Political Diatribes

Another conservative take on the world around us

One Reaction to Last Night’s Election

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on January 20, 2010

One can’t hardly host a political blog without some comment about last night’s stunning upset in Massachusetts. There is such a plethora of information and opinions out there that there really isn’t a whole lot more to be said, I suppose.

However, I ran across one insightful analysis of the situation, from Hitler himself:

Posted in Elections, Massachusetts, Politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Wall Street Journal Highlights Duffy

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on January 11, 2010

Read article: here.

Through the tall trees of northern Wisconsin, Republican Sean Duffy is stalking a giant. The 38-year-old district attorney is talking fiscal responsibility, job creation, entitlement reform. He’s scoring Washington for higher taxes, and for a health-care takeover. He’s Facebooking and Twittering. He comes across as a serious yet positive reformer, a combo that has caught the public’s eye.

He’ll need that eye, and more, since his Goliath is one David Obey, Democratic head of the Appropriations Committee, the liberal bull who has occupied Wisconsin’s Democratic-leaning 7th congressional seat since before Mr. Duffy was . . . born.

Seriously… Hope and change people… Put your money and vote where your mouth is. Obey may have at one time served Wisconsin well, I suppose. But the term “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” is appropo here. Nepotism in the gargantuan stimulus bill is a major issue, but he simply has strayed from Wuisconsin values. Wisconsinites in District 7: don’t allow yourselves to be bought. Don’t exchange principle for the promise of earmarks – pork – the purpose of which is to buy votes. We’ve been prostituted long enough.

Time to put principle on the front burner: Support Duffy. At the very least, check out his site: http://duffyforcongress.com/.

I don’t really do facebook or twitter, but apparently he’s active on both, so look him up there as well.

Posted in Dave Obey, Elections, Sean Duffy, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Congressional District 7 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Support Sean Duffy to Unseat Dave Obey

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on December 18, 2009

I did something I almost never do a couple days ago.  I contributed to a political campaign. 

Until now, I have felt the hopeless realization that Dave Obey will be me Representative until either I die or he dies.   This is the man who violated the trust of Wisconsin’s citizens by playing such a large part in the stimulus package getting passed.  This is the man who included Billions in the “crucial” stimulus package for an exercise in nepotism.

Obey does not fairly represent our voters, and hasn’t for some time.

The issue is that, for years now, there has been no viable candidate step forward to take him on. While I’m firmly entrenched in the “Anyone But Obey” camp, even I have to admit that the GOP candidates have been pretty weak.

For the first time in a while, I feel like we have a very strong candidate, and I fully support him. His name is Sean Duffy.

Today’s politics are seldom just a local thing. Please help, no matter where you are, drive Obey out and Duffy in. You can contribute here.

I’ll be trying to get the word out more on this site on reasons why it’s time for a real change.

Posted in Dave Obey, Elections, Politics, Sean Duffy, Wisconsin | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

What should the Stimulus package have looked like?

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on February 18, 2009

From this post on Hot Air, we see the following attempt at a reasonable stimulus package…  from  Democrat.  From the article they quote:

Rep. Walt Minnick, a freshman Democrat from Idaho, is pushing a better idea: The Strategic Targeted American Recovery and Transition Act (START).

Minnick is a member of the Blue Dog caucus of occasionally conservative Democrats. His START plan is a $170 billion “bare bones” pure stimulus approach that would put $100 billion immediately into the pockets of low- and middle-income Americans, then use the other $70 billion for basic infrastructure projects that create jobs. START requires that all funds not spent by 2010 be returned to the Treasury. START also stops stimulus spending when the nation’s Gross Domestic Product increases in two of three previous quarters, and all START payments are required to be posted on a public website.

Minnick introduced START as an alternative – just in case the legislative process stalls out, says press secretary John Foster. As one of the brave 11 Democrats who voted against Pelosi’s stimulus bill, Minnick explained to folks back home that he opposed the speaker’s version because it was so “Christmas-treed up” with wasteful spending, like $300 million for golf carts. Foster told The Examiner that the House leadership encourages members to do what’s best for their districts, so there has been no backlash. We’ll see how long that lasts.

This was posted on another board that I frequent. In general, liberals, independents, and conservatives all seemed to agree that this was a preferable approach. That is not to say that conservatives liked the stimulus package, period, but that if we are going to do such a thing, the above approach at least seems somewhat reasonable.

Which begs the question as to why Congress felt the need to push through such a huge bill? In my opinion, something 25% the size probably gains a ton of political capital from both sides of the aisle. The conservatives would have had much less to point to as being egregious, and liberals could always say they only did what was absolutely necessary, with an eye towards doing more if needed in the future.

It seems like it was a very risky political maneuver, because the price tag is so immense that now people absolutely expect that it had better work – or else. And most people, even on the liberal side who see certain merit in the bill, all seem to agree that there is too much spending on unnecessary projects.

Some comments from others discussing the proposal:

I like the plan. – a liberal

Sounds good. I especially like the 1 year time horizon and automatic stop when economy recovers. – leans left

it is not so bad but very unlikely that a Democratic House would have voted for such a plan without loading it up with earmarks or other pet projects. Sometimes people forget the reality is that the House is very Democratic and not beholden to Obama….. – independent who voted for Obama

I’m not convinced that any stimulus bill will actually do what it purports. But this one’s a helluva lot cheaper (only $170 billion!), so, hey, I’ll sign on. – conservative

If I only get to choose between the two plans this one wins hands down. conservative

This would pass if only you added in 530B of tax cuts so that the GOP would sign onto it as well without threatening to fillibuster in the senate. there’s always one in the bunch…

Discussion points:
Would the GOP have still forced tax cuts into a much more modest proposal? Was the goal of the GOP to maximize tax cuts and minimize spending regardless of the amount? Or was the GOP’s goal to make Obama spend political capital and take ultimate responsibility for the outcome?

I think the GOP would have been very reasonable with a counter-proposal like this given the fact that it is in the context of an $800 billion proposal. It’s probably true to say that there are separate goals here: ideological and political. The ideological position would be to implement true stimulative tax cuts even on a smaller bill like this. That is because conservatives don’t look at tax cuts as a “cost” to government. It is not the government’s money to begin with, so how can it be a cost? Obviously, there is a revenue implication. It may sound, then, like splitting hairs, but the differentiation is important on ideological grounds. But I dispute that the amount is not key. There was so much in the $800 billion plan that goes against the grain of even moderate conservatives that it had to be opposed on ideological grounds. And inclusion of tax cuts is encouraged on ideological grounds.

But there probably is also truth is the political reality – especially given the ideological concerns – that opposing the bill is the better political position to take. Not that we want it to fail – I don’t and I think all Amercia hopes it works. But we think it will fail. Sorry about that, but I don’t see any way of this turning things around. In fact, I think it makes things worse. So, there is no way in heaven I’m going to support this thing. If I’m wrong, it’s good for the country, and even if I supported it Obama and the Democrats would get credit anyway. If I’m right, then I don’t get dragged down with them when people start revolting against their ideological positions. So, the best political move is to make this whole thing Obama’s.

Probably the most maddening part of this whole thing is that there was zero need for a great deal of this bill to be all lumped together. This bill could have been split up into numerous packages that could have been voted on separately. Each part could be assessed on both the merits of the idea and the stimulative impact. Obviously, the reason this didn’t happen was so Congress could spend countless billions on pet projects that they have wanted for years and have not been able to get. Gee, what a surprise that the Dems would take advantage of an economic downturn to enact this piece of legislation that is not what it was presented as…

Posted in Opinion, Politics, Stimulus | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

It’s Time for Dave Obey to Go

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on February 7, 2009

Stimulus-National Parks

Photo credit: Lawrence Jackson (AP). Dave Obey, looking like he has just screwed over Wisconsin - and everyone else.

For a stalwart of the House who has been re-elected in his Wisconsin District for 40 years because of name recognition and lack of viable candidates as opposition, Dave Obey flies under the radar pretty well. Even in his District (in which I live) you could ask 1000 people what they know about him and you’d maybe get a handful of people who really know anything about him.

He could be the most powerful no-name in Washington.

And he is an embarrassment to Wisconsin. But we don’t know it.

Oh, to be fair, there are certain things he has represented us well on. We are a rural and farming community with a lot of blue-collar workers. Any viable candidate will need to recognize the make-up of the district which he or she represents. But in a multitude of other ways, he is the antithesis of what we are about. We are not spendthrifts here who shun fiscal responsibility. We are not liberal on social issues. We are not socialists.

Dave Obey is all of these things. And he has the means of direct influence in Washington to help enact exactly the opposite of the issues we truly hold dear.

So, am I saying that the Wisconsin District is stupid for continuing to vote for him? No. They are not stupid. I would say that they are not properly informed. And that is not entirely their fault. The last time there was any remotely viable candidate to oppose Obey was probably 15 years ago or so, when an opponent named Scott West actually gave him a run for his money. Other than that little glimmer of hope, there has been nobody that had any money to compete. The seat has never looked endangered, so the Republican Party never bothers here. So, for decades, there has been little to no informational campaign that highlights Representative Obey’s issues.

Case in point is the recent stimulus behemoth. From NPR:

U.S. Rep. David Obey (D-WI), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, helped write the bill and says he doesn’t like being asked about earmarks.

“We simply made a decision, which took about three seconds, not to have earmarks in the bill,” he says. “And with all due respect, that’s the least important question facing us on putting together this package.”

Leaving out the earmarks does mean Congress will have less control over how the money is spent. But, Obey says, “So what? This is an emergency. We’ve got to simply find a way to get this done as fast as possible and as well as possible, and that’s what we’re doing.”

That doesn’t mean Congress will be responsible if the money is spent badly, he says.

“The person who spends the money badly will be responsible. We are simply trying to build as many protections in as possible,” Obey says. “We have more oversight built into this package than any package in the history of man. If money is spent badly, we want to know about it so we can hold accountable the people who made that choice. And guess what? Regardless of what we do, there will be some stupid decisions made.”

That may not sound all that bad, but the most important point here is that Obey was instrumental in putting together a $900 billion spending bill. And there isn’t a lot of control over how the money that will trash our dollar will be spent. And his response: “So what?”

Oh, but there’s oversight so that after “stupid decisions” are made and the money’s already spent, then they’ll hold people accountable.

Whoop-de-doo.

But there’s more. As this source explains:

House Republicans are questioning a section of the economic stimulus package that routes nearly $2 billion to national parks, saying the money could be a hidden pet project for Obey’s son. Craig Obey, a senior vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association, is a top lobbyist for the nonprofit group, which made public appeals for funds to repair and maintain national parks in the weeks before the House passed the bill.

That is pretty sleazy. $2 billion! When talking about the staggering amount of $900 billion, perhaps we start to lose sight of how big each billion actually is. Think, everyone. It takes a $1000 coming from one million people to total a billion. And Mr. Obey recklessly pushes through $2 billion in pork as a favor to his son? Is this what the people of Central and Northwestern Wisconsin want out of their Representative? No way.

This is egregious. It is mortgaging our future. And all he says is “So what?”

I am calling on the new RNC Chairman, Mr. Steele, to start today in developing a campaign strategy against Dave Obey. Pound his efforts in passing this bill over and over and over. Even if there is a short-term bump from this spending, we all know it’s irresponsible. Go with that. Over and over.

Anyone and everyone – in Wisconsin or not – let’s figure out a way how to get this guy out. Start today. I’ll help however I can. 527s, PACs, whatever. I know nothing about all that, so we need legal people and political people and RNC people and strategy people and advertising people and grassroots people…

Pass it on.

Anyone who has anything at all that I can post regarding comments by Dave Obey or votes by Mr. Obey that can help me get the word out here, send them to me at geezep@yahoo.com, or post a comment.

Anyone with contact information for anyone who could actually help organize any kind of campaign, let’s do it.

And no, I won’t be running. My wife would kill me. But I will help where I can.

Posted in Dave Obey, Elections, Opinion, Politics, Wisconsin | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

No Moderation: The liberalization of America Now Underway

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on January 23, 2009

Well, it hasn’t taken all that long for the expected to happen. But now that we’re underway, the mental preparation for it hardly sweetens the taste. Instead, it’s downright uncomfortable to watch.

My guess is that there is the segment of liberals who are paying attention and favor all the early moves of the Obama administration, either because they truly want socialism or because they don’t understand what socialism is and think they are simply transferring wealth and being good stewards. While the latter may be a generous motive, I fear that it will not turn out as they anticipate when all is said and done.

Then, there are those who are simply flummoxed by the fact that we Americans have allowed this course of events to take place, and are lamenting each and every move, as we realize that the election was won on symbolism, but that we have real consequences on multiple fronts, from the social to the financial.

If I were to guess, I would say that the two above camps do not total more than 25% of the populace. That means that 75% of us either don’t care enough to pay attention, or – more likely – have the attitude that the election is over, our job is done, and let me know in 2 to 4 years what I should care about for the next election. Most people simply don’t feel compelled to continually scrutinize, contact, and communicate with their elected representatives.

Unfortunately, elections have consequences. Many of us understood the ramifications of the election, and many of us didn’t. Many of us voted and celebrated the outcome based on symbology and diversity, and simply didn’t care about policy. Many of us convinced ourselves that there is a social justice component that outweighs everything else. What is, in reality, feel-good liberalism was packaged, sold, and bought as compassion.

So, let’s review, after only three days, what is so important to this administration that things could not wait any longer:

Executive Order closing Guantanimo Bay and Eliminating ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques.

This move wasn’t so bad on its face, but the reality is that it accomplished nothing by way of what we actually do with the people at Gitmo, and basically limited all interrogation techniques to nothing. Even the administration admits this. They have absolutely no plan right now, other than to form committees to come up with a plan. Given this, the Executive Order, at best, is premature. It is an appeasement to people who don’t like America. It’s an appeasement to the UN, and other liberal leadership around the globe. Not that there is anything wrong with wanting to help our image around the world, but if you just say you’ll do something with no answer about what you are actually going to do, it’s lip service.

Bush wanted to close Gitmo, but there was no good way of deciding how to deal with the bad guys at Gitmo. The issues are complicated, which is why Gitmo wasn’t closed under Bush, and why Obama – after two years of talking about this – has nothing more than a committee to try to figure something out in a year. So, what happens if and when they don’t have a good answer? Well, it means they either do something stupid, like letting these guys free, in order to save face. Or it means Gitmo doesn’t close. Or it means that we move them to another Gitmo.

On the torture issue, I do not advocate torture. But again, the order here is overbroad by limiting techniques to an Army field manual. Even the administration admits that this needs to be looked at and the manual enhanced. So, why not take care of that first before tying the hands of our military and intelligence services? Because it’s feel-good liberalism to put the cart before the horse. The consequences are that we have no leverage at all with anyone at the moment from whom we need information.

This may make us feel nice, but as an American, do you feel safer now? I sure as hell don’t.

Green Light for US Stem Cell Work and lifting the ban on overseas abortion funding.

That’s embryonic stem-cell research. On the anniversary of Roe V Wade, Obama thumbs his nose at the largest gathering of Pro-Lifers of the year at the “March for Life” and allows the killing of human embryos as a means to an end, and allows my tax dollars to fund abortions overseas. I’m incensed. I knew it was coming, and it still ticks me off. Thanks to all those who voted for Obama on the grounds of “social justice.”

Economic ‘Stimulus’ Package

This farce is unbelievable. Giving money to people who don’t pay taxes is now considered a tax cut. This idiot Robert Reich is at least honest with us when he lays out that the stimulus package is really all about transfer of wealth:

But if there aren’t enough skilled professionals to do the jobs involving new technologies, the stimulus will just increase the wages of the professionals who already have the right skills rather than generate many new jobs in these fields. And if construction jobs go mainly to white males who already dominate the construction trades, many people who need jobs the most — women, minorities, and the poor and long-term unemployed — will be shut out.

What to do? There’s no easy solution to either dilemma. But there’s no reason to think about “green jobs” as simply high-tech. Many low-income and low-skilled workers — women as well as men — could be put directly to work providing homes and businesses with more efficient and renewable heating, lighting, cooling, and refrigeration systems; installing solar panels and efficient photovoltaic systems; rehabilitating and renovating old properties, and improving recycling systems. “Green Jobs Corps” teams could be trained to evaluate and advise homeowners and businesses on these and other means of conserving energy.

In other words, this isn’t a stimulus package. It’s a jobs package, or a redistribution of wealth. Or it’s a welfare package. Or a social program. Or something. But it’s not a stimulus package. It isn’t a tax cut.

Now, you may or may not agree that this is a good thing to do, but the point is that we are simply being lied to. Listen, I don’t want the government to send out checks or spend any more money, period. I don’t want a stimulus package or a jobs package or redistribution of wealth. I want government to stop trying to solve all our problems while creating brand new ones. But others disagree with me and think that we need to avoid a recession, so they want a stimulus package.

The truth is – and even the liberals know this – that if you really want a consumer-stmulus package, you cut taxes immediately. It makes no sense to send checks out instead unless you are trying to accomplish something else altogether. Since sending checks out creates an expense to government and creates more market inefficiency, it’s purely a socialistic move. Worse yet is that this package is not that simple. Over half of the money is not expected to be spent until 2011. What kind of ‘stimulus’ is that? It’s not. In the name of ‘stimulus,’ the package includes expansion of government health care, among all sorts of other pork that would make your head spin.

I disagreed with the bailouts, so you can spare me the lecture on how Bush spent $700 billion. I know he did. I am mad at him for it. But to try and argue that because he did something stupid is an excuse to do something even more stupid is lunacy. And as much as I disagreed with it, at least the money is being spent on what I was told it is used for. Now, I’m not thrilled about the accounting of it all, and there may well be issues of waste, but I was told that the money is going to banks, and it is. Well, except for that whole auto bailout thing… But at least that was made public, too.

But how many people have even bothered to figure out what makes up this $825 billion package we’re talking about? We Americans should be outraged that the government feels that it is necessary to spend almost $3,000 for every man, woman, and child in the entire country. What kind of lemmings have we become? To put it in perspective, it would only cost us $200 billion if the government adopted a program to give $50,000 to the first 4 million people everyone who lost their job. And we’re going to spend more than four times that amount, to do what? Look at the numbers – it’s to create a couple million jobs.

The stupidity of this is remarkable.

You don’t have to believe me, but watch all this play out. If this package passes, the American way of life is history. It may already be too late – hopefully not. The bailouts at least have the hope of a repayment. This package does not. Whether this package is the straw that breaks the camel’s back or just moves us to that point much more quickly, I don’t know for sure. But this is unsustainable. There will come a day when other governments/investors refuse to buy our bonds (i.e. lend us money). The day that happens, we will have no money to repay expiring bonds, and since we operate at a deficit anyway, we will not have enough money to cover our obligations. When this happens, we need to “create” more money. As it is, the Fed is already doing this.

With virtually no more room to manipulate its main lever for the economy, the Fed has also been running its dollar printing press to flood credit markets with liquidity.

This quote isn’t technically correct, because most of the money creation isn’t even backed by a dollar bill. It’s a credit on a computer screen. But it doesn’t matter. It becomes part of the system and the more money that gets created, the more upward pressure will be put on inflation. When nobody lends us money, the ponzi-scheme that is our government financial system (where you need current influx of dollars to pay investor yields) will make the Madoff scheme look like child’s play. Hyper-inflation will ensue, the dollar will crash, and all hell will break loose.

I am not rooting for that. I hope I am wrong. But I have yet to have anyone explain how in the world we can ever dig our way out of the mess we’ve already created, and will be exacerbating very soon. I’m open to correction.

Posted in Barack Obama, Liberals, News, Opinion, Politics | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Hoping and Praying for Obama’s Success… and Failure

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on January 20, 2009

Obama InaugurationJoseph Farah, at http://www.worldnetdaily.com/, offers a perspective on praying for Obama’s success: don’t do it.

Farah presents his view from the point of view of a Christian who believes that praying for Obama’s success means that you are praying for success in his specific positions that are contrary to our moral position. These things by now are no particular secret. Clearly, abortion rights is a major issue, and any attempt to expand these rights through the Freedom of Choice Act, his past voting record as an Illinois State Senator, voting against an act that wouold protect infants who were born alive after botched abortion attempts, and the appointment of liberal judges can’t be supported. During the campaign, Obama and Biden both stated that they are not for gay marriage, though they favor civil unions. But in the past, Obama has said he favors it, and even since the election he does not support constitutional bans of same-sex marriage, and ‘respects’ state Supreme Court decisions that thwart the will of the people. When asked to discuss one of his greatest regrets, of all things he could have chosen, he decided to point to his support to review the case of Terri Schiavo. Why, of all matters possible, would an intervention to simply review the case one last time to ensure justice to a woman who is being starved and dehydrated be the one thing that comes to mind? It’s somewhat galling. This clearly presents Obama in a different camp than us Christians on the issue of euthanasia. It’s also been no major secret that Obama supports publicly funded embryonic stem-cell research.

These are moral issues. I cannot and will not support Obama in any of these issues if he continues to take the path he has taken in the past, and claims to want to take in the future.

But does this mean that I should pray for Obama’s failure as a president? Well, I guess it depends on what it is you focus on.

Here’s my thought: Hope and pray for America’s success. Pray that Obama succeeds in doing God’s will. Pray for his safety. Pray that, on issues that are not moral issues, he succeeds and fails in accord for what is best for our country.

Let’s leave the moral issues aside at this point. We have strict differences there, and my opinion is known. I most certainly hope the promotion of these issues fails. It is nothing personal against Obama, and it is not for political expediency that I feel this way. It is because my convictions in these areas must outweigh any perceived lack of patriotism some misguided souls may inappropriately apply to such hope for failure.

But on other issues, should we pray for failure? I suggest that the answer is ‘no.” Don’t get me wrong here. I wholeheartedly disagree with increasing our tax burden. I disagree with trillion dollar debts and more bailouts. I disagree with increased regulation. I am less certain about the best strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and foreign policy. There may well be a few nuggets that I can agree with and support Obama on, as well. But these issues are debatable. They are not strict issues of morality (not even welfare, social security, and the role of government. That is NOT a moral issue. It is the strategy of attacking a moral issue which all of us fundamentally agree is an issue, but with different ideas of addressing it. That is why it is so maddening to have people compare that to abortion).

Let me outline my thinking here by providing the analogy of working for a company. Let’s say the company is discussing a new marketing strategy. Let’s say you have an idea on the best route to go with it, and someone else has the polar opposite view. Now, let’s say the polar opposite view from yours wins out as a strategy. Now, you may personally believe that this is a mistake, and it could be a disaster. You have made your opinion known, you have had the debate, but now the decision has been made.

So, do you undermine your own company and try to cause the new strategy to fail? Not if you have any integrity. Unless we’re talking about moral or ethical issues, you do your part to try and make this new strategy succeed. You assist when called upon, you do your best, and you falt-out hope that your perception of this was wrong. That’s right, you humbly hope you are mistaken, and wish success to the company President, the team, the whole company, and the guy who had the idea in the first place. If necessary, you shoot for success even if it’s in spite of the decision that was made in lieu of a potentially better way to go.

I personally believe we’re heading for disaster if we introduce a near-trillion dolalr stimulus package. I believe that an effort to roll back the Bush tax cuts is ill-timed and could cause even worse economic hardship. I am concerned that we will withdraw too quickly from Iraq. I am concerned about over-regulation in a number of areas, and even a restriction of our rights via the ‘Fairness Doctrine.’. I’m concerned that the left will go bonkers and start trying to send former administration officials to jail for political purposes.

Some of these I feel more wary about than others. But in the end, what I hope for is that, whether or not I can see the wisdom of a certain action, that whatever is decided is the right thing for America. Maybe that means Obama fails miserably in terms of getting his way, and that is what’s best. Maybe it means that he gets his way and I am wrong about the implications for the country. Maybe it means that Obama is more willing to stand up to the extreme left than I give him credit for, and that he really does want to govern from the center. Maybe it means that the Republicans get a spine and get energized, and thwart bad policy. And however it happens, if it’s the best for America, that means we’ll be better off in four years. And it may be because of Obama or it may be despite Obama. But that’s what I hope for.

It’s what we all should hope for.

So, hoping and praying for Obama’s success, in my opinion, is not the same as hoping and praying for a successful institution of his policies. It is at once reasonable to be praying and working for a failure of some policies, while praying and working for the overall success of our President and our nation.

Posted in Barack Obama, Inauguration, Opinion, Politics, Prayer, President | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Iraqi Shoe-Thrower: Pardon me…

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on December 18, 2008

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In a show of swift reaction time, George Bush demonstrates the art of avoiding a moving shoe.

OK, so a reporter in Iraq tosses his shoes at our President and creates quite a hubbub.  It’s a strange world we live in.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, here’s the 10 second recap:  Bush is talking to the press in Iraq, an Iraqi reporter who apparently doesn’t like Bush and the “U.S. Occupation” throws a shoe at Mr. Bush.  Bush duscks.  Reporter is tackled and arrested.  Bush later says “I saw the man’s sole.”  You have to admit, that’s funny.

Well, protests break out across the Middle East hailing the man as a hero.  People want him released.  Now, before we get too carried away with this, let’s keep in mind that the press has a nice way of making protests seem like a big deal when they want to.  I don’t know one way or another exactly how widespread this “free the sho-guy” sentiment was, but I won’t necessarily simply accept that it was some huge, riotous, widespread activity.  TV cameras showing 200 people can make a protest look like a huge deal.  On the other hand, the annual March for Life walk/protest numbers over 100,000 and most people never see a thing about it.  So if you want to attribute the worthiness of a cause to actual protest numbers, the mainstream media isn’t exactly the most trusted source in equating coverage to size of protest.   Let’s face it… whetehr 200 people or 200,000 people, our media was not about to pass on an opportunity for airtime about protests related to a guy in Iraq who threw a shoe at our President.

Anyway, some unfortunate reports came out that the guy got a little roughed up during his time in the clink.  I’ve heard about a possible broken arm and cracked ribs, though I don’t know what has been verified and what hasn’t. 

Now, according to this little article the guy wants a pardon.

So, what are we to think about all this?  I’m torn.  On the one hand, it was a freakin’ shoe.  Apparently, there’s some custom in Iraq that,  fortunately,  has not caught on with is Americans where it’s not uncommon to throw a shoe at somebody you disagree with.  Or something like that.  On the other hand, it’s still an assault against a head of state.  And one might say we have our own customs in America: we punch someone we don’t like.  But guess what?  If we tried to punch a foreign national, we wouldn’t be hailed as a hero regardless of how unliked the particular character is.  And we’d most certainly be in jail, and most people would understand why.

Now, had this guy thrown a shoe at Saddam, you can be pretty sure that he’d be a dead man.  But, on the flip side, with the reports of abuse, there’s still a problem with the civility of their jailing process, it would appear.  I guess old habits die hard.

But at the most basic of levels, Iraq is still trying to integrate itself into the world as part of a civilized society.  It appears there is still a lot of mentality at large in the general population that accepts certain unlawful actions as long as the cause or the target is acceptable.   And they need to rise past that.  The government needs to treat him fairly, certainly.  And I’m not saying this should be a life imprisonment, by any stretch.  But for a country trying to find its way in the world, basically pardoning the guy and accepting it as a cultural reaction sends the wrong message.

I guess I don’t know how long I’d be in jail if I threw a shoe at Obama.  But I have to believe I wouldn’t be seeing my family real soon.

So, whether you’re Iraqi or American, whether you love Bush or hate Bush, and whether or not you think “it was just a shoe,” it still needs to be treated seriously enough to discourage similar reactions in the future.  Only when the people realize that there really are lines drawn regarding their behavior will they take that next step forward – preferably with their shoes on.

Posted in George W. Bush, Iraq, News, Opinion, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Why All the Bailouts Will Ruin Capitalism and Move us Into Socialism

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on December 11, 2008

bucket of waterWe’ve all heard the hand-wringing about the expensive bailouts and how it will lead to Nationalism and Socialism.  I happen to agree with this, but my take on it is a little different than most of the things I’ve read about it.  I think we actually could provide these bailout packages in a way in which this would not have to be the case.  However, politics being what it is, the way to do this will never happen.  And it will be our demise.  The only question is how long it will take.

Full disclosure:  I am employed by AIG.  It is not my intent here to defend AIG management for things that I think they did wrong, but at the same time I will be defending certain aspects of the behavior that have come to light since the bailout.   Also, I opposed the bailout, and still do, even though I realized then and now that it may have worked against my personal interests.   I’m much more of a “let the chips fall where they may and gummint stay out of the way” type of guy.

That all, said, the bailouts could be worse.  At least they are constructed as loans with the ability to be paid back.  In the case of AIG, many of these unrealized losses could simply unwind and a boatload of the cash paid back.  With the sale of other assets, hopefully the rest can be paid back.   I’m less familiar with the banking arrangements, but this could work out OK.

I say could because I don’t think they will.  First of all, so much precedent has been set that forever more every company of any size will come begging for a handout from Uncle Sam when trouble arises.   Second of all, who really believes everytthing will work out exactly as planned, and all these arrangement will be paid back in full?   If you do, you win a Mr. Optimism award.

I think everyone, even those who oppose the bailouts, recognizes the short-term stabilizing impact of the move.  I don’t deny that reality.  But a sinking ship will still sink until you plug the hole.  Someone can keep bailing out the water (appropriate analogy, eh?) with a bucket and keep it afloat.  But has the problem been solved?  Not really.   When that person is tapped out of energy the boat starts sinking faster.  Someone else less able may then help out and save things for a while, but eventually things get worse and worse untill there is a tipping point where everyone says “it’s time to get out.”   We are, right now, in the “strong guy with a lot of energy can keep us afloat” stage.   I believe we’ve simply delayed the inevitable.

But why do I think this?  I mean, couldn’t it be that the bailout funds will help the companies ride out a recession, get their ducks in a row, and come back stronger in the end?

Well, maybe it could have worked out that way.  But I doubt that it will.

Let me ask everyone a question.  We all agree that AIG mismanaged their risk by getting oversecuritized in derivative instruments.   And if you don’t know what that means, how about “they put too many eggs in one basket.”   But what was your reaction to the big spa party they threw their producers and brokers when that news hit?  How about that expensive golf outing for other producers?   And what do you think about producing more energy efficient cars for the Big Three?   And are you revolted by executives making millions while workers are being laid off?

I am guessing most people have the following intial reactions to those example: (1) Spa party = boondoggle and ridiculous; (2) golf outing = almost as ridiculous; (3) We should be more energy efficient; (4) Any executive making millions while laying off workers is an abomination.

Well, those reactions are all wrong. Or, perhaps, more fairly…  those reactions are wrong inasmuch as people think the government should have a say-so in the matter.

So, here’s the deal.  As soon as private industry accepts government funds with any type of strings attached, political influence, veto-power, etc. this introduces an inefficiency into the market that will hinder long-run performance of that market.   While it may be true that the funding provides short-term stability, and allows us to avoid (or more likely, delay) the pain of a sever depression, the long-run impact of this will be a net negative.

None of us like to go through difficult times.  It’s an understandable reaction.  But I’m truly a believer that if this thing were allowed to play out, as difficult as it would be, it would force everyone into a mode of creativity, efficiency-seeking, market demand that would provide innumerable long-run opportunities.  It would teach valuable lessons in management, as well as a more moral and sound approach to counting ones blessings, budgeting, evaluating needs versus wants, and so forth.    Would it suck for a while?  Absolutely.  And as a father of seven, I don’t remark about this possibility lightly.  But much fruit would come from it, eventually.

Many people point to the Great Depression and the government intervention of the time as a good thing.   Some was, some wasn’t.  It’s been analyzed that many of the governmental programs to help ease the pain of the Depression actually lengthened it.   For my money, give me short and severe, rather than a prolonged event. 

But when the government starts dictating to private industry what kind of incentives to give to employees or brokers, what kind of compensation to pay executives, and what kind of cars to build, this is a recipe for socialism.   It creates a situation where the company who needs to be successful in order to pay back the loan is now competitively hampered.  This, ironically, hurts its business in the long run.

Let’s take the AIG spa “boondoggle,” for example.  While there are plenty of reasons to question management decisions in many areas, this event was not one of them.  But this really struck a chord with people who apparently just don’t understand producer incentives.   This was planned well in advance, and it was a reward for top producers.  Those producers added huge value to the company in terms of premiums and margin.  Many of them likely pushed themselves to sell more precisely because of this incentive.  Was it lavish?   Sure it was.  Was it appropriate?  Absolutely.  It was a promise of compensation in the form of the retreat.  It was not an executive celebration of getting tax dollars.    Now, AIG is scared to death to do anything that gets itself in the news.  So there won’t be these kinds of incentives available anymore while they owe the government money.  What does that do?  It puts AIG in a less competitive position.   For crying out loud, the government should be encouraging the company to do whatever is necessary to be competitive and succeed so that the money can get paid back.  Putting barriers up in the competitive environment only reduces the chance of AIG to succeed.   I can tell you that the company feels obliged to cut certain parties and benefits that other companies don’t feel obliged to cut.  This could affect employee morale and performance.  There are reasons why companies do these things.  They are trying to not only attract customers, but quality employees.

As for executive pay, when the government gets involved and decides to limit compensation, many of us who make a mere pittance compared to these guys may feel a sense of justice.  This may be human nature, but it doesn’t make any sense.   Now, I’m not saying that every guy making millions is doing a good enough job to deserve those millions, but when the value isn’t there, the market will let the company know about it.  Stock price will go down if there is perceived issues with management, and eventually he is replaced.  OK, so it may seem unfair that a guy gets canned with a multi-million dollar severance deal, but how else are companies to compete for the best management professionals?   Right or wrong, letting the companies sort all this out in conjunction with the market response will be the best way to determine the proper market value.   And people like to get all huffed up when this millionaire lays people off.   OK, that’s an understandable emotional response, but sometimes layoffs are the best management decision to make to ensure survival of the company.  You need someone with good business sense and savvy to know which people to keep and which operations to keep running.  You need someone with the vision to know that 500 layoffs today may translate into 2000 new jobs in 3 years if all goes as planned.   This millionaire is being paid to make the tough call, and it may well be argued that his or her salary is best earned precisely when the tough decisions are needed.  This is especially true when the response is due to factors outside the company’s control, and a swift response is needed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a hatchet-man.  Just the opposite, in fact.  I believe that you should try your best to keep good people.  Shift them into different positions during “times of war” so that you can best prepare for peace.  Do unconventional things to give a market advantage where you can, and all that.  But there is a cold, harsh reality that can eventually become clear, and in those times we often incorrectly believe that executives are heartless millionaires who don’t care and don’t deserve to be paid.

And perhaps the largest hindrance to the competitive market I am seeing is in the discussion of the auto bailout.  Rather than Congress recognizing that there are competitive disadvantages in worker salaries and benefits that companies are obligated to pay, and rather than relaxing fuel efficiency standards so that auto manufacturers can make more cars that people actually want to buy, the government – in its collective wisdom – wants to tie into any bailout certain anti-competitive clauses aboout what kinds of cars the automakers can make.   Rather than let consumer demand dictate what cars to produce, the government wants to dictate production to force consumers to buy something they don’t want.  The problem with this is that it won’t work, because there are other companies that won’t get bailout money and will produce what customers actually want to drive.

The list could go on.   I haven’t even talked about banks being forced to extend a line of credit on a company about to go bankrupt because the government wants the bank to pay for the company’s contractual promises to union employees.   This, despite the fact that the bank would have no reasonable expectation of ever seeing the money paid back.  So, I guess the solution to the credit crisis is to extend a line of credit to a customer who has no business getting a line of credit extension.   Our government at work, ladies and gentlemen.

All this adds up to serious competitive problems for any business that gets government funds.  The cure for the disease is a low, agonizing, death rather than an instantaneous collapse.   The result is a growing list of businesses that cannot compete in the marketplace.  This will leave us with a choice, eventually: (1) let it fail, or (2) nationalize the company because it’s too big to fail.

As I see things happening right now, the government has decided that all these companies are “too big to fail.”  If the government continues to hold that view when the bailed out companies continue to struggle, the government may take ownership altogether.   This last round got very close to that, and in fact there is a claim on up to 80% of AIG’s stock after 2 years.   Presumably, this would be sold off to private investors.  We’ll see about that.  And when government ownership takes hold of even a few companies, watch out.   The government-run companies will be inefficient because there will be political agendas to them.   They will be anti-competitive.  Soon, more regulations will be passed to put these companies on “an even playing field” with the more innovative, market-oriented privately held companies.  And it won’t be long after all this that the whole system just stops pretending that it’s a capitalistic society and go into a full mode of nationalism and socialism.  We will then get the cradle-to-grave government health care program and numerous other public programs because they will now be government-sponsored health benefits through the companies.  It probably wouldn’t even be a legislative action at that point.

And the best part is, the American people will let it all happen, because nobody wants to go through the pain of a few years of economic turmoil.  We will look to the government to solve our problems rather than relying on the perseverance and creativity we always have relied on.

Now, as a final note, I actually believe that the bailout could have been a net positive.   Had the funds been viewed as an investment from a party interested in the company pursuing market-driven means; had there been no strings attached; had there been a relaxing of regulations to free up business for the pursuit of market-driven opportunities so that the government could recognize that this was the best way of ever seeing their money again…   had this approach truly and honestly been taken, then maybe the infusion of cash could have been good for the market, for taxpayers, and for the companies.   Of course, this was never going to happen.

And so here we are.  Watching the big strong guy toss water out of the boat with his bucket.

Posted in News, Opinion, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Al Franken and Heat Miser

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on December 3, 2008

Im Mr. Heat Miser...
I’m Mr. Heat Miser…
 
...Im Mr. Sun
…I’m Mr. Sun

Is it just me, or is there a resemblance?

 

That is all.

Posted in Al Franken, Humor | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »