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9/11, A Decade Later…

The number of retrospectives of the events of September 11, 2001 are too many to count.  The repercussions of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and in the air space over Pennsylvania effected every American in one way or another, and there are just as many stories to go along with those people.

For us today, I think a more relevant discussion is where we were on September 10, 2001, and where we are in the present, September 11, 2011.  What have we done right?  What have we done wrong?  What does the future hold?

Like Time Magazine says, the discussion must go beyond 9/11.

On the foreign policy front, everything changed on that day.  Before the attacks, do people remember what was discussed about foreign policy for much of George W. Bush’s first year as President?  Not much.  We had the takedown of a military intelligence jet in China.  We had issues with North Korea and Iraq, which always seemed to crop up.  But no major issues loomed.

Of course, the repercussions of that day extend to every corner of the globe.

Most prominent of course is the wars started in the Middle East.

Afghanistan was by every definition a war of necessity.  A decade of nation building there, with our limited successes and failures, by no means changes that.  Afghanistan ultimately is a country that we cannot rescue.  Going forward, it is a geographic region that must be over seen, but not controlled.  Pulling out of Afghanistan for the most part makes sense.

Iraq will always be the historical question that plagues the Bush legacy.  Was it a war of necessity?  How badly were we misinformed about weapons of mass destruction?  Years later, and after liberals accusations for years, no evidence has ever come forward that the intelligence failures were intentional, and I don’t think most Americans believe it to be.

The larger question for Iraq was whether the costs were worth the result.  First and foremost, never let anyone tell you that the removal of Saddam Hussein was not a good thing, for the Middle East as well as the larger world community.  United Nations and American reports show that we can document hundreds of thousands of civilians massacred in Iraq and placed in mass graves.  Saddam was on of the great murderers of the twentieth century.  He should no be missed by anyone.

Whether the cost in blood and treasure was worth his removal, I don’t think anyone will be able to say.  There is much too much political influence into that debate to really ever get a fair analysis of the costs and benefits of the decision.  I think the public believes that the war was not worth the costs.  That, in and of itself, is an important lesson for future politicians.  It is ironic that President Obama largely makes the same argument for the legitimacy of his actions in Libya as the Bush Administration uses for Iraq:  that the removal of a hated tyrannical leader was worth the costs and repercussions.

Long term who knows.  In Iraq, we are only beginning to see the long term repercussions, as a fledgling democracy emerges.  In Libya,a very different war initiated for very different reasons.  we have no idea the manner in which the new leaders of that country will take their country.  Many of their military leaders are linked to terrorist organizations including Al Qaeda…which does not bore well for the future.  We have seen the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, which few can doubt were also repercussions of 9/11, in one manner or another.  However, the eventual composition of governments in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and maybe Syria are unknown, and could vary from completely democratic and cooperative to islamic fundamentalist.  Time will tell.

On the home front, we created the Department of  Homeland Security.  Whether this was a correct decision in and of itself can be debated.  It is now the largest department other than the Department of Defense, with a myriad of bureaucracy that only Washington, D.C. could create.  We passed the Patriot Act, which did a lot of good and has been essential to our safety over the past 10 years.  At the same time, questions about personal freedoms are valid, and go on.

However, despite the larger historical arguments, whether about foreign wars or changes in our homeland security, one thing is clear:  we are safer.  We are not completely safe; and it is a fool’s errand to ever believe we will be fully safe.  We were not completely safe on September 10, 2001 any more than we are today.  That was a national delusion that was shattered 10 years ago.

We are not a perfect country, and have never been a perfect country.  Perfection is for philosophers alone.  We have had leaders lead us through the issues that have arisen ever since the first plane flew into the North tower of the World Trade Center.   They have done their best, and only politics obscures this fact.  I thank God that George W. Bush was President that day; many liberals disagree.  But that is a political argument, not a practical one.  He led us spiritually, emotionally, and ultimately militarily, and few could have done better.  I am thankful Rudy Giuliani was Mayor of New York, and led that city through the most challenging days of its existence.  I thank Michael Bloomberg, who has navigated the waters for the last 10 years, allowing the World Trade Center and its Memorial to come about.  And I give thanks to our current President Barack Obama, who despite irrational rhetoric from the left, has largely followed the tenets that his predecessor set, and ultimately made the decisions that led to the assassination and ultimate justice for the man responsible for this crime against humanity.

So on this day, 3,652 days after the towers collapsed, and the fires were burning in the Pentagon, and smoke rose in the fields of Pennsylvania, let the nation remember.  Let us remember that we live in a world of evil, and threats will always exist, and we must always be ready.  We must never forget.  Whether Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, political or not, we must remember the reality of the world we live in.  Never again should we be so naive as to believe that we are exempt from the hatred that exists.

And so for this day, it is a time to remember.  It is also a time to look forward.  Lower Manhattan slowly rebuilds.  There are now more people living in close vicinity to the WTC site than lived there on 9/11…a remarkable fact.  We are a resilient country.  We now face many challenges, but none as stark as those of that day 10 years ago.  We are close to an economic recession, with millions of Americans out of work.  We suffer from huge debt that will effect our children.  An our power both militarily and politically wanes overseas.  But that by no means diminishes who we are, and what we can do.  9/11 was a tragedy, with 2,983 souls dying that day.  But from that tragedy, we will become a better, more honest, more secure country.  I honestly believe that, and so should you.

God Bless the United States of America.

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Has Obama Been A Bad President?

Jonathan Alter has a well publicized piece on Bloomberg asking people opposing Barack Obama why he has been a bad president.

I know, I had to chuckle too.

Varied commentators have taken their stabs at answering the question.  Classic non-conservative David Frum even took a swing at it.  Mickey Kaus at The Daily Caller probably had the best answer.

But I thought I would take a swing at it too…especially in direct response to Alter’s claims regarding the economy.

Obama’s failure economically can be divided into two distinct parts:  the stimulus, and everything after the stimulus.

1.  The Stimulus Was A Failure

Only an extreme liberal could claim that the stimulus was a glowing success.

Alter points out that as of February 2009, the country was losing around 700,000 jobs a month (Alter says it is 750k, that is incorrect; it is actually closer to 650k).  However, the fact that we were losing a lot of jobs is absolutely true.  But what is not necessarily true, and is up for serious debate, is whether the Obama stimulus stopped that hemorrhaging.  Liberals point out that the loss of jobs steadily decreased after passage of the bill.  But remember a key point:  not much money was spent during the summer of 2009.  In fact, the vast majority of spending was in 2010…after the recession technically ended.

One could argue that simply the emotional effect of the stimulus helped stop job losses.  I cannot disprove that, I guess.  But it could not have been directly related to spending, because of the simple fact that spending had not occurred.

Additionally, the money which had actually been spent may or may not have stopped those job losses.  Alter, and liberals, would like us simply to assume that is the case, that there is a linear relationship between the two.  However, if that was the case…why didn’t we see improving jobs numbers as we spent even more money in 2010?  Their explanation is simply flawed.  Is there argument that the small money that was spent in 2009 provided some stimulative effect, but much larger spending in 2010 had virtually no effect at all?

Alter also brings up, and to his credit partially debunks, a claim by the left that the stimulus was too small.  Paul Krugman leads the choir on this claim.  Alter points out, correctly, that nothing larger would have passed.  But this is actually irrelevant to the discussion.  Even a $1 trillion stimulus would not have succeeded.  Simply put, the throughput of money through the federal government is much too slow and inefficient to stimulate the economy in such a way.  For example, Obama himself now admits that his much ballyhooed ‘shovel ready projects’ was a joke.

Let us give Obama a little leeway.  At best, the Obama stimulus did push money into a flailing economy.  However, to state that it saved the economy and the nation is a leap of faith that only those that blindly believe in Obama would accept, without more evidence to support their claim.  The stimulus probably did do some good, as it blindly injected about $100 Billion into the economy during 2009.  However, that certainly did not produce any significant job production, which was the real goal of the stimulus.  That goal was stated by Obama himself.  So it was a failure, even by the bar set by the President himself; and that doesn’t even bring up the issue of the 8% unemployment rate promised by members of his administration.  Additionally, the stimulus was not, in fact, stimulative.  Yes, money was spent, and that had some positive effects, but the ultimate goal of any economic stimulus is to have a multiplier effect, in which the spending can be recouped from future growth.  By any measure, that did not occur.

So only by the most ridiculous of liberal mantras was the Obama stimulus anything but a failure.

2.  Everything after the stimulus

As if the failure of the stimulus was not bad enough, President Obama doubled down on big government. First and foremost was the debate on Obamacare, which lasted for a year and a half.  The best liberal spin would argue that they passed a bill that provided virtual universal health care and lowered cost.  Any rational evaluation of the bill would argue that they covered most people in America, without truly reforming the system and without bending the cost curve significantly.

Economically speaking, the damaging part was the confusion and uncertainty the bill presented to private businesses.  To this day, neither government officials nor anyone else can clearly explain to you the long term effects this bill has on job production.  Some independent analyses describe a negative effect on job production.  However, one thing is for sure:  the passage of Obamacare increased costs and regulations for anyone hiring people going forward.  A brilliantly stupid thing to do during a recession, no?

Obamacare is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the regulatory mess this administration has wrought upon the nation.  Whether it be the EPA, the NLRB, etc., the Obama Administration has made it more difficult and costly to hire and keep people employed in the private sector.  Furthermore, the few industries that have steadily increased employment during this recession, led by energy and fossil fuel development, have been attacked on a virtually daily basis as being evil and illegitimate way to create jobs.

Democrats frankly have been completely missing in action regarding jobs since the passage of the stimulus in February of 2009.  Can anyone name a single jobs policy that they have passed since that time?  Obama will magically present a jobs bill sometime in early September, which will get no where because it will simply increase spending without really producing any jobs.  For most of that time, Democrats focused on Obamacare, which if anything destroyed new job production.

Jonathan Alter can argue that Obama came into a terrible economic environment, and confronted huge  headwinds.  I will stipulate to that.  But the job of the President is to focus on the major problems of the country, and attempt to improve them.  Not only did Obama not help alleviate those problems…he actually aggravated the situation.  Not only did he not provide solutions, he was missing in action for much of his first term on the preeminent issue of the day, namely unemployment and economic growth.  Simply put, in every manner of evaluation, Obama has failed this country.

So yes, Mr. Alter, I think Mr. Obama has been a bad President, and I think I and others can more than prove that to be the case.

 

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Is Paul Ryan The Answer?

Today’s news that Congressman Paul Ryan is seriously considering jumping into the Republican nomination race for President has to be stunning for anyone following Ryan for the past year.

Ryan’s focus as been so centered on the budget, debt ceiling, and entitlement reform, one has to wonder if he ever took his nose out of a CBO report.

Paul Ryan’s positives are clear:  he was the leading voice for budgetary restraint long before the Tea Party existed.  He was the only politician to put out a comprehensive package to reform entitlements, most specifically Medicare.  No one else has come close.

But in these points lies a black cloud…which is that Ryan’s honesty about entitlements is his Achilles’ heel.  The public is still not honestly discussing the reality that entitlements need to be cut.  And so the Democrats have successfully demagogued Ryan over the past few months.  Yes, the attacks have been false and laden with lies, but it has still hurt his standing with the general public, who often don’t look very deep into the political discourse of the day.

The other question is, what is Ryan’s viable path to the nomination?  Bachmann and Perry seem to have the social conservative locked up, making Iowa a tough sell for Ryan.  Romney has an edge in New Hampshire, though you could argue Ryan’s calm demeanor and fact based rhetoric could play there.  But there is no clear way for Ryan.  He will have to hang on, and hope that he catches on for Super Tuesday.  That is a tough road to climb, especially when he would likely be outspent by Romney, Bachmann, and Perry.

I still will be slightly shocked if Ryan jumps in.  He is young, and has plenty more chances at a Presidential run if he wishes.  A little executive experience wouldn’t hurt either.  But at the same time, Ryan is by far the most eloquent voice Republicans have on entitlement reform, and I would hope his voice would stay in Congress, where it could probably have the largest effect.

Ryan is one of my personal political heroes.  At 41, he has many years ahead of him to make a profound impact on this country.  I just don’t know if running for President is the right choice at this time.

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Extremism In The Defense Of Liberty

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

Barry Goldwater, 1964 Republican nomination acceptance speech

The names that conservatives have been called over the last few weeks, culminating in the last few days, would be shocking, if you expected anything more from liberals.

I don’t.  Never have, never will.

We have been called terrorists, jihadists, racists, extortionists, bigots, hostage takers, suicide bombers.  I can go on and on.

Even our Vice President, Joe Biden, jumped into the fray.  It is reported that he said, in support of another Democrat’s statement, that the Republicans “…acted like terrorists.”  He denies he used the word ‘terrorist’, but even if he agreed with the statement, he looks foolish.  Ironic, too, because he was on Capitol Hill trying to whip for Democrat votes for a bill that passed by large bipartisan majorities in both houses.

Well, to that, I say:  Nuts.

Anyone who thought that Barack Obama’s plea for civility after Gabrielle Giffords shooting in January was anything more than political opportunism is a fool.  Obama and his cohorts on the left simply wanted to make political capital on a tragedy.  This weeks words and actions from the political left proves that, once and for all.

First and foremost, we are NOT extremists in any sort of the word.  We are extreme only to liberals whose mindset has become spending at all costs, regardless of the outcome or repercussions.  And offending their illusion of reality…well, that is what brings out the worst in our liberal friends.

It is not extreme to ask our government to live within its means; that doesn’t mean strictly no deficits, but it does mean have a plan to limit the size of our debt problem.

It is not extreme to have our entitlement programs run in such a manner that it does not bankrupt our children and grandchildren even before they enter middle school.

It is not extreme to say that our level of taxes are enough.  If you want to reform the tax code, be my guest.  I am all for eliminating tax loopholes for the ultrarich and eliminate many, if not all, tax exemptions.  The tax code is the dumbest piece of literature on the face of the earth.  Throw the entire code out, and start from scratch.  One of the few bipartisan agreements I bet we could make is that our tax code is archaic.  So do something about it.

The irony is that the extremism, if it exists, exists on the left.  It is extreme to keep spending when we have example after example of other countries reaching similar levels of debt, and falling off the cliff.  It is extreme to keep spending on stimulus, when it has not produced any significant jobs.  It is extreme to blindly do what you have done over and over again, when it achieves terrible results.  That is extreme…or at the very least, insane.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal put it succinctly:

Obama’s failure is the failure of the liberal elite, and that is why their ressentiment has reached such intensity. Their ideas, such as they are, are being put to a real-world test and found severely wanting. As a result, their authority is collapsing. And if there is one thing they know deep in their bones, it is that they are entitled to that authority. They lash out, desperately and pathetically, because they have nothing to offer but fear and anger.

I say let them call us names.  The more they are angry, the more it means we are achieving.  The more derogatory terms they use to describe us, the more we know that we are disrupting their status quo.  The more uncivil they are, the more we know we are on the right track.  Do not get sidetracked by their vitriol, because they know not what they do.  Move forward, and continue in the fight for fiscal sanity and federal restraint.

Because as a great man once said almost a half century ago, extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

 

 

 

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Captain America: Movie Review

I saw this over a week ago, but political shenanigans were at an all time high, and so I never got this posted.  But Captain America is a relic.  He is a character largely created simply for the use of raising patriotism during World War II, and actually was created in early  1941.  After the war, the popularity of the character has waxed and waned, until now, when it basically hit rock bottom.

Until now.

Director Joe Johnston was given what I consider the unenviable task of making a character from a previous era enjoyable to youngsters of today.  Here is a character that believes wholeheartedly in truth, justice, and the American way; he believes in the greatness of America.  Not something you hear much from Hollywood these days.

We all know that this movie would never have been made, except for the fact that Marvel is gearing up for The Avengers movie next May. (By the way, there is a short preview of that at the end of this movie, FWIW).  However, I am glad they finally succeeding in making this movie.  Captain America may be a relic…but is also harkens back to yesteryear, when we fought real enemies on a real battlefield, with real heroes.  Nothing wrong with bringing a character that lives with those old ideals today.

Chris Evans, in his second stint as a superhero (he was the Human Torch in the ill fated Fantastic Four series) brings a solid performance to the buttoned up pure American hero, Steve Rogers.

This is the Captain America movie that many fans have wanted for years.  There will be no sequel, I predict, because the Avengers is basically this movie’s followup.  But this movie has brought Captain America back into relevance…quite an achievement in and of itself.  I cannot wait for the Avengers next year.

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The Battle On Deficits and Debt: What Did We Accomplish?

The Tea Party largely drove the wave election of 2010.  And there were three topics, above all else, that were a focus of their candidates:  The repeal of Obamacare, the economy and unemployment, and restraining the Federal Government.

Let us admit, in the beginning, that we have made no progress on Obamacare, and the economy is a mess we cannot hope to clean up until we send Barack Obama into retirement.

But the one hope we as a movement had was to restrain federal spending.  By taking the majority in the House of Representatives, we controlled the power of the purse.

Initially, Republicans thought they could get a grand deal, which would encompass extension of the Bush tax cuts, the 2011 budget (which Democrats failed to pass), and the raising of the debt ceiling.  Guess what?  It was Democrats, led by Barack Obama, that didn’t want such a wholesale solution.  Instead, the President made it the piecemeal approach, which is exactly why we are in the position we have been in for the past several weeks.

So, what did we actually get, and lose, in the deal?  Well, you want to look at Speaker Boehner’s PowerPoint presentation, here it is.  But the key points…

  • The framework creates a 12-member Joint Committee (Super Committee) that is required to provide legislation by November 23, 2011 to cut the deficit by $1.5 Trillion over the next decade.   This bill must be voted on by the end of the year, without any amendments added on.
  • Across the board spending cuts apply to discretionary spending, Defense, and Medicare.  Social Security, Medicaid, Veterans Benefits and military pay are exempt.
  • As for the risk of the super committee coming back with tax cuts…doesn’t sound that likely.  James Pethokoukis has a nice piece on why baseline budgeting is actually going to help us out on this one.  The key point?  The CBO, using its somewhat arcane accounting measures, assumes the Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of 2012, because that is the law of the land at this moment.  Thus, it will already take into account $3.5 Trillion in supposed increased revenues.  To raise taxes over that amount, the committee would have to cut even more from the budget.  Democrats will never accept that level of cuts.  So tax increases are simply not going to be a part of the committee’s recommendations.
  • As for those huge budget cuts into defense…they may not be as bad as initially reported.  According to early reports, the total $800 Billion in cuts will include cuts from defense, foreign aid, homeland security, and other agencies involved with ‘defense-like activities’.   Real cuts to the Defense Department are more likely in the range of $400 Billion over the next decade…a large amount, to be sure, but the amount that Republicans had largely accepted as a reality long ago.
  • The House and the Senate must take a vote of the Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution no later than October 1, 2011.

Would I call this a victory?  I guess, in the slimmest definition of the word.  Republicans, controlling just over half of one branch of the legislature, were able to turn Barack Obama’s neverending spending spree, and bend the curve.  Slightly, admittedly, but still, as for rate of increase, there is no doubt Republicans were successful.

Were we successful in achieving any longterm success?  Doubtful, and I would say nonexistent.  Long term expenditures are wholly dependent on our entitlement programs and the Defense Department.  Defense was certainly cut, as it always is; however, if the above analysis is correct, and total ‘defense’ cuts include other agencies, the effects could be minimal.  But entitlement cuts are tokens so far, and nothing more.  Medicare spending is restricted, which is an achievement, but Medicaid and Social Security are not touched, and Obamacare was not mentioned as far as I can tell.  Nothing less than the Ryan plan would have put us on the course for long term fiscal stability, and that was not achieved.

As a political statement, I would not call this a victory in the least.  Republicans looked flummoxed, rudderless, and almost in a state of internal civil war during this process.  That is to be expected, without a Republican President to lead us, and a Speaker of the House that, despite his best efforts, is not uniformly trusted by his caucus.  The process was worse than watching sausage being made, to paraphrase Otto Von Bismarck.  And Republicans did not come out of the process looking like leaders.

We should go forward, telling our constituents that we did make progress, but we did not have victory.  Victory will come when we make the changes necessary to set our fiscal course to a glide path to deficit neutrality.  And that victory, it seems, will not come until we hold the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives.  And even then, with Senate rules, it will be difficult (unless we take a page from our progressive friends, and use reconciliation; wouldn’t that be ironic?).

Of course, Democrats, especially the progressive wing in the House, could still scuttle this bill.  Economically that would be damaging; politically, Pelosi might as well hang the Democrat Donkey by a noose if she can’t rally her caucus.  But assuming that Obama forces their hand, and that things go as we expect, this deal is a win for us.  An imperfect deal, that achieved far less than we hoped…but still a win.  This is only the smallest of victories in a tiny battle in the long term war against federal spending and the debt.  Nothing more.  And we should portray it as such.

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Obama: Detached From Reality

Have we ever seen a moment like Monday night, when we had an American President more detached from reality?

Mr. Obama gave a political stump speech, which in and of itself was unsurprising.  In fact, he has said little different since April.  His speeches all amount to this:  Republicans are on the political fringe and intransigent, Democrats are reasonable and intelligent, and he alone wants a balanced approach, i.e. tax increases.

But the amazing part of the speech was that Mr. Obama now seems distanced from the political realities that even his own party has accepted.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently laid out a debt ceiling proposal with approximately $2.5 Trillion in cuts (only about $1 Trillion being real cuts), but more importantly, without any tax increases.  Reid and Pelosi appear to have largely agreed on this proposal.  Yet, we had a Democrat President on primetime continue to demand for increases in tax revenues.

Even the mainstream media, usually oblivious to such stark issues, has noticed this one.  Gloria Borger of CNN pointedly noted this fact after Obama’s speech.

Maybe this is the tipping point.  In the White House Press briefing on Tuesday, Spokesperson Jay Carney was innundated with questions of why the President has yet to offer any specifics for his budget proposal, especially at such a late date.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cqmMhzybek&feature=player_embedded

The media pummeled Carney for a solid 10 minutes on the simple fact that Obama has not laid out one single policy rider to this bill.  Not even one.  They then asked why the White House would not release the plan that was being discussed with Boehner which the President’s men state that was close to a deal.  The simple fact is that there was never a deal that Obama was close to accepting.

Forget the politics for a moment.  Mr. Obama doesn’t understand that he has marginalized himself.  Republicans had allowed Obama, over the past few weeks, taken the high ground.  But he never claimed the alter of leadership, for a simple reason:  he doesn’t know how to lead.  Obama could have taken the mantel, and Republicans (with their usual ham handed way of dealing with these issues) would have probably lost the media battle.

Instead, Obama has acted like a petulant child, unable or unwilling to rise about the political rancor.  Additionally, unlike his immediate predecessors, Bush and Clinton, he is unable to tell progressives in his own base to sit down and shut up, for the greater good.  In all fairness, Republicans are not willing to compromise.  But Obama is the leader of his party in a way that no Congressional Republican, Speaker Boehner included, is.  But Obama has never showed the spinal fortitude to stand up to his own base, and doesn’t appear to be considering it this time around either.

The way forward is quite clear.  Something along the lines of the Boehner proposal is the only thing that will pass the Democrat Senate.  The public actually supports the ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ proposal by wide margins, but the intransigence of progressives in the Senate (and the White House, for that matter) make that impossible to pass into legislation.  I don’t like the concept of coming back to these spending fights 6 months down the road, but Mr. Obama has left little alternative.

The Boehner plan is, to put it mildly, less than optimal.  But ultimately, what can pass?  Even Paul Ryan, who I think has a lot of credibility here, has come out in favor of the plan:

The Budget Control Act takes an important step in the right direction by cutting $1.2 trillion in government spending over the next decade. Critically, it does this without resorting to Senator Reid’s gimmicks and without imposing the president’s preferred tax increases on American families and the struggling economy.

This bill is far from perfect. We still have a long way to go toward getting the key drivers of our debt — especially federal health-care spending — under control. But considering that House Republicans control only one-half of one-third of the federal government, I support this reasonable, responsible effort to cut government spending, avoid a default, and help create a better environment for job creation.

Obama is divorced from reality.  He doesn’t understand that approximately 2/3 of the country thinks we spend too much.  Yes, many people feel we could raise taxes on the rich, but it is far from a supermajority, and it is not going to happen with Congressional Republicans in power in the House.  Obama can either come to his senses, or he can drive this economy over the cliff.  I would not put the latter past him at this point.

That is why Ryan’s point, bolded above, is the key.  We need to win in 2012.  This President and this Senate will never, ever, pass the reforms necessary to put us on a track to fiscal sanity.  No deal that this President would have ever signed would have accomplished our goals.

It is better to frame the topic as we have, and to ‘kick the can’.  It is time to focus on 2012, because anything short of a Republican President and Republican Senate will not enable us to save this nation from a fiscal black hole.  Holding the line on CCB, as much as it makes me feel better, does not help accomplish the goal of retaking the White House, and thus, does not help to attain our ultimate goal of fiscal sanity.  So it is time to cut a deal, a bad one at that, and show this President and these Democrats for what they are:  completely and utterly detached from reality.

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Don’t Call Our Bluff: Gang of Six Proposal and Obama’s Veto Threat

 

c/o Nate Beeler, Townhall.com

Finally, the truth emerges.  After months of the media telling us that Obama, not Republicans, is the realist and pragmatist, yesterday we saw in the full light of day what Obama is:  a political hack and idealogue.

Mr. Obama, through his Press Secretary Jay Carney, yesterday clearly stated that the President would veto the “Cut, Cap, and Balance’ bill that Republicans in the House will pass this week.  The bill, which proposes $2.7 Trillion in cuts over the next decade with no revenue increases, has only one item missing for Mr. Obama to veto it.  Simply put, for Obama it is a motto of “Taxes or Bust”.

If we use the media’s own spin over the past few months, that should get Mr. Obama criticized for being an ideologue, or as some liberals have put it, an economic hostage taker or terrorist.  That is what they called Republicans as they pushed their ideas on the country.  The double standard, although expected, is mind blowing.  We should never expect fair treatment in the media, and this is just one more example.

As the debt ceiling debate rolls on, to whatever fruitless end Mr. Obama and the Republican establishment are set upon taking us, I have to wonder…what is our goal here?

Conservatives, it is time to call Obama’s bluff.  Boehner has been ill-suited to make the grand bargain, largely because he has no room to maneuver.  However, Eric Cantor and others could convince the base that a deal is worth making.  What kind of deal am I talking about?

Well, I am talking about a huge deal.  Give the Democrats some tax increases.  Hell, give them the Bush tax cuts if they want.  I simply don’t believe that even that would sell the plan to them.

Well, now we shall see.  There appears to be an outline of this plan forming, in all places, in the Senate’s Gang of Six minus one.  The plan would cut $3.7 Trillion from the debt over 10 years.  Tom Coburn, who is the member of the Gang who jumped ship, appears to like the concept:

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who had pulled out of the Gang of Six in May, also rejoined the group and praised the plan as something that could win the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.

“The plan has moved significantly, and it’s where we need to be — and it’s a start,” Coburn said. “This doesn’t solve our problems, but it creates the way forward where we can solve our problems.”

Coburn said the plan would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next 10 years and increase tax revenues by $1 trillion by closing a variety of special tax breaks and havens.

He also noted, however, that the Congressional Budget Office would score the plan as a $1.5 trillion tax cut because it would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax. It would generate a significant amount of revenue out of tax reform and reduction of tax rates, which authors believe would spur economic growth.

Coburn said he expected a “significant portion of the Senate” to support the plan — “maybe 60 members.”

Now, call me skeptical.   A $1 trillion increase in taxes…that is going to be scored as a tax cut?   The elimination of the AMT, an albatross on the necks of tens of millions of middle class Americans, would be an excellent device to get some tax relief, and I am fully in support of eliminating it.  However, we have heard this before; remember the budget deal earlier this year?  I want to see major details before I jump on board.  Coburn’s voice is a positive note however.

If this is real, and Coburn is accurately describing the plan, it would shift the debate.  Ever since Obama theoretically accepted the concept of a ‘grand bargain’, Republicans have been playing on the defensive.  Mitch McConnell’s plan was nothing more than a plan to save face, with some political games included.

But something on the lines of the above plan would force Mr. Obama to put his cards on the table.  Like in past debates, Obama doesn’t really want to take a stand on anything.  He talks about reforms in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, but demands tax cuts in return.  Fine.  Let us theoretically give him the tax cuts, but only for what we want in return.

On entitlements, the plan would fully pay for the Medicare “doc fix” over 10 years, allowing doctors to avoid a drastic cut in Medicare payments under the law, which is regularly avoided but never paid for.  The plan also contains strong enforcement procedures. One of these would require a 67-vote supermajority in the Senate to circumvent spending caps.

Supposedly, Social Security reform is also on the table, but any savings from the program would not be used for deficit reduction.

Now, Mr. Obama, where are your cuts?  Where is your plan?  If this deal is true to its word, $2.7 Trillion in cuts need to be on the table.  We shall see if this President is ready to make true changes to entitlements.  He will have to support some real reforms and real cuts to programs that, so far, he has refused to touch other than with rhetoric alone.

If not, I dare him to veto whatever the Congress sends up to him.  Don’t call our bluff, Barack.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2: Movie Review

There are many people that criticize one thing or another about the Harry Potter books and movie series.  “They are children’s stories!” “They talk about witchcraft!”  “They can’t compare to the literary classics!”

All of these statements miss the point.

First and foremost, J.K. Rowling’s series has inspired more young children to read than probably any book in the history of the world.  There are generations of kids, from now and moving forward, that start with the childlike The Socrerer’s Stone, and move steadily through the series and follow Harry Potter’s path through adolescence just as they themselves mature.  Most readers are youngster that have grown into adulthood with Harry; the books followed the normal progress of every preteen.  Rowling has given us a treasure more valuable than her books; it has inspired a generation of youngsters to reading.  Very few others can make that claim.

Secondly, the story, both books and movies alike, are as centered into our culture as any story I can think of.  At its core, Harry Potter is an orphan who is forced to face the realities of a cruel world, and ultimately, must fight evil for the greater good.  He is honest, devoted to his friends, and more than anything believes in the forces of good over evil.

I was an adult by the time the Harry Potter series began.  And my children are still too young to read these books.  But in youngsters everywhere, I have seen an affinity to this series like no other.  It goes to show that the story is so appealing that so many other age groups have become enthralled with the stories of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley, and the multitude of other characters that are now ingrained in our social dynamic.  The only stories that have captured the imagination of fans of so many ages that I can think of is Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings saga.

Admittedly, the books and movies are somewhat separate.  There is no way to turn the books into movies without some artistic leeway.  That goes doubly true for the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  The book, 784 pages in all, could never have been made into a single movie…and thus, we are left with Part 1 and Part 2 in the movie series.

In this 8th and final film of the Harry Potter series, the movies finally enter their climactic sequences.  The war, led by the evil forces of Voldemort, is going very badly.  The good guys are losing at every turn.  People are dying, and only Harry has the ability to end the suffering.  And that suffering will end, one way or another, at the site of most of our adventures with Harry….Hogwart’s School of Magic and Wizardry.

Harry, Ron and Hermione have basically been on the run, fleeing one threat or another, for the better part of a year.  They have had virtually no adult assistance, with their major supporters either dead or in hiding themselves.  That have face starvation, the elements, each others weaknesses, not to mention the ever looming threat of capture, torture and death.  In the first part of the Deathly Hallows (spoilers if you have not seen the film) they barely escape the clutches of Malfoy Manor, only to be rescued by of all people, Dobby the House Elf.  However, Dobby dies in the escape, ending the movie in tears and heartbreak.

I always avoid all significant spoilers, and will do so again here.  The basics are these:  critical pieces of the puzzle to destroy Voldemort remain, and Harry must obtain them before ever hoping to defeat his enemy.  This leads us first to Gringott’s, the wizards bank which we were introduced to in the first movie.  There, we see an extraordinary action scene play out, which sets up the final scenes of the series.  The action closes at Hogwarts, as the forces of Voldemort and the allies of Harry Potter meet for a deciding battle.  The final clashes of the film, in the Battle of Hogwarts, rival scenes from the Lord of the Rings.  This will be music to the ears of fans, many envisioning exactly that when they read the book 4 years ago.  The final battles have the heartbreak and agony that should go with a war movie…which this ultimately is.

Emotionally, the movie hits all the right notes.  Yes, it does abbreviate some characters paths, but key characters such as Harry, Voldemort, Severus Snape and others get their appropriate due.  And the losses (yes, there are heavy losses) are emotionally charged, as they should be.  The ultimate climax and end of the movie, which I was pretty concerned about, were done perfectly, and I think will please most viewers.

This is a more than fitting end to this series.  Like the books, the movies take us from childish banter in the early movies to vicious, destructive and emotional battle for the freedom of all in the final film.  A fabulous end to a fabulous series.

 

 

 

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President Jello

Speaker of the House John Boehner basically nailed President Obama’s entire character as President in a quote earlier today:

“Dealing with them the last couple months has been like dealing with Jell-o,” Boehner said. “Some days it’s firmer than others. Sometimes it’s like they’ve left it out over night.”

This is how Mr. Obama has run his presidency from the day of the inauguration.  And in fact, he has not done this only with Republicans.  Obama never really took a stand with Congressional Democrats on the stimulus or on the health care program either.  He simply let deals ‘congeal’ around him, and then jumped on board at the very end.

That worked relatively well when he was dealing with Democrats, for the simple reason that they had largely overlapping basic principles when discussing policy.  However, when you are dealing with the other side, that makes for an impossible bargaining environment…as Speaker Boehner is learning.

Boehner has spent the last day or so finally pushing for the White House to put out its own recommendations for the debt ceiling agreement.

I think it is time for the president to put his plan on the table. Let the American people see just what the president is proposing. You can’t go out there and talk about some $4-trillion agreement to substantially change the fiscal situation here in Washington without any facts.

They, of course, won’t do this, mainly because they don’t have a clue what their ideal plan would be.  More importantly, Obama wants all the credit and none of the responsibility for whatever is eventually produced.  His entire political strategy is to blame others for the failures of his administration.

This is ultimately what you get when you have someone with no executive experience in the Oval Office.  It is one thing to work in a group, such as Congress.  It is a wholly different matter to stake your position by yourself as leader of the nation.  The successful Presidents of our time, including Reagan, Clinton, and Bush had a plan for all to see well before the debate commenced.  Obama has been just the opposite, shying away from the limelight at every turn.

This was a major impetus for Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell to propose his emergency plan on the debt ceiling.  McConnell has said he will not accept a ‘smoke and mirrors’ deal, and thus would rather lay the entire mess at the President’s feet than take responsibility for it.  I have my reservations about the plan, and conservative voices have fallen in both for and against the plan in vigorous debates in the blogosphere.  However, it goes to show that Republicans no longer have any trust in this President, and don’t feel the ability to honestly broker any kind of deal that isn’t written in stone.

So we are left now with the decision making of “President Jello”.  Will he wiggle or jiggle?  No one knows.  Obama has not shown the ability to stand firm however, and usually capitulates in the face of steadfastness.  Whether Republicans have the backbone to stand up to him, and take the beating that will surely occur in the mainstream press until a deal is done, is at best uncertain.

I guess the real question for conservatives is less to do with what the President is made of, than what the Republicans are made of.  It is time to see.

 

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