I’m with stupid

I am a fan of stand-up comedy (as opposed to what, the sitting down kind? Yuk, Yuk). Much comedy gets grouped under the big generic umbrella of “observational comedy,” which can be considered a euphemism for “saying clever things about people’s stupidity.” A lot of good comedy comes from having the dumb things we do wittily articulated. Bits about romantic relationships are very fertile ground for this type of humor. A comedian goes on, “hey, guys, doesn’t it drive you nuts when your wife does thus-and-so?” (usually about shopping or taking too long to get ready). And the men all get a good laugh at the expense of their better halves. Then the comic plays to the other side, “hey, ladies, how about when your man does this ridiculous thing” (usually involves watching sports or leaving the toilet seat up) and the ladies get to laugh and roll their eyes at the husbands. We all get to laugh together at how dumb we can be.


At some point during a routine, the comic takes his criticism up a notch about people’s stupidity. And it is usually at this junction that the audience stops identifying with the humor as a target. We are willing to laugh at ourselves over minor dumbness, but when the comic starts talking about high-level clod-headedness, we tell ourselves “oh no, he’s not talking about me.” I often wonder, when listening to a comedian who is ripping into a particularly juicy bit of human stupidity or meanness, if anyone in the audience is thinking, “wow, I do that all the time. I’m such a jackass.” Or does everyone just feel comfortable in the belief that they are all right, and it’s everyone else who is a jerk? But in front of an audience of hundreds of people, it’s more than likely that a good portion of the paying customers regularly practices the idiocy that the comic is riffing on. Basically he’s making fun of you, jerk.


The reason I mention all of this, is that something President Obama said in relation to this seemingly endless debt ceiling negotiation caught my attention. Obama said, in a nutshell, that the American people don’t understand all the ins and outs of the debate because it’s too complex and they are focused on their everyday worries. Many on the Right pounced on Obama for resorting to his usual professorial dismissiveness about the intelligence of others. “He’s calling people stupid” is basically what many on the Right said of the President.


As someone who frequently gripes about how uninformed the average citizen is about how government works and the problems our elected officials cause us, I can’t entirely disagree with President Obama. However, I think that Obama is missing the point. While it’s true that many, if not most, Americans are ignorant of all of the ins and outs of the debt ceiling issue, it doesn’t entirely matter. Most people are not focused on the debt ceiling by itself, but rather as the latest front in the war over how big and expensive do we want our federal government to become. I’m no expert on federal fiscal and budgetary policy, but I do understand that by either not extending the debt ceiling or making drastic spending cuts or raising taxes the country faces a serious problem. No reasonable person wants to see the federal government freeze up because they maxed out the credit card, so to speak.


But the fight isn’t really about adjusting the debt ceiling so that we can keep our national credit line open. The fight is over the same thing Left and Right have been battling tooth and nail over for the past several years. It’s the tax-and-spend Left versus the cut-and-balance Right. Obama and company want to make sure there is increased revenue (read, higher taxes) put into any deal, while the GOP wants to reel in the spending and make some real cuts (although without the gutsy and necessary cuts to big entitlements that we really need). The fight that is playing out on Capitol Hill is one in which the debt ceiling is an important, but not central figure.


Obama is right that most Americans are not fully aware of the facts of the debt ceiling. But it doesn’t really matter. I believe that most people are aware that our government is too big, too expensive, and massively inefficient. We can spend less and do better, and most people realize it. Most people grasp that point and expect our elected officials to do something about it. Obama is trying to be like the comic who wants his audience to believe that they are all sharp cookies; it’s all those other idiots that he’s talking about. The President is setting up another straw man, the generic other who doesn’t get it, doesn’t understand what smart people like him understand. And of course, the only way to prove that you are not one of those ignorant clods is to sign on to what Obama and his brilliant cohorts are doing. Obama misses the point. You can be ignorant without being stupid, and most people are very aware that government spending is way out of control and we want something done about it. You don’t have to bury yourself in think tank white papers to know that there’s a problem and it needs to be solved. And if Obama thinks that is stupid, then I’m with stupid.

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Why aren’t the checks in the mail, Mr. President?

I was wondering when someone in the conservative media would connect the dots on President Obama’s recent scare-mongering statement about “not being able to guarantee” that Social Security checks won’t go out next month if a debt ceiling deal isn’t hashed out in Congress. Finally, today, the New York Post’s Michael Walsh hit the easy target that Obama put out. Walsh wrote:


Obama inadvertently let the Social Security cat out of its imaginary

“lockbox” when he threatened to stop the checks. Because there is

            no trust fund (italics original). Social Security is paid out of current

revenues or with borrowed money. It’s a pyramid scheme that is

running out of suckers.


Walsh’s line of reasoning was the first thing that went through my head when I heard President Obama’s statement about checks not being in the mail. So much for the President being such a brilliant extemporaneous speaker, he nearly pulled the fig leaf off of the Social Security funding charade. As I’ve written before, people need to stop believing the fantasy that Social Security is some sort of governmental 401(k)-style matching program. Forget those silly statements that the Social Security Administration sends you every year, making it look like you’ve made some sort of investment in your future. The Social Security taxes you pay go to fund the checks that current recipients get (among other things). Your only hope, as Walsh puts it, is that there will still be enough taxpayers/suckers around when you retire to keep your Social Security checks from bouncing. Or at least by then the government will start doing honest accounting (Heaven forbid) and put Social Security down as being the line item, federal expenditure, wealth transfer program that it is.


I don’t hold out too much hope that Obama’s slip of the tongue will cause the scales to drop from anyone’s eyes. Many people are too willing to entertain fantasy at the expense of the truth, especially when there’s money in it for them.

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Rick Perry in 2012? Let’s hope so

Most sports fans have either heard or uttered a sentiment along the lines of “I’m not rooting for Team X, I’m rooting against Team Y.” Putting this idea more concretely, I paraphrase a T-shirt I saw that read, “I root for two teams, the Eagles and whoever is playing the Cowboys.”


The GOP presidential field has been shaping up along the lines that have people in this “rooting against the other guy” mentality. Many voters in this country are unhappy with President Obama and are determined to vote against him come November 2012. But for a lot of people, myself included, having to get behind a Republican candidate just because he has the best shot of unseating Obama leaves much to be desired. So far, that’s what we have been stuck with when it comes to the announced GOP candidates, who run the gamut from: 2008 retreads (Mitt Romney), Clinton-era retreads (Newt Gingrich), fiery long shots who make good copy (Michelle Bachman & Ron Paul), long-on-style- but-short-on-substance (Herman Cain), and long-on-substance-but-short-on-style (Tim Pawlenty). Then there’s Rick Santorum who’s almost perfectly conservative and almost entirely unelectable. Former Utah governor and ambassador the China under Obama Jon Huntsman just announced his candidacy to a collective yawn and shrug from the Right.


Is there anyone that conservatives can get excited about? Yes. Rick Perry. The Texas governor has been inching closer to a run for the White House, and the drumbeat on the Right is getting stronger for him to do it. I don’t know a whole lot about Perry, but I like what I’ve heard and I believe that he could be the GOP candidate that gets voters excited on his own merits, as opposed to just his ability to beat Obama in the general election.


Perry is strong and candid without seemingly overly strident or combative (although some of his past public musings about Texas separating from the Union because of excessive federal meddling were a bit much). Perry is able to tell it like it is without being as harsh as Chris Christie, and has a gubernatorial record that he can run on, as opposed to one he would have to run away from, like Mitt Romney. The economy is going to be issue number one in the 2012 election, and Texas under Perry has a very enviable record of job growth over the past few years.


I’m not saying Perry is perfect and he may not run. But I don’t see another likely GOP candidate on the horizon that has the potential to generate some true excitement for the election. The Republicans could do a lot worse than Perry and, as of right now, it’s unlikely that they can do better. Perry for Prez needs to happen.

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Either way, Rep. Anthony Weiner should only blame himself

I’ve been neglecting my blog for a while, but I’m sure the world has found a way to go on. And I’d hate to say that Congressman Anthony Weiner’s naughty photo scandal got me back into the blogging swing of things, but you take inspiration where you can get it. I’ll say first off that if Congressman Weiner is the victim of a hack, then that is unfortunate and it’s a low thing for a person to do to anyone. And if it turns out that Congressman Weiner actually sent the photo in question, well, he doesn’t need to be hounded into resigning because he did something mildly sleazy and inappropriate. If the recipient of Rep. Weiner’s photo cares to pursue some sort of action, then that is her right, and not really any of our concern.


So why am I writing about Anthony Weiner’s Twitter difficulties? It doesn’t matter much to me whether Weiner was hacked or if he really got caught with his pants, quite literally, down. What is illustrative is how Congressman Weiner is handling the whole situation. I think Weiner is an unpleasant, thin-skinned, and mean-spirited liberal demagogue and I’m not alone in my view. Watching Weiner debate anyone who isn’t on his ideological side is like watching a teenager get a lecture on personal responsibility; the eye-rolling, the defensive body language, the general “oh, puh-leeze” air of dismissal. Of course, plenty of people lose their cool when debating political issues, but Weiner belongs in that special class of liberal politicians who views every policy difference like it’s a personal attack and respond in kind. In fact, Weiner is probably only surpassed by Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi when it comes to shrill and vicious partisan rhetoric.


Weiner’s social media difficulties, oddly, could have proven an opportunity for him to show a more human and approachable side. The man who was hinting strongly at a run for mayor of New York City could have turned this unpleasant event in his favor. Weiner could have gotten some sympathy points from voters by playing on the general fear that the digital world can be abused and turned against its users. Weiner could have had people saying “poor guy, what a raw deal he’s getting.” Instead, Weiner chose to, well, act like he always does and give a textbook example of how not to handle this type of situation. Instead of coming off as sympathetic, Weiner decided to lash out, to dissemble, and to generally act like an arrogant jerk (including calling a reporter “a jackass” during a press conference).


Weiner’s guilt or innocence in this whole mess is almost beside the point by now. The scandal gave Congressman Weiner an opportunity to put a better face out there for the general public to see. Instead, Weiner just confirmed what just about anyone who isn’t one of his progressive fan boys already believes, that he’s the jackass. I suppose I’m old-fashioned in my belief that someone like Weiner should be defeated on the merits, so to speak, and that is to say at the ballot box. Many of Weiner’s liberal Democrat colleagues suffered a just comeuppance for their progressive overreach in the 2010 election. Did Weiner dodge the bullet in the 2010 election cycle only to be brought down by this Twitter scandal? It’s too soon to tell if this mess will result in Weiner’s resignation, and if it does it will be too bad in the sense that Weiner wasn’t forced out of office “fair and square.” However, if Weiner does have to resign because he really did commit this indiscretion I know I’m not going to shed any tears. There would be a certain justice if a juvenile and unserious person like Weiner were to have his political career ended because of a silly and juvenile mistake. And he would only have himself to blame.

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Maybe it is all a big conspiracy (Obamacare version)

Let’s have some fun with paranoid theorizing, shall we? I usually don’t subscribe to this sort of thing, but sometimes, with how ridiculous many liberal political solutions are, you get the feeling that the only explanation is that it’s a grand and sinister plan to turn America into a statist basket cast.

A case in point; I read an online WSJ opinion piece about Obama’s plan to deal with runaway Medicare spending. His solution is to have a 15-person board of political appointees (not approved by Congress, incidentally) that will decide what’s the best way to reign in Medicare spending. But there’s a catch. As the WSJ points out, the Independent Payment Advisory Board “…is not allowed by law to restrict treatments, ask seniors to pay more, or raise taxes or the retirement age, it can mean only one thing: arbitrarily paying less for the services seniors receive, via flat pricing.” Wow, what a great plan. That’s like saying that you have to lose weight, but you can’t: exercise, hire a personal trainer or a nutritionist, or spend more money on healthier food. Your only option is to keep eating the same garbage you’re eating, but just less of it. Let’s see how long it takes to get into bikini shape with that diet plan.

The WSJ article also points out that “Post Obmacare, Medicare’s administered fee schedule is set to eventually dip below Medicaid (italics original) payments in many states.” Medicaid is the government health program for the poor. So the plan here is either to get seniors to pay more of their own health care costs (sounds positively Republican but is against the law under Obamacare anyway) or Obamacre’s authors just don’t give a damn about old people.

The WSJ echoes the line that many others have taken against Obamacare; that it will lead to health care rationing for Medicare (and probably) Medicaid recipients. Medicare reimbursement rates will get so low that many more doctors and hospitals simply won’t accept Medicare or Medicaid patients, something that has been a trend for years already, but will be exacerbated by Obamacare.

So if committed leftist politicians like President Obama are so enamored of government programs like Medicare, than we do they seem so intent are trying to drive them into the ground? Well, here’s were we get to the aforementioned conspiracy theory. I don’t think that the average leftist is trying to herd the elderly into a rationed care “death panels” in order to save money. What I think is a possibility is that progressives want to make programs like Medicare and Medicaid so bad that enough of a clamor goes up for some sort of overhaul from the programs respective recipients. The poor and the elderly will complain about how few medical providers who are willing to accept Medicare and/or Medicaid patients. They will complain about the rationed care. And how would the average left leaning, statist progressive react? Why, make it a civil rights issue, of course! Demonize the greedy, heartless medical professionals who turn away the poor and the old in their time of need. Demagogue against healthy young people who qualify for good private insurance plans. Talk about the need to level the playing field, and use the word “fairness” over and over. Then pass legislation that will either: a.) force doctors and hospitals to accept any patient, regardless of whether they have private or public insurance and/or b.) create a single-payer system that makes health insurance a right that will cover everyone, no questions asked (basically what liberal Democrats tried to do as Obamacare was being drawn up in Congress).

Now that I’ve laid out this scary vision of the future that explains Obama & Company’s asinine health care policy, let me offer a caveat. The problem with these grand conspiracy theories is that they suppose a level of foresight that borders on clairvoyance and the ability of our leaders to manipulate hugely complicated systems perfectly. Everything from the JFK assassination conspiracy theories to the 9/11 “inside job” flights of fancy assumes that a few people can pull thousands of strings perfectly and in complete anonymity. Reality is much more prosaic and messy. More than likely, the architects of Obamacare are just playing it by ear, and any negative results of their policies will surprise them more than anyone. I don’t know if this reality is any more comforting than the grand conspiracy line of thought. Political opportunists bumbling along and not thinking of or accepting the distinct possibility that their grand plans will result in great problems is almost as scary as omniscient, shadowy string-pullers. Shortsighted idiocy can be just as damaging as Machiavellian scheming. Either way, more responsible people will have to do the thankless heavy lifting in order to clean up the mess left over by the progressives.

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Will the GOP base demand too much experience from 2012 presidential candidates?

As the old saw goes, “those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it.” If only this maxim proved true with regard to the potential field of GOP presidential contenders. President Obama is on the ropes, politically speaking, with a sluggish economy at home and a problem-laden world that keeps pulling America, and its military, further into messy foreign affairs. Many people pegged Obama as a reincarnation of Jimmy Carter from the jump, and that comparison is looking increasingly apt. Both men sold themselves as the sunny antidote to the unloved Republican administrations that respectively preceded them (Nixon and Bush 2). However, both Carter and Obama soon became overwhelmed by the demands of the office, seeming to shrink more with each passing day.


Ronald Reagan effectively exploited Carter’s weakness, as the Gipper routed Carter in the 1980 election. So far, it does not appear that the GOP is in a position to replay that scenario in 2012. The field of likely Republican contenders is filled with more people who seem to be backing away from the challenge than rushing towards it. Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty appear to be the only Republicans who are definitely-maybe running. All of the other high-profile contenders are either playing very coy (Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee) or outright ruling out a presidential run (Paul Ryan, Chris Christie).


Pundits can theorize all day about why the GOP field is so slow to take shape, and why the field won’t look that promising when it does pull together. The theories are many and varied, and I’d like to throw my own (slightly) educated guess into the mix. I wonder if Barack Obama’s inexperience and amateurish mistakes are scaring some Republicans away. Obama took plenty of flack for his lack of political experience when he ran in 2008, having been only been elected to the Senate in 2006. People said that he wasn’t up to the job, that he hadn’t been around high-level national and international politics long enough to know his stuff. Obama seems to by proving his critics right more and more, just witness his confused and unsure response to Libya.


It’s possible that the bright stars of the GOP who are a bit green may be backing away from the 2012 run because they don’t want to become the Republican version of Obama: a hot commodity who burst onto the national stage but flamed out fast when he got in over his head. I suspect this line of thought may play into why Chris Christie is demurring from running for the White House in 2012, and I think his decision is correct. Sarah Palin may be holding off on formerly announcing her bid for these reasons as well. Palin has already been roundly attacked for her light political resume when she was running for VP (funny how the Left can talk out of both sides of their mouths simultaneously, as they push a freshmen Senator into the White House, but deride a first-term governor as being wholly unworthy of the Vice Presidency).


I could be way off base here, politicians are an ambitious lot, and are usually quick to take advantage of an opportunity to move up. But no one wants to be made a fool of, and jumping into the deep end before you’re ready will do just that. I just hope that the pendulum hasn’t swung too far the other way, causing a possible GOP winner to sit on the sidelines because he fears that he hasn’t made his bones yet. Unseating Obama is too important to let either excessive pride or excessive modesty keep the best candidates from running.


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The Left’s frenzy over Bachman for President

Michelle Bachman, conservative and Tea Party darling member of the U.S. House, has announced that she is throwing her hat into the ring for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. The reaction from the Right seems muted, from what I can gather. I suspect many conservatives feel the same about a candidate Bachman as they do about a candidate Palin. Sure, they both are rock-solid conservatives with dynamic personalities, but they likely lack the ability to pull in independents and moderates. The reaction from the Left is more interesting, and more telling.


Progressives have viewed Bachman’s candidacy with a mixture of revulsion and condescension (big shock, there). Robert Reich, professor at Berkeley and ardent cheerleader of anything left wing (redundancy alert!) wrote that the current GOP field of presidential front-runners resembles the alien café cast of characters from Star Wars. I caught a segment on MSNBC where a leftist pundit was smugly cheering on a candidate Bachman, because she’s obviously such an extremist imbecile that she would terrify the country into re-electing President Obama in a massive landslide (I’m paraphrasing, but not really exaggerating).


What is it about so many on the Left that they can not engage with a politician on his own terms? Isn’t it enough that a committed progressive can state that he disagrees with the policies of a Michelle Bachman without comparing her to a space alien or a raving lunatic? Contrast the liberal treatment of leading conservatives with how right-leaning media outlets handle their criticism of Obama. Sure, there are conservatives who take unnecessarily petty jabs at the President. But it is enough for most conservatives to make note of the folly of Obama’s hard-left agenda and their intense disagreement with it. Not so with many on the Left. When it comes to conservatives, they’re not just wrong, but their dogs are ugly, too.


It’s not that progressives can not make intelligent arguments against conservatives, it just seems that many of them decide to go for juvenile and hysterical attacks instead. Progressives like to hold themselves up as the exemplars of sensible and informed thinking. So then why is it so difficult for so many of them to act that way when they go after conservatives like Bachman? It’s hard to make a compelling case that you think someone is an unserious mental midget when your line of attack doesn’t rise above adolescent name-calling. Could it be that many on the Left believe more in branding than in intellectual argument? If you and your media pals just keep calling someone an idiot and a maniac long enough, people may start to believe you. It worked with Sarah Palin.


What this tactic demonstrates is how so many progressives feel their best weapon of persuasion is to insult the intelligence of the American people. If these conservatives are so obviously deranged and stupid, then progressives should have no trouble making a cogently devastating argument that illustrates that point. Instead, progressives choose to smear, denigrate, and basically act like children. At the risk of giving them too much credit, this tactic of the Left may not just be knee-jerk immaturity. An intelligent argument, even if it is used to strongly criticize a position, gives a certain legitimacy to a subject. If the position that most progressives take towards Michelle Bachman is one of smug dismissal, what they are doing is refusing to treat Bachman as a person worthy of serious discussion. If all people hear from the Left is that Bachman is an extremist clown, well, what else do they have to go on? Fortunately, conservative media is becoming more dominant, and people do have easy access to conservative views. But, the Left sees no need to change, as they apparently learned nothing from the conservative wave of victory in 2010. Progressives will just keep looking down their noses at everyone else, making their condescending arguments. Then they wonder why they are not capturing the hearts and minds of most Americans. They say, “they didn’t listen to us, they aren’t smart enough to understand.” Idiots listen to idiotic arguments, so maybe the Left needs to try and broaden its base by acting like adults.


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