Quote of the day...

"The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it" - Ayn Rand

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hannity, We Have A Problem!

"I know how well Sandy Berger is regarded. I'm a fan of his, and I just want to understand this because — and I want Americans to understand how a good man would do something that, on the surface, doesn't look that good. Right?" - Alan Colmes


Alan Colmes, Miserablist

I do not envy Alan Colmes. He is Fox's resident token liberal who must spar with his intellectual superior, conservative co-host Sean Hannity, daily. I watch the Hannity & Colmes show regularly. I do not enjoy it. However, it is often the only chance to see conservative politicians given a fair chance to speak. It is clear to me that Alan Colmes was purposefully brought in as a lightweight "foil" to Sean Hannity. Instead of standing up as a serious debating partner to Mr. Hannity, Mr. Colmes often comes across as either dishonest or disingenuous.

Although my respect for Mr. Hannity is limited, any hint of respect that I had for Mr. Comes has disappeared with his recent support for Sandy Berger. No one debates the fact that the former National Security Advisor to Bill Clinton stole classified documents prior to his testimony with the 9-11 commission, preventing the group from ever gaining access to what could have been information vital to the defense of this country. He has admitted it himself. However, the question remains, what information was in the purloined documents? Mr. Berger claims he can't remember. If he is incapable of remembering, so be it. Some might say that it's frightening to think that a man who was partially responsible for the the safety of the U.S. had such a memory problem, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

The American public is left to speculate: what was so important in those documents that a man would risk embarrassment on a national level at the very least, and possibly a long prison term? A reasonable, I would suggest required, inquiry since the man can't answer it himself.

On his radio show and television show, Mr. Colmes has commented many times in the last several years regarding the Berger case. He has gone from defending the accused of absent mindedness, to trying to shut down any line of inquiry on his watch as host. Shameful!

In one instance, he suggests that Mr Berger removed the documents to study them at home. Can he truly believe that? Can anyone? Is Mr. Colmes simply extremely gullible? Later, he tries to shut down any real debate by introducing the idea that there is no evidence to support the prosecutions claim that the documents were vital to the 9-11 commission. Since Mr. Berger stole the documents, as he admits, then of course there is no evidence. All the more reason to question exactly what was in those papers that left the archive in Mr. Berger's pants.

We may never know, since he destroyed the documents!

As Alan Colmes finished his segment last night, he asserted that the prosecution was making a big deal out of nothing! It is clear, as my husband pointed out, that Mr. Colmes is incapable of the intellectual honesty required to step away from his political ideology and admit that there is a problem here!!

Alan Colmes, Miserablist.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Business as usual II

Last Wednesday, the Senate voted down the first real opportunity to reign in and expose wasteful spending via a line item veto.

Democrats overwhelmingly rejected the vote. Republicans overwhelmingly attempted to move the bill forward.

Again, I am waiting for the outcry from the left.

Business as Usual

"I have asked the Education and Labor Committee, as they go forward with the legislation, to make sure that all of the territories have to comply with U.S. law on the minimum wage" - Nancy Pelosi

So why has the American Samoan exemption remained in the bill through to its final version? Ms. Pelosi promised to include the impovrished state after Republicans exposed the dubious exemption. She also promissed to run the House with a higher standard for ethics.

If a higher minimu wage is good for all the other territories, then surely it would be good for one of the most poor.

I am waiting for the outcry from the left ...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Tale of Two Budgets

"Together, we can restrain the spending appetite of the federal government, and we can balance the federal budget." -- George W. Bush

"While tax revenues continue to rise, entitlement spending is projected to drive the budget deficit to $367 billion by 2012 and $704 billion by 2017." -- Brian M. Reidl, The Heritage Foundation

In an article published by The Heritage Foundation, Brian M. Reidl presents a sobering look at how fiscally responsible the government would need to act to balance the federal budget by the President's target in 2012. In short, after years a spending growth near 50% , the Government would need to limit spending growth for the next five years to 2%.

This outlook presents an interesting challenge to Mr. Bush's plea that Congress impose spending discipline in DC. Like anyone else, members of Congress have great difficulty voluntarily limiting the money they spend, especially when they have been on a spending spree.

Obviously, limiting spending growth by the Government to 2% is highly unlikely. It would require, I believe, that spending on current entitlement programs be limited to below inflationary rates.

However, this forecast presents a terrific opportunity, though I doubt the President will take advantage of it. Here is his chance, and that of the entire Republican party, to show exactly what kind of discipline is required to balance the federal budget. It will not happen by 2012, but he could propose a budget that provides a balanced budget by 2014, or 2016, or 2020 (I am not certain why he chose 2012 -- a balanced budget is worth waiting for, if it is an honest assessment) and still keep his tax cuts and fund the wars at a steady rate of inclination.

To do so, he would need to stand firm and show Congress that a balanced budget is only going to be possible if they re-visit and FIX the mess of entitlement programs that are forcing every American to be an agent in his own doom! Explain to Congress and the American public in clear and concise language that these programs are going to bankrupt this country unless something is done to correct it. Force Congress to limit spending growth, not to 2%, but to 5%, or 7%, or 8%.

Such resolve would also expose the tax-and-spenders. For years even liberals have gloated how President Clinton balanced the budget and left Mr. Bush with a surplus. Never mind that doing so required a Republican Congress. No doubt, all of those Liberals who have been gloating would not stand for any reduction in spending. They do not really want to limit spending and balance the budget. They want to extract the money from the American people.

However, we have seen how fiscal discipline leads to vilification in today's mains stream media and left wing blog-o-sphere. When President Bush vowed to limit the growth of spending on the Education Department (a middle-man organization that prevents millions of dollars from reaching the local schools) he was accused of sacrificing our children's education in favor of small government (of course than fact that spending actually increased was largely ignored- it did not grow at the rate his critics wanted it to, so they attacked him).

Hence, no doubt Mr. Bush will continue on with his rose colored glasses and attempt to leave a fiscally conservative legacy of no substance. He is handing the Republicans a tool so they can say to the next Democrat President: "We left you with a plan to balance the budget, but you ignored it" with no reference to how unrealistic the plan was.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Name the Enemy!

"U.S. soldiers are trained only to defend America and her allies against foreign threats and aggression, and to preserve our freedom."

In tonight's State of the Union address, the President should use his time to identify and name the only rational objective for the war in Iraq, and the wider War on Terror: to defend the U.S. against any foreign element that would remove or restrict U.S. citizens and allies of their unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our Constitution does not authorize the President or Congress to fight a war for any other reason.

It is time for Mr. Bush to stop trying to sell this war as an attempt to bring democracy to the middle east. Or to remove an evil dictator. Such notions are foolish and prone to defeat, both at home and in Iraq. Suggesting that our soldiers should serve such an end is ludicrous. U.S. soldiers are trained only to defend America and her allies against foreign threats and aggression, and to preserve our freedom. Tonight might be the last opportunity to provide the American public with a clear definition of the objectives of both fronts.

America invaded Iraq because the President and his administration thought that Saddam Hussein was capable of developing "weapons of mass destruction" if, in fact he did not already have them. The President was not alone. John Kerry agreed. Bill and Hillary Clinton agreed. As did many others. Thus congress gave the President authority to attack Iraq.

Given the strong evidence that Iraq did in fact have the technology and the capability to create biological and / or nuclear-lite weaponry, Our government had a moral, and Constitutional obligation to let our troops do their job.

However, there should have been more. The invasion of Iraq should have been billed as the first step in a greater campaign to rid the world of states that sponsor and commit terrorism against the U.S. Such a decree would have legitimized our continued efforts in Iraq despite the lack of proof of WMDs (which, new evidence suggests, may have been diverted to Syria). Additionally, our troops should have been provided adequate forces and protection to complete this job! With the proper troop levels, tools and direction, the U.S. could have achieved all of its objectives and left Iraq much sooner.

Now, we sit on our hands and watch as Iran threatens the free world with a nuclear jihad, and Syria joins them in supporting the insurgency in Iraq with conventional weaponry-- killing our soldiers daily!!

Now we watch our troops fight valiantly, but against a rising tide of violence against them. We watch our leaders try to sell this war as something it is not.

We watch as America slowly loses her footing as the moral leader and superpower in the world.

Mr. President, I urge you, pledge to:

- Complete the job in Iraq: Kill the insurgents and those who harbor them; Install- yes, INSTALL a US friendly government-- The Iraqi's DO NOT have the right to vote for a new anti-U.S. dictator.

- Name the enemy: Terrorism and states that sponsor it!

- Destroy Iran's capability to develop a nuclear arsenal that would be used to destroy Israel, and soon enough, America.

- Send out a message to Syria, and all who would threaten the U.S- stop sponsoring terror now, or pay the price with your destruction.

You owe that to each and every man, woman and child in this country, Mr. President.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

House of Blarney

"Comments on the past behavior of the speaker might be interesting, but they are not points of order!"

No doubt just about everyone has seen or heard this exchange on the House floor last Thursday. If you have not seen the footage, watch it. Please.

Some background for anyone who is not aware of the circumstances leading up to this funny, brilliant display of Congressmen behaving badly:

On Jan 10, in the 63rd hour of Nancy Pelosi's self-lauded "1st Hundred Hours" the house passed a bill to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. This wage increase was seen as so critical to the well-being of millions of low-wage earners, that the House made sure to extend its reach beyond the 50 states (and the District of Colombia) to all outlying American territories, which has some of the lowest wages in the west. All outlying areas, except one: American Samoa.

American Samoa: Where the current minimum wage is $2.68 / hour! American Samoa: Where the citizens do NOT deserve the same living wage that the rest of us do, apparently. American Samoa: Where a certain tuna company in Madam Speaker's San Francisco district would be exempt from the minimum wage increase!

Whenever the House Republicans have pulled a stunt like this they were instantly subjected to at least 48 hours of public lynching by the main stream media outlets. But this shameless exclusion went largely unnoticed. Only a few marginalized voices attempted to make the hypocrisy of the "ethics reform" party known.

So a handful of House Republicans took matters into their own hands: during a "debate" of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina attempted, several times, to introduce an amendment that would exempt American Samoa from the new act. A lively discussion ensued, as you will see if you watch the footage.

Congressman McHenry deserves to be commended for his civil disobedience. Barney Frank deserves the same for sticking to the house rules and shutting the Republicans down using only the rules at his disposal to do so (even though his enforcement of those rules is hypocritical based on his tantrums on the floor when he was in the minority). The Republicans staged a protest, for the right reasons, during a parliamentary procedure. In doing so, they broke the established House rules. However, they were successful in making more of the public aware of the shameless amendment, and in getting Madam Speaker to correct her "oversight" and ensure that American Samoa would be subject to the same minimum wage increase as the other territories (too bad so many Samoans will lose their jobs as a result, but that's another post).

My eternal gratitude goes to Mr. Frank for his instantly classic, patently Bostonian rebuttal to McHenry's suggestion that the Speaker, in the past, had used Parliamentary Inquiries as a guise for protest: "Comments on the past behavior of the speaker might be interesting, but they are not points of order!"

Watch the video. Please. It's entertaining. But more importantly, it is very revealing. This was supposed to be a debate over the stem-cell bill. But Nancy Pelosi was nowhere to be found! Frank was sitting in for her. Apparently, Madam Pelosi does not take seriously her pledge to be "Speaker of the House", not "Speaker of the House Democrats". The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act passed 253-174.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Nora Ephron: Miserablist

"why would someone so talented with words, so capable of expressing truth in the most comical and beautiful ways write such a horrendously insulting parody of Condoleeza Rice?"

I try very hard not to resort to name calling when having a disagreement, and to respect the opinions of every one who feels compelled to express them. It's not always easy. Being a conservative / libertarian in Boston, I am often outnumbered when it comes to discussions revolving around the fine, and not so fine, points of US policy, local government, and social issues. However, somehow I have managed to never attempt to win or end a discussion or disagreement with an insult. In return, I have had more than my fair share of nastiness thrown at me, even by my good friends (often, the final "insult" is to shut down after something like "you're just a Republican! so what's the use?"). Sadly, I have lost friends simply because my pro-capitalist philosophy happens to be more oft in agreement with the Republican agenda than with that of the Democrats.

That being said, most of my friends are equally respectful of my views, and I daresay I have helped them see the world from a different point of view.

Again, it is not easy to take the “high-road” and not to resort to the sort of name-calling that seems to come so easily to most of the talking heads on TV. It is very difficult at times. But I make it work. I refuse. And I grow a little stronger every time I don’t give in to such childish behavior.

However, there are certain people who exhibit such a lack of restraint, such an intellectual void that causes them to transcend normal, civil discourse that I can’t help but believe that they are intent making everyone as miserable as they are. For the purposes of this blog, a Miserablist is someone who seems like a rational, reasonable person, who has exhibited true talent in communication, but who is unable to support their ideas and opinions without insulting someone.

In my mind the term “Miserablist” is not an insult. It is a description.

Nora Ephron is responsible for many wonderful, funny, and touching films and books- her contribution to “When Harry Met Sally” has earned her my gratitude forever! So why would someone so talented with words, so capable of expressing truth in the most comical and beautiful ways write such a horrendously insulting parody about Condoleeza Rice? You can read “Condi’s Diary” here.

In short, it portrays the Secretary of State as an air-head, totally unaware of her own culpability in the current war, as well as her own achievements within the current administration. She is “drawn” with the intellectual capacity of a 12 year-old. When one of her “rivals”, Harriet Myers submits her registration, Ephron’s Condi is euphoric: “A big victory pour moi. They forced her out. Goodbye Harriet, good riddance to you and your royal blue suit” Of course, Ms Ephron does not dare to try to explain why Condi would consider this a victory. So we are left to assume that Nora knows best and it must be funny!

After an exchange where Nancy Pelosi asked Madam Secretary what personal sacrifice they (both Pelosi and Rice) would be making for this war since they could not offer their children or husbands (I’m being nice!), we are treated to this: “…[Karl Rove and Tony Snow] were calling to ask about what Barbara Boxer said to me at the hearing. I felt so dumb, Dear Diary. It turned out she had really insulted me, but I was so busy wrinkling my forehead I hadn't really clocked it.”

Huh? Condoleeza Rice sincerely and elegantly avoids distraction from the discussion, and Nora draws her as too stupid to realize when she is being insulted.

There is much more, but you can read for yourself.

How does a respected journalist, screenwriter, author, director, etc, use her talents in such a horrendously childish way? Envy? Ephron graduated from Wellesley, a fine school. However Rice earned her PhD and won several prestigious awards when she was Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. Her accomplishments are too many to list here, but you can see the full list here. I don’t think any of these accomplishments and contributions are greater than Ephron’s.

So why would someone with so much talent use such a vile vehicle to dress down such an accomplished woman?

I think it’s quite clear. Insults in the guise of comedy cause the audience to lose focus. It’s easy to make a point without backing it up if the reader is laughing or appalled. Clearly Ms. Ephron does not have the intellectual gravitas to truly stand up to the (outstanding, in my humble opinion) Secretary of State.

Nora Ephrom- This week's Miserablist.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Consideration

There are plenty of more thoughtful analyses of the President's speech last night than mine here, here, and here. I don't necessarily agree with them, but they all make fair and good points.

Apparently, 20,000 troops is not "a LOT". While John McCain is calling for 35 ,000, Larry Elder says we need 100,000! They both support the President's new plan. McCain claims that the President's 21,500 "meet his criteria" (of 35,000? Huh?) while Larry Elder would have preferred a much larger expansion.

I would tend to agree. However, I think the President is on the right track, finally, and I hope the troop level increase will provide the US with enough manpower to start to turn Iraq around.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Welcome to the Game, Mr. President

"Now America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century. We can and will prevail"

Change the course! That is how the president framed his new plan to stabilize Iraq and bring Democracy to the once fertile crescent. He introduced “bold” new initiatives, like vastly expanding the U.S. presence in Iraq, and guarantying an oil sharing plan that would not favor any region. He also described a world wherein Iraq fell to the insurgents and Al Qaeda was left to flourish unchecked. And, perhaps most importantly, he accepted responsibility for America’s failure to secure Iraq to date.


One question for the A.L.F. claiming to be George W. Bush this evening: Who are you and what have you done with our President? And, why couldn’t you deliver this speech repeatedly over the last 4 years?


Overall, the speech tonight was strong message that spelled out exactly what is at stake for the U.S. in Iraq, what American’s should expect to accomplish the mission and how it will be accomplished. Remember The Powell Doctrine?


First, the President admitted that he expected the destruction of the Hussein Regime to bring Iraqis together. Why he thought that I will never know. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But, while I supported the move to invade Iraq, it seemed to me that there was plenty of evidence that the invasion of Baghdad would unleash a bloodbath if not managed correctly.


Still, a President who rarely accepts responsibility acknowledged that the blame rested squarely on him. Perhaps if he had said that prior to the invasion, all the “Darth Cheney” and “Lord Rumsfeld” rumors would never have surfaced. It’s a crucial step for this President.


However, the most powerful statement the President made this evening was to reiterate that the loss of Iraq is unacceptable. Both sides of the isle need to hear this point, again and again. All of America needs to understand that the fall of Iraq would endanger our security for a generation. The Honorable Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid should think very carefully before they force the U.S. to surrender.


Mr. Bush’s description of an Iraq in the grips of Al Qaeda and as a safe haven for Islamist terrorists was powerful and accurate. He should have abandoned the WMD position long ago (even if it is proving to be true) and focused on the strategic importance of such an Iraq, bordering Iran and Syria. I appreciated his understanding of why the insurgents are fighting so fiercely- to them, Democracy equals Death. Equally important, he stressed that the violence is being caused by a small minority who are holding the vast majority of peace loving Iraqis (Shiite and Sunni) hostage.


As for the practical- well, I guess those Generals on the ground are finally asking for more troops, because Mr. Bush is allocating 20,000 more!! Sorry to sound so glib, but that’s a LOT! If in fact the Generals were holding back when they needed that many new troops, they should be court marshaled. However, since the President has accepted responsibility, I can overlook that gross dereliction of duty.


Seriously- everyone knew the troop levels were too low over 3 years ago. While the increase is welcome (my best wishes and sincere thanks go with them), it’s long overdue. The President needs to explain why he waited so long to do this. He should also immediately bring Colin Powell and John McCain on as his dedicated advisors in Iraq.


The expansion of U.S. forces will enable the troops to secure all of Iraq in the coming year, according to the President. Ok. That sounds good. U.S. troops will team with Iraqi troops to go door to door throughout neighborhoods and hunt down insurgent safe havens. That’s a good idea. Why haven’t we done it until now? Well, according to the President, sectarian interference has prevented our troops and Iraqi police from entering the most important neighborhoods, where sympathetic citizens hide and harbor the insurgents. Well, no more! PM Maliki has just last week told all of Iraq that he will not tolerate any sectarian interference to these sweeps! Thanks for that, Mr. Maliki. I’m glad you finally got around to that. Such a move is purely symbolic. As the President noted, Al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They will hardly listen to the elected PM.


Perhaps it is also wishful thinking to hope that a new oil sharing plan will quell fears of a bloodbath to control oil revenues after the U.S. leaves. I hope there is a plan to prepare the Iraqi army for this eventuality. It is certain to be brutal and could threaten any new democracy. Maybe he is saving that speech for 2010.


However, President Bush recognized the immediate danger and warned us that we will see more blood, more death and more destruction throughout the coming year. But he also described a world with a stable, secure and DEMOCRATIC Iraq! He suggested that Iraq would be stabilized by November (2007, I presume), that Saudi Arabia would rally to the new Democracy, and the troops could start coming home.


There is much more to discuss, and I will update this post over the next few days. I have not read the transcript yet- so far this post is based solely on the notes I scribbled during the speech. My overall reaction is that it was a powerful speech, and America would be a much stronger country if it had been delivered in March, 2003, instead of January 2007. While I am optimistic that we can accomplish our objectives in Iraq, I fear the U.S. has suffered through a season of trials and tribulations unnecessarily.

In short:

President Bush accepts responsibility, finally.

Defeat in Iraq equals a victory for Al Qaeda and Islamist fascism.

More troops will help root out the insurgents and keep them out.

There will be much more bloodshed in the months to come.

By November, a new era of democracy and security in Iraq will portend a homecoming for our brave and tireless soldiers.

Godspeed Mr. President. I hope it’s not too late.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Introduction: Freedom and the Pursuit of Happiness

Thanks to an ever-expanding, and misrepresentation of, the meaning of “pursuit of happiness”, our government has systematically deprived too many of our most vulnerable citizens this vital right.

Upon the founding of the United States of America, the framers of the constitution recognized and identified a very limited set of inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Furthermore, they charged the U.S. government with an equally simple, and limited, task: to defend these inalienable rights of our citizens against outside forces that would attempt to deprive us of them.

No doubt over the last 225 years, our government has done an excellent job of protecting our lives and liberties. However, thanks to an ever-expanding, and misrepresentation of, the meaning of “pursuit of happiness”, our government has systematically deprived too many of our most vulnerable citizens this vital right.

To most of us, the emphasis falls naturally on “pursuit”. We understand that the constitution guarantees that all of us have a right to the pursuit of happiness. It does not guarantee that we will achieve it. American citizens were once expected to build their lives on their own volition, their own motivation, and their own desires. Families conquered Nature to serve their needs, and built a great nation along the way. As long as you did not interfere with the rights of another man, you were not expected to answer to anyone. You were left alone to pursue your happiness. If something got in the way, you either overcame it, or succumbed to it. The government was not available to bail you out for bad decisions, or bad luck.

Over the 20th century, however, politicians and elected officials shifted the emphasis to “happiness”, leading many Americans to believe that happiness itself is a right, to the detriment of the original intent of our Founding Fathers. Today, our founding fathers would be shocked and dismayed to see how the very means of happiness- wealth derived from productivity- is being deprived of the many to secure the happiness of the few, via the vast welfare state and entitlements.

Too many Americans each year fall below the poverty line because their taxes are raised, local fees escalate, and prices on goods skyrocket because our Government needs the money to make sure others are happy with healthcare, good schools, and “fair” wages. These Americans are being denied their right to pursue happiness while others live off of their hard-earned income.

It’s time for our Government to stop protecting our right to happiness, and start taking seriously its task of securing our right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.