Heinlein Shrugged

There has been an internet meme going about the right blogosphere for the past few months that’s a quote of the late science fiction author Robert Heinlein.  This quote seems to capture both the state of our economy and the state of our society today.

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”‘

So, on what does the St Louis Fed President James Bullard blame the lackluster state of the economy’s performance for 2011?  You guessed it, bad luck.

JAMES BULLARD: The economy, I think 2011, you know, I think the chairman said maybe obliquely, but it’s a bit of bad luck in 2011, I have to say. I was expecting better things in 2011. I thought that that would be the year…

HOST: Bad luck for the economy?

BULLARD: Bad luck for the economy.

That doesn’t give me much confidence that the people in charge of keeping the economy humming actually know what they’re doing.  But at least I’m sure now that Heinlein was a prophet.

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Greek Bailout…Again

Image:Frankfurt, European Central Bank with Euro.

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Yet another final, bailout to end all bailouts was agreed to yesterday, with the goal of calming investors and assuring the world that the Eurozone and the Euro is fine.  As Kevin Bacon put it in Animal House, “Remain calm, all is well!”

Unless of course you are a private investor in Greek bonds.  The bailout deal has them taking a shave of up to 70% of the value of their bonds.  Of course, it’s not like any investor should be surprised that their $100 of Greek Debt could now be worth $30.  It’s a free market baby, you puts down your money and you takes your chances.  Except in this case there were no chances being taken by the European Central Bank.  They kept the value of their bonds.  The private investors were sacrificed on the altar of European banks and government backed loans.  Those loans remain whole.

Meanwhile, back in Greece, austerity continues apace, with unemployment running over 20%.  Those are unemployment numbers usually associated with a depression. And Greek workers are not being paid this month and some workers will be asked to actually return salaries already paid.  Take that ECB!

Basically what happened wasn’t a bailout, it was a bankruptcy.  A bankruptcy on the down low to be sure, and it still probably won’t be the last one, but a bailout plan that negotiates knocking off the value of some of the debt by up to 70% (of people who didn’t have a seat at the table) is really a country wide chapter 11.  But everyone is going to pretend that it was just bailout.

The only question now is when will Chancellor Merkel fire the Greek cabinet and replace them with her own people.

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Stephanopoulos’ Other Shoe Dropping

English: American television journalist and a ...

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I admit I was puzzled when during January 7th’s New Hampshire debate, moderator George Stephanopoulos kept pressing and pressing candidate Mitt Romney on the issue of contraception.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But I do want to get that core question. Governor Romney, do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception? Or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?

ROMNEY: George, this is an unusual topic that you’re raising. States have a right to ban contraception? I can’t imagine a state banning contraception. I can’t imagine the circumstances where a state would want to do so, and if I were governor of a state-

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the Supreme Court had ruled on that …

ROMNEY: -or a legislator of a state, I would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception. So you’re asking, given the fact that there’s no state that wants to do so, and I don’t know of any candidate that wants to do so. You’re asking: Could it constitutionally be done? We can ask our constitutionlist here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m sure Congressman Paul …  but I’m asking you: Do states have that right or not?

ROMNEY: George, I don’t know whether the states have a right to ban contraception. No state wants to. I mean, the idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do that no state wants to do and asking me whether they could do it or not, is kind of a silly thing I think.

At the time, I was thinking that had to be one of the dumbest lines of questioning in a Presidential debate that I could recall.  Of all the issues that were facing the American Republic, contraception wasn’t even in the top 10,000, let alone the top ten.  Why waste precious time talking about a totally unimportant political topic?

But that was then.

Now, post Komen controversy, it’s a little clearer.

Dick Morris offered a theory on Hannity yesterday that Stephanopoulos was acting under White House guidance in order to generate hopefully some sound bites that could be construed as anti-contraception.  Why contraception and not the liberals favorite social issue, abortion? The polling on abortion has changed.  Now, fewer people describe themselves as either pro abortion or pro choice, depending on your flavor.  But contraception?  Who’s against that?

Since contraception wasn’t even on the radar in January, this really requires an assumption of close contact and coordination between the White House and either ABC News or George Stephanopoulos.  Unfortunately, that’s not too far fetched.

The Daily Caller is running a multipart expose ofthe Soros sponsored website Media Matters.  What’s noteworthy is how the Caller reveals the close cooperation and coordination it enjoyed with the administration.

Media Matters also began a weekly strategy call with the White House, which continues, joined by the liberal Center for American Progress think tank. Jen Psaki, Obama’s deputy communications director, was a frequent participant before she left for the private sector in October 2011.

The idea that Stephanopoulos worked with the White House in doing battlefield preparation for the election by trying to ensnare the likely Republican Presidential Candidate with an issue that nobody, except for those inside the White House, was aware would become a political issue within the next month; seems all too likely.

Certainly it’s happened before.  The journalist club Journolist, which kept Jeremiah Wright out of the mainstream news for months during the 2008 campaign still exists under the new appropriate name of Cabalist.  Of course in the case of Journolist, these were reporters who were coordinating their coverage with each other, exchanging talking points and discussing what should and shouldn’t be published.  That a certain ABC News This Week host might be coordinating directly with the White House isn’t at all far fetched.

Although not proven at this point.

It does explain Stephanopoulos’ wacky line of debate questioning better than any other reason I’ve heard of though.  Frankly, as untrustworthy as the Media is, I don’t think they should be moderating Presidential debates.  I’d rather the moderators come from think tanks or Universities that have actual debate professors who know how debates should be run.  The TV News channels wouldn’t likely want to give up their monopoly and if you were Barrack Obama, you wouldn’t want them to give it up either.

With this sort of media advantage, it will be hard to beat Obama regardless of any polls or issues.

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Why is ¡Rob! still on the air?

When I first saw the CBS promos for their new series Rob, my immediate reaction was, “terrible…terrible…”  It looked so bad that I felt I could already predict its future.  Like last season’s ill-fated The Paul Reiser Show I figured the future was two episodes and an apology.  But Reiser’s show (according to the few who watched it) was merely boring and unfunny.  This show looked like a crap sandwich.

So I decided to test it. I decided to watch the first episode.  I figured that if I didn’t see that one, the odds were slim that I would get to watch another.

So I sat down to watch and my suspicions were confirmed, Rob Schneider plays ¡Rob!  An obsessive compulsive in his late 40’s who manages to woo and marry Maggie, an extremely hot model quality chick in her 20’s in just a few short weeks.  Do ruffies last that long?  Forgetting the rest of the show premise for a second, but I just could not buy into this.  And it’s nothing against Rob Schneider.  I don’t have any animus against him.  He’s acted and starred in many successful movies and isn’t an ugly man, but I just wouldn’t believe that someone who looks like him…

…could meet and marry someone who looks like her.

Sorry, I cannot, CAN NOT suspend my disbelief over this.

Television sitcommery has a long history of pairing fat or regular looking guys with super hot wives.  I mean, did anyone really believe these two could be married in real life?

But this is very much a bridge too far.

Now on to the premise.  Maggie’s family is Mexican and the entire hook of the show is Rob’s culture clash with his Mexican in-laws.  Only the most base, narrow, stereotypes are permitted.  Tacos, illegal immigration, guacamole; if it’s simple and stupid, its part of the show.  This show makes Chico and the Man sophisticated.  Come to think of it, Chico and the Man was sophisticated, at least in comparison with its 21st Century equivalent.

I actually had to force myself to finish the pilot episode of the show.  There was some snow on a non broadcasting channel that was mighty tempting, but I had made a commitment to see how bad this show is, and it’s bad.  But I figured that it would be cancelled soon, everyone involved would be fired, and it would be years before Rob Schneider would be able to get back on series television again.

But weeks went by, and I noticed that CBS was still showing promos for ¡Rob!  It’s not cancelled yet?  So I tuned in again and sure enough, the show is still on.  A quick Google search revealed why.  The ratings for this show are holding up.

I’ll be shocked if this show gets a second season, but I’ve been wrong before (“They’ll never cancel Firefly!”)  Then again, maybe, just maybe, the show will evolve into a watchable show.

And then be cancelled.

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Attack the Cure

If there was one organization in America that I thought was immune to partisan attacks it was the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.  An organization dedicated to fighting breast cancer and spreading pink ribbons all over the planet could hardly be considered controversial.  Even a manly man such as I am couldn’t resist the lure of the pink ribbon.

But when the Komen Foundation decided to cut funding to Planned Parenthood for the very non-controversial reason that its bylaws don’t allow funding to organizations under investigation, all hell broke loose.

Planned Parenthood launched a counterassault, cashing in all of its media chits to make sure Komen was the issue, not Planned Parenthood.

When Dorothy Twinney first saw a Race for the Cure walk for breast cancer — “a sea of pink” traveling through her hometown of Plymouth, Mich. — she was so moved she sat in her car and wept.

This week, after watching The Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer charity announce plans to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, then abandon those plans amid a public furor, Twinney decided she was done with the organization for which she raised thousands of dollars on three-day, 60-mile walks that left her feet bloodied and blistered, but her spirits high. 

“It just feels like it’s all tarnished now,” the 41-year-old mother of two said. “Honestly, I’m not sure what they can do to change that.”

Or as Claire Shipman reported on ABC, “That ubiquitous pink ribbon … is sporting a black eye today.”  Really?  They are the ones with the black eye?

That’s not very flattering coverage for an organization that has basically received nothing but flattering coverage throughout its existence.   In fact, it’s probably fair to say that “damage control” was well outside the experience of Komen’s PR and media departments.  Within days, Komen crumbled.

“We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.  The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen.  We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood.  They were not…”

Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer.  Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process.  We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.

The real issue isn’t how quickly an organization could be reduced from saint to sinner in a political attack juggernaut (although one may admire the ballsiness of an organization demanding that another organization continue funding them, or else), but how a single organization, Planned Parenthood is so powerful that it could orchestrate such a thing.

Particularly when one considers that as far as righteous causes go, rallying the troops because another organization didn’t want to fund you while you were under an investigation usually wouldn’t rank very high as a useful public relations campaign.  But it did work for Planned Parenthood.  And the reason that it did is that because out of the entirety of various liberal and Democratic Party constituencies, Planned Parenthood is the single most important liberal organization.

Yes, even more important than the unions, which provide much more money and manpower to the Democratic Party and liberal causes.

Surprisingly, money isn’t everything.

This was on display last August during the debt ceiling negotiations. As the Politico reported at the time:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had spent more than an hour meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, inching toward a deal to avert a shutdown, but he kept insisting that it include a prohibition against federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

That was a nonstarter for Obama. As the meeting was breaking up, Vice President Joe Biden told the speaker, in no uncertain terms, that his demand was unacceptable. If that became the deal breaker, Biden said, he would “take it to the American people,” who would presumably punish the GOP for shutting down the government over an ideological issue.

“They were faced with a choice–they would either have to give in or shut down the government,” said a senior administration official, describing how the negotiations went from there.

So that’s how important Planned Parenthood is to the left.  They were willing to shut down the government on the single issue of funding to Planned Parenthood.  Although the amount of federal funding is eye popping to me, in federal government terms, $100 million in 2011, considering the overall size of the federal budget and debt it’s only a small line item.  Yet it was a line item that a Democratic administration and Senate were willing to shut down the government to protect.  It’s an important lesson for future budget negotiations, or any negotiations with the Democrats.  The single most important issue to liberals, the one issue that unites them all and won’t be compromised, even if it means shutting down the government, is abortion.

An even better example than that was that the President and Congressional Democrats risked their entire Obamacare bill to ensure that abortions would be funded under the bill, even though the needed balance of votes needed in the House was in the hands of pro-life Democrats, lead by Bart Stupak.  So important was it to retain that provision that the Administration risked the entire bill rather than compromise on abortions.

That’s dedication.

Planned Parenthood is the manifestation of that issue.  If there is an equivalent issue on the right, I can’t think what it is.  It’s not abortion though.  Although most of the Republican Party like the country, opposes abortion, it’s not a deal breaker, and the Republican Party is much more tolerant of supporters of abortion rights in their ranks than the Democrats are of abortion opponents.  The leading Republican candidate in the race, Mitt Romney, has quite a liberal record on abortion as governor.  I can’t imagine the equivalent in a Democratic race.

Well we know where the line in the sand is for Democrats.  That could be useful information for future negotiations or, given the negotiating skills of the current Republican leadership, totally useless information.


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How I Ended Up Here

Although this is a brand new blog, I’ve been blogging on the internet for years.  Originally I was invited to post at the now defunct Muchedumbre site.  The origins of that site are, by internet standards, ancient.  But first I have to explain that once upon a time, I became a fan.  I had never been an extreme fan of anything (Lost In Space lunchbox in 3rd grade excluded).  So I surprised myself by becoming a fan of a radio show of all things in my thirties;  The Monsters on Real Radio 104.1.  It was a combination opportunity; I was able to listen to the radio at work, and just being ready for the type of “hot talk” and comedy that the Monsters provided.  So for the first time in my life, I actually started talking up a radio show, inviting friends and co-workers to listen, and actually going to radio events.

From there, it was a hop, skip, and dial up connection to the radio station website.  At that time, the radio station hosted what was called, Comic Chat.  It was an online forum that graphically represented the users as cartoon like characters, in which postings would appear as bubbles above the characters… yes like a comic book.  That didn’t last long, but the radio station eventually installed a web board.  I, along with many others, became a frequent user because of my desire to chat about the show with like minded people.

But this really isn’t about a show.  The show was the accelerator, but the web board, and the community that developed around it, became something real, that powered along after legal issues forced the  radio station sponsored web board to join the trash heap of internet history.  This particular internet community managed to stay connected and eventually found another web board to hang out for a while, and then finally a permanent home at The Muche.  This was a true community, or at least as much of one that can exist online.  People got together, had parties, went to shows, camped, dated, married, divorced, cheated, then camped and dated all over again.  The internet circle of life.

Of course, nothing is really permanent.  But the site did have  it’s glory days of activity and internet hits.  It fed off of the popularity of the Monsters, and as the show was broadcast on XM Radio, internet searches brought posters and yes, more internet hits.  It was during this heyday that I was invited to post on the home page of the site.  The Powers That Be of the site had an original vision that included a home page that had frequent new content to attract regular return visits, with the intention of making the site a hub of both a community, and podcasts by some of the frequent, long time posters on the site.  Yes, no surprise that radio fans also nursed a dream of having their own radio show.  Me?  I supplied just a small niche; I posted about politics mostly.

But things began to decline as they always must.  The skyrocketing popularity of the Monsters leveled off as the show and cast entered middle age, resulting in a declining number of new viewers and posters.   And the estrangement between show and fans became pronounced.  The Powers That Be, began to lose interest in their own website and couldn’t even be bothered to update it.  Although never the most communicative bunch, their Asperger-like personalities lead to the closing of one of the most popular sections on the board, the political section, without warning or explanation.  At that point, the numbers declined precipitously so it became obvious that the end was near.

So although it’s popular to say it’s an end of an era and all that, usually by the time the era ends, there are few to mourn that era, and that’s the case here.  It wasn’t worth hosting a site for 6 to 8 regular posters, although I’ll regret the lose of the thousands of conversations, jokes, and comments, people grew up, got other interests, and moved on.

I’ll also regret losing the many posts I made on the site, going back to 2008.

But I’m grateful that the opportunity given to blog there honed my writing and my arguments, and appreciate the new hobby that site inspired.