Saturday, April 30, 2011

Release the Labor, Politics and Society Tapes

Earlier this week, Big Government broke the story about the University of Missouri Labor Studies department teaching violent union tactics. Since the original video above was posted, four more have been released (herehere, here, here, and here). While this story has gained traction online with coverage from tea party blogs, it was largely ignored by the MSM until Thursday morning. A CBS affiliate in St. Louis, KMOX, noted the story. In their reporting, KMOX included a statement from Ameren UE condemning the comments of Don Giljum. Giljum, one of the lecturers in the Labor, Politics, and Society course, used to be the business manager for a union that represented Ameren workers.

Since then, the KMOX story has been updated with a statement from the University which reads in part:
The University of Missouri-Kansas City continues to review approximately 18 hours of unedited video from the Labor, Politics and Society class. From the review completed to date, it is clear that edited videos posted on the Internet depict statements from the instructors in an inaccurate and distorted manner by taking their statements out of context and reordering the sequence in which those statements were actually made so as to change their meaning.
The Kansas City Star has also entered the fray. The KC Star's coverage reads in part:
The video has [Judy] Ancel, who directs UMKC’s Institute for Labor Studies, telling her class: “Violence is a tactic, and it’s to be used when it’s the appropriate tactic.”

Other snippets show [Don] Giljum, of Local Operating Engineers 148, describing tactics, such as “strategically placing a screwdriver near equipment” and circulating literature about “plant sabotage,” that he and union buddies used to force plant shutdowns.

But university officials, who have spent the week reviewing much of the “18 hours of an unedited video of the Labor in Politics and Society class,” say the website videos are obviously bogus.

“It is clear that edited videos posted on the Internet depict statements from the instructors in an inaccurate and distorted manner by taking their statements out of context and reordering the sequence in which those statements were actually made so as to change their meaning,” UMKC Provost Gail Hackett said in a statement.
At this point we know that there's about 18 hours of unedited video and the University is still reviewing it. We also know that Don Giljum resigned some time this week presumably as a result of Big Government's coverage. If the unedited tape genuinely shows that the videos "are obviously bogus", then why did Giljum resign? If the videos posted to date actually "depict statements from the instructors in an inaccurate and distorted manner", then the unedited video in the possession of the University should exonerate both Giljum and Ancel. Does the KC Star have aspirations of being Mizzou's waterboy next fall? Why didn't they demand the video tapes instead of rubber stamping the University's press release?

The truth is in the unedited tapes and for that reason the University should release them.

Largest Spending Cut in US History

From the YouTube description:
President Obama and Congress have agreed to cut $38 billion in federal spending, right? If you go by so-called "budget authority," that may be true. But real spending cuts come when you actually cut real spending, not "budget authority." Outlays in fiscal year 2011 will likely be considerably higher than last year's outlays. That means the spending cuts advertised by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are laughably fraudulent. Video produced by Caleb O. Brown and Austin Bragg.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

The War on Walmart: Who's afraid of cheap groceries?

From the YouTube description:
Retail giant Walmart is planning to open its first stores in New York City and Washington, D.C.

That's got local politicians and activists up in arms.

"Walmart, keep your plantation because there are no more slaves," says New York City Councilman Charles Barron.

Walmart will make criminals of our children, argues Washington D.C. commissioner Brenda Speaks, because "kids are kids" so they'll shoplift and then "security will grab them."

If we're tricked into welcoming Walmart through our city gates "wrapped up in a shiny package," explains New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, it will take over and destroy us.

So what's getting anti-Walmart activists so riled up?

The answer: cheap groceries.

Written and produced by Jim Epstein, with help from Joshua Swain. Narrated by Nick Gillespie.

Approximately 7.30 minutes.

Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two

From the YouTube description:
"Fight of the Century" is the new economics hip-hop music video by John Papola and Russ Roberts at

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Great Recession ended almost two years ago, in the summer of 2009. Yet we're all uneasy. Job growth has been disappointing. The recovery seems fragile. Where should we head from here? Is that question even meaningful? Can the government steer the economy or have past attempts helped create the mess we're still in?

In "Fight of the Century", Keynes and Hayek weigh in on these central questions. Do we need more government spending or less? What's the evidence that government spending promotes prosperity in troubled times? Can war or natural disasters paradoxically be good for an economy in a slump? Should more spending come from the top down or from the bottom up? What are the ultimate sources of prosperity?

Keynes and Hayek never agreed on the answers to these questions and they still don't. Let's listen to the greats. See Keynes and Hayek throwing down in "Fight of the Century"!

Starring Billy and Adam from

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Gramscian Damage at Mizzou

My first post at The Graph went up Wednesday morning. In that post I explore the historical origins of the Labor Studies classes now being taught in the University of Missouri system. Big Government broke the story earlier this week about lectures on the use of violent union tactics and industrial sabotage. In my post at The Graph I examine the Gramscian Damage at Mizzou. Here's an excerpt:
Antonio Gramsci was a leader of the Communist Party of Italy in the early 20th century. The Fascists and the Communists struggled for control of that country and Benito Mussolini’s Fascists eventually prevailed. A couple years after Mussolini rose to power, Gramsci was imprisoned where he remained for the last ten years of his life. It was during this time that Gramsci formulated a strategy to overthrow western Capitalism:
Gramsci called for a methodical approach to infiltrate, capture, and reform education, the press, the cinema, theatre, the government, and the church, what he called “the long march through the institutions.” He said Capitalism had a cultural hegemony through violence and coercion, both political and economic, but also ideologically, which is where the battle lay.
I will return to his flawed premise that “Capitalism had a cultural hegemony through violence and coercion” later. First, I’ll illuminate how Gramsci’s subversion of Western institutions was implemented because the damage that has followed is still with us today.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When the Left Abandons Reason

In "How to Behave During an Islamic Massacre" Andrew Klavan follows the left's logic to its conclusion.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kevin Jackson visits the New Black Panther's Day of Action

Kevin Jackson of and author of The BIG Black Lie: How I Learned The Truth About The Democrat Party, went to the New Black Panther Party's Day of Action and Unity, April 23rd, 2011. He found some common ground with the folks he met there, but there are some significant policy differences too.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bank Bailouts Explained

The video above is a humorous explanation of how US banks have been bailed out.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!

In the video above, Lee Doren of How the World Works, talks about Andrew Breitbart's new book: Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World! If you're interested in the recent emergence and evolution of citizen journalism, then this looks to be a good primer.

Brazil: Country of the Future?

BrazilImage via Wikipedia
Walter Russel Mead takes a close look at Brazil and asks: What Could Go Wrong?:
This history of boom and bust cycles is how Brazil earned the cruelest of all descriptions — the famous remark that “Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be.” Perhaps.

Brazil’s current wave of prosperity isn’t exactly a replay of one of the old time commodity booms. It is more broadly based, for one thing. Brazilian production of soybeans, sugar ethanol, and minerals for export to China like iron ore, manganese, niobium (used in making steel) and copper is booming at a time when world prices for all these goods are high. With a more diversified base in different commodities than in the past, Brazil is less vulnerable to a sudden devastating crash in the price of one crop.
Mead goes on to observe that Brazil's left has a tenuous relationship with capitalist reforms. In his assessment, those reforms are on the line:
The Brazilian left’s cautious and in some cases unenthusiastic embrace of capitalism is all about results. Under both Cardoso and Lula, pro-market policies led to more jobs and better pay for many Brazilians, and provided the government with the resources to improve schools and inaugurate a modest welfare program. As long as pro-market policies hold out the hope of continuing progress for the poor and the lower middle class, Brazil’s left will have strong incentives to stay the current course. But if that progress slows down, all bets are off.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bailing on Portugal

I saw this on Instapundit and followed the link:
THE ECONOMIST: EUROPE’S PROBLEMS IN A NUTSHELL: “When we talk about the debt crisis in Europe, we tend to focus on the specific details—a relative loss of peripheral European competitiveness, accumulation of debt, rising bond yields and contracting economies. But the bigger story is a simpler one: The euro zone’s political institutions did not keep up with its economic institutions.”
The Economist goes on to bemoaning the fact that recently elected Finlandish fiscal hawks might stymie the bailout of Portugal, concluding:
How long could America maintain its dominance—or, indeed, its union—if the fact of a secessionist party winning 19% in a Maryland election could prevent the union from undertaking a step critically important to the stability of the American economy?
That presuppose that averting a fiscal catastrophe in Portugal is critically important to the European economy. I do not doubt that a Portuguese bailout is important to Portugal's creditors, but I'd be interested to know whether those creditors constituted a greater portion of the ruling or ruled classes in Europe. I suspect that if those creditors lose their shirts, then none could easily deny that the emperor has no clothes.

CATO Institute on the Need for a Credible Commitment on Debt

From the YouTube description:
Will raising the debt limit signal to markets what we want? Or will it signal an unwillingness to deal with tough decisions on spending and debt in the near term? Cato Institute Senior Fellow Jagadeesh Gokhale suggests that refusing to raise the debt limit (until programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are reformed) could signal to markets a greater willingness to deal with long-term fiscal issues sooner rather than later.
More at CATO:
The U.S. is now facing daunting fiscal challenges. The poor prospects of crucial fiscal reforms provoked Standard and Poor's Monday to revise its long-term outlook on the U.S. economy from "stable" to "negative."

Many knowledgeable federal officials, like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, as well as left-leaning lawmakers, insist that the answer lies in lifting the debt limit. They warn Congress about the dire consequences if it fails to do so. President Barack Obama has chimed in — though he voted against raising it when he was a senator.

They all assert that failing to increase the debt limit could sharply undermine the economic recovery.

But that view could be wrong. A temporarily frozen debt limit could instead signal U.S. lawmakers' resolve to get our fiscal house in order. It may even reassure investors about long-term U.S. economic prospects.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stand Up for Agriculture Rally Photos

Mindy Patterson sent in the photos above from Wednesday's Stand Up for Agriculture Rally this past Wednesday. A crowd of over one thousand descended on Jefferson City, MO, to show their support SB113 which would remove the unconstitutional aspects of last November's Prop B. There were attendees from every corner of Missouri--farmers who gave up valuable time to travel several hours to stand on the steps of Missouri's capitol to protect their right to farm.

Mindy was featured the Loos Trails and Tales earlier today talking about yesterday's rally in Jeff City.

Obama: Constitutional Law Professor?

I found the following post from Instapundit to be rather revealing:
DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY: Obama: “Texas has always been a pretty Republican state, for, you know, historic reasons.”

Apparently, when Obama taught Constitutional Law he never got around to teaching the Texas White (Democratic) Primary cases. Or talking about which side was which in the Civil War . . . .

Updated to make clear to people who don’t click the link that it was the Texas Democrats who excluded black voters (and Mexican-Americans) from their primaries (and then dodged further with the Jaybird Democratic Association when the courts struck down the White Primaries). This is a major set of cases under state action, and I’m surprised that Obama is unfamiliar with this history. I wonder what he covered in his Constitutional Law classes?

Petition to Redistribute GPA Scores

From the YouTube description:
Many students believe that it is moral to confiscate money from hard-working Americans and entrepreneurs and give it to those who didn't earn it, yet don't support the same philosophy when it is applied to their GPA scores.

The Top Five Environmental Disasters that Didn't Happen

From the YouTube description:
For this year's Earth Day celebration, is proud to present "The Top Five Environmental Disasters that Didn't Happen." The environmental movement began in 1962 when Rachel Carson published her best-selling book Silent Spring. And ever since, chicken littles have warned us about imminent environmental disasters that ultimately didn't happen.

We all worried needlessly about acid rain, expanding deserts and global cooling, but these failed predictions weren't quite dire enough to make our list. To find out which prophecies of doom did make our list, you'll need to watch's "Top Five Environmental Disasters that Didn't Happen."
If you're wondering what environmental disaster made it into the top spot I'll give you an indirect hint by suggesting that you read this book.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Frightening Chart

Every once in a while I see a chart that hints at our impending fiscal problems, but rarely have I seen one that so concisely captures America's impending fiscal Armageddon. There are three things you should note about the chart above. First, it's in inflation adjusted dollars, so the grind of inflation has been removed. Second, the data are plotted per capita, so population growth will not distort the picture. And, lastly, the left hand access is a logarithmic scale. Given the data set, the fact that it's logarithmic implies that the rate of government spending in per capita inflation adjusted dollars is hopelessly increasing.

William Briggs explains why Obama's plan to tax the rich always fails eventually:
Here is the way the federal budget process has worked in practice—I do not say in theory, but in actuality. A projection is made of revenues (taxes). The government plans to spend all those monies and usually a little more. When the projections are accurate, the deficit grows only slowly, and in some years even decreases. These years are and have been infrequent; therefore it is rational to believe that these years will continue to be infrequent. It is irrational to believe that deficits will not continue to grow on average.

Much more often the projection is wrong. It is in error. It is overconfident. It is too sure. It says that more money will come in than actually does. This happens more frequently than do accurate projections.

The shortfall is recognized and then one or two things occurs, though both may also occur. The first is that the government “borrows” money, which increases the deficit and imperils future projections, making them less certain. The second is that taxes are raised. The argument is always, “Look, the hole is there. It can only be filled with money. If we don’t fill it now, danger looms.” This reasoning is often convincing because of the ever-nearness of elections.

Once the taxes are raised, new and higher projections are made based on the assumption that more money will flow to the government (and away from people). The budget is made on these projections; the government plans to spend all these new monies and usually a little more. When the projections are accurate…but never mind.

We are in an unbreakable loop. It ever ratchets up taxes and spending, which positively increases the power of the government.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Louis Farrakhan in the News

Current Nation of Islam leader Louis FarrakhanImage via Wikipedia
The Las Vegas Sun is reporting on a speech by Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan. In the speech, Farrakhan implies that Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman (I) harbors racist thoughts about President Obama and African Americans:
Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan used a recent speech at Howard University to berate Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman for what Farrakhan said was his poor treatment of President Barack Obama.

'Here's the president of the United States,' Farrakhan said. 'He makes a statement about people losing their homes and whatnot, gambling, and then his flight, his plane stops in Las Vegas. And the little Jewish mayor wouldn't even come out to greet him.'

'How you gonna greet a (expletive) president?' Farrakhan continued. 'Yes I used the word, because that's the way they think. You are nothing to them.'

Farrakhan delivered the remarks April 2 during a Howard University Student Association lecture titled 'Channeling Our Intelligence & Creative Energy to Save Ourselves.'
The Blaze has video of Farrakhan's speech. Watch the whole thing if you want to hear a defense of Helen Thomas's anti-semitic rant, learn how Donald Trump is a gangster, be informed about the "stupid, Zionist Congress," and hear some praise for the Tea Party Movement (really, it starts at the 7:15 mark). Here's my transcript of the Tea Party bit:
Now the Tea Party got in. I'm happy because the Tea Party is not a part of the old crowd. The tea party is forcing these Republicans to be strict fiscal conservatives. Plus, they're not under the control of the Zionists, so once they get in and see... see revolution is inside the House.
Controversial statements seem to be Farrakhan's stock and trade. His opposition to our war with Libya had Farrakhan defending Moammar Khadafy and criticizing President Obama in late March:
...Farrakhan defended Libyan strongman Moammar Khadafy during a speech on Friday in which he also blasted U.S. involvement in Libya.

The 78-year-old leader of the Chicago-based group said his pal Khadafy played an important role in the country that emerged from a colonial past. He also said America lacks the moral authority to assist rebel forces against Khadafy.
Interesting: "his pal Khadafy". That may well be true, but it trivializes the role that money plays in their relationship. Khadafy has given generously to Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. The Blaze reported on those ties last February:
The Libyan dictator has been a strong supporter of Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and heavily financed the controversial group. In 1985, Gaddafi affirmed his solidarity with Farrakhan with a $5 million interest-free loan.

In 1996, officials in the Clinton administration worked to block Farrakhan from receiving more than $1 billion in donations from Gaddafi.

”We are not terrorists,” Farrakhan said at the time. ”We are not trying to do anything against the good of America. What we want to do is good for our people and ultimately good for our nation.”

That same year, Farrakhan traveled to Libya and received Gaddafi’s International Prize for Human Rights, a $250,000 “honor” also bestowed on the likes of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and “the children of Palestine.”

According to reports from Libya’s news agency in 1996, the Farrakhan-Gaddafi alliance was aimed at mobilizing “oppressed blacks, Arabs, Muslims and Red Indians” in the United States to help reshape U.S. foreign policy. Until he allied himself with Farrakhan, Gaddafi reportedly characterized Libyan foreign policy as a “confrontation with America” he likened to “a fight against a fortress from outside.”

But once he asserted his alliance with Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, Gaddafi claimed to have “a breach to enter into this fortress and confront it.”
You have to wonder whether the Libyan stongman is really your friend when he describes you and your "ministry" as his very own Trojan horse.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Taxes: Have You Paid Your Share?

The chart above comes from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. It illustrates the breakdown of federal personal income taxes:
This week, Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellows Veronique de Rugy and Jason J. Fichtner chart the fairness of the biggest source of federal revenues – the federal income tax. This bar graph uses data from the Internal Revenue Service to break down total federal income tax revenues by the earnings percentiles of the Americans who paid them. The top earning 1% of Americans (or 1.4 million returns) paid 38% of taxes while the Americans at the lower half of the income spectrum (or 70.0 million returns) paid 2.7% of total federal personal income taxes.

According to the Tax Policy Center, this tax season, an estimated 45% of tax units will pay no federal income taxes. In 2009, federal non-income taxpayers were distributed throughout the earnings spectrum, with 26.3% of tax returns reporting less than $10,000 paying no income tax, 29.1% of those making between $10,000 and $20,000 paying no income tax; the remaining 44.6% of Americans not paying income taxes were distributed throughout all cash income levels.

In fact, taxpayers with the highest 400 AGIs (who made on average $345 million in 2007, the majority of which came from capital gains which are taxed at a maximum rate of 15%) were taxed at an average federal income tax rate of 16.62 percent, with effective tax rates within this group ranging from 0% to 35%.

These statistics signal a tax system that is not only progressive, but one that is convoluted and unfair.

Economies both Far and Near

The BBC is reporting that BBC News - World Bank president: 'One shock away from crisis':
Robert Zoellick cited rising food prices as the main threat to poor nations who risk 'losing a generation'.
And that risk was emphasized later in the same article:
IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn raised particular concerns about high levels of unemployment among young people.

'It's probably too much to say that it's a jobless recovery, but it's certainly a recovery with not enough jobs,' he said.

'Especially because of youth unemployment... there is now a risk that this will be turned into a life sentence, and that there is a possibility of a lost generation,' he said.
The risk of unrest goes up with higher unemployment among younger workers. We've already seen this play out in Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya. Those workers are exactly the age of conscripts, so the threat is not just one of "a lost generation", but of a generation lost to political unrest and war.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Has the World Gone Tea Party?

I was surprised to read that World Finance Chiefs Chastise US on Budget Gap. As a Tea Partier, I'm glad to know that the idea of fiscal responsibility is spreading around the world; however, when South American socialists voice their criticism, you know you've got a problem:
Brazil's finance minister, Guido Mantega, offered sharp words in a thinly veiled attack on the United States. 'Ironically, some of the countries that are responsible for the deepest crisis since the Great Depression, and have yet to solve their own problems, are eager to prescribe codes of conduct to the rest of the world,' he said.

The Group of 20 countries agreed on Friday to a plan that could put more pressure on the United States to fix its deficits as well as push other leading economies to address their own shortcomings.
As Eric S. Raymond observed in mid-March politics as usual is over:
The political system I have been criticizing all my adult life is fast approaching the point of “no choices left”. And not just in the U.S., either; the same problems of political overcommitment and structural insolvency are playing out in advanced nations all over the planet.

Politics as we know it has had a structural problem for a long time; the self-destructive interest-group scramble that Mancur Olson identified in The Logic of Collective Action continually makes parasitic demands beyond the capacity of the underlying economy to supply, and the difference has to be papered over by massive government borrowing.

This is all very well until, as Margaret Thatcher put it about socialism, “you run out of other peoples’ money.” The system is reaching that point now. Bond investors are figuring out that the debt load has become impossible and are increasingly refusing to either purchase new debt or roll over existing paper.
Regardless of this reality, the American Left still doesn't get it. That's why we're being lectured by Brazilian leftists. It's also why Wisconsin unions continue to harangue Tea Partiers. They just don't understand that the sun is setting on big, expansive governments. Eric Raymond gets this and perfectly sums up our present reality:
Insolvency is no longer a sporadic problem, it’s become pervasive at all levels of government everywhere. This is why the recent brouhaha [union protests] in Wisconsin was so surreal. The public-employee unions weren’t just rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic, they were fighting to preserve their right to bore more holes in the hull.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

An Evolved View of Poverty

Sarah Hoyt (via Instapundit) says some very interesting things about the role of adaptation and natural selection in the context of the welfare state: own housekeeping is, btw, far from immaculate, but I can't stand to live in filth, so I put myself through an insane amount of effort to clean, on top of the massive amount of work my day job demands. And I thought 'Oh, that's because most of us are willing to work this hard and no harder.' My friends think I'm insane for how much I clean, but I'm willing to work that hard. OTOH I don't really care how much better the house would look with a non-dead lawn -- that would be working too hard as far as I'm concerned. And it would be insane.

The operative word there is 'insane'. If my theory is right, then those of us who keep pushing and 'achieving' after we've secured what to our Neolithic ancestors would be luxury beyond dreams, are mutations, and probably a relatively small percentage of the population. And while it's possible to instill bourgeois virtues in the population (thrift, industry, cleanliness) it doesn't come naturally to most of the population. And to some percentage, it will be so antithetical that those virtues simply can't be instilled in them at all.

If I'm right the problem is we're looking at endemic, generational poverty through the wrong end of the prism. The people who will eat/enjoy/use whatever they have when they have it; destroy what they can't keep/take; never be able to do long-term planning; never work more than ABSOLUTELY necessary are NOT mal-adapted. We who plan ahead, save and build are.
What's most fascinating about this analysis is the conclusions that  it leads to:
Look, what we're doing is the worst thing we can do. We are giving things to people who are genetically programmed to only work to get what they NEED. Their wants might be there but don't motivate them. When we remove need, we remove the incentive to work. Which means, in the modern era, they also don't develop habits of work and/or skills.

And then we end up with completely dysfunctional people, being paid to stay dysfunctional.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

President Obama's Political Cynicism

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...Image via Wikipedia
Keith Hennessey thinks that President Obama's budget plan is cynical. In The President’s budget strategy, Hennessey writes:
The President's new strategy guarantees two more years of fiscal stalemate and poisons the well on the most important economic policy question facing American policymakers: how to permanently solve the long-term fiscal problem caused by the unsustainable growth of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
That is a more concise summary of Jake Tapper's reaction  a couple of hours after President Obama's speech on Wednesday. Tapper framed the President's position with the title: Throw Grandma From the Train and he compared two of Obama's statements that underscore the cynicism of his latest political maneuvering:
President Obama at the GOP House retreat, January 2010:

“We're not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as, ‘Well, you know, that's -- the other party's being irresponsible. The other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens. That the other party is doing X, Y, Z.”

President Obama today:

“One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party’s presidential candidates…This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.”

Obama: Bad at Politics?

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...Image via Wikipedia
Jay Cost doesn't pull any punches in his column today where he sets out to show that Obama Is Just Plain Bad at Politics:
Unfortunately, gaming the nomination process plus having no significant experience in government turns out to be a grossly insufficient combination for presidential leadership. Day by day, week by week, we are becoming more aware that, when it comes to the political dance in Washington, Obama is foxtrotting with two left feet.
Cost goes  on to list some of the promises that candidate Obama has flip-flopped on as well as some of his political mistakes. Read the whole thing.

NATO Press Briefing with Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm

The Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System produced the video above and describes it like this:
Brigadier General Mark van Uhm, Chief of Allied Operations, Allied Command Operations briefs the media on recent actions by NATO and it's partners in response to conflict in Libya. Part 1 of 2. Provided by Natochannel. To see part 2, visit

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fighting on for Tea Party Principles

On several core issues I've noticed that establishment Republicans are out of step with the Show Me State's Tea Party activists. After some tough electoral losses earlier this month, St. Louis Tea Party co-founder, Bill Hennessy blogged about the fact that the Missouri GOP has become more of a club than a political party. Nowhere is that clearer than in Jefferson City, MO.

In early March Missouri State House Speaker, Steve Tilley, indicated that the pending right to work legislation was not a priority. It's still languishing in the legislature. Earlier this week Republicans circled around to shoot their own. State Senators Jim Lembke (R), Brian Nieves (R), Will Krause (R), and Rob Schaaf (R) worked out a deal to impose some fiscal discipline on the federal government, but State Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R) may derail their efforts. Tea Party criticisms of the education reform bills pending in Jeff City have also fallen on deaf ears.

The leading voice on education within Missouri's Tea Party movement is Gretchen at She's pointed out that federal blueprints like Race to the Top and Common Core State Standards erode the authority of local school boards by ceding power to Washington, DC, in exchange for federal funds. In essence, the state legislature agrees to more Federal control over education and the state gets Federal money in return. Whether the issue is education or agriculture, this is how state sovereignty is lost. Gretchen has also criticized the longitudinal data system as an intrusion into the privacy of children and their parents. Does the government in DC, really need to track the income of a student's family or other private data?

One reason that our Republican legislature is out of step with Tea Partiers is that the legislative leadership is composed of the old guard. Like many states across the country, Missouri has a large class of freshman Republicans many of whom were Tea Party candidates. However, the leadership consists of establishment Republicans because seniority is a deciding factor for those leadership races. While some legislative leaders may identify with the conservative values espoused by the Tea Party, many do not. The fact is that Missouri's Tea Party freshman were rolled to elect Republican leaders to the left of conservative Tea Party principals.

That has created fissures between grassroots conservatives and the establishment. One of those fissures split open in late February when Gretchen was attacked in The Culpeper Press for her work on education (see the clipping below). The Culpeper Press is a monthly print publication that has taken the establishment's line on education issues, even though it touts itself as a conservative, 9-12 newspaper. One odd thing about the attack on Gretchen is that it comes from an anonymous source in an unsigned article.

The article chides Gretchen for drawing attention to the fact that Missouri legislators and lobbyists attended a private screening of Waiting for Superman. Perhaps the unknown authors of that piece hoped to smear Gretchen as unreasonable by implying "it's only a movie", but we have since learned that the relationship amongst education legislators and lobbyists extends beyond an evening out. Private meetings on education seem to be common in Jeff City and muddled thinking is similarly abundant.

While stepping for the high ground The Culpeper Press stumbled when it scolded: "An angry and belligerent impasse created yesterday could result in a squandered victory for the unborn tomorrow." The writer must be unaware that victory for the unborn was squandered when a man in the pocket of the human cloning lobby, Steve Tilley, was elected Speaker of the Missouri House. Tilley received $20,000 from Supporters of Health Research and Treatments on 10/6/2009 and another $30,000 on 1/4/2010. He also received $50,000 from Life Sciences Fund on 6/25/2009 (h/t Missouri Ethics Commission). Tilley had no reason to spend any of that $100,000 in the 2010 election cycle since he was unopposed in both the primary and general elections; therefore, it remains available to his campaign committee for future races and as an enduring embarrassment to The Culpeper Press.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anonymizing Campaign Influence

Megan McArdle had a really interesting idea over at The Atlantic about campaign donations. In addressing the transparency of campaign donations, McArdle blazes her own path:
I've long toyed with the notion that we should go the other way: allow unlimited donations, including from corporations. But force them to go through an institutions which strips off the names and pools the money, so it's impossible to see who donated, or even the size of the individual donations. Once a month, you get a check from the campaign finance bank, and that's it.

I have no idea whether this would pass constitutional muster. But it would certainly cripple lobbying via campaign contributions, while allowing people to give as much support as they wish to candidates who they think will further their interests. The overall result would probably be much less money in politics, with candidates much more dependent on small donors. And it's possible that this could advantage incumbents--who get free television time--even more.
I'm interested to know what others think about this idea. I'll have to think about it a bit more, but my initial reaction is that it wont work because candidates will find a way to signal that they need money and donors will find a way to signal that they've given money, so, in the end, the people that want to know (the candidates and their donors) will all know anyway.

The reason I started blogging is related to the problem of how to finance a campaign without allowing too many restrictions on donors and candidates. I worry that donors have too much influence over candidates, so I would like campaigning and campaign donations to be completely separated from service in elected office. Toward that end, I believe that we should implement a new kind of term limit. Specifically, legislators should not be allowed to serve consecutive terms.

The idea is that you are either amassing the funds and running a campaign or you're serving the public, but you can not do both simultaneously. Once elected legislators would have less reason to be beholden to their financiers since they could presumably find new ones in the two years between their current and future terms.

Monday, April 11, 2011

In The Fight: Episode 49

The Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System produced Episode 49 of In The Fight. Here's their description of this half-hour show:
On this episode, the Air Force launches search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Japan, we get a rare glimpse into a typical day for the Commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, with the ongoing crisis in Libya, Airmen carry out humanitarian missions along the Tunisia/Libya border, Marine help the Afghan government bring development projects to the Helmand Province, and a Soldier uses his talents to honor those service members that have fallen.
At 7:10 Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of ISAF and US Forces in Afghanistan, talks about his background as an economist and the importance of free market economics and education to securing Afghanistan's future.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Donald Disrupts DC

Donald Trump in February 2009Image via Wikipedia
Jay Cost has this to say about The Donald's appearance on the the Today Show:
Donald Trump going after Obama on the Today Show strikes me as a big deal. A lot of the attention from the various Trump interviews has been directed at his unsubstantiated comments about Obama’s birth certificate. However, I think there is another angle here worth considering. Put those comments aside and listen to what is a very clear, direct critique of President Obama’s tenure.
I hate what’s happening to the country…What we’re doing is unbelievable. If you look at what’s going on, where our jobs are disappearing to foreign countries…You’re going paying 7 or 8 dollars a gallon for your oil soon.

I blame a lot (on Obama). It’s been a terrible presidency…

What’s going on with this country, the way we’re spending money like drunken sailors, we are just absolutely…going to destroy our own freedom...

If there is a shutdown, I think it would be a tremendously negative mark on the president of the United States. He’s the one who has to get people together. I’m a deal man. I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of deals and transactions. He’s never done deals before…How’s he going to corral all these people?...You don’t have the right leader…

I think Obamacare is a total disaster…This country is going to hell.
Much more at the link above. Cost's observations support James Poulos's comments at that Trump is the final proof that the political class has failed:
Trump is suddenly "winning" as a political figure because the political class has failed. The authority of our political institutions is weak and getting weaker; it's not that Americans 'lack trust' in them, as blue ribbon pundits and sociologists often lament, so much as they lack respect for the people inside them.

There is a lot of crazy surrounding the Trump phenomenon -- some excellent, some embarrassing. But the massive fact dominating it all is that never before has such a famous outsider jumped into national politics with such an aggressive critique of a sitting president and the direction of the country -- and never before has the response been so immediate and positive.
Trump's effectiveness is a function of a weak field of conservative candidates, but arguably the field of Republican candidates is usually weak. You'd have to go back to Ronald Reagan to find otherwise. It is surprising that Trump seems to have gained traction where others have not. While I agree with Jay Cost that the birther angle does more to discredit Trump in the long run, I think it's fascinating that Trump is both willing and able to "go there". When Obama was still a candidate his messianic marketing message thwarted such attacks, but now that he's President and the nation is struggling that marketing can't protect him. President Obama is a victim of his own ability.

Who Won the Shutdown Showdown? believes Republicans won the shutdown showdown:
While Republicans wanted to cut more spending in& Saturday's early morning compromise to keep the government open, they think they got the better of the deal.

Here's why: HR1 was originally to seek spending cuts of $32 billion until Tea Party conservatives insisted on more than $ 60 billion. House Speaker John Boehner won more cuts than he originally sought and got the Senate to agree to votes to defund the health care reform law and groups like the nation's largest abortion provider Planned Parenthood - once votes Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said he'd never allow to come to the floor.Back on February 3, Reid called $32 billion in cuts 'extreme' and 'draconian.'
As I blogged earlier this week, the cuts are below what I was hoping for. The FoxNews post goes on to mention this history:
The history of offers on this bill goes something like this. Democrats first offered no cuts, then $4 billion, then $6.5 billion, then $33 billion, then settled at $38.5 billion.
That stands in contrast to the $100 billion in cuts that Tea Partiers were originally promised in October. That number was confirmed as recently as February. It looks to me like Fox has the history wrong.

While I'm disappointed that there weren't more cuts, I think Brooks Bayne nailed it with this tweet yesterday:
@brooks bayne: i'm not dying on this hill. 2012 is where i'm focusing and i suggest you do the same.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Marine Mortar Training

The Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System produced the video above and describes it like this:
Video story of Marines from Battery K, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, attached to 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, who recently concluded the first West Coast training with the M327 120mm Expeditionary Fire Support System with live-fire exercises at various ranges in preparation for a deployment with a Marine Expeditionary Unit this fall. Includes sound bites from Staff Sgt. Javier J. Valdez, Marine Detachment Fort Sill Instructor and Lance Cpl. Tracy Strickland, Cannoneer, Battery K, 3/12.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Winning Gambit

Missouri News Horizon reports that the four horsemen of the Dem-apocalypse have lanced their prey: Senate leaders offer $250 million in stimulus cuts in exchange for unemployment extension : Missouri News Horizon:
A $105 million extension of federal unemployment benefits was allowed to move forward in the Missouri Legislature on Thursday after four filibustering Senators won concessions for major cuts to federal spending and state unemployment.

A compromise within the Senate GOP brought an end to a month-long effort by four senators protesting what they see as wasteful spending in Washington, D.C.
As I commented earlier this week: a trade of Unemployment Benefits for Political Pork seemed workable:
This seems like a reasonable compromise: the Missouri four give up their filibuster of unemployment benefits and Gov Nixon gives up the pork laden HB18. The unemployment benefits will go to people who are confronting immediate financial needs while HB 18 appears to earmark stimulus funding for dubious projects and special interests. The former ameliorates hardship across the state while the latter lines the pockets of Democrat constituencies. The first is equitable while the second completes the circle of crony capitalism—the very life blood of the Democrat Party.
Those four state senators deserve our praise for holding the line on fiscal responsibility. They are Jim Lembke, Brian Nieves, Will Krause, and Rob Schaaf.

Are These Our Values? is a nation-wide network of black Americans working to bring conservative principals to the African American community. The video above poses the question: "Are these our values?" and contrasts the statements of prominent blacks with the traditional values of most black Americans. From the YouTube discription:
This is the first in a series of videos based on's founding principles:
  • Renewing our Economy - Our goal is to empower the African American people by expanding employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • Health Care Reform - Health care is a personal issue, and informed individuals can make better decisions about their own care than government.
  • Securing our Borders - We need to gain control of our borders and enforce our immigration laws while encouraging legal immigrants who come seeking the American Dream.
  • Education - Education, while a national priority, is a local responsibility. We believe that parents, teachers, and local school boards are the key to true education reform -- not big government. We support school choice initiatives such as vouchers, charters schools and homeschooling.
  • Strengthening our Families - We uphold and respect traditional institutions such as marriage between a man and a woman. We are committed to protecting the life of innocents from conception through the infirmities of age. This value must be nurtured in both our culture and our laws.
Our mission is simple: We will connect the 10% of Black Americans who are voting conservatives, and together we will increase our numbers to affect positive, life affirming outcomes in the Black Community and our nation at large.

Robert Gates Speaks to Troops in Iraq

Above are parts 1 and 2 of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaking in in Baghdad, Iraq. Part 1 of 2. Provided by American Forces Network Iraq.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

That's It!?

John BoehnerImage via Wikipedia
The Wall Street Journal reports that Congressional Talks Fail to End Fight on Government Shutdown:
As top aides to Mr. Boehner and Mr. Reid exchanged proposals and counterproposals, Democrats said the talks had remained in the neighborhood of $33 billion in spending reductions though Mr. Boehner sought $40 billion on Tuesday in a new offer that surprised Democrats.
I'm not surprised by the stalemate, but I'm disappointed that the $100 billion that was originally going to be cut was whittled down to $60 billion a few weeks ago only to be trimmed to $40 billion in the latest discussions. What's going on? Where are the fiscal hawks that we thought we elected in 2010?