Archive for January, 2010

Not Bad Enough Yet

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

When the war in Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein began, it was popular, and it had supporters on the left as well as the right. Many Democratic politicians voted for it, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, and Charles Schumer among them. Many liberal pundits also supported the war, when it was popular, like Peter Beinart at The New Republic, and Thomas Friedman at the New York Times.

When the war became unpopular, the Democrats were suddenly all against it, had always really been against it, had been duped, and the liberal pundits had a profound, wrenching, change of heart. While we (the U.S.A.) were still engaged, and young men and women were putting their lives on the line, Harry Reid declared that the war which he had initially supported was lost.

President George W. Bush went against popular opinion, and the advice of many of his own advisors, and the recommendations of the generals in the field, and sided instead with General Petreaus, and ordered the surge. Before the surge even began, Senator Barack Obama announced that it would fail.

The war had become very unpopular.

None of this behavior was unusual or unprecedented. Politicians and pundits routinely tack to the prevailing winds. It is part of their job description. The goal, after all, is maximizing votes and readership.

As customers are to businesses, so are voters and readers to politicians and pundits (and bloggers!). As CEOs owe fiduciary allegiance to their shareholders, so do politicans and pundits owe their benefactors and employers. David Brooks became roughly 20% less interesting when he took the job at the New York Times.

Obama was very popular, now not so much. Government takeover of the health care portion of the national economy (one sixth!) was never popular. Now it is even less popular. Government takeover of two of the three domestic automobile companies was never even slightly popular. Handicapping the economy in the name of global warming was never very popular. Now it has been laughed off the agenda entirely.

“Too big to fail” is not popular. Government control of the real estate financial market (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) is not popular. Giving tax breaks to union members is not popular. Giving special deals to individual states in order to buy votes for unpopular legislation is not popular. Dispensing long-sought Democratic pork in the name of “stimulus” is not popular.

The Democrats, in unprecedented control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, have attempted to impose as unpopular and ambitious a transmogrification of the American economy as has ever been seriously contemplated by those in positions of responsibility in the United States.

How about a little bit of imagination? How about a little bit of courage? How about nuclear power, a WPA/CCC jobs program, broadband for all citizens, maybe even tort reform and competition across state lines for health insurance providers? Or something, anything, that wasn’t just a corrupt payoff to special interests, or a cynical attempt to extend the power of those in power.

I was talking about some of this stuff with my son Jason a couple of days ago. He said, “We have a lot to do, and plenty of resources with which to do it, but things just haven’t gotten bad enough yet.” I think that is exactly right.

Why not?

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Creativity and self delusion. These are the unique marks of humanity, really just different names for the same thing. Human beings are the only animals capable of imagining things that do not exist. If being created in God’s image means anything, it means this. We are the imaginers.

Creativity is the process of not only imagining things, but actually bringing them into existence via effortful interaction with physical and “virtual” reality. As Steve Jobs is apocryphally reported to have said, “Real artists ship.”

For every million or more imagined things which do not exist, only one is ever “realized”. Only one seed falls on fertile ground.

Believing things that are not true, that’s what we are good at. We can’t help ourselves. Everybody on Earth, I would assert, believes, at the very least, 100 things that are not true, every single day.

Whether it be the multitudinous strange ahistorical “facts” of the world’s major religions and political parties, or the settled certainty/utter fraud of anthropogenic global warming, or the cost-bending virtues of ObamaCare, or the wonderfulness of the planet Pandora. Conjure it up, and somebody will believe it.

We humans are in the God-like Creation business. We are creatin’ fools. “I dream of things that never were, and ask why not,” said Robert Kennedy. So say we all, whether intentionally or not.

We dream. What we dream determines how our children will grow up, what our communities look like, what our own bodies look like, how we will make it, who we will be in the world. What the world will be.

This God-like power also makes us the gullible, brain-washable, easy marks of the animal kingdom. We will believe anything. If a belief in something rewards us in some way, we will do it, reality be damned. If it makes us feel superior or happy or relieved or powerful, we will believe it.

We dream of things that never were, and (if it feels good) ask why not?

How We Got Here

Monday, January 11th, 2010

This financial crisis has been a long time coming. It is a result of how our democratic (small d) politics works, on local, state, and national levels. Politicians on the left and, less so but still egregiously, on the right, have learned that the path to power is to make promises for which there is insufficient revenue, and then to deliver on them by borrowing money (the preferred method) or by raising taxes (on the “rich” and the sinful).

These grandiose promises are made in exchange for votes of course, but they are made primarily in exchange for campaign contributions, from large corporations, unions, and trial lawyers.

Individuals have also learned that only a fool lives within his means. Many people learned to live on home equity loans and credit cards, in expectations of inevitable increases in real estate values and general prosperity. Flipping condos was considered a great way to “earn a living”, as was day trading on the stock market.

Unfortunately, as Maggie Thatcher said, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” This wasn’t all about socialism. Much of it was just old-fashioned belief in getting something for nothing, a concept that informs but precedes socialism.

Judgment day has finally arrived. The U.S. government, California, New York, San Francisco, Detroit, cities and states across the country, and countries across the globe, have all, more or less simultaneously, run out of other people’s money.

Turns out there are no other people. It’s just us chickens. There’s the us that consumed, and still expect to consume, all these goods and services, like cars and boats and social security. And there’s the us that provided them, paid with IOUs. Ultimately it’s the same us, and we can’t pay ourselves. So, no more new stuff, no retirement, no health care, no consumers, no jobs. God bless the child that’s got his own. He better invest in gold and ammunition.

Stimulus, schtimulus, there is no quick fix. We all have to pay it all back. Except Goldman Sachs of course. In other words, we are all a lot poorer than we were pretending to be. Except Goldman Sachs of course.

There is a lot of whistling past the graveyard these days, desperate hopes that this is just another recession like previous recessions, and it will be over soon, and everything will be back to normal. That’s why the stock market is doing so well.

Not gonna happen. We’re not looking at a possible double dip. We are looking at a perma-dip. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Focus, focus!

Monday, January 4th, 2010

This Abdulmutallab guy was on a terrorist watch list. I don’t care how much Janet Napolitano whines about there being 550,000 names on the list. So what? How many people are in the various databases that are accessed when you pay for your airline ticket with a credit card? What is the purpose of the watch list, if the people on the list are not actually, you know, watched?

Government spokespeople and media pundits can spin this any way they want, but normal people out here in the country are not as stupid as we may look to some. Most of us have our own businesses or are working for someone who does.

Most of us have to be competent at our job or at managing our business or we will lose our job or lose our business. If we did something as dumb as letting Abdulmutallab on an airplane bound for the United States, we would run a real risk of losing our job or our business.

Forget the fact that his own father reported him to the U.S. embassy. Forget that he paid $3,000 cash for his ticket, and had no luggage. Forget that he didn’t have a passport. Forget that the UK had already denied him entry. Forget all of that.

Apparently there is no connection between the terrorist watchlist database and the computers of airlines that fly into the United States. This late in the game? It is Inexcusable. Inexcusable! Forget that he was allowed on the plane. What was he doing with a valid multiple entry U.S. visa?

I’m not blaming Obama. These institutions, the CIA, the State Department, Homeland Security, have a life of their own. They don’t much care who is President. Their bureaucratic incompetence transcends politics.

Now, having already nationalized the domestic auto industry, and the financial industry, the President and the Congress wish to take control of the health care industry, and the energy industry.

I think it might be better if the President and the Congress just focused on national defense, and let us people out here take care of that other stuff.