Friday, September 30, 2011

Congrtatulations to Obama

I have been critical of Obama about how he has been dealing with the economy,  wishing he had, or would, take significant tax reform and entitlement cutting to the Congress and the country.  However, I say congratulations to him and his administration for their killing of a major player in the war on the terrorists - the significant propagandist, Anwar al-Awlaki, plus another major propagandist in his company, Samir Khan.

It is certainly true that this is the result of very intelligent hard work on the part of our outstanding military, and they should get the bulk of our gratitude.  But, Obama has supported our efforts in terrorist wars pretty full heartedly, taking out Osama bin Laden, and now al Awlaki as well.  Next up, I expect that bin Laden's number two, al Zawahiri, will be a headline before too much time passes.  

Obama came into the presidency on promises of getting the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as he could.  He was contrasted to McCain who said he wouldn't leave until the job was finished.  At the time of the campaign, I thought those two positions were very much the same, just worded differently.  Once Obama took office and became debriefed on the actual situation in our war  against the terrorists, he pretty much continued W's policies at home and abroad.  Which I think just shows what any responsible president would have to do, given the realities of the threats he sees.

So, a very major defeat for the bad guys, and a success for our president.  Congratulations!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's not just the Republicans

Even though it is certainly true (as liberals believe it to be) that the Republicans have been totally obstructionist to just about anything that Obama and the Democrats have wanted to do about the economy, it is not true (even though liberals want to believe it to be) that the Republicans just decided to do this out of the blue for reasons primarily based on their attempts to take over the government and do anything to stop the Obama administration from succeeding even if it means that they hurt America in the process of stopping Obama.

In other words, Obama and the Democrats aren't the poor little innocent victims being bullied by the nasty old Republicans that they want to pretend to be.  

Or, another way to say it is, Obama and the Democrats are reaping what they sowed, or so it seems to me. 

When Obama and the Democrats were swept into power in 2008 after having been frustratedly and furiously out of power for the eight years of W, they over-read their mandate.  Parties that win often over-read their mandates and decide that they have finally won an argument that has spanned decades and the country has decided that their side was right all along, and that the country is eager to go along with the winners' sweeping programs and totally change the face of the country.  To the Democrats, it seemed like a new era of liberalism, and they were going to create a change in the country that would rival the watershed presidencies of FDR and LBJ.  

So, the first thing that Obama did was create a $900 billion Keynesian stimulus plan (which is more money than has been spent on the war in Iraq!).  There were three problems with this bold move.  First, the Republicans didn't believe in Keynesian economics and thought it was a disastrous idea.  Second, Obama turned the thing over to the Democrats in congress who, in turn, pretty much ignored, and certainly did not invite, Republican input to the stimulus package.  And third, the huge quantities of money spent were not smartly targeted to stimulate the economy, but had far too much of the odor of sending vast sums to liberal fellow travelers and long treasured liberal pet causes.

A short way of saying that is that Obama and the Democrats did pretty much  what they wanted to do with this gigantic fortune of taxpayer money and pretty much told the Republicans to shove it.  

Indeed, it may have saved some jobs along the way, but certainly didn't have the impact on jobs that the liberals thought it would.

Then, the second thing that Obama did was create a massive reform of the health care system.  There were three things wrong with this bold move as well.  First, the Republicans didn't believe in a national health care system and thought it was a disastrous idea.  Second, Obama again turned it over to the Democrats of congress who, in turn pretty much ignored and certainly did not invite, Republican input to the Orwellian named "Affordable Care Act".  Republicans screeched in protest, but it was mostly conservative Democrats that acted as a moderating influence on the final law.  And third, the final product never had a large support from the general public despite the avid enthusiasm of liberals.  Obamacare did not come to life as a result of a uprising of popular will, but rather was passed by hard core political action that ran roughshod over the opposition - the Republicans.

A short way of saying that is that Obama and the Democrats did pretty much  what they wanted to do with this massive overhaul of a major portion of the economy and pretty much told the Republicans to shove it.

Indeed, it may actually be an improvement over the old health care system, if it survives a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court, but the health care costs and system will continue to be a terrible problem in the country for a long time to come.

So, guess what happened?  The Republicans won a major electoral victory in 2010, and they... over-read their mandate.

The Republicans decided that they would do pretty much what they wanted to do and would tell the Democrats to shove it.  So, they came up with the terrible tactics of holding the government hostage by refusing to pay its bills by extending the debt ceiling until they got what they wanted on budget cutting without raising taxes.  

So, let's see what the score is:  Democrats got $900 billion stimulus spending and massive health care reform, and Republicans got a small amount of budget cutting without increasing taxes.

Now, who have been the bullies?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Back from vacation

I'm back from a week long vacation, and I see that not too much has changed.  Although I think that the bloom is going off the Rick Perry rose.  Even conservative editorialist Peggy Noonan is criticizing Perry as being too extreme, incendiary, and un-nuanced.  He seems to play to the far right, and does so in a way that alienates pretty much everybody else.  

As she pointed out, Obama can't win re-election, but the Republicans can lose it.  At this late date, only Romney or Huntsman have any chance of becoming Republican presidents, it seems to me.  The rest would make a fairly unpopular, and pretty much failed president, look pretty good in comparison.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Time to get the Federal house in order

Obama has found something to run on.  I was stumped as to what he was going to do.  Run as the guy who could reach across the isle and create a post-partisan era of government?  He kind of ran on that in 2008, and he failed miserably, to put the kindest light on it.  Run as the guy who would take it to the Republicans and force good government down their throats?  He didn't seem to have the temperament to engage in the battle.

Well, he seems to have decided to try option B, run as the guy with the good ideas and fight the obstructionist Republicans and take it to the people to back him and win the fight of good vs evil.  That seems to me to be his only hope.  

Bill Clinton was interviewed this week and made an excellent political point.  Right now Obama is running against himself, and people are scared, angry, and frustrated, and they are taking it out on the president.  Just looking at his presidency, he looks bad, especially if you ignore foreign policy and focus on the economy.  As we all know, the economy is in bad shape and looking worse all the time.  So, if the election were only about re-electing Obama, he loses.

Fortunately for him, he has only one chance of winning, and that is if he runs against a Republican.  Especially if he runs against a right wing Republican like say, Perry.  Then, he starts to look better.  If he runs against a RINO, Republican in Name Only, like say, Romney or Huntsman, he will have a very tough time being re-elected.  

His biggest weakness seems to me to be competence.  It is strange that a man we all believe to be so smart's biggest weakness seems to be making mental mistakes, mistakes of choices, mistakes of strategy, mistakes of thinking.  

I believe he made a terrible mistake on the first massive stimulus bill that ceded strategy and power to congress, meaning he gave the government over to the Pelosi Democrats, i.e. the left wing of the Democratic Party, who turned the stimulus into a boondoggle of left wing goodies that had been waiting in the wings for decades, rather than targeted, temporary, job creating investments in the future.  Or, to say it another way, he didn't spend the money smartly.

I believe he then made another terrible decision, a not very smart decision, when he decided that he was done with creating jobs and reviving the economy after a catastrophic financial crisis, and he decided to go for another left wing fantasy of decades - massive health reform.  And he did so by pointing the direction and handing it over to Congress again. Back came the Pelosi Democrats while he seemed to be mostly watching on the sidelines and giving fairly meaningless speeches along the way. He seemed to be mostly helplessly watching the terrible people doing terrible things to his lovely ideas without any real notion of how to take charge of the situation himself.

His last very not smart decision came when the Simpson-Bowles commission came out with their report as to how to revive the catastrophically damaged economy with a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases for the Federal Government.  He took that powerful document, and the powerful proponents of the thinking behind it, and ... made a nice little speech, offering a few fairly meaningless tidbits out of it, none of it amounting to much at all.

Well, now he has at least come up with an actual bill, his "jobs bill", that he is actually promoting.  Too bad it is so transparently a campaign strategy rather than an actual bill that he is trying to pass through Congress. It is pretty obvious to me that he has decided that he cannot get anything passed through a congress that has any Republicans in it and has decided that what he must do is put forward a pretend bill that the Republicans will obstruct so that he will have something to campaign on over the next fourteen months.  

I think his bill is actually a pretty good one.  It has the basic approach that I think is obvious and necessary, i.e. it cuts spending and raises revenues.  But it just doesn't seem to be serious to me.  What would be serious would be a major tax reform, that raises revenues, and entitlement reform that cuts the real spending in government, the entitlements, and oh, yes, by the way, cut the massive defense spending that neither party wants to touch while you are at it.    

We are becoming Greece, or at least becoming Europe.  We need to come to grips with the obvious notion that we need less government and need to pay more for it.  As it is, we are borrowing forty cents of every dollar that the government is spending.  So many of us have tried that in our personal lives and have found out what it means to have our credit cards, mortgages, and other debts eat up all of our financial, mental, emotional, and spiritual energies. 

The American people have already made the adjustment to get their own houses in order, i.e. cut spending and raise revenues if they can.  It seems to me that if a leader were to step forward to lead the country in doing that same thing on a national level, the response would be very favorable indeed.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Ten Years Later

Ten years after that shocking and terrible day we have not had a major attack on the U.S., a miracle demonstrating the country's ability to respond, and to do so effectively, even though the task has been enormous, the bureaucracies cumbersome, the mistakes rampant, and the criticisms unceasing.

We have spent about a trillion dollars on war in the Middle East, where thousands of Americans and tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Muslims have died, including the one who started it all, Osama bin Laden.

We are trying to get out of these expensive wars, and are starting to see them as unnecessary, as the Arab Awakening is painfully marching across the Middle East, providing an Arab vision of overthrowing the tyrannies of the Middle East quite different than the Islamist vision of attacking the U.S. and the West in order to free the people from tyranny.

The country is deeply divided, but interestingly enough, the focus is on the economy, not the war.  

The war that started with a bang, might eventually, slowly, dwindle out and end with but a whimper as both America and the Middle East turn to things they now see as more important than killing each other - for America, to heal and grow its economy, for the Middle East to overthrow tyranny by rising up against their homegrown tyrants and trying to learn how to govern themselves.  

In the face of what is really important, prosperity and freedom, who has time for stupid wars?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The election, an overview

I am not emotionally invested in any candidate for this upcoming election.  I think the reason is that I see both parties as obsolete.

On the one hand are the people who believe in Government.  Government is fine and is needed, but as an overview, I think it is pretty clear to me that the idea of the over-sized government, the entitlement state has failed.  The European countries all voted themselves gigantic governments that provided ever expanding benefits and services to their people, and the most profligate of them, the PIGS (Portugal, Italy and Ireland, Greece, and Spain) are essentially bankrupt and can only continue with drastic cuts in government spending and huge loans from the productive countries, especially Germany.  So, the experiment of a socialist-light approach to governing looks to me like an idea that didn't work.  And the left in America is still trying to push us into that uber-government model.

So the Government as The Solution is an obsolete idea, it seems to me.

On the other hand, there are people who believe in the Free Market.  It is also pretty clear to me that the Reaganite, conservative, Republican idea that all the government needs to do is get out of the way of the magnificent, wealth creating, abundance overflowing free market is also a lovely dream that has been exposed as a cruel failure and hoax.  The Republican mantra of cutting taxes and regulations to produce economic prosperity was decisively disproven by George W Bush.  He cut taxes and jobs shrank rather then grew.  He cut regulations and the financial industry opportunistically, and very successfully transferred billions of dollars from the middle classes into their own multi-million dollar bonuses and generational fortunes.  When their financial-industry-created housing bubble collapsed, they used their wealth and influence to transfer hundreds of more billions of dollars to themselves in bailouts and stopped any attempts to raise taxes on them or impose meaningful regulations or meaningful financial industry reform.

So, the Free Market as The Solution is also a obsolete idea, it seems to me.

So, who is running for president?  for Congress?  All I can see are people who are captive of one of the two obsolete fantasies mentioned above.

So, whom do I vote for?  I wish I knew.  I have been waiting for a non-ideological problem solver for about a decade now.  W ran as a "uniter, not a divider" so I thought he might be the one to be able to reach across the isle and find non-ideological solutions.  He was brutally divisive.  Obama ran as a "post-partisan" politician who thought that people on the other side of the isle had some good ideas.  He is brutally divisive.

Who do we throw out?  Who do we replace them with?

We need a new vision of government, one that is not centered on how big or how small government is.  I wish I knew what that vision is, or who is that visionary.  I don't.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Qaddafi vows never to surrender

Why on earth would Qaddafi and those loyal to him surrender?  They only face death after trials either in Libya or the by the International Criminal Court.  Die in battle or die in jail, which is better?  Haven't they been pushed into a position where they must fight to the death?  This is a terrible thing, and means fire fights street by street, house by house, hand to hand, just more and more death.

I suppose that the rationale for the International Criminal Court's accusing brutal tyrants of war crimes is that in so doing other tyrants will be forewarned and prevented from committing war crimes.  But I don't think that tyrants ever think they are going to lose power, and if they think their reigns of terror are in danger, they just up the terror and kill off the opposition to stay in power.  That they will ultimately lose power just doesn't come into their brains, as best I can guess. 

Qaddafi seems to have lost control of the country, but that is different than ending the fighting.  As I wrote earlier, I expect Qaddafi loyalists to fight on for some time, and maybe even be a counter-revolutionary force in the country for years to come.

I think there is no doubt about Qaddafi's decision: as in the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" - go out with both guns blazing.