Thursday, October 31, 2013

Power Up

FAA Says Fliers Can Use Devices During All Phases of Flight:

Federal aviation regulators on Thursday unveiled steps to lift restrictions on fliers' electronic devices, concluding that tablets, e-readers and other gadgets generally can be used during all phases of flight by the end of this year.

The Federal Aviation Administration's decision, embracing recent recommendations by a high-level agency advisory group, effectively ends years of safety debates over the use of the devices. The FAA said it is providing airlines with guidelines to carry out the new policy.

The agency said it expects many carriers to be able to allow their fliers to use devices gate to gate by yearend. Specific implementation plans and timetables will vary among airlines, the FAA said.

The new rules require passengers to hold electronic items or put them in the seatback pocket during takeoffs and landings.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections will be allowed below 10,000 feet, but the agency said cell phones must be switched to airplane mode for the entirety of flights, as inflight cellular signals remain banned by the Federal Communication Commission.

This is welcome news and the implementation schedule is actually much sooner than I expected. Being able to use a tablet or e-reader throughout the flight is admittedly a minor luxury, but after years of air travel becoming increasingly painful and less comfortable, any step in the other direction deserves to be celebrated. And combined with other improvements such as the Global Entry and the TSA Pre Check program which make immigration and security checks more bearable, it’s actually quite reasonable to conclude that things are indeed getting better.

By the way, I’m glad that cell phones still are restricted to airplane mode during flights. While some travelers might view being able to chat during flights as an improvement, for me that would be an added distraction that we simply don’t need.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Subsidizing the Shore

While it’s probably too early to start conclusively counting candidates out or in for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, it’s good to keep your ears and eyes open to see what potential nominees are up to. Today’s WSJ had a front page article on the how real estate prices have risen in many areas hit by Hurricane Sandy. The piece contained this nugget that caught my eye:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says 261,884 New Jersey households applied for FEMA grants; 61,375 were approved, with an average payment of $6,000, and others are being processed. FEMA doesn't give aid to second-home owners, a FEMA spokesman says, because "if you have a second home, you have something to go back to."

New Jersey says it has given about 15,000 people $10,000 grants to resettle after Sandy and another 140 people rebuilding-and-repair grants totaling $12 million, with another 200 grant signings scheduled and more being processed.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, says Mr. Christie believes the federal government should give rebuilding aid to second-home owners. Without help, many of them are likely to be priced out, unable to pay for rebuilding or insurance, he says.

"There is a concern from immediately after the storm that all our shore neighborhoods won't be able to return to themselves as far as character and being populated by all income levels," he says. "The Jersey Shore was never just a place for large second homes owned by the well-to-do."

Chris Christie believes that a legitimate function of the federal government is to shoulder some of the cost so that people can rebuild their vacation homes in New Jersey? So money collected from folks in Maine, Montana, and Minnesota is redistributed to others in New Jersey so they can continue to have their summer getaway homes?

Again, by itself this is not enough to disqualify Governor Christie from consideration. But it should certainly raise concerns and eyebrows among conservatives.

Explaining the Inexplicable

The latest and greatest course offering from Prager University is called "Is Evil Rational?" and features the dean himself:

Nowadays, it's fashionable to use the terms "rational" and "irrational" (or "sick") to describe good and evil. Mass murderers are routinely described as "irrational madmen," while extraordinary acts of goodness are deemed "rational."

But is this accurate? Are "reason" and "goodness" the same thing? Or is reason, like any tool, something that can be used both for good and for bad?

In this week's video, "Is Evil Rational?" Dennis Prager answers these questions. You'll learn what role reason plays in a moral life, and whether those who do evil are inherently irrational, or are merely acting in their rational self-interest.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Mother Jones features a fascinating look at how Minnesota progressives got their mojo back and turned a state that seemed to be trending purple back to a solid blue. Wellstone's Revenge: How Minnesota Democrats Took Their State Back:

America Votes' fourth-floor office, which it shares with the Alliance for a Better Minnesota and WIN Minnesota, is located in St. Paul near the Minneapolis border, in a LEED-certified building covered with hideous green tiles. Inside are photos of native sons Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey along with posters for fundraisers—captioned, ironically, "Minnesota is Not For Sale," under an umbrella with dollar bills raining down.

I swung by one morning to meet with the new generation of operatives running the Minnesota machine: America Votes' Beadle; Carrie Lucking, ABM's executive director; and Adam Duininck, the executive director of WIN Minnesota. Each attended Camp Wellstone or Wellstone-inspired training programs; Lucking had a Wellstone sign on the wall of her office. "We're the three-headed monster," joked Lucking, a feisty former high school teacher who'd downed five shots of espresso earlier that morning.

I asked them about the 2014 elections, which stand to be their toughest challenge yet. It's all about defense now for Minnesota's progressive machine as it gears up to protect a 12-seat majority in the state House, as well as Gov. Dayton and Sen. Al Franken, who ousted Norm Coleman in 2009 after a seven-month recount.

Up to this point, the ingredients in Minnesota's left-leaning takeover—data, money, grassroots organizing, and deep coordination—have given Democrats the edge. And in races decided by a few thousand votes or a recount, that edge can make all the difference. But they also recognize that the Republicans are not asleep at the wheel. "We've been very fortunate so far in that hustle in Minnesota has been effective at counteracting late, big money," Lucking says. "The question is: How long can the hustle outlast that?"

Ken Martin, the DFL chairman, seems less worried. Some Republicans, he notes, have been trying to pull together the GOP's socially conservative factions and the bottom-line-focused business community, and once they do, "they could be immensely effective." But they've had little luck so far. "That's the challenge for these guys in '14 [that] they have not figured out yet." (One outcome of his May luncheon, Hubbard says, was commissioning a plan to coordinate big-business support in 2014.) As for the DFL, Martin's sights are set just where Karl Rove had his in 2004. "Most important to me," he says, "is how do you set yourself up to build a permanent majority?"

A couple of quick thoughts:

- Considering the source, the article is surprisingly fair in not sugarcoating the fact that money-lots of it-have played a key role in the DFL resurgence and the impact of negative attacks launched early and often against Republican candidates by Alliance for a Better Minnesota.

- Republicans who dismiss this success by saying “yeah, we could do the same thing if we had that kind of money” are missing the point. Money is part of the equation, but it’s more than that. It was the coming together and coordination between progressive groups combined with the money that made the effort so effective. Too often on the MN GOP side the money and the activist base are not connected or coordinated.

- The article spawned some good discussion among local conservatives on Twitter today. One key point that came up a few times is the advantage that progressives have by having paid political activists who share the same passions and positions as their base. Republicans tend to look down on paying people for their political work relying instead on volunteers. And when they do pay, it’s for people more for interested in politics as a profession than a passion. How’s that been working out for us?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Local Angle

Usually voters and even hardcore political wonks like our own Atomizer don't pay enough attention to local elections. But these elections, like their state and national counterparts, do have consequences. Those with bigger and better future aspirations start their political careers in local races and often what your local government does or doesn't do in terms of taxes, regulations, and spending has a more immediate impact on your life than what takes place at the state or national level.

Since these local races don't receive the same level of interest or attention, it's always helpful to receive guidance from a trusted source on whom to cast a ballot for and why. In just a couple of weeks, Golden Valley-my city of residence-will be holding municipal elections with several city council seats on the line. Over at Kolblog, owner/operator Jeff Kolb has posted his
2013 Golden Valley City Council Voters Guide.

While I join with my fellow Golden Valleyians in thanking Jeff for his recommendations, I must take them with a grain of salt. For Jeff is not one of us as he resides in the nearby community of Crystal. And someone from Crystal telling someone from Golden Valley who they should vote for is like someone from St. Paul advising someone from Minneapolis in the same way. Or perhaps more aptly, it's like someone from Hopkins telling someone from Minnetonka who best should lead their fair city.

So here is a voter guide for the upcoming Golden Valley city council elections from an actual Golden Valleyian. Interestingly enough, my recommendations are pretty much exactly the same as those offered by our compadre from Crystal.

The easiest choice is for the open two year seat which features a contest between appointed incumbent Steve Schmidgall and John Giese. I know John Giese. He’s a good man and will make a good city councilman. He’s a veteran who owns his own small business and will bring much needed perspective to city hall. I’ve been impressed with the number of lawn signs supporting him that I’ve seen around town and we received a nicely done mailer from his campaign yesterday.

I don’t know his opponent Steve Schmidgall. I do however know that Schmidgall is best known for effort to get the Pledge of Allegiance removed from city council meetings:

Again, it’s a very easy choice here.

Things are a bit more complicated for the two open four year term seats. There are nine candidates in the race vying for those two seats. Jeff did some homework to help eliminate three of them from consideration:

Larry Fonnest and Andy Snope have been endorsed by the DFL. Bob Hernz serves in the Dayton administration.

Meanwhile, two of the remaining six candidates have been endorsed by their local GOP BPOUs:

Jacquelyn Smith

Paul Scofield

While I am not familiar with Jacquelyn Smith, I do know Paul Scofield and, like John Giese, he will be an excellent addition to the city council. And I’m also inclined to follow the local Republican endorsements especially when there’s a crowded field. As Jeff notes, there are other candidates in the race who also have appeal especially Simon Gottlieb. However, Golden Valley is a fairly dark blue city and if those of us of the minority political persuasion don’t unite around a couple of candidates we’ll likely get no one across the finish line. So Smith and Scofield it is.

Vote early, vote often, vote local.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Good For What Ales Ya

From A Pint A Day comes the top five health benefits of beer in moderation:

As recently reported in TIME magazine, beer is a rich source of silicon, which increases bone density, and may help fight osteoporosis, according to a February 2010 study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. TIME also cited a July 2012 study published by Oregon State University on postmenopausal women who derived some bone health benefits from drinking beer.

Over-drinking obviously impairs and damages the brain, but studies show that moderate consumption has the benefit of staving off Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related afflictions of decline in adults.

According to several studies, alcohol can increase HDL—or the so-called "good" cholesterol evels. This can be a factor in lessening the hardening of arteries and thickening of blood, both of which contribute to heart attacks. In fact, The European Journal of Epidemiology reported in 2011 that moderate consumption of beer decreases drinkers' risk of heart disease by 31%,just like wine. Moderate alcohol intake has also been shown to lower the chance of stroke.

Research has shown that dark beer is higher in soluble fiber, and may counteract clotting that can lead to heart problems. It’s also been shown to be full of antioxidants, counteracting natural cellular damage and possibly some forms of cancer. A study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture showed dark beer has higher iron content compared to lighter beers. Why this matters: iron helps distribute oxygen throughout the body.

As we reported earlier, the delicate green flowers that impart bitterness and aroma to beer are naturally high in humulone, which may help fend off certain seasonal ailments in adults, not to mention cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses. They’re also high in phytochemicals that slow the release of calcium from bones (read: good for the kidneys) and in proteins that give you healthy hair.

I can't think of a better prescription for keeping the doctor away.

Giving It Away

With the drama of the shutdown and the boondoggle of the Obamacare website occupying the news, few Americans are paying attention to events in the Middle East. And the scant attention that is paid to the region is focused on events in Syria, Egypt, and even the possibility of renewed peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Iraq is almost entirely an afterthought these days. As Bret Stephens reports in today’s WSJ, while America turns away, Iraq Tips Toward the Abyss:

Fifty-four Iraqis were killed and another 70 injured Sunday when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a Baghdad cafe. But you probably didn't catch the news.

The tree falls in the forest, the country collapses in the desert, and the question remains the same: Does either of them make a sound if nobody can be bothered to listen? Iraq, where 4,488 Americans recently and bravely gave their lives, and over which Washington obsessed for two decades, has effectively ceased to exist for the purposes of U.S. politics. The show has been canceled; there will be no reruns. Barack Obama's Iraq achievement is that you are now free to think of suicide bombings in Baghdad as you might a mud slide in Pakistan or a cholera outbreak in Haiti: As a bad, but remote, fact.

Except there have been a lot of suicide bombings lately in Iraq. Consider just the past two months:

Aug. 22: Insurgent attacks, including a suicide bomber at a wedding, kill 24 people throughout the country. Aug. 23: A suicide bomber kills 36 people in a park in northern Baghdad.

Sept. 21: Two suicide bombers kill 72 mourners at a Shiite funeral in Baghdad. Sept. 22: A suicide bomber kills 16 and wounds 35 at another Baghdad funeral. Sept. 23: At yet another funeral, two more suicide bombers murder at least 14.

Oct. 5: A suicide bomber kills 66 Shiite pilgrims and injures 80 in Baghdad. Oct. 6: A wave of attacks kill at least 33 people throughout the country, including 12 children at an elementary school. Oct. 7: A wave of bombings hit multiple neighborhoods in Baghdad and kill at least 45. Oct. 17: Another 61 people die in nine car bomb explosions.

Altogether some 7,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed so far this year, approaching levels last seen in 2008. Most of the killing has been done by al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), a group that in 2009 had been so thoroughly beaten by the combination of the U.S. surge and the Sunni Awakening that it barely existed. Now it's back, killing more people than any other al Qaeda franchise, attempting to tip Iraq toward civil war and joining ranks with its jihadist allies in Syria.

At what point does all this start to, you know, worry us?

The great tragedy of the American involvement in Iraq is that we won the hard part. We paid a very high price in the number of troops killed and wounded and whether the effort was worth the cost in blood and treasure is open to debate. But following the surge in 2007, the results on the ground were hard to dispute. The forces of Al Qaeda had been defeated and other insurgents had either been coopted or had decided that they could achieve through means through other ends. There was a real possibility of Iraq becoming an increasingly stable and secure country in the volatile region. While American support and assistance would still be required it would be on a much less significant scale.

Among the many foreign policy failures of the Obama Administration, the inability to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government on a continued American presence is almost forgotten. Yet that failure and the resulting precipitous withdrawal of American forces from Iraq may be the most damaging foreign policy defeat suffered during President Obama’s two terms (so far). The worst part is that that this defeat was almost entirely self-inflicted and was easily avoidable. To suffer so much to win the war and then to do so little to secure the peace is indeed a tragedy. One that few Americans even recognize.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

HWX, with Steven Hayward

It's another weekend special edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX). John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvene to discuss the critical issues of our times. They're also joined by the Fifth Beattle, Steven Hayward. Topics addressed include:

 * Debt ceiling deal, what does it mean?

 * Deconstructing the empty threat of default

 * Where does the GOP go from here?

 * The looming menace of comprehensive immigration reform

 * Loon of the Week (the looming menace of freemasonry)

 * This Week in Gate Keeping (greatly exaggerated reports of demise)

This episode is brought to you by our good friend John Swon and Focus Financial.

 Focus Financial is a leading independent financial advisory firm focused on providing comprehensive wealth management and financial planning services to clients. John Swon and his team have over 25 years of investment experience, are dedicated to giving you the kind of one-on-one advice and analysis you deserve. And as independent advisers, they are focused on your priorities, not selling products.

 Call now and request a free financial analysis at 952-896-3888.

We're also sponsored by the fine folks at Encounter Books. This week's pick is Terms of Engagement: How Our Courts Should Enforce the Constitution’s Promise of Limited Government. Go to and use the coupon code RICOCHET for 15% off the list price.

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet. You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes. Or just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript. Hope you enjoy.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Twilight of the Idols

Michele Bachmann hasn’t had an easy year.  Her Presidential dreams were soundly and immediately trounced with a last place finish in her home state of Iowa.  She squeaked by with a 1% victory in the most secure of Republican safe seats in Minnesota.  She’s under investigation for campaign finance irregularities.  The constant harassment and calumny by her Democrat and media critics continued apace.  She announced she would not run again for office in 2014.  It’s stress like this that creates those graying and haggard pictures of Presidents after they’ve served a term or two.

How’s all this affecting my former Representative, the 57-year-old Ms. Bachmann?  Here she is from last week at the Value Voters Summit:

That which does not kill her, makes her hotter.

She has tapped into a power that turns stark adversity and suffering into aesthetic refinement.  We can only pray she uses this power for good and not evil. Given her continued association with the traditional American values of fiscal responsibility and limited government - so far, so good.

Not sure we’ll see the likes of Michele Bachmann again gracing the halls of Congress.  In honor of her 8 years of public service, a brief retrospective on the ascent of Bachmann.

Bachmann 2006:

Bachmann 2007:

Bachmann 2008:

Bachmann 2009:

Bachmann 2010:

Bachmann 2011:

Bachmann 2012:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

HWX, with CJ Box

It’s another Saturday afternoon special edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience.  John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvene to review the critical issues of our times.  Topics addressed:

*  The glory and labors of autumn

*  The federal government partial shutdown and debt ceiling increase, related but not congruent issues (with an appearance by Cartoon Obama)

*  The Obamacare roll out, unmitigated disaster or the dream of the Founders finally realized?
*  Loon of the Week, Sen. Bernie Sanders identifying the puppet masters behind the GOP plans

*  This Week in Gatekeeping, the Associated Press is featured, asking the question one TM as good as another?

They are also joined by best selling novelist CJ Box.  He talks about his latest book, The Highway, previews his next book in the Joe Pickett series, and recounts his run in with the enforcers of the National Park Service.

This episode was brought to you by our friends at Encounter Books.  Their catalog includes the new book Terms of Engagement:  How Our Courts Should Enforce the Constitution's Promise of Limited Government. Listeners of Ricochet can get this book at a special price. Enter the code "RICOCHET" at checkout for an additional 15% off.  Our thanks to Encounter Books for their support.
Finally, in the words of the cartoon version of our great President:

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet. You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes. Or just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

It's Just The Sun

Matt Walsh offers up a well-reasoned rant in defense of stay-at-home moms. “You’re a stay-at-home mom? What do you DO all day?”:

Yes, she is just a mother. Which is sort of like looking at the sky and saying, “hey, it’s just the sun.”

Of course not all women can be at home full time. It’s one thing to acknowledge that; it’s quite another to paint it as the ideal. To call it the ideal, is to claim that children IDEALLY would spend LESS time around their mothers. This is madness. Pure madness. It isn’t ideal, and it isn’t neutral. The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period.

Finally, it’s probably true that stay at home moms have some down time. People who work outside the home have down time, too. In fact, there are many, many jobs that consist primarily of down time, with little spurts of menial activity strewn throughout. In any case, I’m not looking to get into a fight about who is “busier.” We seem to value our time so little, that we find our worth based on how little of it we have. In other words, we’ve idolized “being busy,” and confused it with being “important.” You can be busy but unimportant, just as you can be important but not busy. I don’t know who is busiest, and I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. I think it’s safe to say that none of us are as busy as we think we are; and however busy we actually are, it’s more than we need to be.

We get a lot of things wrong in our culture. But, when all is said and done, and our civilization crumbles into ashes, we are going to most regret the way we treated mothers and children.

The second paragraph that I’ve highlighted from Walsh’s piece perfectly encapsulated what’s wrong with our culture’s view of motherhood. To refuse to acknowledge the obvious and pretend that we have discovered some hidden truth that’s eluded human civilization for thousands of years is a combination of ignorance and arrogance that does not portend well for our future.

Too Cute

While there are reasons for concern, I’ve always been somewhat skeptical about the dangers posed by the “rise” of China. They’re already on the wrong side of the demographic curve and while China has demonstrated great propensity for making things, the track record on creating things is far less impressive.

Further proof that potential threat from the dragon may be more smoke than fire comes from a front page piece in today’s WSJ.

In China, Couples Wear Matching Outfits:

Wu Zhuan and Zong Yinghong don't wear wedding rings, nor do they hold hands or kiss in public. Instead, it is their matching turquoise shirts decorated with yellow and black hearts that signal that they are man and wife.

The newlyweds plan weekend outings—wearing matching gray hoodies, striped sweatshirts or a set of purple pig shirts—to window shop and gin up glances in places like Wangfujing, Beijing's version of Times Square.

"We want everyone to envy us," said Mr. Wu, a 32-year-old forestry and conservation consultant, sitting next to his identically dressed spouse.

Yeah. We’re all insanely jealous of that thing you guys have going on there.

You can worry about the looming China threat all you want. I’m not going to get too worked up about the dangers from a country where couples are coordinating their clothes.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Small Ball

Paul Ryan, whose voice has not been heard nearly enough of late, takes to the pages of the WSJ to explain how a compromise on the debt ceiling is possible and what it might entail. Here's How We Can End This Stalemate:

Just as a good investment gets higher returns through compound interest, structural reforms produce greater savings over time. Most important, they make the programs more secure. They protect them for current seniors and preserve them for the next generation. That's what the president and Congress should talk about.

Here are just a few ideas to get the conversation started. We could ask the better off to pay higher premiums for Medicare. We could reform Medigap plans to encourage efficiency and reduce costs. And we could ask federal employees to contribute more to their own retirement.

The president has embraced these ideas in budget proposals he has submitted to Congress. And in earlier talks with congressional Republicans, he has discussed combining Medicare's Part A and Part B, so the program will be less confusing for seniors. These ideas have the support of nonpartisan groups like the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and they would strengthen these critical programs. And all of them would help pay down the debt.

We should also enact pro-growth reforms that put people back to work—like opening up America's vast energy reserves to development. There is even some agreement on taxes across the aisle.

Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) have been working for more than a year now on a bipartisan plan to reform the tax code. They agree on the fundamental principles: Broaden the base, lower the rates and simplify the code. The president himself has argued for just such an approach to corporate taxes. So we should discuss how Congress can take up the Camp–Baucus plan when it's ready.

Reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code will spur economic growth—another goal that both parties share. The CBO says stable or declining levels of federal debt would help the economy. In addition, "federal interest payments would be smaller, policy makers would have greater leeway . . . to respond to any economic downturns . . . and the risk of a sudden fiscal crisis would be much smaller."

This isn't a grand bargain. For that, we need a complete rethinking of government's approach to helping the most vulnerable, and a complete rethinking of government's approach to health care. But right now, we need to find common ground. We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills today—and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow. So let's negotiate an agreement to make modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code.

Ryan’s proposals aren’t exactly all that imaginative or exciting. They’re not going to fire up the conservative base or fundamentally transform the political or fiscal situations we currently face. But they are real and they legitimate areas where compromise between the two parties should be possible. The chances of crafting a “grand bargain” in the current environment are slim to none and odds are that if such a bargain were to be made now it wouldn’t address the real issues anyway. The reforms that Ryan is proposing are small, but they are a start. And they are a way out of the current impasse and the only realistic way other than complete surrender that I’ve seen a Republican propose so far. Something, even something small, is always better than nothing.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

HWX, with John Ondrasik

It's a special weekend edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience. John Hinderker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvene to review the vital issues of our time.  Topics addressed include:
*  Syria (not really)
*  The Federal government shutdown (including an appearance by 2006 Cartoon Obama)
*  The roll out of Obamacare
*  Loons of the Week (a Reid, Pelosi, Obama triple header)
*  This Week in Gate Keeping (English tart edition)

We were also joined by the great John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting. Bookmarks is his terrific new album, which they discuss and also get into John's thoughts on songwriting, his hope for greater unity among Americans, and his experience in not fitting in to the dominant liberal culture of show business.

This episode was brought to you by the fine folks at Encounter Books. In particular, the new book Terms of Engagement:  How Our Courts Should Enforce the Constitution's Promise of Limited Government. Listeners of Ricochet can get this book at a special price. Enter the code "RICOCHET" at checkout for an additional 15% off. Our thanks to Encounter Books for their support.
There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes or Feedburner.  Or just use the player embedded in the top right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Obama Speaks

As we learned yesterday, tragically, Senator Obama's stirring words from 2006 against raising the debt ceiling ....
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure.
If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies.
Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grand children. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.
.... were never actually spoken.  Despite their appearance in the Congressional record, Obama's words, which he now admits were entirely phony, were not part of an actual speech from the Senate floor, but rather just entered into the record after the fact.

The post on Ricochet yielded the following amusing characterizations of this absurd state of affairs.

James Lileks
James Lileks
So the one time he didn't vote "present," he wasn't. Present. 

Apr '11
Clare Day
Maybe Eastwood's chair could play him in the 'actual reinactment'.
Mark Reilly
Sep '12
Mark Reilly
He not only wrote about "composite" characters. He is one.

Tragic really that only rabid, regular readers of the Congressional Record (demented and sad, but social) ever had the chance to enjoy his inspiring and absolutely true words.  Obama's eloquent, and now entirely obsolete, defense of fiscal responsibility never proclaimed through the divine instrument of the vox humana.  It's unfair, atrocious, and outrageous.  And about to be remedied.

Through the magic of Voki for Web, we now bring you what might have been from seven years ago, when an idealistic young Senator gave voice to a country's deepest desires.  

Mister we could use a man like Cartoon Obama again.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Next Best Thing to Being There

Follow up on my post from last week about the Debt Concern Theater performance of then Sen. Barack Obama on March 16, 2006.   As you may recall, while indignantly voting against increasing the debt ceiling back then (when it was a measly $8.6 trillion), he said such things as:
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. 
If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies. 
Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grand children. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.
As Obama now admits, he didn’t mean a single word of it.

It’s a top ten most egregious broken political promise in American history.  Hoping to hammer home the point to a yet oblivious America by grabbing the video/audio of this auspicious moment, I turned to that national treasure, the CSPAN video library.  Indeed, they have the full 13 hours of the Senate floor session from that date available for your viewing pleasure.  But, mysteriously, there is no record of a Barack Obama appearance that day in the CSPAN transcript.

Understanding that this was probably the modern equivalent of the Nixon Tapes’ missing 18 minutes, and sensing that announcement of my Pulitzer Prize was now a mere formality, I got into Woodward and Bernstein mode and made inquiries with CSPAN.

Before I had time to even come to a decision on who should play me in the movie version of my investigative story (it was between James Franco and Chiwetel Ejifor), I got the word from the wise and political war weary CSPAN video archivist:
Mr. Ward 
I get this question at least once every time raising the debt ceiling has come up during the Obama administration.  These speeches were not actually made on the Senate floor but rather entered into the congressional record.  Thank you for your interest in C-SPAN.
OK, it’s going to be more of a video short than a feature film.  Maybe F. Murray Abraham is available for my role?
Turns out, Barack Obama’s BS artistry was never actually spoken, but only added to the record as a calculated afterthought.  Kind of fitting, I suppose.

It’s true that others do the same thing all the time.  Senators Coburn and Grassley also make appearance in the Congressional record for that day, but not in the CSPAN transcript.  Yet Obama is, as usual, special in this regard.  His entirely theoretical floor flourish includes this intro that the others do not:
Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem.
It’s almost like he was actually there!  Unfortunately, I get the sense that Republicans attempting to negotiate with him now are feeling the same way.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Beginning of the Beginning

Holman Jenkins speculates that the current crisis over the government shutdown is just the beginning of a long overdue debate on the real long term fiscal issues we need to address. Behind the Noise, Entitlement Reform:

It would be nice if today's fight were genuinely about the future, about long-term spending. Oh wait, that's exactly what the ObamaCare fight is about. By trying to stop a brand new entitlement before it gets started, in a country already palpably and indisputably committed to more entitlement spending than it wants to pay for, those radical House Republicans aren't trying to chop current spending amid a sluggish recovery (however much one begins to doubt that pump-priming from Washington is the solution the economy needs).

Those terrible House Republicans aren't trying to force colleagues to commit painful votes to take away established goodies from established voting blocs—votes that neither Republicans nor Democrats have the slightest yearning to cast.

Those disgraceful House Republicans have made the fight exactly about the long term. Where's the grudging approval from our Keynesian friends who constantly say immediate spending must be protected and reform saved for the long term?

Sadly, although the Internet has spawned 100,000 pundits, most of what you find there today is two different echo-chamber versions of blame-laying for Tuesday's theatrical government shutdown. A favorite Democratic talking point starts from the claim that the 2012 election settled everything; the Obama vision of an expanded entitlement state won. But, rightly, nothing is ever settled in a democracy, and Mr. Obama certainly settled nothing because he never said how he wanted to pay for the spending he treated as untouchable.

In fact, his public attitude that all spending was sacrosanct was somewhat belied by his off-the-record (he thought) claim to the Des Moines Register editorial board in the race's closing hours that his first order of business would be a grand bargain with Republicans on taxes and spending.

This was more Obama smoke, since we're nowhere near a consensus on what such a bargain should consist of and we may need 10 more episodes of tea party "madness" to get there.

Not only will there be more such showdowns. What passes for progress each time will be tiny—until it's not. The 2011 sequester, which caused critics to engage in choruses of disapproval and the S&P to downgrade U.S. debt, set us on a path to today's modestly smaller current deficits. This week's peculiar fight may be resolved by a near-meaningless repeal of ObamaCare's self-defeating medical device tax—a teensy if desirable adjustment, having no bearing on the deficit tsunami that begins when the baby boomers start demanding their benefits.

We are at the beginning of the beginning. Yet the birth pangs of entitlement reform that will one day inspire the world (as we did with tax reform in the '80s) may be what we're witnessing.

We can only hope that’s true. The “pain” we’re supposedly dealing with today will be nothing compared to what we’ll be forced to go through at some point in the not too distant future. The sooner, the better.