31 October 2008

Two reasons for hope ...

Two little tidbits from talk radio in Minneapolis yesterday.

First, Howard Fineman of Newsweek reminded Mike Gallagher that since 1960, the Democrats have nominated three winning presidential candidates. All three came from small towns in the south. When they nominate a northern Cosmopolitan candidate, they lose. There are those who may think it's time to break this 50 year streak, but I'm good with it.

Second, and this is even more meaningless, according to Michael Medved, only one time since the Gallup poll has been around, as a candidate in behind one week before the election and gone on to win both the popular and electoral votes. Only one time in the history of baseball have the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series. Both things happened in 1980. The Phillies won the World Series this week. Does this mean anything?

28 October 2008

TheNew Orc Times editorial board gets one right

The New Orc Times as published an editorial in endorsing a political candidate by offering this criticism of his opponent, who's accused of:

"fostering the idea that there exists a great fund of wealth which has only to be divided more equitably in order to make everyone prosperous" and "permitting important members of his Administration to preach the doctrines of class jealousy and class hatred."

No, you did not read that wrongly. The NYT has attacked a Democrat for exactly what Barack Obama has been practicing and advocating.

Unfortunately, this statement is from an endorsement of Wendell Wilkie, and is a criticism of Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 election.

Just when you think they've got it. Oh well.

Hat tip: Best of the Web Today

Arrogance Abounds

The boys over at Powerlineblog.com have pointed out that Barrack Obama accuses the United States of engaging in arrogance in the conduct of our foreign policy.

The man who is currently winning my vote for my favorite Frenchman ever, Nicholas Sarcozy, had this to say about the Obamessiah's foreign-policy pronouncements:
But according to a senior Israeli government source, the reports reaching Israel indicate that Sarkozy views the Democratic candidate's stance on Iran as "utterly immature" and comprised of "formulations empty of all content." ... Sarkozy fears that Obama might "arrogantly" ignore the other members of this front and open a direct dialogue with Iran without preconditions.
Who's arrogant?

27 October 2008

McCain is a Ford, and ...

Barrack Obama is a BMW.

I think that this survey is on to something. Really. It points out an important truth.

Most of us simply cannot afford Barrack Obama.

Another great lesson for this election cycle ...

This quote is also disputed as to its origin. I first received it from a "progressive" relative, which I thought was kind of ironic. It is similar to this Thomas Jefferson quote, which a long-time friend, Scott, has posted on his blog (which is worth reading; he being pithier than I.) So here is another lesson from some anonymous sage:

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency;
  • From complacency to apathy;
  • From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage.

What stage would you say that we are at now? Five? Six? Seven?

A lesson in taxation

This one has been floating around the internet for a while. It is a pretty accurate representation of the current tax system, and Senator Obama's proposal. (I have deleted the supposed author's name, since this one has so many variations on who wrote it or something like it...)

Our Tax System Explained: Bar Stool Economics

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.
The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers,' he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.' Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free.
But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
'I only got a dollar out of the $20,'declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got $10!'
'Yeah, that's right,' exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar, too.
It's unfair that he got ten times more than I got' 'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!'
'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

22 October 2008

The Bush Administration's 3 1/2 biggest mistakes

As we approach the election, I think it is time to reflect upon the Bush administration's most significant mistakes. Mistakes are conscious decisions that have been made; failures are things that you wanted to do but did not or were not able to do. This article is about mistakes. I believe that there are 3 1/2 of them.

1. Disbanding the Iraqi Army.

Saddam Hussein had something like the fifth-largest army in the world. There were 375,000 men under arms, and arranged in such a way that Shiites were assigned to Army posts in the north, in Kurdish areas, and Kurds were assigned to the south, among the Shiites. They were largely commanded by Sunnis. This arrangement had the advantage that, if there was an uprising among the Kurds, it was Sunni soldiers who were sent out to kill... I mean quell the rebellion, and vice versa.

Upon the conquest of Iraq in 2003, we disbanded the Iraqi army and told everyone to go home. This meant that all those men who had been in the Army were now unemployed. Many found "employment" in Shia militias and Sunni insurgencies. Many more were sympathetic to those movements because it was the only way they could see forward.

This led to an unmitigated disaster. I believe that it led the the war to last far longer than it should have, cost more than it should have, and try the patience of the American people to the point where they now seem on the verge of electing Barack Obama!

Imagine that instead of the disbanding the Iraqi army, Paul Bremer, the head of the Iraq Reconstruction Authority, had ordered all Iraqi soldiers to go on two weeks of R&R to visit their families, and then report to the Army base closest to their home, where they would have been organized into civil engineering/construction teams and paid a full wage.

I grant that there would have been challenges in this approach. Many would have resisted coming back because they would have feared a Saddam-style concentration camp atmosphere at the army bases, but that would not have lasted. By making use of retired Egyptian, Saudi and Kuwaiti army officers to help organize this new army and root out Baathist loyalists, we would have had outside eyes watching over the process. The training that this new army would have received in civil engineering and construction would have equipped the soldiers for civilian life when it came time to downsize the Army.

Is this just 20/20 hindsight? I don't think so. Did anybody really think that releasing 375,000 able bodied men into the civilian job force in the wake of the war was a good idea? Did anybody even ask the question?

Instead of an unemployment fueled insurgency and civil war, we would've had near full employment, and much of Iraq would have been rebuilt. Instead of having 130,000 soldiers on the ground in Iraq in 2008, we would've had a small security force to check the Iranians. Instead of having spent half a trillion dollar on a military deployment, we would have spent a fraction of that on the deployment and another fraction of it on Iraqi army salaries.

I believe that most Iraqis will look at the United States in five years with positive feelings. I also believe that we could have gotten here at much lower cost, in terms of good will, treasure and blood.

2. The Bush Administration has consistently failed to explain and defend itself.

I have never seen a group of politicians so inept at tooting their own horn.

In the early days of the Iraq invasion, the Bush administration did a pretty good job of explaining the need for the invasion. But then they began to let the mainstream media and the antiwar left manage the story.

Then they let go of the economic story. We have been living in a pretty robust economy, especially in light of the attempt at devastating it that was made on September 11, 2001. Yet you would never know it to hear the way the economy has been portrayed by the left, especially by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer and the like.

Let me give you an example: in the last couple weeks of stock market turmoil the market has dipped from a Dow Jones Average of 30 Industrial stocks of around 12,500, losing about four thousand points. (I personally consider the Dow to be a lousy guage of the economy, the S&P 500 being much more broadly based, but anyway...) In fact, we have lost so many points that we are back to the level of 2003.

Stop and think about that for a moment. In the last five years we have had a net gain of four thousand points on the Dow, and the Democrats are telling us how bad the economy is! And what has the Bush administration done to counter this argument? Nothing.

The results of this constant trashing our economy has been a decline in consumer confidence and a decline in the value of the dollar! Yes, the value of the dollar has been diminished by an international perception that the fundamentals of our economy are weak. That is by no means the only thing that has brought down the value of the dollar, but it is one factor. And the weak dollar is an underreported cause of the distressingly high oil prices we have been paying.

If the Bush administration had deployed effective apologists for their economic policy, I believe that the present economic crisis we now face would be very different in scale, and a conservative would have a legitimate shot at winning next month's election.

One might argue that this is a failure rather than a mistake. But when a failure is pointed out repeatedly and you do nothing about it, it becomes clear that this is intentional, and therefore a mistake.

2.5. The nationalization of disaster relief.

(I hold that this item is a subset of number two, so it gets credit for being only 1/2 a mistake.)

Never before in the history of the United States has disaster relief been a primary responsibility of the federal government. That began the change after September 11, when, in an effort to protect the airline industry from the trial lawyers, Congress offered an enormous sum of money to everyone who lost a loved one in the 9/11 attacks. That was on top of the millions of dollars that was raised by the Red Cross for distribution through the 9/11 disaster fund.

This was never adequately explained to the people of the United States. Therefore when Hurricane Katrina struck, and the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, both governed by Democrats, utterly failed the people of New Orleans and the surrounding area, it became incumbent upon the federal government to bail out New Orleans. As a result, we have now nationalized disaster relief.

Perhaps this was inevitable given the scope of the Katrina disaster and the information age we live in. Perhaps, if there had been 24 hour cable networks covering the Chicago fire, disaster relief would've been nationalized 100 years ago. But we need to be very clear that the failure of the federal government to act promptly in the wake of Katrina is simply because the federal government had never done that before.

In the past, states and localities were responsible for disaster relief, and they would receive federal assistance. Because the administration chose to take the blame and fix the mess, rather than take the mess and fix the blame. The MSM was more than willing to push responsibility onto the feds. After all, in the meta-narrative that the MSM likes to spin, a white conservative like Michael Brown makes a much better villian than a black Democrat like Ray Nagen, no matter how incompetent he is.)

One can argue that stepping up to the plate, doing what needs to be done and not pointing fingers is a more mature way of dealing with the crisis. But doing that had long-term political consequences.

Since the traditional role of the federal government vs states and localities was never properly explained, disaster relief is now, and forever more will be, a primarily federal responsibility!

Unless the disaster occurs a rural area populated by the sort of folks who cling to God and guns and so forth...

3. The waste of political capital on the Social Security boondoggle of 2005.

Following his reelection in 2005, George W. Bush made a speech in which he said that he had earned political capital, and he intended to spend it. He decided to spend it reforming the Social Security system. This was a huge mistake; probably the biggest mistake of his presidency.

The Social Security system is poorly understood and the Bush administration never did a good job of explaining what the reform would look like. As a result, the media and the left ( is that a redundancy?) spun his proposal into somehow endangering the retirement funds for current retirees. That lie became the story, and all that political capital went right down the toidee.

That political capital would have been much better spent reforming something that everybody could easily understand and that has a much greater impact on the economy and everyone's everyday lives: federal income tax.

What was (and is) needed is a top to bottom overhaul of the federal income tax system with flatter rates. (I am not a flat tax proponent, nor am I sold on the "Fair tax", but flatter and fairer tax rates would be a very good thing.) Along with flatter rates, Bush could have proposed an extraordinary simplification of the tax code. If he had done this, I believe that everyone would be paying lower overall tax rates (except those who currently pay nothing, because I believe everyone should pay at least 1%, but that's another post...)

Furthermore, the sort of shenanigans that Barack Obama is presently proposing, to use the tax code to undo Clinton era welfare reform, would be a nonstarter, because people would have grown over the last three years to like a simplified income tax system, where most people could file their taxes online in 10 minutes. (Under a flattened, simplified tax code, even complicated income tax filings could take 1-2 pages of forms, instead of the 12-15 that I file annually.)

Final Thoughts.

I remember how badly the left vilified Ronald Reagan, and the media was particularly insistent that he was somehow stupid. Yet by the time he died, even Nancy Pelosi was singing his praises. In spite of these 3 1/2 mistakes, I believe it would be Bush will be judged by history as a good president, because the world is in fact a safer place without the Taliban and Saddam in power, and that is his real legacy.

11 October 2008

A Nobel Peace Prize winner after my own heart

... which is a rare thing these days.

Martti Ahtisaari is a Finn, and the lifelong diplomat. The Wall Street Journal gives us good reason to admire him, but my favorite was this paragraph:

In the early 1990s, he ran the U.N. mission to Iraq after the first Gulf War, watching Saddam Hussein's repression up close. Twelve years of frustrated diplomacy later, and against the grain of conventional European opinion, Mr. Ahtisaari found himself defending the U.S. invasion, the absence of a nuclear or biological weapons program notwithstanding. "Since I know that about a million people have been killed by the government of Iraq, I do not need much those weapons of mass destruction," he said.

For all of Barack Obama's bluster at the debate about preventing genocide, why did he oppose the liberation of Iraq, where genocide was underway?