Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Power Of Words

"If we are strong, our character will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help." - John F. Kennedy

"Speak softly and carry a big stick." - Theodore Roosevelt

These lessons appear to be lost on Barack Obama. He loves his words, and loves to hear himself say them. But he neither speaks softly nor carries the big stick, and once he successfully weakened his image by talking, more words are not going to get the message across.

How did he weaken his image? Three specific quotes come to mind:

  1. “In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe‘s leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.”
  2. “My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect.”
  3. “While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms.”
By going on this apology tour, what he has told the despots of the world is that as Americans our days of walking the talk are over. First, while the demographics of Europe show a dying out of Western values, we don't want to be dismissive! Heavens no! Let's don't call it as we see it! Secondly, we're not perfect, as his job to the Muslim world shows us. I didn't realize he HAD a job to do for the Muslim world. I thought he was the President of the United States! Had he said "Christian world" I am sure the left would have wailed about the separation of church and state. And who ever said we were perfect? Churchill said it best when he said that Democracy was the worst form of government - except for all the others that have been tried. Lastly, after taking an upbraiding from Hugo Chavez which he let go with no response, he submissively whines that we've tried to dictate our terms audience of dictators! Did he not get that irony?

Now when Iran is in the middle of an uprising, when the world is looking for someone to stand up and take the lead, he uses more words: "
we're still waiting to see how it plays itself out." Waiting? For what? More innocent people to die? After all his talk of fresh beginnings with the Muslim world, when a country is reaching out to the west for help, we suddenly decide to wait and see what happens. He also went a step farther in saying "I strongly condemn these unjust actions." Maybe that will work....

....fade into a dream sequence....

Ahmadinejad: "See, the American President is weak! He's going to 'wait and see!' It will be over before he sees anything!"

Ali Khamenei: "I don't know...he said he 'strongly condemns' our actions."

Ahmadinejad: "He said 'strongly?' Really? That's not good."

Ali Khamenei: "I know, right?. Let's give up our iron grip on our power, stop pursuing nuclear weapons and funding terrorism and embrace freedom for our people. Then let's go to the mall and buy some Levis and some KFC. Get your Member's Only jacket and let's go! I'm buying!"

...transition back to Obama sleeping fitfully and smiling.

Fade to black.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Denis Leary's Presponse to Obama's Tobacco Legislation

In a serious feat of prognostication, in 1996 Denis Leary wrote a response to Obama's smoking legislation. The law, in part, will require cigarette manufacturers to place large health warnings on the packages by 2012. Leary's 12 year old response reads as follows:

"You fucking dolt! Doesn't matter how big the warnings are. You could have cigarettes that were called the warnings. You could have cigarrettes that come in a black pack, with a skull and a cross bone on the front, called 'tumors,' and smokers would be lined up around the block going, "I can't wait to get my hands on these fucking things! I bet you get a tumor as soon as you light up! Numm Numm Numm Numm Numm"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Let's Drink To Your Health!

In 2006 I spent three days in the hospital with a kidney stone that ultimately required surgery to remove. It was an expensive three days, with the bill coming in around $24,000. Thankfully, I have health insurance so I spent less than $3000 out of pocket by the time all was said and done. That drain on my savings was painful - almost as painful as the stone was - but without the insurance it could have been much worse. Unfortunately, this was my second kidney stone, and I am told that once you have two, the chances are better than 90% that you'll keep getting them. So it goes without saying that I have a vested interest in keeping my health insurance. $3,000 drains my savings - $24,000 would bankrupt me.

But why was it $24,000? When I examined the itemized bill you see that the cost of treatments were way out of line with what you could expect. Two Advil were $8. Each click on the morphine button was $28 (I actually have no idea if that's high or not - but had I known that I probably would have suffered just a little longer between clicks...). The special circulation-boosting socks they put on my legs before surgery? $128. For socks.

Of course, part of that Advil, morphine and sock charge wasn't really paying for those items, it was paying for the nurses who looked after me, who came in during the night when my oxygen levels dropped too low, who made sure that I didn't, well, die. It takes some of the sting off, but I think next time I will still have my wife smuggle in the Advil for me since $8 buys 1000 pills of the stuff at Target.

Health care has been a big talking point for the Obama campaign, and the mandate he has given congress is to come forward with a plan for national health care by the end of July. The concept of national health care is noble, and people on the left will tell you that the right to health care is a fundamental human right. The government will drive costs down, they'll say. Look at what Britain has done with national health care, they'll say. And just to make you feel comfortable with it, Obama has repeatedly said something (of course I am paraphrasing here) along the lines of "look, no one is going to take your health care away. If you want to keep your employer provided plans, you can!"

But what lies beneath the promises? When the government set prices on flu vaccines in the 90's (remember Hillary-care) the results were horrible. The intention was to make the vaccine affordable for the elderly since they are one of the more at-risk groups for the flu. The reality was that companies could not manufacture the vaccine and make a profit at the government mandated prices, so several of them stopped making it and moved to more profitable pursuits. The remaining manufacturers could make their profits on the volume needed, but lacked the production capacity to keep up with demand, resulting in shortages of the vaccine. Fewer seniors got the vaccine than would have if the prices were just left alone. If this is the effect of government controls on a simple vaccine, what happens when the start monkeying around with more specialized procedures?

Karol Sikora, former head of cancer control at the World Health Organization uses Great Britain as an example. Government controls on the available cancer drugs have resulted in decreased availability of newer, more effective (and more costly) cancer treatments. Result? Men in Great Britain have a 20% to 33% greater chance of dying of cancer than their peers in Sweden. Women have an 18% to 22% greater chance of death. When it comes to YOUR health, is that change you can believe in? Are you chomping at the bit for chance to have a greater chance of dying from cancer so your uninsured countrymen can get their treatment at your expense?

And trust me, it will be at your expense. Not only will taxes have to go up (remember, Obama said he will be cutting income taxes for everyone, but medicare is funded through the payroll tax, and he made no promises there!) to pay for a national health care system, but according to Jim Frogue of the Center for Health Transformation, if you keep your company's plan so you have access to the best health care, you can expect to pay more for the services. You see, the government plan will not pay the market rates for services, so health care providers will face a shortfall in capital and will be underfunded. This can be offset in a couple of ways. One would be to reduce the costs - like employ fewer nurses, use older equipment, opt for lower cost treatments even if they're less effective. Does that sound like improved health care to you? The other and more likely way to cover the shortfall is to raise the rates on the private insurance plans. My $128 socks could easily jump to $150 or more. In effect, then, the cost will hit us twice; once in the payroll tax and again via inflation when we have services delivered.

Lastly, what of the uninsured? According to the National Coalition on Health Care, 18% (or nearly 1 in 5) Americans doesn't have health insurance. The reasons listed are primarily that people do not have either access to health coverage through their employer, or they can't afford the premiums. I have two examples to discuss, then I'll quit beating this horse.

First, I have a friend who was laid off from a title company about a year ago when the housing bubble burst. He lives simply and doesn't have much in the way of expenses, and had substantial savings. He has chosen to live without a job since then, and consequently without health coverage. The key word here is "chosen." He is without coverage BY CHOICE, and I am certain he is not the only person in the nation who has made this choice. Nowhere in the NCHC statistics do I see this number represented. I love this guy like a brother, but why should I pay for his health care through my taxes when he's made this choice?

The second example is another friend of mine. This one is a teacher. He had a SWEET deal on health care through the school district. I forget the numbers, but his coverage was free, his spouse was $1 per month and their kids were covered for a somewhat larger fee. The total for the family of 4 was less than $100 per month. Then the district went bankrupt and his coverage ballooned to over $900 per month (on top of a 7% cut in pay! So much for the NEA protecting teachers - but that's for another day). What did he do? He took a part time job at UPS, working enough hours to cover the cost of the lower premiums UPS offered for their health coverage.

And this is the missing piece of the health care debate. There are absolutely people who are in desperate situations who cannot afford or don't qualify for coverage, but there are also a number of people who abdicate their personal responsibility and wait for the government "nanny state" to come in and take care of them rather than rolling up their sleeves and working harder for what they want. How do we help the former without coddling the latter?

One thing is certain - once we open the lid and let out this entitlement, it is going to be next to impossible to put it back in the box. If you want to make your voice known, go to and send a note to your elected officials. If they value re-election, they will listen to the will of the people.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

These kids today...they just don't get it!

Many things have been puzzling me since the ascendancy of Obama to the national stage. The gleeful abandonment of even the appearance of journalistic integrity, for one. Another is the double standard handling of Sarah Palin and her family. But tonight I'm ruminating on the Obama Youth Movement.

It's been pretty well documented that young people turned out for Obama in huge numbers. While walking out of Folsom Field after this year's Bolder Boulder, I passed a group of, I assume, CU students wearing shirts with the Obama logo on them, but some community organizing slogan underneath. I expect that at CU, but I've run into other young people who think Obama is just the best. Why? Well, I have a theory.

First, the gleefully ethically (and increasingly financially) bankrupt media has helped perpetuate the myth that the GOP is the party of rich, old, white men while the DNC is the hip, young party - or par-TAY - that has as it's representatives Jon Stewart, Hayden Panatierre (did I spell that right? Who cares...) and a host of other Hollywood people. As they know from experience (check here for more), if you get the media to repeat something often enough, people will believe it. If you need proof, bogus statistics about abortions in the 1960's found their way into the infamous freedom of choice act. Anyway, The GOP's doddering, decrepit old white guys are no match for the DNCs counterparts - Harry Reid, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Joe, wait a minute...

Next, the young people, particularly those still in school and old enough to vote are awash in the left wing indoctrination camps that are America's colleges. This means a few things. First, they're getting primarily one side of the story from their teachers. My friends in academia may bristle at these accusations, but there's not a lot done in schools to teach conservative values, and it's a fact that the NEA is one of the largest donors to the Democratic ticket. Since they're practically brainwashed anyway, the Hollywood cool factor makes it even harder for youngsters to break free from the mind control. If everyone around you in the dorms and on campus is for Obama, you're not likely to deviate from that or you'll be an outcast. Nothing is more frightening for a young person. Secondly, by their very nature, young people, especially students, don't have a lot at risk. Few have much in the way of savings, and certainly not many make enough money to worry about taxes. With Obama promising free college education in trade for community organizing and tax rebates to everyone regardless of how little they pay in taxes, young people stand to benefit from Obama's social programs (assuming he actually delivers on these promises) more than most other demographic groups. Why wouldn't they vote for him?

Lastly, the Democrats, or at least the liberal subset, represent the par-tay of if it feels good, do it. Remember, these are the flower children from the summer of love, Woodstock and a million 'love-ins.' They laugh at the concept of abstinence, promote abortion as a method of birth control, have laid the groundwork for young people today to do what they want, when they want and bear none of the negative consequences. Incurable sexually transmitted diseases like herpes (your friend for life) are the only permanent reminders of misspent youth. Young people are all about having the good time, putting off responsibility and getting instant gratification. The DNC plays to that with vigor. As a young person, why wouldn't you vote for the left?

As all of us old farts know, youth is wasted on the young. Once these kids who turned out in record numbers to vote for Obama get out of school and get a job, they'll start to see what they've done. Once they're out of school, mom and dad's health care coverage won't be there anymore, they'll have to pay for coverage through their job. The only thing is, if Obama passes his health plan, fewer companies are going to offer health care, so they'll be stuck with whatever government rationed plan is available. You can't get in to see a doctor, you won't get any meds if you do, but hey - it's free! (Except for those taxes that come out of your paycheck, of course.) Speaking of taxes, as they move up the ladder in their companies and their salaries increase, they'll understand just how unfair the progressive tax system is. Those rebate checks won't seem so hip any more once they realize that more they make, the less they keep. And when they find out that their daughters went and got an abortion without their consent and the law says there's nothing they can do about it, they may have a different perspective on the whole no consequences thing.

The ultimate payback for them will be when, well into their 30's, closer to 50 than to 20, a fresh faced Hollywood starlet, just turned 18 and voting in her first election, putting into practice all the knowledge she's gleaned during her long life, condescends to tell them that if they don't vote for the democrat, they're out of touch. Maybe they'll shake their head and mutter under their breath "These kids today....they just don't get it!"

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Puntucated Equilibrium And Our President

I recently read an article by Justice Little (contributor to the Taipan Daily investment newsletter) that talked about "change at the periphery." According to Little, "change at the periphery is related to a powerful concept from the theory of evolution known as “punctuated equilibrium.” A key thrust of the punctuated equilibrium idea is that, despite what many assume, the center does not actually evolve or change. Instead, the center remains relatively stable, while interesting things happen out on the fringes (the periphery). These fringe-area happenings are mostly inconsequential...But then, given enough time, something happens. One of those fringe happenings out on the edge catches on. Something new and powerful takes place at the periphery. This new model or idea or experiment or whatever it is – the precise technical term doesn’t matter – begins to catch on. The source of peripheral change then begins to compound in force and impact, reaching a stage where it grows and expands rapidly. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the dominance of the old center is challenged. The old center does not actually change or evolve. Instead it is challenged and eventually dominated – perhaps dominated out of existence – by a new center that quietly grew in the shadows, out on the fringes, while few were paying attention."

Whew. Punctuated equilibrium...peripheral change....what does any of this have to do with politics? I think it's very relevant to the Obama administration's method of operation. In his case, I would call it relentless change at the periphery. People, Republicans mostly - notably Sarah Palin in her speech at the convention last year - mocked Obama's experience as a community organizer. In retrospect I think that was a mistake. I think people have underestimated the determination and power of the community he has brought with him, and underestimated the organization of it. Thanks to Obama and an all too willing and compliant Congress, the entire periphery of our national values are being attacked, and there seems to be nothing the GOP can do to stop it.

Part of the organized community is the media. Some things get a tremendous amount of play in the press, which takes our collective eye off of the real issues that are happening, much like a magician uses misdirection to fool your eye into thinking the coins really disappeared or the woman was really cut in half. We're well familiar with the nomination of Sotomayor to the supreme court, but how much have we heard from the media about the testing of a nuclear device under the soil of North Korea? Were it not for Fox News, the protest of over a half million people on April 15th would have gone unnoticed (the New York Times ran a story on the tea parties on page 14. On page 1? A story about climate change). Then wonks like Keith Olbermann bring up the protests only to mock the protesters, which creates another distraction.

Obama the uniter has proven to be Obama the divider, and the opposition is digging in it's heels against everything he does and says. This plays right into the hands of the Obama team, which I have to admit is one of the craftiest political teams I've ever seen - for now. More on that in a minute.

To paraphrase Robert Menzies, no government does the wrong thing all the time. By opposing everything Obama does, the GOP becomes the party of NO, and that doesn't play well with the public, because the public WANTS to believe in their leaders. We look up to them, we want them to do good things so our lives can be better tomorrow than they were today. Instead of opposing everything, the GOP needs to make big stands on the major issues. The first - the stimulus package - was resoundingly opposed by all but a few Republicans. As this misuse of our money continues to bear no fruit, that opposition will appear wise in retrospect. The next big one is the prospect of cap and trade. This is a horrible idea that will smother business and raise living expenses of everyone who uses electricity. The other big issue looming is heath care. A national health care plan is not a good idea for several reasons, not the least of which is that people with chronic diseases will die more often under a nationalized plan. On these things, the GOP should be loud and strong in their opposition because they affect everyone. Every one of us has skin in the game if these travesties become the law of the land. As people see the danger posed by the big plans, the little ones become more suspect. It will be peripheral change in reverse.

Back to the political smarts of Obama's team. They're riding high right now, they have a media that simply adores them, a pliable congress that condescends to the GOP and the public when they're not ignoring them completely, and the wind of a freshly won election at their back. Dick Morris in a recent column likened this to a reflexive impulse against buyers remorse. Admitting now that Obama is bad for America is, as Morris puts it, like a new bride realizing that she's married the wrong man. To make that admission early on is to admit making a mistake that one must do something about...and doesn't one really need to give a new marriage a change to work before calling for the coroner?

But, with a principled stand against the peripheral changes, soon the polls won't be as high and the accolades as frequent. Unlike a marriage, in politics we're invited to change partners every couple of years. In 2010 the congress will look much different than it does today. In 2012, God willing, neither will the person in the Oval Office.