Saturday, February 14, 2009

National Bribery and Guilt Day

Yes, it’s that day again, when various industries conspire to assure you that if you really love that special someone, you will spend more money than you can afford on things that person neither needs nor has specifically said they even want. After all, if you really want to help someone improve their life condition, flowers that will die soon, candy that will rot their teeth and clog their arteries, and jewelry that will spend most of its time in a box inside a larger case somewhere are not really going to be the way to go. Of course, it’s not considered “romantic” if you don’t spend prime dollars on florists, choclatiers, and bling. This con game goes on every year, and somehow millions of Americans play along.

So if you’re wondering how Obama and the Donkey Congress decided to sell their Graft N’ Pork bill as some kind of ‘emergency economic stimulus’, just look at the fraud that is Valentine’s day, and you should see the template they used. In their case, however, the recipient of all that useless bilge is also expected to pay for it.

Makes ya wanna whack Cupid upside the head, doesn’t it?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Lincoln Lunch


I was sitting at my desk late this morning, trying to decide when to take lunch, when an tall, lanky, and unexpected visitor sat down and scowled at me.

May I help you?” I asked him. He leaned forward and extended a long arm to shake my hand.

I need to talk to someone” he said, “I am exceptionally agitated and I think you may be able to assist me in recovering my composure, prior to the many unpleasant actions I am presently contemplating..”

“You have me at a disadvantage” I answered to the thin yet powerful man before me, “I apologize for anything I may have done to anger you, but I confess I am at a loss-”

The man stopped me with an upraised hand and a kinder expression.

My apologies, sir. I did not mean to imply that you were the cause of my present discomfiture. It is the man who now holds my job and makes a mockery of my home and name … and on my birthday yet!”

Without thinking, I blurted “Strange, it’s Lincoln’s birthday today, and a tall thin strong guy like you could pass for –”

He stopped me again, this time with a chuckle, and an uncanny thought caught me as he spoke:

“Well, I have lost many things over time, but I should like to keep my own name, sir.

“Mister President?” I ventured.

Abe Lincoln shrugged. “I suppose I may still claim the honorific, though it has been a long time since I performed the office.

“Although the present occupant is certainly working to diminish the honor in that title.”

So you are not a fan of President Obama?” I inquired.

“Not in the slightest” said Lincoln. “There is always room for gentlemen to disagree on points and in opinion, but the man is disparagement incarnate. His efforts are a slur upon the profession of law, the White House, the great state of Illinois, and against his people."

Which efforts specifically?”, I asked Mister Lincoln.

Where has he not been so?” countered Lincoln. “Every one of his gestures has been in connivance of election or contempt of his duty. He is willing to lay more taxes on people already burdened beyond what they can carry, he sees no sin in saying something to one man to gain his favor, and something else at another time, with no commitment to keep his word to anyone at all.”

That makes him an ordinary politician, so far”, I suggested.

“But he promised to be different” countered Lincoln. “Remember ‘post-partisanship’? Remember when he wanted to be ‘everyone’s president’? I said it myself long ago: If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.” .

So you’re angry at President Obama” I said, in my usual slow grasp of the obvious.

Well, I am also hungry. If you do not mind, could we go to Kim Son?” asked Lincoln. “I seldom get to try oriental food, but I have found I am fond of Dim Sum.”

So I and the sixteenth President of the United States, both of us wearing chinos and golf shirts, walked over to the Asian restaurant and enjoyed a lunch buffet which included Sushi, Dim Sum, and a variety of soups and noodles, finishing with sweetened tofu for dessert. After a time, Lincoln leaned back in his seat and smiled.

I have eaten more in this meal than I usually eat in a day,” he said. “I was going to remark on the fact that despite being a foot shorter than me, you have me outdone in weight, but with food like this available, anyone would have to resist that temptation to eat too well.”.

I am a little sensitive to comments about my weight, and I did not want Mr. Lincoln to observe how many people maneged to keep their weight down, so I redirected our conversation to the original topic.

When you first arrived sir, you mentioned that you thought I might be able to assist you with regard to our current President.”

Lincoln nodded somberly.

He is an unprepared man, and surrounded by poor counsel.” opined Lincoln. “I fear what sort of course he will set under such conditions.”

To be fair,” I said, “A lot historians say that your cabinet and advisers, especially your generals, were similarly limited in their abilities.”

Lincoln grimaced.

But I could at least recognize a fool, and call him out for it” he said. “I could almost imagine that this Obama fellow seeks out inadequate men for his circle, in order that his own image may shine more brilliantly.

“I have seen it many times before.”
finished Lincoln.

“So what can we do about it?” I asked. “Obama’s the President and he has the Congress backing him.”

“But he is wrong” said Lincoln flatly. “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men. Where is the party of Conscience?”

“I think they’re on sabbatical” I answered. “The Republicans have not exactly been listening to the people, either.”

Lincoln became angry.

“ No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent” he asserted strongly. “What manner of country have we now, when the people have no voice in their own affairs, and whole generations may be consigned without even the pretense of true democracy?”

“Things are dicey right now with the economy, and Obama is playing on that.” I told Lincoln. “It started when housing started to get risky, the government forcing banks to offer loans to people who could not possibly pay them back, and banks getting greedy trying to play on the ‘everyone gets an easy mortgage’ theme.”

Lincoln sighed. “I warned people years ago about just this kind of thing.” Lincoln shook his head. “You may not believe it, but I once said, ‘let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.’ As I recall, it was tough to help people understand even then.”

Lincoln’s eyes blazed as he continued. “I know this theme playing out now, we have surely seen it many times before, but you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves. You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence.

“As difficult as it may sound, you must let men succeed or fail on their own efforts. Government should even the field, so each man has his chance, but inevitably to cushion men is to cripple them.”

Lincoln stood to leave, and shook my hand.

“So, where next?” I asked him.

“The library, I should think.” answered Lincoln.

“Have you considered visiting President Obama yourself?” I suggested. “Surely you could help him see the mistakes he is making by confronting him directly.”

Lincoln’s shoulders shrank. “He will not see me. He only has time for his friends and flunkies. I saw someone dressed up as me acting out the ceremony of my birthday, though poorly done and a buffoon to play the part. I think it was Will Farrell, in which case I should be offended.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Barack Obama, Bauer-Wanna-Be

Barack Obama thinks Jack Bauer is cool. He must, because the President is obviously trying to be like him in pursuing his agenda.

Jack Bauer started out in the first couple seasons as the head agent of CTU, a shadowy group who did pretty much as they pleased, accountable to no one, although Bauer was in frequent communication with the President, a tall urbane black man with no apparent qualifications for the job beyond his ability to speak seriously in deep tones. Barack Obama has made it clear he feels entitled to do as he pleases (“I won”, he reminds those who question his strident partisan tone), and he is accountable to no one. Barack Obama is also a tall urbane black man with no apparent qualifications for the job beyond his ability to speak seriously in deep tones, although we have yet to see Obama in an Allstate commercial.

Many of Jack Bauer’s discussions begin along the lines of “listen to me carefully and do exactly what I tell you to do.” Many of Obama’s early directives and orders are similarly lacking in debate and consideration of alternatives. As far as Obama is concerned, only his opinion matters. It’s not like he thinks he’s a dictator or some kind of king, though – he’s just following after what Jack would do.

Jack Bauer has an effective way of cutting through annoying details like discussing whether his plan is an effective solution to the crisis or just a risky bit of ego and arrogance, by assuring people that “there’s no time!”. President Obama has no interest in discussing alternatives or defending the massive pork in his “stimulus” bill, so he simply warns that failure to do as he demands could lead to “catastrophe”. Yet somehow Obama lacks Bauer’s panache’ when he tries that line. In fact, he begins to look distinctly uncool, almost Jimmy-Carterish in his clear inability to explain his program’s functions and defend it’s cost.

Barack Obama’s essential mistake is that just as Jack Bauer does not in fact exist, so too Obama’s explanation of his stimulus program is built using fictions and bald-faced lies. The Congressional Budget Office is no fan of Obama’s plan, warning that President Obama's economic recovery package will actually hurt the economy more in the long run than if he were to do nothing.

Worse, Obama’s plan does not directly help people who have already been impacted the most by the recession and financial crisis:

• The crisis began with the sub-prime mortgage crisis, with many Americans losing their homes to foreclosure; the stimulus package offers nothing to address these conditions, but instead offers a tax credit for people buying homes, although someone who has lost their home to foreclosure will be very unlikely to be in a position to buy another one anytime soon.

• The secondary crisis for many Americans is the devaluation of their 401k accounts and the plummeting value of their homes. But rather than create a plan which protects the remaining savings and encourages thrift, the Obama plan depends on spurring spending, even when households cannot afford to spend money on the obligations they already have.

• The scariest part of the recession so far, is the loss of jobs. President Obama himself has repeatedly said that the top priority needs to be creating new jobs. But the stimulus plan endorsed by Obama does not create jobs to match the need. Much of the money spent is not going to create jobs at all. The Wall Street Journal observed that $90 billion is going straight to Medicare, another $79 billion to supplement state revenues, and $43 billion for government transportation projects already underway. The WSJ notes that the little bit designed to create jobs will have no effect until late 2009 at the earliest.

No one points out the hypocrisy in rushing to avoid debate on a bill because of urgent need, when that bill will not even begin to do what is promised for half a year or more, if it works at all.

• The bill which just passed the Senate will cost every American who still has a job about $8800 in new taxes, plus interest. This at a time when everyone admits spending needs to be cut and no one can afford extra burdens.

That’s the biggest difference between Obama and Jack Bauer. When Bauer gets to be old or unbelievable, you can just turn off the TV. Obama plans to be controlling your life and eating out your wallet for a long, long time to come.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and Obama

First, some good news. This country has been through some really, really tough times in its history, and we have always gotten through them. Being a man of faith, I count that as grace from God, with more than a little bit of American character seeing us through, the stubborn refusal to give up on what is right and true, and the unyielding belief that this country exists for a noble purpose, one not dependent on the moment or on popular opinion. We will pay for our mistakes and make some more along the way, but in the end we will prevail.

Now the bad news. While I have read of such times, never in my personal experience have I seen the nation so superficial and concerned with trivial matters as now, and never before have I see our elected officials as disinterested in their sworn duty to the people as I do now. That’s in both parties, not just the ones in power now. While there are still some good men and women in federal office, they are fewer now than I have ever seen before. The majority have no concern about the cost they lay on the taxpayers, they care only for winning their own re-election by any means necessary. They care nothing for what is coming when Social Security collapses, what will happen when the world sees we will no longer keep our commitments to defend our friends and root out terrorists in their own training and recruiting grounds, or what will happen when the government finally asks Americans to pay for a system which rewards corruption and greed while punishing individual success and self-reliance.

And then there is Barack Obama. His minions shouted down those who dared to point out his utter lack of experience and poor choice of associates, as racists and hate-mongers. It quickly became ‘obstructionist’ for anyone to follow up on Obama’s promises or question how he would accomplish his grand vision, which was quietly and quickly deleted from his web site as each proved too difficult, too unrealistic, or a total impossibility. Perhaps he will grow into the job, but thus far he has shown remarkably poor judgment, a shallow understanding of the major issues, and an inability to lead in office to anything like the image he cast as a candidate.