Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wednesday Thoughts

Paul Ryan made some pretty good criticisms of Obama's speech today. But Ryan's plan has one of the same flaws as Obama's. They both rely on savings from 10 years in the future. Get the red pen out and start crossing off departments now.


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Carlos Delgado retired from baseball. David Schoenfield from ESPN has some thoughts on the player. I was surprised that he only made 2 All Star teams and had 1500 career RBI. I did remember this one:
8. His stance against the war in Iraq. Not an easy decision, but I applauded his courage to take a political stand with thought and conviction.

Wouldn't the thoughtful decision have been to play in the Mexican League instead?

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Trish and I are on the fourth and final season of THE TUDORS. Although the whole series is just 38 episodes it has a nasty habit of feeling repetitive. New seasons begin with characters written out with no explanation and sudden rivalries that have no motivation other than dramatic necessity. The show seems most influenced by THE SOPRANOS. King Henry is a bit of a sociopath like Tony Soprano without the charm. Although corrupt as the devil, Cardinal Woolsey played by Sam Neill was very sympathetic. Jeremy Northam's Thomas More began as such, but descended into burning people which I generally lose patience for. I think I like the Cromwell character the best, but the chopping block caught up with him too. The show is really a platform to show beautiful women in various states of undress.

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Today's big debate on Facebook was this story about a mother painting her boys's nails pink for the J Crew catalog. The surprising part of the debate is that it was posted by a friend who hates arguing politics. There was an argument that since it's okay for little girls to be tomboys, little boys can be raised as sissies. I tend to think that some women want to raise their sons as the daughters they never had.

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Let me say again that I want to stop hearing people say we need to work together to solve the problems in this country. Working together caused the problems. When you try to visualize how much hard currency $ 3 trillion is, you soon realize you can't get to that number without everyone scratching someone else's back.

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During biking this week Sir Saunders was telling me about the state of Florida bill that will end union dues being automatically deducted from worker's paychecks. Workers would have to write an actual check to the union to be a member. There will also be restrictions on allowing unions to use money for political purposes. The comments from Democrats are illuminating. A favorite of mine:
Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation: “Think about what is the true purpose of this legislation…It’s about silencing the unions. And silencing the middle class. The middle class and citizens across this great state…When did individuals who want to participate in the process, middle-class citizens who want to participate in the process, when did they become public enemy number one.? They are not.”

What I like about this quote is how unintentionally patronizing it is. The unstated premise is that the middle class's voice will go silent unless money is deducted automatically from their checks and unions be allowed to spend that money on political positions that employees don't necessarily agree with.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

TALK RADIO

The beauty of Sirius is that you always have something new to choose from. This week I listened to Leftwing Talk during the commute on Thursday and Friday. Both the morning host and the evening host were giddy over Glenn Beck leaving Fox News. Although he'll still be there for 9 more months and the breakup seemed about as consensual as they come, the afternoon host was framing it as a firing. He cited that Beck has lost more than a million viewers since last year. He didn't spend much time telling the listener that Beck's ratings in the wasteland 5pm time slot beat the MSNBC prime time ratings. Being a new to the channel I don't know if it's common, but on this particular afternoon the callers were predominantly conservatives calling to argue with the host.

Beck use to do this schtick on Mondays during football season where he would call a convenience story in each of the towns participating in Monday Night Football and ask them trivia questions as a sort of mini contest. It was Howard Stern inspired and funny if a little mean-spirited in some cases. Along the way, Beck has begun to see himself as a leader of a movement. The real story of Beck's leaving is that Fox doesn't think Beck's transformation from jokester to prophet of doom works with their brand and they are willing to lose the lucrative ratings bonanza at 5pm. That's not a story you want to tell when you see no difference between Beck and the Fox News division.

A more recent veiled criticism of Fox News and popular talk radio has been that people are finding news and opinion sources they agree with and burrowing in. The theory goes that it's causing more division in our society because people aren't hearing anything but their prejudices. So life was better when people were only hearing Walter Cronkite's prejudices?

I have listened to a lot of different right wing hosts and they aren't all built the same. Here are my rankings.
1) Rush - nobody gets to the heart of an issue more quickly
2) Dennis Miller - He's such a funny cool cat that his take is always his own
3) Mark Levin - He gets too animated at times, but he's probably the smartest conservative on the radio.
4) Laura Ingraham - Tougher and more determined than most male hosts. I enjoy the factor more when she subs for O'Reilly.
5) Neal Boortz - The best take on taxes although I think his Fair Tax proposal is a pipe dream in our political culture.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

WHY BLOG?

The Junto Boys were all introduced to Facebook in early 2009 and it was the slow death of the blog as E had predicted. Facebook offers a bigger audience and the ability to connect and debate with old friends and friends of friends. It's especially great for long threads of comments, but it's a very difficult place to write thoughtful pieces or whimsical meanderings. Lately I've wanted to write my thoughts on the passing scene and this is the place to do that. I hope this just isn't a fad of the moment. My goal is to post 100 pieces before the end of the year.

In my time off from blogging I have found that others have stopped too. I was sorry to see Mike Austin quit in late 2009. He constructs a great sentence and is unapologetic in his views much like Sir Saunders.

Decision points by George W. Bush (A Book Review)

President Bush spares us the long, over-analyzed narcissistic view of his life and focuses on the big decisions of his presidency and how his view of the world and the facts as he knew them guided him in his decision making. That approach is a great one. The decisions themselves are a mixed bag depending on how much faith you have in government solutions. I tend to think his reflection was most insightful dealing with war and terrorism where he faced a different kind of enemy and new decisions daily. His domestic policy decisions are more frustrating because President Bush is of the FDR influence that government failure is a result of faulty approach rather than systematic problems.

On the positive side Bush does a great job of laying out the decisions behind going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. To his credit he voices the concerns of his critics, explains his thought process, and is honest about the world leaders and the internal politics they faced. That part of the book will be debated for years as the history of the war comes into focus and this history will be a part of the discussion.

On the disappointing side, the former President spends no time explaining to us what the government should stop doing. There is no real defense of spending restraint or the idea that something isn’t the government’s job. The expenditures for No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription drug program are good because the reforms made government work better. What about spending priorities? Silence. Nothing seems to be so important that something else should be discarded. The assumption is that spending tomorrow’s money is fine because it has always worked in the past.

President Bush also makes the politician’s error that a legislative victory is a policy victory. In his justification for Immigration reform he explains that his plan wasn’t amnesty because there was a list of safeguards and milestones that had to be met for citizenship while forgetting that all of those barriers would have been removed after the 2008 election of Barak Obama. How could he not see that especially after admitting the Democrats eventually gutted the important provisions of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit? He doesn’t want to see it.

Bush’s compassionate conservatism comes to life in the Hurricane Katrina section of the book. He takes great pains to lay out the separation of powers and how Governor Blanco refused to let the Federal Government takeover the situation on the ground. Yet he regrets not ignoring the constitution and invading Louisiana to save those people. It’s obvious the media sting still hurts him, although I see it as a missed opportunity where he could have explained how the government that insists on doing everything cannot be as effective doing those things only it can do. Individuals have to prioritize their lives whereas politicians have convinced us that the government doesn’t need priorities. They can do everything better than us and all at once.

My criticism here is of Bush’s worldview on spending and government, not on his fairly even-handed account of his years in the White House. I had no expectation that Bush’s memoir would reveal all that much, but I came away with a respect for his approach at writing and what I think was an honest attempt to give his war critics their due. Although Bush was a divisive leader I would guess that some future Republican trying to roll back government will be compared unfavorably to Bush and his compassionate conservatism.

WHY IS TRUMP PRESSING THE CITIZEN ISSUE?

If you have never read Jay Cost then you are in for a treat. He is the second coming of Michael Barone when it comes to electoral politics. While Barone may understand the electoral map more than any person in the media, Cost is brilliant at electoral demographics. His latest article about Trump and how his popularity mirrors that of Ross Perot is quite interesting. One important point that Cost only implies is that while Perot had to run as a independent, Trump can be as independent but run as a Republican giving him a legitimate chance that Perot never had.

Surprisingly, Cost doesn't really delve into why Trump is pushing the citizenship question. While I personally consider the birth certificate question meaningless because no one questions that his mother is a citizen, Trump is clever in that he is reaching a portion of the electorate that has been written off by the media and all other mainstream Republican candidates. That Trump is ready to take on the question gives him a credibility where it has marginalized others. Trump is doing nothing more than what the whole media did to Bush about his National Guard record. And if I remember correctly, Bush produced the documents in question.

I don't think Trump has the temperament to win the election, although he would be fun in the debates. Nixon in 1972 was the last President that beat a more affable candidate. Americans seem to vote for the guy that would rather hang out with. But the fact that Trump is willing to take on a toxic issue like the birth certificate seems to indicate he's willing to gamble to actually win the election. Just as important was his declaration that Sarah Palin was more qualified to be President than Barrack Obama. By making these comments he runs the risk of hurting his TV ratings like Oprah did by supporting Obama in 2008. Why take that chance if you weren't serious about winning the election?