Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bipartisanship, Chicago Style

President Barack Obama was invited to a Republican function yesterday where he took questions from Republicans in an attempt to reach out to them. This was all a part of the Administration's attempt to make the President appear less partisan and more willing to work with the GOP in the aftermath of the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts. And what did he do?

Gave lip service to the Republicans about being more bipartisan while attacking them for blocking his agenda.

Okay, I'm willing to believe Obama may be serious about working with Republicans in the future, but this isn't the way to forge a new relationship. The question I have is whether it was a serious attempt, given the past year. From the beginning of his Administration, Obama said he wanted to reach across the aisle to fix the problems of this country. When given chances to do that, he hasn't. What he has done, though is used Republicans as scapegoats for everything that's wrong with the country right now. Granted, this isn't unexpected, but it is rather troubling for someone who ran on being a uniter to be do divisive.

The Republicans bear some responsibility for this, too. Congressional Republicans have dug in and tried doing as much as they could to delay or derail the President's agenda, such as it was. Yet, they didn't have the numbers to do much derailing. Although they may not have been the most willing to work with the President, I can't think of a time when Obama reached out to Republicans in a meaningful way. What he has done is rubbed the Republicans' noses in his victory whenever possible. Remember the "I won" comment after an early meeting with Congressional leaders?

I think Obama's trying to play both sides of the political spectrum with this new approach. He needs to keep his left flank happy by attacking Republicans while at least sounding like he's trying to work with Republicans to appease his right flank and the Independents who voted for him. After a year of playing to his left flank, though, his strategy to move towards the center may not work because it isn't credible. It looks like an act of political expediency more than principle.

My only piece of advice to the President on this is if he's really holding out an olive branch to the Republicans as a sign he wants to work with them, he'd better not be hiding the hatchet he used to cut down that branch behind his back.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Real Fluke

In the aftermath of Scott Brown's stunning victory to win the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy, Leftists and the media have been trying to figure out a way to minimize the impact of said victory. One of the most popular is that Brown's victory was a fluke, that he merely tapped into the country's anger against Barack Obama and/or the Democrats. I'm sure they're sincere in their beliefs (or at least as sincere as Leftists can be), but they're missing the point. Conservatives and Republicans, too, aren't looking at the big picture. Yes, dear readers, the Brown victory was not a fluke victory by any stretch of the imagination.

Go back a few months to New York-23, and you'll see the real fluke. In that race, an established Democrat with the backing of a Republican (who, surprise surprise, was being backed by a different arm of the same Leftist political enterprise, ACORN) barely beat a member of the Conservative Party. For those of you unfamiliar with the facts in this case, the Conservative Party is a separate party in New York State from the Republican Party. In other words, they're a third party. When you consider a third party candidate with less time in the race than the other two candidates almost knocked off the Democrat in an election season where public discontent against government was already high, it's clear that the Democrats were lucky to come away with that victory.

Of course, at the time, the media and the Left were crowing about "taking the seat away from the GOP, who held it since the Civil War." (Of course, that's not true, as NY-23 was represented by a Democrat way back in 1993, but let's not get into those details here.) They were so psyched about their win that they overlooked a good chunk of the whole picture, and that cost them in Massachusetts.

Now that the Left is in full excuse mode, it's unlikely they will look at Brown's victory as anything but a hiccup, a once-in-a-lifetime thing. The problem is that it's not.

It's a sign of things to come.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

You Heard It Here First!

It was July 31, 2009, and a blog post by your friend and mine Stella Rondo made its appearance here. As much as some like to dismiss her observations, I'd say she was right on target with this one, and only about six months before the events she outlined happened...

Any Leftist who wants to apologize to Ms. Rondo for mocking her can send your apologies to me, in care of this blog.

Here is the post again for your viewing pleasure.

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, January 20, 2010

A Very Special (Election) Blog Post

First, let me offer congratulations to Senator-Elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts. The impact of the election to fill the seat of the late Ted Kennedy will be felt for a while. Here is a list of some of the winners and losers from last night.


- Scott Brown:
This one's self-explanatory. Brown ran a stellar campaign, appealing to the spirit of the age with his common man approach and promise to vote against the ObamaCare bill still in Congress.

- The TEA Party movement: The victory that didn't come in NY-23 came in Massachusetts. No matter how much the Left ridicules the TEA Party movement, it's clear from post-election interviews that there are more TEA Party people than the Left cares to admit. That should tell them that Brown's victory is a validation of the TEA Party.

- Conservative House Democrats: It's unusual to think of a Republican winning helping Democrats, but in this case it works. With Brown's potential vote against ObamaCare, conservative Democrats in the House can make the argument that ObamaCare won't be able to pass by traditional means. That means they could vote their conscience with the House version instead of voting with their party in the hopes of being reelected.


- Martha Coakley:
Although she was hand-picked by the Kennedy family to take Ted's seat, Coakley ran a laughable campaign. Hard to believe that she was up by 30 points at one time. Her campaign's meltdown will be the source of much discussion within Leftist circles, mainly to protect President Obama from the fall-out.

- Barack Obama: In the short term, Brown's election means health care reform and other Obama initiatives are threatened. In the long term, Obama's inability to deliver victory in three high profile races (New Jersey, Virginia, and now Massachusetts) will be a reflection on his bank-ability as a Campaigner-In-Chief. If the 2010 midterm elections become a referendum on Obama, more and more Democrats will distance themselves from the President, making him seem more and more like a lame duck.

- Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid: Brown's election throws a spotlight on Pelosi and Reid's failure to deliver a workable health care reform bill last year. In their attempts to bribe and bully their respective houses of Congress into voting for ObamaCare, they "forgot" the art of diplomacy and preferred to hammer through a fundamentally flawed bill with the promise that it could be "fixed" later. Here's a tip: if you know it's a bad bill, pushing it through won't make it any better.

- the Kennedy family: There was once a time when a Kennedy supporting someone in Massachusetts meant a guaranteed victory. With the Kennedy family's support of Coakley, though, no victory was to be had. This is a sign that the Kennedy name is no longer a force in Massachusetts politics, possibly even national politics. And the sad thing: it is a self-inflicted wound.

Take 'Em and Pick 'Em

- the Republican Party:
At this point, I'm not sure how the Republican Party will react to the Brown victory after the euphoria of the victory wears off. If they look solely at the Senate makeup and don't consider how Brown won, their chances in the midterm elections will be negatively impacted. Brown's victory can be used as a blueprint for other Republican victories, but only if the party leadership recognizes it.

- the Democrat Party: Brown's victory should be a wake-up call to the party. The tactics they used served not to discourage support for Brown, but discourage support for Coakley. They simply can't rely on attacking an opponent as a "teabagger" because there are a number of people who actually agree with the TEA Party movement from all walks of life. With a growing number of Independents willing to vote for a Republican or a conservative, the Democrat brand may not be as strong as it was back in 2006 and 2008.

- third parties: With the rise of the TEA Party movement, there has been a lot of talk about the possibility of third parties rising in popularity and what it means to the two major parties. Brown's victory may give third parties reason to pause. After all, if they can find a Republican, conservative, or Independent candidate that can support and be satisfied, there may not need to be such a powerful move towards third parties. Then again, it may be just the motivation they need to step up and make a better argument for their causes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Can We Just Leave It Alone?

Last year, I bought a new Hewlett-Packer printer and did the typical techno-geek thing and registered it online. Now, I'm getting emails from HP advertising sales they're running, which is all fine and good by me. But I think we've gone a bit overboard with some of the sales that have become attached to holidays.

Tonight, my HP email advised me of an MLK Day sale. It's bad enough that we have to endure Presidents Day sales (because when you think of mattresses or tires, you think of Millard Filmore), but MLK Day? Can't we leave at least that holiday alone, for the love of Pete? We've reduced a day commemorating a civil rights leader to another day to shill products, and I'm not too happy about it. If nothing else, we should put a "no buy zone" around certain days so that we can reflect upon their significance without being inundated by car dealers with inflatable gorillas talking about cutting $500 off the sale of any new or used vehicle "in honor of the holiday."

Yeah, I know my idea is going to cost some businesses money, but if an Arbor Day sale means the difference between staying open and going out of business, there are a lot deeper problems with your business model than holiday advertising. Capitalism works best when it shows a healthy respect for its customers. Having an MLK Day sale doesn't do that.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bill Clinton, Meet Trent Lott

The new book Game Change by John Heliemann and Mark Halperin has garnered a lot of attention lately with stories about Harry Reid, Sarah Palin, and John and Elizabeth Edwards. But one story that has caught my attention involves an alleged conversation between Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy during the 2008 campaign, as described in the following passage from the book as recounted from Politico:

[A]s Hillary bungled Caroline, Bill’s handling of Ted was even worse. The day after Iowa, he phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

At first blush, Clinton's comment could be taken as racist, and I'll admit that was the first thing I thought of when I heard about it. Yet, the statement itself isn't racist. You could imply there was a racist sentiment (that Obama was not fit to be anything more than a servant because of his race), but you could also make the argument that Clinton's statement was more about Obama's experience or lack thereof. Whenever you have a viable alternate explanation for a statement, we should at least give the alleged racist the benefit of the doubt until more information and evidence that confirms racist intent can be gathered and confirmed.

Bill Clinton is now getting a taste of what Trent Lott experienced after the latter's comments about Strom Thurmond's abortive Presidential run in 1948. In Lott's case, his statement about the country being better if Thurmond had won was extrapolated into being a racist statement in spite of the possibility that Lott's statement was not racist at all. As much as I dislike Lott, I defended him.

And now, I'll do the same for Bill Clinton. I dislike him, but his comment wasn't in and of itself racist. The way race enters the equation in this case is if we put it there. When you start injecting race into a situation, you're already arguing from a position of weakness and you water down racism to the point of ridicule. If you want to fight racism, fight real racism, not the faux racism borne from shoehorning race into a situation.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thoughts on Airport Security

In the aftermath of the "underwear bomber" on the Northwest Airlines flight around Christmas, I had a chance to fly to Denver en route to Regina, SK. Although I was unable to get to my final destination due to weather, I did get a taste of airport security on an international level (or at least as international as Canada). What I saw impressed me. Efficient transactions, the use of advanced technology, and a high level of professionalism.

But just before my trip, it was reported that international airports did not feel they needed to follow our lead with airport security measures. There's a lot that could be said about this, but from a security standpoint, it doesn't make me want to take a jaunt across the Pond to visit Europe anytime soon.

On a bigger scale, we should be concerned that in the aftermath of 9/11, the world still doesn't have a grasp on how to address airport security, America included. Go to different airports, see different security standards. The fact we still have that as a universal condition should be disturbing enough, but add to that fact that we seem to be okay with it only adds to the problem. As consumers, we have a duty to demand better service if what we have in place is not sufficient, and when it comes to airport security, we can't skimp on quality.

The introduction of new screening technology that sees through people's clothes is intriguing, but it isn't without controversy. People are concerned about the privacy implications of such technology, with some people saying that it could violate child pornography laws. Thus, we face a difficult decision: risk privacy for the sake of security, or have privacy trump security. This is both a testament to our nation's commitment to freedom and a detriment to airport security. Yet, it's a line we will have to walk and a decision everyone who travels by plane will have to make at some point.

And that's what should drive efforts to reform airport security globally: choice. With something so important (and with our leadership in the world diminishing since Reagan), reforming such a major tool in our security arsenal can't be done by legislative fiat. It's something that has to be organic, from the grassroots up. If we start demanding better security instead of putting that on those who don't have a great track record of solving problems, the airlines will listen, and maybe the government will, too.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Column of Self-Delusion

Pat Buchanan wrote a piece in the online edition of Human Events lamenting the passing decade, pinning on it the end of American exceptionalism. Here is a list of events Buchanan attributes to the decline of the past decade:

- a nearly 10% drop in our contribution to the global Gross Domestic Product
- the loss of a budget surplus
- high unemployment and underemployment
- a 1/4 to a 1/3 drop in the number of manufacturing jobs
- the drop in the value of a dollar against the Euro
- stagnant median income of American families
- the New England Patriots losing to the New York Giants, thus denying them a perfect season

Okay, so I made the last one up, but Buchanan could have easily blamed everything from the sinking of the Titanic to the fact his socks didn't match on what he sees as the cause of all of this. That's right, the masterminds of evil and utter incompetence: George W. Bush and the Republicans who backed him. The rest of the piece rips Bush and the GOP a new one and laments that we "brought it upon ourselves" by electing people like that.

It's gotten frightfully easy for people on the Left to lay the blame for everything bad that happened since 2001 at Bush's feet, but it's a rather simplistic conclusion. Bush screwed up plenty (Medicare Part B, anyone?), but a lot of the stuff attributed to him were not of his doing.

Take the response to Hurricane Katrina, for example. Buchanan points to it as proof that America lost it's "can-do attitude." If you focus on New Orleans alone, you'd get that impression. The problem is that Katrina hit other areas besides New Orleans and they actually showed the kind of spirit Buchanan says has been lost. It's a typical lie of omission that the Left takes as gospel truth.

As far as New Orleans is concerned, any delay in FEMA's response can be laid at the feet of then-Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Federal law requires that the Governor of a state give permission for FEMA or National Guard units from other states to enter the state. Bush talked to Blanco three days before Katrina made landfall, and Blanco declined help. Then Blanco did not submit the permission to the correct FEMA office, which caused further delays...and further destruction.

Having said that, the federal response after Katrina as it pertains to New Orleans was bungled, and that wasn't because of the loss of the "can-do attitude," but because of the lumbering incompetence of the federal government. That can be laid at the feet of George W. Bush. Other factors played a role in the continuing Katrina situation in New Orleans, but Bush has a hand in the aftermath. But to blame the entirety of problems in New Orleans on Bush is intellectually dishonest and far too easy to do. If you're going to bash Bush, bash him on what he actually did or didn't do, not on what you believe he did or didn't do.

Although Buchanan (and many of his fans) believe him to be a "real conservative" based on his rhetoric, it can't be overlooked that his Human Events piece is an example of just how Leftist he has become.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

I want to wish all of my readers (even Mr. Leftist Blogger) a Happy New Year.

The new year brings people hope for a brighter tomorrow, which is admirable. It's also a time when people set personal goals, whether it be to drop a few pounds, go back to school, or work within a budget. Usually these are in the form of New Year's resolutions. And, invariably, most of these resolutions fall apart after a month or so because of a lack of follow-through. When things get tough or the desire goes away for one reason or another, resolutions become mere flights of optimistic fancy.

If you're in that boat, it's time to start thinking in a new way. Instead of looking at dropping 100 pounds, look at it in smaller terms. Break it down into increments of 20-25 pounds within a certain timeframe. Instead of looking to get your financial house in order by next weekend, start cutting small things from your budget that will help you save more. The key is that every big goal is made up of a series of smaller goals. Once you recognize that, the rest becomes a little easier to address.

Then, you have to keep up the commitment. This is a little harder to do, especially when your goals aren't being met in a timeframe you wish it would. Setting smaller benchmarks goes a long way towards maintaining a commitment, but there's still more that needs to be done. Every goal we set to improve our lives is a personal stake in our futures, so whenever we run into difficulties reaching those goals, we have to decide how much skin we still have in the game. This is the crucial decision in any goal setting endeavor. And this is where resolutions fail time and time again. We decide that the old status quo is better than the new one we're trying to establish, and we lapse.

Unfortunately, there's no witty or pithy statement I can make to get you through that moment of truth. That's up to you. You have to decide what you value and act upon it. And once you do, you'll have to live with the consequences or adjust your plans to accommodate a new reality. In either case, it's all on you.

Whatever plans you have for self-improvement, remember that you are the ultimate driving force behind them. May you enjoy many successes in the coming year.