Saturday, October 24, 2009
At the intersection of Walmart & Amway: the transformation of human civilization, brought to you by capitalism
That bears repeating: Indian companies are now focusing their resources on designing and selling new products geared toward improving the quality of life for India’s poorest populations, and giving individual entrepreneurs the opportunity to build their own businesses along the way.
Those in the know in India have figured out that they don’t have to settle for scraps of hand-me-down technology and jobs outsourced from the West to sustain their economy. Armed with some of the best designers and engineers in the world along with a highly skilled workforce and motivated customer potential, they have decided to build their own internal engine – I’m not even sure they realize exactly what they are unleashing in their country. In addition to the obvious economic explosion coming their way, it will have incredibly profound and far reaching social and political effects.
It started when they channeled Henry Ford with the release of the Nano, Tata Motors tiny little $2,200 car that the bulk of Indians could afford to buy and could physically drive throughout their country’s widely varied road system. Here are some other examples:
- One company has produced a small refrigerator that runs on batteries designed for use in India’s rural areas that sells for $70. Although it is a “major appliance purchase” for small Indian farming families, it significantly improves the safety of their food supply and their quality of life at a purchase price they can afford and a low cost of use they can sustain. It’s kinder to the environment just by its necessary design. Its sale and distribution is handled by women who go from village to village with the small refrigerator on their bicycles.
- Another company has figured out how to open bank “branches” virtually: it has designed a special cell phone with a chip that can compute and transmit basic banking transactions using portable fingerprint identification technology for account holders. A bank representative basically sets up shop in any given small village with the phone and a lockbox of rupees. Customers sign into their accounts using the fingerprint technology, do their transactions electronically, and either deposit or withdraw the physical rupees from the representative’s lockbox. The representative takes the physical currency back to a brick and mortar branch at the end of his/her run.
These are just two examples of ways that Indian companies are transforming the lives of their own citizens. Along the way, they are also blazing a revolutionary path to economic recovery and growth for the entire global market. Want to use less energy? Look to India’s innovative uses of rechargeable batteries and low-power drain electrical devices. Looking to improve product affordability? See how India’s new technologies and production methods are reducing manufacturing and transaction costs. Racking your brain over how to create new business and job opportunities for your underclass? India is leading the way by working with their culture: building distribution channels with independent entrepreneurs and small local businesses that create local jobs, thereby improving standards of living in villages and rural areas all over India. Wishing you could recoup some of the losses you took in the stock market plunge? Has India got some investment opportunities for you, even if your available investment dollars are modest.
Sam Walton opened Walmart with the vision of bringing affordable products to people who needed and wanted them to improve their quality of life. Amway built its global company with the vision to provide a path to business ownership for anyone with the drive to be an entrepreneur regardless of investment capital or previous experience. Those two philosophies are revolutionizing the culture and the economy of India – it’s only a matter of time before they light the way for the rest of us to follow.
Friday, October 9, 2009
This cheapening of the Nobel Peace Prize is extremely disappointing. It was foolish and shallow of the Nobel nominating committee to nominate anyone with such a slim record, regardless of how much Hope he spreads around. This was not the Nobel Hope Prize. It was the Nobel Peace Prize – arguably the most prestigious award in the world for a subject held in the highest regard by all of humankind. My disappointment, however, has nothing to do with President Obama, how I feel about his agenda, or the political party to which he belongs. My disappointment goes much deeper than that.
The gravitas of the Nobel Peace Prize should, in my opinion, be reserved until a person's whole body of work can be judged for its effect on the subject matter involved. Consider the polio vaccine, for example. The three scientists who won that award didn't win because they announced they would try to eradicate polio. They didn't win because they started on their experiment protocol. They won because they developed and proved a viable, economically and socially sustainable solution that could be replicated worldwide to eliminate polio as a threat. Now THAT'S an accomplishment worthy of a Nobel award. It's the worldwide effect of the accomplishment that matters and should be judged. If high-minded thoughts and good intentions were all that mattered to qualify someone for a Nobel award, nearly everyone would deserve one.
I don’t take issue with President Obama over this. I take issue with the Nobel committee. Either they don’t understand the importance of the award and have decided to hand it out willy nilly, or they do understand its importance, and they handed it to the least experienced and accomplished president in modern times because they want to lend weight to his agenda. Which one is worse?
Friday, September 11, 2009
That was my Facebook status today. I still mourn when I recall how that perfect September morning morphed into surreal horror as more than 3,000 Americans and foreign guests lost their lives – and thousands more lost their way in the aftermath.
Free commerce and global trading as we know it vaporized as the World Trade Center towers collapsed upon themselves.
The enormous gash in the Pentagon punched straight through to our very sense of American security and complacency.
The peace and tranquility of ordinary citizens living ordinary lives abruptly shattered when Flight 93 slashed through a Pennsylvania meadow in a searing jolt of terrorism with global reach.
Revulsion still shudders through every angry nerve when I recall the glee expressed by Osama bin Laden and his minions over the unprecedented success of their attacks.
I still weep at recordings of the last phone calls made by Flight 93 passengers to their loved ones, knowing they would not see them ever again.
My patriotic blood still courses at the phrase, “Let’s roll”.
Our very sense of American identity was transplanted that day. We were forcibly torn from our deep-rooted belief that because we stand for freedom, because we are the strongest, most able nation in the world, because we devote untold human and capital resources to helping less fortunate global neighbors, deep down other nations must like us – or, at the very least, have a grudging respect for us. Since entire generations had grown up in a post Cold War world with America as the only superpower, we had absorbed a complacent belief that we were invincible. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 ripped out that diseased belief structure and replaced it with Homeland Security, hundreds of thousands of combat soldiers in action, fighter jet patrols over our major cities and fundamental economic upheaval.
In the eight years since the attacks, we have behaved very much like transplant patients. Even though we know we now need these things – these intrusions into our civil liberties, these daily security inconveniences, these economic restructurings – to stay alive, our body politic still tries to reject the new transplanted reality. We still long for our old belief structure, even though we know it was diseased and unsustainable. We still try to avoid taking our daily dose of reality medicine, even though we know it’s the only way to stay strong and healthy. And we will always bear the permanent scars of our ordeal, no matter how much we try to eradicate them.
We Americans, eternal optimists that we are, need to strive forward. It is part of our national DNA. However, we also now carry with us the sorrow of knowledge that not everyone shares our outlooks and our beliefs, and they want us dead. Wisdom can spring from that sorrow. We can use that wisdom to improve how we influence the world. We can look to the world stage with our eyes wide open and see our friends – and our enemies – for who they are, understanding that our beliefs and our traditions may not necessarily reflect today’s current realities. We can then act accordingly to further the ideals of freedom, democracy and justice in the world. Let us pray that we do so with grace, fortitude and discernment in all things.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The heated controversy around an upcoming speech planned for the beginning of the school year by President Obama on the importance of education is dangerously close to at least equal mankind’s annual contribution to global warming. Parents are threatening to pull their children from school on September 8th, political organizations are calling for boycotts of schools that show his nationally televised speech, teachers’ unions are issuing marching orders for their members to show the speech no matter what parents and school administration officials say, and policy think tanks are renewing their arguments for private and charter schools to ensure that students have “freedom of thought” rather than suffer from government-imposed indoctrination of leftist values.
This is the President of the United States. This is the leader of the free world. This is the highest office of the most free and prosperous nation in the history of mankind – one that considers the right of free speech as one of its most sacred foundational cornerstones. Yet people are calling for a ban on his welcome back to school speech. Consider what is being demanded: people are calling – no, they are howling – for public schools to suppress a speech from the President of the United States.
Have a large number of Americans suddenly lost their minds? Have they decided that free speech is no longer an essential right, and the best way to set the example is to gag the President?
I would suggest that this is not quite the case. Rather, the outrage is coming from a keen sense of deep distrust on this particular President’s motives. It is unprecedented for the President to deliver a back to school welcome speech, but that isn’t enough to raise this kind of ire. That his soft, feel-good message of working hard and staying in school comes precisely when his approval ratings are suffering a TKO and his bungled health care plan is barely hanging on life support smacks of pandering still doesn’t deserve such passionate opposition to a mere back to school speech. No. Anger this visceral comes from a deep-seated belief that Barack Obama isn’t addressing our nation’s students to encourage them to stay in school. Instead, concerned people believe that Barack Obama is trying to indoctrinate their children over to his side on policy, pitting child against parent in a war over values, priorities and a fundamental vision of what America should be as a nation. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
But does he deserve such a reputation? Well, let’s look at his very short history:
In the first month of his administration, Barack Obama shoved Republicans aside from discussions on economic stimulus, smugly telling them “he won”, so things were going to be done his way;
In the second month of his administration, Barack Obama put together a plan to take over the financial industry and the auto industry all while protecting those who decimated the housing industry;
In the third month of his administration, Barack Obama appointed multiple Cabinet and staff whose tax dodging and other legal entanglements compromised his pledges of honesty and integrity in government;
In the fourth and fifth months of his administration, Barack Obama’s right hand Rahm Emmanuel was caught trying to take control of the U.S. Census process to tilt the counting of American citizens to favor Democrats in election politics;
In the last three months of his administration, Barack Obama has tried to shove an unbelievably bloated, contorted, impossible to understand, implement and pay for healthcare system under the guise of reform without letting people read or debate it. We also discovered that he had reached back room deals with a number of insurance companies in the process – a practice he specifically said would not happen during his term.
Now, it has come to light that Barack Obama’s education speech isn’t just a speech, it’s the focus of a lesson plan developed by the White House to challenge children to find ways they can help him.
I’m sorry, but if the shoe fits…
Barack Obama has caused this outrage because of his heavy-handed tactics to push his policies through, his arrogance and smugness, his willingness to intentionally surround himself with people who do not measure up to public standards of moral and ethical conduct, and his brazen (and ill-conceived) intentions of taking control of just about every industry in America. That kind of conduct breeds intense distrust in Americans; we don’t like people who act like they’re better than we are, and we surely don’t like people who try to pull the wool over our eyes and then insult us for taking it off. Barack Obama has politicized the office of the Presidency so much so that 63% of Americans (according to a recent Facebook poll) would rather ban public addresses by the President in schools unless they have been reviewed by parents and teachers first than let those addresses happen without oversight. This is a serious problem. If Americans distrust their President so deeply they would rather censor him than listen to him, how can we hope to build any kind of common ground anywhere going forward?
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I have always been pro-life. I have carried the pro-life message with me wherever I could. I used it as a topic for persuasive argument assignments in high school. I taught about it at our church youth group. In college I picketed Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, counseled girls and young women before and after having abortions, and volunteered my time to pro-life causes and political candidates. While the pro-life cause wasn’t my only issue, it was certainly a defining issue – if the candidate wasn’t pro-life first, then we weren’t working from the same philosophical framework. Being pro-life didn’t guarantee that a candidate would get my vote. But, not being pro-life certainly guaranteed that he/she wouldn’t get it.
I tell you this only to provide background. I recently gave birth to my fourth child 2 months before her due date. As I looked at her tiny face, I couldn’t help but think of this glaring contradiction in our society: we seem to be equally willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of staff resources to keep our youngest babies alive on the one hand, yet on the other hand we pervert the talent and skills of medical staff supposedly committed to healing to killing off these same babies when it suits the whim of the mother (or others who coerce her). What kind of philosophical schizophrenia allows us to do this?
I would suggest that we, as a nation, are simply too psychologically cowardly to face the truth of what we are doing and take responsibility for changing it.
There is no reconciling this dichotomy of national consciousness. Until we, as a nation, commit to a consistent, cohesive set of values regarding our care and concern for human life in all its stages, we will not be able to create a health care system that genuinely works. We cannot commit to both saving people and actively killing them, selecting who will live and who will die according to a false code of ethics built on the idea of ‘choice’ – because choice for one necessarily eliminates the choice for another. There is only one equation that works here: all human life is equally deserving of protection and healing. In order to build a health care system that works for everyone, we must first work from the premise that everyone counts equally. Every person in our society has innate value; it is up to us to develop a health care system dedicated to honoring that value. Here’s a hint: a health care system that works for everyone won’t involve a government funded plan.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I was delighted to see excellent turnout at these local conventions in a non-election year. It was obvious to me that conservatives are motivated and focused on rebuilding the Republican Party in Minnesota. I heard lots of good ideas, substantive discourse on a variety of topics, and one overall message loud and clear:
The Republican Party is a conservative party, with conservative principles that we are not interested in leaving behind. On the contrary, the folks at these conventions believe (rightly so, in my opinion), that we need to do a much better job of adhering to our conservative principles and articulating the success of those principles to the rest of the voters. America is a center right country; even apolitical people cringe at the idea of “socialism” and government control of their lives. Americans believe that the government that governs best governs least, and that there is no government control that will substitute for personal responsibility, integrity and conviction.
The success of our local conventions combines with a spontaneous explosion of conservative activity around the country: Tea Party rallies with tens of thousands of participants, governors making the very hard (but wise) choice to eschew the Big O’s “free” candy because they know that their state’s freedom will be held for ransom in return, bank executives telling the federal government they can take their TARP funds and put them somewhere else because their intrusion and control isn’t wanted in our free market system, and local groups of all kinds springing up, using the power of the internet to connect with each other and spread the conservative message.
This is how it all starts: conservatives banding together on the issues, educating and motivating each other so we can go out and literally evangelize the general electorate. As we build our momentum, we need to keep our message clear: the Republican Party is a conservative party. We are not Democrat Lite, we are not Mushy Middle. We’re not interested in wannabes or RINOs. We have no patience for whining, grousing, or petty personal agendas. We want tried and true positive conservatives who will build on the momentum we see starting and take advantage of all the innovation that the web and other tools have to offer to catapult the Republican Party back into the majority in Minnesota and across the country. We've got a great start. Let’s keep it going!
Monday, March 23, 2009
The media is full of bad news. I managed to work myself into a full-blown fit the other day before work because I made the mistake of watching the morning news as I got ready. By the time I got into the car I was a nervous wreck, ready to throw in the towel on everything we were doing to build our business. I have a pretty thick skin, which tells you how dramatically bad the commentary was that morning.
But just as the media started reporting on the recession long after it actually began, so they are lagging behind on highlighting the improvements we are seeing on the ground. My business – the restaurant business – is much like the canary in the coal mine of the economy. Eating out is almost completely discretionary for most people, so restaurants tend to be more sensitive to even minor changes in the economy. It doesn’t take much for people to decide to eat out less often, choose less expensive venues, and spend less on their meal when they do go out.
The good news is that sales in our restaurants are up – strongly up.
Digging into further research gave me even more reason to be optimistic that we’re seeing the bottom of the economy and are moving out of the recessionary period. Here are a few stats to consider, according to Gallup Research Polling rolling averages:
Consumer spending is up to $58*, an increase of 6 points
People who are “Not Worried” about their personal finances: 63%
Consumer mood: Happiness is up 10 points to 54%
People who feel “Energized” is up 3 points to 53%
People who think the economy is getting better: 27%, a 20 month high
Consumer mood has improved by 31 points over past 10 days
Support for nuclear energy: 59%, all time high
Economy trumps environment: for the first time, 51% of Americans say economic growth should be given top priority, even if the environment suffers for it
*Note: this number is still lower than it was earlier this year; however, there is no adjustment available to account for the lower prices people are paying for goods. So, while people may not be spending more hard currency, they are coming out and buying more goods – they’re just getting better deals due to reduced pricing.
This is great news for Main Street. When people start to feel better, they relax. When they relax, they open themselves up to possibilities and new perspectives – like, maybe the sky isn’t really falling after all. There are always caveats: Obama’s stupidity could easily derail this delicate improvement; China, Russia or any number of other countries could short circuit our recovery with their own problems because we owe them so much money at the federal level, and the Democrats in Congress are quite able to reroute any improvements to their own districts and then take credit for everything good that happens from here on out, and many banks are still making things difficult for business, and the Big O’s spending sprees have done absolutely nothing to improve that at any level.
I believe we will still see some job shedding in fat or outdated industries. However, with public sentiment swinging toward making the economy a priority over everything else including the environment, we will begin to see new jobs opening up in other industries by the end of the year – if we don’t let the Big O and Co. screw it up too badly.
However, enough is enough. The Big O has shown that while he’s a stellar campaigner, he’s a completely incompetent leader. He hasn’t a clue what he’s doing. Unfortunately, like so many others who are products of free passes in life, he thinks he’s a lot smarter than he is. He’s not interested in being corrected because he smugly thinks he already knows everything. In fact, he knows very little from a practical standpoint. Forget the Harvard degree. With all due respect to Harvard graduates, the only thing Obama had to do to get his degree was agree with the left-wing teachings of his professors – not exactly a difficult thing to do for a master manipulator.
Oh, the Big O knows plenty about putting on a cool front – but just about any teenager can school you in the art of being cool. He knows a lot about manipulating words and images to get people to do what he wants – as do my 2 year old and my 6 year old. He is a truly gifted orator, an important skill for which he not only has a natural talent, but which he also learned at the feet of Reverend Wright and others who are also accomplished in emotional manipulation to further their own agendas. It’s easy for the lay person to confuse master manipulation for wisdom; it’s even easier to mistake gifted eloquence for intelligence. They are neither.
The Big O has now shown without a doubt that he is not only a dedicated and unapologetic socialist who seems to despise the very socioeconomic and political systems that gave him the opportunity to become President of the most powerful nation on earth, he’s not even remotely good at the most basic functions of the job. And he doesn't seem to care about that. He brushes off the near daily mistakes of his administration and aides as unimportant distractions from the "real" business of being President, when in fact, these near constant errors are symptomatic of a fundamental lack of competence that affects every aspect of policy and politics.
The question is being asked: when will the media turn on him? The answer is absolutely never. Not a chance. Instead, they’ll blame nitpicky critics who are out to “get” him, and an outmoded system of standards that are unrealistic and probably irrelevant in this txt msg age. They will never expect their golden boy to conform to the universe as it stands; instead, they will expect the universe to evolve around to his style.
That is, if there are any traditional media outlets left in business to even talk about it.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Last night we heard the first rollout of our budget proposal for the next two years. We knew going into this presentation that we needed to cut $1.3 million from our expected budget (which essentially meant a cut of $71,755 in actual dollars spent from the year before). Unlike other government entities, school districts cannot deficit spend. By law, we have to maintain balanced budgets or we go into statutory operating debt, which makes us vulnerable to a state government takeover of district operations. And we do make reductions to proposed budgets every year based on enrollment figures in each grade and participation levels in all programs and activities. This, however, was by far the biggest reduction proposal we had had to consider since 2001.
We could have tried the approach of a simple spending freeze, but that wouldn’t have addressed many of the educational issues we faced, and it would have required the buy-in of the unions in our district – highly unlikely.
Instead, our district and building staff, led by our superintendent Dr. Dee Wells, conducted an all out assault on Business As Usual practices in the district. Everyone was engaged in the process, from building maintenance workers to teachers to district department heads. Every line item was debated. All expenditures had to prove their worth and value to the goals of the district (improving test scores and graduating students who are prepared for whatever they want to accomplish in life). Priorities were clear: core academics came before everything else; all other classes, programs and services were prioritized based on use and usefulness to the students.
It was a beautiful sight to behold: educators willingly hacking over a million dollars from their own budgets and finding ways to improve our education along the way. They found new cost efficiencies in purchasing; outsourced some services while bringing others in house; combined some programs and services with other districts; completely redid the scheduling in the middle school to increase student teaching time and cut under-utilized staff; found ways to implement brand new uses of technology to improve teaching quality while cutting personnel costs, and came up with better ways to achieve our AYP goals under No Child Left Behind.
The result: a proposal for a leaner, cleaner, better organized and more efficient school district that will be much better positioned to prepare its students for 21st century careers and lives. Like all crises, this budget shortfall forced everyone in our district to look at all aspects of product and service delivery in completely new ways. It brought out the best in creativity and innovation, resulting in proposed solutions that will save us money, increase productivity and give us better results as we go forward. That’s the American way.
It’s a pity that Washington has forgotten that.
For a closer look at how this school district balanced the budget without bilking the taxpayers, go to: http://www.invergrove.k12.mn.us/Proposed_Budget_Reductions.html
Thursday, February 19, 2009
First, for the culture change.
It all goes back to education. For more than 20 years in some states, conservatives have been fighting the culture wars in the education establishment. We have focused on standard public education, arguing about curriculum content, teaching methods, test results, tax rates and spending patterns. In many cases, we made substantial progress in improving graduation standards. We passed No Child Left Behind, which, despite its flaws, finally gave school boards a big enough stick to use against the power of the teachers’ unions to improve teaching methods and testing results. Nonetheless, we missed a couple of crucial elements that we cannot control through regulations or standards.
The first thing we missed is that no matter what the standard curriculum content is, teachers have the ability to supplement the curriculum with additional materials. That means that if they feel there is something lacking in the regular textbooks they’re using, they can add other materials, activities, projects and assignments to “flesh out” what they think should be taught. If a teacher is motivated by a particular social, religious or political concern, it is not unusual for them to bring this into the classroom in that way, whether it's conservative or liberal. The coverage of the presidential inauguration provided a classic example of how easy it is for a civics lesson to turn into an opportunity for political indoctrination. Even if teachers focus on seemingly non-controversial aspects of the inaugural, there is no way for the student to escape the politicization of the office by the current holder. Students are learning in subtle and not-so-subtle ways the finer aspects of liberal thought just by the ancillary teaching that occurs in the classroom.
The second thing we missed is the nature of “character development” that is occurring in the classroom. While we were busy lamenting the lack of discipline in the classroom and the fact that Judeo-Christian values cannot be taught for fear of running afoul of the First Amendment, schools were busy filling that void with less controversial values. Now we have a whole generation of voters aged 18 to 30 who literally grew up with these ideas of American values:
Cooperation instead of competition
Consensus instead of majority rule
Community instead of individuality
Celebration of racial and cultural diversity instead of American unity
Fairness of outcome instead of equality of opportunity
Non-judgementalism instead of discernment and strength of conviction
Thus, these younger voters truly believe that fairness is patriotic, that cooperation and consensus are more American than the cruelty of competition and majority rule. How exactly do we re-educate them?
Now for the technology.
So we have these younger voters who have been educated for some 20 years in these systems with these values, and they begin to connect with others in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and elsewhere who think like they do via outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, MySpace, YouTube and other social networking sites. If you don’t know what those are, you’re not alone. That also means you’re officially part of the problem. These plugged in young Americans may just as easily have a best friend in Zurich whom they've never met in person as one down the block from their childhood home. They meet their spouses online, they find jobs online, they look for and buy homes, clothes, cars, electronics, gifts and illicit substances online. While people over 40 use the internet, for people under 40, the internet is so integrated into their lives that they live partially in the physical world and partly in cyberspace – and both places are equally real and valuable in their lives. They literally don't know how to live without the web, nor do they find any value in the idea that they should live without it.
Most importantly, they are getting their news and information on the web and forming their opinions on the web based on information they seek out from multitudes of sources (reliable and not so reliable) and from the people with whom they connect online. While we were busy shaking our heads at the “crazy things kids do online”, those kids were busy building entirely new cultures that transcend national boundaries, ethnic divisions, religious differences, and political labels. If you ask them what it means to be an American, you might be very surprised at their responses. You might even find that "being American" isn't all that important to some of them.
This isn’t just a new playing field or a different playbook. We have to learn how to play an entirely different game in a zero gravity atmosphere.
We can start by reading this excellent article:
and by reading every book on the list - even Al Gore's book. Some of us need more schooling than others, but we all need to understand the new world we live in if we’re going to make conservative values relevant again.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Further, Capital Hill isn’t content with forcing banks to take loans. The structure of the transaction is in the form of preferred non-voting stock. In essence, the federal government is buying non-voting ownership in these banks at a preferred rate of return beginning in two years.
So let me get this straight. The federal government is forcing banks to take its money in return for insurance protection, then forcing banks to pay the money back in two years at a higher rate of return than other shareholders get. Sounds suspiciously like a protection racket.
And the Don lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
And where are our free market defenders?
In the Left Lurch
Astoundingly, many Republicans on Capital Hill are beginning to think that nationalization of the American banking system is not such a bad idea after all. Senator Lindsay Graham, once a conservative but now merely a Republican, is quoted in a Financial Times interview as saying, “You should not get caught up on a word [nationalisation]. I would argue that we cannot be ideologically a little bit pregnant. It doesn’t matter what you call it, but we can’t keep on funding these zombie banks [without gaining public control].”
Senator Graham said that it didn’t make any sense to throw good money after bad into institutions that now have lower values than the amount of public bailout money they’ve already received.
Stop. That actually makes sense. Don’t throw good money after bad. Stop there.
But no. Republicans like Graham aren’t stopping there. They’re taking a hard left turn and actually supporting the idea that nationalization of at least some banks will be a good idea to help the economy.
Has the phrase ‘free market correction’ left their vocabulary entirely? Yes, it hurts. It hurts a lot. But it doesn’t hurt as long and it doesn’t leave the economy crippled for a decade or more trying to right itself after such a hack job intervention as partial (or, God forbid, total) nationalization of the financial sector. Free market corrections leave the American economy leaner, cleaner and far better able to compete on the global stage precisely because Americans adapt, innovate and find ways to work ourselves out of the economic pain we hate to feel. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ and all that. When did we (or at least our politicians) become so allergic to discomfort that we would rather throw our American ideals – and proven successes - down the toilet than deal with the shot-term suffering of making the right decisions?
An even more important question: if some of the leading Republicans on Capital Hill are buying into the new Obamunism, who are we left with to carry the flags of conservatism and free market capitalism?
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The rubber has hit the road.
The train has left the station.
Pick your favorite colloquial phrase. We cannot afford to waste any more time wondering what happened to Republicans in the 2008 elections. We cannot afford to waste time pointing our fingers at each other. And our soul-searching odyssey must be cut short, or we won’t have the freedom to finish the odyssey at all.
In case you missed it, the Democrats are serious about reviving the Fairness Doctrine, requiring radio and TV stations to provide equal amounts of airtime for both conservative and liberal views. The Democrats are doing this because every effort they’ve made on their own to compete in the marketplace has failed: their radio stations go bankrupt, their TV stations go dark, their newspapers lose readership daily. No one wants to listen to them, so advertisers don’t want to advertise on their stations; the stations can’t pay their bills and they go out of business. That’s how the free market works. But that’s not how socialism works. The way socialism works, government dictates what we will hear, read and see by regulating and controlling the airwaves.
Wait – that’s a dictatorship.
We aren’t even into the first 30 days of the Big O’s presidency, and we’re already in full tilt mode for a federal government takeover of the financial sector, the healthcare sector, the manufacturing sector; the federal government by presidential decree is making sweeping (if largely unreported) changes in social policy from gays in the military to federal funding for abortions; the American federal government is practically playing kissy-face with some of our most dangerous foreign enemies while putting smarmy political operatives in charge of our intelligence community, the federal takeover of public education is almost complete, Democrats have already planned how they will rewrite the lines of our electoral future for at least the next decade by politicizing the census. Now they’ve hatched their plan to publicly brainwash all of us using all the airwaves we access for information.
The scope of the Democrats’ hubris is breathtaking. Their cunning is extraordinary. Their boldness of vision and discipline to carry it out bears strong resemblance to a few other such grand plans we’ve seen in history.
Mao Tse Tung.
It sounds melodramatic, I know. To be sure, an American Democrat dictatorship would be a kinder, gentler kind of dictatorship. Probably bloodless (unless you include the body count of the unborn killed by abortion; the aged, infirm and handicapped dead from rationed healthcare; and the civilians and soldiers who will undoubtedly die from renewed terrorist attacks here and elsewhere; but that’s all).
Repression in any language is a violation of human rights. Government control of public airwaves is constitutionally unsound. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. We’ve had the Fairness Doctrine before, and there’s no reason to think we can’t be muzzled by it again given the current state of affairs and the sheer might of the Democrat machine.
I don’t care where you put yourself on the political spectrum; who you supported for President, or what you think of the current Republican Party. We cannot allow this to move forward. If we don’t stand strong together, the Democrats will succeed beyond their wildest dreams, and all we will have left is our own extinction. We'd better run; the train is fast picking up steam.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Well, life may well imitate art if the White House gets its way now.
Buried as a news item everywhere except deep on the Fox News website, the White House has announced that the Big O's chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, will be in charge of conducting the 2010 census, even though operations will "technically" stay within the Commerce Department:
"White House officials have announced that the census will technically remain part of the Commerce Department, but that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will oversee it at the White House, raising eyebrows among critics who say he can't be expected to be neutral in the task. Emanuel ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 and was instrumental in getting Democrats elected into the majority."
Since the outcome of the census determines funding levels for many federal programs to the states in addition to defining Congressional district lines for the next ten years, it is essential that it is done accurately and without any partisan involvement, which is why the Commerce Department does it and not, say, ACORN.
Now it looks like our First Community Organizer will have the opportunity - and the muscle - to truly remake the country in his image for at least the next ten years. What we will witness is the development of a federal numbers racket designed to systemically entrench Democrats' power throughout the country and all but eliminate any chance of Republicans even gaining enough ground to be competitive, much less gain control of Congress again for at least a decade.
This is exactly how Chicago style politics is run for real. The wards are divided up to ensure easy margins of victory for certain groups of people, virtually guaranteeing that those in power stay in power. Deals that don't pass the public sniff test - like the notion of turning the census into a list builder program for the Democrats - are done behind closed doors and slid past the public eye with disguises and subterfuge. Meanwhile, public adoration is purchased by giving money to orphanages and churches, calculatingly following the old adage that all politics is local.
Think it can't happen? It already has. The foundation for the infrastructure was built early in the Big O's campaign with all the ACORN activity searching out and registering new voters. How easy will it be to call up those same workers with the same training and tactics to do the sampling surveys the Democrats like to use so they can overcount their constituents and undercount ours? They've already done it once, under the public scrutiny of a presidential campaign. Doing the same thing for the - yawn - US Census is like taking candy from a baby.
Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, bless her heart, is calling for an investigation into the decision. Not that it matters. Republicans have no numbers, we have no media, and we have no public sympathy. The Big O has it all, and he has Rahm Emanuel to enforce his agenda with absolute discipline behind the scenes. Forget breaking legs or getting kneecapped. The only thing members of Congress truly fear is not being able to raise money for their war chests. How many phone calls do you think Emanuel would need to make to stop the flow of cash to a recalcitant Congressperson? We have a bloodless mob war in the making.
We may not realize it yet, but we are watching the Democrat party transform itself into an organized crime ring - each major player with his or her own territory and racket across the nation and an unending stream of revenue from the labor unions, Hollywood and other typical mob co-conspirators. And the Don lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I'm glad to know that people on both sides of the aisle still recognize that there are people in the world who intend to do us grave and permanent harm - who would like to see us wiped from the face of the earth, if truth be known.
One person suggested that there's no way a liberal President would just 'forget' about terrorism. I'm not worried that the Big O will forget about terrorism. I'm worried sick that his new approach to dealing with these evil people will be ineffective at best and destructive at worst.
This brings me to the fundamental difference between hawks and doves (or, conservatives and liberals, generally).
Hawks see the world as it is, guarding against the atrocities of the past. Hawks believe in the idea that we need to take the actions of other actors on the world stage primarily at face value and deal with the situations at hand in ways that best contain/eliminate threats and protect the people we are sworn to defend: American citizens, our allies and others who ask for our help. Hawks believe in the validity of protecting American interests, because hawks believe that the American way of life (generally the Western society we recognize of Greco-Roman lineage) and government is superior to other ways of life and other forms of government. Hawks believe freedom and democracy are worth fighting and dying for, whether it's for America or another country that shares our values (or whose people demonstrate they want to adopt those values in spite of oppression/brutality/dictatorship).
Doves use a completely different operating system. Doves see the world as it could be, with the ultimate goal of global peace and harmony. Doves believe that love really does conquer all, and that everyone, if given understanding and support, will eventually respond in kind. Doves genuinely believe that all cultures, religions, histories and global actors have relatively similar value and can add positive attributes to what they believe is everyone's ultimate goal: world peace, harmony and equality. Therefore, Communism has just as many positive attributes as Democracy (albeit in different ways). The idea of peaceful coexistence is the highest ideal. Doves are so commited to this ideal that they will sacrifice their own self-interest and the national interest of America to try to achieve it because they want to put what they perceive as others' needs ahead of their own.
We need both perspectives.
We need to believe in the positive potential of humankind even as we recognize and accept that not everyone will achieve it. We need to believe in the idea of global peace and prosperity while understaning that not everyone does or wants to share that belief. We need to believe in the possibility of redemption for every soul, even though we know that many souls will willingly reject the chance. It's a bit like trying to reconcile some of the things we know about Christ as recorded in the Bible:
- the man who preached love, forgiveness and understanding was the same man who bodily whipped and threw merchants out of the temple without warning - he didn't waste time talking to them;
- the man who commanded us to love one another as we loved ourselves was the same man who told his apostles to shake the dust from their sandals and move on from any town that didn't listen to them, and told them that the poor would always be among them;
- the man who told us to forgive 70 times 7 is the same man who said he came into the world to divide it rather than unite it, to separate the wheat from the chaff, to spit the lukewarm from his mouth;
- then that man allowed us all to brutalize him in front of his mother, willingly dying in agony so we could be redeemed, knowing that some of us would still willingly reject the chance.
2,000 years later, we still can't figure it out.
We need to understand that the world we live in is a fixer-upper, that our time in it is non-returnable, non-refundable and non-transferrable. There are no warranties, no guarantees that any of our approaches will work 100%. In fact, history has pretty much shown there is no 100% solution. There are, however, a few approaches with a track record of working better than others:
First, we have to protect the people and things we've sworn ourselves to protect. Without our word, we have no credibility. Without credibility, we have no negotiating power. We need to say what we mean, and follow through with what we say. Every time. No exceptions. It's the foundation of behavioral modification, and it works better than anything else I've ever seen.
Second, we need to bring back Pres. Reagan's policy of "trust, but verify". That was the best example of balance that I know of in the modern world. Work together where we can with those whom we can, but never just believe that what they're telling us is true without third party verification.
Third, we need to live up to our own ideals as best we can in order to win the hearts and minds of people around the world who want democracy in their own countries. Spreading democracy is easier than ever now with the interconnections we have via modern technology; we need to take responsibility as a nation and as individuals to be positive ambassadors of freedom, opportunity and democracy.
Fourth, we need to accept that not everyone wants to coexist peacefully, and we need to have the testicular fortitude to deal with them on their terms in ways they understand, because there is no other way. There was never an example in the Bible of Jesus sweet-talking a demon out of someone. He commanded it to leave, and forced it when it didn't go on its own. There is real evil in the world, and doves need to accept that the only way to deal with evil is to exterminate it. Even as we look for ways to spread peace and prosperity in partnership with those who share our ideals, doves need to cope with the reality that we still need to do some demolition on this fixer-upper to achieve the world of our dreams. Not everything or everyone should be saved.
Fifth, and I think this is important as an American, is that we all need to be a little less cynical and get back to the rock solid conviction that America is the expression of all that is best in humankind. Even if our leaders don't always make the right decisions, even when our government's policies don't work the way we think they will, even when we as American citizens forget to live up to the ideals of our Constitution - America is still the shining city on the hill. Some people hate that, and we need to be steadfast and unwavering in our commitment to defend her. Most people love that: they look to us to lead the charge for freedom and democracy even when they grumble about how we do it. Hawks need to remember that this fixer-upper has limitless potential. We don't want to get so caught up in defending ourselves against the evils of the past that we miss the opportunities to build the future of our dreams.
Give us another 2,000 years - maybe we'll get the job done by then. In the meantime, I am a hawk who believes that we need to do whatever it takes to stop the bad guys in their tracks.
But we need to keep sending out the doves to see if they come back with a live olive branch.
- trade deficits that have fed our national deficit;
- the seemingly insatiable appetite for people to want to appear more prosperous than they are, leading to them spending more than they can afford on a lifestyle they haven't earned;
- willingness (and in some cases, encouragement) by lenders to work out programs that allowed consumers to borrow against their homes at 125% of the home's value to "pay off" their unsecured debt, which only allowed them to build up more debt;
- lack of education and responsibility on the part of first-time homebuyers about all the costs involved in owning a home. Saying that you can buy for less than rent isn't exactly true after you factor in insurance, maintenance, taxes, utilities and various other expenses that go with owning a home. I think most first-time homebuyers were utterly unprepared for this, especially if they did not come from a family that owned their own home;
-protracted intransigience on the part of labor unions unwilling to recognize that the world is a very different place now, and their focus on extracting as much as they can from the companies for which their members work is not a good strategy for long term economic health. Instead, they should be taking a cue from the entrepreneurial sector and looking to workers in other countries (who may actually need their services much more) to imcrease their membership - and their funding sources. Grow and diversify.
The single biggest cause of this recession, however, is us. We can blame regulators, financiers, Congress, political parties, advertising executives and everybody else until we're blue in the face, but what we really need to do is look in the mirror. We, the consumers, let our own desires to look more prosperous, feel better about ourselves, 'one up' our neighbors, or whatever our motivations, get in the way of making sound spending decisions based on the reality of our ability to pay rather than what we could get away with or push off down the road. All of the programs that we are now criticizing Wall Street for creating and government for not regulating only exist because there was enough consumer demand for those programs to make them profitable. That's how the free market system works. If we weren't clamoring for free money, no money down programs, no payments for a year programs and the like - they wouldn't exist. Our own greed got us into this mess.
Wall Street didn't drive us - we drove it. To abdicate that responsibility is the height of immaturity and denial on our parts. We have to be accountable. We have to accept the notion that we can't have everything we want, exactly when we want it, just because some marketing firm says "You're worth it". We have bought into the false idea that we "deserve" things - because we work hard one day, because we watch what we eat during the week, because we live stessful lives. The fact is - we only deserve what we legitimately earn, after we've earned it.
So now we have Communist nations holding more than 25% of our debt, our domestic real estate is devalued to the point of attracting the only foreign investors who have any money right now - who happen to be part of a culture that wants to see ours completely dismantled - and we are led by a President and a Congress who believe that appeasement of enemy dictators and federal government spending are the best ways to fix things. I would be far less worried about Barack Obama if Nancy Pelosi and Hary Reid were not running Congress. But they are, and we are headed for an absolute train wreck because of it.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Under President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, accumulated federal debt will go from about 36% of GDP to as much as 70% of GDP or more, depending on whose numbers you follow.
The annual federal deficit will increase from approximately 4.5% of GDP to as much as 15% of GDP - potentially even more if Democrats continue to find ways to spend money.
Federal government control of our national economy (government owned or controlling interest in business and industry), because of how the 'bailout' funding is being used, will skyrocket to 44%, including control of our financial centers, our construction industry, healthcare and manufacturing. If it moves money or is heavily unionized, chances are the federal government will have a substantial or controlling interest in it.
Welcome to the United Socialist Republic of America.
I applaud the Republicans for trying to get the word out about the egregious examples of pork and pet project funding that went into the newly passed spending package - this is no bailout or stimulus, but rather a laundry list of Democrat spending priorities geared toward increasing union power, promoting their social engineering agenda and stengthening the influence (and campaign fundraising power) of their other constituencies. I'm glad that Republicans stood together and voted against the bill as a group rather than peeling off on their own.
It's not nearly enough.
First, we have very few media outlets that are even willing to cover the Republican side of the issue, much less cover it in a substantial and objective manner.
Second, we don't have even close to the voting strength we would need to either block legislation on our own, or even enough to influence the remaining centrist Democrats to vote with us on key issues. They are far more concerned about staying in the good graces of their party's leaders right now.
Third, the man occupying the White House right now is showing that he's more than happy to be a bully if it suits him, smugly telling Republicans that, "I won" and that we can't listen to Rush Limbaugh and expect to get anything done - and he has the enforcers in both houses of Congress to back him up. In other words, he's got the executive power, he's got the voting numbers, he's got the adoration of the media, and he intends to use it to remake the world in his image.
We are real trouble, folks. Now, I know that every time Democrats control either the White House or the Congress, we wring our hands and lament about the impending doom that could result from their influence. I know that every election is a historic election. I know that there are always people predicting the end of the world as we know it regardless of what's really happening. But this time, with this convergence of circumstances, cultural influences and power players, I believe we could honestly witness the end of the kind of America we know and love. We are looking at moving toward adopting governmental and financial models similar to Germany and France - countries the liberals adore, but that we have no interest in emulating. If we go that route, we will sink to their level, and the dream of America as we know it - the land of freedom and opportunity - will be lost, possibly for good.
What are we going to do about it?
Saturday, January 24, 2009
And the best the Republicans have to say is that it's too much money? They're whining because the socialists who now control Washington have not given them a big enough seat at the table to determine which industries should get checks that will be paid by our great grandchildren?
No wonder we lost.
Here's a novel idea: if you want to get a trillion dollars working in the American economy, how about taking a trillion dollars less out of it to begin with???
If Republicans said, "Instead of having government get its claws even deeper into American business, we're going to reduce our involvement - and our cut of the take - by $1 trillion through tax cuts targeted to stimulate business, relieve homeowners and working families and encourage charitable giving", now that would be a bold alternative vision that Americans could get behind.
Imagine - a $1 trillion tax cut that:
- rewards small business investment by beefing up deductions and tax credits that can be taken for start ups, expansion, providing jobs, providing health insurance and other benefits;
- relieves homeowners by providing optional interest deduction schedules that allow homeowners to deduct mortgage interest at accelerated rates, perhaps even an outright tax credit in interest for the next two years rather than a deduction;
- at least doubles the dependent deduction to provide relief for families with children;
- completely reforms the puny deductions that can be taken for healthcare costs right now and provides taxpayers the ability to take outright tax credits for premiums and other out of pocket expenses;
- cuts the capital gains rate;
- in a new move to encourage charitable giving, provide a tax credit for charitable contributions made to 501c3 organizations up to $100,000.
Instead of porking out $1 trillion in programs and projects that will only reward the Democrats' constituencies and strengthen their socialist stranglehold on the only real bastion of economic freedom in the entire world, let's put government on a $1 trillion diet by cutting taxes to stimulate the economy. The federal government gets $1 trillion further in debt either way. At least this way we've got real economic stimulation going on, and it will force us to confront federal government obesity head on without pretending we had no choice in the matter.
Come on, Republicans. We've got $1 trillion to work with. Get creative. Get a vision Americans can get behind and stop the Democrats before they pull the plug on the American dream.
Friday, January 23, 2009
So, what's changed my mind? It's probable that I still don't have anything original to add to the new global conversation. There are others much better educated and much more gifted than I doing this very thing. What motivated me to put my thoughts out there for the whole world to see (or at least a handful of people with nothing better to do but read my rants)?
This longtime Congressman from Pennsylvania proved himself a jackass over and over again during the presidential campaign. Still, I cannot comprehend how someone who has spent so much time in Washington, who has been re-elected time after time, who has access to so much information and so many experts that we do not on a daily basis, can be so colossally stupid. I am infuriated by his idiocy. I cannot abide his obtuse perspectives. And I am equally appalled by the fact that we do not seem to have any Republican leaders on the national stage willing to call him out for the dimwit that he is.
So here I am. Again.
I know there are others who think the same things I will write. There are plenty of others who will communicate much better than I can. I simply cannot contain myself anymore; hence the blog.
I wanted to give this new administration a fair chance. In spite of my misgivings and my fundamental disagreements with our new President, I wanted to think that he was shrewd enough to play even-handedly, at least at the beginning. Boy, was I wrong.
It took less than 48 hours for President Obama to declare that he was going to shut down the Guantanamo Bay military prison installation that currently houses some of the most lethal and most capable sociopaths in the world. Some of them have planned, financed or executed the most heinous acts of violence against innocent people that we have ever seen. Some of them are connected to the biggest players in the international terror industry. Yet, the President who only 72 hours ago (give or take, depending on which oath you use for timing) swore to faithfully execute the duties of his office and protect the American people, showed with a flourish of his pen that he cares more about appeasing terrorists and their sponsors than he cares about protecting Americans. But the icing on that cake was John Murtha's flippant comment that he would happily take those displaced sociopaths and house them in a minimum security federal facility in his district while they await trials designed to protect their phantom Consititutional rights saying, "Sure, I'd take 'em. They're no more dangerous in my district than in Guantanamo."
Did I really just witness a United States Congressman say that housing some of the most lethal international sociopaths in the world at a Club Fed facility in the middle of America's heartland is no more dangerous than keeping them locked down in a maximum security military installation off U.S. soil separated from U.S. citizens?
I don't know how Murtha has managed thus far in his life. He obviously has absolutely no understanding of how the prison system works, how military installations work, who these people are or what they are capable of accomplishing in a minimum security facility. Let's set aside the obvious security gaps for a moment that would make it so much easier for the Gitmo prisoners to plan and successfully execute an escape plan of their own. U.S. citizens who are serving time in U.S. prisons do have Constitutional rights (unlike the foreign terrorist prisoners, who don't even properly fall under the Geneva Convention). At a minimum security federal prison, inmates have significant access to the outside world through visiting policies, computer use, mail and phone privileges - and that's just the legal, above board portion of their communication. Then there's the black market system that trades dollars and goods for favors, along with intimidation, coersion, or old-fashioned corruption. How long would it take the terrorists, who have been trained in manipulation and intimidation tactics and who know there is an outside network of money and resources waiting for them if they can just make contact with it, to convince other American prisoners to carry messages for them, use their computer and internet time and their visitors to rebuild networks of communications that will allow them to resume their anti-American terrorist activities? Anyone want to to take odds on "immediately"?
This is just one example of what we're in for during the next four years. A new President who begins his administration of "change" by blowing off the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball honoring our Medal of Honor recipients but wastes no time in finding ways to release Islamic terrorists who have wounded and killed our most dedicated service members and innocent Americans, and a U.S. Congressman who invites those terrorists to live in his district among his constituents as casually as if he were inviting friends for a barbeque.
Perhaps he'd like to host that barbeque in the crater left by Flight 93.