Monday, November 12, 2012

QOTD: It worked

Charles C. W. Cooke at NR ("Why I Despair"):
But, consider this: A president of the United States just ran a reelection campaign based on the promise of government largess, exploitation of class division, the demonization of success, the glorification of identity politics, and the presumption that women are a helpless interest group; and he did so while steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the looming — potentially fatal — crisis that the country faces. And it worked.
Alas, there is nothing written in the stars that says that America will always be America. “Rome,” as Joseph Heller brutally reminded us, “was destroyed, Greece was destroyed, Persia was destroyed, Spain was destroyed. All great countries are destroyed. Why not yours? How much longer do you really think your own country will last? Forever? Keep in mind that the earth itself is destined to be destroyed by the sun in 25 million years or so.” There will be little virtue in America if it becomes a larger version of Britain, but with free speech and the right to bear arms.

 My natural inclination is towards despair. However, I must acknowledge that this is not a fruitful sentiment, even if it may be true.

More constructive thoughts to come...

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Obligatory Post-Election Remarks

I usually post predictions before elections.  I didn't this time.  On the standard view, Obama was destined to win.  We had reasons to doubt the standard view, but it's standard for a reason.  In my private emails to friends I said my probability curve was barbell shaped, and that we'd likely have an early night... I just didn't know who would come out on top.

So now we know.  And it's not good.  I'm trying to sort through exactly how "not good" it is, and attempting to avoid being alarmist.

But it's hard.  There's a debt crisis coming.  Yes, the "fiscal cliff" too, which is a big deal, but that's just a symptom of the debt.  Things would have been tough with Romney. I don't see how things work at all with Obama.

So how fast will the debt crisis bite us in the rear?  Good question.  Could be years, perhaps after Obama is out of office.  Or it could be next year.  Given tepid economic news here and discouraging economic news from Europe, I'm reasonably certain that a double-dip recession is in the cards.

When Greeks rioted over governmental austerity, the world raised a serious eyebrow. Frankly, Europe still isn't out of its troubles.  But if the US starts to look like Greece (and by certain measures we're worse than Greece already)... the entire global political, economic, and military/defense system begins to warp.

I'm still sorting out what this means, but it's not a good sign that the country re-elected a President who has done literally almost nothing right except fail to close Gitmo as he promised.  The man has absolutely no grasp of economic reality.  The ability of the electorate to self-correct when faced with an existential crisis is in very serious doubt.

As to who is at fault, or how Conservatives can rebuild, I'm still sorting that out too.  But here are a few of the more reasonable responses to those questions:

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The continuous October Surprise

This was linked in the AoS overnight thread, but it warrants repeating.

What October Surprise could possibly top everything we've already been through? (Related: "Obama fatigue" as early as March of 2009)

"Zombie" at PJM:
But in Barack Obama’s case, the situation is reversed: Everything he’s ever done is scandalous. The reason there was no October Surprise for Obama is that we’re all scandaled out. Anyone’s who been paying attention since 2008 has literally been in paralytic shock every single day. We spent October 2012 exactly as we’ve spent every month of the last four years: Our jaws on the floor, aghast, stupefied, unable to breathe. Almost every single thing Obama has done since he’s been in the national spotlight could have been and should have been a career-ending October Surprise. But the mainstream media, as we all know, has devoted itself to protecting him.

Not a day has gone by since Obama took office when I didn’t learn of some fresh outrage and say Oh. My. God. But we’ve been traumatized so often that over time the scandals have all blurred together and fused into a single red-hot thought: Please let this nightmare end.

Zombie goes on to list numerous incidents, many of which would have ended the careers of less-worshiped Presidents.  The list is quite extensive, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • Operation Fast & Furious ...
  • Militarily intervened in Libya in 2011 without the Congressional approval required by the War Powers Act — technically an impeachable offense. (** - ed.- Zombie is saying this is impeachable.  I'm not so quick to the draw on that. It was certainly scandalous.)
  • Before he entered politics, Obama worked as a lawyer suing banks in landmark cases, forcing them to give home loans to unqualified minority borrowers — a practice now understood as one of the primary initial causes of the eventual housing bubble and market collapse.
  • Proposed in 2008 to intentionally bankrupt the coal industry — and now lies to voters and workers in coal-producing regions about his true intent.
  • During the 2008 campaign, Obama repeatedly promised that if he was elected “No family making less than $250,000 will see any form of tax increase.” This promise was broken over and over again once he was elected.
  • Cash for Clunkers, which doled out taxpayer money to anyone who wanted to replace their old cars, but which mostly only ended up subsidizing the puchase of foreign-made cars by people who could have afforded them on their own anyway; meanwhile, the traded-in cars were all destroyed, creating a shortage and thereby increasing the cost of used cars, hurting the pocketbooks of poor people.
  • Was caught on a “hot mike” promising the President of Russia that he would cave in to their demands for a weaker missile shield — after he was re-elected and no longer had to keep up the pretense that he sought to defend America.
  • Blocked continued construction of the Keystone Pipeline, thereby intentionally reducing energy resources for the US and forcing Canada to sell more of its oil to China.
  • In the GM bailout, he illegally shortchanged investors who according to bankruptcy laws were first in line to be recompensed; instead, he gave their share to the unions.
  • Canceled plans to complete a missile defense shield in Poland, a move which was highly praised by Russia and Iran — the very nations whose missile threats would have been neutralized if the shield had been completed. (** - ed. - Not only did he cancel this project, but he got nothing in exchange from Russia, and he sold out Polish politicians who had previously stuck out their necks to approve the project.)
  • Twisted the arms of defense contractors to not issue layoff notices in early November, so as to avoid causing bad news for Obama right before the election — even though federal law (the “WARN Act”) requires such notices.
  • Sided with Hugo Chavez and the Castro regime regarding the Honduran Constitutional Crisis of 2009, the first time ever that the U.S. formed a political alliance with socialist governments in Latin America.
  • More than once Obama made so-called “recess appointments” when the Senate was not actually in recess, which directly violates Constitutional rules about how appointments must be made; in each case it was his way of getting his political allies into certain key positions without them being vetted or approved by the Senate, as required.
  • Despite the fact that the Falklands Islands have been part of Great Britain since 1833 and that Great Britain is supposed to be our strongest ally, Obama essentially sided with Argentina in its new claim on the Falklands, not only by adopting the Argentine position that their status is open to negotiation, but even by (attempting to) refer to the islands by their Spanish name (Malvinas).

In summation, folks who vote for Obama are out of their bleedin' minds.  When you hear conservatives shake their heads at the fact that the race is even close at all, these are some of the reasons why.

Few of these were reported by the major media, and when they were reported, they were reported lightly and with key facts omitted.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Feds leave bad taste in mouths of the next generation

Michelle Obama might have inadvertently done smaller-government conservatives a favor.

Kids are not happy with the new school lunches.  This is the kind of thing that leaves an impression on somebody.

A student "Pack Your Lunch Day" protester:
"We know the cafeteria ladies, Mr. Crosson and the school board are not making the decisions on healthy food regulations - it's a federal thing," said Patrick Parker, one of the event organizers. "It's a matter of principle that we feel the government has no right to tell us how to eat."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Will Obama lose because of Libya?

Is the Obama administration finally losing credibility among people who pay merely the slightest bit of attention?

Some extremely rare kudos go to the media for re-engaging on this story. The way this was playing out for the first two weeks, I was sure this was going to be swept under the rug. Perhaps all the public shaming had some effect. (So noted.)

I know major polls have finally switched over to LV rather than RV models, and Romney got a bit of a boost from the first debate, but with the Romney's numbers looking substantially better, I wonder if this Benghazi business has crept into the collective consciousness a little bit. Perhaps the public is finally starting to see, at the very least, that Obama is a political animal, not a god on earth.

I'm not saying people are voting on the Libya issue.  I'm saying it's gotten into their heads that the emperor might not be fully clothed.

Shame it took a dead ambassador to make it happen.

Biden's shamelessness in the Veep debate surely didn't help.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Should the stimulus have been bigger?

Of course not.   But that's the question I'd like Romney to ask Obama.

It's a perfectly logical question.   We're told that things were much worse than the administration thought when they first sold the stimulus, thus accounting for the fact that their so-called predictions about the unemployment trajectory were so far off.

So, knowing then what they know now, would they hadn't made the stimulus bigger?

I think if Obama is honest, his answer has to be yes.

Monday, September 10, 2012

It's for the kids

Shot 1:

Michelle Obama's convention speech:

I have seen it in the incredible kindness and warmth that people have shown me and my family, especially our girls.

I've seen it in teachers in a near-bankrupt school district who vowed to keep teaching without pay.

Shot 2:

My tweet upon hearing her say that:
Actually, Michelle, I think it's more common for teachers in bankrupt school districts to strike for increased pay.


Chicago teachers strike for a 16% increase in pay over four years.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Regrettable Necessity of Paul Ryan

The unfortunate but mostly true adage in politics is if you're explaining, you're losing. Paul Ryan is an explainer. And it looks like we might need one. In this respect (-among others), Paul Ryan is an excellent choice for Vice President.

I agree in part with Nate Silver's NYT analysis insofar as I think Romney is probably down and Mitt knows it. Paul Ryan does represent a shake-up, but this is as far as I agree with Silver. The NYT analysis suffers from two major flaws.

Firstly, the perception of Paul Ryan's ideology is more extreme than his actual ideological bent. I think Nick Gillespie is too harsh on Ryan, but I think any fiscal realist should share Gillespie's hope that the Ryan budget's uncomfortably slow turnaround from massive deficit spending “would become the ceiling of acceptable discourse”. As I've said before, the Ryan plan is pretty much the minimum necessary magnitude of change in order to avoid sovereign default. (I'd like to think we all agree sovereign default is a bad thing.)

Secondly, Silver pays homage to “Politics 101”. By Politics 101, Silver is referring to the “spatial” median voter model of rational ideological preferences, which for about 3 years or so I've argued is incomplete at best and hokum at worst. It is my sincerest hope that in choosing Ryan, Team Romney has shed itself of the intellectual dead weight of Politics 101.

However, as I mentioned, what they're trying to do with Ryan is explain. That's the dangerous move, not Ryan's supposed ideology or the public's reaction to it. Explaining requires a lot of things. It requires money, effort, and time, with time being the most precious commodity.

The necessity of picking an explainer-in-chief is a direct result of the long-term failure of conservatives to engage the public on basic economics. With all that Obama has done wrong –which is to say nearly everything– how is it possible that Romney isn't beating him by twenty points? What the hell is wrong with people? With Ryan on the ticket, some conservatives are now calling the election “a referendum on math”. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't get math. Younger voters, those who have lost the most under Obama and stand to gain the most with a Ryan-style plan, prefer Obama two to one, apparently due to some “coolness” factor.

The only solution to this problem is a prolonged, remedial education of the public. Consider an ad like this:

How much of the idiotic birth control debate could have been diffused if someone put funny, common-sense ads in primetime TV saying, “Democrats spend all their time demanding taxpayers cover the cost of birth control for all women when we already provide it for those who can’t afford it and it’s available to everyone for $9 a month. So why the focus on this? Because they haven’t passed a budget in more than 1,000 days? Because their economic policies have failed? Because gas prices and unemployment are through the roof?”

Yes, that message is conveyed by talking heads most people don’t watch, in op-eds most people don’t read and in “viral videos” no one sees. But you won’t find it on the TV programs most people watch. Why? Because it costs money.

Indeed, as Derek Hunter explored in hisTownhall piece a few months ago, the conservative organizations you would think might be interested in this sort of thing seem to exist mostly to self-perpetuate and preach to the choir. The party organizations, somewhat naturally, exist to fight elections, and by necessity get drawn into short-term tactical politics, and don't have any inclination to engage in multi-cycle party building.  Heck, nobody even bothered to tell people which party controlled Congress in 2008.  A woefully uninformed and misinformed electorate can not be expected to make reasonable decisions.  Conservative positions lose ground with almost every political cycle, rarely to be recovered, and then only partly.

Paul Ryan might be the best possible person to do the explaining. He's shown incredible skill at that throughout his career. But the need for Romney to engage in the strategy of educating an electorate in about three months is a sad commentary about the state of the conservative movement.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I think I like this Kelly guy

Congressman Mike Kelly's recent floor speech about the costs of red tape has gotten a lot of attention:

 I have to say, it's not the first time I've noticed that he gives a good speech.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

QOTD: Steyn on the Obamcare decision

Steyn on the Obamacare decision:

Only in America does “health” “care” “reform” begin with the hiring of 16,500 new IRS agents tasked with determining whether your insurance policy merits a fine. It is the perverse genius of Obamacare that it will kill off what’s left of a truly private health sector without leading to a truly universal system. However, it will be catastrophically unaffordable, hideously bureaucratic, and ever more coercive. So what’s not to like?

Policy-wise, this was always the problem.  It was always intended to destroy the private market.  The idea is that voters will hate the corporatist Obamacare system so much that we'll beg for government single payer.

Friday, May 11, 2012

No Change

Obama really hasn't changed his policy on gay marriage.  He changed his rhetoric. 

Before, he was "against" gay marriage, but took no action to deter it, actively ignoring DOMA.

Now, he's "for" it, taking no action to promote its broader enactment, supposedly leaving it to the states in an attempt to soften the news.

In both cases, Obama was and is relying on inaction to promote the broader legal acceptance of same sex marriage.  A few more states will pass SSM laws, a few more might impose it judicially.  And one day, perhaps not long from now, the Supreme Court will apply the Full Faith and Credit clause to SSM.  And then we'll have national same sex marriage.

The eventual application of Full Faith and Credit is one of the few things left and right both agree will happen.  The only way to head it off would be with a Constitutional amendment, and that's not likely to happen. 

Obama's superficial change of position means absolutely nothing.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Windows 8 – The best reason to buy a Windows 7 machine

Windows 8 has the potential to be a colossal flop. I'm not the first person to say that. But even though some of the dynamics are the same as the Vista release, Win-8 will be a flop for slightly different reasons than Vista. On the plus side, it might cause people to finally upgrade to Windows 7, and put the final nail in the coffins of XP and IE6.

Vista was a relatively minor tweak to the Windows XP user interface. Yes, some people hated the changes, but they weren't major. (Perhaps it was just dissimilar enough to be annoying?) What really killed Vista was that the initial release performed more poorly than XP (--subsequently fixed), and that pretty much all software other than DirectX 10+ games will run on both Vista and XP, offering few technical benefits to an upgrade. And really, since Microsoft botched the DX10.0 release, my understanding is that DX10 developer uptake was a little slow at first, thus compounding the problem.  (Some DX10.0 hardware sold with new Vista and Vista-capable machines was not 10.1 capable.)

Win-8 is some ways the opposite of Vista. The user interface changes are dramatic, but the performance benchmarks are looking pretty good. At least Microsoft learned that one lesson from the Vista experience.

I'm certainly not blazing any new paths by suggesting that the “Metro” interface for Windows 8 might be okay for a tablet/touch interface, but is out-of-place on a desktop. That's not the only problem with Win-8, but it bears mentioning. I won't be retreading the ground covered by others, but I've seen more than enough online video of new users trying to get back to the Start screen to know that there's a serious problem.

Maybe they can band-aid the UI before release. Maybe they can allow Metro-style apps to run in a windowed environment. The least they can do is to allow the desktop/laptop user to permanently revert back to the classic interface. This would not be without precedent. The Windows 95 installer had an option to use the 3.11 task manager. Windows XP can easily be made to look like Win-9x. Windows 7 isn't quite as flexible, but a number of the more annoying changes can be toned down, such as the control panel. If Metro is so awesome, won't we all just use it and stop griping, just as we have since the mid 90s? Well, until the introduction of the Office ribbon – a user interface catastrophe that will look mild compared to Metro on the desktop.

But Win-8 has another set of problems that have nothing to do with the UI. Win-8 will suffer from extreme market fragmentation, more so than I think many realize. Yes, there will be two flavors of desktop, plus the “RT” Windows for ARM devices. But it doesn't stop there. There will actually be four desktop flavors, two feature sets multiplied by two processor architectures, 32-bit and 64-bit. Plus RT. Legacy-style applications won't run on RT. 64 bit applications won't run in a 32 bit environment (-leading developers to continue to target 32 bit environments, and once again shortchanging the "WoW64" crowd), and hardware drivers will of course continue to be incompatible between 32 and 64 bit environments. 

And then it gets tricky.

There will of course be ARM tablets and phones. There will also be x86 and x86-64 “tablets” (and convertibles), capable of running legacy applications. And, the animals that I'm not sure have been accounted for, ARM devices masquerading as low end desktop and notebook/netbook machines.

It's that last category of devices that I think has the greatest potential to make consumers hate Microsoft. Unsophisticated consumers will buy a “Windows” desktop-looking (or notebook-looking) device that won't run anything they want. They'll run Office 15 (-or a version of it), a plugin-disabled Internet Explorer 10, and Angry Birds. And that will be about it.

But back to Vista. When word got out that Vista sucked, consumers and IT-departments alike scrambled to upgrade all their 2000 and 9x systems to newer XP systems, looking to bypass Vista entirely. This will almost certainly happen again. Those still hanging on to their XP systems (-we have XP where I work) will slam through a Win-7 upgrade. Even though I already have a Win-7 laptop, I'm strongly considering getting a nice Win-7 desktop for some light-to-moderate gaming. (Ain't no way Diablo 3 is gonna run on my lappy.) We'll get mainstream support for Win-7 into 2015, and extended support until 2020. Should Win-8 turn out to not be the giant turd I believe it will be, the machine I'll buy will be upgrade-worthy, and I'll drop the extra hundred bucks or whatever on an OS-upgrade.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Conservatives not playing to win

This Townhall post confirms what I've been thinking for a while -- that conservative groups really aren't operating to persuade anybody, just to motivate their own bases.

I could have sworn when I read this that I'd written something on the subject before.  I found a few tangential posts, but the best stuff I wrote was in some private emails I sent.

I got close in this Obamacare post from 2010 about our messaging failures:
Who among conservatives figured this out ahead of time? Why isn't this basic work being done? By anybody. RNC, Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund, CATO, Heritage... Don't care who.

Do we blame the basic infrastructure of the right? The party organizations exist only to win elections short-term, not fight extended philosophical battles. Think tanks exist to make philosophical and factual arguments, and to suggest policy, but rarely step into "campaign mode" against bad ideas. Occasionally an issue group will step up, but it had better be well-funded and organized. Who out there applies campaign principles to winning policy debates and the long-term cultural battles? 

I originally thought that the then-newly-spun-off Heritage Action might be able to take up that task, but frankly I've been a little disappointed.

Related reading: Ace of Spades on political conversions.

Frankly, the situation is depressing.  We could be doing so much more, so much better, and nobody's interested in doing so.  Not that they'd know how if they wanted to.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

We told you so

At what point do conservatives get to say “we told you so”?

Just like we told you the porkulus wouldn't work (-and it hasn't), and we told you that the Dodd-Frank bill wouldn't really reform financial oversight (-and it hasn't), etc., etc....

We told you Obamacare would lead to the loss of freedoms, and now it has.

[Edit 2/19/2012 - I told you so very explicitly over two years ago on this very blog.]

I have no sympathy for Senator Casey or any other Catholic and/or “conservative” Democrat legislator who voted for Obamacare and now cries crocodile tears over this contraception diktat. The vote for Obamacare was a vote for a gargantuan piece of legislation that not one soul had read prior to its passage, to regulate and “reform” about a fifth of the US economy. It was a vote to place completely unprecedented discretionary authority in the hands of an unelected official, the Secretary of HHS. Folks, this is not the rule of law.

In what way are we surprised that Kathleen Sebelius gave Catholics the finger?

And this compromise, or accommodation, or whatever they're calling it is anything but. Nothing changes under the compromise plan. If anything, it only emphasizes how absurd Obamacare is that the President could think he could force private insurers to provide something for “free”.

Since we told you so before, let us tell you something else: The administration is equating “access to contraceptives” with “insurance plans that pay for contraceptives”. This is the slipperiest of slopes. This is a deliberate attempt to confuse negative rights with positive rights. A right to seek contraception has magically become the right to have somebody else pay for it. There is no logical termination of this line of argument. It will be used again and again for everything under the sun, bit by bit.

Remember who told you so.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chill, please.

You're embarrassing yourselves.

The Presidential primary has gotten really mean-spirited in the last few weeks, and I'm not just talking about the campaigns.  Political junkies, some inside but many outside the DC beltway, have become exceptionally aggressive in their attacks on non-preferred candidates.

I almost wrote "aggressive in their advocacy", but very little of it can be called that.  It's mostly just sniping at the other side.  

Mittens is a RINO. Newt is a wildcard.  Bain Capital was evil.  Newt's dodging the "lobbyist" label for his work for Freddie and Fannie, which, by the way, are the definition of state corporatism.

Not so "inevitable" are we now, eh Willard?!

Mining on the moon, Newt?  Really?  What a fundamentally and profoundly stupid idea!

Let's face it, all of the Republican candidates for President are pretty seriously flawed.  Each one of the big three have done or said things that under normal circumstances I would consider to be a disqualifying action or position.  I'm at the point now where as long as it isn't Ron Paul, I really don't care much which one of the remaining candidates is nominated.

So to my fellow political addicts, please chill the heck out about bashing the other side.  You look like giant tools trying to slam your opponents when your preferred candidate is sort of lousy himself.  And really, isn't that why you're so aggressive, because your guy is weak too?

And don't forget -- one of these turds is going to be our nominee.

"Those who pick up the weapons of the Left today will find them turned against us tomorrow."

Just so.  Remember that one, Newtonians.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Shame on the Pro-Life Movement

Saturday night’s Republican debate on ABC revealed a startling deficiency in the Presidential field regarding the understanding of legal underpinnings of the abortion debate.

Yes, George Stephanopolous’ question about outlawing contraception might seem bizarre in a modern context. But the question goes to the heart of the landmark Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision that established the right to privacy that provided the basis for Roe v. Wade.

Romney in particular seemed very ignorant of this intellectual lineage of Roe. This is especially uninspiring in a candidate who has changed his position on the issue.

There’s an argument that a reversal of Roe would necessarily reverse Griswold, and would eliminate a generalized individualized right to privacy. That’s why Democratic Senators always ask prominent judicial nominees if they believe in a right to privacy. (There’s also an incorrect assumption among many that reversing Roe would make abortion illegal at the national level. A simple reversal of Roe would actually return regulation of abortion to the states, where, at the time of the Roe decision, there was an early trend toward liberalization.)

When George Stephanopolous asks whether a state would have the right to ban contraception -- AS CONNECTICUT ACTUALLY DID from 1879 to 1965-- he is asking a legally and philosophically relevant question, if not an electorally pertinent one.

It speaks very poorly of the pro-life movement that the importance of this question was lost on the GOP front-runner and much of the audience.

It really shouldn’t be that hard to distinguish Griswold from Roe. A candidate could simply state that individual privacy exists, but doesn’t extend to the killing of the unborn. Pro-lifers need to give better answers on the privacy question, and it is shameful that they seem unable to do so.