Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Franken Wins. So What?

Is it just me, or is anyone else completely apathetic about Al Franken being named the winner of the Minnesota Senate race between Norm Coleman and him? For as much time, energy, and pomp that this race generated, I've felt for a while that it was a fait accompli that Franken would "win."

Yes, I put win in quotation marks because I firmly believe he cheated. Now with the courts further enabling him by throwing out legitimate challenges to the vote count, Franken can now assume the role he was born to do: vote on bills he's never read, just like the rest of Congress.

Yet, I can't help but laugh at the whole situation. After all, the Democrats technically only have 58 of the 60 seats they need to shut down filibusters. They still need Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders or two Republicans to vote with them to reach the magic number of 60. That's not outside of the realm of possibility by any stretch, but it may not always be a lock, either. As each new bill makes its way to the Senate for a vote, you can count on Harry Reid counting the votes he thinks he has.

Where things may get dicey for Reid is with the aforementioned Lieberman and their second-most-recent "acquisition" Arlen Specter. Both have endured and are enduring whispering campaigns within Democrat ranks about how they're "not real Democrats." Others lumped into that group include California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who does occasionally swing to the right. If you look at just the media coverage of the Franken "victory" you'll get the impression that all the Democrats vote in lockstep. Don't count on it all the time.

Another factor to consider is the 2010 midterm elections. A good chunk of the Senate will be up for reelection in a little over a year. Some will be easily reelected, but others may have to fight for their political survival. And with the way things are going right now, the latter number may be higher than you think.

When crap and spayed...I mean cap and trade comes up for a debate, watch how the Senate Democrats react, what they say, what their body language says. The House version of the bill may not pass muster with the Senate, which will lead to its defeat or to a Senate version, which will mean the bill goes to a joint committee, thus holding it up further. Kinda puts a kink in the plan to rush crap and spayed...I mean cap and trade through Congress quickly, doesn't it?

And thanks to the Minnesota Supreme Court, Al Franken winds up in the center of all of that.

Congratulations, Senator.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Dirty Little Secret of Cap and Trade

By a vote of 219-212, a House bill that would establish "cap and trade" environmental standards passed. Although there was a lot of opposition to it voiced by conservative pundits, there was an aspect of cap and trade that wasn't discussed much, if at all, an aspect that no sensible thinking person could support.

The way cap and trade works is that companies would have set goals to reduce carbon emissions. If these companies were under these goals, they would have "credits" that they could sell to companies that failed to meet their goals. That way, the more environmentally responsible companies could make money while the larger companies can appear to be more environmentally responsible.

Now, did you notice there's something missing from the scenario I've just laid out? What's missing is an actual effort to reduce carbon emissions. Under cap and trade, there's no incentive for the big companies to reduce their emissions so long as there are smaller companies willing to sell any credits they're not using. The only way that large companies would be forced into a situation where they would have to cut carbon emissions would be...if the smaller companies went out of business.

That's something you didn't hear about in the debates over the bill, was it?

In the end, cap and trade is nothing more than applying Arthur Andersen's accounting practices to environmental protection. It will ultimately cost millions of dollars and not do anything worthwhile.

Not unlike the morons who voted for cap and trade.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Procrastinator in Chief

Is it just me, or does President Obama seem to have a problem responding to certain issues in a timely manner? Granted, the job of being President isn't a weekend project, but there are times when a quick response is necessary to set the tone of an event to curtail critics on all sides of the issue.

I noticed how slowly Obama makes some decisions during the Somali "pirate" situation. Even though we got the desired result in the end, the decision to use military force to rescue the ship captain should have been made a lot sooner than it was. As events unfolded, the Obama Administration stayed quiet for days before deciding to pull the trigger. After the fact, it came out that Obama gave the order to use force on the Friday before the captain was rescued, three days after he was kidnapped. For someone of Obama's proported intelligence, three days is an eternity for him to mull over a simple decision and organize a response.

We've seen the same thing play out with his response to the Iranian elections. It took several days for Obama to issue what was at best a tepid, two-faced response. At first, he tried to keep his distance from the protests against what appears to be extreme voter fraud. Then, he backtracked to offer support for the protestors' desire for freedom. And it only took him about a week to say something that could have been resolved within 24-48 hours. The fact that our European allies came out with stronger statements more quickly than Obama did should be a point of shame for us.

Now, this isn't to say Obama is always slow to respond. Remember how quickly the Obama Administration responded to Rush Limbaugh, Jim Cramer, and Rick Santelli? Those responses were rapid and pointed. What also unites these responses is that they were issues that didn't require a quick response, nor were they as vital to national interests as the attention paid to them suggested. Seriously, you're spending time and energy on a talk show host?

Obama supporters are quick to praise Obama's delays on responding to bigger issues, citing that he's a deliberate thinker and is weighing all options to pick the best one. Critics say he delays because he's in over his head. Where do I stand? Consider me firmly in the latter category, especially when it comes to the Iranian situation. It shouldn't take more than 7 minutes to come up with "We support the Iranian people as they attempt to resolve their election difficulties and determine a winner," but seven days? For the length of time taken to issue a statement and the wishy-washy tone of the statement, Obama bungled badly.

One has to wonder what these delays on major issues has on our world image. Contrary to popular belief, Obama isn't as popular around the world as he was on the campaign trail because he really does look ill-prepared for the job of being President. Our enemies, of course, love him because of that, but our allies have to be wondering what happened to the calm, intelligent man who won the hearts of the world. World politics isn't like student council, where you can vote for a popular kid who flounders at the responsibilities of the position and it doesn't really have an impact. The world still takes its lead from us, or at least did until we saw how Obama handled geopolitical issues. When France beats us to the punch, as they did with the Iran situation, it's not a good sign.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No White Hats

Now that the David Letterman/Sarah Palin flap has pretty much died down (and now that I have a little time to blog about it), I wanted to weigh in on it. And, I'm going to warn my conservative readers out there that this one may not be one you'll agree with, but hey.

Frankly, there were no white hats in this situation. Both sides used it as a means to perpetuate their own preconceived notions. That makes every side involved in this situation dirty; it's just a question of how much mud they have on them.

Let's start with David Letterman. As much as I like Dave even to this day, the original joke that sparked this wildfire of criticism was in poor taste and showed a level of intellectual laziness. Come on, Dave! You're still doing Palin jokes well after the election and well after she's been savaged six ways from Sunday? She may be an easy target, but humor isn't always about going for the easy target. You need to aim higher and at a more relevant target for your humor.

Then, there's Sarah Palin. What she did damaged her chances to be a viable Presidential candidate in 2012 because she looked, sounded, and acted less than Presidential. When the initial joke about Palin's daughter getting "knocked up" by Alex Rodriguez was circulated, she came out swinging like an angry boxer and said something just as reprehensible about Letterman. Sorry, but this wasn't a tit-for-tat situation. If you would have laughed it off with a better joke like Ronald Reagan used to do instead of coming out with a legalistic argument that most people wouldn't bother to get, this would have become a major victory for you. Instead, you came off looking just as bad as Letterman.

Then, there were the people in the pro-Letterman/anti-Palin and pro-Palin/anti-Letterman camps. This whole situation was an opportunity for both sides to stump for their cause. To the Left, Palin came off as a moralistic hypocrite who was desperate to get back in the spotlight. To the Right, Letterman came off as a bitter, arrogant, unfunny jerk. And although both sides were right to a point, they spun events to make their side look better.

The pro-Letterman/anti-Palin side said Palin "couldn't take a joke" and was trying to "get back in the spotlight", but in this case it was only because of Letterman's statement that Palin reacted. Then, they bashed Palin for reacting. That's a self-perpetuating problem, kids.

The pro-Palin/anti-Letterman side screamed about how Palin was "being attacked by the media" and how the Left was "scared of her." Given the opportunities Palin has given the Left to attack her, it stands to reason that they'd keep doing it. And with Palin's reaction, she gave them more fodder. Again, a self-perpetuating problem.

Now, to the apology. Dave's first apology wasn't so much sincere as it was snarky. It came off as "I'm being forced to do this, so I'm not really apologizing." This gave Palin stronger ground to play the victim, and she played it to the hilt. Then, Dave "got it" finally and gave what I felt was a heartfelt apology, or at least as heartfelt as he could muster. This was enough for Palin, and she accepted the apology. We can debate whether the apology was a week too late, but that's not the point.

The point is that this whole situation revealed a lot of bad things about the particulars involved. Letterman looked bad for telling a bad, lazy joke and then not "getting it" until he'd tried to brush off the entire situation. Palin looked bad for coming off like an emotional mess who let a late night talk show host get under her skin. And both camps' supporters came off like they were using Letterman and Palin as pawns to say "See? We told you we were right!"

And in the end, it was a sideshow to take our minds off real issues.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A New Way to Look at the GM Takeover

Today, GM declared bankruptcy, thus making the American taxpayers owners of the automaker. Naturally, I'm not so keen on the idea, and I don't have that much faith in the federal government being able to run a car company because, well, I've seen how they handle the federal checkbook. But I got to thinking about it today and I came up with a different take, one that I'm sure the Obama Administration hadn't considered before taking the tack it did.

When a company does poorly, the shareholders can hold the Board of Directors accountable. After all, the shareholders have a vested interest in the success of the company, and under their bylaws, they usually have a say in who represents them on the Board. If someone does a crummy job, the shareholders can vote them out, not unlike they can vote out bad politicians.

Let's say GM comes out of bankruptcy and continues to do poorly. Since Americans now own 60% or more of GM, we can call the Board of Directors on the carpet. And since President Obama effectively becomes the CEO of GM with his plan and with GM filing for bankruptcy, that means we, the new GM stockholders, can fire the President as head of GM if he fails to perform.

And I don't think there's a golden parachute waiting for Obama should we do that.