Friday, July 31, 2009

A Real "Cash for Clunkers" Program

Remember the federal government's "Cash for Clunkers" program? Ah, those were the days, back when the government had a billion dollars to hand out to people who wanted to trade in old cars to get more fuel efficient cars. And now five days later, "Cash for Clunkers" is ironically being junked, at least for now.

Aside from the lack of money, the bad planning, the people taking advantage of the system for "free" money, and, oh yeah, people using the money to buy newer, fuel-inefficient vehicles, "Cash for Clunkers" was a great idea. In fact, I'm going to use it, but in a different way.

Right now (and for quite a few years now), Congress has been a joke. Congress-critters don't seem to listen to their constituents when we ask them to consider being fiscally responsible or at least acknowledge our needs before taking lobbyist money. They simply can't do the job very well right now, at least not without a lot of work.

That's right, boys and girls. I'm starting the Cash for Congress-Clunkers program. If you're sick of politicians betraying you, I'm going to ask you to give money to people running against them. Sure, it's not the same as $4500 in cold hard (taxpayer) cash, but you'll get the satisfaction of putting someone in power that wouldn't dream of giving $4500 on a badly-run program in the first place.

And I think that's going to be worth more than anything the "Cash for Clunkers" program could ever give.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A New Post by Stella Rondo

I used to work in something called Organizational Change Management which is fancy schmanzty consultant-speak for "the structured process of leading an organization through the very predictable difficulties that they'll encounter as they go through any change."

The fact is, even if it's the right idea at the right time, most change efforts eventually fail. The primary reason for this is that those leading the change don't account for and address the resistance they are inevitably going to get. It sounds so obvious and simple, and yet it's a consistently ignored factor.

So even if Obama health care bill passed, I think there's a good chance it would eventually collapse in implementation for two reasons:

First, Obama has done a poor job of the most basic step: He has not identified the correct problem - he merely identifies symptoms ("47 million without insurance"). Also, he cannot tell you in a coherent and relatively simple fashion what the solution is going to look like. He had a preconceived idea of the solution he wanted to use (government) and shaped the problem to fit his solution, not the other way around. So he is trying to implement the wrong solution on a problem that can't be defined on a population that, according to polls, increasingly does not want.

Second, Obama is trying to force a solution that goes contrary to core American culture. By culture, I don't mean Britney Spears and American Idol. (Consultant speak alert!) Culture is all the unspoken assumptions a group holds about the world and how it works, if the group has survived by conforming to those assumptions. Culture provides the unspoken context and answers for every thing we do, from "why does our group exist?" to "How will we talk to each other?" to "What happens when you make mistakes?"

We used to say,"'culture eats strategy for breakfast", and Obama does not realize what he's up against when he tries impose a change that goes contrary to it. Culture is so powerful that people will deny, minimize, ridicule, or dismiss the reality of what they see or experience if it conflicts with their core cultural assumptions. (This is why so many people cannot believe that Obama would deliberately do anything to harm the country - their cultural assumption is that all presidents love America and have her best interests at heart.)

The polls reflect these types of cultural assumptions - the public does NOT think that government is the best place to solve problems, they do NOT want larger government, they do NOT like all this spending, and they do NOT want to lose the individual freedom they have to determine their own lives. And yet that is the very type of solution Obama seems intent on implementing.

So should the bill pass, Obama is entering implementation with a poorly defined problem, a poorly defined solution, and a resistant, increasingly hostile, and impatient public whose core cultural beliefs are attacked. I would not be surprised to eventually see things like a return of Congress to the GOP, doctor strikes, public marches, computer programming snafus, "sick-outs", and computer hackings, to name just a few ways in which people could resist.

I know people voted for "change" - but here's what I came to learn about that. When people say they want change, they really want one of three things: 1) some novelty, 2) some relief, or 3) for the OTHER guy to change to their lives will go back to 'normal' without them having to expend any effort. People do NOT willingly vote to change their entire concept of self and country, which is what Obama is imposing - and why he ultimately will fail.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Obamacare Version 1

There's a lot of attention being put on President Obama's health care reform bill making its way through the House of Representatives right now. The Right wants to defeat it for any number of reasons, but there's one possibility I haven't heard too many Republicans and conservatives touch on yet.

The current bill is not the end, but a beginning.

Instead of trying for health care reform in one shot like Bill Clinton tried to do in 1993-1994, Obama seems to be taking the reform idea in a different direction. The foundation of it has been laid with the murky Obamacare bill in the House. It's so complex that no one seems to be able to understand it fully, and those who try are finding disturbing elements to it that will hamstring the country if it becomes law.

But it's not about getting a good bill on Obama's desk to sign. It's about setting the stage for full government control of the American health care system. If the Obamacare bill gets passed by the House and Senate and signed into law with the "public option" in place, it won't do anything to the system at first. People who have private insurance will continue to use it and people who need the public option will use it.

Then, when the public option starts to break down (and, rest assured, it will), the government already has a foot in the door and can ram through other legislation designed to prop up the public option at the expense of the private option. Once the public option starts showing signs of failure, Obama and/or his Congressional Democrat friends will demand that the public option be put on par with the private option, which will require two things: 1) more taxpayer money going to the flawed public option, and 2) penalties levied against private insurance to decrease their effectiveness. When this fails to get the desired results (as I'm sure it will), the process will be repeated until private insurance is either too expensive or too ineffective to compete with the public option.

Of course, the Obamacare supporters won't tell you this, either out of sheer ignorance or blatant dishonesty. They want there to be choice at the outset so that there's the illusion of choice throughout their plan until the government takes over all control of health care in America. Remember, the former Soviet Union bragged about its free elections, in spite of the fact that there were usually only two candidates running, they were both communists, and people were told who to vote for ahead of time. The Obamacare bill is set up exactly the same way: give people the notion that they can choose, but make the choice so useless as to be indistinguishable from the "choice" Leftists want you to take.

Before I let this topic go for now, let me ask you a question. Why can't Obama or his supporters give specifics as to what the Obamacare bill will do? Simple. Because it's not about the details of the plan. It's about getting something through as a launching pad for other, more devious initiatives down the road.

When I'm Right...

Since Election 2006, I've taken what seemed to be an unusual stance. I've never bought the notion that the country is moving leftward politically, and I've maintained that belief. At the time (and even after Election 2008), Leftists said that I was desperate to spin the Republicans' defeat into a victory.

In a nutshell, I said at the time that Democrats may have won, but they had to use more conservative Democrats to win. What I've also said is that this makes the House Democrats much more divided than the Left wants us to think they are. Here's what I said in a blog post titled "Why the Dems May Be Doomed in 2008" from November 13, 2007.

The Democrats are in a state of disarray right now, and not just because of the candidates running for President. The party is splintering for a number of reasons: ending the war, impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney, the direction of the country and the party, and so on. And when you have people whose egos are so invested in their politics as the modern left's are, that's going to lead to lost votes.

Okay, so the Dems weren't doomed in 2008 as I said they might be, but the point is still valid. At that time, Democrats were starting to grumble about what their party leaders were doing, or not doing as the case may be.

Then, today's Drudge Report featured a story where Maxine Waters is blaming Rahm Emanuel for the "blue dog Democrats" holding up so much of President Obama's agenda. After all, it was Emanuel's strategy to run conservative Democrats in more conservative areas as a means to give the Democrats control of the House of Representatives. It worked, and then it's starting to backfire. Whether it's crap and spayed...I mean cap and trade or Obamacare, the blue dogs are starting to get some backbone and standing up to the House leadership.

And who called it back in 2006-2007?

When I'm right, I'm right.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Disasterous Outcome

The year is 2012. Barack Obama is just starting his fourth year in office and is seeking to become his party's nominee for President. It's been a rough couple of years, but Obama's confident that he has enough left in the tank to win reelection.

But there's a snag. Another candidate, one who has been passed over in the past, emerges as a real challenge. This candidate brings foreign policy and domestic policy experience to the table, as well as a touching human story that voters can identify with. And, what's more troubling for Obama? This candidate has a working knowledge of how he operates.

I'm referring to Hillary Clinton. The scenario I painted may be fictional for now, but if current conditions continue, it's indeed a possibility.

As much as I dislike Bill and Hillary Clinton, they are not quitters, nor are they beaten, even when it appears they are. That's why it struck me as odd that they seemed resigned to serving Obama. It wasn't that they were beaten so badly; they were biding time, watching Obama operate so that they could learn what makes him tick.

Something else to consider is that Obama is that he is still relatively new to politics. He may have had great teachers along the way, but his instincts are not nearly as refined as they should be for someone of his alleged intelligence and political skill. One example of this has been how he made Hillary Secretary of State and then either saddling her with an often contradictory and absurd foreign policy stance or undermining her credibility by taking on more of the high profile foreign policy events and not doing very much to recognize the efforts of the State Department to make those events happen.

And if there's one thing Hillary Clinton does not tolerate, it's being disrespected.

Hillary's political career is on its downward slope, so if she wants to fulfill her dreams of becoming the first female President, she needs to jump and jump fast. If Obama doesn't follow through and turn the country around, Democrats may be looking for an alternate candidate. As we've seen in recent weeks, Democrats are no longer afraid to speak out against the President, and should conditions get worse, more and more will speak out. That opens the door for Hillary to come in and take the nomination from Obama.

And that will be a disasterous outcome for Mr. Hopeity-Change.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

So, Which Is It?

A thought came to me today while thinking about the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings.

Sotomayor's supporters in the Senate talked extensively about her experience as a trial judge and lawyer as proof that she was qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Yet, for the better part of a year, many of these same folks told us that experience didn't matter when picking a President.

Let's is the most powerful person in the world for 4-8 years and can impact global events for years, including leading the world into war...and the other is one of the nine most powerful judges in the country and can shape legal opinions for decades, even centuries.

But experience is only important for the latter?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is Sotomayor Suitable?

Today began the grueling...okay, the not-so-grueling Senate confirmation hearing of Sonia Sotomayor. It seems her way to the Supreme Court is greased, due in no small part to the Senate make-up right now and the presumed lack of resistance from the Senate Republicans. There's little doubt Sotomayor will cruise to confirmation.

But does that make her qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice? This is the point of contention that isn't really being discussed at great length, and what discussions that are going on are of the partisan variety. Her supporters point to her background and thoroughness as an Appellate Court Judge as strengths, while her detractors point to her track record of being overturned and her seemingly radical views off the bench as reasons she shouldn't be confirmed.

Personally, I'm taking politics out of it and looking at one element of the job and one element alone: the duties of a Supreme Court Justice. If you remember your civics classes, the role of the Judicial Branch is to interpret the law. In the case of the Supreme Court, that law is the Constitution of the United States. To even be considered a passable Justice, one must exhibit an exceptional knowledge of the Constitution. These folks truly are the legal elite.

Now, let's review Sotomayor's legal reasoning to date. Regardless of how often she says, "The task of a judge is not to make the law --- it is to apply the law," as she did today, she is on record as saying the exact opposite years ago. Not to mention, some of her rulings show that she's not afraid to go outside the letter of the law to craft a ruling that suits her needs. If a Justice is supposed to apply the law, Sotomayor's record does her little good.

Then, there's "The Statement." For the uninitiated, Sotomayor said in a speech in 2001 that a "wise Latina" might make a better legal decision than a white male because the former has a different life experience. Although I don't question the notion that different people have different things they bring to the table, does it necessarily make one wiser than the other? It might make one's life broader, but wiser? That's pushing it.

Finally, there's how Sotomayor approached the cases at the appellate court level. When the case was brought up, as the Washington Post recently reported, she would go over it with a fine-toothed destroy the case of the side she opposed. In other words, she essentially re-argued the case as she should have had she been one of the lawyers. Her supporters marvel at her attention to detail, but I have to question her methods. An appeals judge is supposed to review the case and determine if the ruling was correct. Sotomayor clearly overstepped her bounds, and with a position on the Supreme Court, nobody will be able to stop her from doing it again.

If the Republicans in the Senate won't say it, I will. Sonia Sotomayor has not established yet that she's as impartial or as fair as she says she is. If anything, she's shown a track record of disregarding the very laws she was charged to protect when those laws proved to be inconvenient. That's not a person we should want on the high court, or any court for that matter. As much as I appreciate her backstory, it means little when you're charged with upholding the law, which knows no race, creed, gender, or life story.

Ms. Sotomayor, I'm not looking for a wise Latina to sit on the Supreme Court; I'm looking for a wise judge. And as it stands now, I don't think you qualify.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Possible Reasons Sarah Palin Resigned

Sarah Palin's announcement that she's stepping down as Governor of Alaska caught more than a few people, this commentator included, by surprise. Some media outlets have already speculated about why, so let me humbly throw in my two cents' worth.

- There's a scandal brewing. My first instinct was to think that something was coming down the pike that would undercut Palin's viability. Usually when politicians make what seems to be an illogical decision to step down, there's more afoot than what we know. So far, Leftist blogs like the Huffington Post are saying that Palin may be federally indicted for embezzling money from a sports facility Alaska built using federal funds. If that's the case, then her resignation makes some sense. However, I have yet to see a credible source on the story surface. In fact, most of the stories I've seen so far loop back on themselves, meaning that they use themselves as the primary source for the story. Until more facts come out, I'll keep this on the table as a possibility, but I'm not jumping in headfirst yet.

- She's making a run for Senator. This is another possibility, one that seems more realistic. With 2010 so close, candidates for the US Senate usually start their campaigns or exploratory committees around this time, so it's not unusual for someone like Palin to step down from her current job and start eyeing a national seat. Although I'm not sure why she'd want to be a Senator in the current DC environment, if she's running for the Senate, now would be a good time to make the push.

- She's making a run for President in 2012. This one is also a possibility, one that many conservatives hope is the case. I'm not convinced, however. When the primary season doesn't begin for 2 years, jumping out of a high profile position now isn't the best idea, especially in a political season that can turn quite fickle on Palin. If she is running for President in 2012, she may be buoyed by the fact that she helped the McCain camp more than they're willing to admit, but that's not always the sign that she herself is the prime mover. If her idea is to start now for a 2012 run, she may not get as far as she thinks she will.

- She wants to spare Alaska from her scandals. To say Palin has been scandal-ridden since she was announced as John McCain's running mate in 2008 is a gross understatement. To date, Palin has been slapped with 15 ethics complaints, and all 15 have been dismissed. Even so, it's been draining on Palin financially, possibly spiritually, and from an image standpoint to have to keep answering charges, legitimate or not. And when Palin's in the news, so is Alaska. Palin may be feeling that the scandals that have followed her since 2008 are negatively impacting her life to the point that she cannot effectively do her job. If her public image is to be believed, that's something she cannot tolerate in herself, so stepping down would have been the only option available to her in her eyes.

- She wants to fight back against those who have attacked her. As the Governor of a state and a public figure, Palin was limited in what she could say or do. Granted, there is some leeway for slander/libel suits filed by public figures, but not much. As a private citizen, however, she has more legal avenues. The number of avenues will depend on whether she's pursuing this angle and how the courts determine her status as a public figure or a private citizen, but I wouldn't rule it out, given the slanders leveled against her.

- She's out of politics. Seriously, I wouldn't put this past her. Palin isn't in the public service game because she has a long-term plan to be on the government dole. She seems like the type that could walk away from politics for good and be none the worse for wear. She could be sick enough of all the hassle and decided to pack it in to spend a more normal life. With young children and a teenage daughter with a new baby in the family, the "me time" angle is certainly worth considering.

- Fallout from the David Letterman situation. Sometimes an event happens that puts everything into perspective. The situation with David Letterman making a a bad joke at the expense of Sarah Palin's children may have been one of those "whoa" moments for the Governor. When something that major happens, you need time to process it without outside distractions. She may not have been prepared for the depth the Left would go to derail her future, of which the Letterman joke was part and parcel of at its core. In order to take away the Left's fuel for their anti-Palin bonfire, she may be taking herself out of the equation.

Right now, all of this is speculation, and the only one who truly knows the real reason. Either way, it's far more complex than we think, and I'm sure we'll find out the truth in due time.