Wednesday, January 28, 2009
- There was hundreds of millions of dollars set aside for contraceptives, according to George Stephanopoulos's interview with Nancy Pelosi on January 25th, and an additional $335-$400 million for battling STDs. There's something being stimulated with these proposals, but I don't think it's the economy...
- $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. Because the new global economy revolves around bad performance art and crappy sculptures using Barbie doll torsos.
- $4.19 billion for "neighborhood stabilization activities." Whatever they are. What makes this seemingly innocuous expenditure a bit more unsettling is that ACORN, a non-profit organization known in recent years for being found guilty of voter fraud, may be eligible for some of that money. Let this be a lesson to you, kids. If you help the Democrats cheat to win, you'll get free money!
- $6 billion for high speed Internet access for rural and underserved areas. Great. Now, Cletus won't have to surf for porn on dial-up.
- $6 billion to weatherize moderate-income homes. Okay, I'll be the first to admit that I don't own a house, but there's a bit of a leap from "winterizing a house" and "economic prosperity."
- $31 billion for construction and repair of federal buildings. Of course, if people in Washington actually did anything, I'd go for it.
- $10 billion for rail and mass transit. One, I'm guessing the trains won't run on coal, since Obama has said he wants to put them out of business. Two, as someone who has travelled on mass transit to get to work, all the spending in the world won't make it any less creepy.
- $10 billion for "science facilities", $30 billion for "transportation projects", $19 billion for "water projects", $87 billion for "help to states with Medicaid", and other big dollar amounts for non-specific projects. In Washingtonese, that means "a big pile of money that no one guards."
- $4.1 billion for "preventative care." When you compare it to the money spent to battle STDs, it seems ironic that the plan spends so little on this, but so much on diseases that mostly would have been prevented with a little preventative care.
If you want to see more, Glenn Beck's website has a nice breakdown, and I used it for my blog post on the matter. If you want to check it out, it's at http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/20639/.
I do have to admit there are some items in the stimulus package that do relate at least somewhat to economic growth, both in the short term and the long term. That doesn't salvage the entire package, however. The fact that we're even having to see what absurd things are being proposed for funding with the stimulus package should tell you that we're being sold a bill of not-so-good goods under the guise of "helping the economy." You don't help the economy by spending money on condoms and the Clap.
The devil in the details is that many of these expenditures appear to be short-term, and for the sake of our national pocketbook, I hope they are. But I can't help but remember that government isn't in the problem-solving game. Most of the time, government involvement in a problem causes the problem to get bigger and more expensive. After all, once the problem is solved, you can't get more government money to solve it. That's one reason the Big Dig in Boston isn't done yet.
So, count me as one of the cynics when it comes to the stimulus package. For the few good things it might be able to do, it's not worth the price for all the nonsensical things it will definitely do if passed.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
At first, I thought Obama had blundered, like he had a number of times during his first few days in office. Upon further review, however, it may be a bold calculation on his part, one that could pay political dividends if played correctly. The move was designed to attract the attention of two groups Obama needs to have on his side: the far left, and moderate Republicans. By bashing Limbaugh, the far left will stay on Obama's side, since they have a seething hatred for El Rushbo.
However, what isn't so well known is that the moderate Republicans aren't big Limbaugh fans, either. They use many of the same adjectives the Left use for Rush: divisive, hateful, mean, loud, caustic. The main reason for this is because Rush is as hard on moderate Republicans as he is on the Left, which doesn't sit well with many moderates. So, when it comes to moderate Republicans and Rush Limbaugh, it's safe to say they're not on speaking terms.
This is where it becomes a political calculation. Obama needs moderate Republicans on his side to ensure passage of items he feels he needs to get done in his first year or two. As it stands now, the House should be able to help him, but eventually the Senate will have to get involved. And in the Senate, the Democrats are a couple of seats shy of the magic number of 60. With 60 votes, the Democrats can shut off debate, effectively removing a powerful weapon the Senate Republicans have to block Obama's agenda, but the Democrats don't have 60 votes.
At least, not yet.
For the Senate Democrats to reach 60 votes, they will need some Republicans to jump ship and vote with them. And with some of the moderate Republicans in the Senate, it won't take much to nudge them over to the Democrat side. Attacking Limbaugh is a good first step.
The other aspect to consider is how safe each Republican Senate seat is and where the race for it will be held in 2010. In safe seats, Republicans will be more inclined to do what they want since they either face little to no opposition. However, if there are Senate Republicans in races they could lose in states where moderates and Leftists can do well, those Republicans will have a choice to make: stand with the GOP, or stand with Obama. With either choice, there is a risk involved. If Obama continues to ride a wave of popularity, standing with the Republicans will lead to almost certain defeat. If Obama's popularity wanes, standing with him will lead to the same result. In either case, moderate Republicans in the Senate will certainly keep their eyes on Obama's approval numbers to make their plays.
If Obama's campaign was any indication, he wants to rule from the center. To do that, he's going to need the help of moderate Republicans, and with his recent swipe at Rush Limbaugh, he might have taken a big step towards getting that help.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Yeah, I know I'm supposed to be uber-excited or uber-angry that Obama is President, but to be honest, I could care less, really. The reason is that I think the media and the Left have oversold the importance of Obama's election. I understand the historical significance of it; I got it back in November. But did we need to be reminded of it since November? I know people have low attention spans these days, but dang!
Then, there's the commercialism. As a die-hard capitalist, I can see where Obama's inauguration would be a venture to make some money, and I welcome it. But you have to admit the coins, the special magazines and newspapers, even the special concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial all reeked of excess. I'm surprised there wasn't a special Obama juicer or rotisserie cooker being hawked by Ron Popeil on sale for today only!
I'm sure there's a rational explanation for the excessive promotion of the Obama Inauguration being a historic event, but I'm at a loss to find it. However, I have come up with an irrational explanation.
For the past 3 or 4 decades, whites have been called on the carpets for the racism of their ancestors, and I will be the first to admit whites have screwed over blacks for a long time. Having said that, whites need to recognize as a culture that what our ancestors did is only a reflection on us if we don't learn from the sins of the past.
The problem? Too many whites still think we owe a debt to blacks for actions we didn't take. And let me tell you there are still a number of blacks who prey on this "white guilt" to get what they want and excuse any and all bad behavior in the black community. Make no mistake, white guilt helped Barack Obama win because the whites who succumbed to it were looking for absolution for sins they didn't even commit and are ashamed of.
On the other hand, people like me knew a black man would be President. It was just a matter of when. So, when it happened, I chalked it up to it being a fait accompli and let it go. So, I'm sorry that I can't get worked up over something that was bound to happen sooner or later. I just like to keep things in perspective.
And that's why I'm not caught up in the "historic day for America" sentiment as much as others. After all, eventually every sublime experience will have a letdown, and if you're so jacked up on the positives that you don't see the point at which it ends, you'll crash very hard.
And did I mention Obama hasn't even done anything yet? Getting excited about nothing isn't my idea of a good time, kids.
Monday, January 19, 2009
- First off, I have to tip my hat to President George W. Bush for commuting the sentences of Border Patrol officers Compean and Ramos. Should they have been imprisoned in the first place? No. Should they have gotten the sentences they did? No. Should they have gotten full pardons? Doesn't matter to Compean, Ramos, or their families. They'll be out, and I guarantee there will be people willing to hire them.
- Note to the media: Could you knock off the Obama worship? Not everything he does is noteworthy. So what if he rode a train with Joe Biden? It's not like he's walking on water and healing lepers. (Besides, that's what's planned for after his speech tomorrow.) I swear the media are turning into parents obsessed with capturing every minute of their baby's life on video.
- I'm sure you've noticed how smoothly the transition from George W. Bush to Barack Obama has been. Seems for all their jokes about Bush's lack of intelligence, he's smart enough to realize that petty animosity has no purpose in Presidential politics. Say what you will about the guy, he tries his best to be a class act.
- Speaking of the transition, poll numbers show that Barack Obama has the highest approval rating of any President-Elect in handling the transition into the White House. In short, people think Obama's doing a great job...doing nothing, pretty much.
- Nancy Pelosi has been talking about possibly trying members of the Bush Administration for war crimes. Yeah, now that her brilliant leadership has solved all the nation's problems, she can now focus on what America really wants. [By the way, that was sarcasm.] Seriously, who gives a rip at this point about the Bush Administration? You'd have a hard time proving war crimes outside of the Leftists Bloggers Living With Mommy And Daddy Because They Can't Hold Down A Job At The Local Mini Mart crowd, so just take some more botox injections and try to figure out how to keep John Murtha from saying something stupid.
- A lot has been made about how much money is being spent on Obama's inauguration. The actual inauguration itself is said to be at $47 million, only about $7 million less than George W. Bush's 2005 inauguration. The rest of the hundreds of millions is going into security. I don't begrudge Obama for wanting people and himself to be safe, but think of the implications for a moment. Obama is spending around $100 million for security. Maybe it's me, but if you're going to spend that much to make sure you're safe, maybe you'd be better off taking the Oath of Office, making a quick speech, and getting the heck out of there as quickly as possible.
- Want to know a great way to make an Obama supporter's head explode (figuratively, of course)? Tell him/her that you just don't care. They've invested so much emotion in him that they expect everyone to either love him or hate him. The way to short circuit that is to show complete apathy. Personally, I don't care two shakes about Obama because there is little he can do to impact me specifically as President. With that miniscule of an impact on me personally, there's no real reason for me to get worked up about what he's planning on doing or going to do. That simple doesn't compute for the Obama supporters, so they have a hard time getting their heads around it, which will give you plenty of time to make your escape.
- Now, for you Obama supporters who think we all have to get behind Obama, let me tell you forced unity just doesn't work so well. If Obama is as good as you say he is, he'll do something that will make me want to support him, and if I agree with the course of action, I'll support him without reservation. But after 8 years of you folks running down George W. Bush on things legitimate and illegitmate, you'll excuse me if I think your calls for unity ring a bit hollow.
- Take it from me. No matter what goes wrong in your life, there's always the possibility that it can lead to something good happening.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
This is nothing against Obama. He's only the recipient of the glowing praise and heightened expectations of the media. But I would be remiss if I didn't point out how this tack could backfire on Obama in a big way.
When expectations are heightened in any situation, whether it be the playoff chances of the Chicago Cubs or the promise of a new Administration, there is always the possibility of failure. If expectations are raised too much, however, even marginal success can be seen as failure if that success falls short of the expectations.
In Obama's case, he's already been tapped as a transformative figure in this country. What happens if he doesn't transform that much? Granted, he has a sympathetic media on his side, but they can only offer so much cover before the people start wondering where the change is. Even some media outlets might be willing to take up the "Where's the change" banner if Obama fails to impress because conflict increases media consumer buyership. If the Republicans in Congress aren't being the bad guys, the media may turn on Obama.
The only caveat I have with this notion is that the media may treat any early Obama stumbles as being George W. Bush's fault. If this happens, combined with the inevitable "honeymoon period" that traditionally follows an incoming President, Obama may be able to ride out the storms of any early failures. But, blaming stuff on Bush won't work forever. Eventually, someone is going to point out how Obama has failed to deliver, and that may send his approval ratings spiralling downward.
Then, all the talk of "hope" and "change" won't make a bit of difference.
Friday, January 9, 2009
One such issue came up recently as Marvel Comics announced an upcoming issue of The Amazing Spider-Man would feature President-Elect Barack Obama. The reason for this is because Obama collected Spider-Man comics as a child and Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada thought it would be a good idea to put Obama in a comic that the President-Elect used to collect. Of course, this enraged some members of the conservative side, saying that Marvel Comics is becoming increasingly anti-American, as the company recently killed off Captain America.
Okay, everybody take a step back and take a deep breath. It's a comic book! So what if Obama is hanging out with Spider-Man. Given some of the characters that he's been known to hang out with (say, William Ayers), Spidey would be a step up. Not to mention, at the heart of Quesada's decision, there is no political motivation. Why wouldn't the company that created Spider-Man and continues to publish his exploits want to take an opportunity to recognize that the most powerful man in the world is a fan? They'd be fools if they didn't consider doing something like this.
As for the conservatives who are upset at Marvel Comics for this action, just calm down. This isn't an attempt to indoctrinate children to worshipping Obama. That's the job of the public education system. Besides, there are plenty of other issues on which Obama can be criticized. Why waste time and energy on criticizing something so ultimately insignificant? The fact Obama's thinking about starting up talks with Hamas seems to me a bit more important than Obama giving Spidey a fist bump in a comic book.
Pick your battles, folks.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Instead, I want to advance an idea that will most likely get me branded as a freedom hater, but would actually reduce the likelihood of something like what happened in Florida and Minnesota from happening again. And it starts with the whole notion of "voter intent."
When there's a disputed ballot in a recount, it can be legal for the counters to factor what they believe the voter's intent was in determining who gets the vote. Most people think it's a fair way to make sure the voter's ballot gets counted, and on the surface it is. But what would you say if I told you that it can be the most unfair way to count a vote?
Hear me out on this. Our voting system is one where the privacy of the voter is highly valued. Now, who would be the only person with any degree of certainty who could verify his or her intent? The voter. Unless you're going to set up cameras in each voting booth or make it so a ballot would be able to be matched up with a particular voter (which, I'm sure, would get the ACLU up in arms fairly quickly), then there's no way for a third party to really know what the voter's intent was.
That's where guesswork comes into play. In some cases, voter intent is easy to figure out. In others, you would have to be the Amazing Kreskin to figure it out. When you leave it open to interpretation, there is always a chance the person doing the interpreting will get it wrong, and the more confusing the marking of the ballot, the more likely it will be wrong. In short, by trying to ensure a voter isn't disenfranchised, a voter could wind up disenfranchised. Ah, sweet irony.
There is something else to consider. Voters can ask for another ballot if they mess up the ballot they have. All it takes is the courage to ask a volunteer at the polling place for assistance. If you mess up your ballot and you submit it, it can be rejected. A right to vote does not equate to a right for that vote to be counted if there is something that would cause the vote to be disqualified. Combine this with the problems inherent in trying to divine a voter's intent, and you have a major headache.
And I think I might have the Tylenol. What I propose is doing away with any laws that let third parties factor what they believe to be voter intent in the counting of ballots. Just count the ballots as is, and if a voter can't figure out how to mark the ballot clearly and correctly, their vote doesn't get counted. This way may seem rather draconian, but it's a step in the right direction to ensure there is a uniform standard. No more guesswork. No more partisan observers skewing their decisions for one candidate for another. No more legal wrangling. Count the ballots where the voter intent is clear, and discard the rest.
A radical solution, yes, but one that would work. Or at least, work better than what we have in place right now.
Monday, January 5, 2009
- Burris didn't do himself too many favors today with how he responded to media questions. There's a fine line between being firm and just being an ass. From what I saw today, Burris crossed that line. He came off as arrogant and abrasive at times, which could make him look like a loose cannon. If the Burris appointment becomes a PR battle, the Senate Democrats may have a new weapon in their arsenal against him.
- Speaking of the media, what is it about reporters that they think rephrasing the same question will somehow net a different answer from the subject? In the initial minutes of the press conference, I heard three different reporters ask the same basic question, just phrased differently. Now you know why I got out of the reporting business. I wouldn't be able to be dumb enough.
- Today was also the day when Minnesota certified Al Franken as the winner of the Senate race against Norm Coleman. In a statement apropos of nothing, New York Senator Chuck Schumer said yesterday that Franken should be seated if he won the recount. At the same time, Senate Democrats are saying Burris shouldn't be seated because of Rod Blagojevich. Maybe it's me, but I think there's a lot more controversy swirling around Franken's victory than there is Burris's appointment, but Senate Democrats seem to be playing both sides of the fence on this one: allowing Franken in spite of the controversy, but refusing Burris because of the controversy. If Senate Democrats go through with their intention of refusing to seat Burris, I have two words for them to consider: George Wallace.
- There is a way for Harry Reid to get out of this situation and save face at the same time. As soon as Burris and Franken get to the Senate, they should be seated at the same time, side by side, with no fanfare or further comment. Imagine the visual! A white man and a black man walking side by side, smiles on both their faces, as they start their first days on the job. Of course, such a solution to the Democrats' dilemma would require them to be smart about it, and that may be pushing it with the knuckleheads running the Senate.
- During today's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," Wolf Blitzer asked Burris about the possibility of a compromise. Under the terms of this compromise, Senate Democrats would seat Burris and allow him to serve 2 years, provided he promised not to run for reelection in 2010. If Senate Democrats really floated this trial balloon and didn't expect there to be some sort of backlash, they're bigger idiots than I thought. Not only would this be completely subverting the election process (which Democrats love to talk about...when it favors their candidates), but it would torque off a bunch of Illinois voters, Democrat and Republican. Want to lose a Senate seat in 2010? Continue thinking up crap like the Burris "compromise."
- Much has been made about the race card being played in the Burris selection and attempt to be seated. By a show of hands, who didn't see this coming? Democrats have made political careers by playing the race card, especially with the election of Barack Obama. Did they seriously think they would be immune from it in the Burris selection? For all of his faults, Blagojevich knows how to play the political game, and he's playing the Senate Democrats for fools. And Senate Democrats are bending over backwards to accommodate Blagojevich's attempts to make them look like the buffoons they are.
We'll see what happens with Roland Burris, but if it goes down like I think it will, I'd pop some popcorn, get a cooler full of beverages, find a comfy chair, and watch the fireworks.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
"On a personal note, Burris is a nut job and is completely ignoring the will of the people of Illinois. We have spoken and by a 75% majority (according to polls) we have asked that he not represent us."
"Burris is proving himself totally unworthy of the responsibility and dignity of a senator. He was an egotist and a fool to accept a tainted appointment from Blagojevich, and he is an egotist and a fool for forcing the situation on the world. He is trying to exploit a loophole in an ugly little political fiasco for his own very very very selfish gains."
"What a freak! Is he seriously that stupid? Does he not see his nothing more than a pawn in this horrible scheme? How sad for the state of Illinois!"
"Mr. Burris unfortunately allowed his ego and ambition to put him in a compromising position. He didn't care about the degree of manipulation by Blago, he placed his bet that he could take the job and run, fighting and declaring it legal. One (more intelligent) black man had already declined Blago's appointment but Burris swallowed the bait and now he'll choke on it. But with the size of such an ego, I'm sure he'll turn things to his advantage eventually. So don't feel sorry for him, at the least he'll probably get a lucrative book deal and an infinite number of speaking engagements."
"Shame on you Burris. When you accepted Blagojevich's appointment to the Senate you spent every last cent of integrity and destroyed the reputation you earned over a lifetime. Of course the governor can appoint you, but this governor has been arrested and is out on bail. Next week he will be indicted. As an elder statesman you should know the fire storm any appointment would create. Politics does not exist in a vacume. You made a deal with the devil and it has cost you in public opinion. In our eyes you are professionally bankrupt. Now go away."
"Botton line is Burris is an Idiot and can't see he's being used by the Village Idiot of ILL. Blagojevich would use his mother to serve his own purpose."
"This could turn out to be nasty. Why Burris accepted Blago's appointment is beyond me. Well, not really, I do know - blind ambition! He'd been salivating for years about higher office. The people of IL denied him twice, remember?
Guess this brings new meaning to - 'by any means necessary'."
"If Burris have any ounce of decency, he would not attempt to plow his way into the senate. His acceptance of the seat only shows how extremely desparate he is. I know that MOST politicians sell their soul to the devil…and Burris proved to be one of many."Wow. With friends like these, Roland Burris won't need enemies.
I take particular offense at the notion that Burris isn't smart enough to realize he's being used as a pawn by Rod Blagojevic. The Left today, unfortunately, has this notion that African-Americans need the help of the Left to succeed. What's sadder, though, is how many African-Americans believe the Left is correct. The Left has taught them early on that they will never get a fair shake from the world because of their skin color, even in America where people can succeed if they put their minds to it and the backs into it. When you convince someone that they will fail, they will.
And now, the Left is doing something similar to Burris by suggesting he's nothing more than an unwitting dupe. In doing so, however, they're revealing their true feelings about African-Americans in general, and they're ugly feelings. Yet, who always lectures people (primarily conservatives) about racial issues?
The ones who have the real issues with race.
To give a little bit of background, the Constitution gives the Governor of a state the power to appoint a replacement for a Senator in situations like the one in Illinois. However, the Senate can be called in to resolve a dispute over a Senate seat. Most of the time, the Constitutional resolution is agreeable to all parties, so it doesn't get to the level it could with the Burris appointment.
Ah, but this is Chicago politics we're talking about here. Nothing is ever clean and simple in Chicago politics.
Blagojevic may be a scumbag, but he's a smart scumbag. He knows what power he has on the situation and has put Senate Democrats in a bad situation with the Burris appointment. Since Burris is an African-American, Senate Democrats who oppose seating him could be seen in the African-American community as racist. And Democrats won't have any room to complain, given how Democrats have painted the Republicans as racist for their lack of minority representation within their Congressional ranks. After the Democrats, including Barack Obama to a lesser extent, tried to throw him under the bus, Blagojevic may have found the way to go down swinging.
The Senate Democrats are hanging their hopes for a Senate resolution of this matter on a couple of different factors. First, they are questioning whether Blagojevic is still technically considered to be the Governor of Illinois. The problem with this notion is the fact that Blagojevic has not been convicted of any crime, hasn't been impeached, and has not stepped down. Under the current understanding of what constitutes whether a public official is legit, Blagojevic meets the requirements.
Also, the Senate does have the Constitution authority under Article I Section 5 to be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its members. Some have said this gives the Senate the authority to reject Burris, but I would argue it doesn't apply because Burris wasn't elected; he was appointed. This may seem to some to be a distinction without a difference, but it does. Since he wasn't elected, there is no election or return for the Senate to judge. That leaves the qualifications part, and under the requirements to be a Senator as noted in the Constitution, Burris qualifies.
Refusing to seat a legally appointed Senator under the circumstances described here has no real purpose except to possibly provide cover for the President-Elect. Although there has been no formal direct connection between Blagojevic and Obama, you have to admit that what has already been revealed doesn't help Obama, and Obama hasn't exactly helped himself with his initial statements going from no one talked to the Governor to the people who said there was talking "misspoke" to some have talked to the Governor about it but not Obama directly. Now that he's been told not to make statements about an ongoing investigation, Obama has a reprieve for now.
That doesn't, however, mean Obama can't lend support for Burris or offer a viable alternative. This is a golden opportunity for Obama to establish firm ground on which to base his leadership as President. Not every leadership opportunity is going to be easy, and by forcing the Senate's hand, Blagojevic has certainly complicated this matter. Yet, leadership isn't forged during times of ease and comfort; it is forged during times of stress and difficulty. And it certainly doesn't automatically come with the office of the Presidency.
The longer the Burris situation remains unresolved, the more it has the potential of causing an unnecessary train wreck for the Senate and the President. Then again, that's always a possibility when you play Chicken.