Tuesday, September 28, 2010

If GOP wins in November it's over... (insert blubbering)

In his impassioned critique of the Obama Presidency, Peter Daou concludes that Obama's lack of a moral compass and his resistance to being seen as "weak" he is undermining the progressive cause, leading to a GOP landslide this fall and the inevitability of these key points: (I'll splice in my thoughts in non-italic red type. NOTE: I could easily just type "it's Bush's fault" after each one, you understand, so you can silently add that line after each of his points if you'd like!)

Let’s face it, these are dark days for the left. As we barrel toward the November elections and an almost certain triumph for the GOP, we are losing the national debate and making giant strides backward on key issues. It’s the new (un)reality:

1. George W. Bush is steadily and surely being rehabilitated and now the question is how much gratitude we owe him. Wait just a second. Conservatives aren't even buying this. While I refuse to call him BushHitler he ultimately disappointed almost everyone. Oddly not for the reasons you claim, but what difference does it make. All presidents with the exception of Jimmy Carter get rehabilitated.

2. Sarah Palin can move the public discourse with a single tweet, promoting a worldview consisting of unreflective, nationalistic soundbites. Cool, maybe she still believes in constitutional law too.

3. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox are dominating the national conversation, feeding a steady stream of propaganda packaged as moral platitudes to tens of millions of true believers. Let's see, I wonder where ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Boston Globe get their propaganda? What is it with progressives, can't they take a little competition in the arena of ideas?

4. In the face of overwhelming evidence, climate deniers are choking the life out of the environmental movement and willfully condemning humanity to a calamitous future. Drama queen! So, your little gambit of Chicken Little - The Sky is Falling! didn't work. Maybe if the greedy pricks weren't so eager to make a buck off carbon credits and grant money by over doing it the natural progress of technical improvements might have satisfactorily saved the planet, it probably still will.

5. From ACORN to Van Jones, liberal scalps are being taken with impunity. But the character assassination of ANY conservative is A-OK, cry me a river.

6. Feminism is being redefined and repossessed by anti-feminists. Feminism is dead. It was a terrible lie to tell women that they don't need men. Nothing hurt women more than this failed anti-men agenda. So horrible that women "might" choose to be stay at home Moms and home school their kids.

7. Women are facing an all-out assault on choice. Cutting off Federal Funding for killing babies is not repealing Roe V Wade. Does any opposition (GOP) politician campaign on overturning a woman's right to choose? I didn't think so...

7.5 Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is being co-opted by a radio jock. Not worthy of a comment or an integer of its own.

8. Schoolbooks are being rewritten to reflect the radical right’s anti-science views. See your point # 4 and let's talk about anti-science. History books that spend far more pages on Islam than on Christianity and Jewry put together are not history books they are propaganda. Also, questioning Darwin's theories is permitted, that there is a creator is absolutely possible since it can't be disproven scientifically.

9. The rich-poor divide grows by the minute and teachers and nurses struggle to get by while bankers get massive bonuses. The rich get richer while the poor get poorer is a canard. Plus it is not unique to America, it is unique to humanity.

10. We mark the end of a war based on lies with congratulations to all, and we escalate another war with scarce resources that could save countless lives. Start with point #15 and ask the women of Iraq if they are better off? You talk of a moral compass and yet it was OK to allow a mad man with aspirations of regional and nuclear domination, and actions that led everyone to believe (not just George W. Bush) that he had WMD's to continue to scoff at international law and countless UN sanctions. Maybe the war was a bad idea, we won't really know for a decade or more.

11. An oil spill that should have been a historic inflection point gets excised from public awareness by our own government and disappears down the memory hole (until the next disaster). We need oil, simple as that. It's a reality, live with it. If the "progressives/environmentalists" would work with energy producers in a manner that accepts this reality then we could have our energy, safety and a clean world. But it's all or nothing for you. Nothing actually.

12. Guns abound and the far right’s interpretation of the second amendment (the only one that seems to matter) is now inviolate. I'm still waiting for the wild, wild west and all the other carnage that was supposed to take place by now with all these unrestrained NRA guys running around. The truth is cities like Chicago and Washington DC where guns were banned have been the gun murder capitols of America. But the evidence (from all over the world) doesn't matter to you, crime increases when guns are taken from law abiding citizens.

13. Bigotry and discrimination against immigrants, against Muslims, against gays and lesbians is mainstream and rampant. No, bigotry against Sarah Palin and her family is rampant. Bigotry against business and success is rampant. Bigotry against Christianity is rampant. Indeed, America has been remarkably tolerant of Muslims, insanely tolerant of ILLEGAL immigrants and you can't watch a TV show or see a movie without and adorable gay character who is beyond reproach.

14. The frightening unconstitutional excesses of the Bush administration have been enshrined and reinforced by a Democratic White House, ensuring that they will become precedent and practice. Whether you believe that war related torture, or war related wire tapping is unconstitutional or not President Obama has shredded the constitution and no one batted an eye. With the stroke of the pen he literally stole a private company, robbed its share holders and gave it to the union, blithely throwing out centuries of contract law. All this while completely ignoring a hundred years of bankruptcy law. He nationalized School Loans without any debate whatsoever and has handed over entire slices of our culture to unelected, unconfirmed czars. If anyone has been stomping on the constitution it is Obama.

15. Girls and women across the planet continue to get beaten, raped, ravaged, mutilated, and murdered while sports games induce a more passionate response. Oh for God's sake! I'm sorry, but this can not be blamed on the United States of America, Barack Obama, or dare I say George W. Bush. Just where are the feminists on this issue? Huh? Why they are too busy bashing Sarah Palin because she's Pro-Life and proud to be a mother of 5.

Why do progressives always have to diminish the people they disagree with by throwing out simple one liners backed up with no real argument? As you can see, two can play that game. For example Just saying: Feminism is being redefined and repossessed by anti-feminists doesn't a argument make. Maybe after so many painfully obvious years that the promise of feminism was a lie to begin with, maybe women are rejecting it. Maybe it is dead. Maybe the progressive movement is dead...


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Let's Talk about Talk Radio

I have been listening to Talk Radio for more than 25 years. Being a right of center guy it's not much of a stretch considering that talk radio has been the one avenue for us right wingers that is not completely dominated and controlled by "progressive" thought.

It wasn't until conservative talk radio came along that I realized that I didn't really believe all the happy talk and propaganda coming out of the media and liberal legislatures. My eyes and my experiences conveyed a disconnect from what I was told was the truth of things.

At first it was like a foreign language, so odd, so controversial, so blasphemous. Soon I was talking back to the radio. "You can't say that!" I yelled. Yet, as I watched mainstream news and read the paper (before the Internet) I started to hear the lies we all used to accept as truth. I felt like I was in on something. It was interesting and even fun. I was hooked.

At the time mainstream media didn't understand talk radio. It was a niche format on AM radio that represented nothing but a fly buzzing about their head. Since the MSM never felt threatened by the so-called wing-nuts, talk radio grew into a sort of underground juggernaut. It wasn't until 1994 when the Republicans took both houses of Congress did talk radio get the attention of the major media and by then it was already a force to be reckoned with.

It was Rush Limbaugh who put conservative talk radio on the map and to whom is owed a debt of gratitude for everyone who has prospered in the forum ever since. In 1994 he was called the "majority maker" and the Republicans in Congress were not shy in crediting Mr. Limbaugh for his incalculable help during the historic 1994 campaign. Most everyone by now has heard of him and either loves him or hates him, he leaves very little middle ground.

When the media recognized that Rush and talk radio were here to stay - and had some very real influence on middle America - for those in the newsroom and in the ivory towers it became necessary to label it and treat it derisively. Hate radio became the buzz word for Limbaugh and talk radio. For the people who only got their news from the truth scrubbed mainstream media hate radio was a reality and it could be easily dismissed with a bumper sticker that said "Mean People Suck". Meanwhile the forum grew and grew and there soon was a talk host for everyone, in all walks of life. Even the liberals tried their hand at it... Remember Air America?

The funny thing is, while I find liberal talk radio unlistenable, (there's only so many hours of "I hate this country" that Americans can listen to) I've fear that conservative radio has become a broken record. No matter how much you like the chorus a skipping record that keeps repeating the same line over and over can drive you nuts!

I've taken to listening to NPR and its Minnesota counterpart MPR. Don't get me wrong, I'm not turning over to the dark-side, it's just that I can't take the skipping record anymore. I admit NPR could also known as National Palestinian Radio for all the sobs stories they do on the plight of terrorist supporting Palestinians. (that's when we push a button for a different station). However, what I like is the calm and soothing delivery and the segments that last for more than 3 minutes before more ear splitting, mind-numbing commercials. So few conservative radio hosts take the high ground and use easy, reasonable conversational tones that when I hear NPR coming over the car speakers it's like a treat for the senses and sensibilities. While they pretend to be balanced and fair to all points of view NPR (and MPR) let their true colors shine through more often than not. It is the one thing I absolutely appreciate about right wing radio is the willingness to be honest about their non-objectivity.

There is not any single personality on NPR or MPR that I could even direct you to, and maybe that too is part of the charm. It's just strange that I find myself punching up NPR more and more just to hear calmness and reasonable tones of voice. Only Bill Bennett's Morning in America and The Dennis Prager Show deliver a sense of reasonableness on the conservative dial.

Being at one time a "professional" musician a lot of people find it hard to grasp how I would even listen to talk radio. Yes, I love music, but music stimulates the emotional part of my brain, talk radio stimulates the rest.

Here's a host by host one line critique of the radio shows I listen to off and on...

  1. Rush Limbaugh - feels like a comfortable shoe by now, but I rarely if ever listen to him anymore
  2. Glenn Beck - he's effing crazy, but oddly appealing, small doses only
  3. Mike Gallagher - a blow hard with a heart of gold, he can make you turn off the radio altogether
  4. Bill Bennett - A soothing, reasonable change of pace, almost always interesting, almost...
  5. Sean Hannity - can't stand him, won't listen
  6. Mark Levin - super smart, super energy, super strident
  7. Hugh Hewitt - a Republican cheerleader that has very interesting guests, quite easy to listen to
  8. Michael Medved - super smart, perhaps the most intelligent person on the radio who says some of the dumbest things
  9. Michael Savage - he's effing crazy, on the other end of the spectrum from Beck, oddly unappealing
  10. Dennis Prager - my favorite, can't say enough about how much I admire his wisdom
  11. Bill O'Rielly - unlistenable, is it possible to be too opinionated?
  12. Dennis Miller - Fun, funny, irreverent and oddly insightful
  13. Bill Cunningham - over the top conservative, the only good liberal is a discredited liberal
  14. Jason Lewis - a reasonable, intelligent conservative who epitomizes the broken record

I'm sure there are hosts I'm forgetting about that I have listened to - the point is they are all singing the same tune, a tune I like, but for God's sake, change it up a bit once in a while!


Pretzel Logic, Pelosi Logic

I heard Speaker Pelosi on Public Radio the other day and was so bewildered by her logic that I just had to share.

Start with the fact that the tax cuts being discussed are already in place and that the discussion is all about extending them as is, no one is actually getting their taxes cut by one red cent. In other words if they do get extended our paychecks will look no different tomorrow than they do today. OK.

So Pelosi says if the tax cut for "the rich" is extended it will add seven-hundred-and-eighty-billion-dollars to the deficit.

The commentator deftly points out that if the tax cut for the middle class is extended it would remove 4 trillion dollars from the Federal revenue stream over the same period of time.

Nancy says: but there's a difference, that money would be spent, turned back into the economy and create jobs.

Commentator: Ok, but wouldn't the 780 billion be turned back into the economy as well, and create jobs?

Nancy: Well, as we can see by the state of the economy today and how the record surpluses became record deficits during the previous eight years that it hasn't worked.

I feel like I just listened to a Yogi Berra skit. So which part of it hasn't worked Nancy? Is it the 780 billion or the 4 trillion? It's not as if the middle class will suddenly have an additional 4 trillion to spend, they will have exactly what they have today and what they have today has produced no real economic growth and 9.6% unemployment.

Folks, this is logic running this country. God help us all.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Better Browsers, Better Internet

HTML5 is here. We are all familiar with the ubiquitous http:// in our browser's address bar when we go to our favorite websites. (stands for Hyper Text Transport Protocol) The other end of the string is often concluded with .html, we've all seen it whether we knew what it was or not. In basic terms Hyper Text Markup Language is the way the browser crafts the presentation of the web page. It was the basis for the advent of the World Wide Web. Since the mid 90's and birth of the Internet as we know it, more and more advanced features and capabilities have been developed to provide Rich Internet Applications or RIA.

Today, RIA uses Adobe Flash, JavaFX, and Microsoft Silverlight & AJAX. With so many developers and technologies trying to achieve the same purpose by different approaches it causes major headaches for everyone in the Web 2.0 world. There is a need for standardization which needs to be embedded into all browsers. Ultimately the current RIA plugins have been a boon for the Internet experience but they are also quite often a pain in the ass for the end user as well. So, along comes HTML5.

The real purpose of the new HTML5 standard is to make things more generic and better for the internet world. The problem is the world's most popular browser, Internet Explorer still doesn't support it. Firefox and Chrome (and I'll assume Safari) have supported it since 2008. Internet Explorer version 9 will support it - someday, a good thing. Yet even when IE9 adopts HTML5 millions upon millions of computers will still be using the old versions of IE for years.

Web page developers will be forced to deal with this reality for the foreseeable future. It has been estimated that 16-25% of computers are still using IE6 years and years after new browsers have been available. Why?

The problem is that people don't care. Many people simply don't know what a browser is. They know what a computer is, they may even understand what a hard drive is, but most people just click a certain button and get to the Internet. Most people don't realize that they have a choice in browsers. If it came with Windows and it works what's the problem? Even if they understand they have a choice actually installing software is a daunting thing for a lot of people.

How important is this in the over all scheme of things? For one more and more functionality of the computer is moving toward the browser. Anyone in the IT support business can tell you that almost all of the tools are browser based. It makes a lot of sense but it makes the browser more and more important. Most of these tools are written for IE and therefore changing browsers or supporting multiple browsers in a large enterprise is a huge task.

So home users are hampered by the challenge of installing something they don't understand and the corporate/institution is hampered by the scope of it. HTML5 promises to make the Internet an easier and richer experience, but it will take a while to get there I'm afraid.

P.S. After I pushed publish on this post (written using Firefox 3.6.8) I opened up IE on this old laptop. Wouldn't you know it - version 6. I had to laugh at myself. In this case it was inattentiveness or plain laziness. Honestly I predominantly use Firefox but I still use IE whenever I remotely connect to work. I am heading off to Microsoft to download IE 8 right now...


Monday, September 13, 2010

The Obama Administration Does Good... This time

I have been relentless in my condemnation of the Obama Administration, any reader of this webpage would have to agree (all two of you). Here I am going to give them a thumbs up. A123 Systems opened their new battery plant in Michigan today and it wouldn't have happened without some help from the U.S. government under Obama's management. I won't go so far as to say a President McCain wouldn't have done the same thing, but he's not the President and the credit goes where credit is due.

Some will say this is a waste of time, but I am not convinced that electric cars are a joke. If they become a viable alternative to gasoline powered cars for daily commuting and we can rely on coal or nuclear power plants over foreign oil for this sector of the transportation system I think it will be a win/win.

A123 Sytem's new plant in Livonia is now the largest lithium ion automotive battery plant in all of North America. It will produce lithium ion battery cells and packs. A123 Systems has been a major innovator in this technology area and has a large share of the rechargeable power tool market. Anyone who has used these types of power tools in the last few years can attest to how well these batteries work.

The Livonia Michigan plant has been planned for years. A123 systems had a hard time finding the venture capital to build in the United States - they were told they were crazy for not wanting the build in China. Unfortunately for American workers they did build in China just so they could guarantee that they could fulfill contracts as a supplier. But they want to build in America for the American market and for the American worker. It is ironic that the founder of the company is a naturalized American citizen who came here at age six from China. He is a patriot who seems to care for the American worker. The plant will employ 300 to start with but expects to employ thousands. They is a hope that this will spur further industrial development for a new generation of vehicles right in Michigan and the upper Midwest that has been so devastated by the teetering fate of the domestic auto and steel business.

Thanks to a $249 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) last year, as well as $125 million in refundable tax credits from Michigan’s 21st Century Jobs Fund the plant was built. A123 also has a DOE loan application pending for an additional $233 million.

The government did in this case step in where private capital wouldn't. It has been proven at times the government is the only entity that can take such risks - a small one in this case - and see them blossom and handed over to private enterprise. Still, this should be the exception not the rule. Since it was as much politics as market forces that has been killing American manufacturing it isn't far fetched to think that government will have a role in bringing it back.

The augment on the other side implying that when government steps in to pick the winners and the losers it is an artificial outcome and everyone eventually loses has some merit - it has been true when it is applied with a heavy hand. The numbers in the case of A123 Systems just don't speak of a heavy hand. Johnson Controls a direct competitor to A123 Systems also received a grant and began shipping batteries recently. I don't believe there is any danger that battery powered cars are going to devastate the internal combustion engine any time soon, but just as railroad, space exploration and electrification projects of past generations needed the helping hand of government so too will electric vehicles. If it turns out that electric vehicles are a bust the money the government spent will have been a proverbial drop in the bucket.

Or, we could sit back and watch all this go to China.


Monday, September 06, 2010

Shooting Straight at The Young Guns

I have posted in the past regarding my interest in the career of Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI). Together with Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, Mr. Ryan has embarked on a mission to find reliable conservative candidates for the near future. Their first swag is the release in the next few weeks of a new book called "Young Guns".

Since I haven't read it I can offer no review (unlike others). However, I think I have some idea of what it will say. Mr. Ryan has produced policy statements and a plan to set right fiscal responsibility in Washington. While not necessarily austerity, his plan does make a radical shift from the Obama tactics of massive government stimulus - stimulus that should work but simply doesn't.

What is going to be most interesting is how loud and insulting the criticism is going to be. The louder and the more vicious the more I believe the Young Guns will be on to something. The critics will be from the "big government/capitalism has failed" crowd. I am certain Ryan and company are from the "massive government stifles everything" crowd.


Paul Krugman of the New York Times weighed in immediately and dismissively. That, my friends is a welcome sign. Krugman's column was in fact what made me look to Ryan's Road Map For America website. The analysis by the CBO did not score the revenue side of the proposal but was fair and generally positive on the spending side. Other analysis have said some things don't quite add up, but were also generally positive. Liberals have seized on the Roadmap in order to say that Republicans want to leave seniors in the cold. Gee, where have we heard that before. Economists have been basically cold to hostile. Some, like Mike Norman, who is fond of calling people who have a different opinion from his "idiots", has called Ryan, Cantor and McCarthy idiots. I like Mike Norman actually, but he is economist not a politician, and politicians have to appear to have some fiscal restraint these days after the spending orgy of the current president.

No plan is perfect, no plan adds up, never has, never will - it's a plan not a dictate. It is a good starting point and a good rallying cry.

The Young Guns have a fundamentally different vision from the one now prevailing in Obama World. It sets the government on course to its proper role. It reigns in government spending, and therefore limits the size of government. It would plan revive a vibrant free-market economy that made America what it is. If it isn't clear by now it should be, the current regime is running hard the other way to knock America down a notch or three. The Young Guns, like many American's, still see this as a remarkable country, a notch or two above the rest.

I'm sure there will be more to come from these guys.


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Does the Obama Administration Even Want a Strong Economy?

It seems a preposterous question, of course they do, right? I really wonder. The role of taxes in our economy has always been a political issue and it shouldn't be. It is a fiscal issue and using the tax issue as a manipulative tool for or against certain groups is fiscal malfeasance and frankly it's immoral.

The overblown rhetoric on both sides of the political isle about massive deficits and spending our children's childrens money is often at the center of tax debate. As hard as it is to grasp the truth is that taxes are not a funding source for monetarily-sovereign governments like the United States. The Federal government is not out of money, all interest payments and so-called debt on domestically-denominated government securities can and will, and have always been paid. This will always be the case whatever the amount, whatever their size in relation to the government budget. Taxes are just the braking system for a speeding economy. Simply put raising taxes reduces the purchasing power of the private sector so that more resources can be allocated to the government without leading to inflation.

Ronald Reagan once said, originally or not, that if you want less of something then tax it, if you want more of something then subsidize it. Certainly not rocket science, but true nonetheless. Republicans are famous for saying that lowering taxes helps spur economic growth and it has worked every time it's been tried. For the most part that seems to be true, but oddly every time rapid growth is followed by an inflationary period or an economic bubble in one segment of the economy or another followed by a recession. So just lowering taxes isn't going to ensure prosperity forever, there is definitely a balancing act that needs to be performed.

Democrats use the tax issue as a bludgeon in their endless pursuit of government domination of the economy and society. Class envy and some nebulous sentiment they call "fairness" are their tools. Raising taxes to slow down an over-heated economy is one thing, but to do it out of hatred for capitalism or the "evil" rich is not economics, instead it is some form of vodoo they call social justice (might as well be called cosmic justice for all the logic they employ).

That leads us back to today. Right now we have next to zero inflation, 10-20% unemployment, an economy that is growing barely if at all in the wake of the housing market bubble. Clearly the economy is not a runaway locomotive that needs the brakes applied. Why then would the Adminstration and the Congressional Democrats support ANY increase in taxes. By letting the Bush tax cuts expire it is the equivalent of raising taxes. If low taxes lead to more economic growth (as proved) then raising taxes slows it down - so we ask what does the current regime want?

What it says to me is they either want slow or no economic growth or they don't really understand the role of taxes in our monetary system. The answer is probably both. Honestly I think the Obama/Pelosi regime is internationalist in vision and they are convinced that American global economic dominance is a detriment to eventual (inevitable) global government. In other words the U.S. has to be brought down first before the next steps can be taken. Sounds all so conspiratorial, but why else would they be doing what they are doing?