Thursday, December 30, 2010

American Companies Are Hiring--Overseas

That's the headline of the AP story on the Oregonian's front page yesterday.
"American jobs have been moving overseas for more than two decades. In recent years, though, those jobs have become more sophisticated — think semiconductors and software, not toys and clothes.

"And now many of the products being made overseas aren't coming back to the United States. Demand has grown dramatically this year in emerging markets like India, China and Brazil."
Hmm. Like light bulbs? The last incandescent light bulb factory in the U.S. closed in September. Or solar panels?

How about oil production? Or for Oregon, timber products? Or for California, agricultural produce?

When you don't know how to use your natural or population resources, you do tend to lose jobs. Unfortunately the people who suffer most are at the lower end of the economic scale--not the political leadership that failed to foresee natural consequences.

Fortunately, some of this can be turned around. All it takes is a few elections and the sort of pro-growth choices that Brazil, China and India are making.

Having lived in a developing nation, it's kind of a nice turnaround when the "third" world shows more smarts and starts leading the "first" world.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Importance of Religion to Americans Slightly Higher than in 1978

Gallup reports that 54% of Americans view religion as being very important in their own life.  This is down about 6% from 2000, but 2% higher than in 1978.

Meanwhile church/synagogue membership is at 61%. This is down about 7% from 2000 and 9% from 1978.

Governor Sarah Palin pointed out in America by Heart, that the American form of government was founded on the presumption of a religious people.
"Does that mean we're a Judeo-Christian nation, solely because most Americans believe in Judeo-Christian tenets? No. But it does mean that the faith of our Founding Fathers shaped our nation in critical ways. They created a country that, in George Washington's words, relies on faith as an 'indispensable support.' They explicitly disavowed government establishing any particular religion, but they unmistakably relied on religion to produce the kinds of citizens that could live successfully in a state of political freedom." (p. 183)
That slightly over half of Americans say that religion plays a significant role in their lives continues a four decades long pattern. America's cup remains near the half full/half empty point on religious commitment--one of the two major resources* the Founders relied on for forming a moral citizenry capable of sustaining American democracy.
*the other being the family

Sunday, December 26, 2010

NY Sun: Palin Smarter than Congress and Editors?

The New York Sun:
"The question that that we find ourselves thinking about is how was Mrs. Palin able to see this issue when others weren’t. Is she just smarter than the editors and the Congress? Or does she just have more life experience? Is it that her religion gives her a framework for learning all this stuff? Or is it that her sensitivity was heightened by making of her own decision to bring Trig into the world? Or is it something about the Alaskan spirit?"
1. on Obamacare requiring end of life "counseling"
"One of the questions raised by the news that the Obama administration is going to use regulation rather than legislation to bring in the so-called “death panels” as part of Obamacare is how it happened that this was first foreseen not by the newspapers or the members of Congress but by Governor Palin. Confirmation of Mrs. Palin’s scoop was brought in by the New York Times in a dispatch issued Christmas day, more than a year after Mrs. Palin issued her warning about Obamacare leading to government involvement in end-of-life issues."
[emphasis added]
2. on West Bank settlements and collapsing value of the dollar:
"It’s enough that she was just ahead of the others, and the point is one to mark. She has become, at a relatively young age and by whatever means, a savvy woman. We noticed it, say, when she suggested the best way to handle the question of the West Bank settlements was to let the Israelis decide, a policy the administration is now following. We noticed it when she went to Hong Kong and warned about the collapse in the value of the dollar and spoke of the importance of gold."
[emphasis added]
3. on quantitative easing; drilling onshore rather than offshore
"It was apparent when she dove in before other politicians and the intelligentsia and warned about the dangers of the Federal Reserve’s second round of quantitative easing. And when, in advance of the BP oil-spill disaster, she’d been campaigning to develop our onshore energy resources. And when she began branding as her own the idea of commonsense, conservative constitutionalism — a year before a resurgent GOP is preparing to open the 112th Congress with a reading of the entire text of the Constitution."
[emphasis added]
4. a warning, or "scoop", is only effective when it underscores the importance of the issue
"No doubt it will be said that other politicians were onto these issue long before the former governor of Alaska elevated them to the national debate. But the observation only underscores Mrs. Palin’s ability. It may be that it’s her education in journalism, in which she holds a degree from the University of Idaho. Or just the fact that she’s on her game. But she understands one of journalism’s great principles, which turns out to be as true of politicians as it is of newspapermen. It’s not a scoop until it’s played like a scoop."
Precisely. And the mark not only of a good politician or journalist, but of the kind of effective leader needed to take a nation through difficult times.

H/T Ian Lazaran

Blumenauer for keeping Medicare changes out of the press

From the New York Times
"After learning of the administration’s decision, Mr. Blumenauer’s office celebrated 'a quiet victory,' but urged supporters not to crow about it.

“'While we are very happy with the result, we won’t be shouting it from the rooftops because we aren’t out of the woods yet,' Mr. Blumenauer’s office said in an e-mail in early November to people working with him on the issue. 'This regulation could be modified or reversed, especially if Republican leaders try to use this small provision to perpetuate the ‘death panel’ myth.'

"Moreover, the e-mail said: 'We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are ‘supporters’ — e-mails can too easily be forwarded.'

"The e-mail continued: 'Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response. The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.'"
[emphasis added]

H/T Le-gal In-sur-rec-tion

Saturday, December 25, 2010

His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.  While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."

So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.  When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.  And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.  The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them
Luke 2:1-20

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hallelujah Chorus - Quinhagak, Alaska

Obama: Comeback Kid or G W Bush Comeback?

Charles Krauthammer calls President Obama "the comeback kid" for being able to give some direction to legislation basically going in the opposite direction from his own former political position.

Victor Davis Hanson, on the other hand, notes that Obama's current policies have morphed into George Bush's policies in key economic, domestic and foreign policy areas.

Is it a "comeback" to adopt policies previously opposed? Would George Bush have been called "the comeback kid" if after his party's 2006 "shellacking", he had agreed to phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq but increased the withdrawal time period to six years and smuggled in some military projects the Left didn't like? Or repealed individual tax cuts, but got an extension to 2014 on dividend and capital gains tax reductions? "Comeback" would probably not have been the key term used to describe his political transformation.

President Obama is continuing many of President George W. Bush's policies, but not his political character. How that will play with Obama's base and the American people is still to be seen.

The uncompromising George W. Bush has gone from an approval rating of just 29% in January 2009 to 47% this month--ahead of Barack Obama's current approval ratings. Now, that's what I call a "comeback kid".

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Finally! Oregon in the Middle of the Pack

Oregon is now number 27 in population among the states. Better than being tied for number 6 in worst state unemployment rate.

Oregon ticked up one position from 28 to 27 since 2000. Staying in the middle means that Oregon won't lose (or gain) national congressional seats.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mark Steyn Is Back

Thankfully, he's back and jumping in with both feet.

Mark will be hosting Sean Hannity's cable television show tonight and tomorrow night.

He'll also host Rush Limbaugh's radio show Thursday and Friday.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Oregon Unemployment Climbs Again

Oregon is now tied with South Carolina for 6th worst unemployment rate in the nation.

Despite adding 4/10ths of a percent in jobs in November, Oregon unemployment rose a tenth of a percent from October.

Here's Oregon's 2010 unemployment figures through November according to Bureau of Labor Statistics reports:

January - 10.7%
February - 10.5%
March - 10.6%
April - 10.6%
May - 10.6%
June - 10.5%
July - 10.6%
August - 10.6%
September - 10.5%
October - 10.5%
November - 10.6%

The only good news overall was that November 2010 unemployment was a tenth of a percent better than November 2009 unemployment (10.7%).

In terms of unemployment in other states, Oregon rose from 7th worst state in October to a tie for 6th worst state in November. Again, 43 states are doing better in employing their labor force than Oregon.

The national unemployment average in November was 9.8%.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Palin in Cholera Clinic "Not Afraid to Get Her Hands Dirty"

Franklin Graham on Governor Palin's visit to Haiti:
“'She came in with her smile. She would sit on the cots. Now, you have to understand a cholera clinic, these cots have been soaked in urine, and fecal matter, and vomit. Cholera is a horrible thing, and she just sat right there in the middle of it, holding peoples’ hands, talking to people, holding babies, it was an amazing thing. She’s quite a lady and not afraid to get her hands dirty.'

"The topic of whether Palin will run for president did not come up, Graham said. News reports about her visit have quoted her as saying it wasn’t time to be political. Instead, she said as she ended her two-day visit, 'I do urge Americans not to forget Haiti.'"
Graham, who has worked with Palin through Samaritan's Purse outreach in Alaska, had invited Palin, her husband Todd, and daughter Bristol to visit the clinic outreach caring for cholera victims in Haiti. He said of Palin:
". . . 'When you read her book ‘Going Rogue,’ she gives a testimony on how she gave her life to God. And the last page of her book ‘Going Rogue,’ she mentions or says to the reader if you haven’t done what I’ve done, I encourage you to do it. And she invites a person to invite God into their heart, their life. I’ve seen the governor on a number of occasions and no question her faith is a big part of her life — that’s who she is. She’s a believer in Jesus Christ, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, that’s just her makeup. It’s her DNA.'”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oregonian's Mapes Shows His Political Snark/Bias

Jeff Mapes on Governor Mitt Romney and Republican electoral chances in Oregon:
"Of course, it's safe to say that Oregon won't be much of a player in the Republican presidential race in 2012. Besides our primary being late in the season, we're not much of a target for the GOP in presidential races. The Republicans, remember, have not won the state's electoral votes since 1984."
Hmm. 1984. The same period of time that Republicans have gone without winning the governorship, and just lost a squeaker last month.

Are Oregon's electoral votes really so out-of-reach for Republicans? According to Mapes it's like a pipe dream despite the excellent Republican showing in gaining back equality in the Oregon House, almost doing it in the Senate and, as noted, almost doing it with Chris Dudley in the governor's race.

Mapes also dismisses with a snort, but no evidence, Romney's contention that years long unemployment benefits "serve to discourage some individuals from taking jobs".
"Romney's argument is that providing extentions for the current unemployment system (which was part of the Obama tax deal) just exacerbates unemployment. Writes Romney:

"'In this, as in so many other arenas of government policy, unemployment insurance has many unintended effects. The indisputable fact is that unemployment benefits, despite a web of regulations, actually serve to discourage some individuals from taking jobs, especially when the benefits extend across years.'

"I doubt this is an idea that will get political traction in Oregon, where our unemployment rate has hovered between 10.5 and 10.7 percent for the last 13 months. And I haven't heard anyone in elected office here suggesting that our problem is an overly generous unemployment insurance program."
Romney says it is "indisputable fact". Mapes does not refer to contrary research or facts other than that he doesn't know of an elected official in Oregon pointing to "overly generous" unemployment insurance as a reason for Oregon's high unemployment rate.

Of course, Mapes fails to note that Oregon elected officials have not been able to pinpoint why 43 other states are doing better than Oregon in getting people employed. And Mapes himself doesn't offer any analysis on the subject or even point to analysis by others on the subject.

Anecdotal evidence is neither "indisputable" nor compelling research, but I personally know people who didn't even look at jobs outside their profession and were unemployed for over a year precisely because unemployment benefits cushioned the need to get work. And these are go-getter types who really searched hard in their employment field.

A businessman I know has been hiring during these last two years. He says that at the beginning of the huge rise in unemployment all sorts of people, including professionals, were vying for job positions at his plant. Now, people turn away saying that they can make almost as much on unemployment.

Have extended employment benefits helped keep unemployment up? Yes. Are they the main cause of Oregon's unemployment. No. But, they are a factor.

Compare this snarky treatment of Romney's position, with Mapes' sweet treatment less than ten days ago of Oregon Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum's about face on the selfishness of asking for a recount.
"Rosenbaum last week said she "was disappointed" that Republicans were seeking a recount of another close Senate race, the 275-vote victory by Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, over Republican Dave Dotterrer in Jackson County. She said it would "distract our leaders from the real job at hand" of getting the economy back on track and helping Oregon families."
Though Mapes links to the Statesman-Journal's account of Rosenbaum's statement, his "disappointed" and "distract" quotations don't really give the sarcastic, attacking flavor of Rosenbaum's original comments:
"'While the Senate Republicans are entitled to pay for a recount, their premature request for a recount is disappointing news. They are ignoring both the process and the facts,' said Sen. Diane Rosenbaum of Portland in a statement.

"'First, the secretary of state has not finished her normal certification process for the election. Additionally, the secretary of state has repeatedly and clearly explained how every eligible ballot is counted. The decision by the Senate Republicans today shows they have decided to ignore those facts.'

"'With so many pressing issues facing the state, it's disappointing that the Republicans have decided to demand a recount. This activity will distract our state's leaders from the real job at hand: getting our economy back on track and helping Oregon's families.'"
[emphasis added]
Instead of taking Rosenbaum to task on why Democrat calls for a recount aren't also "premature", don't also "ignore" the process and the secretary of state's "facts", and won't also "distract" from "getting our economy back on track", Mapes writes this:
"Rosenbaum on Monday countered that "we're addressing it in a different way" by asking for only a count of three precincts to ensure there weren't any voting irregularities.

"She argued that the Clackamas County has had controversy this year regarding the handling of elections, and she noted that the race was the closest state Senate contest in Oregon. But she said she couldn't say for sure if Democrats would be seeking the partial recount if Republicans were not challenging Bates' victory."
No snark, no criticism of Democrat Rosenbaum on a clearly hypocritical action in view of her previous statement.

But, Mapes has no problem with sarcasm on Romney's position.

The interesting thing is that Mapes' bias is so ingrained (and in step with group think at the Oregonian) that he doesn't see the violation of journalistic fairness and accuracy. Sneering at Romney is okay. Sneering at Rosenbaum not so much.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Defense of Michelle Obama

The headline was: “We can’t just leave it up to the parents.

It sounded big brotherish.

But in the context of the complete thought being expressed, I think Michelle Obama was right on the idea that schools are there to support parents in their child rearing. (She was wrong in the belief that a federal mandate, rather than local school decision, is the best way to support parental choice and values.)
"But when our kids spend so much of their time each day in school, and when many children get up to half their daily calories from school meals, it’s clear that we as a nation have a responsibility to meet as well. We can’t just leave it up to the parents. I think that parents have a right to expect that their efforts at home won’t be undone each day in the school cafeteria or in the vending machine in the hallway. I think that our parents have a right to expect that their kids will be served fresh, healthy food that meets high nutritional standards."
Children are forced to be in school--usually 6 to 8 hours a day. The schools should not take on the role of undermining what the parents are teaching at home. At present the schools often do undermine parental training in religious and moral areas. This is especially true on morally-related issues such as sexual mores, dispensing birth control devices and requiring "diversity" training. Unfortunately, the model used by many schools is to impose values administratively from above with no reference to what parents want their children taught.

Even if the schools cannot actively support the variety of parental emphases in helping to shape a child's character and worldview, the school should at least be supportive of children looking to their parents for guidance rather than the school seeking to be an independent source of guidance. Unfortunately, schools that seek to support parental values are becoming more and more rare. (This is one of the reasons the public school system is in crisis and parents are scrambling to get their children into alternative schooling environments.)

Michelle Obama is right that the role of schools is to support parents in their efforts to teach their children good values and good character.

Mrs. Obama sees that principle clearly as regards healthy foods, but has not yet seen it with regard to a child's character and values in the other areas of life that schools have taken upon themselves either voluntarily or through federal mandates.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Huffington Post Blogger: Shame on the Associated Press

Huffington Post Blogger, Diane Dimond, on the Associated Press's deceptive photo captioning:
"Shame on the Associated Press. When journalist­s turn their palms up and shrug their shoulders when told that they now rank near the bottom of the "who do you trust polls" - as if to ask - "Why? We don't understand­... THIS KIND OF SHODDY, SHALLOW, INSIPID REPORTING IS WHY.
"We're doing it to ourselves, fellow journalist­s. If we fail to police the SHODDY, SHALLOW AND INSIPID among us there won't be anyone left who'll want our product.
To the Associated Press: if you haven't already - issue a correction­!"
Here's the background. The Associated Press published a photo with a deliberately misleading caption.
"Dieu Nalio Chery/AP. caption: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, center, has her hair done during a visit to a cholera treatment center set up by the NGO Samaritan's Purse in Cabaret, Haiti, Saturday Dec. 11, 2010. Palin arrived Saturday in Haiti as part of a brief humanitarian mission in an impoverished nation struggling to overcome post-election violence and a cholera epidemic. At right, Palin's husband, Todd Palin."
The caption identified Todd Palin, but not Bristol Palin who was straightening her mother's hair. Bristol's face was conveniently blocked by her arm in the photo so it wasn't clear who she was. No woman in her right mind would consider her daughter straightening her hair as "having her hair done". But, the impression AP wanted to give was that Sarah Palin had a hair stylist along.

Poor Michael Shaw believed AP's photo deception and posted a criticism of Sarah Palin at the Huffington Post based on the misleading caption.
"Damn right it's revolting seeing Sarah getting her hair made up like this field hospital is her movie set -- same as it's irksome seeing Sara and Greta Van Susteren wearing far-less-than-compassionate expressions and acting like looky-loos while being trailed by a video guy, Greta sporting a huge piece of gear herself."
He then had to eat the harsh words he wrote about Palin based on the Associated Press's deceptive captioning.

Diane Dimond is right. Shame on the Associated Press. Their shoddy, biased journalism is one of the reasons journalists are held in disdain by most of the public. Less than 1/3rd of the public trust them to be accurate and less than 1/5th trust them to be fair.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Does the Commander in Chief Need an ID Badge?

I was looking through some of the White House photos, and found a nice one of President Obama picking up a purple heart to award to a soldier in Afghanistan. Then I noticed the name patch on his jacket:

Barack Obama
Commander in Chief

Here's a photo of President Bush when he visited Iraq in 2003:

Guess they knew who he was even without the Commander in Chief name badge.

NYT and TIME Beat National Review and The Weekly Standard

First the New York Times does a good reporting job on Sarah Palin and her possible candidacy. Now TIME magazine follows that up.

Where are leading conservative magazines like National Review or The Weekly Standard in reporting on any of the Republican candidates--let alone the presumed front runner?

The joke last year was that New York Times readers only learned about key events (e.g., problems at ACORN and with Van Jones) after the fact because the Times didn't want to cover them.

It looks like readers of National Review and The Weekly Standard are in the same boat on conservative Republican presidential candidates.

If you're a conservative, and you want good coverage on Sarah Palin, for example, you need to read the New York Times or TIME. National Review and The Weekly Standard can only provide snarky or ranting opinion pieces. There was an evaluation piece on Mitt Romney's negatives in National Review recently, but no substantive reporting on Romney's strengths or preparation to run.

Where is significant reporting by conservative media on conservative 2012 presidential candidates? They should have an inside track with conservative potential candidates, and it should sell magazines. But they don't seem interested.

It's kind of like living in a parallel universe to have to go to the New York Times and TIME for good reporting on conservatives.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

America by Heart Review

Sarah Palin's America by Heart is an unusual political book. It’s enjoyable and easy to read, but it deals with some important philosophical issues.

It reminds me of a Ronald Reagan speech. President Reagan’s speeches were different than most presidential speeches. They were neither standard political discourse nor great oratory. Reagan’s speeches were easy on the ear and attention span and yet touched on significant philosophical issues. (example)

In America by Heart Governor Palin points out the centrality of two fundamental truths for American democracy.

The first is that the United States is built on the belief that basic human rights come from God. (“all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”) The second is that American government is created by power given from the people and does not carry power in itself. (“We the people . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution”) These two ideas are the foundations of American political and social life. (p. 10-11)
“It is to keep faith with these words that our Constitution begins ‘We the people.’ In America, the people are sovereign, not just as a group, but individually. We are endowed by our Creator with this sovereignty. That means no person, no king and no government, can rule us without our consent. We all have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that wasn’t given to us by government; it was given to us by God. Therefore, it can’t rightly be taken away by government.” (p. 11)
Palin compacts unalienable rights into one word: freedom.
“We are the only country in the history of the world that was founded not on a particular territory or culture or people, but on an idea. That idea is that all human beings have a God-given right to be free.” (p. 37)
This is the foundation of Palin’s belief that the United States is exceptional. In that she echoes Lincoln (“last best hope of earth”) and Reagan: “shining city upon a hill” and other great American political thinkers.

Palin goes on to delineate some of the important ways the American understanding that freedom is God-given affects government and society.

1. It requires limited government and federalism (Tenth Amendment). (p. xv, 7, 72)
2. It promotes a sense of optimism, lack of class envy, and a belief that individuals control their own destiny. (p. 66)
3. It supports the free market and individual economic freedom. It denies that government has the right to pick winners and losers. (Here Palin mentions the importance of Adam Smith’s invisible hand theory–which apparently many economics majors aren’t even taught now.) (p. 80, 84, 89)

The flip side of rights is responsibilities. What sort of people are needed for a government and society based on this kind of wide-open personal freedom? If government force or tyranny aren't there to quell human passions and require virtue from citizens, where does the needed character come from?

This is a question of paramount importance for Palin. She demonstrates that the political philosophy of key Founders required family and religion to fill that void. Palin quotes John Adams: “The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families.” (p. 112) And George Washington:
“Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” (p. 194-195)
Perhaps the most significant section of America by Heart deals with the issue of how religion relates to a government which is based on individual freedom. (pp. 181-232)

The political theory of American democracy required some means to instill morality and tame strong human passions that under other governmental forms were kept in check by top down governmental power or tyranny. Our Founders saw the necessary discipline and character development coming from a people with deep religious commitment. The Founders “created a country that . . . relies on faith as an indispensable support.” (p. 183)

Thus, Palin rejects the position of current “secular elites” that religion must be kept private and separate from influencing government policy decisions. (p. 184-188, 216) To the contrary, she makes the case that religious commitment must flow over into public life for the nation to continue to stand.

But, wouldn’t that cause religious intolerance and divisions in a nation with various strong religious traditions?

Palin points out that the Founders built in safeguards so that government wouldn’t take sides with one religion over another (First Amendment). But they still set up a nurturing structure for strong religious belief that had an impact on daily governmental life. Official Congressional chaplains, days of prayer (FDR led the nation in prayer for the D-Day invasion, pp. 226-228), prayer opening Supreme Court and Congressional sessions, and “in God we trust” on our coins are just a few of the clear practical examples of our political leaders' belief that individual religious commitment is an essential part of official American governance. (pp. 197-198 quoting Justice Scalia)

At times deep religious commitment has resulted in divisions and even bloodshed. The clearly divisive movements for the abolition of slavery as well as for women’s rights and civil rights were rooted in religious conviction. (pp. 218-221) But, in the usual course of national political life the outcome of religious commitment is quite different.

Religious commitment tends to bring Americans together to uphold the poor and helpless and do good to one another.
“Our culture . . . takes fundamentally religious values such as the sanctity of life and secularizes them without surrendering their morality. America has a special ability to take the truths and moral lessons of religion and put them to work in ways that benefit everyone, regardless of their faith.” (p. 235)
America by Heart also gives insights into Sarah Palin’s personal character. She illustrates often from her own life and her family’s life. One thing that particularly interested me was that Governor Palin quotes two of her primary political competitors approvingly and at length. (Governor Mitt Romney and Speaker Newt Gingrich) (pp. 185-188, 209-210) There’s no felt need to be the “star” and ignore competing Republican political heavyweights.

America by Heart is easy and enjoyable to read all the while leading the reader into important, and at times deep, philosophical issues. Nice.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

How to Handle State Debt and Bailouts

Governor Palin:

1. Reform insolvent pension systems by changing defined benefits systems to defined contributions systems
Instead of coming to D.C. cap in hand asking for more “free” money, they should follow the example of their more prudent sister states and take the necessary steps to sort out their own finances. They must start by reforming their insolvent pension systems. Many states have multi-billion dollar unfunded pension liability problems that they have refused to address for many years. They’ve deferred their spending problems, assuming the problem deferred would be an issue avoided; instead, it’s resulted in a crisis invited. These states still won’t reform their costly defined benefit systems for fear of offending the powerful public sector unions. Sooner or later, their pension systems will collapse unless they do what states like Alaska did, which is to swap unsustainable defined benefits, which are more like glorified Ponzi schemes, for a more prudent defined contributions system.
2. When surplus funds come, instead of spending them on "popular" projects, put them in state savings accounts for "rainy day" needs
3. Enact hiring freezes
4. Give tax relief to encourage business expansion which will increase tax revenues
My home state made the switch from defined benefits to a defined contribution system, and as governor, I introduced a number of measures to build on that successful transition, while also addressing the issue of the remaining funding shortfall by prioritizing budgets to wrap our financial arms around this too-long ignored debt problem. When my state ran a surplus because we incentivized businesses, I didn’t spend it on fun and glamorous pet projects for lawmakers – though that would have made me quite popular with the earmark crowd. In fact, I vetoed more excessive spending than any governor in our state’s history, and I used the state’s surplus to bring our financial house in order by paying down our unfunded pension plans that some other governors wanted to ignore. This fiscal prudence didn’t make me popular with the state legislature. In addition to vetoing hundreds of millions of dollars in wasteful spending, I put billions of dollars into savings accounts for future rainy days, much like most American families do in responsibly planning for the future. I also enacted a hiring freeze and brought the education budget under control through a commitment to forward-funding. I returned much of the surplus back to the people (it was their money to start with!) through tax relief and energy rebates. I had proven as the mayor of the fastest growing city in the state that tax cuts incentivize business growth, and though the state legislature overrode some of my veto cuts and thwarted an additional tax relief request of mine, the public was supportive of efforts to rein in its government.
5. Reduce the size of state government
It’s one thing to veto spending and reduce the size of government when your state is broke. I did it when my state was flush with revenue from a surplus – though I had to fight politicians who wanted to spend like there was no tomorrow. It’s not easy to tell people no and make them act fiscally responsible and cut spending when the money is rolling in and your state is only 50 years shy of being a territory and everyone is yelling at you to spend while the money is there to build. My point is, if I could fight this fight in Alaska at a time of surplus, then other governors can and should be able to do the same at a time when their states are facing bankruptcy and postponing this fight is no longer an option.
6. Stand up to special interest spending that is bankrupting states
So, let’s not continue to reward irresponsible political behavior. Instead of handing out more federal dollars, let’s give the governors of these debt-ridden states some free advice. Shake off the pressure from public sector unions to cave on this issue. Put up with the full page newspaper attack ads, the hate-filled rhetoric, and the other union strong arm tactics that I, too, had to put up with while fighting those who don’t believe a state needs to live within its means. Stand up to the special interests that are bankrupting your states. You may not be elected Miss Congeniality for fighting to get your fiscal houses in order; but in the long run, the people who hired you to do the right thing will appreciate your prudence and fiscal conservatism.

President Obama Shows Good Sense

Today President Obama showed better political and "common" sense than half* of the White House press corps questioners. Their questions were mostly versions of "Why are you not sticking with a leftist agenda?"

Many of the White House press seem not to have understood the implications of a national vote in which Republicans gained 64 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate.

President Obama may be showing an ability to be an effective president by thinking of the American people first and political agenda second.

Is this the beginning of an intelligent pivot? We'll see.

*Examples of "we don't understand the 2010 election results" questions:

Chuck Todd, NBC News: "Mr. President, what do you say to Democrats who say you’re rewarding Republican obstruction here? You yourself used in your opening statement they were unwilling to budge on this. A lot of progressive Democrats are saying they’re unwilling to budge, and you’re asking them to get off the fence and budge. Why should they be rewarding Republican obstruction?"

Marc Ambinder, The Atlantic Magazine: "Mr. President, thank you. How do these negotiations affect negotiations or talks with Republicans about raising the debt limit? Because it would seem that they have a significant amount of leverage over the White House now, going in."

Jonathan Weisman, The Washington Post: "Some on the left have questioned -- have looked at this deal and questioned what your core values are, what specifically you will go to the mat on. I’m wondering if you can reassure them with some specific things in saying, all right, this is where I don’t budge."

True Grit in the Face of "a date which will live in infamy"

UPDATE: Here's a YouTube presentation of the speech with illustrative photos:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

audio here

(December 8, 1941)
To the Congress of the United States:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

[This is a reposting of my December 7, 2009 post.]

The "Good" War Continues to Sink

Karzai government corruption results in the release of hundreds of captured suspected insurgents. They return to the field to kill U.S. and NATO troops as well as Afghan troops and civilians. The U.S. goes along because they don't know how to thwart the corruption.

From Sara Carter of the Washington Examiner:
"Earlier this year, The Examiner reported that numerous insurgents captured in Pakistan, including some members of al Qaeda, were returned to Afghanistan upon the request of the Karzai government, and then, according to a senior Pakistani official, 'released back to the Taliban as bargaining chips in negotiations.'

"A marine stationed in southern Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province told The Examiner that efforts to detain insurgent fighters are 'worthless.'

"Earlier this year, his unit held a man known to be working with the Taliban. The Marines had gathered evidence that the man was transporting hundreds of pounds of bomb-making equipment and explosives for the Taliban. But, shortly after they captured him, he was set free.

"'Less than two weeks later, we saw the same guy walking through the bazaar,' said the marine, who spoke on condition that he not be named. 'He recognized us. I wanted to shoot him right then and there. We got the guy, and yet there he was, walking around planning to kill again, and we couldn't do a thing about it.'

"For American combat troops in Afghanistan, the release of suspect Taliban is seen as a symptom of the corruption of the Karzai government.

"'Back-room dealings between Karzai officials and local government connected to the Taliban make NATO's work almost impossible,' said a military official stationed in Afghanistan. 'They call the shots, and we've got to release the bad guys.'

"The release of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks last week provided a rare glimpse into what the State Department considers official corruption in the Karzai government.

"That was the opinion of Afghan officials interviewed recently. 'Afghanistan is a corrupt mess populated by citizens who are far more comfortable thinking and acting locally and tribally than nationally,' one official said. 'Karzai takes advantage of that for his own benefit,' he added. 'The U.S. turns a blind eye because they don't know how to stop it.'
The Obama administration needs to learn how the Bush administration secured a victory in a difficult war under a weak, divided, corrupt government in Iraq.

Robert Gates is still in charge at Defense, and General David Petraeus has been added as head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But, ineffective players remain in key diplomatic positions (Karl Eikenberry and Richard Holbrooke do not seem up to the level of the very effective Ambassador Ryan Crocker in Iraq). Then there's the difference in President Obama's sometimes waffling commitment in Afghanistan vs. President Bush's dogged determination in Iraq.

For whatever reasons, things do not look good for victorious resolution in Afghanistan before the end of Obama's presidency.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Jeb Bush Needs to Think Before He Speaks

Former Governor Jeb Bush was at a National League of Cities convention and according to the Denver Post had these fixes for the nation’s immigration problems:

1. “tightening the border”
2. “improving programs to more smoothly integrate immigrants into American society”
2a. “teaching English to immigrants is one way to improve integration and ensure success for new generations of immigrants”

Not exactly new or helpful insights.

Jeb Bush also made it clear that he thought the Arizona law was not the way to go.
“While [Bush] is sympathetic to the plight of Arizona officials forced to deal with all the problems linked to a porous frontier, he believes there are solutions other than a law criminalizing illegal immigrants, he said.”
Beyond raising the interesting question of how one criminalizes something that is already illegal, Bush stepped in the "not very astute" bucket by mentioning that his own children might be "suspicious" to police under the law.
“Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said if his children walked the streets of Phoenix they might look awfully suspicious to police. His wife, Columba, is from Mexico.”
It's not appropriate to criticize the children of politicians, but what do you do when the politician himself criticizes others by invoking his children? And then it turns out the children have already had problems in the very area being criticized?

With all the negative pressures of the high profile political life Jeb Bush has chosen, his children have not only been suspicious to police without the Arizona law, but have had police reports filed on them. (George P., Noelle, John Ellis)

Sometimes it’s better to think before one speaks--especially before invoking one's children to make a political point.

How Long a Pause in Warming Does It Take to Question Global Warming?

From David Rose in The Daily Mail:
"Last week, halfway through yet another giant, 15,000 delegate UN climate jamboree, being held this time in the tropical splendour of Cancun in Mexico, the [British Meteorological] Office was at it again.

". . . Globally, it insisted, 2010 was still on course to be the warmest or second warmest year since current records began.

"But buried amid the details of those two Met Office statements 12 months apart lies a remarkable climbdown that has huge implications - not just for the Met Office, but for debate over climate change as a whole.

"Read carefully with other official data, they conceal a truth that for some, to paraphrase former US VicePresident Al Gore, is really inconvenient: for the past 15 years, global warming has stopped."
. . .
"Last week at Cancun, in an attempt to influence richer countries to agree to give £20billion immediately to poorer ones to offset the results of warming, the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute warned that global temperatures would be 6.5 degrees higher by 2100, leading to rocketing food prices and a decline in production.

"The maths isn't complicated. If the planet were going to be six degrees hotter by the century's end, it should be getting warmer by 0.6 degrees each decade; if two degrees, then by 0.2 degrees every ten years. Fortunately, it isn't.

"Actually, with the exception of 1998 - a 'blip' year when temperatures spiked because of a strong 'El Nino' effect (the cyclical warming of the southern Pacific that affects weather around the world) - the data on the Met Office's and CRU's own websites show that global temperatures have been flat, not for ten, but for the past 15 years."
. . .
"But though it was still successfully trying to influence media headlines during Cancun last week by saying that 2010 might yet end up as the warmest year, the small print reveals the Met Office climbdown. Last year it predicted that the 2010 average would be 14.58C. Last week, this had been reduced to 14.52C.

"That may not sound like much. But when one considers that by the Met Office's own account, the total rise in world temperatures since the 1850s has been less than 0.8 degrees, it is quite a big deal. Above all, it means the trend stays flat."
. . .
"But little by little, the supposedly settled scientific 'consensus' that the temperature rise is unprecedented, that it is set to continue to disastrous levels, and that it is all the fault of human beings, is starting to fray.

"Earlier this year, a paper by Michael Mann - for years a leading light in the IPCC, and the author of the infamous 'hockey stick graph' showing flat temperatures for 2,000 years until the recent dizzying increase - made an extraordinary admission: that, as his critics had always claimed, there had indeed been a 'medieval warm period' around 1000 AD, when the world may well have been hotter than it is now.

"Other research is beginning to show that cyclical changes in water vapour - a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide - may account for much of the 20th Century warming.

Even Phil Jones, the CRU director at the centre of last year's 'Climategate' leaked email scandal, was forced to admit in a littlenoticed BBC online interview that there has been 'no statistically significant warming' since 1995."
. . .
"The question now emerging for climate scientists and policymakers alike is very simple. Just how long does a pause have to be before the thesis that the world is getting hotter because of human activity starts to collapse?"
[emphasis added]

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Palin: Charismatic Constitutionalist

James Lewis from the American Thinker:
"Sarah Palin is a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon in politics. She is a charismatic constitutionalist. It's the combination that's so vital. Reagan had it. It scares the Democrats to death.

"It is time for a constitutionalist who can talk straight with the American people. Human nature hasn't changed. The U.S. Constitution has not lost relevance. It is still the only functioning revolutionary political document in history. The Constitution limits the power class. Marxism empowers the powerful. It's not hard to understand. If Sarah Palin can get that single truth across to the American people, she will win and go on to become another Ronald Reagan.

"Expect all the Establishment forces to fight against a constitutionalist conservative for president. It scares them more than a Marxist in the White House."
[emphasis added]
None of the other candidates seem able to make fundamental truths clear like Governor Palin does.

Reagan could.
"We win, they lose."
"Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem."

That was Lincoln's greatness too. He spoke the truth with clarity.
"I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free."
It was a painful truth and cost the nation dearly in blood to conform to that truth.

The longer truth is avoided the harder the day of reckoning.

Rare is the political leader who has both the gift to communicate basic truths and the courage to carry through on them. That's the kind of candidate and president we need.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

If Even Jimmy Carter Gets It, What's Wrong with Republican Elites?

Mona Charen, Peggy Noonan, George Will . . . call your office.

Carter on Palin:
“I’ve never met her, but obviously I’ve watched on television many times, and I think she’s one of the most dynamic and attractive speakers we’ve ever seen. She knows how to appeal to a crowd. She’s extremely eloquent. She has a very clear cut, I say, political philosophy that she expresses. And she appeals highly to an enthusiastic group of supporters. I think within the Republican Party and within the Tea Party element of the Republican Party, she’s going to be a formidable candidate if she decides to run in 2012. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she could get the Republican nomination.”
Carter on the political atmosphere:
“But I do see a parallel between the times that I ran in for president in 1976 and this past year with the Tea Party movement. Because it’s primarily a group of well meaning people, in my opinion, who were just completely dissatisfied with what was happening in Washington. And I have to admit that I had the same kind of benefit when I ran for office against a wonderful group of other candidates who were my opponents, most of whom were U.S. Senators, very distinguished, and I was able to prevail primarily because I capitalized on the dissatisfaction that kind of was one of the driving forces for the Tea Party . . . .”
Now, President Carter is clear that Palin needs to overcome the question about whether she is qualified to be president, which Barack Obama had to overcome as well. But, Carter doesn't think Palin is a "nincompoop" or only capable of being another Oprah. Quite to the contrary, Carter lauds Palin as "one of the most dynamic and attractive speakers we’ve ever seen. . . . She's extremely eloquent." That's high praise when his own party's president, Barack Obama, is supposed to be the best and brightest orator since John F. Kennedy.

Further Carter gives Palin credit for having a "very clear cut" political philosophy. In other words, he sees that Palin is not just the opposite of the empty-head of Tina Fey skits, but someone who has hammered out a clear political philosophy. Not just political positions, but a world view--a philosophy.

Democrats are taking Governor Palin seriously. Too many Republicans still haven't got a clue. Maybe that's why the Republican Party has been stamped with the "Loser" label. Its bright lights can't seem to see beyond their noses.

Two excellent articles:
The Palin Factor: Even Republican Elites Don't Get It by Lance Fairchok (gives the sorry historical data that no Republican candidate since Eisenhower--who also suddenly became dumb after being made the Republican candidate--has been considered other than dumb by the pundits)
Why Does the Media love to Pick on Palin? by John Lott (shows that Palin is called dumb precisely because she is smart and effective)

National Review Continues Series on Weakness of Republican Possibles

Apparently National Review is starting a series on the weaknesses of all the major Republican possibles. First it was Governor Palin. This time it's Governor Romney. Next up? Presumably Governor Huckabee and then Speaker Gingrich. That would take care of the top four.

Michael Tanner's article on Romney is utterly unlike Mona Charen's anti-Palin piece which centered entirely on emotional and personal issues. Charen did not mention Palin policy or government record problems–-did not even allude to them.

Tanner, by contrast, deals almost exclusively with policy/government record problems. Actually, only one problem: "Romneycare"--an "enormous albatross hanging around [Romney's] neck".

Again, unlike Charen, who did not give a single sentence of Palin's defense, Tanner gives a detailed account of Romney's side. In fact, Tanner devotes three full paragraphs to Romney's defense.

Whereas Charen was all emotion, Tanner is careful to avoid emotional negatives like Romney's difficulty in connecting with and inspiring voters. Tanner also skirts mention of possible personal negatives like Romney's Morman background--which has yet to be clearly defused as John Kennedy did with Catholicism.

The closest Tanner comes to listing a Romney personal failing is precisely on topic to his main point on "Romneycare". Explaining why Romney may be so unwilling to give up defending the Massachusetts health care system, Tanner notes that Romney has been "accused in the past of switching positions in order to curry political favor".

Good for Tanner in sticking to policy issues and giving the candidate's side on the issue. That is a major step up in National Review standards.

Still, National Review is setting itself up as doing oppo press on conservative Republican candidates. I think of Bill Buckley's comment on conservatives who pointed out Reagan's weaknesses during the 1980 Reagan run for the presidency. "I wish they'd just shut their mouths."

Hanson on the Immigration Dilemma

Victor Davis Hanson:
"So ponder the ethics of a guest arriving in a host country knowingly against its sovereign protocols and laws.

"First, there is the larger effect on the sanctity of a legal system. If a guest ignores the law — and thereby often must keep breaking more laws — should citizens also have the right to similarly pick and choose which statutes they find worthy of honoring and which are too bothersome? Once it is deemed moral for the impoverished to cross a border without a passport, could not the same arguments of social justice be used for the poor of any status not to report earned income or even file a 1040 form?

"Second, what is the effect of mass illegal immigration on impoverished US citizens? Does anyone care? When 10 million to 15 million aliens are here illegally, where is the leverage for the American working poor to bargain with employers? If it is deemed ethical to grant in-state tuition discounts to illegal-immigrant students, is it equally ethical to charge three times as much for out-of-state, financially needy American students — whose federal government usually offers billions to subsidize state colleges and universities? If foreign nationals are afforded more entitlements, are there fewer for U.S. citizens?

"Third, consider the moral ramifications on legal immigration — the traditional great strength of the American nation. What are we to tell the legal immigrant from Oaxaca who got a green card at some cost and trouble, or who, once legally in the United States, went through the lengthy and expensive process of acquiring citizenship? Was he a dupe to dutifully follow our laws?

"And given the current precedent, if a million soon-to-be-impoverished Greeks, 2 million fleeing North Koreans, or 5 million starving Somalis were to enter the United States illegally and en masse, could anyone object to their unlawful entry and residence? If so, on what legal, practical or moral grounds?

"Fourth, examine the morality of remittances. It is deemed noble to send billions of dollars back to families and friends struggling in Latin America. But how is such a considerable loss of income made up? Are American taxpayers supposed to step in to subsidize increased social services so that illegal immigrants can afford to send billions of dollars back across the border? What is the morality of that equation in times of recession? Shouldn't illegal immigrants at least try to buy health insurance before sending cash back to Mexico?"