- Sept. 22, 2010
Lindsey Graham (R) famously said that the number one item on the Republican agenda was to make Mr. Obama a one-term president. Though I am sure there will be a lot of hand clenching and tooth gnashing over consequences of Mr. Romney's loss to President Obama, the one thing that cannot be disputed is that the President's victory represents a complete failure of the Republican agenda.
Instead of reaching compromise agreements on health care, working with the president on free market solutions to climate change or helping to create new lightly regulated funding mechanisms for start-up companies by working on the JOBS bill, Republicans chose to focus on obstructing the President's agenda. They chose to paint him as a socialist, block his initiatives, block his appointments and demonize him. They chose the path of obstruction over the path of compromise.
During the debt ceiling debate and the Obamacare debate Mr Obama practically begged Republicans to meet him in the middle. He offered compromises on taxes, on the health care mandate, he offered to compromise on Social Security age restrictions and on and on and on. All the Republicans could say to this was No, No, No.
Instead of serving their constituents, they served their ideology.
Now that agenda is a complete failure. The Republicans failed to get their ideas included in the President's programs, then they failed to remove the President. More importantly however, they failed their constituents.
I hope they learn their lesson, but I doubt they will. The Republicans need to change their attitude. They need to work with Democrats, reach across the isle and make compromises.
They need a new agenda, one that serves their constituents rather than their vanity. An agenda rooted in what is best for the country. They need to work with the President and not against him.
On Thursday the talking heads made up a lot of reasons why the DOW and S&P 500 were down 5%. The biggest loss since 2008, they said. Then they made up a bunch of reasons "why".
Was it stagnant growth numbers? Bad retail sales numbers? Maybe sun spots?
Then yesterday, S&P downgraded the US debt rating from AAA to AA+.
This is ridiculous for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that if the US is AA+, how can EXXON or Microsoft (US Based C-Corporations) be AAA? You don't think a US default and the resulting chaos in the markets would cause these companies to be a higher risk? Who would default first. Microsoft under an anti-trust ruling or the United States, a nation that defeated Germany (twice), fought the cold war and invented cheese in a can.
It is also ridiculous that the full faith and credit of the United States is being called into question by an organization that was rating the bottom tranche of sub-prime mortgage derivatives "AAA" during 2004, 2005 and 2006. These morons are the same morons that got us into the debt crisis in the first place. They still don't have a clue about how to evaluate risk. The Black Swan is still coming and these guys are downgrading US Treasury bills.
Oh, and they are all still making millions in salary and bonuses. No jail time or civil penalties for them.
Anyway, I would like to propose an alternative theory to Thursday's market sell-off. Insider Trading. It is possible that insiders at S&P who knew of the impending downgrade leaked the information to Wall St. types who are "in the know".
The resulting sell-off was a reaction, not to any real market forces, but to insider rumors floating around about S&P's impending action.
This week the FBI, Justice Department and SEC should raid the S&P offices and get to the bottom of this. Insider trading has long been tolerated. Traders who are plugged into the rumor mill make millions trading on information that is not publicly available. I think that once the SEC and others look into it, the cockroaches at S&P will flee the light. Maybe we can squish a few.
If you have ever tried to build a new structure in Lawrence, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that working the planning department can be challenging. From arcane language to seemingly ridiculous requirements, the process is both frustrating and time consuming.
I can only imagine how frustrating it must be from a planner’s point of view. Having citizens (customers) come to you, each with their own idea of how a project should be done, each one considering their project “special”. This is especially true in middle America where attitudes about private property are rather rigid.
Today we saw what happens when these planners play close attention to detail and enforce the building standards uniformly. Japanese planners and engineers are the heroes of today’s earthquake. Their insistence on quality materials and earthquake resistant building styles made the homes and businesses of northwest Japan capable of surviving the massive 8.9M earthquake that shook the region.
Though thousands of lives were lost, the death toll from this quake would have been much, much worse if it had taken place in a city with lax building codes and enforcement. The men and women who developed these standards, worked with builders and enforced them in their communities are to be commended.
The next time you do a project and run into resistance from the planning department and building inspectors, remember that they are enforcing the rules for your own good. You will thank them if there is a fire in your home, or a natural disaster in your area. They are heroes; working to save lives.
I don’t usually side with the right on most issues. I think that the growing wealth gap is poisonous to our democracy, I believe that fossil fuels should be heavily taxed and the resulting resources dedicated to alternative energy (including nuclear) and I believe that we should bend over backwards to keep educated and hard working immigrants coming to our shores. I believe that no matter who your life partner is, you should have the economic benefits and security of marriage.
From time to time, however, I come across an issue where the right is… right. One of those issues is the second amendment right to bear arms. Though I loath handgun deaths as much as the next citizen, they are the price we pay for the right to defend ourselves and our communities. There is a similar cost for our first amendment protections. Exposure to the bigoted posters of the Westboro Baptist church is the price we pay for freedom of speech.
Another item on which the right is coming to agree with me, is airport security. Before we go any further, I have always been a critic of the TSA. I realize that the right was in charge when it was implemented and that now that President Obama is in charge they are reversing their position.
The current method of implementing security procedures in response to each and every publicized terrorist threat plays into the hands of our enemies. It also erodes our 4th amendment rights, making all of us less free and less secure.
If we bring the full resources of the American People to bear against every terrorist tactic, we are going to lose the war on terror. The terrorists spent $4,200 on an attempted package bombing last moth. If we respond by forcing shippers to spend Billions ($1,000,000,000) of dollars screening every package shipped, we give the terrorists what they want.
The correct response to this threat is to acknowledge that our current system worked. Look for places to improve the system at a reasonable cost and move forward with our lives.
The same goes for the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber and the flight 93 hijackers. All of these efforts failed. Why did they fail? Because the tactics of 911 stopped working less than 4 hours after they were first used. Passengers are not going to allow hijackers to take an airliner. The tactics might work for a plane full of children, or if hijackers bought out a majority of the seats, but never again for a plane full of average Americans.
Sometimes our government forgets we are not children. We conquered the western wilderness, defeated the Nazi’s at Normandy and the Japanese at Tarawa. We invented the revolver, the repeating riffle, the machine gun, the airplane and the atomic bomb. We sent a man to the moon, discovered DNA and created the Internet. Americans are tough, scrappy and violent. When called to do so Americans, average everyday Americans, will bring down vengeance on our enemies the likes of which the world has never seen. No one is going to hijack a plane with knives or box cutters. No one is going to be allowed to detonate a bomb. The other passengers are watching and if they try it, they are going to get their faces beat in and end up with a life sentence.
By dedicating enormous resources countering the non-existent threat of a 911 style hijacking, TSA officials are doing exactly what the terrorists want us to do. The TSA theater gives credibility to the terrorist threat, brings the terrorists to the forefront of traveler’s minds and wastes financial and human resources.
We all understand that some TSA theater is necessary. Otherwise much of the public would avoid air travel. Admittedly, you could hijack an airplane with small arms such as pistols, rifles and grenades. Let’s make sure no one has any. Feeling up grandma, however, is not improving security and is outside the realm of the theater production.
Screeners should save their resources to focus on people who might truly be dangerous. Heinlein wrote, “There are no dangerous weapons, there are only dangerous men.” Does this mean racial profiling? No. Does it mean profiling? Yes.
Suicide bombers fit a specific profile. They are overwhelmingly male. They are generally between 19 and 31 years of age. They are also about to kill themselves. This makes them nervous, edgy and slightly paranoid. Screeners should look carefully at these passengers, ask them a few questions, inspect their bags carefully, look for probable cause.
Patdowns and enhanced searches should be reserved for passengers that, for whatever reason, have given officers probably cause. Other passengers should be given a cursory inspection and sent merrily on their way.
The other reason that the TSA should re-vamp its screening is that it erodes our 4th amendment rights without t significantly improving our safety. In his notes for a proposition to the Pennsylvania assembly, Ben Franklin wrote, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” I truly wish that our former president had read these words before launching the Global War on Terror (GWOT).
If we change America for the worse to respond to the terrorist threat, we let the terrorists win. If you are here in this country (legally or illegally) you are protected against unreasonable search and seizure. This means that the government can’t just come into your house and go through your papers, computers and personal items.
By forcing citizens to waive these rights simply to use public air travel, the TSA weakens liberty for all citizens. If you can be scanned naked with an X-ray scanner at the airport, why not while walking down the street? How about in your kids schools? Where does this power end?
Is it possible that we might miss something? Is it possible that a some crazy extremist wackjob might get a bomb on a plane and kill a bunch of people? Yep. As a matter of fact, it is guaranteed that at some future date some radical extremist is going to blow up or crash an airplane. That is the price we must pay for having an open society governed by a bill of rights.
Our society will win the war on terror. We will win the war by refusing to be terrorized. The war on terror can be costly or it can be cheap. We can choose to overreact, pour money into expensive technology to fight every boogeyman that the bad guys can cook up, or we can choose to live our lives as we always have while law enforcement focuses suspicious activities and on the men that fit the terrorist profile.
We will win by continuing our commitment to our constitution and the rule of law. By respecting the rights of every man, woman and child inside our borders. This is the only way.
The University of Kansas a Division 1++ NCAA university is seeking an older, over privileged businessman to lead its not-for-profit+++ athletic department to victory.
Successful candidates will have the following skills and qualifications.
Financial Management: Candidates should be able to increase the organization’s debt by millions of dollars without creating any stable source of long term revenue to pay the debt.
Community Outreach: Successful applicants will be able to reach out and hold other university property hostage. Outreach efforts should allow Kansas Athletics, Inc. to obtain exclusive access to shared resources such as the university mascot, campus real-estate, athletic buildings and public relations assets. These assets will be used to increase the salary of the applicant and any cronies he brings with him to the job.
Confidentiality: All financial dealings should be held in complete secrecy to prevent public scrutiny of budgets, salaries or other employee benefits.
Visionary Leadership: Go big, then go home. After demonstrating a talent for ruinous financial decisions, candidate will be allowed to deploy his golden parachute and go home without financial or legal repercussions.
Supervisory Skills: Applicant will provide his own blindfold and earmuffs to prevent successful supervision of other staff. Blindness to theft is a plus.
Prioritization: A successful candidate will be willing to put himself and his finances before any student athletes and their needs. Candidate should be willing to cancel scholarships for injured athletes, while cashing millions of dollars in checks paid for by their blood and sweat.
Discipline: Candidate should be willing to discipline anyone who gets in the way of the Kansas Athletics, Inc. juggernaut. This includes suing other departments, businesses, individuals, children and/or pets that make use of the word “Kansas” or the color “blue” in any display, product, written document, news story or sidewalk chalk drawing. A cadre of attorneys will be provided at the taxpayer’s expense.
Compensation includes a $1,400,000 / year base salary plus kickbacks and misc intellectual property. Jobs for family members and close friends. Tax free cash bonuses from outside deals. Free state owned equipment, vehicles and housing. Job security includes a $2,000,000 golden parachute.
Former Wall Street traders working at the CDO desk or in mortgage securities are encouraged to apply.
++ Division 1 status may be temporary depending on how far candidate is willing to bend recruiting rules.
+++ Kansas Athletics Inc is never to generate a profit for math or science programs, profits generated for employees, their family’s and friends are both allowed and expected.
During the first few months after 9-11, our nation had a choice. We could treat the terrorists behind the attack as criminals, capture them, put them on trial and execute the guilty, or we could engage in an ideological war between freedom in the west and religious oppression in the east.
As a nation, we chose to enter into a war of ideals. Though this may not have been the best decision, it is the one we are now stuck with....pursuing a war of ideology with radicals. A war where a smile and a Hershey bar is as much of a tool as a 500 Lb JDAM.
In this war we represent the ideals of our society. Freedom of expression, freedom of the press, equality for everyone, universal education and, above all, freedom to worship as you see fit.
In their opposition to the proposed mosque at 51 Park, leaders of the right wing have betrayed our cause by betraying our values. By opposing the construction of a venue of religious worship leaders like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin provide ammunition for the enemy. They provide the enemy with evidence that the west is not egalitarian and free. They allow the enemy to paint us as a Christian nation dedicated to the destruction of Islam.
In their betrayal of our ideals, these leaders betray our cause. They are no better than the soldiers at Abu-Grhraib, the alleged traitor Bradley Manning or the convicted war criminal Pfc. Steven D. Green. In some ways they are worse. While the soldiers of Abu-Grhraib were under orders, Palin, Gingrich and the rest are simply drumming up an issue for their own personal and political gain.
It was to my great relief that the commander in chief stood up yesterday to repudiate the intolerance and bigotry of the right wing. Hopefully this action demonstrates to the world and to Muslims everywhere that we take our commitment to freedom seriously.
Every time our leaders betray our values by trampling on personal freedoms, imposing their religion and acting with bigotry and hatred, they betray our cause and give succor to the enemy.
Update August 23rd - Protests over mosque at ground zero create Jihadist propaganda bonanza. http://tinyurl.com/34s3yuy