Wednesday, August 26, 2009

General disquiet

Here are a few things that worry me:
- Senators abusing their power to dredge up ammunition for the Health Care bill
- Real unemployment rate much higher, perhaps 16%
- It appears that the person who vandalized the Denver DNC office is...a Democrat activist
- Beating up blacks is okay if they're against Democratic policies
- What's good for Geithner is criminal for the rest of us
- The deficit will be higher than first thought...and that's a good thing?!
- China is starting to dump American debt
- Eric Holder is a joke, but I'm not laughing
- John Stossel has noticed that criticism equals racism in "post-racial America"
- The Healthcare Bill includes tighter restrictions on taxpayers who make honest mistakes. Perhaps this is a good thing if it would have applied to Obama cabinet appointees.

Don't worry, there's got to be some good news out there somewhere.

Friday, August 21, 2009

You can't win the war until you win the battle

Over at PajamasTV they're calling a cautious victory for the health care and budget protesters.

Color me jaded, but I can't believe it was that easy. I still hear lots of rhetoric from the White House about pushing Health Care through. If they're pulling back at all it's just to try their next favorite tactic: stall and hope everyone forgets about it.

I don't think the Administration has learned anything yet. I don't think they're listening yet. I think they're only pretending to listen. They're appearing to change their minds, but at the same time they still protest about the protests. That doesn't appear to me to be a concession. I think it's more like the kid to, when mom says no, goes and asks dad.

So what is America to do now? Keep up the pressure. We've got their attention, at least, and that's more than we've been able to do previously. It's a start. But we need to keep holding their feet to the flame, and we need to stay vigilant. They are going to try an end-run at least once before they actually concede any kind of defeat.

In the mean time, we can also raise the level of discourse:

- No more shouting matches, please. That's so "Bush Era". We're different. Let's show it. Be respectful, but don't be a push-over.

- No more guns at protests. That was stupid, even for a radio show stunt. It distracts from the real message we're trying to send. Stop it.

- No more "Kill Obama, his wife and kids" signs. That person got detained--and quite frankly, should be arrested. That's beyond the coverage of the First Amendment. I wouldn't be surprised if they were an Obama-backer hoping to do their man a favor by discrediting the legitimate protesters.

- Do not forget. Those of you in areas where your elected officials have been hiding from you or talking down to you--remember that. They're counting on our faulty collective memory to kick in before the next election. Do not forget. Vote them out. Support the reps. who are listening and get it. I don't usually vote Democrat at the national level, but right new we've got a Democratic representative in our area who is listening, is talking sense, and largely voting the way I would like. If he keeps it up I will vote for him next time. People like that deserve our support.

- Stay informed. A vigilant populace is our only guard against unresponsive and oppressive government. And it's not just this administration. Though I agreed with some of what the previous administration did, they were just as deaf when it came to listening to the people. I understand what some of you were feeling back then a little better now. Whether we agree on the issues is irrelevant. We need to join together to force our government to start listening again.

- Do the "reaching out" that they refuse to do. Remember all of that talk of bi-partisanship, post-partisanship, and reaching across the aisle? It didn't happen, did it. But let's not let them drive a wedge between Americans. Let's show them a good example. Let's start talking to each other. Let's start working out problems ourselves. Let's start treating each other with respect, try to understand where each other is coming from, and see if we can't find a third option that moves us in a better direction.

- Turn off the Professional Outrage Squad. Both sides have them. They're not doing us any favors. Their jobs, as they see it, is not to bring people together. They're to stir up the flock to keep sending them drawing a paycheck. As much as I like Glenn Beck's "Common Sense", I still will not listen to his shows. He always sees the worst in everything the other side does. We don't need that.
< >< >< >< >It's like my kids when they get in these moods where they are constantly watching each other to find something to tattle about. No one is giving anyone even the slightest bit of room for error. Everyone is holding on to every little piece of ammunition they can get. We're still hearing about Michelle Obama's "For the first time I'm proud..." speech. I think she misspoke then, and I don't care to keep hearing about it now.

It's not too late to turn America around. It's not too late to return decency to our national dialogue. It's not too late to build bridges so that even when we don't get our way on issues we don't start reaching for the torches and pitchforks. Wouldn't it be nice to feel like we were at least heard first, and that perhaps the result we disagree with was at least modified out of respect for our point of view?

It can happen. But We The People have to make it happen. Our government won't do it for us. We have to make them. And that starts with re-making ourselves.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Town hall, Idaho style

Tonight I got a call from my congressman--or at least his auto-dialer--inviting me to a telephone town hall, one of at least two he's conducting this month. I decided to join. Everyone was polite and calm on both sides of the health care issue, and Mr. Minnick did a pretty good job of explaining where he stands on things and why. This is what town halls should be, and would be if more congresspersons treated their constituents with the respect Mr. Minnick shows us.

Walt Minnick is one of the "Blue Dog Democrats" who supposedly convinced Pelosi to slow things down and not take a vote until after the August recess. If so, good for him. And while I can't say I agree with everything he said, I think if he can stick to his guns he'll do a good job for us when he goes back. If there has to be health care reform, I'd prefer his version of it to anything else I've heard so far.

I'm still jaded enough by politics to not want to believe Minnick is for real, but he's off to a good start if he's trying to make a believer out of me. I didn't vote for him, but next time around I just might.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rewriting Godwin's Law

"Godwin's Law" is an observation made by attorney and author Mike Godwin, which states: "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."

I believe that the law needs a corollary to fit the Obama age: "In discussing any political issue the probability of anyone who disagrees with views held by the current administration being a racist is automatically 1."

Disagree with the Health Care overhaul? It's because you're racist. Disagree with the stimulus bill? You're racist. Disagree with the government take-over of the auto industry? You're a racist.

Those on the left are incapable of believing anyone could disagree with them, and they are afraid that anyone else might listen to those who disagree with them. Rather than admit disagreement can exist based on the logical, political, social, economic, or historical merits of an issue, the only possible reason anyone could have for disliking current policies or legislation is because there is a black man in the White House. They know it is a difficult charge to defend against, so they invoke it early and often to quickly drag any discussion away from the actual merits of an issue.

I am not saying there is no racism in America, nor am I saying that there aren't people who disagree with Obama solely because of race. I'm sure there is at least one person out there who would support the administration heart and soul if there just weren't a black man at its head. But people like that are the exception, not the rule.

Meanwhile, the real cases of racism in this country are being overshadowed by this pathetic excuse for a debate technique, which is in reality the same thing as wrapping up your opponent in boxing so they can't punch you with any effectiveness. It's illegal in boxing, and we should not allow it in discussion or debate.

In fact, it's time to strike back. Why do we accept the charge of racism as the end of discussion? Is this not America, where a person is innocent until proven guilty? Next time someone calls you racist you have every right to insist they offer proof. They can't, and they know it, so they will likely attempt to point out some latent racist leanings in your past or some other nonsense.

But don't accept that. Reframe the argument. Ask them if what they are really saying is that there is no other possible reason for someone to be against issue X. If they say yes then you may now accuse them of prejudice and ignorance. If they say no, ask them why they would automatically assume racism is your motivation when there is no proof that you are racist. Does that not prove that they themselves are prejudiced?

The argument is so easily turned on its head, but no one ever seems to try. One does not have to be racist to oppose the ideas of this administration. To assume one is a racist because they do is dishonest and morally bankrupt--and ultimately detrimental to the real fight against real racism.

Both sides should have a vested interest in removing this particular tactic from play as soon as possible before real damage is done.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Iconography and Obama

Bill Whittle is back with another thought-provoking segment on the power of iconography.

And while we're touting videos, here's Ed Driscoll's interview with Chris Muir, creator of "Day By Day", one of my favorite cartoons (Ed didn't ask the question I'd have asked, which is: Is Zed modeled after Muir himself?)

Muir just completed a fund-raising drive which evidently exceeded the goal, which I'm pleased to see. I'm also hoping to be in better financial shape (ie. employed) next time so I can contribute. He's certainly on my list of sites I would like to support.

And who would I like to support, you may ask? no particular order:

Michael Totten
Chris Muir (Day By Day)
Pajamas Media - Bill Whittle, Alfonzo Rachel, Glenn Reynolds, Ed Driscoll, et al.
Michael Yon
James Lileks

Do I think you should, too? Why yes, of course! If you have some spare change, check them out and leave a tip. Tell 'em Thom sent you.

John Mackey, Obamacare, and public opinion

Now that I've read the Op/Ed by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey in the Wall Street Journal I really don't understand what the big deal is.

Don't get me wrong. This is not about Free Speech. I uphold Mackey's right to say what he said. I uphold the right of the readers to boycott Whole Foods if they so desire. Freedom of Speech should never guarantee freedom from consequences for that speech. If you're going to say something that annoys your support base you should be prepared to take a hit, whether you're John Mackey or Natalie Maines (or Arlen Specter).

No, this post is about what liberals say and what they do. One of the main criticisms being leveled at those protesting against the Health Care Reform bill is that they are shutting down discussion and disallowing dialogue.

Mackey's article is a calm, rational discussion of alternatives to what is currently on the table. But just because he does not agree with universal health care it appears that the liberals are unwilling to read any farther than the second paragraph. I'll bet if they did they'd find they agree with him on at least a few points. Even if they disagree with everything, they would likely benefit from hearing what other people think.

Don't liberals espouse the value of differing viewpoints? Or does that only apply to ethnicity and sexual orientation?

To be fair, the political right is just as bad. Both sides seem to focus much of their attention on keeping people from listening to anyone from the other side. They aren't conducting a war on their ideological opposites so much as a joint offensive against moderation. They don't want anyone reaching over the wall they built. They have no interest in reaching across the aisle--they'd rather turn the aisle into a demilitarized zone where anyone who dares to venture will be shot on sight!

The sad thing is that if we we would take more time to listen we just might find we CAN find an answer that we can all agree on. Health Care reform could be possible. Universal Health Care could be doable. But as long as our politics allows for no middle ground we'll never accomplish anything that doesn't alienate at least half of the country.

The middle ground is where the answers can be found. John Mackey tried to take us there. No good deed goes unpunished.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oops! I picked the wrong side!

According to this article, the Obama administration is offering $15 an hour to protest in favor of his health care proposal (big misnomer, really, since he didn't write any of it and admits to having no idea what is in it). Unfortunately for me I already caved to the insurance companies and have been speaking out against it. Boy did I screw that up. Obama pays much better than the big, bad insurance companies! I haven't received a single darn penny for my efforts so far.

But it's our side of the debate that's being dismissed as "astroturf", while the other side is the one hauling in professional protestors. Isn't all this "truthiness" great?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Call Me Un-American

I am the mob. I am a racist, fascist nazi pawn of the Health Insurance industry. Not only that, I must be stupid, because I'm not getting anything from the Health Insurance industry except...the health insurance I pay for. There's no hack like a stupid hack. And alas, alack, I am a hack.

Because Nancy Pelosi says so. And Nancy Pelosi wouldn't lie to you.

She and Steny Hoyer have a column up at USA Today in which they make the case for Americans sitting down, shutting up, and letting Congress do what's best for everyone. It really is a precious piece of cynicism, misrepresentation, and hypocrisy. Where to begin...

"Americans have been waiting for nearly a century for quality, affordable health care."

I don't know about that. I've been enjoying quality, affordable health care for only about 39 years. But then I work hard, save my money, and plan for such expenses. Which makes me a chump, of course.

"From President Lyndon Johnson to President Bill Clinton, to President Obama's winning campaign on the promise of reform, there hasn't been a more debated domestic issue than the promise of affordable health care for all."

Oh, so that's why you want no debate on it this time, because it's been debated in the past. Oh, and Obama was elected on many things, and to suggest that the only reason we voted him into office was to screw up Health Care is disingenuous.

"The failure of past attempts is a reminder that health insurance reform is a defining moment in our nation's history — it is well worth the time it takes to get it right."

Unless, of course, "getting it right" means doing nothing. Shouldn't all these past failures tell you something? WE DON'T WANT IT! AT LEAST NOT THE BRAND YOU'RE PEDDLING!

"Already, three House committees have passed this critical legislation..."

Meaning....? Obviously three House committees is no endorsement, or you would have supported the War in Iraq as vehemently as you do this nonsense.

"... and over August, the two of us will work closely with those three committees to produce one strong piece of legislation that the House will approve in September."

Even if we don't want it? Aren't you missing something. It's fitting that she refers to the governing body as "the House", as she's obviously forgetting the representative mission of that body. You are supposed to represent us, not cram things down our throats.

"In the meantime, as members of Congress spend time at home during August, they are talking with their constituents about reform. The dialogue between elected representatives and constituents is at the heart of our democracy and plays an integral role in assuring that the legislation we write reflects the genuine needs and concerns of the people we represent."

And this is why the majority of the meetings our elected officials are holding do not even allow questions about the health care legislation? Is this why so many representatives are not interesting in "dialogue" but just telling us what we want? Is this why so many of them end up yelling at their constituents, hurling accusations and contempt? Is this why union members are beating up protestors?

"However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent..."

...anyone who is against this bill as un-American, fascist, elitist, paid hacks, but to silence any opposition? Oops, I'm jumping the gun, even if it is true...

"...the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue."

I will agree with her some here. If there are people who are shouting others down then that's rude. But most of the videos I've seen has involved heckling the speaker, something left protestors have been doing without any criticism from Madam Pelosi for years. Does that mean that everyone has free speech, but some have more of it than others?

"These tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted "Just say no!" drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion."

Like I said, this just looks like a case of "we can dish it out, but we can't take it. For shame, Pelosi. We saw WORSE than this about Bush. Where were you then? Holding the noose?

"These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades."

No, creating bad legislation is how you failed at this task for decades. You have the media firmly in your corner. If they can't get the message our there for you it's because you have no message. We're not afraid of the facts. But it's hard to believe our congressmen are giving us the facts when many of them admit to not having read the bill. How can they possibly give us the facts?

The Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, is TRYING to give us the facts, but YOU don't seem to be listening.

"Health care is complex. It touches every American life. It drives our economy. People must be allowed to learn the facts."

Why? If you'd had your way this bill would already be passed BEFORE anyone could learn the facts. In fact, nearly every bill you've crammed through so far has been as quickly as possible lest Americans get a chance to learn the facts and engage in dialogue and debate. Pelosi, thy name is hypocrit.

"Reform will also mean higher-quality care by promoting preventive care so health problems can be addressed before they become crises. This, too, will save money. We'll be a much healthier country if all patients can receive regular checkups and tests, such as mammograms and diabetes exams, without paying a dime out-of-pocket."

Uhm...most health plans I've ever seen already have a preventive care component. Even after I was laid off I had people from my former employer's health plan calling me to work out a healthy lifestyle plan. Any decent insurer gets it already. Probably better than the government does.

"This month, despite the disruptions, members of Congress will listen to their constituents back home and explain reform legislation. We are confident that our principles of affordable, quality health care will stand up to any and all critics."

...because you intend to intimidate, malign, and discredit all critics until there are none left!

Good luck with that. You've already made it obvious that you'd prefer to do everything without any debate. That is WHY our elected officials are getting such pushback. It's a new thing for them, but it's long overdue.

"Now — with Americans strongly supporting health insurance reform, with Congress reaching consensus on a plan, and with a president who ran and won on this specific promise of change — America is closer than ever to this century-deferred goal."

What polls does she read? Certainly not this one.

"This fall, at long last, we must reach it."

Why? Tell me why we must, other than your poll consisting of Pelosi, Reid, and Obama. Is it because you haven't managed to kill off the economy yet? Is it because you haven't spent enough money yet this year, in spite of campaign promises of cutting the budget? I'm not necessarily opposed to health care reform, but not the expansive, not this expensive, and not when we can't even afford the amount of government we've got. Enough of this deficit spending. I know Pelosi et al just want to get the main spending over with and out of the way before next year's election season, but that's is the worst possible reason. If these bills are so good they should stand up to the debate of a campaign season. If you're so proud of it, wouldn't it be a great campaign point? The very fact that they want to hide this before then indicates they know what a scam this is.

Let's not forget, too, that these elected representatives who care so much about Americans and the environment want to buy a bunch more airplanes for congressional travel, even though the military claims we don't need all of them.
As Glenn Reynolds says, I'll believe it's a problem when those who are telling me it's a problem ACT like it's a problem.

To quote columnist Ron Hart:
If Obama has his way, his health care plan will be funded by his treasury chief who did not pay his taxes, overseen by his surgeon general who is obese, signed by a president who smokes, and financed by a country that is just about broke.

What possibly could go wrong?

It's a shame that Pelosi had to squander her opportunity. She had a national forum in USA Today. This was the perfect opportunity to present the "facts" she cares so much about and make her case for Health Care Reform. Instead she maligned concerned Americans who are so frustrated by their elected officials they feel they have no recourse but to protest. Instead she gave us broad, unsubstantiated generalizations that amount to little more than "it'll be great. Trust us."

Miss Pelosi, we don't trust you. That is why we're protesting. Get your fingers out of your ears and listen, like you claim our representatives are eager to do.

Instead she's too busy doing the very thing she accuses her opposition of doing: ABCNews Blog: "Partisan Mobs with Lies About Health Reform," Democrats Rally Their Own Activists to Visit Members of Congress at Town Halls, District Offices.

Miss Pelosi, have you forgotten that dissent is the highest form of patriotism?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Excuse me?

Why was it that during the Bush administration any demonstration or protest--or even mob action--by the Left was heralded as a victory for freedom of speech, but now when independents and conservatives are protesting and demonstrating they're "mobs" and "extremists"? What happened to "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism"? Why is it wrong to question the actions of the administration when they have repeatedly made inexcusable attempts to leave no room for debate themselves?

More on this at Hot Air:
Needless to say, this is the left’s pitiful — and ironic, given the lip service paid above to “thoughtful discussion” — strategy to win the ObamaCare debate by framing the GOP as stone-cold nuts before its own message machine gets rolling during the recess this month. Already today, we’ve had Axelrod whining on MSNBC about “fearmongering” (more irony!), Boxer fretting about people in suits “storming” the town halls, and smilin’ Dick Durbin lamenting that “tea baggers” are trying to turn the meetings into “free for alls.” Isn’t that what the left did for years in public meetings about the war, asked Jake Tapper of Gibbs earlier today.

And more here, as well:
- People who want Congress to take more time debating healthcare are shutting down debate.
- Pres. Obama says the time for talk on healthcare is over, but his critics are trying to shut down debate.
- Harrassing and threatening the families of AIG employees is awesome; razzing Representatives and Senators is totally bogus!
- Asking Representatives and Senators to read bills before voting on them is killing democracy.
- Sen. Specter saying “we have to make judgments very fast” is awesome. Booing him for saying so is shutting off debate.
- Healthcare protesters are thugs shutting off debate; antiwar protesters are “rowdy.”

Heaven help us all if we are not allowed to speak out against issues that affect us all. What happened to representative government? I may not have liked what many of the left protesters had to say, but I would never have questioned their right to protest. I guess it was expecting too much that they would return the courtesy--I mean, right.

HOA gripe session

I am president of my HOA. Last night I had someone stop by my house to pay their dues (four months late) and to complain about my Vice President's lack of tact in collections. I'll concede right away that my VP is probably not tactful when he goes to collect. Do his job for awhile and you'd lose any tact you had, too.

But let me continue on to the rant by saying this: If you don't like my VP getting upset with you then PAY YOUR DOGGONE DUES ALREADY!!!! You see, the problem with these people's complaints about my VP is that they're simultaneously proving it works. They hate my VP, but they pay their dues. They didn't pay after the two overdue notices and the regular reminders in the newsletter. They paid after someone appeared on their doorstep and got cross with them.

Yet they want me to drop the tactic that seems to work. Why does this not make sense to me?

Another standard complaint is "Why make such a big deal over $40?" (Our HOA dues are really low!) Well, how about this? Why are you making such a big deal over $40. Just pay already! Are you suggesting that you would pay up immediately if it were a lot higher? I don't think so. Why am I making a big deal over $40? Because 95% of the neighborhood have already paid up, most of them without complaint or any extra measures on our part. These people should not be made out to be chumps by the other 5%.

I've also now heard "My lawyer friend said I don't have to pay until the end of the year". Has your lawyer friend read our CC&Rs? Is your lawyer friend going to pay your dues for you? Shut up about the lawyer friend. I have a lawyer on retainer who says you have to pay, and if you don't I can charge interest and slap a lien on your house for the overdue amount plus legal fees. You wanna go there?

I might. It would be easier for me to just turn this all over to lawyers and bill collectors. We might get on your doorstep and get in your face. They'll ruin your credit rating and make you pay $260 minimum for a $40 bill. Which do you prefer?

Don't give me the "hardship" sob story, either. I'm unemployed. I paid. I know people with health problems. They paid. I requested in the newsletter for people to let me know if there are problems so we can work something out. Very, very few have taken me up on it. We can work with you, but we're not mind-readers.

There is a soldier in our neighborhood who will be on deployment when dues come around next year. If anyone has a good excuse to dodge dues, or at least put them off, it's him. But does he? No. He's made arrangement with his family to pay while he's gone. And he's told me almost a year in advance. I know his situation, and should his family forget to pay I will not be making a big deal about it. Neither will my VP. We will wait patiently until he gets home. Heck, I may even cover him myself.

Anyway, I am sick to death of people who think the rules don't apply to them and get mad at us when we insist that they do. Pay your dues, people. If you don't like my VP then stop ignoring our mail notices. Pay on time or tell us why you can't and when you will. Ignore us and we'll be forced to make it hard for your to ignore us.

Yes, it's a big fuss over $40. But you started it, not us. There are 80-90 other responsible people who we have to stand up for. It's not fair to them for us to let you get off.

Grow up and be responsible.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Gates-gate: What can we learn?

A neighbor sees someone trying to force their way into a house and calls the police. The police show up and find that someone still in the house. They request to see ID. And things get fuzzy from there, turning into a national issue that helped the President of the United States stick his foot in his mouth at a time it should have been talking about his health care reform. The whole incident doesn't really end when the President invites both parties to the White House for a beer.

I'm not sure what we are supposed to learn.

The real loser in this is Lucia Whalen, the neighbor who called the police. She has been defamed far and wide by Gates' defenders. That is completely wrong. She should be applauded. If one of my neighbors saw me forcing their way into my house and called the cops I'd go right over there and thank them, because mistake or not, at least she was paying attention and willing to do something to protect my property.

Lucia Whalen, thank you! As a home-owner and home-owners association president I would like to say I wish there were more people like you.

Of course we can also learn that perhaps we don't do enough these days to get to know our neighbors. Perhaps if people were closer in Gates' neighborhood Whalen would have recognized him and not had to call the cops. That's not her failing. That's America's failing.

I shudder to think about what lessons we can learn about race and politics. All I know is that if I had just had difficulty getting into my home and the police show up investigating reports of a burglary I would 1) show them my identification immediately and without talking back, and once they are convinced I live there, 2) thank them for protecting my property and doing their (very difficult) jobs. I would not have ended up in jail, because I would have done nothing to get myself there. But if I had, you can bet the charges would not have been dropped, either.

I am concerned, any racial overtones aside, that our President admits publicly that he doesn't know the facts of the case but in the same breath passes judgment anyway. There was no reason for him to make a statement at that time and in that way. He deserves to get beaten up in the polls because of it. It was a foolish, easily-avoided mistake.

One final lesson, one of forgiveness and humanity:

Gates castigated Crowley in person and in the media, yet Crowley still helps him down the steps. He had every reason to dislike Gates, and to let him get himself down the steps. No one would have thought anything of it, likely. But he helped anyway. That, folks, is the measure of a man.