Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Final Five: Weekend Edition

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
Special Saturday Edition

Due to a very busy Friday, I did not get a Final Five put together last night, so here is a special Saturday edition.

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Handcuffed Man Steals Police Car, Radios About Car's Cigarette Lighter
A man under arrest in Kouts, Indiana, was able to escape from the police cruiser, stole the cruiser, and then called police on the radio to ask where the cigarette lighter and the key to the handcuffs were at.

Topic One: ObamaCare
A HuffPo Op-Ed by Mark Hall contends that ruling ObamaCare unconstitutional would create a public health catastrophe. The main point of his argument is that by ruling this law unconstitutional, the federal government would be forbidden to be involved in health issues at all, thus rendering it unable to respond to emergencies related to health. This is a ridiculous argument. Declaring this law unconstitutional would return America back to where it was before this law was passed. The government would still have the powers (within limits, of course) to manage a response to disease outbreaks.

Another (much better) article Mona Charen argues that there's more bad policy in ObamaCare than the mandate. "PPAC does contain a cost-controlling measure -- and this where the legislation careens not just into unconstitutionality but lawlessness. All decisions about controlling Medicare costs will be decided by the Independent Payment Advisory Board. ... Also, unlike other boards, commissions and federal agencies, the IPABs decisions are virtually unreviewable. IPAB doesn't have to adhere to the notice and comment rules of federal agencies, which permit citizens to respond to proposed rule-makings. IPAB dictates automatically become law unless Congress itself intervenes. Ah, but they've thought of that and made it virtually impossible. The law prescribes that Congress has a limited period of time in which it can modify IPAB rulings, and then it must do so by a three-fifths majority! Even ratifying treaties and amending the Constitution requires only two-thirds majorities. As for the courts, forget it. The judiciary is forbidden to review IPAB decisions."

Many pundits have discussed the idea of Congress making itself irrelevant. Most of the analysis of this comes not from actions of Congress, but inaction. However, this is a clear case of Congress voting to remove itself from the process of budgeting for healthcare. Now, unless Congress can muster 60 Senators and 261 Representatives within the time for Congress to act on an IPAB ruling, the IPAB--not Congress--has the final say on spending.

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"The article says yoga-related injuries are on the rise. People sit in chairs all day at work, then they twist into pretzels and expect it to be easy."
-Craig Ferguson

Topic Two: Iran
Iran is looking for revenge following the murder of its nuclear scientist last Thursday. An Iranian paper called for retaliation against Israel. Meanwhile, Iran is claiming that the CIA was behind the assassination. Typical reaction from Iran to blame the two Satans: Israel and the United States. Iranians also chanted anti-US slogans at the funeral.

In the situation in the ocean, Iranian ships taunted the USS New Orleans and a coast guard ship in the Persian Gulf. This comes as Iran agreed to allow inspections of its nuclear program. As in other cases of such inspections, this will not likely accomplish much. Inspectors will be shown the "peaceful" side of their research, and Iran will gain more time to accomplish its goal of building a weapon.

Debt Watch:
On Thursday, the government added an additional $25,158,216.77 to the debt, bringing the total debt to:

Topic Three: Recess Appointments
The Justice Department released a memo Thursday defending Obama's recess appointments to the CFPB and NLRB. Consider it another perversion of the law and the Constitution by the Holder JD. Meanwhile, a lawmaker has introduced a bill that would stop the agencies from conducting work until the appointments are confirmed by the Senate. Unfortunately, this is unconstitutional, and it would likely be declared as such by the courts. I believe the recess appointments--while constitutional--go against the spirit of the constitution as written. However, it is not right to engage in an unconstitutional action in order to combat these actions of the President.

Daniel Horowitz at RedState connects two issues in a very good way, asking if a Congress in recess can authorize the debt limit increase. Obama is trying to have it both ways: Congress is in recess for the purpose of making these appointments, but it is in session for the purpose of requesting the debt limit increase.

Tweets of the Day:
Doug Ross (@directorblue): Just so I get this straight: defecating on police car is patriotic; peeing on terrorist murderers un-American #tcot

Topic Four: Consolidating Power
The President has submitted a request to Congress that would allow him to consolidate government agencies to shrink the size of the government. This power would allow him to propose ways to consolidate or eliminate agencies. The proposals would then be submitted to Congress for a vote without any amendments. Similar powers were given to Ronald Reagan.

However, this is most likely an election year ploy that will work to Obama's advantage if approved. He may submit some proposals that will be overwhelmingly approved, but the lack of ability to propose amendments will most likely cause problems for the Republicans. All the President will have to do is create a single proposal that combines a good idea with an outrageous one. (As a recent example: extending the payroll tax cut combined with an extra tax on millionaires.) Without the ability to amend the proposals, Republicans will be forced to vote down the good proposals in order to avoid supporting the ridiculous. Obama already has the power to make proposals to Congress; all this does is hurt the ability of Congress to debate the proposals and make improvements.

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"Human Felicity is produced not so much by great Pieces of good Fortune that seldom happen, as by little Advantages that occur every Day."
-Benjamin Franklin

Topic Five: SOPA
In a victory for opponents of SOPA, Rep. Lamar Smith removed the DNS blocking provision from the law so that further study could be conducted on its effects. While it is good that this provision has been removed, it is still important that the bill as a whole be defeated. The law still forces search engines like Google to remove "offending" sites from their search results and allows the government to block payments to these sites. However, determining what sites are "offending" is subjective and could be abused to force removal of sites that disagree with the current administration.

Forbes's Ed Black wrote a great article on the online piracy issue. "If these laws were in place, the climate for legitimate start-ups would be chilled. Former startups like Facebook and Youtube could have easily been sued out of existence through the private rights of action granted in the fine print. Existing companies will have to develop monitoring and censorship regimes to avoid liability. A recent Harvard Business school study, commissioned by my tech trade association reconfirmed that venture capitalist investment in cloud computing flourishes when there is legal certainty about the scope of liability faced by tech companies for what users do on their sites."

Tomorrow in History
January 15, 1870 - A Thomas Nast political cartoon portrays the Democratic Party with a donkey for the first time.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
Buffett challenges Republicans to help pay down debt

Perry's part-time Congress proposal introduced in Congress

Virginia's AG worried that rats at Occupy DC might be relocated to Virginia

Sen. Rand Paul returns $500K of unused office expense money to Treasury

Che Guevara, car salesman

Al Sharpton guest says holding GOP debate on MLK day is 'racially insensitive.'

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Where the Right Is Wrong on Bain

I have been very critical of Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital and its problems for the election, and I stand by the statements I have already made. However, there is one area in which the right has been wrong: Romney's job creation record while at Bain.

It is certainly possible to debate the number of jobs Romney created while at Bain. Romney's campaign puts the number at 100,000 jobs, and I will not attempt to contest that number here. However, Romney also had to lay off workers as part of the restructuring of many companies. Many people are critical of Romney's record on layoffs. While this is understandable, this criticism ignores the truth about layoffs and Romney's work.

Comparing the number of employees working for a company before the takeover to the number of layoffs Bain did while controlling the company does not make for an accurate comparison. In order to truly understand Bain's effect, we must compare the results after the Bain takeover to the results had Bain (or another venture capitalist) not taken over the company. The majority of these companies were struggling and near bankruptcy. Bain took these companies over and provided them with a cash infusion in order to keep them afloat while restructuring them in order to make them profitable. Without the cash infusion provided by Bain, most of these companies would have shut down and left all their employees without a job. Bain did have to lay off some employees, but it did that so that other jobs could be saved.

It is true that some of the companies purchased by Bain ended up closing anyway. That is a risk that venture capitalists take. However, many other companies purchased by Bain ended up not only being able to survive, but also prospering and hiring additional employees. Romney's record at Bain should not be measured simply by layoffs vs. jobs created; it should also include an analysis of the number of jobs that Bain was able to save through their takeovers.

Unfortunately, layoffs do not make for good political rhetoric, and they sound especially bad in our current economic environment. (Hence my criticism of Romney's record.) Romney made money by taking over fledgling firms, "restructuring" them (often using layoffs to cut costs), and then selling them at a profit. It sounds ridiculous to put someone who made money though these means up against a President with a pathetic record on job creation, especially when there are candidates with much better records, but that is exactly what the Republicans appear to be ready to do.

I have no problem with Romney's record at Bain Capital. While it is certainly possible that his work led to the creation of 100,000 jobs, his work also helped save many more jobs. My problem with Romney's record is that it is poorly suited for a campaign that will focus on jobs and the economy. Romney's record is perfectly suited for many jobs, but 2012 Republican Presidential nominee is not one of them.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Final Five: January 12, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
January 12, 2012

Tonight's Crazy Story:
After Thieves Rob Man of Rare Coin Collection, Guess What They Did Next
Three thieves broke into a shed and stole a man's rare coin collection. They then took it to a Coinstar machine and exchanged the collection worth thousands of dollars for a whopping $450.

Topic One: The Election
SC Poll: Romney 23, Gingrich 21, Santorum 14, with eight days to go. Most people say that if Romney sweeps the first three, he's the nominee. However, the opening primaries are not winner-take-all this year. Instead of walking away with a delegate lead 37 for winning both states, Romney's win in New Hampshire probably nets him a lead of 4 delegates over Ron Paul and 7 over Santorum. Herman Cain announced today that he will not announce a (virtually useless) endorsement. He promised it would be "unconventional." I guess he delivered on his promise.

Looking ahead to the winner's fight against Obama, an American Thinker article contends that timidity will not defeat Obama. "Sooner or later, the GOP is going to have to muster the courage to trust the American people to see through the biased coverage, and to support a candidate who reflects the conservative values that are still generally mainstream, even if not in the dominant media. The strategy of appeasing the left with a watered-down candidate is destined for defeat in the both long and short term."

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"Fidel Castro posted a blog entry this week titled "The Best President." Castro thinks a robot would do a better job than President Obama. ... With all due respect, Castro, we tried the robot thing here in California. And it didn't work out."
-Jimmy Kimmel

Topic Two: Egypt
Now that the Muslim Brotherhood appears set to take power in Egypt, attention is turning to the future of the Middle Eastern nation. Eric Trager writes about the future of Egyptian policy. "Three such issues should be of special concern to Washington. First, FJP leaders have repeatedly said that they would ban alcohol and beach bathing -- both of which are essential to a tourism industry that accounts for roughly 10 percent of the economy. Second, Egypt faces a severe cash crisis, and its ability to attract international investment may be hampered by the Brotherhood's intention to implement the Quranic prohibition on interest-based banking. Third, newly elected FJP parliamentarians have said that they will not tolerate criticisms of Islam or sharia, including those made by Christians and secularists. In recent months, Brotherhood-affiliated lawyers have filed suits against organizations and individuals accused of insulting Islam. These attempts to limit free speech are likely to intensify once the FJP assumes control of parliament."

Thomas Friedman writes that Egypt will be a test of how an Islamic political party can govern without the riches of oil to support the regime financially. Meanwhile, Egypt is seeing a Christian man put on trial for insulting Islam. What did he do? He tweeted a picture of a bearded Mickey Mouse and a veiled Minnie. We should be so glad that Obama found the time to support regime change in Egypt so that we can see cases like this happening.

Debt Watch:
On Wednesday, the government once again pinched pennies and reduced the debt by $190,123,268.14. This brings the current debt to:

Topic Three: Voter ID
Project Veritas conducted an experiment in New Hampshire: could a person walk in and vote by giving the name of a deceased individual? Turns out that the answer is yes. These "voters" did not have to know anything except the name of the person they claimed to be, and they were offered a ballot. Only one person was denied a ballot when a poll worker knew the name in question and knew that he was dead. Of course, requiring voters to show ID at the polls would disenfranchise these dead voters, and we wouldn't want to do that!

Tweets of the Day:
Ken Gardner (@kesgardner): Three years ago today, 146.1 million Americans had jobs. Today, only 140.8 million Americans have jobs. #obamafail #tcot

Topic Four: Obama's Legacy
Jay Kronzer makes the case that Obama is the panderer-in-chief on foreign policy. "Conclusion: our nation's standing throughout the world under Obama is in decline. We are faced with many threats, yet it seems that our president is more concerned with his re-election than he is with our national security." Rick Moran makes a list of the top five 'Let them eat cake.' moments of the Obamas. When a $700,000 trip to Denmark to watch the IOC vote Chicago out of the balloting in the first round only makes an honorable mention, you know it's going to get expensive!

Jessica Rubin describes the truth about our post-partisan, post-racial, post-carbon, post-beltway, post-bellicose foreign policy president. "And now where are we? Conned, disillusioned, fractious, race conscious and broke - not to mention being sneered at by Russia, Iran, North Korea and China. And Islamism? On the wane? We were to be loved and respected. Obama's policy of "engagement" is looking more and more like appeasement and any attempt to project power is sneered at." Finally, only an Obama-supported government-dependent company could afford to hand out bonuses for destroying a company. (Similarly, only a welfare-dependent population could hand out another four years for destroying a nation.)

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow."
-Alexander Hamilton

Topic Five: Education
The NY Times has an article discussing a study that was linked here yesterday: Having a quality teacher can make a lifelong impact. One quote from this article stood out to me. "Conversely, a very poor teacher has the same effect as a pupil missing 40 percent of the school year. We don’t allow that kind of truancy, so it’s not clear why we should put up with such poor teaching." We put up with it because if we fired all the bad teachers we would have a drastic shortage of teachers in this nation.

Tomorrow in History
January 13, 1910 - The first public radio broadcast is sent over the airwaves. The broadcast comes from the Metropolitan Opera House performance of Cavalleria rusticana.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
Wasserman Schultz blames tea party for Arizona shootings

Tim Tebow messes up college basketball

Some Chicagoans want to reform city government

Combine your watch and phone: Meet "I'm Watch"

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Looking at Romney's Record

During Sunday's debate, Mitt Romney was asked, "What would you say to conservatives, so that they'll trust that you'll stand up for conservative principles?" Romney replied, "They've got my record as governor." Since Romney wants us to examine his record as governor, let's take a look at it.

Obviously, we must start at RomneyCare. While Romney has spent the entire campaign trying to make RomneyCare look substantially different than ObamaCare, they both share the same major principles: an individual mandate, subsidies for those who cannot afford care, and an exchange to supposedly take advantage of collective buying power. While the constitutionality of Romney's health care law cannot be questioned due to the Tenth Amendment (unlike ObamaCare), his defense of it is weak. He contends the law was necessary to curb the cost of subsidizing hospital care for those who did not have insurance. However, bad policy never solves problems, and universal health care is bad policy. He may have reduced the number of uninsured in his state, but he dramatically increased the cost of health care for everyone.

As the legislature was considering a bill to promote stem cell research, Romney worked to find "middle ground." He opposes cloning embryos for research but supports using embryos "left over" from fertility treatments. While he did sign some pro-life legislation as governor, he campaigned as a pro-choice candidate. On the issue of life, it is difficult to figure out exactly where he will stand.

Romney also increased "revenue" during his time as governor. Most of his revenue increases came as increases in fees. Fees for a marriage license, driver's license, gun license, registering a housing deed, delivering petroleum products, probation services, and mortgage broker licenses all increased under Romney. He also instituted a pseudo-tax increase by changing the method that evaluated used cars for tax purposes. Finally, he closed loopholes on business taxes while failing to lower them, resulting in higher effective corporate tax rates.

Looking at Romney's record as governor, there are a few areas where one can claim he was decidedly conservative. However, on the important issues of today: health care, life, and taxes (which affect jobs), Romney fails to show America that he is truly conservative. Romney is certainly entitled to change his opinion; I have done it myself. However, when he continues to defend and even promote his record as governor, it shows us that Romney has not changed, and it serves to prove that Romney is not a true conservative.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Final Five: January 11, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
January 11, 2012

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Florida Man Wears Jacket Featuring Crack Recipe to Court
A Florida man went to court for a drug charge, and he showed the judge just how little he knew about drugs when he put the recipe for crack cocaine on his jacket.

Topic One: Unions and Right to Work
Indiana is putting itself at the front of the union debate by working right-to-work legislation through the state legislature. Indiana's right-to-work legislation passed a House committee yesterday and is now set for consideration of the full House. However, House Democrats are attempting to stall passage of the legislation by using walkouts to prevent a quorum. Democrats are concerned about the loss of money flowing into their campaign coffers from the reduced income of the unions. (Of course, they say they have other reasons for opposing it.) Senate passage of the bill is virtually assured with a 37-13 Republican majority. In a related article, American Thinker's Bruce Walker makes the case that we need a national right to work law.

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"An intruder broke into Mike Tyson's hotel room in Las Vegas while he was sleeping but got out before Tyson could get to him. I don't know what's scarier. Having someone breaking into your room while you're sleeping or breaking into someone else's room and finding out the guy is Mike Tyson."
-Jay Leno

Topic Two: The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has heard two cases and issued a ruling recently on issues of freedom. Today, the court released its decision that all employees of a church are considered "ministers" and are therefore exempt from the majority of employment laws. In the case, the plaintiff argued that a Christian school operated by a church was required to reinstate her position under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The effect of this decision preserves the ability of churches to hire the person they want for any position without fear of a discrimination lawsuit.

On Monday, the Court heard the case of Mike and Chantell Sackett, who purchased a plot of land and prepared to build a house on it ... until the EPA stepped in and claimed the land was a "wetland" and had to be restored to its original state. The EPA then refused to allow for a hearing on the matter. Then, yesterday, the Court heard arguments on a case involving forced dues and political action. State employees in California contend that the SEIU did not provide notice of the use of dues for political action to non members, as is required by union regulations. The money was refunded, but as the justices pointed out, it amounted to an interest-free loan that was used to promote political purposes that the dues payers did not agree with. Decisions in both of these cases are expected by the time the court concludes its session in June.

Debt Watch:
On Monday, the government once again spent less than it brought in, reducing the debt by $26,820,610.84. This brings the total debt to:

Topic Three: The Election
Romney wins New Hampshire; now the candidates are on to South Carolina and then Florida. At the debate last weekend, Diane Sawyer asked the ridiculous question of what they would say to a gay couple sitting in their living room. The candidates gave their usual responses, but Peter Heck says there was one answer that would have won the nomination.

Herman Cain is desperately trying to stay in the news; announcing that he will endorse two days before the South Carolina primary. When Cain said it was an "unconventional" endorsement, Joy Behar guessed Obama. American Thinker has a great article contending that people only think the Republican field is bad because the media tries to portray it that way. Finally, a record number of people are claiming that they are independents. However, in bad news for the President, the majority of the new independents say they lean closer to the Republicans.

Tweets of the Day:
Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO): Is there any subtext to @JonHuntsman quoting the '65 Beatles classic "Ticket to Ride" when it's off the "HELP!" album?

Topic Four: The Economy
Neil Snyder argues that this election is the last chance to get the economy straight. From Snyder's book (as quoted in the article): "Not only do we spend too much money, but ... half of our population pays no federal income taxes. They freeload off people who do pay taxes. The wealthy among us, people that the Obamanistas like to blame for our fiscal problems, pay for almost everything we do as a nation, and the president thinks they should pay more. The scary part is that we've promised to spend so much more money in the future that the wealthy don't have enough resources to pay for all the promises we've made."

Another great American Thinker article says that the current strategy on the debt seems to be to ignore it and hope the problem goes away. For a brief period of time last year, I thought we would see a solution to the problem, but then we raised the debt ceiling and no one seemed to care about cutting spending anymore. Even the "supercommittee" did not care enough to even propose any cuts, so we just gut the military and doctors. No harm done there! (end sarcasm)

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation."
-John Marshall

Topic Five: Iran
An Iranian university professor and nuclear expert was killed in an attack today when two men on motorcycles attached a bomb to his car. Iran immediately blamed the US and Israel for the attack. I would probably agree that Israel was most likely involved, but I seriously doubt that Obama would have the guts to support something like this. This comes as many people believe that the turning point in the Iranian situation will come in 2012. Ultimately, I have no doubt that we will either have to bomb Iran or let them build a nuclear weapon. Iran will most certainly be willing to talk, but they will only use it as a stall tactic to allow them to finish their weapon.

Tomorrow in History
January 12, 1773 - The first Colonial American Museum opens in Charleston, South Carolina. (South Carolina and the rest of America were still colonies at the time.)

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
Federal court rules Oklahoma can consider Shariah law in rulings

Obama backs the mission of the EPA

Saudi man tries to sell son on Facebook

Euro crisis makes the mafia Italy's biggest bank

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The Media: Now Creating the News Instead of Reporting It

Unless you are living in a secluded world away from any media influence, you have probably heard by now that Mitt Romney likes firing people. In case you missed it, here's the full context of what he said:

As I read the media's comments on this story, I also came across another story. A teacher in Massachusetts is being denied an extra three days of paid leave in order to visit her son, who was wounded in Afghanistan. Both of these stories suffered from the same problem: instead of reporting the news, the media used selective reporting of the circumstances to create a completely different story.

In the story on Romney, there are two facts that are being ignored. First, Romney was specifically discussing health care providers, and his comments could apply to service providers in general, but it certainly did not apply to employees. Romney was contending that if he does not like the service his doctor provides, he can "fire" his doctor by choosing to see a different practitioner. As consumers, we sometimes take the same type of action.

Several years ago, I was working for a corporation in my area. Some mornings, I would stop and pick up a bottle of water for the day at a gas station just down the road from the company's offices. One morning, I found out when I got to the register that the company had created a $2.00 minimum purchase in order to use a credit or debit card, and I had no cash with me that day. Rather than suggesting that I purchase something else, the cashier took the initiative and scanned the bottle twice while telling me I could pick up a second bottle on the way out. Had she suggested that I purchase a second bottle, I probably would have said yes, but when she assumed that I would purchase a second bottle and rang it up without my permission, I cancelled the sale, walked out, and to this day (almost five years later), I have never visited that gas station again. I terminated my business with that gas station, or as Romney described it, I fired the gas station, and I suspect most of us have probably had a similar experience with poor service sometime in your life that has caused you to take the same course of action.
The second problem is that Romney never actually said he likes firing anyone or anything. He said he likes being able to fire people. Our free market system gives us the ability to choose where we take our business; we are not limited to one choice. Like Romney, I appreciate that I can decide to give my business to companies that provide great customer service and avoid the companies that do not. I would not say that I liked firing the gas station as the provider of my bottle of water, but I definitely liked the fact that I was able to choose a different gas station.

In the second story, the article left out one important fact: the district only denied additional paid leave. In the video that accompanies the story, one committee member states that the Family and Medical Leave Act would apply in this situation, guaranteeing Sonya Lomax twenty-four weeks of unpaid leave. However, FOX's original headline for the article, "School Denies Mom's Plea to Greet Wounded Stepson", made it sound as if the committee had denied any leave. Lomax was given nine paid leave days for the year, she used them, and while she certainly had the right to make the request for additional days, she was by no means entitled to them.

In both of these stories, we saw the way that the media reported the facts affected the way that we viewed the story. Reading headlines that say "Romney Says He Likes Firing People" makes the story sound completely different than the truth of what Romney was saying. A headline like "School Denies Mom's Plea to Greet Wounded Stepson" makes the school sound like it was forcing the mom to stay instead of simply telling her she would have to apply for unpaid leave since she was out of paid leave days. The media--including FOX News--has left reporting stories and is now creating completely different stories.

Mid-Week Media: The Arithmetic, Failed Promises, Election Day Mistakes, Obama's Motto, and a Goat

In Bill Whittle's latest Afterburner, he does the math to show America is on an unsustainable path:

The RNC put out this ad of Obama's failed promises in New Hampshire:

The ironies of Obama's "4th Best President Ever" claim:

Does someone regret an election day decision:

The Obama 2012 team has finally selected its new motto:

Obama figured out how to balance the budget:

And finally, Huntsman received a "big" endorsement:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Final Five: January 10, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
January 10, 2012

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Time Keepers to Introduce Leap Second June 30
July 30, 2012, just got longer. "How much longer?" you ask. One second, thanks to irregularities in the Earth's rotation measured by timekeepers.

Topic One: Iran
Iran has definitely been showing its love for freedom lately. First, we had its censorship of web sites. Then, Iran said it would try to launch its own internet. Now, Iran is claiming that Google is a spying tool. It is no wonder why they would make this claim: it would give them the right to arrest and even sentence to death anyone found using this "site of espionage." There are also claims of text messages being censored to eliminate texts discussing the decline of Iran's currency.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad traveled to Venezuela to meet with Hugo Chavez, the leader of another nation with a wonderful record of freedom. While there, he joked with Chavez about building a nuclear weapon while denying that he was actually pursuing one. Of course, since it came from Ahmadinejad's mouth, it must be true. Meanwhile, the LA Times says that sanctions against the country are working. This claim depends on how one defines "working." They are working in that they are hurting the nation's economy. However, hurting the economy will do nothing to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon unless the people decide to change their nation's leadership, something this is unlikely to happen. It remains to be seen whether or not the sanctions will actually "work" as they need to.

Finally, WaPo has a summary of the key points of the Iran conflict.

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"The national debt has reached $15 trillion — the size of the entire U.S. economy. Yeah, I don’t wanna say President Obama is out of solutions for the debt, but today he tried handing it off to Tim Tebow."
-Jimmy Fallon

Topic Two: The Election
New Hampshire gets its turn in the spotlight today, and all polls indicate that it will be a runaway for Mitt Romney. Romney will become the first non-incumbent candidate in the modern primary era to sweep Iowa and New Hampshire. With one precinct reporting, it's Romney 33%, Huntsman 33%, Paul 17%, Gingrich 17%. (Obama took all three votes in the Democratic primary.)

A Politico article holds a debate on the debates, questioning whether there were too many. (The obvious answer, "YES!") The article quotes NBC's Chuck Todd: "It got turned into a reality show. I’m sorry, I think there are all sorts of ways to blame this … but I think there are too many. I think it took away from the retail campaigning." For once, I actually agree with NBC. According to another Politico article, GOP chair Reince Priebus is looking into ways to limit the number of debates in the next election cycle.

Debt Watch:
On Monday, the government once again spent less than it brought in, reducing the debt by $26,820,610.84. This brings the total debt to:

Topic Three: ObamaCare
Liberal blog Talking Points Memo gives us one of the most important reasons to ensure Obama loses in November: repealing ObamaCare would become much more difficult after it has taken effect. I disagree that public opinion would greatly improve once the major provisions take effect in 2014, but I do agree that repeal would still be virtually impossible after that point. It is the same reason why we have to "reform" Social Security and Medicare: once they took effect, they were almost impossible to eliminate.

George Mason University's Mercatus Center provides some excellent articles on the rush to implement regulations for ObamaCare. The first article is the one linked, and the rest in the series are below. Finally, The Weekly Standard asks why the debate moderators have ignored the ObamaCare issue. "Worst of all, ABC, like Fox News in the previous debate, failed to ask a single question about Obamacare. So we’ve now gone four full weeks, and three hours and forty-five minutes of debate time, without a single question on the sitting president’s signature legislation. Perhaps the media can go as long without asking a question about Obamacare as the Senate has gone without passing a budget."

Tweets of the Day:
Tonight's tweet is actually a series of tweets from several people: Jim Acosta (@jimacostacnn): It was RT @CarolCNN: The Fix: Romney holds a baby in NH, someone yells "Are you going to fire the baby?" Brutal.
Jim Geraghty (@jimgeraghty): @jimacostacnn If Romney said, "of course I'm not going to fire a baby," they would accuse him of exploiting child labor.
Seth (@dcseth): @jimgeraghty @jimacostacnn Romney should have said "No, I'm gonna fire the President who's loading this baby down with perpetual debt."

Topic Four: The Unemployment Crisis
The Hamilton Project put together a report on unemployment and the challenges faced in getting people back to work. "Today, over two years after the official end of the recession, the typical unemployed American has been out of work for nearly twice as long as the unemployed worker in the early 1980s—twenty-two weeks, or about five months." I disagree with their support for continued and even increased unemployment benefits, but I think that many of their other ideas are worth pondering.

Charles Kadlec at Forbes explains the failure of stimulus in simple terms. "However, when government exceeds these boundaries and attempts to stimulate the economy by spending money, it fails. The reason is as simple as double entry book keeping. For every dollar the government spends, a dollar has to be taken from the private sector, either in the form of taxes now, or government debt and taxes later." He goes on to point out that the government rarely spends its money as wisely as a private-sector investor would spend it, and therefore, government stimulus actually depresses the economy.

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"If it be asked what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer, the genius of the whole system, the nature of just and constitutional laws, and above all the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it."
-James Madison

Topic Five: Education
The NY Times analyzed a study that showed good teachers influence a student's life in more areas than just academics. Students with a good teacher were more likely to attend college, have greater earnings, and less likely to become pregnant as a teenager. This provides a very good foundation for the case to develop quality-based pay structures rather than tenure-based structures. HuffPo's Tom Vander Ark makes a similar case for intelligent scoring of standardized tests. His argument is using open-response questions in addition to or instead of the current multiple choice test will create a better system for analyzing student progress.

Tomorrow in History
January 11, 1759 - The first American life insurance company is incorporated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
This goes against the class warfare rhetoric: electric car subsidies transfer wealth from poor to rich

Greece says pedophilia is a disability

First we pushed guns, now we're laundering money

DHS is "monitoring" journalists

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Soros Warns of ... Deflation?

Yesterday, billionaire George Soros stated that the world could face a 'vicious' deflationary cycle as European nations cut back in austerity measures. Yes, you read that correctly: Soros is warning of deflation.

It is obvious that Soros has not done any of his own grocery shopping or gas pumping recently. Prices at the grocery store are increasing rapidly, in some cases 20-40 percent per year. An ABC report quotes a food industry expert as saying that the main cause is the price of corn. Yet, we continue to conduct research and subsidize work towards burning corn in our fuel tanks instead of using it for food.

We are also being hit hard at the gas pump. While prices did drop toward the end of 2011, they have begun rising again, and they are almost twice as much as they were three years ago. However, despite the importance of food and fuel in everyone's lives, the government has determined that they are not important to be considered a part of its inflation numbers.

The accuracy of Soros's claim of deflation will depend on which measure is being used. If we look at the Consumer Price Index--which has averaged only slight increases--deflation is possible, but it seems unlikely given Europe's likely path. However, if we look at prices for the things we use most, we have a long way to go before deflation would even begin, and the current practice of printing more money to pay debts is only going to increase inflation. America is not likely to experience any deflation, much less the "vicious deflation" Soros is claiming will occur.

Congressional Update: January 9-13, 2012

Once the full House and Senate return to begin considering legislation for the year, I will begin updating the blog with a daily update. Since the two legislative bodies are currently only meeting in pro forma sessions, I will post an update for this week only.

The House and Senate will continue to meet in pro forma sessions this week, gaveling in and out on Tuesday and Friday. Currently, the House is scheduled to convene to begin work on Tuesday, January 17, and the Senate is scheduled to convene on Monday, January 23.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Final Five: January 9, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
January 9, 2012

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Surgery Rescues Wedding Ring Inside Family Pet
After a wedding ring disappeared in a family's bedroom, the couple's basset hound "looked guilty." An x-ray confirmed that the ring was indeed in the dog's stomach, and surgery rescued the ring from the guilty party.

Topic One: Unemployment
Friday's labor numbers showed a slight decrease in unemployment and a slight increase in jobs. However, the 200,000 jobs created is barely over the number needed to keep up with the growing size of the labor force. RedState's Daniel Horowitz calls it a Keynesian recovery. "Our economic recovery is similar to a computer that is repaired from a serious virus; it functions adequately but is never the same. In other words, we are reaping the benefits of a government-managed Keynesian recovery."

CNN says the jobs report was "not good enough." WSJ says that the scars from our current unemployment fight will last for years. This is likely an accurate picture of our short-term future. Unemployment dropping will only bring more people back into the labor force, which will force unemployment to remain steady or rise even when the economy does start creating jobs at a strong pace. However, manufacturing appears to be an area of strength in the economy.

Finally, the New Economics Foundation makes what must go down as the most ridiculous suggestion: a 21-hour workweek. "The NEF claims: 'A ‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.'" The problem with this proposal is that either salaries will be cut in half, and people will be forced to find a second 21-hour job or the increase in salary expenses will create massive inflation.

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"A man in Maryland says a flashlight on his iPhone helped save his life after he got lost during a hike. If you think that's cool, this morning the “Angry Birds" app on my iPhone helped save me from three awkward conversations in the elevator."
-Jimmy Fallon

Topic Two: The Tea Party and 2012
In my column today (link available on the right), I discussed how the tea party has abandoned its values in the search for a candidate to support. RedState's Aaron Gardner echoed my view, calling it "the late term abortion of a conservative resurgence." As I wrote today, "The Republican presidential race is coming down to three candidates. The first is a man with a mixture of private and public sector experience, who made his living by "restructuring" companies (read: laying people off) and then went to the governor's office and signed a state version of the signature accomplishment of the man he hopes to defeat in November. The second is a man who has stood strong against government intervention in our lives but also subscribes to the dangerous belief that our government should not intervene in the world. The third is a man who endorsed Republican-turned-Democrat Arlin Specter, supported high government spending and earmarks during his time in Congress, and lost his last election by a greater margin than any other incumbent Republican senator in history." What could possibly go wrong with one of these three candidates in charge? More on the tea party and the New Hampshire primary from Politico and The Washington Post.

Debt Watch:
On Friday, the government spent $8,939,375.40 less than its incomes, reducing the debt to:

Topic Three: Iran
Iran has moved its nuclear enrichment program underground. However, there is no need to be concerned; our Defense Secretary informs us that Iran has not yet decided to make a nuclear weapon. (This comes from the same administration that said Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood was a "mostly secular" group.) On Saturday, Iran also offered to share its technology with "friendly" African nations.

As the EU is considering sanctions similar to those implemented by the US, Iran has responded with threats to close the Strait of Hormuz if the sanctions are implemented. I find it interesting that the threats come as the EU considers the sanctions: you can tell where Iran's friends are. CNBC's Matthew West says that an oil ban would be an economic disaster for Europe.

Tweets of the Day:
John Hawkins (@johnhawkinsrwn): Everything Mitt did at Bain shouldn't be praised. He took a bailout. He saddled companies up with debt, looted em, & cost people their jobs

Topic Four: ObamaCare
Some interesting articles on waivers from the health care law. American Thinker says that new waivers have benefited 500,000 union workers, despite a supposed tightening of rules on issuing waivers. RedState says that more than half of the workers in a plan with a waiver are union workers. This is despite the fact that only 6.9% of workers are union members and the unions pushed to enact this legislation. Many people try to excuse these waivers by saying that these companies have plans that do not fit with the legislation. This is exactly the problem with nationalized health care (or anything else, for that matter). There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and it will take innovation and competition--not government involvement--to solve the problems that currently plague our health care system.

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the States the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in any religious discipline has been delegated to the General Government. It must then rest with the States."
-Thomas Jefferson

Topic Five: Education
California's governor is making a decision I can actually support: eliminating classroom-size reduction rules. Currently, California school districts receive a $1000/student subsidy for capping classroom size at 20 students. However, Gov. Brown's proposal would allow districts to keep the subsidy without the caps. One would think that classroom size limits would improve education, but this thinking assumes that all teachers are equal. Unfortunately, teachers are not equal, and these types of limits lower the quality of educators. They do, however, benefit the unions and Democrats by allowing the unions to collect more dues and funnel them to the Democratic party.

FOX News is reporting that there is an increase in lawsuits being filed by schools regarding state funding. While I generally am a proponent of properly funding education, schools also need to understand that states are experiencing tough times just like the schools. (Full Disclosure: I am an employee of a public school district.)

Tomorrow in History
January 10, 1946 - Representatives of fifty-one nations assemble in London for the first general assembly of the United Nations.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
Energy Department backing off $730 million loan Russian firm

Illinois lottery bounces 85 checks

Indiana right to work measure expected to pass

The debate: AD vs. CE

It's National Clean Off Your Desk Day!

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The Result of Abandoned Values

The Republican presidential race is coming down to three candidates. The first is a man with a mixture of private and public sector experience, who made his living by "restructuring" companies (read: laying people off) and then went to the governor's office and signed a state version of the signature accomplishment of the man he hopes to defeat in November. The second is a man who has stood strong against government intervention in our lives but also subscribes to the dangerous belief that our government should not intervene in the world. The third is a man who endorsed Republican-turned-Democrat Arlin Specter, supported high government spending and earmarks during his time in Congress, and lost his last election by a greater margin than any other incumbent Republican senator in history.

How did we reach this point? We're being forced to choose between a candidate who embodies the things conservatives hate about Obama, a candidate who has a dangerous view on foreign policy, and a candidate who represents the classic philosophy of an establishment Republican. What happened to the tea party that saw true conservatives defeat the establishment in 2010? The sad truth is that the tea party has lost its influence in 2012 because it has abandoned its values in the search for a perfect candidate.

In the summer of 2011, the majority of tea party support went to Michele Bachmann. She was a leader of the tea party movement in Congress, and her name recognition as a tea party leader propelled her to a status as a national frontrunner and a victory in the Ames Straw Poll. However, on the same day she won in Ames, Rick Perry announced his intention to seek the presidency. His entry siphoned the majority of voters from the Bachmann camp, and he began to take over the top position.

Perry seemed to have the classic credentials for a strong conservative candidate: a strong record on social issues, a great economic record as governor, and at least some experience in foreign relations as governor of a border state. However, his quick rise to the top of the polls brought immediate frontrunner status and the expectation that he would immediately impress everyone. When his performance in early debates left much to be desired, conservative voters left him for Herman Cain.

However, that candidate was campaigning on three numbers and expected that his 9-9-9 plan would cause voters to overlook his "I'll assemble my advisers and determine the best course of action" answer to questions on almost every other topic. A poor response to allegations of sexual harassment and a 13-year affair finished off his campaign.

After Cain withdrew from the race, conservatives had to find another candidate to rally behind. Unfortunately, they did not look back at the two true conservatives in the race--Bachmann and Perry--but they instead looked to Newt Gingrich. While Gingrich's role in bringing about positive change in Washington cannot be denied, his actions since that time stand in contrast to his record as Speaker. From advising Fannie and Freddie (benefiting him to the tune of $1.6 million) to sitting with Pelosi in support of climate change, Gingrich abandoned conservative values. Unfortunately, conservatives decided to abandon some of their values in order to support Gingrich, and they began to step off a slippery slope.

As the attacks hit Gingrich, Ron Paul began to surge. Paul's surge among Republicans ended, but the effect was that it drew out independents and Democrats who support some of his extreme libertarian views (such as legalized marijuana). While Paul's support among Republicans dropped, he maintained his status at the front due to this support, while conservatives began to give their support to the only "not Romney" remaining: Rick Santorum.

While there is no doubt that Santorum is a social conservative, his voting record as a fiscal conservative is poor. He supported No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and the pork-laden transportation bill that included projects such as the "Bridge to Nowhere". He supported multiple big government programs and still defends his use of earmarks while a senator, even though he says he opposes them now. Furthermore, he has endorsed establishment Republicans over true conservatives with almost every primary endorsement, even as late as 2010. Santorum stands as the exact opposite of the small government principles the tea party supports, yet his surge in late December and early January has led to him becoming the default "tea party" candidate.

The blame for our current situation lies with the voters who have abandoned their principles in their search for a candidate. Perry, Bachmann, and Cain were all true conservatives who deserved the support of the "tea party crowd." However, we compromised our values in backing Gingrich, further compromised them in supporting Paul, and have now compromised them entirely in voting for Santorum. The tea party movement was successful in 2010 because voters backed candidates according to principle. Unfortunately, the tea party movement will fail in 2012 because voters have decided it is better to support someone with a poor policy record than to support someone who flubbed a couple of early debates (Perry) or made a few campaign errors (Bachmann and Cain). Barring a miraculous surge by Perry--the only remaining conservative--in the next two weeks, we will be left to choose between a radical, racist libertarian and one or more big-government pseudo-conservatives, and the tea party will head down the corridor of history as a movement that could only influence a single midterm election. This is the result of abandoned values.