Sunday, February 24, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
Twice this past week, in reference to sequestration, I've heard people say something along the lines of “If those darn Republicans would…” On what planet are the Republicans more culpable for this debacle than the Democrats?
Yes, the Republicans are crazy for going along with an eventual cut that they found unacceptable. It's the same argument we had against a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq before the war is over; all the other side has to do is wait out the timeline, and they get what they want. But, on the other hand, Republicans in the House have been the only party in the legislative or executive branches to actually pass a budget in the past four years. The Democrats have done nothing but stonewall, blame the leadership from the last decade, and paint their opponents as evil.
The upcoming sequestration represents a lack of failure of our elected-and-re-elected leadership to do the job for which the American people elected them. There is plenty of culpability to spread around to everyone.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
Either way you read it, this is the middle post of the “2012 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous” series. This past year has given me no shortage of things from which to choose to compose this post.
Mass Murder x2
2012 saw two mass murders on U. S. soil. On July 20th, at a premiere of the movie The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, 12 people were killed and 58 injured by a freak who made himself look like the Joker. Then, on December 14th, a troubled young man killed his own mother, 20 children, 6 adults, and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. While the reaction made the ridiculous list this year, the murders themselves are here. They are a stark reminder that we live in a fallen world. Dr. Albert Mohler broke his less-than-a-day-old hiatus on The Briefing for a special edition, and he summed it up quite well.
Though the murders themselves were horrible and tragic, there were reports of heroes in both instances. In Colorado, men shielded others with their bodies, and ultimately gave their lives to save others In Connecticut, a teacher named Victoria Soto hid her students wherever she could, and told the gunman that the children were elsewhere. These ordinary people, stepping up to against evil, give us some hope that while we will never eliminate this sort of evil, it is far from the norm; and, there are those who will fight against it with little to no warning.
The Benghazi / Petraeus Affair
September 11th, for the past 11 years, has been a dicey day. Obviously, the one in 2001 was the worst; however, our intelligence and counter-terrorism forces have been vigilant to the point where we really had not had to deal with any actual attacks on that particular day. 2012 saw that streak come to an end, as a group of terrorists laid siege to the U. S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, kidnapping and then killing our ambassador and three others. Initially, the State Department blamed the attack on a spontaneous reaction to the film The Innocence of Muslims, a 16-minute film that made a great deal of fun over Mohammad. In the past few days (see why you write these things after the year is done?), the report has come out calling it “sloppy security.”
Conflicting reports came out about the threat level surrounding that particular embassy, and there were even conflicting reports on our reaction to the attack once we knew it was underway. Even with the report, many people still feel that the entire story is not known. Why would that be? Well, when a cover-up or misdirection is the initial response, how are the American people to know when the next answer is the right one?
But, surely, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, or the Secretary of State, could get the answers and bring them out, correct? This, too, was not to be in 2012. Thanks to a sexual harassment complaint launched in April and concluded in August, an affair between the CIA director, retired General David Petraeus, and his biographer, was revealed. This “trump card” was not played until after the election, and was used to oust Petraeus before he could give official testimony as the CIA director. At the same time, the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, couldn't testify due to scheduling conflicts, then due to the “flu.” It may be just as well; she doesn't have a great history of having a very good memory when she's placed under oath. Additionally, the African Command commander was relieved of his position shortly after the attack.
September 11, 2001 is generally considered a failure of intelligence. The more we learn about September 11, 2012, it looks less like a failure of intelligence and more a failure to take appropriate defensive action based on that intelligence. To put it more bluntly, we hung our own countrymen out to dry, and four of them are no longer with us.
The Fiscal Cliff
If Benghazi's problem was inaction, then the CIA and State have learned it from the U. S. Congress. Over three years of Senate inaction have left us with a budget that is nearly 4 years old; Obamacare deferred-until-the-next-election mandates will kick in; we're about to hit the extended-several-times debt ceiling; across-the-board cuts, called “sequestration,” a compromise from the last debt ceiling expansion, are set to kick in; and the so-called “Bush tax cuts” which were extended a few times are once again set to expire (itself a concept that probably deserves a spot on a ridiculous list at some point). Since that's a lot to say, the term “fiscal cliff” was coined to describe these economic events all hitting at the same time.
What is required to keep the next U. S. national sport from being fiscal cliff diving? A budget. Will that be the solution presented? Probably not. As I write this (on the 1st), the Senate has passed a compromise bill, but several House members do not seem to approve. When the next congress is seated later this week, that bill will be invalid. Bills proposed by the president and the Senate have been rightly termed “unserious” by Republicans; however, their bills are not very serious either. On a family budget that's $24,000 in the red each year, we're cutting $360. Neither side wants to do the hard work of cutting spending where it needs to be cut.
Here's hoping the water is deep enough at the bottom of this cliff that we don't break our necks.
Mitt Romney Loses
I covered my incredulity at the results of the election in the ridiculous post; but here, the negative is that we do not have Mitt Romney at the helm to guide our nation away from this cliff. Not since Sarah Palin have I witnessed such a successful character assassination, where his positives became negatives, and his successes presented as disqualifications.
As a business, America is failing. The Securities and Exchange Commission wouldn't let our stock be traded. We need someone who cares enough about our country to make hard decisions about what needs to be cut, so that a leaner America can emerge and once again regain her strength. Who better to do that than someone who ran a company that did that for businesses over and over again? And what if this someone had also donated his entire inheritance to charity, and given 2 years of his life for his religion? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
I know some of my fellow conservatives had some problems with him on social issues, or the size and scope of the state. I wasn't 100% with him (though in an isidewith.com survey, I scored 97% Romney), but if our country is not economically viable, social and domestic policy matter little; at that point, we'll be answering to someone else anyway.
Cross an Atlantic hurricane with a nor'easter, and it's not good. Hurricane Sandy battered much of the U. S. east coast in late October, merging with a northern storm just before Halloween, leading many to call it “Frankenstorm.” Its wake was no laughing matter, though, with over 100 dead. New York and New Jersey sustained the hardest direct hit, and current estimates have it as the second most costly storm on record, just behind 2005's Hurricane Katrina.
Those two states provided a stark contrast in dealing with preparation and relief. New York City was particularly bad, with refugees being evicted from hotels for the “show must go on” New York Marathon, while generators were pulled from relief efforts to power the tents for the race. Mayor Bloomberg, at first a strong proponent of continuing to hold the race, changed his mind, and the organizers agreed to cancel it. Meanwhile, the Federal government has yet to vote on any special aid for Sandy relief; the Senate passed a bill, but the House won't take up any legislation except the fiscal cliff. (And these are the people we want in charge of health care? But I digress.)
Hurricane Sandy, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Sandra Fluke - 2012 was a bad year for disasters named Sandy.
Lance Armstrong Revelations
Lance Armstrong was a 7-time Tour de France champion. He did it while fighting cancer, and founding a charitable foundation. However, he had been fighting doping charges for years, and in 2012, decided to stop fighting the charges. All his wins have been vacated, Olympic medals stripped, and the Livestrong Foundation that he founded has kicked him out. His defense is that he was not taking any substance that was not banned, and that he had done nothing other than what others had done.
Even if we take him at his word - if everyone took the same enhancement, that's still a terrible way to determine athletic prowess. Professional sports should not be about who has the best chemistry; it should be people training their bodies to perform a specific task so well that no one else can do it equally. I'm not so naïve as to think that this means that no one is going to try; even NASCAR has had its fair share of drug problems. However, anything short of pure physical ability will inevitably lead to more and more use, and more experimenting. The NFL is already dealing with players who feel they were unfairly exploited and put in harm's way. How much worse would it be for the players who tried experimental (i.e., not-banned-yet) drugs whose side effects were unknown until much later?
There you have it. 2012 didn't lead to the end of the world, but there was much that we will be happy to see pass into the rear-view mirror. Other issues will still be here for us in 2013, waiting to be dealt with then. May we have the fortitude to do so.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
Welcome to “2012 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” If you're reading this as they're posted, it's backwards; but, if you're reading back through the blog archives, they're in order.
2012 has been quite a year. We survived 3 ends of the world, by my count. That's pretty ridiculous, true, but our very existence here means that they must be, so we won't waste any more words on that. What did make the cut?
The “War on Women”
That this tops the list should not surprise my regular readers; several of my posts this year (including this one and that one when it first broke) dealt with it. Now, the “war on women” is not to be confused with the “war on a woman”; that I addressed in 2008 (first item). No, in yet another display of Democrat projection, this one was an accusation against Republicans.
It started with a strange question in the Republican primary, shot to the forefront with Sandra Fluke and Rush Limbaugh, and continued throughout the campaign. The Obama campaign created a horribly insipid animation called "The Life of Julia," where their heroine (um, victim?) displays her dependence upon government at every stage of her life. It was presented as if it was a good thing; the government as boyfriend, husband, business partner, and health insurance provider. To me, the suggestion that women need, or would want, something like that is truly offensive and sexist.
Granted, the Republicans didn't help themselves against these charges. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, both running for the US Senate, answered questions about abortion by emphasizing their “no rape exception” views - clumsily. Akin should have removed himself, but did not, and squandered a gift-on-a-platter opportunity to remove a senator who has not been that helpful to her home state. Mourdock was a Tea Party Republican who defeated a long-term incumbent in the primary, yet went down to defeat in a state that Romney took 54/44.
Really, the war on women was nothing more than the “they want kids to starve” meme from the late 80's and 90's, where ridiculous charges were made against Republicans, and those charges went unanswered. This year, as well, the response was tepid. What Republican wants to take away health care? The charge is ridiculous, and should be addressed as such. Otherwise, they'll continue to make these outlandish statements "They're gonna put y'all back in chains!", said our vice-president. They took “binders full of women” out of the context of people-to-hire and somehow turned it into a negative. “You didn't build that” - oh wait, that's just poor sentence structure. Please! There is no poor sentence structure in a pre-written campaign speech!
The main problem with all of that, though, is that it worked. Which brings me to my next item…
Barack Obama Reelected
When Obama was elected in 2008, that fact made the “bad” list for that year. Looking back at that post, in view of the past 4 years, I see that I was being way too generous. He presided over 4 of the toughest years in recent memory, making things worse with every decision (or indecision). His party hasn't passed a budget in over 3 years now, and one of his was so unrealistic that it was defeated 96-0 in the Senate. We lost our top credit rating, and that cannot be blamed on George W. Bush; S&P downgraded us because of our lack of a plan of paying back our debt, not the size of it. This administration has brought us economic time bombs in the form of Obamacare mandates and repeated “debt ceiling”/“fiscal cliff” showdowns, one of which is staring us down even as I write this.
But, all of the above is not the ridiculous part; it just proves that I was right to put his election on the bad list 4 years ago. No, the ridiculous part is that the American people, seeing all of the above, put him back in office for another four years. My countrymen are playing the part of fools, falling for the ridiculous claims about their opponents, while failing to see that their own are the ones leading us down the slide to mediocrity. They're behaving like little kids; what little kid wants to vote for the guy who says “Hey - we've got to pay for all this free candy we've been eating”? No, they vote for the guy who promises even more free candy, while demonizing those who generate enough wealth for our government to skim the top of it to provide the free candy. They cheer when the rich get poorer, not noticing that this does not make them richer, it only diminishes the overall wealth of our nation.
The National Park Service has signs in several forests warning against feeding bears, because they will become dependent on that food, lose their hunting skills, and become aggressive. Yet, the very people who suggest that this applies to human beings as well are branded as hate-filled and greedy. America needs to wake up, and do the hard work of dealing with the withdrawal symptoms of this free ride coming to an end, or the country itself will find itself in decline. Sadly, I don't see this generation as one willing to sacrifice its own comfort to secure the comfort of future generations.
Reactions to Mass Murder
Again, I get to fault my fellow citizens. Sadly, our nation endured two mass murders this year; one at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, and the other at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. On my first visit to Facebook after learning about the Sandy Hook shooting, I was greeted with lots of “Don't Take Our Guns!” images. Really, guys - that's the way you show compassion for 25 families who lost their kids a scant few weeks before Christmas? And, the other side is just as bad. “Why are these guns on the street?” is not the question (although “because, Constitution” is the easy answer). Confiscating every gun in the Union would not bring an ounce more comfort to those families who lost their children and adults that day.
The proper response to something like this is sorrow and compassion, then anger, then punishment (if applicable), then speculation on prevention measures (within the parameters of our founding law). Jumping to #4 dehumanizes the response. I fault the gun-grabbers with having the non-Constitutional lead in this; but, while I did fault people above for not responding to ridiculous charges, there is a time for those sorts of debates. While the dead bodies are still warm is not that time.
Year-In-Reviews in Early December
On a lighter note, when did December become not-part-of-the-year? How can you review a year with nearly an entire month remaining in that year? Unless you're covering NASCAR or the college football regular season, the first week of December is way too early to be publishing retrospectives (and, for the latter, you'd better wait until the conference championships to write it up). Look at the newsworthy events this year - Sandy Hook, the deaths of several notable people, and George H. W. Bush's hospitalization, just to name a few. Don't review a year until it's over.
There you have it. I'm sure I'll have no problem filling out another one of these in 2013.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
Last Friday, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, offered his resignation from that post. In that letter, he admitted to an extra-marital affair with his biographer. There are many more angles to this story than I really have time to cover and dissect, but one comment I kept hearing just struck me as not quite right. “A CIA director who is committing adultery opens themselves up to blackmail, and can compromise security. Good thing this came out before that happened.” The part with which I disagree is the second statement. I believe that, rather than a cautionary tale of “look what could have happened,” I believe it to be an illustrative tale of how it did happen.
Petraeus did a personal investigation of the 11 Sep 12 attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya, where four people, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed. He was also scheduled to testify before Congress this week on that attack, but while he resignation does not preclude his testimony, he is reluctant to bring the media circus around. Bad timing, huh? Well, when you consider that the FBI launched the investigation in June, this timing looks less bad. The administration claims it didn't know. Now, if the administration didn't know, it's more incompetent than we give it credit for (a distinct possibility); if the administration knew, what were they going to do with that information?
This timing is highly suspicious. I believe that the information against Petraeus was known, and held, until the opportunity came where its use was needed. It's a hunch; I have no knowledge of anything in Washington, D. C., really, and it could all be happenstance. However, when there is the pattern of obfuscation, document redaction, “I forgot” as a legal defense, and “trust us, we're the government,” this smells wrong. Petraeus erred, and it was used against him to prevent what he found from being released.
And that, my friends, is a textbook example of why adultery is a security risk.
(NOTE: None of the above should be construed as an allegation against the current administration. It is an observation that the appearance of a lack of candor displayed in this circumstance is a pattern of behavior with the current administration, and is not the way I believe government should comport itself.)
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
...shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
America, you fell for it again. You got caught up in the 2008 hope-n-change express. You saw the blank slate candidate, and instead of saying “Hey, there's nothing there,” you sketched out exactly what you wanted him to be. You elected him. (Historically!) There was great rejoicing that we were finally no longer a racist country…
...until the first person opposed him. Then, there were still racists. The hope and change of bipartisanship and unity fell by the wayside before it even got started. “Let's all get along” gave way to “we won.” There more we learned about him, the more we realized that maybe we'd been duped. His accomplices in the Senate and House gave him a huge stimulus that made stuff better, or so we were told; we had to keep being told, because we just weren't seeing it. They gave him a monstrosity of a health care bill that amounted to a government takeover of 1/6th of the entire US economy, timed to take effect a year after either his reelection or his loss, thus isolating him from ballot-box accountability. The House was held to some accountability.
Then, there were the gaffes; he was a novice, and it was showing big time. He appointed a tax cheat for Secretary of the Treasury. His Attorney General declined to prosecute the New Black Panther party, accused of voter intimidation in 2008, then went on to suggest trying War on Terror suspects in New York, stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, and as term 1 drew to a close, oversaw Operation Fast and Furious, which resulted in at least one US death and many more Mexican police deaths. When he wasn't busy with all that, he sued one of the states over a law that his office had the responsibility to enforce, but did not. Occupy Wall Street, while a state matter as far as enforcement, got administration support. Joe “Gaffetastic” Biden was his running mate, for crying out loud! And, no, he hadn't learned.
Of course, if you get your news in a half-hour early evening telecast, you probably weren't aware of much of that.
He then turned to women, eager to exploit them while, at the same time, claiming that Republicans want to suppress them. Exploited or suppressed - maybe we haven't come a long way, baby. Of course, this wasn't how it was pitched; it was pitched as women's health. Providing abortion and contraception, at no cost, was the only way to prove you weren't against women. And, if you called out their spokespeople on their lack of discretion, you got branded a sexist. Conveniently, this is what makes the evening news.
As 2012 approached, the other side was in disarray, but so was the now not-so-blank slate. Despite massaging the number, unemployment was still above 8%. The cells at Guantanamo Bay were still in use, and Afghanistan went from looking stable to showing some cracks, as Afghani troops began firing on our troops over there to train them. How did they explain all this? “Well, it was worse than we thought. We've come a long way, but we're not there yet.”
So, the slate was filled in with ineffectiveness and broken promises. He went up for a vote, and America picked him again.
(This next part was kicking around in my head before the election, but having things to do, I didn't get it written down. It fits here, though.) I certainly hope and pray that this isn't a permanent change, but the American people have mistaken arrogance for confidence, and intransigence for steadfastness. They have stuck their heads in the sand while Obama promises to give them jobs while demonizing the very people who would give those jobs. Obama wanted fewer rich people, Romney wanted fewer poor people, and the country chose Obama.
Hang on, America. You're about to get exactly that for which you voted.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
I am absolutely floored by the three advertisements I've seen over the past week. All three of these ads are exploitative, and all three are not for my chosen candidate. So why am I, a Romney supporter, putting 3 Obama ads on my blog? Well, in a sane world, these ads should help Romney.
First up, one from the official campaign. This video has Lena Dunham, the creator of the HBO series Girls, comparing… well, see for yourself.
So, her “first time” was with Obama. Voting, that is. If she's 26, and her first time was with Obama, that means she was 22 4 years ago, which means that her first time should have been with either John Kerry or George W. Bush. But hey, kids make mistakes, right? The ad, though - it's just terrible. My comment, when I shared it on Facebook, was “I wonder if Michelle Obama approves of this message?” Does Lena want to have intercourse with the President of the United States? That's certainly the implication (until the “twist” near the end where she reveals she's talking about voting), and there is precedent for that.
Up next, we turn to the children. Goodby Silverstein & Partners, an ad group out of San Francisco, created this… uh… thing.
(Update - this video has been removed.)
Here are the lyrics, culled straight from the Future Children Project website.
Imagine an America
Where strip mines are fun and free
Where gays can be fixed
And sick people just die
And oil fills the sea
We don't have to pay for freeways!
Our schools are good enough
Give us endless wars
On foreign shores
And lots of Chinese stuff
We're the children of the future
American through and through
But something happened to our country
And we're kinda blaming you
We haven't killed all the polar bears
But it's not for lack of trying
Big Bird is sacked
The Earth is cracked
And the atmosphere is frying
Congress went home early
They did their best we know
You can't cut spending
With elections pending
Unless it's welfare dough
We're the children of the future
American through and through
But something happened to our country
And we're kinda blaming you
Find a park that is still open
And take a breath of poison air
They foreclosed your place
To build a weapon in space
But you can write off your au pair
It's a little awkward to tell you
But you left us holding the bag
When we look around
The place is all dumbed down
And the long term's kind of a drag
We're the children of the future
American through and through
But something happened to our country
And yeah, we're blaming you
You did your best
You failed the test
Mom and Dad
We're blaming you!
So, the mindset behind this is “Let's get kids to sing leftist propaganda, and then blame their parents.” Now, some parents today are so weak and patronizing that this might actually be effective on them. This isn't the first time children have been exploited in this way, but it doesn't make it any less distasteful.
Finally, we have Michael Moore's entry in the mix. If you are offended by strong language, do not play this video; I'll address censored versions of their lines below.
There are a few things that get me about this ad. First off, it doesn't sound like any of these people use these words in their day-to-day life. I've worked with crew chiefs, and been deployed with the Navy, so I've been around people who use the “shocking” words found in this video. The delivery was flat. However, the actual words are worse than their delivery. “We're going to burn this [maternal copulator] down!” What are you going to be burn down - your retirement home? Seems like a strange way to celebrate recovery, but suit yourself; this video should help the arson investigators. “I'm going to track down Mitt Romney and give him the biggest [rooster] punch!” I believe some Secret Service agents might have something to say about attempting that on either the President-Elect or the President. I'm not even going to address the guy talking about watching his children have sex, except to say that incestual mental adultery probably isn't the best way to inspire voters. Finally, what is with all the “stealing” the election charges? They must have Republicans confused with Democrats like Al Franken and Christine Gregoire.
I do not want to live in an America where people are positively persuaded by ads like these three above. Show me I don't, America - 7 days from today, make it such an overwhelming Romney/Ryan victory that the only thing left for these people to do is go home and lick their wounds (or, maybe that old guy can watch others lick their wounds).
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
I enjoy economics. I've enjoyed studying theory, debating with others, and when I had to choose an elective for my degree a few years ago, my economics class was among my favorites. I also enjoy how sound economic policy squares with my world and political views; it's quite the harmonious union. The run-up to the presidential election every four years, though, is a painful time for those of us who have looked at the numbers and believe that the free market gives the best possible outcome. There are always the fringe or down-ballot candidates, like Fauxcahontas of the North, who are way out in left field. Over this past weekend, though, this lunacy came out right at the top of the ticket.
The transcript for the video clip is below; if you want to watch it for yourself, you can see it in this article. (I tried to embed it, but I couldn't make it look right.)
We created a lot of millionaires; and, you know, there a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me - "cause they want to give something back. They know they didn't… If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, “Wow, it must be because I was just so smart.” There are a lot of smart people out there. “It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.” Let me tell you something - there are a whole bunch of hard-workin' people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested roads and bridges - if you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own; government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
Let's get the “you didn't build that” thing out of the way up front. There is a case to be made that the “that” refers to the roads and bridges, not to the business that was build. Neither reading of it changes what I believe is the real issue with these words, though if “that” is the business, it only confirms my analysis. And, although it is tempting to go to snark with this (“We created a lot of millionaires.” Yeah, but you started with billionaires!), that won't be productive; I'll try to keep that to a minimum.
We will start with the millionaire line, though. Who is the royal “we” he is talking about? His administration? America? From his other speeches, and the context later in this one, he is likely referring to the government. So, the government created millionaires? If we take that at face value, and your net worth is less than a million dollars, why didn't the government pick you to be a millionaire? This illustrates the lack of substance in that statement. America, as a nation, has seen many people attain a net worth of one million dollars or more; but, to say she created it is a different thing altogether. It was definitely not the government who created them!
But, this flows into the point of the speech. American government, by creating roads and bridges, maintaining an educational system, and developing technology, created the environment in which such success could occur. On this point, I agree. Building out infrastructure led to expansion of our nation, and as families are spread across the nation, and commerce is transacted around the globe, infrastructure needs to be maintained and upgraded. Where the government has a vested interest in that infrastructure, they should be involved at the appropriate level.
Where this goes astray is the next logical step people like our 44th President want to take from that. The next step - well, it's right there in his speech, that horrid phrase “give back.” (I've written about that before, though I don't think I've dedicated an entire post to it. Great, another post for the draft pile.) Implicit in that phrase is that the entity that should “give back” did not earn or deserve what they have acquired, or that they got it for free. That's not the way businesses work (which he would know had he ever… aw, darn, that snark is hard to hold back). Business owners:
Have an idea for a product or service for which they believe they can convince people to trade some of their money
Put in the work to develop the product or train people to provide the service
Develop a plan to provide that product or service
Secure the necessary infrastructure to run the business (physical, accounting, legal, etc.)
Risk a great deal of their or their investor's money or, in some cases, their homes and cars, in the process
Now, if we look at that list, it backs up the “you didn't get there by yourself” line. Who all do we see in that list above? Employees, designers, architects, lawyers, accountants, human resources, communications, logistics, and investors would be a quick list. These are the people who “gave you some help.” But, did they give you the help? Very few people involved gave their help. The materials were not given, they were purchased; employees did not volunteer, they were paid; communications and logistics didn't “spot” the business free service, they charged this business their going rate for those services.
No, I am not picking at words - this phrase was chosen precisely because of its meaning. If a business owner does all of the above, and ends up with less than $250,000, they won't raise the liberal's ire. However, if they end up with $10M, they must have ripped off someone to get that, so we get this “give back” nonsense. Never mind that they contracted with each employee or service provider for a price agreeable to them, and they contracted with their customer to provide the good or service at a price that was agreeable to them. Never mind, too, that they were the last to get paid; before they saw any money, they took care of the government (taxes), then employees (payroll), then contracted costs (business-to-business, professional support, etc.), and then maintaining inventory/training (keeping the business sustainable).
“But what about teachers? Don't they count?” Well, what about them? They contracted with the government or a private institution to teach for a given amount of money. Teachers don't work for free either; just because their paycheck comes from the government doesn't make their efforts any more or less valuable.
At various points in my educational career, I had to study different companies. I also worked to type others' research papers at one point, and got to see a lot more interesting things about many different companies. Nearly all large companies have benefits like continuing education or charitable contributions (including skimming off the top for United Way). They offer matching retirement account contributions. They sponsor volunteer events in the community. When you look at the owners of these companies, you find contributions to charities, churches, and foundations. If that isn't “giving back,” what is it? (As an aside, I much prefer the phrase “pass it on;” it's a conduit, not the Dead Sea.)
It is class warfare. By definition, the middle class is in the middle. They are employees, not owners. They get a paycheck. They volunteer at their school, their church, or other civic organizations. They go on vacations every so often, and they have fun playing with their kids. They are not being ripped off; they are living a comfortable life (particularly when contrasted with the rest of the world) because of the fruits of their labor. But, to hear this speech, you'd think our country was filled with a bunch of greedy, evil business owners, ripping off the public to accumulate great wealth to their own exclusive use. (Yes, there have been those, and they have rightly come to legal, and sometimes even physical, consequences. The presence of abusers does not nullify the principle.)
Sure, there are a lot of hard-working people; not nearly as many as there used to be, but they are there. However, if you work really hard at an unsuccessful venture, you are not going to be more successful; you may delay the failure of the effort, but it will come around. No one on the right is saying that people aren't working hard; it is the left who are saying that those who are successful did not.
Now, let's take a look at that famous line - “you didn't build that.” If the “that” is the business - well, I think the above pretty much covers that. If the “that” is the roads and bridges, though, then yes, he's probably right. However, did the bridge cause the business owner to succeed? If so, then what about the guy living under the bridge - did the bridge cause him to fail? If the bridge has some magical economic power, we must recognize that its power affects different people in different ways. Government is no less infallible than business (in fact, it's usually more fallibl… sit down, snark boy); if government is to be credited with all these “millionaires we created,” it must be blamed for those below the poverty line. The only time it's blamed for that is when there's a Republican in the White House, though.
The Internet - ah yes, that powerful conduit that enables greater middle-class rip-offs than ever before. The Internet was developed by DARPA. Care to venture a guess as to what the D in that acronym stands for? Defense. Yes, the Internet grew out of a defense research project. Just as NASA isn't all about space, defense isn't just about guns and bombs. The very department that Obama wants to gut is the one that gave us the Internet. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.
So - if you built a business, you didn't build it on your own; but, that doesn't mean you ripped off those who helped you build it. Rather, your building of a business created a better life for those helped you build it. Maybe our next president will understand that; hopefully it won't take him 4 years to get here.
A few days back, the Obama campaign released an interactive slideshow called The Life of Julia. Ladies, if you have not yet seen it, walk through it. Then remember that neither I, nor the vast majority of Republicans, view you as helpless, impotent freeloaders the way Julia is portrayed here. A candidate for president wants you die. Seriously? (I've already covered that, but it keeps cropping up; I guess the campaign isn't reading my blog.)
This also shows Obama's pure hubris and arrogance once again. Are his policies REALLY going to affect her life 60+ years in the future? Without a strong country backing it, all the health policies in the world are nothing more than useless words on paper. We do not have the money to fund this vision of our nation, even if we all agreed that it was the way to go.
Finally, this illustrates a strange world view. God has commanded the church to care for the poor, and commanded husbands to care for their wives and fathers to care for their children. There's precious little of ANY of those institutions mentioned in poor Julia's life. Where is the love? Where is the community? Where is the family? Nowhere to be seen. Her dependence on government programs is pretty strong, though.
I can't help but wonder if Romney hacked Obama's website and put this up there. It certainly paints a worse picture of Obama/Biden and their disdain for women than it does of Romney and any of his plans.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
When George Stephanapoulos brought up a birth control question in one of the Republican debates, Mitt Romney was taken quite by surprise, as were most of the other analysts and pundits. This wasn't an issue; why was the question posed? As it turned out, this was the first rumbling of the “Re-Elect Barack Obama 2012” narrative - “The Republicans hate women!” From Sandra Fluke's testimony, Rush Limbaugh's criticism, and the resulting fallout (which I thoroughly dissected in the post immediately preceding this one); to the framing of the debate on Obamacare; to the sneering condescension shown by more than one person towards Ann Romney, stay-at-home wife to her husband Mitt; the narrative has been plodding forward.
Part of this is based on the quite-successful efforts against Planned Parenthood, in the wake of revelations that many of their offices were caught covering up for underage sexual abuse, failing to report what they were legally required to report. However, cutting back on Planned Parenthood might cut back on abortions, the 2nd Sacrament of Liberalism, and we simply cannot have that. With the stakes so high, the Great Uniter Himself can't just leave the battle to his surrogates:
If a Republican candidate made such a claim against a person or party, he or she would rightly be taken to task by media watchdogs for making false claims. Just THINK about this claim. Now, let me ask you this. WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD WANT TO “DENY” HEALTH CARE TO ANYONE, REGARDLESS OF GENDER? I am a Republican, I have many friends who are Republicans, and I have never heard any of them talk about denying anyone health care.
This is the lunacy behind this question. But, their lunacy is enabled by the alternate dictionary through which they view the world. This is a different lexicon that we were taught in school. Here, if the government isn't paying for something, it's being withheld or denied; if the individual in need can't get something because they can't afford it, and you don't believe the government should pay for it - well, why do you hate them? There is also no distinction between necessary and elective procedures; “health care” must cover them all. Your objections to this can't possibly be motivated by your morals, or your belief that there is a better way; they must be motivated by hate. Therefore, Republicans are hate-filled bigots who want you to die.
I can assure you that any health care plan that covers breast cancer will also cover mammograms; if it doesn't, I would stay away from that company! The cost of a mammogram far outweighs the cost of oncological care, and since the insurance company's job is to save as much money as possible, they would rather pay for mammograms than pay for cancer treatments. If they did not cover mammograms, they would also be at a competitive disadvantage to companies that do.
Will the media call out this lunacy? Probably not; they'll just leave us to bask in the warmth of this toasty, smoldering straw man.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
Contraception has been in the news quite a bit recently, culminating this week in testimony before Congress and calls for Rush Limbaugh's microphone over his response. Let's look at the timeline and how we got here, then I'll share my thoughts on the whole thing. (If you're in a hurry, skip to the last 2 paragraphs; but, if you have the time, read the whole thing, as it goes deeper than I have seen most analysis go.)
This issue came to the forefront of popular discussion when the Roman Catholic church expressed their opposition to the provision of the health care reform bill (AKA “ObamaCare”) that required employers to provide health insurance that covers contraceptive care. Official church doctrine regards this as sin, and requiring their hospitals and other organizations to provide this, they claim, is a violation of their religious beliefs. The fact that Rick Santorum, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is a practicing Roman Catholic (and has lived these beliefs for years), has brought this issue even into the primary process.
Some legislators, seeing this as a legitimate complaint from the church, presented legislation that would amend this requirement, allowing an exemption for employers who have religious objections to these requirements. To help combat this, a Georgetown University student named Sandra Fluke testified to Congress about how important she held contraception, and how she felt that free contraceptive coverage was an integral part of health insurance coverage. Rush Limbaugh, long known for “illustrating absurdity by being absurd” (his term), seized this testimony and ran with over-the-top commentary, using terms to describe Ms. Fluke that have people calling for his job.
Those are the facts as they now stand. Let's dig in, shall we?
The first thing we need to discuss is the term “contraception;” the literal definition is “against the fertilization of the egg” (contra = against, con-ception = fertilization of the egg). A popular synonym for contraception is “pregnancy prevention,” but that is a much broader term. Some feminists define contraception as “that which prevents birth,” an even broader definition than pregnancy prevention. There cannot be an agreement on contraception until we can all agree on what that means. We'll leave abortion out of it, as the view of abortion being contraception is a minority one, and it's not part of this mandate.
What is part of this mandate, however, are drugs that are collectively termed abortofacients; these are techniques or medicines that do not prevent the fertilization of the egg, but they prevent the implantation of the fertilized egg onto the uterine wall. RU-486, the “morning-after pill,” and certain intrauterine devices (IUDs) fall into this category. These methods of “contraception” violate not only the Roman Catholic views against contraception, but the evangelical churches' beliefs that life begins at conception - it is equivalent to an abortion. This greatly expands the pool of those organizations which would be required to provide coverage which violates their moral beliefs.
Some would say that the argument of “it's against my religion” has been made spuriously in the past, and they would be right. However, the prior misuse of this argument cannot be used to strip away the principle, long recognized in this country, that we generally do not create laws that force mainstream religious organizations to violate their consciences. I personally do not hold to the belief that contraception is wrong; however, I do hold to the belief that life begins with conception. This is described in Scripture, and has been validated with medical advances over the past few decades. So, I believe that this law is a bad law because, among its other many problems, it forces religious organizations to either violate their conscience or face criminal prosecution. In a nation founded on the principle of religious liberty, this is not something we should do.
Now, let's turn our attention to Sandra Fluke and her testimony before Congress. Her testimony brought a valuable insight into the mindset of many of her generation. She said “Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school.” Let's ignore the math of that statement ($1,000/year?) for now and look at what she didn't say. Implicit in this statement is the fact that she feels entitled to not only practice sexual activity as much as she wants, but to be free from the consequences of that activity. That is one of the lies that now permeated a second generation. They have been told that their sexuality is best expressed by using it repeatedly, and however they choose to do it, that defines who they are. The sexually “repressed” have been ridiculed or even shunned, while the sexually “liberated” are celebrated. Thanks to contraceptive methods, they can express themselves free from the traditional consequences of sexual activity.
This is a lie. “Liberated” sexuality does not empower women; rather, it strips them of their power, instinctively inherent in the human race. It is no secret that the male of the human species is inordinately preoccupied with this aspect of his life from adolescence forward; traditionally, while the female may have wanted the same thing, she would hold back, which encouraged men to make a commitment they might not otherwise make. The old adage “Why would you buy a cow when you can get the milk for free?” illustrates this principle quite vividly. 40 years out from the sexual revolution, commitment has taken a nose-dive into near non-existence. Cohabitation, hooking up, friends with benefits, and no-fault divorce now provide avenues for sexual activity that were not available to men in the past. So, rather than commit to one person, and do the hard work of changing themselves to become better mates in order to earn this gift from their brides, men can just float from one partner to another. If a partner sees something in him that, were he to change, would make him a better man, he has very little motivation to endure that change. This has led to weaker men and weaker women, and in two generations has brought us to the place where over 50% of babies born to women under 30 are now born out of wedlock.
Yes, we're getting deep into this, but it is crucial that we do so, because this begins to get to the biggest problem with the Fluke generation (heh - I should copyright that). We can expect nothing different, because they simply haven't been taught, and they did not see it modeled in anything but generations so old they'd never dream of mimicking them. They see no reason for people to have a problem with this. This is also why there is such a visceral reaction when these beliefs are challenged. That doesn't absolve them of their responsibility to seek out and evaluate whether what they believe is right, but it helps to understand their thought process.
Notice also that I am not judging the character or intentions of the generation as I described it above. Even with parents teaching their children these things, and living them out in front of their children, people will make choices that are less than optimal. The above should be read as a commentary on society, not as a condemnation of its participants. Besides, assigning blame to people is counterproductive; we need to look at the decisions that were made, where they have led us, and determine what decisions we should make to get us to where we need to be. My goal is to encourage behavior that is beneficial to society.
(Wow, what a rabbit trail. OK, back to my point from 4 paragraphs ago…) Although I doubt she sees it this way, what she expressed in her testimony was a desire to choose to act however she wants, but be free from the negative consequences of her actions. This is what has provoked such a reaction from her detractors - why should I (through government-funded insurance programs) pay for your decisions, or for shielding you from the consequences of your decisions? Engaging in sexual activity is a choice; you don't just “catch” sex. (We're ignoring rape with this statement - but what kind of attitude do you have to have to always have contraception for fear of rape? That doesn't apply in this argument.)
This brings us to Rush Limbaugh, who used absurdity to greatly ridicule Ms. Fluke. He said some things that he knew were over the top; that's what he does, both to illustrate points and to garner ratings. Predictably, there have been calls for his job, and some advertisers have pulled their spots from his show. Since I started this post earlier this morning, he has apologized to her for the incendiary words that he used. (Interestingly, one of those words has been used triumphantly by feminists to describe themselves, as a celebration of their sexual freedom; if she truly is a feminist activist, one might think she would take that as a compliment. Sadly, the double-standard discussion will have to wait for another time, or this post will never wrap up.)
Just as we looked at the Fluke generation, think about the Limbaugh generation. Rush is part of the first generation that began, in large numbers, to shed the morals and values that had been with us for hundreds of years. He is now seeing the results of this, and is flabbergasted that things have gone so far so quickly. He also enjoys getting people riled up, particularly the “femi-nazis,” a group that is pretty easy to tick off. So, when we look at his statements, considering his history and background can help put his comments into their intended context. As has been proved by both the right and the left, an out-of-context sound bite can be made to say whatever one wants; however, the truth, whether exculpatory or damning, can only be determined by evaluating the statement as whole.
Are there any of you who feel that Limbaugh should have been censured, who also feel that, now that he's apologized, all his sponsors should return to his program on Monday? Now you're starting to see it. He may very well have to live with the negative consequences of his actions, even though he has apologized for them. Should his insurance company produce the lost revenue from these advertisers? Of course not - he would be crazy to suggest that they should. This is the exact same principle we evaluated above! Maybe seeing it turned on someone less sympathetic will help you understand the issue more clearly.
Personally, I believe that shielding people from the negative consequences of their isolated bad actions can be beneficial, particularly if they are allowed to experience part of those, and have to expend some effort in ameliorating the remainder. (I'm not talking about Limbaugh here; this is a general statement.) As the adage goes, “Good decisions come from experience; experience comes from bad decisions.” People are not perfect, and they are going to make choices which bring negative consequences. Notice, though, that I started this by saying “personally.” Forgiveness is a personal virtue, not a government policy. However, even with forgiveness, it is often neither possible nor desirable to shield the person from the consequences of their actions. What people like Sandra Fluke want is for the government to spare no expense in its attempt to shield her from whatever consequences she deems undesirable. A government policy of forgiveness, paired with the equal application of the law, amounts to a tacit approval of the activity. It is not fair to forgive or shield one person and not another; some would argue that limiting it to one instance would not be fair either. It just simply does not work.
Sexual activity is certainly not the only area where we see this mindset at work. One of the major sparks behind the Occupy movement was frustration from people who got a college education, but could not parlay that education into employment. They wanted their school loans forgiven - and, with the value they were seeing from that piece of paper, who could blame them? But, again, actions have consequences. They chose to get the education in certain degrees, and at a pace that incurred debt. Their demand that others pay to shield them from the negative consequences of those decisions was met with some sympathy, but mostly derision from people who saw them as a bunch of freeloaders, protesting their poor state from their iPhones and iPads.
Let's distill all of the above down to five main points. First, the contraception provision in ObamaCare is wrong, and inconsistent with our legal traditions; it becomes more so as the definition of the term contraception is widened. Second, the nuclear family is the most beneficial for society, and provides the greatest motivation for both man and woman to improve themselves as they grow closer to one another. Third, while people like Ms. Fluke may not see it, they are expecting others to pay to shield them from the negative consequences of their actions, and this is what many people, myself included, find distasteful. Fourth, consider the context from which both sides originate when analyzing arguments, particularly those which generate a strong reaction; it may not make their argument any more believable, but it will help reveal not just what they are saying, but what they want. Fifth, while forgiveness is a positive personal character trait, it is incompatible with government policy.
I hope my analysis has helped you evaluate this issue; it goes way deeper than sound bites can convey. At its core, this is about respecting religious convictions and accepting personal responsibility. I hope and pray that my nation chooses to do both.