Thursday, January 28, 2010

Undressing the State of the Union Address

Well, yesterday was Barack's first State of the Union, or as ultracool New York Times readers now call it: SOTU. These are the same people who say "Gitmo." These clowns are obviously too cool for the entire word. Or as they'd put it, TCFTEW.

Anyway, I'd like to quickly address Barack's main points from last night's speech. In a general sense, this was a "Restart Switch" for Barack. The word "healthcare" didn't slip his lips until almost halfway thru (in terms of word count, it was well over 3,000 words in).

This was the life and death issue of the universe the last few weeks. What's changed?

But Barack mostly talked about the economy. I think he's realized that it's what people in the chewy center of this country (politically and geographically) are most concerned about.

"And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today."

Thank you, Barack! Finally someone wants to say it. Kind of. For every dumbass that bitches about "a bailout for Wall Street, but not for Main Street," these words should be tattooed to the inside of their eyelids. The banks have mostly repaid their bailout money. Get over it.

Barack spewed a lot of gibberish, mentioning the names of various Anytown, USAs.

Then came the meat of the sandwich. The part of the Address when the President outlined his agenda for the upcoming year.

He mentioned his desire to impose a fee on banks in order to pay for future bailouts.

"I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea, but if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need."

Just when I'm starting to like Barack, he goes back to the populist rage BS.

This incessant class warfare incitement has gotten old fast. 'Big bonuses to rich Wall Street fatcats.' Might as well call them Shylock (I'm not implying there's Antisemitism, it's just an allusion to the centuries old tradition of despising anyone who lends money) This is a nice sentiment, to force banks to pay for their own protection. But at the same time, who'll shoulder the burden of these fees? Customers.

Make banks pay to insure themselves. It can be presented that way without all the anticapitalist rhetoric.

It's not a bad idea, really, but there are costs. The big banks aren't going to stop paying big bucks to their highly sought after execs. They'll simply charge you more to use an ATM.

"Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. 200,000 work in construction and clean energy. 300,000 are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, and first responders. And we are on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year."

They saved government jobs. Which is all well and good, but at what cost? He repeated, like a machine gun, how he'd cut taxes. So with taxes down, and spending up, where's the money for these jobs come from? China. Which is where he also doesn't want our jobs to go. But they'll be collecting interest on the ruinous debt we incur to keep those jobs here. So the Chinese won't need to work.

Word of the day: myopia. Definition: nearsightedness, an inability to see things that are far away.

Then Barack talked about generating jobs.

" find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again, they are mostly lending to bigger companies. But financing remains difficult for small business owners across the country.

So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. I am also proposing a new small business tax credit – one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment; and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment."

Now I love the taxcuts. I'm almost always for a taxcut on anyone, even if it's not me. Taxcuts never hurt anyone but government bureaucrats.

But Government doesn't know anything about banking. It never has. The proposition of disbursing $30B to small businesses (through "community banks") sounds like a pretty idea, but there are thorns on that rose. Who determines who gets that $30B and under what terms?

If big banks, which are driven by the motive to profit, and are run by people who've spent lifetimes determining what loans are good and what loans are bad. If these guys are staying away from small businesses, doesn't that suggest that it's not a safe bet?

So essentially, the money the Government lent to the big banks, because of their failed risks, will be risked once again in investments that even the big banks find unsavory in this environment.

Makes sense to me.

Barack went on with infrastructure talk.

God, damn all the history teachers in this country to hell! The two weeks each one of them forces students to worship the New Deal are the cause of the Democrats' notion that those programs reinvigorated the US economy, instead of World War II (a war fought by the Allies with American vehicles, American equipment, fueled by American gasoline, transported on American ships, all of which was paid for by borrowing from America). Barack fancies himself the 21st century's FDR.

Unfortunately, he essentially is this century's FDR, who is so utterly overrated. FDR is the Brett Favre of Presidents.

Except Barack has an edge on FDR. Barack is green. All these clean energy programs. Programs which are grotesquely expensive if not for government incentives.

"China's not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany's not waiting. India's not waiting. These nations aren't standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They are making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs."

Yes, let's be more like China. China's economic growth has been meteoric, but it's come at the cost of thousands of lives, and an atmosphere sodden with pollution. Now I know Barack would love to emulate a pinko country, but even he is against China's human rights and environmental crimes.

"You can see the results of last year's investment in clean energy – in the North Carolina company that will create 1200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put 1,000 people to work making solar panels."

Government controlled jobs. That's what the Jeffersonian and the cynic in me sees here. If you work in an area favored by the Government, you'll be employed. Results don't matter, profit won't matter. So long as your line of work fits in with the current Government's agenda, you'll be employed.

"But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives."

More of your money. Enjoy Government deciding who gets to be employed and who doesn't.

Although thank you, Barack, for getting behind nuclear power and for drilling offshore.

Then he went on to exports. He wants America to DOUBLE our exports. Talk about optimistic. The US has been in a trade deficit since the 60s. And while I think Barack has a lovely idea here. How the hell does he intend to do it? And do it in 5 years, as he claims. Perhaps a Stalinesque 5 Year Plan?

Or maybe Barack's already got this scheme well underway. As he continues to borrow, the strength of the US Dollar will diminish. As the dollar devalues, it'll be more appealing for foreign industry to employ US workers. American sweatshops.

After all, the basic reason why countries like China and India export so much is that it's cheap to employ Chinese and Indian workers. So when €1,000 is enough to pay a US worker $50,000, German and Swedish industrialists will build factories all over our country.

He then ranted about the need to improve education, which I agree with. He had some weird, semisocialist ideas about student loans. But to be frank, I'm left of him in this area. I think the government should flatout PAY for citizens' college educations if they can get into that college and stay in it (and otherwise couldn't pay for that education). It's a good investment, and one that pays innumerable longterm dividends.

"That's why we're working to lift the value of a family's single largest investment – their home."

Please, keep government the fuck out of capitalist markets!

Even if you do good now, one day that good will be bad. Government exists to regulate markets and protect investors from scams. It doesn't exist to exert positive influence in those markets.

Government can forcibly increase the value of homes, but such an increase would be artificial. And if the value of homes rise, so does their price. Which means fewer people can buy homes, unless they indenture themselves to monstrous mortgages. And isn't this all familiar territory here?

Then Barack discoursed about healthcare.

" I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people."

In predictably typical liberal fashion, Barack explained the lack of support for his reforms due to a lack of understanding. After all, the only reason someone would dare disagree with a liberal is if they didn't understand the liberal's obviously superior intelligence.

"Do not walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people."

I'm very thankful for the 59 Senator speedlimit he now has to observe.

Then Barack passed the buck (or seval trillion bucks) for the budget deficit...

"By the time I took office, we had a one year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. That was before I walked in the door."

Imagine if the captain of the Titanic turned over command to his Executive Officer. So the XO, inheriting this huge problem, decides to hit a smaller iceberg. Then when questioned, his first response is "Well Captain Smith hit an even bigger iceberg, and we were already sinking."

"Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years."

This sounds like me when I struggled through quitting cigarettes. "I'll quit after the weekend... after the World Series... after the Super Bowl... at the end of the semester... at the end of summer..."

"...which is why this freeze will not take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger."

And what if the economy isn't stronger? Will we smash into more icebergs in an attempt to fix it? Will we spend more, or stop spending? Will we dig up?

Barack touched on the need for government clarity and transparency. And less pork. All good stuff, but stuff I've heard from previous Presidents. I'll believe it when I see it.

"I never thought the mere fact of my election would usher in peace, harmony, and some post-partisan era."

But the Nobel Committee sure did.

" And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership"

Well with 41 Senators, how do you push new legislation? How do you show that leadership? And just because Republicans disagree with Barack's particular version of "change," doesn't mean that the GOP has simply tried to slow everything down. They're trying to slowdown Barack's agenda. And I for one am glad they're doing so.

Barack moved on to defense, surprisingly late for a President in a time of war, and surprisingly early for a Democrat. In a stanza filled with reassuring rhetoric about how secure our national security is, he threw this in.

"We have prohibited torture..."

No matter your moral stance on torture of terrorists, does the fact that we don't do it anymore make you feel "safer?" It doesn't make me feel safer.

"That is why North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger sanctions – sanctions that are being vigorously enforced."

Because sanctions are typically sufficient to deter hardline maniacs from doing crazy shit.

"And as Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: they, too, will face growing consequences."

Such as a stern talking-to, and no dinner before bedtime. Why do we treat murderously psychotic despots like misbehaving 5 year olds?

"We are working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science, education and innovation."

Unless you're a woman, then no science for you.

By this point in Barack's speach, we're well into the random torrent of miscellany. We got X number of people in Haiti. We gave money to AIDs research. Et Cetera.

"We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate."

This feeble attempt to use logic is why I'll never be liberal. To suggest that prosecuting crimes driven by prejudice more harshly will somehow reduce their likelihood is bananas.

Racists who are crazy/stupid/hateful enough to commit so-called "hate crimes" are insufficiently reasonable to comprehend that they'll now go to jail longer for beating up a black guy. All violent crimes are a form of hatecrime, no matter what color the perpetrator or victim is.

And so i'll summarize Barack's speech with a few bulletpoints:

#1: We need more bipartisanship, especially from the Republicans (which was, in and of itself, a partisan attack)

#2: I'll pretend to still care about healthcare reform, but I'll not talk much about it anymore

#3: I think taxing rich people and greedy corporations and borrowing from China is a good way to create jobs.

#3A: Those new jobs, of course, will all fall in line with MY agenda, so things like green jobs, government jobs, and anything Al Gore would approve of. Those kinds of jobs.

#4: It's time for an end to divisive tactics and rhetoric. Did you hear that you rightwing nutjobs?

#5: All your problems are W's fault. Yeah, my campaign duped you into believing I'd fix them with a snap of a finger and yet they remain. Whoops.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Scott Heard Brown the World

Rejected but still quality potential headlines for this post:
Brown Out
What Will Brown Do For Us?
Great Scott!
The World Turned Upsidebrown
Warp Speed Ahead, Scotty
Scott DOES Know

And the grotesquiest:
Dems Can't Wipe the Brown


That combination of characters is simply foreign to me. Republican from Massachusetts. I never thought it possible. My entire 25 year life, I've had two Democrats representing me in the Senate. And I'd always presumed that it would always be the case. I never dreamed that this FACT would ever be challenged, let alone changed. The sky is now red (blue to red, get it?), water is now dry, fire is now cool.

One more sentimental paragraph before we break into sterile political reality. I was so thrilled to vote yesterday. Because it mattered. It mattered here in The Commonwealth, and it mattered across the country. It was a first for a young Massachusetter, who's accustomed to his deep blue state. Win or lose, the vote that I recorded in the 3rd cubicle on the left at the Balch School Gym in Norwood was enabled, virile, powerful. The country felt my vote today, and not simply because my man won (another first).

Scott Brown vs. Martha Coakley was a bit of a Perfect Storm scenario. Coakley was a forgettable candidate. Her campaign was presuming, dissociative, unnoticeable and then exceedingly desperate. I'll summarize her campaign strategy. "I'm Martha Coakley, I'm a Democrat, I'm running for Senator." The campaign didn't even ask you to vote for her. It just assumed you would because of the D next to her name.

I mean, this woman was just on another planet from the average voter.

Compared to:

Magnificently quaint. Even the echoing, homemade acoustics of the commercial make you FEEL like you're in the livingroom with them. It can be dismissed as political BS, but BS works!

Scott Brown was relatable, likable, slick yet simple. It was a good incumbent's campaign. They used his obscurity to his advantage, turning him into a newcomer, the outsider, the reformer. You do an image search for "Scott Brown" on Google, and in the first 3 pages, there's 1 picture of him. The rest are of a Scottish soccer player.

Coakley's poor campaign, Scott Brown's smoothness are what pushed Brown over the top in a close race. But what made it close was the backlash against the Democrats in Washington.

Some conservative pundits on Fox News were thrilled last night. They saw this as a booming anti-Barack voice from the heart of the leftwing's motherland. And it should be mentioned that Massachusetts hasn't had a Republican Senator since the 70's. Barack won Massachusetts by a whopping 25.8%. 61.8% of Massachusetters voted for Barack little more than a year ago. Democrats outnumber Republicans 3.5:1 here.

Massachusetts doesn't hate Barack. And I think it's too early to suggest that America wants somebody besides Barack in the driver's seat. And they seem to be fine with Pelosi n' pals being the backseat drivers. But Americans want to put a speed limit on this car. And that's what this election effectively does.

If you laughed at this shirt, you're a major nerd

The Democrats have railroaded about 3 years worth of ultraliberal legislation through Congress. But the US Government wasn't built for speed. Or comfort. Or motorboating. It was built to be slow, cautious, difficult to change. The Founders studied the descent of the Roman Republic into tyranny, and learned from those mistakes. They therefore constructed a system with checks and balances.

Change is good, but our system is meant to keep change at a snail's pace. New bills need to be examined, for longer than 10 minutes.

Slow and steady wins the race. Didn't the Democrats read the tortoise and the hare?

When you start messing around with healthcare, the people get nervous. They want to know what's going on. The Democrats failed to let us in on their designs. They just wanted it passed, and passed ASAP, whatever 'it' was. Just like they shoved their stimulus packages through.

The election of Scott Brown is an indictment on the Democrats' stranglehold in Washington, but not nearly a conviction. And this is Massachusetts we're talking about here. The home of MIT, Harvard, BC, BU, Northeastern, etc. These are smart people who have college+ education and put their kids in private high schools. These people have white collar jobs, drive hybrids, wear suits, and vote for Barack Obama. These are smart, educated people. These aren't the "Tea-Baggers" that Democrats prefer to demean and dismiss as ignorant instead of addressing their questions.

If Massachusetts wants Barack to slow down, what speed limit might the rest of the country want to implement?

"Wake Up Call" will be the buzzphrase of the cable news pundit from now until November. And this is clearly a call for Democrats to rise and shine. But is that a good thing for conservatives?

Of course I'm happy that it's 59 to 41 in the Senate. I'm happy that the Democrats might move back toward the middle. And that's great for the here and now. But a parable:

A boy is given a horse on his 14th birthday. Everyone in the village says, "Oh how wonderful." But a Zen master who lives in the village says, "We shall see." The boy falls off the horse and breaks his foot. Everyone in the village says, "Oh how awful." The Zen master says, "We shall see." The village is thrown into war and all the young men have to go fight. But, because of the broken foot, the boy stays behind. Everyone says, "Oh, how wonderful."
The Zen master says, "We shall see."

What if we've woken up the Democrats, so they slow down their socialisms, and they maintain their solid majority in the 2010 elections? I guess so long as they're closer to the middle with their policies, it isn't so bad.

For conservatives out there, celebrate but don't rejoice. This isn't the "beginning of the end" for Barack or his disciples. It's certainly the end of the beginning, but we shouldn't revel much in having only 41 Senators in Washington.

For liberals out there, get over it. You guys are still driving, and still have the map. Is it really so much to ask that you consult us when deciding when to stop to use the bathroom? Some anonymous liberal reactions I've observed so far:

"Voting for Scott Brown is something I cannot understand when so much for the common man is riding on him losing this election."

The fact that liberals fail to grasp why we voted for Brown is precisely why we voted for Brown. Liberals just don't get us, they get the New York Times.

"That seat, held for nearly half a century by Mr. Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate, will now be held by a Republican who has said he supports waterboarding as an interrogation technique for terrorism suspects; opposes a federal cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions; and opposes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants unless they leave the country."

So maybe the same population that voted for Kennedy 8 times, doesn't much mind water-boarding terrorists, don't give two shits about carbon emissions (who has ever won or lost an election on carbon emissions?), and are fine with illegal immigrants remaining illegal immigrants. Maybe the People of the Commonwealth care more about their taxes, their jobs, and their healthcare.

"Yup, I am moving to Brazil."

Really? Because you can no longer ram bills through the Senate no questions asked, you're going to move out? WOW! Spoiled!

"Goddamn it, Massachusettes. Thanks a frigging lot."

Hasn't Massachusetts done enough for the left? Certainly disproportionate to its population it has. Ted Kennedy, JFK, RFK, John Kerry, Mike Dukakis, Barney Frank, et cetera, et cetera.

"I think the dems need to make sure they're organized, more than they need to change course."

Now this is music to my ears. Don't change policies, try to change campaign strategies. Please, please, please, pretty please with sugar on top!

While Coakley's pitiful campaign was ultimately why she lost the close race, it wouldn't have been close if not for thousands of disgruntled moderates. Barack's liberal agenda makes them anxious. We don't know what the liberals are actually doing, but it's coming at us at 400 MPH. That's alarming.

I'll compare this race to baseball. Coakley's bullpen ultimately cost her the game, but a better offense and starting pitching performance wouldn't have given a bad bullpen the chance to blow a 30 point lead.

I'll compare it to the 4th & 2 play the Patriots had against the Colts. While Belichick's decision to go for it on 4th & 2 arguably decided the game, the Patriots' poor performance in the Red Zone on previous drives would have never let this one play affect the outcome.

I'll end this post with a short bit about Scott Brown's future role in the Republican Party. Kid's got potential. If politics were baseball, he's just been called up to the Majors, has a 96 MPH fastball, and a wicked slider. He's still just a prospect though. But he has done something no Republican has done since 1972. And he's gonna get lots of national publicity for it.

He's got an American Dream kind of family, one daughter is pre-med, the other a rising star in the singing world who also plays basketball in the ACC.

Thus far, he has the raw materials to be much more than a Senator. Now plenty of politicians with the same talents have come and gone in the past for both parties. But it's worth watching what Scott Brown does in the Senate.

There's a vacuum in the GOP. There's a groundswell of anti-liberal sentiment, but there's no heroes to get behind and vote for. There are loudmouthed figureheads (Palin, Beck, Limbaugh). Wise, respected statesmen (McCain). But there are no clear leaders. Not yet. Brown might someday be one of those leaders.

Brown for President in 2016?