Archive for February 2012

Pride Goes Before the Fall

Looks like the market is anticipating an Obama victory in a shade over 8 months time. This comes two days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton predicted Obama would win a second term, and three days after the man himself claimed “I’ve got another five years.”

(H)ubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often associated with a lack of humility, though not always with the lack of knowledge. An accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, similar to the occasional pairing of hubris and nemesis in Greek society. The proverb “pride goes before a fall” is thought to summate the modern use of hubris.

Another Day Another Animal Rescue

A Monday morning after a shortened weekend thanks to a makeup day on Saturday for a Snow Day earlier in the week (an inch of snow is enough to cause the school superintendent to wet his pants but not enough to build a few snow days in the schedule, go figure.) The mornings are regimented down to the minute as The Kid and The Wife duke it out over the bathroom with the former needing more time than the latter to get ready, proof that the metrosexuals behind the cosmetics and fashion industry have infected straight youth with the siren song of body washes, sprays and other accoutrements that once were the domain of young women. Meanwhile I’ve thrown on something that doesn’t smell (I think – my sense of smell is shot in the morning thanks to decades of smoking), made coffee, and gotten the dogs outside to pee before a sofa or freestanding lamp morphs into a fire hydrant in their eyes. Time is of the essence as we milk every free second between waking up and the first bell of the morning at school. During that time each second is accounted for, and spent on something necessary to prevent nasty letters from the school system telling me how much of a bad parent I am as well as something warm to stuff into the Kid’s belly courtesy of McDonalds or Bojangles. Seconds lost must be made up on two-lane roads clogged with farmers, rural school buses and old people who believe they are majorettes leading parades of cars on unpassable roads through the winding hills of the Blue Ridge foothills.

Then everything comes to a screeching halt as my 12 year old Honda clatters down the gravel drive at the sight of a dog laying next to the railroad tracks. A border collie cowers fearfully at the side of my drive where railroad tracks cross it. She’s young and very healthy. I roll down the window and my traveling dogs (the “bye bye boys”) go into a barking frenzy, but she doesn’t run. I make baby noises at her, and she wags her tail, so I open the door, scoop her up and rewind the morning tape. Seconds later she’s in the house and the pack is outside baying, but I have to leave her and make up time. Pushing the 4 cylinder engine to its limits with squeals of tires around the curves and a bit of luck with the elderly waiting outside of the rebuilt Dollar General for it to open instead of tormenting people in a hurry on the roads, we pass through the McDonalds drive thru and make it to school with a few precious seconds to spare.

Time slows down as I return home and contemplate the latest arrival at my doorstep.

Bi-color, female, border collie with a dark nylon collar. Thin but not undernourished, of average weight for the breed. I take out a tennis ball and bounce it on the hardwood floor across the room. The sound startles her but her instinct kicks in and she fetches it and returns it to me. Over the next few hours I introduce members of the pack and she shows proper respect to the pack hierarchy except for one of my little male dogs who lunges at her. Testing her it’s clear she understands basic commands and even hand gestures, making her smarter than most of my crew, but then again her breed is known for its intelligence. She is very fixated on me, and sleeps at my feet as I work. It’s possible she comes from a single or double-dog household and isn’t used to large packs, but then again few dogs are. Her fur is clean enough and her nails are clipped. Her belly is flat, so she’s either too young to have bred or has been spayed. She is definitely not a farm dog, and the likelihood of her escaping from a pampered home life in this area is miniscule for the simple reason that there aren’t many homes, pampered or not, in the area. In all likelihood she had been dumped at the nearby bridge like so many other animals that I have rescued in the recent past.

Although my home is restless with animals, I am not what veterinarians euphemistically call a “collector” and what most people call a crazy animal person. My pack, my cat collection, my poultry – all are spayed/neutered (poultry excepted) and receive veterinary care. I make it a point to never search out these animals, and will only intervene if one is in immediate danger or is on my property. Those two criteria are enough to build my pack into the barking, braying crowd that “welcomes” visitors to my property.

Keeping these animals isn’t easy. The chickens and ducks need daily feeding and watering and egg collection. The cat’s litterbox is a 100 gallon plastic tub filled with 120 lbs of clumping cat litter which must be shoveled weekly and replaced monthly using the front loader of my tractor. One of the dogs is an epileptic needing twice daily seizure medication, and one of the little dogs, the “dog of the seven bladders” cannot stop hiking his leg up on everything, requiring constant vigilance and floor cleaning. Another dog is sick with worms and slinks into the basement where she has explosive diarrhea on the concrete floor. I washed the floor on Saturday only to find this morning that she had done it again. Every dog needs personal attention which can be a challenge when five dogs decide it’s now their time with me. Over the years I have had cats throw up on me and scratch me in my sleep. I have had dogs pee on me in bed and throw up half-digested deer meat on my sofa. If it comes out of an animal I have stepped in it in my bare feet or cleaned it up as I dry-heaved.

But I can’t complain. As my late mother-in-law often reminded me, I chose this path. My mother saved one of my first scribblings as a child where I promised that I was going to have a home where all the stray animals could come to live together in peace. Without even realizing it I have achieved that dream – though I doubt peace is possible between the Blue Heeler and the Chow mix, two girls who simply will not get along.

I have strong opinions on animal welfare. Living in the South I am exposed to the religious belief that animals do not have a soul. I in turn believe that many religious people lack souls, jihadi clerics and the Westboro Baptist Church come quickest to mind. I no longer believe that it is morally responsible to breed dogs and cats for profit while shelters are full of unwanted ones. I can no longer watch dog shows that celebrate in-bred pure breeds, and would rather watch a dog show that celebrated the intelligence of mutts. I especially hate PETA, a group that intellectualizes animal rights yet does nothing to rescue animals. Worse it actually kills them, saving as an organization in a year little more than what I as an individual have saved in the same time frame. And no one got naked on my behalf.

Supporting PETA is easy. It’s trendy and it makes you feel good. It’s theatrical and knows how to make news. Pulling an elderly beagle with a belly full of ulcerated tumors off a bridge at night isn’t as glamorous, and the expense of the $700 vet bill that follows to remove them doesn’t feel good. As for making news, abandoning animals doesn’t make any, nor does rescuing and caring for them. Movie stars don’t stop by no-kill shelters to publicize them, and from what I’ve seen they prefer to spend thousands on pure breeds instead of tens on strays from the ASPCA.

If you really care about animals, adopt one from a shelter. If you can’t adopt from a shelter, donate to one. No matter where you live there are animal shelters struggling to educate the public to spay and neuter, and to place animals in forever homes. You may not be famous, but the animals you help will think you are a star.

The Council Has Spoken: Feb 24, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: JoshuapunditHarvard Endorses Israel’s Destruction

Noncouncil: Mark Steyn- Contraception Misdirection

Full voting here.

Mission Accomplished: Rising Gas Prices Are Exactly What Obama Wants

After 3 years spent strangling the American fossil fuels industries, the Obama Administration has exactly what it wants: soaring energy prices. The Wall Street Journal quotes the future Secretary of Energy Steven Chu in a December 12, 2008 interview, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” At the time a gallon of gas sold for $1.61 a gallon. Today the average price is $2 more, a 123% increase. Mission accomplished.

Killing the Keystone XL pipeline was just the latest in a long list of administration efforts to raise the prices of oil, natural gas and coal. Immediately after taking office in 2009 President Obama cancelled 31 oil and gas offshore leases. His administration has cancelled lease sales in Ohio to placate opponents of fracking and a lease sale off the Virginia coast. After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf the administration placed a moratorium on oil and gas exploration, even though the courts ruled it illegal, forcing thousands out of work and losing the Treasury $30 billion in lease royalties. The Obama administration’s draft plan for 2012-2017 bars oil and gas exploration in the majority of the Outer Continental Shelf. As Federal Affairs Manager of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) Chris Pandoni points out, that hasn’t stopped other nations from drilling offshore of the United States. Canada drills off the coast of Maine, Russia off the coast of Alaska, and Cuba, with Chinese help, off the coast of Florida. The administration has also forced Shell to halt operations in Alaska on a project set to produce 1.4 million barrels a day. An article in the Houston Chronicle reports the oil industry’s frustration with the administration. “These have been the most difficult three years from a policy standpoint that I’ve ever seen in my career,” said Bruce Vincent, president of Houston-based oil and natural gas producer Swift Energy. “They’ve done nothing but restrict access and delay permitting.”

“The Obama administration, unfortunately, has threatened this industry at every turn.”

The administration, facing skyrocketing energy prices during an election year, is in complete denial. White House spokesman Jay Carney parrots the line that it takes years to develop these resources, then takes credit for rising domestic production, the result of political decisions by the Bush administration. Much of this production has come from private land, with production on government land collapsing. Even the production of private land is threatened by opponents of fracking who run to the courts claiming that the practice causes earthquakes and pollutes groundwater even though there is no proof that it does either. The administration then talks about the cyclical nature of gas prices, rising in the spring and falling in the autumn. This of course ignores the fact that today’s prices are breaking seasonal records, putting the nation on track to having the most expensive gas prices in history this summer.

The basic problem is that these prices are exactly what this administration wants. As Steven Chu himself has pointed out, rising gas prices force people to drive less. It compels them to buy more fuel efficient cars and to move to cities where public transportation is readily available. By driving less the carbon footprint of Americans shrinks, the glaciers in the Himalayas and polar bears in the Arctic are saved, and the political power of democratic machines in large cities like Chicago, New York (Bloomberg is technically not a Democrat but he governs like one), Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC is enhanced.

Of course the problem is that the glaciers in the Himalayas are not disappearing, the polar bears aren’t drowning in the Arctic, and none of America’s largest cities are undergoing an influx of suburbanites prepared to give up their 3,000 sq. ft homes in safe neighborhoods for 1,200 sq. ft. townhouses in de facto urban war zones. What is happening is that the Obama administration is forcing Americans to continue indebting ourselves to regimes like Hugo Chavez’s in Venezuela and the sheiks in the Middle East instead of becoming self reliant using domestic sources and guaranteed imports from Canada, one of our most trusted and steadfast allies. But this also has a silver lining because high prices make alternative energy competitive, allowing the administration to justify investments in green companies with ties to the administration like Solyndra.

Which brings me to another point. For eight years liberals railed about Dick Cheney and his ties to Halleburton, as well as the close ties between other members of the administration to the defense and energy industries. Yet illegality was never proven. Fast forward to this administration which is shoveling out stimulus funds and grants to supporters in “green industries” like Solyndra. Not a peep from liberals even though the allegations of corruption are much more serious and come backed by evidence. Meanwhile Al Gore has seen his wealth skyrocket from $2 million in 2001 to over $100 million today thanks to his investments in green energy companies, many backed with taxpayer funds, as well as in carbon trading schemes. As a believer in the adage that “money corrupts” I am suspicious of anyone who is well-connected benefiting from taxpayer largess regardless of their party affiliation. Yet Gore and other prominent Democrats reap windfall after windfall from the Obama administration’s policies and anyone who raises the topic is attacked for being a crazy right winger.

Liberals aren’t immune to corruption. It is a human foible not a Republican one. Thanks to a cooperative mainstream media little is made publicly of the benefits Gore and those like him reap from higher gas prices and an administration that is raiding the treasury to hand out money to companies using the word “sustainable” in their prospectus and with well-heeled liberals on their boards. Could Al Gore or billionaire Solyndra investor George Kaiser tell you within a quarter what a gallon cost at his neighborhood filling station? Ask any American and he or she could probably quote you the prices down to the penny (unless they’ve gone up a dime in 2 minutes).

And from the Obama administration’s view, this is how it should be. It is merely rewarding its friends just like the Bush Administration did, even though the facts don’t bear that out. Men like Gore, Kaiser, and billionaire LightSquared investor Philip Falcone are creating green jobs, even though those jobs are for the most part in China. America is becoming a more “normal” country, with “normal” meaning in-line with Europe in terms of dependency on a central government and energy prices. The only problem is timing: the price of gasoline won’t peak until July which is uncomfortably close to the November election. Still, with a GOP party in disarray, the deep pockets of George Soros, Warren Buffet, Falcone and Kaiser financing the re-election campaign, and a friendly media protecting it the administration should be able to ride out the energy prices and win in November. Once that happens, nothing will stand in the way from completing the makeover of the United States into France or Greece (Germany is out of the question because Germans don’t run astronomical deficits.)

Then it will be Mission Accomplished.

Obama's War on Oil

The Limits of Labels

I’m going to take a break from writing about the nervous breakdown of the GOP to mention something that caught my eye the other day. Like most of the planet I belong to Facebook, and like most conservatives the majority of my Facebook friends are not. One, who happens to be a real friend going back nearly (gasp) 30 years, shared a picture (see below.)

LGBTQ from Facebook

I grew up with gays. I’ve been friends with some gays for decades now. Gays simply don’t freak me out the way they do some conservatives. But I’m beginning to realize that I have been using the label “conservative” to define myself on and off over the past 10 years when in fact I am not a 100% conservative. At least, I’m not a social conservative. Small government, less regulation, balanced budgets, controlled immigration, strong defense – I agree with the rest of the conservative agenda but when it comes to social issues like gay rights I can’t figure out why conservatives want Big Government out of people’s lives everywhere EXCEPT the bedroom. It’s the opposite problem I have with liberals. They’ll take away your parental rights and feed your kid what they think is right when she’s four, but when she’s thirteen she can run off, get pregnant and have an abortion without your consent – let alone your knowledge.

Perhaps the label “libertarian” suits me better, because I’m liberal on some social issues and conservative on most financial issues. The problem with it is that contemporary libertarianism has a strong streak of isolationism built into it (my bad, “non-interventionism” being the favored label applied by the libertarian kool-aid drinkers), and isolationism simply won’t cut it in a world where it doesn’t take 3 months to cross the ocean to come here. Whatever I’m called I have no issue with gays and gay marriage as demonized by social conservatives. In fact I’d like to peel away a large chunk of the “gay vote” from Democrats because I think there is enough political diversity within the gay community for some gays to join a Right wing that is not afraid they will turn our sons into sassy hairdressers and our daughters into truck drivers. As Ron Paul said in one of his more lucid moments, social conservatism is ultimately a losing position for the GOP, and the sooner we realize it the better.

That said, the LGBT label made me realize something: it’s ridiculous. LGBT is “jargon,” a word that only makes sense to a particular group of people often used to help separate it from the larger group. Now granted, the original image targeted a particular in group of people, those connected to the LGBT movement in some way, but its message is actually intended for a wider audience, anyone sympathetic to the cause, not just those already familiar with it, in which case the acronym should not be used because those outside won’t understand it. Plus there’s too much duplicate info in that acronym.

Let’s break the acronym down. First, the “L”: Is it possible to be a lesbian and not be gay? If not why are gay women counted twice in both the “L” and “G”? Because gay women are twice as gay as gay men? “G”ay. Makes sense. All encompassing. Binary: you either are or you aren’t. I know that some elderly people miss the original meaning of the word, but language is living and it’s pointless to fight linguistic change. “B”isexuals. Well those guys are different enough to warrant their own letter, I suppose. “T”ransgender. Things are complicated enough with these folks to warrant their own letter too. Transgender can include transvestites, but technically transvestites can be lesbian, gay, bisexual or even straight. They may even have no interest in the “trans” part of “transgender” and might be happy with the plumbing as-is.

The acronym LGBT has been around for a few years, and I’ve even used it with others, but it’s terrible and getting worse. Now Q? For Queer? How is that not covered in LGBT? Are people being paid by the letter to coin acronyms? I realize I’m getting cranky in my old age but it seems like every time I turn around the acronym describing people who are not exclusively heterosexual gets longer and longer, as if some new group has just been discovered in some dark closet in Scranton. “Great! New guys! Let’s add them to the acronym. Bigger acronyms make us more politically powerful.”

No they don’t. LGBTQ points out an interesting dilemma faced by those comfortable with such acronyms. They are attempting to define a group by naming all its elements almost like a molecular compound, as if quantifying each element better defines the whole. In the process they atomize people based on their sexuality, naming new ill-defined groups and adding them to the list. The reason is to further differentiate the group represented by the acronym to the larger, heterosexual group they are opposing.

But people aren’t atoms and the more they are divided the weaker the movement as a whole becomes. Lesbians have played an active role in the fight against AIDS even though they as a group were one of the least affected by it. But many gay men and women have looked down on bisexuals as a group for supporting the claim that homosexuality is a choice. The needs of transgendered vary to the point where it is difficult (for me at least) to determine how their needs differ from the other groups, other than the demand that costly sex change surgery be paid for by insurance companies (in the US) or by taxpayers (in some European countries). Beyond having an exclusively non-heterosexual sexuality, what binds these people together?

Perhaps it’s just as well that the supposed movement labeling itself as LGBT and now Q dissolves into alphabet soup. Basing a political movement on human sexuality has its limits because people are multidimensional and define themselves in different ways. For example I am male, middle-aged, straight, married, a parent, college educated, agnostic, of ethnic Bohemian and Irish heritage, middle class, own land, drive Japanese cars, own guns, am well-read and well-traveled. Some of those labels define me better than others, but some do not define me at all. I may be male but it doesn’t mean I value women less. I am married yet I believe the State should get out of the marriage business and leave it up to religions. I am agnostic yet I am strong supporter of Israel, Buddhist Tibet and Burma, and respectful of other religions that respect my beliefs. More importantly these and the other labels that define me change in importance in my daily life, and in some cases flip completely to their opposites (switching parties from Democrat to Republican in 2001 for example.)

One could argue that for LGBT members their sexual identity defines them more than race, social status or profession. This may have been true for many in the 1960s and 1970s and for some today, but as society address the more blatant acts of discrimination against them sexual identity-based politics inevitably fade. When this happens other, more practical issues come to the fore such as lower taxes, better schools, a vibrant economy. In this sense the label LGBT becomes a transitory label as bisexuals support policies that lower their taxes or lesbians vote for candidates that promise more efficient taxation and government services. Politicians and ideologies that benefited in the past from the unqualified support of gays find themselves trying to come up with the next big “Stonewall Moment” to galvanize the community into moving in one particular direction instead of pursuing issues and agendas that compete with one another.

As someone who doesn’t belong to the LGTB community yet sympathizes with it, it is not for me to say that it’s time for it to move on, especially when the political party I am a card carrying member of panders to its base many of whom believe that these people are damned to hell, will corrupt the morals of their children or can be cured by prayer. But the LGBT and now Q label is clearly reaching the end of its lifespan. As University of Tennessee professor Glenn Reynolds has said many times, his dream of the Republican Party’s future includes happily married gays with closets full of assault rifles. As a supporter of the party and someone with guns in my closet, it’s a vision I hope to see come to fruition sometime soon for the health of my chosen political party, but also for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and even queers to be able to share in the freedom and personal liberty it embodies.

St. Louis Sept 29, 1984 Copyright 1984 Scott Kirwin
Reagan-Bush Protesters Sept 29, 1984 – St. Louis Missouri
Everyone with everything unite!

The Council Has Spoken: Feb 17, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Rhymes With RightShould The Catholic Church Go Medieval Over ObamaCare Regulations?

Noncouncil: Victor Davis Hanson-Iran 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0

Full voting here.

Does Romney 2012 = McCain 2008?

Like many Republicans I’m concerned selecting Romney as our standard-bearer guarantees a repeat of McCain’s defeat in 2008. Today the “accepted wisdom” by supporters of Gingrich and Santorum is that McCain was too moderate, and that by selecting another moderate as the 2012 Republican nominee we are doomed to lose in November. In order to better evaluate where Romney stands today it’s necessary to consider McCain’s mistakes during the last election cycle from the November 2008 perspective. Thankfully on election night 2008 Jennifer Rubin posted The Top Thirty Errors That Doomed McCain. I’ve reviewed these and divided them up into the following error types: Attack, Domestic Policy, Internal Campaign, Personal, Media Handling and Sarah Palin.

Rubin points out several reasons for McCain’s defeat  related to Sarah Palin. Rubin recognizes that McCain’s campaign team blew Palin’s rollout, and worse, immediately began trashing her in private. Unfortunately for McCain – and a Sarah Palin thrust into the public eye for the first time – things didn’t stop there. The disparaging remarks about Palin began leaking to the press and became public. Instead of recognizing Palin’s innate charisma with average American voters including independents and rolling her out whenever and wherever possible, McCain’s campaign team hid her and treated her as badly as the liberal mainstream media that lampooned her mercilessly as ignorant, “I can see Russia from my backyard,” and a wild-eyed soccer mom drenched in moose blood. Any decent campaign team would have been able to short circuit this treatment with the truth. For instance, Palin actually said about Russia, “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska,” which anyone who’s ever looked at a globe or even watched an Alaskan themed show on the Discovery Channel would know is true. As for Palin’s hunting acumen, where I live dead deer carcasses are common in the backs of pickup trucks during hunting season, and anyone who’s ever eaten Bambi knows that deer meat is delicious and one of the healthier meats available. Perhaps maybe that’s why Sarah Palin is even more popular today in these parts than her former running mate ever was.

The handling of Sarah Palin points out other mistakes by McCain and his campaign staff. McCain should have shown some integrity by personally canning the staff responsible  for its handling of Palin. In fact McCain should have exhibited much greater hands-on control with his staff throughout his campaign, preventing other errors Rubin points out such as his failure to better control his team, preventing arguments and in-fighting from going public and exhibiting a campaign in apparent disarray. If he had a better campaign team, McCain wouldn’t have wasted time and resources in Iowa instead of putting those into Virginia, a state with more electoral votes at stake.

Of the 30 errors Rubin describes, these mistakes account for just under a quarter. We’ll throw in “Waiting until the final Saturday Night Live before the election to show self-deprecating humor,” to push it over that mark. We could also add McCain’s failure to find a credible economics adviser at a time when economics was the key issue of the election, made worse by McCain’s response to the financial meltdown where he called off the debates in order to show he was serious about handling the crisis, and his failure to come up with a credible economic plan in the final weeks of the campaign. So over a third of his mistakes are related to the internal machinations of McCain’s staff and the apparent bumbling of an old man out of his depth, resorting to public theater to appear relevant.

Will Romney react similarly? First off Economics happens to be Romney’s strength. McCain seemed uncomfortable with economics, much preferring interest in foreign policy. That’s not surprising since foreign policy is one of the few powers reserved for the executive branch. For a former Cold Warrior and POW like McCain economics must seem pointless. After all, a good conservative would know that sometimes the best  economic action is to do nothing, not that McCain was a good conservative (Rubin’s Reason # 28 “Too much hostility toward conservatives offering smart strategy and policy ideas.”) Romney’s business acumen directly translates to economic matters. Secondly there will be no Sarah Palin repeat this round, unless Sarah Palin appears at the convention and accepts the nomination with Romney as her VP (if so, remember folks you read it here first!) Romney will most likely choose a known quantity, a conservative with credentials that could help seal the deal with his base. Ron Paul would be a solid choice, or to allow me to breathe for the next 4 years Rick Santorum, Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal or Tim Pawlenty. The best VP might be another Rick, Rick Perry from Texas. There’s already precedent for a moderate candidate from Massachusetts selecting a conservative from Texas to be his running mate after all. McCain tried to seal the deal with conservatives with Palin, but only a few conservatives knew about her and the MSM was so shocked, and the McCain response to the Palin attacks so lukewarm, that the Media was able to use McCain’s VP choice as a cudgel to beat his campaign into the ground with.

For being as wise and experienced as McCain is, he also had Media problems as the Palin episode proved. McCain whined about the Media and he didn’t control it the way Gingrich does. Established GOP figures like Gingrich understand that belly-aching about media bias does not make headlines or win votes, but smacking them around sure does. In fact the minute Romney’s camp feels mistreated by the MSM it should take out their frustrations by having Romney chew the head off the first reporter that gets in his way just as Gingrich did to CNN’s John King. Romney’s team must understand that John King and the media loved Gingrich’s response at the January 19th, 2012 debate almost as much as Gingrich’s audience did. At the same time it could learn from Gingrich’s treatment of the media behind the scenes. No one schmoozes the MSM more than Gingrich. He has treated the press well and never blocked their access to him, whereas McCain’s team cut off access the traveling press’s access to McCain and declared war on the MSM without understanding that such actions are like beating the tide back with a broom. Yes the media is liberal, and it holds conservative candidates to a higher standard, but that hasn’t stopped conservatives like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush from reaching the Oval Office.  There are ways to handle the liberal press that allows the conservative message to get out, but it’s not easy and it shouldn’t be left to amateurs as it was in 2008.

Finally, the key to McCain’s failure according to Rubin’s reasons is what I would describe simply as McCain’s failure to go on the offensive and attack Obama and the Democrats at every opportunity. Four years on I am left with the impression that McCain tried to fight a boxing match according to the Marquess of Queensberry Rules but instead the Democrats mugged him before he even got inside the ring. I’ve identified 13 of Rubin’s 30 reasons as resulting directly or indirectly from McCain’s failure to attack Obama and the Democrats. As Rubin points out the McCain team failed miserably at “oppo” research. They failed to attack Biden for his earmarks and lobbying on behalf of the banking industry, the most powerful industry in Biden’s home state of Delaware. They managed only lukewarm attacks on Obama for his cozy ties to Chicago’s Daly Machine and Big Labor, and failed to make an issue of his ties to the racist Rev. Wright, terrorist Bill Ayers, and indicted financier Tony Rezko. McCain failed to explain the Democrat’s role in the financial meltdown including ties to Countrywide’s CEO Angelo Mozilo, proven by the lucrative deals handed to “the friends of Angelo” like Chris Dodd, Nancy Pelosi’s son Paul Pelosi jr, Barbara Boxer, James Clyburn and Donna Shalala. McCain could have created a steady drumbeat of scandal that became a rhythm throughout his campaign, tainting the Democrats and particularly their standard-bearer then Senator Obama, but instead McCain wasted his time talking about bipartisanship, allowing the Democrats to dodge their role in the economic meltdown and blame the crisis on the GOP. I’m not sure why McCain chose this path on these issues. Perhaps it’s because he has never had to fight for his political life as a senator in Arizona, or the shellacking he received by the Bush team in the South Carolina primary in 2000 left him feeling that a scorched-earth attack policy wouldn’t sit well with his conscience. Regardless McCain had the opportunity to not only paint Obama as a tool of corrupt interests but the entire leadership of the Democratic Party. Had he successfully done so he could not only have won the election but employed long “coat-tails,” taking back the Senate and maybe even the House for the GOP.

It is too soon to determine whether Romney has held back attacking the President and the Democrats. Unfortunately the Democrats have already inoculated themselves and their president from the charges that could have damaged them in 2008 but won’t today. Romney has focused Obama during most of the debates, but his team has been mostly busy in putting out the fires caused by the insurgencies of the “not Romney” candidacies of Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich and Santorum. Although I have argued that a brutal vetting of our candidates will create a more effective one to go against Obama and his allies, I’m beginning to have my doubts, although it’s good to remember that by this time four years ago Hillary was still the one to beat for the Democratic nomination. Still I’m getting to the point where I believe the GOP is facing diminishing returns by distracting Romney, forcing him to pour his resources into fighting first Gingrich then Santorum instead of developing a consistent attack strategy against Obama.

Rubin’s article is just one opinion of why McCain lost, but it goes a long way to rebutting the claim that McCain was somehow too moderate or “Obama-lite” to win that floats around conservative circles these days. The problem wasn’t McCain’s ideology or the lack of fervor he inspired among conservatives, it was the fact that his inept campaign failed to punch back twice as hard. The battle for the presidency isn’t just a euphemism. It is a physical fight, one the Democrats understand instinctively how to win and the GOP recoils from. If there is any lesson to be learned from 2008 it’s that the GOP must develop a stomach for the fight and a willingness to take it to their opponents. Romney’s scorched earth tactics against Gingrich in South Carolina prove that he has both. The only questions are will the GOP nominate him, and once nominated, will Romney do what it takes to win?

The Council Has Spoken: Feb 10, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: JoshuapunditGlorifying Evil

Noncouncil: Armed Forces Journal- Truth, lies and Afghanistan

Full voting here.

Automate This – The Nature of Work in the 21st Century

Imagine standing on a cold factory floor. A long, seemingly endless line of dead chickens move in front of you and with a few deft slices of a large butcher knife you do your job. Eight hours a day. Five days a week. Not for just years but for decades. Standing in place in the cold, moving your arms in the same way day-in, day-out. After decades of this you end up in the doctor’s office with all types of repetitive motion stresses and injuries. Your joints are prematurely arthritic and raising your arms in front of you is becoming increasingly painful by the day. But you do what you must do for you and your family depending on you.

Or how about working on the factory floor of a textile mill changing bobbins. After decades of this your hands are gnarled and it’s almost impossible for you to open them in order to grasp the used bobbins and replace them with new ones. Your doctor orders your employer to give you two weeks of other duties while the joints in your hands and arms rest, but your boss decides that’s too much trouble. He fires you instead. It is unlikely at your age that you will ever work again, even if you weren’t disabled from the repetitive motions of every working minute of every working day for your adult life.

These jobs sound like hell to me, yet in both cases the actual workers who did them preferred doing their jobs than not. They were grateful for the paychecks, and the brighter futures they brought their families even at great cost to themselves. It would be nice if I could add that their children appreciated their sacrifice, got good educations and did well in life, but there is no way to know if that happened. In this economically depressed area of the South it is quite unlikely.

As the talk of jobs heats up during this election year, it’s important to remember that not all jobs are created equal. There are some, like chicken tender scorer and bobbin replacer, that demand to be not just outsourced to a foreign country but automated out of existence. No human regardless of his or her nationality should have to suffer the drudgery that these people endured over their careers. In a few decades these jobs might be automated out of existence but I wouldn’t count on it. It will take a lot of chicken tenders to justify the return on investment of a robot. Textiles have been automating for hundreds of years yet there are many jobs that have resisted including bobbin replacer. People have been doing that by hand since the dawn of the industry.

Then there is the issue of what comes afterward. What replaces these jobs? Watching the bubble continue to inflate in higher education, the solution isn’t college. All college does is shift the bar for getting a job higher. There are jobs being done today that require bachelors degrees that a generation ago made do with high school diplomas. As people continue to flood into higher education, it is only a matter of time before masters degrees and doctorates become prerequisites for jobs currently needing only a four year degree.

The trades would be a likely destination, but the problem there is immigration. As long as we have a porous border we will attract foreigners willing to work for much less than American citizens. It’s a shame because historically the trades guaranteed a decent middle class income for the majority of young people, while only the best and brightest went on to college. Salaries for experienced plumbers and electricians are still good, better than most white collar jobs requiring college degrees even, but immigrants are out-competing native Americans for the entry level positions in these fields. Eventually the number of semi-skilled and skilled immigrants will outpace the demand for jobs in the trades and salaries will fall.

Some might look at this as an opportunity to end the tyranny of work. Let those who have well-paying jobs pay for those who for whatever reason lack the opportunity of those jobs. Why should people work as chicken tender scorers when they can sit at home and receive money from the government? Perhaps we shouldn’t speak of jobs but of “meaningful work,” and those who don’t have it can quit and live financed by those who do perform a skill qualifying as “meaningful work.” Chicken tender scorers and bobbing replacers can live out their lives without suffering the pain of these jobs, while those who have jobs like teachers, doctors and lawyers pay a few dollars more each paycheck in taxes. This would not be as radical as it might appear at first glance. Low skill jobs tend to pay very little to begin with, and society already bears social costs such as poor parenting caused by the shift-work nature of these jobs, plus the cost of medical care borne by medicaid and later medicare since these jobs rarely offer private insurance. In the long-run it might be more cost-effective to pay these people to stay home, and their employers to replace them with robots.

Of course this raises the question: Do humans need to work? Perhaps a better question would be, in order to participate in society, do human beings need to contribute to it through paid work? These questions will become important as we move forward as a society into a post post-industrial world. Over the past 200 years we have gone from an agrarian-based economy, to one that was based on industry, followed by one based on services. Manufacturing is a former shadow of its self, and many services will either be offshored or automated within the coming decades. What happens then?

We accept as a given that able-bodied adults must work. It is an unwritten compact we have with society. Society flourishes as its individual members perform tasks that create and expand the society in which they occur. It levies taxes on that work to provide for shared services that benefit all. What happens when that agreement becomes dated through technological progress?

It is possible that, as Dan Pink wrote in his book Free Agent Nation, the post post-industrial society will resemble the motion picture industry on a grand scale. Jobs will be atomized, with individuals working as independent contractors together with others on large projects, then dispersing after the project is complete. This model resembles the way thousands of stylists, key grips, special effects producers and others in the film industry unite for a motion picture then scatter after it is finished, joining other projects with a completely different mix of workers and talent. This process is under way in information technology, where long-term contractors work on 6-18 month contracts at a company before moving on to their next position. The downside of this mode of work, however, is that Society is not ready for this change. Laws, retirement, and health plans are predicated on the old model of lifetime employment with a single employer, not job switching every few months or years. Moving an IRA isn’t easy, nor is maintaining continuity of health insurance. While it would be possible to better accommodate these types of workers, say by ending the tax deduction for employee health plans thereby de-linking jobs and health insurance, neither the federal nor state governments have shown the capacity yet to address these changes.

It is also possible that freed from the tyranny of “meaningless jobs” the former bobbin replacers and chicken tender scorers would work as volunteers in their community, contributing in a more positive way to society than performing their old jobs. But if we allowed these people to quit their jobs and accept welfare, how would we keep them off their couches? Doing so would require an unhealthy expansion of government into the individual’s life to guarantee that these folks did something productive with their time that would benefit the society that is paying to feed, clothe and house them. With more government comes less freedom – the classic tradeoff.

We are in the midst of a revolution, and like nearly all such dramatic changes throughout history, it’s nature will only become apparent in retrospect. But for some like the chicken tender scorer and the now unemployed (and unemployable) bobbin replace, the future cannot come soon enough.

UPDATE: Walter Russell Mead has a series on what he terms the “post Blue-model America.” This fourth installment in his series paints a bright vision of what an atomized, service-oriented workforce might look like.

Watermelon Environmentalists – Green on the Outside Red on the Inside

James Delingpole lays out the case against anthropogenic global warming hysteria and other environmentalist dogma’s in his book, “Watermelons: How Environmentalists Are Killing The Planet, Destroying The Economy And Stealing Your Children’s Future.” He writes about his experience in this article in The Daily Mail.

“As someone who loves long walks in unspoilt countryside and who wants a brighter future for his children, I’m sickened by the way environmental activists tar anyone who disagrees with them as a selfish, polluting, anti-science ‘denier’.

The real deniers are those ideological greens who refuse to look at hard evidence (not just pie-in-the-sky computer models which are no more accurate than the suspect data fed into them) and won’t accept that their well-intentioned schemes to make our world a better place are in fact making it uglier, poorer and less free.”

Rachel Carson and her ilk have blood on their hands. Millions of Africans and south Asians died because of their fear-mongering in the West. It’s a dirty secret that isn’t discussed by the mainstream environmental movement. In fact it’s a shame but it seems those who care about the environment aren’t associated with environmental groups anymore because even the Sierra Club and other so-called moderate organizations have been hijacked by zealots.

Flights of Fancy – A Moon Mine

Imagine a private spacecraft launched from near the equator. It’s mission? To visit the moon, land on it, gather a kilogram of moon rocks and dust, then send that payload back to earth where it eventually reenters the atmosphere and is captured. Why do it? Why does anyone do anything these days: to make money. In 2003 NASA estimated 285 grams of moon rocks as being worth $1 million. That’s roughly $3,500 a gram. Would it be possible to make it to the moon and back with a kilo of the stuff for less than it’s value of $3.5 million? If not, how much of the lunar soil would make it worthwhile? Who knows, after the success of Discovery Channel shows like Gold Rush maybe they’d make a show out of it.

The mission could be broken down into the following stages: launch, travel to the moon, orbiting the moon, descent to the moon, landing on the moon, soil acquisition and storage, lift-off from the moon, return journey to Earth, atmospheric reentry, final collection. 10 stages – a nice round number.

1. Launch – Piggy back on an existing launch of a larger satellite, assuming that the entire vehicle could ride as a microsatellite weighing less than 100 kg. I assume this would be the bulk of the investment outlay.
2. Travel to moon – Disposable stage to send payload on its way to moon. Propellent could be conserved to lower launch weight in exchange for lengthening the mission. Six months there/six months return seems reasonable. But how to track the rocket both to and from the moon without a world-wide network of receivers?
3. Lunar orbit – It would be nice to skip this stage completely.
4. Descent – Since the moon has little atmosphere to speak of, parachutes could not be deployed. Therefore it seems the mission would have to rely upon rockets at some point to slow descent. That adds weight to the launch.
5. Lunar landing – Since humans aren’t on board a feather-like landing isn’t necessary. A controlled crash landing at some survivable speed would be preferred.
6. Soil acquisition and storage – It would be nice to combine soil acquisition somehow with the landing – say by having the craft land on an open ice cream scoop with a door that snaps shut once the craft has embedded in the soil. Alsoa sensor that confirms the payload isn’t empty would be critical. The last thing we would want to do is send back an empty craft.
7. Lunar ascent – Escape velocity of the moon is 2,400m/s. It’s significantly less than the earth’s of 11,200m/s but even that speed would be a challenge. Since my physics skills are laughable I can’t calculate what it would take to lift a 100kg craft off the the moon’s surface. I expect it’s more than I think.
8. Return to Earth – Anything that made it this far would probably generate world-wide headlines.
9. Atmospheric reentry – The heat shield would most likely have to survive the crash-landing on the moon. If the heat shield was opposite the soil collector (e.g. on “top” of the craft) the craft would have to orient itself to the proper trajectory to avoid becoming an expensive flaming shooting star across the sky.
10. Cargo collection – Would there be enough precision to insure the payload is returned to earth where it can be easily retrieved – such as the American desert southwest?

Which if any of these stages could be combined? For example, would the ship have to go into orbit around the moon before it dropped down to the surface or could we plot a course that would essentially crash it onto the moon’s surface? The Apollo mission relied upon two docking maneuvers. Would it be possible to simplify the mission to avoid these complex actions? That would entail sending the heat shield used for reentry into earth’s atmosphere on the last leg of the journey to the moon’s surface and back.

So you launch your spacecraft to the moon and a year or so later you pick up a parachute package containing 2.2 lbs of moon rocks and dust outside of Albuquerque. The next thing would be to parcel the dust into 100mg vials and sell them on eBay for $600 a pop. Larger specimens would go for less, of course. How soon would it take for the feds to arrive at your door arresting you for violating some international space treaty or federal law that wasn’t written with this mission in mind but that some governmental bureaucrat wants to throw at you? So on top of eBay and Paypal fees, be sure to add high power federal attorneys. Oh, and those profits? Rest assured that Obama and crew demonize you as being part of the 1% with enough balls to do something that no one has ever thought of.

 

The Council Has Spoken: Feb 3, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Joshuapundit The New Egypt – Bankrupt And Sinking Fast

Noncouncil: Alisineh.Org- What Is My Identity?

Full voting here.