Archive from December, 2008
26 Dec
2008
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Thomas Friedman’s Socialist America

Merry Christmas! (even if it is a little late)

Here’s a review of this Thomas L. Friedman article by William M. Palumbo.

Time to Reboot America

This article is written by a socialist. I mean that in the following way: it has the mentality behind it that regards government and its leaders as being the reason for progress in the world. It gives little credit to everyday individuals and looks to the Nietzschean Übermensch as the catalyst of change. This elitist charge is becomes doubly offensive to the defender of a free society because Friedman, at the same time, presumes that this person comes from government. (Keep in mind that only agents of government possess the ability to affect change through legal use of force.)

Thomas Friedman, while implicitly recognizing what sort of production actually benefits living standards and those that do not (re: his argument, that to the detriment of society, the best intellectually are entering the financial services industry and not engineering or manufacturing, etc.) does not seem to apply this argument to which direction progress should take; to what voyage should our country next embark on? Instead of leaving this uncharted course to be navigated on the free market, he presumes, incredibly, to know what must be done. For example we need investment in new energy and it should be governmentally imposed at a cost to us all, a cost presumably acceptable to Friedman and thus his class. It is an argument for how best to readjust the classes under him so as to make his own life more accommodating, and is argued in a way an aristocrat might to the peasantry if he had no worry for revolt. I believe we can see this aristocratic attitude clearly in the first three snobby paragraphs, bragging, as they are, in blasé self-contentment.

Immediately the column, as it enters America with Friedman’s JFK arrival, shifts its tone from complacency to near disgust. The “Flintonstone”-esque “ugly, low-ceilinged arrival hall was cramped” and JFK had the nerve to charge $3 for luggage cart rental! Friedman whimsically muses to himself how yes, he had seen this terminal before, in 1998 Hong Kong. Hah! How dare they, err, I mean we, Americans allow this! (Consider for a moment how many Americans have not been to an airport since 1998. If this man writes for the middle class he is apparently in such high demand that they continue to read him despite being flatly put down.) Friedman then pretends, like a good steward, to be concerned with how “our kids’ future” shapes up, this, argues Friedman, largely contingent on how the bailout money is spent. The money should be invested wisely for the future in prescient projects. If it is “spent on pork, it will be the end of us.” Like a good economist, and hinting of an answer, he reminds us that infrastructure is crucial for economic expansion.

Two points here: first, the money being spent is largely on pork, and, while it will not be the end of us, it will certainly prolong this recession. Second, if we are going to spend money on infrastructure, do we really have to focus on international airport terminals before, say, roads and bridges? Is a less than 12’ high terminal really going to offend the tastes of your average business traveler enough that they stop conducting business with the largest, most productive and prolific economy in the world? I, for one, sincerely doubt that, and I also doubt that if Friedman took the time to consider his own argument as formulated he would find practicality either. The man is, in all probability, in and out of airports frequently, some surely with less than grand terminals (which speaks to how little effect they have on him business-wise) and thus views “infrastructure” not as a middle-class person or blue-collar worker, but as one of privilege.

Friedman views Americans as “dumb as we wanna be.” Besides infrastructure, his wish list includes shoveling pork to teachers (a popular idea based on the fallacy that money alone yields higher standards in education), nationalizing education standards, changing immigration laws (a very good idea, though I very much doubt Friedman would support sealing the southern border as a complement to relaxing other restrictions to increase the importing of intellectual capital), and dictating what cars private industry should produce. It’s a laundry list of which Mao would see much merit.

Back to the socialist attitude: are Friedman’s not the pretenses of every socialist? The assumptions made by one whom considers too exclusively his own position and/or personality in society, not sufficiently able to extend their ethics past current personal conditions? Friedman shows disdain for genuine choice when he states that cheap “energy prices” (that is, energy that is already inflated in price due to our own government) is delaying investment in new fuel. (He misses the fact that future research by energy companies is figured into the price.) Would he like to make gasoline $8 a gallon by tax and fund the energy research publicly rather than privately? One gets the sense he would, yet I would ask he justify subsidizing the research costs of energy companies. His instincts in problem solving have a theme of centralization, and that has proved economically, and intellectually for that matter, backwards.

Finally, the very title suggests that he views America, Land of the Free, as defunct in concept and in need of molding, hopefully by a capable, incoming President. In addition to being of the garden variety-cleverly cloaked socialist mindset too common in editorializing, Friedman also shows a political affinity towards socialists, offering his apologetic influence to Obama.

22 Dec
2008
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Some lessons are never learned


A cautionary tale about protectionism from The Economist – The battle of Smoot-Hawley.

Of note:

“Smoot-Hawley did most harm by souring trade relations with other countries.”

Despite all of the arguments from the left about all of the damage that Bush was doing to the US reputation abroad, or the fact that our trade with emerging markets improves the quality of life for those whose cause the left supposedly champions, given the inevitable failure of the Big 3 bailout, we can expect to see stepped up protectionist propaganda from the unions, the left, and unfortunately, some segments of the right.

22 Dec
2008
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Giving Biden a Room of His Own

In an age of expanded executive power where the vice president plays a significant role in domestic and foreign affairs, what do you do with a Number Two who is a complete dolt? Give him a job that offers a relatively empty task where he can’t hurt himself and others around him, particularly the president.

Behold Joe Biden’s task force to bolster the middle class. This little gem follows the same model I noted yesterday about how Obama will best be able to measure his administration’s success by establishing goals that cannot be measured. For instance, boosting the size and equity of the middle class may be measurable, but how certain can we ever be certain that it will grow naturally over the next four years or that it will grow only with Biden’s help?

Judging Biden’s history of verbal gaffes, political miscues, and outright ignorance of the real world around him, I’m going to cautiously err that the middle class will grow in spite of him, not because of him.

Obama knows that Biden is not the sharpest knife in the kitchen. You can tell by the way Biden was handled during the general election campaign. The closer we got to November 4th, the less you saw Biden in public. Less of a chance for him to stick a fork in an electrical outlet that way.

Why Obama picked Biden of all people as his running mate is a mystery to me. With his popularity he could have chosen Larry the Cable Guy and still won the White House. But Biden has to be given something to do.

Hence, bolstering the middle class. It’s safe, non-toxic, and Biden is unlikely to accidentally poke his eye out with it.

22 Dec
2008
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Obama’s Blagojevich Report

President-elect Obama’s team released its report on staff contacts with Rod Blagojevich today. And just three days before Christmas, too.

Gee, do you think this might get swallowed up in the holiday hubbub? Yes, rest assured it was planned that way. It’s also no coincidence that Obama is as far away as he can possibly be and still be on American soil (in Hawaii, spending the holidays with family, as opposed to spending the holidays in Chicago with family).

In any case, Obama’s report indicates that there was no deal with Blagojevich over filling the president-elect’s Senate seat. Well, did you expect anything else?

I’m not saying that the report is a wash. But it is annoying when you have members of the media like selectively intrepid ABC News man George Stephanopoulos swallowing whole the report without choosing to follow up with some good old fashioned journalism of their own.

Apparently Obama’s report is good enough. After all, if The One says nothing was done wrong, then nothing was done wrong.

22 Dec
2008
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Obama’s Clever Intangibles

Barack Obama is a clever guy, dangerously clever. If you’ve been watching him closely, you will see that he has already been dropping the seeds of his 2012 reelection campaign.

During the presidential campaign Obama suggested that America would be able to reduce “our demand for electricity by 15 percent by the end of the next decade.” It’s impossible to believe that in our increasingly automated and computerized world with a constantly growing population that we will actually reduce our demand for electricity. Just the same it will be easy for Obama to claim that we did depending on which set of cooked numbers he uses to demonstrate such a highly subjective number like “demand for electricity.” How do you even calculate such a thing? Wait four years and you’ll find out.

Another clever promise Obama has made is how he will save or create three million jobs, a total that was actually revised upward from a month ago. Everyone seems wowed by this big goal, but how exactly are we supposed to know four years from now whether or not he’s achieved it?

You cannot accurately predict how many jobs would be saved or lost over a sustained period of time in an economy that is fluid. You can project that, all things being equal, a certain number of jobs were created, but were they created as a direct result of Obama’s policies or would they have been created regardless of his policies? Conceivably Obama could take credit for all the jobs created while he was president. After all, President Bush is being blamed for all the jobs lost on his watch.

22 Dec
2008
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850 Billion Ways to Say “You’re Crazy!’

President-elect Obama has announced plans for an $850 billion stimulus package that is intended to jumpstart our economy but will more likely blow an H-Bomb sized hole in the federal deficit with little long term benefit for the country.

Why doesn’t stimulus spending work? Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation put it succinctly:

Where does the government acquire the money it pumps into the economy? Congress does not have a vault of money waiting to be distributed: Therefore, every dollar Congress “injects” into the economy must first be taxed or borrowed out of the economy. No new spending power is created. It is merely redistributed from one group of people to another.

But don’t tell that to the donkeys. After all, taxation and big government are how they roll and these days they are rolling.

Will dumping a few hundred billion dollars into American infrastructure reinvigorate our financial picture? No, frankly. It’s not that our infrastructure couldn’t use the boost, but there are better ways to do it than elevating the deficit to levels that will ultimately make us less economically secure.

22 Dec
2008
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Caroline Kennedy: NY Socialite to US Senator?

Now that Caroline Kennedy is being seriously considered by New York Governor David Paterson for an appointment to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat, it’s time to basically run her through the political wringer. Don’t get all weak and weepy about the scrutiny that she is going to be put under in the next few weeks – if she is going to be New York’s junior Senator, she deserves a good look-see.

Since she is a Kennedy and a big Obama fan, we can make a reasonable assumption that Caroline is going to vote in lockstep with the liberals of the Swamp.

But just what exactly are Kennedy’s qualifications to be Senator? Well, she outright ignored that question when it was posed in Syracuse last week. Which is a bit telling in itself. After all, why should this respected member of American royalty have to explain herself to the proletarians, right?

She did, however, bring up a few reasons why she should be seriously considered for the appointment a few days later. She’s written some books, she’s been a fundraiser, and she’s always been interested in politics. She’s just never voted very much.

It’s pretty apparent what’s going on here. Kennedy has probably always wanted to serve in public office. She’s just never wanted to go through the trouble of actually campaigning for it. Now an opportunity has come along to fulfill her dream of getting something for nothing (hasn’t that been fulfilled already?) and she wants to grab it.

What would be even more appropriate is to have a special election to replace Clinton. Letting the people decide who their representative should be in the Senate would be quaint and clever, and even democratic.

22 Dec
2008
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What a Real Auto Industry Looks Like

As President Bush throws a leaden lifeline to the so-called Big Three auto makers, it’s worth contemplating what a real automotive industry in America looks like.

Fred Barnes wrote an informative piece in the Weekly Standard about “The Other American Auto Industry”, that is the foreign-owned auto plants strung throughout the southern states. Workers are making good money, communities are growing, and decent cars are being made. And it’s all being done without unions.

The donkeys are irate about the shoot down of their auto bailout because they missed an opportunity to nationalize yet another portion of the American economy. They blame the GOP Senators from the South for doing it, saying that it’s just good old fashioned UAW-busting.

Well, they’re right. After all, look at the situation. 2008 is likely to be the last year that General Motors and Chrysler will exist in their current state as independent companies. Tens of thousands of workers in Michigan and other states stand to lose their jobs or face significant cuts in pay and pensions. Doesn’t seem like the United Auto Workers has done them much good. In fact, the case could be made that the UAW has a role in the current predicament of our domestic auto industry.

18 Dec
2008
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NYYRC Prez Lynn Krogh Appointed to NY GOP Planning Commission

NYYRC President Lynn Krogh has been appointed to the New York State Republican Strategic Planning Commission, which has been tasked with developing a blueprint for the state party.

Congrats Lynn!

Here is the press release:

Chairman Mondello Launches Planning Commission
December 18th, 2008
Announces Goals, Schedule, Initial Members

New York State Republican Committee Chairman Joseph N. Mondello today formally announced the creation of the New York State Republican Strategic Planning Commission to study the latest political technology and strategies and develop a forward-looking blueprint for New York’s Republican Party. Andrew S. Eristoff of New York City will serve as the Commission’s Chair.

“Today, our party’s ongoing rebuilding efforts will take a new and significant step forward toward a stronger, more vibrant future,” said Chairman Mondello. “I’ve asked this Commission to do a thorough and independent assessment of the best strategies and techniques to provide a gameplan for moving our party forward. I am confident that this talented group of individuals will provide the quality research, analysis, and proposals we need to be successful.”

In naming him to Chair the Commission, Chairman Mondello cited Andrew Eristoff’s service as a former New York County Republican Chairman, New York City Councilmember, and former New York City and New York State Finance Commissioner.

“I look forward to working with this dynamic group of fellow Republicans to help shape a path toward a bright and competitive future for our New York State Republican Party,” said Andrew Eristoff. “Although we will certainly examine issues related to messaging and communications, much of our work will focus on the nuts-and-bolts of building a vital and competitive state party, such as candidate recruitment and support, registration, fundraising, technology, organization and administration.”

Commission working groups will focus on key rebuilding challenges in three categories: communications and outreach, finance and administration , and operations. The Commission will have an initial organizing conference call before Christmas and will begin working group activity immediately after the first of the year. The Commission plans to provide a preliminary report to Chairman Mondello and the Republican County Chairs in mid-winter on the most time sensitive action issues, with a final report scheduled to be completed in the Spring.

“This aggressive timeframe will ensure our party can begin acting on critical issues quickly in order to be successful this coming Fall, while also providing sufficient time for a thorough and valuable review,” added Chairman Mondello.

The Commission will be comprised of dedicated Republicans from across New York State and includes former elected, appointed, and party officials as well as long-time activists and coalition leaders within the party. Additional members of the Commission and advisory council members will be added in the coming days and weeks to provide additional depth and specialization. Elected officials, Republican coalitions and auxiliary organizations will be encouraged to participate in the process and provide advice and input.

The Commission will also seek the advice and input of party officials, political specialists, party activists, and former party leaders such as William Powers, former New York State Republican Chairman, who has agreed to serve as a Senior Advisor.

The initial members of the Commission include:

Thomas J. Basile, President, Empire Solutions Consulting

Abigail Cable, Treasurer, NYS College Republicans; President, Union College Republicans

Anthony J. Casale, former Member, New York State Assembly

Christopher N. Cox, former New York Executive Director, McCain 2008

Thomas E. L. Dewey, Partner, Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky

Harold E. Doley III, Principal, The Lugano Group Incorporated

Christopher P. Dziedzic, Chair, New York State Young Republicans

Andrew S. Eristoff, Chair

Lolita K. Jackson, Former President, Metropolitan Republican Club

Lynn Krogh, President, New York Young Republican Club

Nicholas Langworthy, Former Executive Director, Erie County Republican Committee

Gary J. Lavine, Attorney

Raymond P. Martinez, Former Commissioner, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles

Rebecca M. Marino, Secretary, New York State Republican Committee

Meyers Mermel, CEO, Mermel & McLain

Patrick M. Murphy, Former President, New York City Log Cabin Republicans

Juan Carlos “J.C.” Polanco, Commissioner, New York City Board of Elections

Ron Robbins, North Harbor Dairy, Former NYS Director for USDA Farm Services

Fran Sullivan, Former Member, New York State Assembly

Charles J. Urstadt, Chairman, Urstadt Biddle Propertie

18 Dec
2008
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Federal Spending Has to Come Back to Earth

President-elect Obama’s proposed $1 trillion stimulus package is the latest in a long sad history of bad ideas, ranking right up there with Coke 2 and the circular firing squad. His intentions are honorable, but the economy just doesn’t work that way.

All that is guaranteed from such a large chunk of money is a larger federal debt. Federal spending rose 25 percent this year, and that was before the bailout. Washington economists have yet to digest those figures. The budget deficit went from $162 billion in 2007 to $454 billion this year.

Want some more numbers to scare the bleep out of you? Good, cuz I got ‘em.

The federal government is going to throw away $450 billion this year on interest payments on the national debt. $450 billion. Just for interest. That payment will be the fourth largest outlay behind Medicare and Medicaid ($700 billion), Social Security ($699 billion), and defense ($656 billion).

At current revenue levels, which are mighty lousy thanks to the economy, in 30 years the government will only be able to cover half of its expenses. Now in 30 years a lot of things will change, including the revenue stream. But if Obama continues to spend our money with complete abandon to the consequences he will saddle this country with a debt that no previous president could ever have dreamed of. And he will not save our economy, he will only prolong our pain.