A blow to ObamaCare *UPDATED*

This just in:

Judge overturns much of Obama health care law as unconstitutional – AP 27 minutes ago via breakingnews.com

To the extent that anything is yet known, there’s a little more here:

The full text of the decision from Federal Judge Roger Vinson is not available yet, but according to reporters who’ve seen the decision, he’s ruled the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. The ruling favors of the 26 state attorney generals challenging the law. The judge ruled the individual mandate that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance invalid and, according to the decision, “because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”

UPDATE: Here’s the ruling. The question now is whether it is well reasoned.

UPDATE II:  Hallelujah!  It is well reasoned.  The first part of the opinion (correctly) dismisses the State’s contention that ObamaCare forces them into an impossibly costly Medicaid situation.  As the Court points out, Medicaid has always been a voluntary relationship between State and Feds.  The fact that the Feds made it more costly doesn’t change its voluntary nature.  In a way (although the Court doesn’t say this), the States are like drug addicts whose dealer has jacked up the price.  That’s just tough.

Of course, the gist of the opinion goes to the Constitutionality of the individual mandate, and Judge Vinson is, again, right on the money.  As the parties and the Court frame it, the question is whether the federal government exceeded its power under the Commerce Clause when it included the individual mandate in ObamaCare.  The mandate, as you recall, says that people must buy federally approved insurance or pay a fine. The Court neatly sums up the issue as follows:

At issue here, as in the other cases decided so far, is the assertion that the Commerce Clause can only reach individuals and entities engaged in an “activity”;and because the plaintiffs maintain that an individual’s failure to purchase health insurance is, almost by definition, “inactivity,” the individual mandate goes beyond the Commerce Clause and is unconstitutional. The defendants contend that activity is not required before Congress can exercise its Commerce Clause power, but that,even if it is required, not having insurance constitutes activity. The defendants also claim that the individual mandate is sustainable for the “second reason” that it falls within the Necessary and Proper Clause.

For me, as a conservative, to state the issue is to resolve the issue:  The federal government lacks the Constitutional power to coerce people into buying a product they may neither need nor want.  If the feds want to change that, they need to amend the Constitution.  Judge Vinson, however, doesn’t have the luxury of reaching this straightforward conclusion without carefully going through all of America’s federalist hoops, something that he does clearly and meticulously.

Judge Vinson starts his analysis by citing long-standing Supreme Court law limiting the feds’ power under the Commerce Clause to only three areas:  (1) regulating interstate commerce; (2) regulating intrastate activities that have an effect on interstate commerce; and (3) regulating activities that have a substantial relationship to interstate commerce.  It is the third category that comes into play here, because it is the most subjective and the broadest in application.

[Ack!  Gotta run.  I'll actually publish this and stop here, even though I've only reached page 21 of the Court's decision.  Anyone who wants to chime in, making this an interactive summary/analysis, should feel free to do so.]

UPDATE III:  Finished taking care of my mother, now taking care of my kids, so there’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell that I’ll be able to finish reading the case today.  Fortunately, by this point in time, I don’t have to.  Other have waded in:

Power Line

Hot Air

Daniel Foster

Carrie Severino

The Heritage Foundation

Grace-Marie Turner

The Wall Street Journal

Strong Children

I was at my church this past weekend and was struck by the large number of college-graduate children that are now back living at home with their parents, out of work. The impression I have is that many of these kids still have no idea what they want to do with their lives. I get the sense that most pursued college degrees in either the soft social sciences (sociology, psychology, political science, environmental science), liberal arts (English, history) or hobby-arts (music, physical training), without any idea of what they planned to do with those degrees.

I largely blame their parents for this.

Meanwhile, I was at a professional meeting last week (I work in a technology-intensive industry) and heard over and over again, “we just can’t find any qualified new hires”). There are companies all over my industry looking to hire young talent. I had an executive with a large French company recently lament to me that he couldn’t find qualified American scientists, they were all from “China or India”.

I also watched a young adult professional give a PowerPoint presentation replete with misspellings and disconnected thoughts.
Where have we gone wrong in parenting and education in our society?

What do we need to do to build strong individuals and productive citizens?

Did you miss me?

Terry Trippany has once again proven himself a stellar web master.  The server went down big time and he, bless his heart, got it back and running again. Yay!

Since I know how to deal with interfaces, but have no understanding whatsoever of the hardware underneath, or of the way in which it works with the operating system, I’m always deeply impressed by his detective and repair skills.

Corrupt science and climate

After reading this excellent article, it’s clear that, even if there is anthropogenic global warming, we’ll never know, because agenda-driven “scientists” have so hopelessly corrupted the available data that scientific truth is impossible.  As it is, you all know that, while I’m an environmentalist (I believe we should cherish our environment as much as reasonably possible), I rigidly refuse to believe in anthropogenic global warming.  Back in 1992, Rush said AGW was a Leftist scam aimed at taking down capitalism, and events proved him to be absolutely right.

Democrat, Corruptocrat!

Democrats are the friends of big business, Conservatives are the friends of small business. Democrat government inevitably ratchets its way to corruptocracy.

If you don’t agree with this, can we at least agree that Democrats favor highly regulated economies and societies and conservatives don’t?

Let me explain with two examples.

1) The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about how the EPA has decided that milk, because it contains 4% butterfat, should be regulated under the same environmental control standards as petroleum. Consequently, dairy farmers will have to file Federally approve emergency plans on how to deal with “oil spills” and such. Large dairies (some dairies in California milk 10,000 or more cows at a time) will probably be able to comply. Small dairies (goat and sheep milk farms, Vermont dairy producers etc. ) are just out of luck. I happen to know something about the dairy industry – it’s a highly politicized, highly subsidized industry that operates on very thin margins. I’m sure that they will come to an accommodation with the EPA and Federal Government…at a very steep price, politically and $-wise!

2) As it becomes increasingly clear the degree to which Obama Care really is a pig-in-a-poke, there is frantic activity to opt out of it. The numbers of entities that have received waivers from ObamaCare (other than Congress) magically rose from about 200 to 700+ immediately after the SOTU speech. Those entities are large companies and unions on the inside track. The way you get a waiver is to have a lobbyist obtain it on your behalf. Money exchanges hands. Large companies can afford this, small companies…out of luck! If ObamaCare is so great, why the rush by Congress, favored businesses and union to obtain waivers?

Increased regulation is inversely proportional to lobbying activity. The less regulation there is, the less the need to influence government. The more regulation, the more the need to petition the royal aristocracy at a heavy price. The need to petition our government for redress under regulations fostered by our government is a corrupting influence. If you lack influence and can’t make payment, you are out of the equation. Here in Chicagoland, we know all about this. Here is what happens:

Society sediments into three classes: a) an aristocratic Democrat nomenklatura that controls the regulatory and judiciary structures of society; b) a wealthy, economic class that can afford to exchange favors for regulatory exemptions and waivers…at a price; c) a lumpen proletariat, outside of the power structures, imprisoned into forced into regulatory straight-jackets (taxable prey…if you will) that they will never be able to escape unless willing to surrender at the price of their souls. It is this last class that pays the bills for the others. This isn’t new…despite its “progressive” tag, it’s a regression to 19th Century economic “shakedown” realities.

My entire career, I have been a champion of entrepreneurs and small companies. They are vital to our society and economy, as innovators, risk-takers and employers. I would hate to see this glorious period end as we slouch toward third-world corruptocracy.

I know that Democrats mouth have historically mouthed platitudes about looking after the “little guy”. I would like to think that only the truly moronic and armchair philosophers walled into their temples of abstract theory can fail to see how Orwellian and corrupting these platitudes are.

Have we as a nation arrived at a point where we can stop this from happening or is it inevitable? A Jewish relative once remarked that no Jew sleeps without two shoes under his bed stuffed with a roll of cash, in case of a quick getaway. I am starting to understand his point.

A profound difference between the Iranian protests and the current Egyptian uprising

When I was faced with troubling decisions in my life, I used to give myself a pep talk.  I’d tell myself that there were three things that could happen as a result of my decision:  things could get better, they could get worse, or they could remain the same.  So, I’d tell myself, there’s only a one third chance that my decision could have a bad outcome.  This simplistic way of looking at things ignored, of course, whether mine was a smart decision, that hewed in the direction of better-ness, or a dumb decision, that pretty much predicted the worst possible outcome.  The fact remained that there were indeed three possible outcomes.

That simplistic thinking is slightly useful right now.  Think back to the Iran protests.  I watched those protests with fascination, because I knew that, from my situation in America, things couldn’t get worse; they could only remain the same or get better.  (That is not true, of course, for the protesters, who could, and did, suffer terribly if/when the protest failed.)  I was cheering at a football game, comfortably aware that a bad outcome would disappointment me, but not hurt me; and very hopeful that things would get much better.

The same cannot be said about events in Egypt.  The situation there was bad for the Egyptians but (mostly) stable for the rest of the world, including Israel.  The greatest likelihood is that something very bad will happen there, probably involving the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah.  I therefore find the news reports, not fascinating, but very unnerving, veering into frightening.  The possibility of a good outcome — a democratic revolution — is extraordinarily small, especially with Jimmy Carter . . . uh, Barack Obama at the helm.  Yup, this is a time warp moment.  It’s 1979 all over again.

Family calls, but feel free to comment here about your take on the revolt and its potential outcomes.

Our troops *UPDATED*

Go to this post at Doug Ross’s site (a post that is kind enough to mention me), and look carefully at the picture of a clutch of US servicemen.  If you click on the picture, it takes you to an Ace post that doesn’t mention the picture, so I don’t know the story behind it.  Do any of you know the story?  Is the caption on the picture accurate?  If so, it’s a testament to human decency.

UPDATE:  Thanks to NavyOne, I can tell you that it’s the real deal.  (See the comments to the Blackfive post.)  If our troops don’t prevail, you can bet that the problem lies high up, at the top of the chain of command.  They’re not the problem.

The world would not be better off with Mohammed El-Baradei at Egypt’s helm

When I read news reports saying that Mohammed El-Baradei had shown up in Egypt as a potential “democratic” leader, I was confused.  Surely this couldn’t be the same El-Baradei who served for so long as the head of the IAEA?  I couldn’t find specifics within my own brain, and was too lazy to look around on the internet, but when I thought of that El-Baradei, I kept thinking of someone who lied about Iran’s nuclear program, and who was relentlessly hostile to America and Israel.

Sometimes my instincts are right on the money — he’s a bad dude, with a bad history.  Egypt will go from the Mubarak frying pan straight into the El-Baradei fire if the latter steps up to a leadership position.

Is global warming hysteria responsible for Egypt’s revolution?

Track me on this one:

1.  With help from Al Gore, Hollywood, and the entire Leftist panoply, global warming fears reach hysterical levels.

2.  As part of their apocalyptic battle against rising seas and dying polar bears, warmists declare ethanol is one of the answers (never mind that it turns out that it takes 1.5 gallons of fossil fuel to produce a gallon of ethanol).

3.  Did I mention that ethanol comes from corn?  In the old days, people used to eat corn.  Now they drive it.

4.  To satisfy the panic-stricken need for drivable corn, food crops are diverted into fuel production.

5.  The cost of staples rises substantially around the world.

5.  In 2008, food riots break out, including riots in Egypt.  (Here are three links supporting the ethanol/riot connection, one from a free market site, one from a technology site, and one from an organic food site.)

6.  Although food riots haven’t been in the headlines lately, what do you bet that, with ethanol production still causing producers to divert food crops into the energy market, marginal economic societies such as Egypt continue to feel the effects of food shortages?

7.  Voila — riot conditions.  For history aficionados, remember that, in the 1790s, the French had suffered aristocratic depredations for centuries; it was the food shortages that triggered revolt (a la “Let them eat cake,” not that Marie Antoinette actually said that).  The same pattern showed up in Russia, with rising discontent reaching a fever pitch with WWI shortages.

In other word, what’s happening in Egypt is Al Gore’s fault.  (And yes, I’m being snarky, but it’s not a completely unreasonable supposition.)

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Egypt crisis; or, the Community Activist and foreign policy *UPDATED*

I was going to open this post with a snarky line about whether anybody with even marginal intelligence expected a 40-something community activist to have the necessary chops to deal with an international crisis of the type currently unfolding in Egypt.  Indeed, I think I still will:  Does anybody with an IQ over the single digits seriously believe that a former community activist and part-time legal lecturer has the skills and knowledge to handle the revolutionary disarray unfolding on Egypt’s streets right now?  No.  I didn’t think so.

Snark out of the way, I want to talk about something more profound than mere inexperience — and that’s Obama’s instinctive distrust of individual freedom.  His two years in office have shown us that, given the choice, Obama will invariably bow to whatever, or whomever, controls the government faction in a given country.

My sister suggested that this is because dictators tend to mean “peace,” albeit the peace of the grave.  Peace, no matter how ugly, means stability.  She’s got a point.  After all, the Soviet Union kept an iron grip on ethnic and tribal rivalries within its territory, all of which exploded once its grip loosened.

I think there’s something deeper going on here, though.  Barack Obama has demonstrated repeatedly that, for him, government is the only answer.  The bigger the government, the more admirable and answerable it must be.  And what could be bigger than a totalitarian dictatorship kind of government?

Obama has repeatedly demonstrated his (false) belief that, if he can just make nice to that government, and steer it to use its power for his Nanny-state version of good, rather than the government’s theocratic or Communist version of evil, all will be well.  It doesn’t seem to occur to him that a government that has ascended to the heights of totalitarian power, whether it’s the Norks, or Ahmadinejad, or Mubarak, or Chavez, is inherently evil.

Given that belief, it’s no wonder that Obama’s response to a revolutionary uprising by people under the thumb of a Big Government is to try to quell the uprising, and give his moral support to the Big Government.  Individual liberty baffles him.  Big Government — he thinks — is workable, if he can just turn on the Messiah charm.  Given his druthers, I suspect, he’d much rather deal with the Muslim Brotherhood (stable sharia big government), than the potential ugliness and fractiousness of a nation trying to feel its way towards individual freedom.

One of the things I remember reading in a Natan Sharansky book was the importance he attached to Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech.  What Sharansky said is that, when you live under totalitarianism, you are constantly being “gaslighted.”

For those of you too young to know what that phrase means, let me explain.  One of the great noire movies is Gaslight.  Ingrid Bergman plays a Victorian wife whose ostensibly benign husband is, in fact, trying to convince her that she’s insane.  He does that by constantly manipulating the reality around her — hiding things, denying events, etc. — so that she no longer trusts her own senses.

To “gaslight” someone, therefore, means to use lies and manipulation to convince him that his sense of reality is flawed and, quite possibly, that he is insane.  The psychiatric gulags in the former Soviet Union are a testament to how far the gaslighter will go to control his victim.

In the former Soviet Union, the citizens were constantly told that things were wonderful, that they were free, that housing and food were bountiful, and that their lives reflected the high quality one could expect in a true socialist nation.  This information wasn’t simply backed up by brutality, a force that tends to be a reality check.  Instead, it was the rah-rah propaganda backdrop of their lives:  school, movies, television, meetings, marches, etc. — all told them that the experience of their own five senses was a lie, contrary to the “true” Soviet reality.

Into this madhouse, came Ronald Reagan.  Reagan didn’t use polite language, he was uninterested in relativism, and didn’t pander.  Instead, he said “Evil Empire” — and millions of people under Communism’s boot said to themselves “Yes!  I’m NOT crazy.”  Knowing you’re not crazy feeds the soul.  You are energized and revitalized.  You can and will fight another day.

Obama refuses to speak of freedom.  He refuses to tell people they’re not crazy.  Instead, he leaves them in the funny house of Islamic dictatorships, struggling to mesh the knowledge their brain receives from its five senses with the nonsense touted in mosques, on televisions, in movies, etc.

Obama need not speak out against Mubarak, who has been something of an ally, and who certainly is no friend of the Muslim Brotherhood.  However, it would behoove him to speak in Democratic terms, no just about some gauzy “peace,” but about individual liberty.  He should encourage the government and the people to work together toward that goal.  Doing so will give Mubarak some wiggle room — that is, he can enact some face-saving policies — and it will enable the people on the streets to coalesce around a positive idea, as opposed to thrumming to raw rage.

Our elected community organizer, however, continues to trust that he can just organize those nasty little dictatorships into loving Big Governments.  He still dreams of the socialist paradise that no longer needs gaslighting to control its citizen’s lives.

Obama is the cause of these uprisings, because his weakness has created the cracks and fissures through which revolution explodes.  And Obama will be the cause of a significant decrease in world freedom, because that same weakness, coupled with his totalitarian inclinations, will ensure that the people or movement most committed to the restriction of individual liberty will invariably triumph.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

UPDATE:  J.E. Dyer hones in on the enormous risks to America if America fails to act.

UPDATE II:  Welcome, Instapundit readers!  I happily castigated Obama in this post.  If you’d enjoy a snarky gear switch, so that you can learn why Al Gore is also to blame, here’s another post for you.

UPDATE IIIObama made his statement, and did reference certain freedoms we still take for granted in America.  I applaud him saying these things, but — picky me — think he still managed, for the most part, not to say as little as possible in democracy’s favor:

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everybody. My administration has been closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, and I know that we will be learning more tomorrow when day breaks. As the situation continues to unfold, our first concern is preventing injury or loss of life. So I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors.

The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.

I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet, to cell phone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.

At the same time, those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek.

Now, going forward, this moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise. The United States has a close partnership with Egypt and we’ve cooperated on many issues, including working together to advance a more peaceful region. But we’ve also been clear that there must be reform — political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

In the absence of these reforms, grievances have built up over time. When President Mubarak addressed the Egyptian people tonight, he pledged a better democracy and greater economic opportunity. I just spoke to him after his speech and I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.

Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people. And suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. What’s needed right now are concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people: a meaningful dialogue between the government and its citizens, and a path of political change that leads to a future of greater freedom and greater opportunity and justice for the Egyptian people.

Now, ultimately the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. And I believe that the Egyptian people want the same things that we all want — a better life for ourselves and our children, and a government that is fair and just and responsive. Put simply, the Egyptian people want a future that befits the heirs to a great and ancient civilization.

The United States always will be a partner in pursuit of that future. And we are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people — all quarters — to achieve it.

Around the world governments have an obligation to respond to their citizens. That’s true here in the United States; that’s true in Asia; it is true in Europe; it is true in Africa; and it’s certainly true in the Arab world, where a new generation of citizens has the right to be heard.

When I was in Cairo, shortly after I was elected President, I said that all governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion. That is the single standard by which the people of Egypt will achieve the future they deserve.

Surely there will be difficult days to come. But the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free, and more hopeful.

About that Reagan analogy

The MSM never made any secret of the fact that it loathed Ronald Reagan.  Back in the 1980s, as an unthinking liberal, I too loathed Reagan.  The MSM’s unrelenting hostility to Reagan allowed me to feel that my views about the man were correct and that I was indeed an intellectually superior, insightful human being. Reagan was a stupid actor, a war monger, an enemy of the poor, a homophobe.  You could wade through his deepest thoughts without getting your ankles wet.  I thought it all; the MSM said it all.

Fortunately, not all Americans were as dumb as I was, as they elected the man, not once, but twice.

When Reagan died, the MSM, which I still watched sporadically back in 2004, was absolutely shocked that Americans turned out in such numbers to pay homage to Reagan.  It was clear that they expected his funeral to be a small affair, with a few jokes for old times sake about his Alzheimers having kicked in beginning in the 1940s.  Instead, thousands of Americans journeyed to Washington to file by his casket.  The national outpouring of grief, the sense that someone great had passed, was tremendous.

In the years since Reagan’s death, I haven’t detected any softening in the MSM’s attitude towards him until this very week.  You see, this week Obama’s troops in the MSM have a problem.  Obama is selling, but voters aren’t buying.  In the past, to help Obama sell his stuff, the MSM has resurrected famous presidents to find an analogy to Obama’s wonderfulness.

“Obama is Lincoln, and he’ll have a non-partisan cabinet!”  The most partisan president ever blew that analogy out of the water on practically his first day in office (“I won“).  Nor could the MSM find comfort in the fact that, in keeping with the Civil War idea, Obama does seem to be helping to move the country toward the rhetorical equivalent of a Civil War.

“Obama is FDR, and he’ll make sure that Happy Days Are Here Again!”  This analogy became a fail too, as it became clear that (a) Happy Days Are Not Here Again and (b) it turns out that the only way in which Obama is comparable to FDR is that the economy is getting worse, not better, under his watch.

“Obama is Kennedy, and he’ll bring class back to the White House!”  Whoops.  Another fail.  Obama and his high living wife are not classy, they’re trashy.  Also, even Boy Kennedy showed more courage than Obama when it came to acknowledging America’s enemies (Communists then; Islamists now), not to mention the fact that Kennedy actually seemed to like America.

This week’s trope, and it’s the most laughable one of all, is that Obama is Reagan!  Yes, you heard it through the MSM first.  Obama has secretly been emulating Reagan since the 1980s, his charm, his deep love of America, his commitment to American exceptionalism, and his abiding belief in the individual and the danger of big government.

At this point, you and I are laughing hysterically.  This is akin to announcing that Michael Vicks, at an early age, committed himself to the teachings of St. Francis; that Jeffrey Dahmer found Gandhi a compelling figure because of his vegetarianism; and that Lady GaGa has always seen Mother Theresa as a role model.

Clearly, the MSM is desperate.  But, despite its decline, it still has a bully pulpit.  A more shabby, less loud pulpit than ever before, but a bully one all the same.  Most Americans are, in some way or another, exposed to the MSM.  For those of us who are ideologically strong and are paying attention, it’s easy to slough off its nonsense.  And given enough time, Americans have shown that they’ll figure out the lies.  I’m wondering, though, how long it will be before ordinary Americans (that is, the ones who aren’t as politically obsessed as we are) figure this one out, and how many foolish people will remain trapped forever in this nonsense.

I’ll leave you with two famous quotations attributed to two famous Americans, one of whom Obama is not much like (Lincoln) and one of whom he is a great deal like (Barnum):

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Fire across the Middle East

Assuming that this is the 1848 of the Middle East, with Tunisia having lit the spark that causes revolution throughout Muslim countries, do you believe that (a) the revolutions will result in greater freedom in the Middle East or (b) the revolutions will advance the rise of even more radical, oppressive Islam controlling countries in that region?

I incline towards (b).

Coping with the fact that life is not fair *UPDATED*

Although the stock market seems to have steadied (apparently more because of the Republican House, than because of the Administration’s schemes), we are not living in flush times.  Instead, we’ve entered a leaner, meaner time in the world today.  There’s still lots of money lying around for some people,  but overall, things aren’t going well.  They’re especially trending in a bad direction for the poor, the sick, and those who are generally more vulnerable.  Here’s an example of what I mean, coming out of the bankrupt state of California:

Poor people with chronic illnesses such as kidney failure, cancer and HIV face the prospect of dying due to budget cuts proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, lawmakers and health advocates said Wednesday.

As Brown’s proposal faces its first week of scrutiny by the Legislature, the governor said he believes the budget process is on track for an early March deadline, but modifications are likely. Dozens of hearings are scheduled over the next few weeks, but resistance from a wide variety of people who would feel the brunt of the cuts continues to grow.

Reductions in health spending could doom some of the state’s sick, advocates said. The governor has proposed limiting most people on the state Medi-Cal program to 10 doctor visits per year, which would save the state almost $200 million next year.

Preliminarily, I’m not accepting at face value the apocalyptic doom-and-gloom the “advocates” are selling. We know, for example, that 1994′s vote to end “welfare as we know it,” didn’t turn America’s streets into a charnel house filled with the bodies of dispossessed homeless women and children but, instead, somewhat corrected a government culture that encouraged poverty behavior.  Nevertheless, I am certain that the budget cuts will cause a certain amount of hardship to some, and great, even fatal, hardship to others.

Faced with this situation, Progressives are predictably advocating increased taxes on the rich.  This is a band-aid remedy, of course.  At a certain point, the rich hide away the money, the state squanders the money, and the economy breaks down, destroying hopes of future money.  Think of Greece, Spain, Italy, England and (sigh) current days in the U.S.  In other words, increased taxes replenish government coffers briefly, but there’s no long-term promise.

I’m a believer in the market place.  If we take off many of the constraints we place on the market place, more people will make more products and services, including products such as drugs and dialysis treatments.  That’s not happening anytime soon, though, and, even if it does happen, it takes a while for the market place to react.

We are left therefore with vulnerable people who have depended on government, but now find themselves in a situation in which they no longer have a government on which to depend.  With wealth vanishing, the only way in which the government can provide the same level of services to the unfortunates is to further destroy the state’s finances.  Even Jerry Brown, a Progressive before anyone in my generation recognized the renewal of that old-fashioned socialist political movement, recognizes that political reality.

Where we’re left, then, is being forced to acknowledge, unpleasant though it may be, that life is not fair.  It’s not fair when people are born with or acquire horrible diseases.  It’s not fair when young parents die in car accidents.  It’s not fair when someone is born into a poverty-stricken and dysfunctional home.  As a humane society, I believe we have an obligation to aid people as much as possible when they’re on the receiving end of this lack of fairness and we’re in a position to help.  However, as a viable society, I don’t believe we have an obligation to destroy ourselves in an effort to eradicate life’s unfairness.

During the flush times, we can and should make more pushes to help those less lucky than we are.  During the dry times, though, sometimes the only thing left to us is the consolation that (we hope) this too shall pass.

(And then of course there’s the Chavez approach to poverty and unfairness.)

UPDATE:  I’m p.o’d at Christie for his pandering to Islamists, but there’s still no one who does a better job of explaining out of control government spending, and the need for cuts that are cruel to individuals, but necessary for overall fiscal health.

REITs

Do any of you have any strong opinions about REITs?  I’m trying to learn about them, but am finding the volume of information available a little overwhelming.

American dominance?

[Because this thread is still going strong, I've moved it up to the top of the blog this morning -- Bookworm.]

Zachriel raises a new and very interesting point:

“A strong an prosperous America leading free nations is a good thing. Dominance of one nation by another is undemocratic and inherently unstable. If, as many Americans agree, Washington is detached from the concerns of the people of Aberdeen or Bangor, then why would anyone expect Washington to be able to run the affairs of people in Kandahar or Fallujah.”

I think he’s right that America is ill-suited to run things in Kandahar or Fallujah.  Of course, I’ve always been uncomfortable with American intervention in other countries, witness my opposition to the invasion of Iraq.  But, if intervention into other countries is necessary to protect Americans against future 9/11s maybe it is a necessary evil even if we don’t run things all that well in Kandahar and Fallujah.  Every country has a right to defend itself, a right that, in its execution, may necessarily extend beyond its borders.  Israel, for example, should not be required to wait until Iran drops an atomic bomb on it before acting to prevent that from happening.

What do you all think about this?

Youth unemployment – where does it lead?

As we settle into the Obama Depression era, one thing that I and others have noticed is that many of the very youth that voted enthusiastically for Obama are the ones already feeling the consequence of his policies: they are unemployed. As one of my college-age kids put it, “our generation is so over Obama, today!”.

High youth unemployment is an inevitable consequence of socialism. In modern Europe, it has always been high. Here is an example of its pervasiveness in the U.K., for example:

http://anglo-americandebate.blogspot.com/2011/01/left-wing-policies-have-destroyed.html

In Europe, the problem has been exacerbated by extensive “social safety nets” that guarantee a pretty good lifestyle for the unemployed. Why work, when you can live comfortably on public assistance combined with the black market economy (dealing drugs, for example)? There are large swaths of the European population that, like people in our inner city projects, have no idea how to work. A young man in France with a finance degree recently reported to me that he was “happily unemployed”. Thanks to his government, he leads a comfortable existence. However, that, too, shall come to an end, for Europe faces the same economic collapse as the U.S.

I really do feel sorry for university students graduating today: for many, if not most, their degrees will be obsolete by the time the economy recovers (which could be a very long time). What employer would hire a student with, say, a business, philosophy, English, or whatever degree that has lain fallow for two, four or more years when they can hire a freshly minted graduate instead? These students’ parents, meanwhile, will often have drained hundreds of thousands of dollars from their retirement funds to fund such now worthless educations. I know of parents that have destroyed their retirement options in order to put their kids through university.

So, what happens when you have armies of unemployed young people with obsolete skills? I know that this has happened before, such as in the Great Depression. However, when economic recovery did come in the mid-to-late ’40s, workers with no education and technical skills could still find plenty of hands-on work opportunities. I don’t know that this holds true anymore in a modern economy. There’s only so many openings for baristas.
Any ideas?

It’s all about me, me, me (and the Watcher’s Council)

I’m sorry for the blog silence.  Not only am I finding headlines uninspiring (not uninteresting, just uninspiring), I really am having a fine time going through my old posts with the hope that I can assemble the best of them into an ebook.

When it comes to my writing, I’m happy with a lot of the old posts, so I know my ego is intact.  Nevertheless, honesty compels me to admit that the old posts (some going back as far as 2006) need a fair amount of editing.  Many are inappropriate for a book (too diffuse, too old, too filled with quotations from others), while others need to be tweaked to be tighter, more current, and more meaningful.

I also need to cut radically.  Even after culling my almost 7,000 posts (yes, you read that correctly) to find “possibles” for a book, I was left staring at a 300,000 word document.  Because the average book runs about 50,000 to 60,000 words, I’m trimming like mad.

I’m on the first pass now, getting rid of the obvious unpublishables, and seeing what I can do to tighten the possible publishables.  It’s time consuming but, for the first time in years, I’m engaged in work that I enjoy.  As I said, when it comes to my writing, there’s nothing wrong with my ego.

I do want to assure you, though, that I will continue to blog here.  The slight slackening off over the last couple of days really is tied to news specific ennui, and not to the fact that I’m spending my time on other things.  When the ennui passes, undoubtedly in a day or two, I will resume blogging with my usual pathological furor.

Meanwhile, if you’re lusting for things to read, let me recommend the Watcher’s Council submissions this week:

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

Post SOTU open thread *UPDATED*

I didn’t watch the SOTU speech last night.  Both my kids had lots of homework, and needed lots of help, and that trumped anything Obama might have said.  Later . . . well, the moment was gone.  I didn’t want to sit in my office late at night, staring at a long, long, long speech.  And today, nope, it’s not going to happen.  Life goes on.

I have, however, been reading reviews about the speech.  My facebook friends, almost all liberals, think it was brilliant.  The views on the conservative blogosphere are mixed, ranging from claims that it was meaningless and mediocre, to surprise that he actually made noises as if he liked this country.  All agree, however, that Obama’s vision revolves around more and more, and still more, government.

It struck me reading about the speech (as opposed to actually hearing or reading the speech, so please keep that distinction in mind) that everyone, in one way or another, made the same point:  Beyond a few throwaway lines, Obama didn’t talk about America, her people, resources, goals and purpose.  Instead, he talked about government.  Obama is a bureaucrat.  To him, at the end of the day, the only true American resource is its government.  The people and natural riches in this nation are widgets that exist to fuel government’s efforts.

This is a very different view from that held by many Americans, which is that government should be subordinate to the people.  It should be a tool that exists to power us.  Certainly that was the vision the Founders signed off on in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

The Founder’s viewed government as subordinate to men; Obama views men as subordinate to government.  This doesn’t mean he envisions men as slaves or vermin.  It simply means that he has what I consider an inverted hierarchy when it comes to the relative importance of citizens and their government.

What do you think?

Oh!  One more thing:  The headlines in the Chron is “Obama’s call for ‘our generation’s Sputnik moment.’”  That’s just a disastrous sound byte.  Obama calls for America to be like the Soviet Union in the 1950s.  Regardless of what he actually said, that phrase is going to be the message that sticks.  That isn’t soaring rhetoric; that’s an embarrassing dream of totalitarian statism.

UPDATE:  James Taranto also thinks the “sputnik moment” was a rhetorical failure, although it turns out to have quite a long history in Thomas Friedman’s little corner of the flat earth.

The calm before the ….?

I’ve been having a hard time blogging the past couple of days.  I feel as if I’ve said all that I’m capable of saying about the news already on the table, and nothing new has come along.

I suspect that the lull, both in the news and in my own brain, is occasioned by the fact that we have a new Congress that hasn’t really gotten moving yet.  For the four years of the Democratic Congress, not to mention that this same Congress ahd two “glory” years under Obama, there was always a lot to talk about.  Now, things are fallow.  Obama is in wait-and-see mode, even as he basks in the bounce from having a new Congress putting the brakes on his less savory schemes.  I suspect that Americans being the forgiving people they are, will decide in 2012 that Barack Obama was a poor creature grossly manipulated by Nancy Pelosi, and that we really ought to give him another chance, especially because it would look bad to vote him out of office.

I am finding amusing the fact that the media is trumpeting that nobody worth knowing is preparing to run on the Right in 2012.  (See, e.g., this.)  In fact, to people paying attention on the right, all of the hopefuls are known, and some of them look quite good.  It’s just that the press, focused obsessively on Palin, Beck and Limbaugh, hasn’t been paying attention.  That’s a good thing, in a way, because it allows the hopefuls to consolidate a power base before the media’s engines of destruction turn against them.

I captioned this post “the calm before the ….?” because I really don’t know what’s coming down the pike in the near future.  I could make various gloom and doom predictions based upon the way in which the totalitarian jackals abroad seem to be salivating about Obama’s weaknesses, but I’m actually seeing silver linings.

For example, in past wars with Hamas and Hezbollah, Israel has restrained herself at Bush’s and Clinton’s request.  Trusting both those governments, Israel backed down without taking any fight to its successful conclusion.  Now, with a Hezbollah government to her north, Israel may engage in a real war, unhampered by Obama’s drag.  She doesn’t trust Obama anyway, so she’ll be tempted to ignore his dubious enticements not to fight.  She’ll have some security from a Republican House, and that may be enough.

Likewise, matters may come to a head with Venezuela.  Hoping for something dramatic to happen may seem mean and superficial, but there’s a virtue to clarity and resolution.  Right now, Chavez is engaged in convert attacks that are hard to challenge, especially with a primarily leftist world media.  If Chavez acts on the perception (accurate, I think) that Obama’s weak, the gloves may come off, and world observers might see enough to stop the little Leftist love affair with that tyrant.

In other words, sometimes the status quo stops heavy bloodshed, but it nevertheless enables a slow bleed that can still lead, if not to death, at least to virtually terminal anemia.  The clarity that emerges when the strong man is gone might be helpful.

Or I might be whistling in the wind.

Hollywood hates government

Someone took the time to track the nature of the bad guys in Hollywood action flicks from the 1980s to the present.  It won’t come as a surprise to any of you that she discovered that “the overall winner of the villain tally is American military/government/law enforcement.”  In the 1980s, Russians appeared, but not as often as our own people.  And since 2001, no Middle Easterners have appeared at all. Definitely check out her post, and then come back and talk to me.

The gal who wrote the post sees the statistics as signs that America has an innate distrust of government, which would seem to indicate a libertarian stance to Hollywood.  That’s hard to believe given Hollywood’s over-the-top Progressivism.  Of course, Hollywood could recognize that the audience for its action flicks is anti-Big Government, and could be giving the public what it wants, but I don’t think so.  I’m putting my own biases up front here, but the tone of Hollywood movies is such that I think the choice of enemies has more to do with an innate dislike of America itself, rather than a distrust of big government.

What say you?

(Hat tip:  Lulu)