility of the Department of the Interior and other federal agencies, and by eliminating the commission, Pelosi covers the President's rear end.

Representative Bill Cassidy (R-LA) proposed the unanimously-passed amendment to create the commission in the House. Said Cassidy after Pelosi's action: "It defies common sense that this amendment passed unanimously in committee, only to be deleted in the Speaker's office." The lead Republican on the Natural Resources Committee, Doc Hastings (R-WA) had this to say: "By deleting the bipartisan, independent oil spill commission that's received bipartisan support in both House and Senate committees, Democrats have shown they are more interested in protecting the President than getting independent answers to what caused the tragic Gulf spill."

More importantly, Hastings addressed the real stealth purposes behind the removal of the commission and the entire CLEAR Act. "Even more outrageous is this bill's attempt to use the oil spill tragedy as leverage to enact totally unrelated policies and increase federal spending on unrelated programs by billions of dollars. What does a solar panel in Nevada, a wind turbine in Montana, uranium for nuclear power, or a ban on fish farming have to do with the Gulf spill? Nothing--but the spill is a good excuse to try and pass stalled or unpopular new laws."

That pretty much sums it up. Cap 'n Tax was about to go down to ignominious defeat. BP's spill gave the eco-nuts and power-grabbers a new life by providing a crisis to exploit in one small area of energy production and make it the basis for regulating and eliminating all sources of energy that the greenies in the administration and Congress don't like. It's much akin to using an elephant gun to kill a gnat. More aptly, it's like using an elephant gun to kill a gnat which is flying around in a large crowd of innocent bystanders.
[+]

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Question: Should Fan Fiction Be Illegal?

One of the big topics in the intellectual property world right now is fan fiction. Fan fiction is fiction written by fans, and it’s got the publishing world and Hollywood in a tizzy.

Fan fiction presents many problems. On the one hand, it’s unclear if creators really have the power to stop fan fiction so long as the fan is not trying to make money on the work. The publishing world and Hollywood claim they have this power, but legally speaking, the issue isn't settled and I would bet they actually don’t.

Yet, even assuming they have the power to stop fan fiction, it’s not clear what the remedy would be. There is no fine. And I don’t see how they could get monetary damages because the fan made no money, thus there are no profits to disgorge, and there’s no way to prove this fan fiction hurt the sales of the real product. Plus the fan probably has no money anyway. Thus, the only thing left would be an injunction, but getting those is expensive.

And even if it was worthwhile to stop fan fiction, the next question arises: when does fiction cross that line and become fan fiction? If I rewrote Star Wars as the story of a boy with power over dragons rather than the force. . . well, that would be Eragon, and apparently that didn't infringe on Star Wars. So what if my characters were “Duke Skyrunner” and “Hans Olo” is that enough? Does it need to be the same genre? How close does it really need to be before it infringes? The usual standard is that it only infringes if it creates a danger of confusion, but there's no chance of that here.

Moreover, the real question is: should creators worry about fan fiction at all? If someone has fallen so in love with your work that they went to the trouble of creating their own mini version of it, wouldn’t it be better to let these people have their fun? After all, it’s not like there’s any danger people will confuse that with the actual work.

The big deal, I guess, is that once you start to allow this, you lose control over what people write, and that often leads to things you probably don’t want happening with your characters. For example, one of the most common forms of fan fiction is called “slash fiction,” where someone takes the characters from a story, like Harry Potter and his friends, and uses them in homosexual pornography. This is extremely common. And even if you don't have a problem with slash fiction, remember that anything is possible: racist fan fiction, child pornography, and even pro-Obama fan fiction. . . yuck.

In my personal opinion, unless the fan is trying to make money, then it’s probably best to let them have their fun. No one believes for a minute that the creator is endorsing what these fans write (unless you start picking and choosing what you will allow), and it’s probably better to have a thousand zealous fans out there writing their own stories than it is to have a thousand disappointed ex-fans holding angry letters from your lawyer.

What do you think?

**** By the way, Spockanalia is the first Star Trek "fanzine." Published in 1967, it contained the first Star Trek fan fiction and was usually sold at science fiction conventions for a small price to cover the cost of mimeographing it. What do you think would have happened to Star Trek's future if they had sent in the lawyers in 1967 to shut these infringing fans up? Just a thought.

[+]

Electoral Manipulation. . . Again

If there is one thing Democrats love doing, it’s trying to rig the electoral system. They’ll try anything, from banning opponents from raising money, to forcing their views to be heard on the air, to trying to change the system to let two Democrats run against each other in the general election. Now they are working on a new plan: the national popular vote initiative.

The national popular vote imitative is a pact between states that are seeking to circumvent the Electoral College and replace it with a national popular vote. Since changing the Electoral College system would require a change in the Constitution, which would be highly unlikely, these states have come up with a way to do this without the consent of the majorities needed to change the Constitution.

Under the pact, once enough states sign on that the pact members have 270 electoral votes -- the majority -- they would all agree to vote their electoral votes for the winner of the national vote, no matter how the residents of their own states actually voted. Since they represent the majority of electoral votes, the remaining states would be irrelevant at that point. Thus, the President would no longer be the candidate with the most electoral votes, they would be the candidate with the most votes, as a majority of electoral votes would automatically reflect the popular vote.

Right now, the pact has five states: Illinois, New Jersey, Hawaii, Maryland and Washington. Massachusetts is looking to become the sixth, with both their House and Senate having approved the National Popular Vote Bill.

Naturally, this idea comes from liberals. Liberals have discovered to their horror that because they all clump together in communes, like San Francisco, they have reduced their political power. Take California as an example. Californians normally favor the liberal by about 8%. But once you get one vote beyond 50%, the rest of those liberal votes -- the full 8% minus 1 vote -- are wasted. But if the country could be tricked into switching to a national vote plan, then those 8% suddenly matter again.

What’s worse, it won’t even take the whole country to switch to make this plan work for liberals; it will take only one consistently conservative state to join this cabal. Indeed, if Georgia or North Dakota or Kentucky had this law in place in 2000, then Al Gore would have become President. That said, however, the danger of this happening again is actually not as high as it seems. Indeed, so far, only four Presidents would have lost if this system had been in place: Adams to Jackson in 1824, Hayes to Tilden in 1876, Harrison to Cleveland in 1884, and Bush to Gore in 2000.

Nevertheless, this is a dangerous idea. This pact is designed to reduce the influence of small states in favor of the big states. Indeed, once this pact is in place, why would candidates ever waste their time in places like Wyoming or Connecticut when 50% of the population can be gotten in nine states, 70% in seventeen states, and 90% in 32 states. Why bother with the rest? It should thus come as no surprise that the states that have joined this pact are all large, liberal states with populations that rank in the top 15 (except for Hawaii).

Moreover, I don’t see the “fairness” or even the constitutionality of letting a state hold a popular vote and then changing the result after the fact. There is something intensely un-democratic about that. And if this is constitutional, then would it not also be constitutional for states to simply decide that their votes should be cast for the most conservative or most liberal candidate? Or maybe the tallest candidate? So much for democracy.

In the end, I don’t think this will gain any traction because it will be too harmful to the 35 states that aren’t in the top 15. Also, if this does ever happen, I suspect it won’t survive the first Republican victory. Because when the pro-Democratic votes in places like Massachusetts and California are suddenly switched to the Republican column. . . causing the biggest Republican landslide since Ronald Reagan, you will hear screams of unfairness from liberals who will be aghast that their votes for the Democrats will be counted as votes for the Republican. Indeed, they will squeal that this is positively a human rights violation and the most fundamental injustice imaginable in a democracy.

Liberals never can accept that their own weapons can be used against them.

[+]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

JournoList Exposes Journalists As Propagandists

For those who haven’t kept up with the recent “JournoList” scandal, you need to know about this one. What is JournoList? It’s a Google Group for journalists. And what is the scandal? The scandal is that leaked e-mails from this group are showing that these journalists have been conspiring to spread left wing propaganda. And that's not hyperbole.

JournoList was a members-only Google Group to which 400 journalists and academics belonged. Created by Erza Klein, a Washington Post / Newsweek columnist, the group was open only to “left-leaning bloggers, political reporters, magazine writers, policy wonks and academics.” Klein kept out conservatives because he claimed he didn't want a flame war. But you be the judge if that was his real intent.

This scandal began when several posts from this group were leaked to Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller. The first of these to be released were from David Weigel, the supposedly not-liberal Washington Post blogger (he described himself as having "libertarian" sympathies). Weigel, who covered conservatives for the Post, was caught expressing a rather vile level of hatred for various conservatives, such as suggesting that Matt Drudge should set himself on fire and Rush Limbaugh should die. But Weigel was just the beginning. Here is a sampling of some of what has been said:
• Jonathan Zasloff, a UCLA “law” professor, wrote like a good little Nazi that he wanted to see the government shut down FOX News.

• Sarah Spitz of National Public Radio, a hateful troll, wrote that she would laugh if she saw Rush Limbaugh have a heart attack in front of her.

• Ryan Donmoyer of Bloomberg News compared the Tea Party to the Nazis. And he would know because all his friends think like Nazis. . . friends like Spencer Ackerman!

• Spencer "Adolf" Ackerman of The Washington Impendent apparently wishes to re-enact Kristallnacht. He wrote that they should “find a right winger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear.”
But this is just invective and hate speech from people with small minds and defective genitalia. The real scandal goes deeper than their hate. The real scandal is that these e-mails are revealing that these leftist “journalists” have been conspiring together to shape the news, and they don’t consider truth an obstacle.

For example, when the Jeremiah Wright story came out, the group debated how to bury the story. Michael Tomasky, a writer for The Guardian suggested they kill the Wright story: “Listen folks -- in my opinion, we all have to do what we can to kill ABC and this idiocy in whatever venues we have.” But don’t worry, this wasn’t to defend Obama or anything like that, it was to stop the evil MSM from killing “discourse.” Uh huh.

Our old friend “Adolf” Ackerman goes further. He suggested that the group distract the public by coordinating an attack against a prominent conservative using the age-old leftist whine of “racism”:
“If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them -- Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares -- and call them racists.”
These guys couldn't be more of a caricature of budding Nazis if they were caught taking goose-stepping classes. And in case you're wondering, no, they did not try to kick anyone like Ackerman or Weigel or Spitz off the list, nor is there any evidence that anyone even chastised them for their hate.

Tucker Carlson, who apparently possesses a large number of these e-mails, notes that this coordination was common behavior on the JournoList:
“Again and again, we discovered members of JournoList working to coordinate talking points on behalf of Democratic politicians, principally Barack Obama. That is not journalism, and those who engage in it are not journalists. They should stop pretending to be. The news organizations they work for should stop pretending, too. I’ve been in journalism my entire adult life, and have often defended it against fellow conservatives who claim the news business is fundamentally corrupt. It’s harder to make that defense now.”
So how are these leftists responding? Well, after Weigel got fired, they immediately shut down the JournoList and destroyed the evidence. . . er, deleted the group. Then they attacked Carlson for only releasing part of the e-mails. . . as if they couldn't release the rest themselves. Then they set about whining about privacy, something journalists have never respected. According to Time’s Joe Klein, maintaining confidentiality was necessary because “candor is essential” because it ensures “that folks feel safe giving off-the-cuff analysis and instant reactions.” Funny, I don’t recall any of these “journalists” buying that argument when the Bush administration made it. . . or BP. . . or anyone else really.

The rest have moved on and formed JournoList 2.0 -- it’s actually called “Cabalist.” This one was created by Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic and has 173 members already. And on July 21, it was revealed that one of their first orders of business was to debate how to suppress the story about JournoList by making collective decisions about what to write.

So what is the issue here? The issue is that this little cabal of leftists has conspired to coordinate their stories to support leftist causes and attack right-leaning persons and ideas. They've shown a blinding hate for anyone they disagree with and they’ve made it clear that neither truth nor accuracy will stand in their way -- in fact, they routinely propose flat out lies and venomous personal attacks. That makes these people propagandists, not journalists. . . 400 pathetic little Himmlers.

What's worse these propagandists do not identify themselves as leftist operatives; they pretend to be "journalists." And that's the real problem here. Everyone knows that the leftist bloggers at Huffpo are lying to you to make their points. But when these people pretend to be "journalists" and they work for supposed news-organizations, then what you have is a disgrace for the journalistic “profession.”

Indeed, the fact that they still have jobs is troubling. I can only conclude that the organizations they work for have decided that they like being willing instruments of their propaganda. Unless these organizations purge their ranks of these people (something they should like as leftists always love a good purge), then it’s time that we stopped treating these organizations as journalistic organizations. . . because they’re not.

And if you haven't heard about this, I'll give you one guess why not.

[+]

Carville--Now And Then

On the right, you see James Carville in his better days. I always found him to be somewhat lizard-like, but his transformation has been amazing. On the left you see Mr. Carville today, post-Obama election, post-BP oil spill. He is not a happy camper, and it appears to be affecting him phsyically as well as verbally.

Previously, Carville's nastiest vitriol was aimed at conservatives, Republicans, and women who preserve their stained dresses. Today, as a Louisianan, his sights are set on one Barack Obama and the anticapitalist eco-freaks in his administration. The same man who previously worked so hard to elect Barack Obama (after Hillary was out of the race) has now been mugged by the reality we conservatives knew all along--Barack Obama is form without substance and a "leader" who can talk about his predecessor's failure to react to a crisis, but now makes Bush look like the picture-perfect leader.

This might not all be so striking if it weren't for the fact that both crises occurred in the same part of the country. And in both cases, Carville came out swinging to attack the president he felt wasn't helping his chosen home state of Louisiana. The Democrats have long uttered the mantra "all politics is local." But we rarely get to see a highly-partisan political operative dissemble entirely for that very reason.

Bush was Carville's target during hurricane Katrina, even though he knew full well that Bush did everything possible both before and during the crisis to protect New Orleans and the gulf region within his Constitutional authority. Carville knew full well that the negligence of the New Orleans mayor and the boo-hooing governor of Louisiana were major roadblocks to Bush action. Until the governor stopped boo-hooing, declared an official emergency, and called the President to help, anything Bush did would have been an extra-constitutional invasion of a sovereign state by the central government.

Now the shoe is on Carville's other foot, and it's apparently a very painful fit (if the volume of his screeching is any indication). On CNN's Anderson Cooper show, Carville moaned: "People here have been so let down. The levies . . . the federal government let us down . . . Now the government comes in. . . and say 'just blanket stop everything out there.' It's killing the economy here." Sorry, Mr. Carville, but you and your Clintonites set this up when they took up the anti-oil drilling position on your watch. We couldn't even be allowed to drill on dry land, in a remote, mosquito-infested piece of Alaska. What did you expect to happen when your fellow-travelers had a big excuse for a moratorium in deep gulf waters?

It's also interesting that Carville is in high dudgeon largely about the economic impact of the administration decision to stop all drilling for a minimum of 90 days. Guess he didn't notice that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal had predicted the victory of the eco-freaks, though Jindal seemed to be a great deal more concerned with the human and wildlife tragedy that was unfolding. And unlike both Obama and Carville, Jindal is actually doing everything within his power to avert further disaster, while the Democrats are too busy talking about it and trying to make political hay out of it. Unlike his predecessor who waited for days after Katrina nearly drowned New Orleans, Jindal not only exercised his emergency powers at the earliest opportunity, but he took a risk in declaring an additional emergency as hurricane-force winds approached the spill site and the Louisiana shore.

The economic impact of Obama inaction at the beginning and foolish action now is horrendous, and Carville is right in pointing it out in no uncertain terms. He is joined by fellow Democratic US Senator from Louisiana Mary Landrieu and Democratic House Member Gene Green of Houston, Texas. Though they are all concerned with the human and ecological disaster, all see the moratorium as throwing salt on the wound by doing serious damage to the gulf economies at a time when money and jobs are most needed. Louisiana State University estimates that the moratorium will damage the four gulf states of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi to the tune of $2.1 billion.

At the end of the Anderson Cooper interview, Carville was nearly hysterical. His last statement was: "They don't have the foggiest idea about life here, they don't have the foggiest notion of what's going on. The federal government is about to kill us." This may come as a surprise to a political operative like Carville, but those of us who never held government jobs and have never been Washington insiders could have told him that. For decades, we have watched the distant central government in DC systematically destroy federalism and ruin the economy in complete disregard for the human toll. I guess it all depends on whose ox is being gored.

[+]

Monday, July 26, 2010

Leftists In Wonderland

For those of you who weren't aware of it, there were two dueling political conventions going on in Las Vegas last week. The conservatives held one of them, but the biggie was the leftist Netroots Nation, organized by Markos Moulitsas who founded the Daily Kos. Though Kos had many friends at the convention, it was his website that caused it to gain the popular appellation "nutroots."

The attendance at the get-together was estimated at over 2,000 of the best, brightest, cleverest and techiest leftists from the internet. The group played a major part in electing Barack Obama. The conferences have been held for the past five years, and each year the strains of left-wing politics get stronger. This year, they were downright hostile to the moderates and faint-hearted liberals of the Democratic Party. Many of the participants make "progressives" look like reactionaries.

So it's not unsafe to say that the conventioneers are a trifle angry at the Blue Dog Democrats. The socialist agenda that the netroots thought was theirs for the taking has been grossly reduced by Blue Dogs and the fellow-traveling but weak-kneed President. Even the horrendous health care reform bill doesn't include a public option, let alone a complete elimination of all private health care. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid may try to slip that one past the people by stealth, but they have little support from the Blue Dogs or the Empty Suit.

The boys and girls of the radical left are not good Party people. They have made it clear that they are not going to try to save the Democratic Party from disaster this fall by lending their support to candidates who aren't Marxist enough to satisfy them. As Moulitsas said to the New York Times: "If 20 Blue Dogs lost their seats, nobody's going to care (except the Blue Dogs themselves, I'm guessing). That's their problem and I'm not going to cry about them. To me, a more cohesive caucus might be a better deal moving forward than one in which the Blue Dogs need to be appeased." Well--so much for the old saying that politics is the art of compromise.

There were plenty of fun speakers at the events--leftists, loonies and Euro-weenie socialists galore. But my favorite speaker was the one who tells us all we need to know about the nutroots. They're crazy, they're dangerous, and they think self-proclaimed communist ex-administration superstar Van Jones is just dandy for their cause.

The beauty of this is that Republicans and conservatives don't have to marginalize these loons. They're doing it to themselves, and better yet, weakening the Democratic majority needed to pass their Marxist agenda. So-called progressives are loud and visible, but they comprise a small portion of the Democratic Party. They helped liberals win election in the last round, and grudgingly assisted Blue Dogs that they weren't entirely sure of yet. But they've made it clear that they won't do it this time. Their activism was a plus for the Democrats in the past three election cycles, and their silence this time might not have had much effect. But their vocal opposition will do some serious damage in contested states where a moderate Democrat might ordinarily have a good chance of winning.

Moulitsas's largest benefactor is the Nazi-collaborator turned currency manipulator George Soros. Soros gave us a preview of what the open opposition of the far left can do to a Democratic hopeful's chances. Soros's MoveOn crowd spent $2.5 million touting their far left candidate for governor of Arkansas, Lt Gov.Bill Halter. The moderate/liberal Democrat in the race was Senator Blanche Lincoln. Lincoln won, but in the interim, she went from a draw with the future Republican candidate to being nineteen points behind. How much of that damage is due to the leftists is debatable, but there's no doubt it hurt Lincoln badly.

For Republicans and conservatives this is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Whether the nutroots stay silent or actively oppose moderate Democratic candidates, they are helping to rid Congress of some of its deadwood. The nutroots are either ignoring, denying or misunderstanding a basic political calculus. It is important to elect as many candidates who support your views as possible, but at the same time elect those who are not entirely in-sync with your views but don't outright oppose them and can put the numbers on the tally sheet necessary to pass legislation.

For the left, those candidates need to have (D) after their names. At the same time, this is a powerful piece of instruction to purist conservatives who don't understand that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Do what you can to get like-minded candidates elected, but don't hang yourself and your agenda by refusing to support those who are willing to listen and cooperate in the name of party unity. Are you listening, Republican Party?
[+]

How Obama Could Have Avoided Failure

When Obama came to office, he had everything going for him: willing supermajorities in both houses of Congress, an excited public that was willing to try something new, and a fresh start for the Democratic Party with the American people. But he fell flat on his face, and I don’t think his failure was ideological so much as it was his poor leadership and poor political strategy. Here’s how I think Obama could have gotten away with his agenda without losing the majority of the American public. . . yep, it's alternate universe time.

Let’s start with a couple pieces of general guidance. First, speed is crucial. Political capital is fleeting, especially once interest groups start picking away at legislation. Thus, Obama needed to pass his agenda quickly; I would aim to get the big pieces passed within the first 50 days of the Congress -- this makes the best use of his political capital, lets him act when he is strongest, and denies the opposition the time it needs to put together a counterattack strategy. Also, doing so much so fast makes opposition more difficult because there is just too much to attack.

Secondly, it is a mistake to trust Congress to put together legislation. The process involves too many egos and too many interest groups. Obama should have come prepared with completed legislation. To make this more palatable to Congress, I would have called in the committee heads in November 2008 and given them a month to mark up the legislation. That would give Congress a stake by letting them feel like they are being consulted (which rectifies the real "Clinton mistake"). I’d also ask them to include a couple things they would find unpalatable, so that we could eliminate those in a pretend negotiation, which would allow the Congressmen/Senators to claim that they supported the bill, but also gives them something to tell their interest groups -- “it could have been worse if not for me.”

Third, the key is to make each proposal sound harmless or even like a good thing, no matter what it really does. It is also important that each proposal create a constituency that will protect it once it is in place, and Obama must carefully avoid coming across as a Pelosi-type Lunacrat.

STEP ONE: The Stimulus

The stimulus was the first big mistake. It created no jobs, stimulated nothing, and bankrupted the government. It was a sop to unions that became an albatross around the Democrats’ necks. What Obama should have done is to put ideology aside and spent at least half the money in a way that would actually stimulate the economy, rather than blowing it on state budgets, unions and pet projects. In fact, what he should have done is to eliminate the payroll tax entirely for most workers because those who pay no taxes are less concerned about government growth.

Secondly, any money he did spend should have been spent directly on hiring people to work for the government, rather than passing it out to contractors. Countries that accept socialist thinking have large numbers of people who depend on the government. More than 50% of Britons and Spaniards work for the government directly or indirectly, but only a couple percent of Americans do. Thus, he should have used the stimulus to swell government ranks.

Third, he should have taken a cue from Machiavelli, and slowly showered the rest of the money upon his friends over a five year period. Thus, if they want their money, they need to stay loyal. This also has the benefit of making the stimulus look a lot less expensive, as you highlight only the price for the first year.

STEP TWO: Volunteer Corps

Obama should have pushed right away to create the (paid) “volunteer” corps he kept talking about. I would have sent these people (mainly college kids) to work in hospitals, schools and retirement homes. Not only would this reduce the costs of those institutions, each of which are largely paid for by the government, but this also reduces teen unemployment, teaches kids and the people in the institutions receiving the volunteers that government is good, and is exactly the kind of idealism that inspired the dippy youth of America to vote for him -- they have since abandoned him.


Obama went about ObamaCare all wrong. He should have proposed the key parts as three small bills. The first would require private insurers to cover the uninsurable. The second would sever the link between employer and health insurance by cutting the tax break for providing insurance. The third would have created a public option, where “the government will use its expertise to get insurers to competitively bid for insurance, which will then be made available to the public at the government’s cost.” Subsidies and restrictions could all be added a couple years later once these items are in place.

The beauty of this is that it costs almost nothing to create (and the end of the deductions would actually bring in a lot of money in taxes), so there would be little reason for people to fight this, except that it would eventually put insurers out of business -- something that would be a hard sell for opponents given the public’s populist mood. It also doesn’t look like a public option because the government isn’t providing the insurance itself. Moreover, this plan could begin providing benefits immediately, unlike ObamaCare which doesn’t really kick in until 2014, and the bad guys would appear to be the insurers and employers. . . not the government.

STEP FOUR: Immigration

Immigration will always be a big sticking point, but there is a solution. First, Obama should have doubled the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country. The public doesn’t know how many are allowed in right now and this number could be increased with little publicity. In the meantime, Obama should have invested heavily and publicly in sealing the border. In particular, I would have looked to hire white males as a civilian security force to patrol the border. This would reduce unemployment among a key demographic and would go a long way to convincing this group that Obama is a different kind of Democrat.

Then, in the second year, once I could claim the border was sealed, I would argue that we need an amnesty program for those who are already here -- subject to a huge fine to placate the public. . . which could be waived administratively (and thus out of the public's sight) depending on the income of the applicant (to placate Hispanic groups). Now here’s the kicker: to appease the public further, I would propose that we not increase the overall level of immigration. Thus, we would “re-allocate 1/2 the number of slots currently given to legal immigrants to clearing up this illegal situation." Since Obama doubled the number of legal immigrants the year before, this is entirely misleading, but few people would put this together.

STEP FIVE: Populist Fever

The one other thing Obama needed to do was to break up the banks that were “too big to fail,” re-impose regulations that Bush and Clinton removed, and boost the powers of banking regulators. With the populist rhetoric flowing on both right and left, this would have made him very popular and would have bought him tremendous cover for the rest of his agenda.
This is pretty insidious stuff, but I think it would have worked. The key to getting the American public to accept something is to put it in place in small increments and to build a constituency that wants to protect what you’ve done. All of this does that. The stimulus looks cheaper and it would have generated jobs. ObamaCare looks a lot less threatening, but is actually more threatening than what Obama ultimately created. Even immigration could probably be seen as a “win” for the public, when it actually would be a total loss. And each program would create new constituencies that depend on the government for a living. The right would have screamed bloody murder the whole time, but I honestly don’t think the rest of the public would have listened because nothing here sounds horrible on its face and, with all of this being done so quickly, there is simply too much for the public to pay attention to.

In the end, I think we should thank our lucky stars that Team Obama didn’t know what they were doing and that their compadres in the House and Senate were radical fools. If they had been more rational and more willing to act incrementally, I think our future could have been very different.

[+]

Sunday, July 25, 2010

732 Arabian Nights

I bet you thought I was going to do another article on Muslim prudery and misogyny. Well, you'd be right. But this one's a little different. It's more like my libel tourism article, only overseas. And it's one of those stories that you know is true because nobody could make this stuff up. Poor Scheherezade was under attack, along with the entire 1001 Arabian Nights. Can Rimsky-Korsakov be far behind?

I'm sure you've all heard of Doctors Without Borders. But I'll bet you never heard of Lawyers Without Shackles. I have to admit, they're not exactly a household word. But I didn't make them up. They really exist. The group is comprised almost entirely of Egyptian Muslim lawyers and their stated agenda is to "delete salacious passages from contemporary literature and cherished classics." The group chose as its first victim 1001 Arabian Nights. They filed pleadings to completely ban the work in Egypt, or alternatively censor the hell out of it (hence, 732 Arabian Nights).

The common expression for this type of litigation is "lawfare." Unlike libel tourism which tries to squelch free speech in the United States by obtaining large monetary judgments overseas and attempting to collect them here, lawfare is the tactic of filing multiple frivolous or dubious lawsuits to promote an agenda which costs the defendants so much that they'll just give up and get out of the business. It's aimed at both authors and publishers. The lawyers and plaintiffs are well-funded Islamic extremists who have unlimited sources of money to pursue the lawsuits. Most defendants don't have those resources, and often cave in at the likelihood of being driven into bankruptcy by the legal costs.

This tactic has been used by unscrupulous plaintiffs and ambulance-chasing lawyers for years, both here and abroad. But the Islamists have raised it to high art. To paraphrase Clausewitz on diplomacy and war, Islamic lawfare is the continuation of jihad by other means. It's not personal. They just want everybody, anybody, who prints the slightest hint of criticism of Islam or the prophet Mohammed to shut up, crawl into a hole, and die. Ditto for any work that depicts human existence and activity in any manner not consistent with good Islamic fundamentalist thinking.

The Egyptian lawyers and their religious masters found many portions of the Arabian Nights to be salacious, and particularly Scheherazade's tricking of the king a very un-Islamic suggestion that a woman might out-think a man. Burn the infidels. Oops, I mean burn the books. This suit might have been successful in Iran or Saudi Arabia, if the works were allowed in the first place. But if the government stops publication before it begins, there's no need for Islamic shysters to go to court. But it did fail in the Egyptian court. Not the issue at all. The infidel-chasing Egyptian lawyers will just file another action, worded slightly differently or with slightly different contentions and the poor defendants will be back in court again soon. It's a recipe for the end of freedom of expression, which concludes with the instructions: "cook until done."

America already fought the obscenity battles in the 60s and 70s, and obscenity won. The recent anti-libel tourism act in the Senate bill would effectively shut down most of these obnoxious attacks on the First Amendment. But America is just one country. These insults to Allah in Muslim lands and hate speech statutes in the West will produce never-ending litigation until the defendants all simply give up or the western governments revise their speech and press statutes to protect thoughts and depictions which offend a segment of society which would rather kill than switch.

Lawyers Without Shackles does not understand that the shackling of the mind is as evil as shackling of the body. Or as the words of the poem say, "stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage." Now I'm left wondering what these misogynist homophobes would do if they knew that Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat, translated by non-traditional classicist scholars, reads: "A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and a comely youth beside me, singing in the wilderness."

[+]

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Slings And Arrows Of Outrageous Fortune

Barack Obama came into office in large part as the "post-racial" President, a racial healer. That doesn't seem to have worked out too well. Shortly into the first months of the Obama term, his Attorney General announced that we're all cowards for refusing to discuss race. Given the recent flap over the Shirley Sherrod public relations disaster, I would ask "who's the coward now?"

For good background, I suggest you re-read Andrew Price's Wednesday article on this blog. Andrew Breitbart went off half-cocked and aired an edited and partial video of Ms. Sherrod making some remarks about an incident of her own racism twenty-five years ago. But once the entire video was aired (it was in the hands of the NAACP the whole time, but that's another issue entirely) it became apparent that the not-too-bright Sherrod was trying in her stumbling way to tell a story of reconciliation. But I'm also going to say without hesitation that even after seeing the full video, I'm not convinced that she has come very far from her early days. Her post-firing statements only confirm my suspicions.

At this point, a race-obsessed nonentity is dragging the President of the United States and his administration flaks around by the nose. She's in charge here. She has received a personal telephone apology from the same President who says he had nothing to do with her firing. I find that extremely unseemly. She has blamed Fox News for her firing, even though the firing occurred hours before Fox News did any extensive analysis of the Breitbart fiasco. But they're all racists at Fox News, as Sherrod would have it, so they must be to blame. Meanwhile, she gets to decide whether she should accept a much better-paying federal job with a much loftier title (even though she had already risen far above her level of incompetence), or a massive lawsuit. Best of all, she could choose to do both. At the same time she gets to make her evil boss, Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, look like a white buffoon. Well, strike that last remark. She's right--he is a buffoon.

So where am I going with this? Just this. Obama and his gang have stood up to, defied and ignored every conservative point of view, any moderate view that disagrees with his own, and even the plaintive cries for help from liberal Democrats. But the same people who called us cowards for refusing to deal with race issues have a yellow streak bigger than an entire cargo of bananas. Health care? Attack. Financial reform? Attack. Confirmation of dangerous political appointees to office? Attack. Race? Cave in, and do it as quickly as possible.

Obama and his Attorney General have no problem standing up to those who charge them with blatant racial favoritism in the dismissal of the New Black Panther cases. A minor disagreement and misunderstanding of the law, they say. But when it comes to one of their own officials hinting at black racial bias, it's time to bury her and circle the wagons. They couldn't even wait for Sherrod to get to her office to fire her. They called her twice, and the third time had her pull over to the side of the road to submit her forced resignation online. It was more important to act precipitously, fire her, and get her out of the public eye than it was to have at least sufficient information to decide whether or not the Breitbart allegations were true.

I am convinced that there was no problem for the Obamists with Sherrod making black racist remarks. Her sin, at least as it appeared at the time, was getting caught. The NAACP Director, Ben Jealous (not the old one, Ben Chavis) made outrageous remarks about racism in the Tea Party, and that was no problem for Obama or Holder. Obama sat in the pews at the church of Jeremiah Wright who damned America and white people every Sunday, but took no action until Wright's sermons were exposed to the public. Obama referred to his own grandmother as "a typical white person" (his version of "you people"). But it is clear that in order to keep dividing people so ethnic groups will continue to vote Democrat, it is vital that conservatives and Republicans appear as racists and black people must be shown always as victims, never as oppressors. Shirley Sherrod got caught in the middle of that. First she was punished, but now she will be rewarded.

Obama got caught with his racist pants down in the matter of the Skip Gates arrest, but quickly pivoted, told everyone they misunderstood his remarks, and had a jolly beer fest at the White House which included, horrors, the racist cop who dared to arrest a black Harvard professor. In other words, Obama got caught making black racist remarks, and since he can't fire himself, he had to enlist the help of the MSM to spin the whole thing into a simple misunderstanding. The left has spent nearly two years trying to prove that Fox News makes outlandish charges of racial favoritism in the Obama administration, and this Sherrod matter was likely to prove them right.

So, fleeing in terror, the Obama administration fired one of their own leftists to avoid an embarrassment rather than taking the time to see if she was actually guilty of anything. Screwing over a white farmer is OK, maybe even desirable in their minds, but getting caught talking about it is bad for their post-racial image. Off with her head! Imagine the relief they must have felt when it turned out that the unedited video could be turned into something neutral, or even positive. But imagine their additional embarrassment in having fired a black woman. So, Obama, who swears he had no part in the decision, has the Secretary of Agriculture fall on his sword. And even that was a quibble. He wasn't "wrong," he was just "hasty."

I can't help concluding that the Obamists are scared spitless about race. Not racism itself, but the very open and honest discussion of race relations that Holder claimed to want. His idea of the discussion of race is "America is racist, white people are oppressors, as a victim class blacks can't be racists, and let's keep this all off the front pages of the New York Times." End of discussion. Sherrod's sin was that she admitted her own racism (even if it was in the past, maybe), and that blows the one-sided "discussion." Holder doesn't know the difference between a discussion and an ongoing soliloquy.

Well, as you all know, this is a racist, right-wing rag of a blog, so it is inevitable that I would continue the clarion call of white supremacy by blaming the Obamists for the very pickle they got themselves into. Well, then, please explain the following from my old nemesis, Jonathan Chait at The New Republic:

"If there is a single idea the Obama administration most fears, it is that the Obama presidency systematically favors blacks over white. The Obama administration is able to hang tough in the face of many right-wing charges. Anything that carries the whiff of racism, though, and they'll run for the hills." I guess I'm not the only one who thinks they're cowards.

[+]

Friday, July 23, 2010

Film Friday: Smokin’ Aces (2007)

Smokin’ Aces fascinates me, but for the wrong reasons. On paper this movie must have looked great. You’ve got a solid cast, a director with a hip style, and a downright clever script. But something went wrong on the way from paper to film. As I see it, the director worked too hard to be clever and not hard enough on getting control over his film reality.

** spoiler alert **
Problem No. 1: Script-Abuse
If you just consider the script itself without paying attention to the final film product, you would think this would be a pretty good movie. For one thing, the story has an interesting premise: Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven) is a Vegas magician/mafia associate, who wants to turn informant. As Piven waits in the penthouse of the Nomad Casino in Lake Tahoe, while his agent negotiates a deal with the Department of Justice -- headed by Andy Garcia, the mob puts a massive bounty on Piven's head. This gets half a dozen assassins racing for the million dollar prize. Sounds like fun.

Further, script-wise, everything ties together nicely. Everything that needs to be foreshadowed is foreshadowed. All the motivations make sense. The dialog fits the personalities. The characters are interesting and there are dozens of moments of cleverness, both verbal cleverness and plot cleverness. But something has gone wrong from script to screen.

Specifically, the film feels gimmicky because the director ties together each scene by having the first line of dialog in each scene reference the last line of dialog in the prior scene. Thus, one scene might end with a character saying: “what time it is?” and the next scene would begin with a character in a different scene saying something like: “Five o’clock is when it happened.” This was used incredibly effectively in The Fifth Element, where multiple scenes were sometimes combined into one through interlaced dialog. It allowed the director both to speed up the story AND to bring the characters together -- giving the movie a more tied-in feel. But in Smokin’ Aces, this was done in a such a heavy-handed, obvious and unrelenting way that it screams: “look how clever I can be!” It's like giving the punchline to a joke in the middle of the next joke, and while that can be clever if done sparingly, it becomes unpleasant done constantly. Indeed, it quickly becomes tiring trying to sort out the double meanings of each scene transition.
Problem 2: Too Many Lead Actors
The next problem comes from the use of the cast. The cast is very large and mostly famous: Ben Affleck, Common (Terminator Salvation), Alicia Keys, Jason Bateman, Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), Ryan Reynolds (The Proposal), Chris Pine (Star Trek), Matthew Fox (Lost), and a couple more you’ll recognize. And it’s hard to complain about this group as they all do a pretty good job. But the director decided to give them all “a moment.” Thus, the film starts to feel disjointed as each character is given time to do their “shtick,” whether it helps the movie or not. And some scenes do nothing but distract from the film, e.g. Jason Bateman's scenes could be removed entirely.
Problem 3: Loss of Control
But the real problem with this film is that the director loses control over the film’s reality. Smokin’ Aces feels like the director shot seven or eight distinct stories with each character eventually ending up in the same place, then cut each film into equal length segments and assembled the movie by alternating these segments starting from the end of the film and working his way to the beginning without regard for how they fit together. This causes an amazing amount of time distortion in the film.

For example, one character starts up in the elevator toward the penthouse but somehow doesn’t reach the top floor before another character can drive from across town to the casino, interview staff members about the assassin in the elevator, get into a second elevator, and meet the assassin at the penthouse. In the same amount of time, another character flies from Los Angles to Tahoe and still arrives only a few seconds after everyone else. In another egregious example, one character actually gets shot in the parking lot, dumped in Lake Tahoe, finds his way out, runs into a stereotype white trash family, takes a bath, borrows a gun, returns to the hotel, hops in the elevator and rides to the penthouse in the same amount of time that the guys who shot him take to make it from the parking lot to the penthouse.

The director also lets characters see things and know things they couldn’t possibly see or know. Thus, one character in a hotel 1000 feet across the street can shoot through walls that she can’t see through and hit specific targets in the main hotel without wasting a shot. Others seem to know where their competitors are, even though they don’t actually know there are competitors. Characters also seem to be able to suddenly appear wherever they are needed to make a scene work. Moreover, the ending makes no sense except to allow for a dramatic conclusion.

These are the kinds of problems that really make the film feel unbalanced and strange, and keep you asking “when did he have time to do that?” and saying “that doesn’t make sense.”

In the end, this was a clever script and a solid cast ruined by a director who never had control over his sequence of events and who tried to substitute hip for smart. And that’s why I find this film so fascinating. If you had looked at this project before it was shot, this movie must have appeared like it couldn’t fail. But it did.

Check out the new film site -- CommentaramaFilms!

[+]

We Told Ya--Becker Flexes His Union Muscles

Back in February I discussed the Republican Party flexing its "new found muscles" here. At that time, Scott Brown had just taken over the seat of Ted Kennedy, and among the first votes he participated in was the thumbs-down vote on Obama appointee to the National Labor Relations Board Craig Becker. Thanks to a recess appointment in March, Becker took a seat on the NLRB anyway.

Now it's Becker's turn to flex his muscles. And it's all payback. The man has the ethical backbone of a jellyfish, but he is determined to sting. So let's start with his oath of office and written ethical pledge: "I will not for a period of two years from the date of my appointment participate in any matter involving specific parties that is directly or substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts."

Maybe Becker thought the declaration said "two days" rather than "two years." This is the man who said that he would institute union card check with or without Congressional approval and declared that employers should have no voice in discussions of whether their employees should join a union or not. More importantly for this discussion, Becker was the chief counsel for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) less than a year ago, and a paid consultant to the AFL-CIO at the same time.

Now comes the so-called "Pomona Valley Case." Becker boldly refused to recuse himself in accordance with his ethics pledge in a matter which revolves entirely around the SEIU. Here are the basic facts. Carole Jean Baderscher is (was?) a nurse at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in California. In order to retain her job, she was forced to join the SEIU. When the union contract expired, the SEIU voted to abandon their patients and go on strike. Baderscher took her nurse's oath more seriously than her forced union membership, resigned from the union, and went to work.

The SEIU retaliated by threatening Baderscher with prosecution under an ancient and inoperative California law called "The Professional Strikebreaker statute." The law was originally written to stop paid professional "union-busters" from interfering with union activities. Even if that law had not been preempted by federal law over many decades, Baderscher would not even come close to fitting the description of a paid union-buster. She simply left the union (in complete compliance with Beck v Communications Workers) and crossed the picket line to care for her patients.

Well, at least the SEIU thugs didn't beat her to a pulp, but they used forced union dues to make her life hell. The told Baderscher that she and her fellow nurses who refused to abandon their patients would be fined, barred from employment with any hospital suffering from a union contract, and thrown into jail. They also twisted the words, intent, and precedent which Beck stands for, and told the nurses that they were legally required to keep paying union dues. In fact, Beck makes it clear that while there is a union contract in effect (which is not the case here), those who opt out of the union are required to pay only that portion of union dues related to very narrow and specific purposes. Leftist labor boards have consistently ignored those Beck rules despite losing nearly every court case in which the National Right to Work Foundation filed suit against the unions and/or labor board rulings.

The liars and thugs of the SEIU produced a pamphlet using union dues (in direct violation of Beck law) which said to Baderscher and anyone who might be considering joining her: "You may have been mislead [sic.] into believing that you are not obligated to pay dues and fees during the period of negotiations. This is untrue and retroactivity may occur prior or upon ratification of the contract. Please ask yourselves why all the anti-SEIU leaders are still paying dues. Could it be they don't want the possibility of owing more in a lump sum?" Not only is that a misstatement of law and a pure bullying tactic, but in addition the use of union dues to produce the pamphlet is a clear and unequivocal use of union funds for a purpose specifically forbidden by Beck.

All right, that's the case. And who is actively involved in reviewing the matter? You guessed it, SEIU advocate and recent former SEIU counsel, Craig Becker. He didn't wait two years or even two months since his recess appointment to declare brazenly that he fully intended to participate in this and any case which involved the SEIU. This is not some abstract nexus between a pro-labor NLRB member and some obscure union. This is the former counsel for the SEIU involving himself directly and enthusiastically in an SEIU labor dispute. Frankly, I've been involved in many labor-management disputes and matters involving conflict of interest/incompatibility of office, and I have never seen such a clear and egregious violation of a written and signed ethics pledge.

On the other hand, we're dealing with the Obama administration and the SEIU, so why I'm even discussing ethics is somewhat of a mystery, even to myself. Here's Becker's defense to pending ethics investigations: "It would be appropriate to recuse myself from cases involving the national SEIU but not cases involving the local chapters because they are 'distinct legal entities.'" That is based on an earlier NLRB ruling, written by, you guessed it, Craig Becker.

So what does the SEIU charter have to say about national versus union locals? "The national union has jurisdiction over its affiliated bodies and all Local Unions." In his decision to go forward with the Pomona Valley case, Becker seems to be ignoring his own words. In that earlier ruling which he wrote, Becker said: "Employees [of the administration and/or NLRB] shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or ethical standards. Whether standards have been violated shall be determined from the perspective of a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant fact."

Well it sure as hell appears to me that Becker is in clear and open defiance of that statement. But then I guess Becker would say I'm unreasonable. And unlike cases that I argued in court, I didn't get to conclude my argument, then head up and onto the bench to make the decision on my own arguments. But that is exactly what Becker is doing. Does anyone still wonder why Andy Stern, longtime head of the SEIU was the most frequent overnight guest at the Obama White House?
[+]