Monday, January 28, 2013

Obama's Ultimate Agenda

Orwellian was the very word that occurred to me when I read how, in his Second Inaugural Address, Obama used the language of America's founding principles in which to couch his socialist, collectivist true agenda, as a kind of misdirection confidence game to fool the rubes, the masses who need governing by wise elites.  For Obama, the Constitutional limitations on government power must be subverted.

The meaning of Obama's speech has been covered by many, of course; some particularly worthwhile analyses are here, here, here, and here.  Now, at National Review Online Michael Auslin has posted a particularly trenchant commentary (link), excerpted here, that to me gets at the root of the matter:
Perhaps the keynote of Obama’s second inaugural address, the Magna Carta of the new liberalism, is this line: “Preserving our individual freedom ultimately requires collective action.”  The line was certainly banal, as well as Orwellian. But it would be a mistake to ignore it as a rhetorical weapon. What Obama hopes to achieve, above and beyond his policy goals, is to move American society to a point where he won’t even have to give lip service to concepts such as “individual freedom,” at least when talking about his statist agenda. Today, he must still use such traditional American concepts, must still appeal to what one hopes is deeply rooted in our national psyche....  While he was certainly more unbound in his second inaugural, ... one can see where he is still constrained, perhaps by an understanding (distasteful to him, no doubt) as to how far he can push without stirring some deeper unease among even those sympathetic to his less far-reaching goals. 
But this is clearly a gambit to shift the country’s political philosophy ... by utilizing the vital role of rhetoric. Changing how we talk is a prerequisite to changing how we think, shaping reality through our words. Over the next four years, how far will Obama, with the support of the media, universities, and popular culture, have succeeding in changing forever our national rhetoric, where the liberal statist conception of the American collectivity supplants our timeless appeal to individual freedom? 
[Obama’s] thrust to more subtly shift how we think of ourselves and our relation to the state is a necessary ingredient for softening current and future opposition to the expansion of government and the dependency society. Even more insidiously, it is a bid to redefine the American character, from which all else flows.
John M Greco

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tough Times in Democrat Utopia Illinois – How’d That Happen? And When's the Rally?

The breakdown of the Democrat Party social model continues apace, and the day of reckoning draws ever near. 

Illinois has just been recognized as the brokest state in the Union, with the worst credit rating of all.  In Chicago, a city with some of the strictest anti-gun regulations in the country, gun violence continues to set new records (link).  No more Second City! 

Illinois should be a liberal paradise after a generation of almost complete control by Democrats and the occasional liberal Democrat-like Republican.  That’s Democrat-like as in fiscal irresponsibility, social license, and corruption. 

The latest skirmish just broke out in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, home to the private University of Chicago, which has just opened an expensive, new hospital sans a trauma unit.  Even the ultraliberals now in control there understand that shouldering most of the burden on the South Side for caring for gang banger shooting victims is a sure path to bankruptcy, especially since the Democrat-controlled state is beyond broke and can’t even make timely payments on Medicaid claims, the rates for which are of course paltry compared to private insurance. 

Democrats know just what to do, what they’ve been doing for decades about all the serious problems that are much of their own making – hold a protest (link).  But now they’re just protesting against themselves, their own social model, but are too dim to realize it.  Touchingly, a sweet little old white lady from the neighborhood complains that the lack of a trauma center affects not just bullet-ridden black gang bangers but people like her, perhaps though not able to realize that there are likely 25 insurance-less gang banger cases for every one with a patient like herself, who is by the way as a Hyde Parker statistically highly likely to be a lifelong Democrat voter.  Fifty years of destructive liberal social policies and attitudes and excuses have ruined cities and communities, and the money is gone, long gone, and it’s just smoke and mirrors now.  Chicago’s new top cop, a fellow named McCarthy new mayor Emanuel found somewhere on the East Coast, blames (link) racism and Sarah Palin for the escalating gun violence (I kid you not); not mentioned were liberal policies.  Doctors will tell you that effective treatment requires the correct diagnosis, but then these Democrats aren't brain surgeons.  Next up, no doubt – a rally! (link)

John M Greco             

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Naked City Redux

In this time of economic instability, escalating global Islamic terrorism, and an increasingly imperial presidency, one savors pleasant distractions wherever they can be found.  In recent months I’ve caught some episodes of the old TV series Naked City, a police drama set in New York City which a cable station has been airing of late. 

The plots often move slowly, but the window into the mores, language, and look of the time, and the many great outdoor shots of NYC, can be captivating.  The show was recognized, even at the time as I vaguely recall, for its gritty realism.  The stories often, if not usually, revolved around the guest stars, and one can see in vivid black and white young actors, unknown at the time, who later became stars; Robert Duvall and Sandy Duncan are two I’ve seen lately.  The writing was character-driven and has a larger component of psychological drama than later cop shows like Kojak (who loves you baby?).  Naked City can seem a bit brooding, almost noirish, as it brought to television a gritty realism, almost documentary-like in parts.  In retrospect, a simpler time, not that they thought so then.

Said in the famous voice-over narration, by producer Herbert Leonard, at the end of each episode, referring presumably to the population of New York City:  "There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them."  Unfortunately, there turned out to be only 138 of them, all told.

R. Balsamo

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Will Illinois Dems Snooker Repubs on Pension Reform? Don't Answer That

Despite a recent 67% hike in the personal income tax flat rate and an almost 50% increase in the corporate income tax rate, Illinois is sinking deeper in debt because the increased revenues are not keeping up with ever-increasing pension payments.  For years, Illinois Democrat politicians, abetted by the occasional Republican, have rewarded their state employee party supporters with salary and benefit packages that are not only higher than the private sector but unaffordable.  For years, in a state that has been dominated by Democrats for generations, Democrat pols have used fiscal chicanery and massive borrowing to hide the debt and delay the day of reckoning.  But that day is just about here.

Per the Wall Street Journal (link) on January 7:
Illinois is wrestling with a $95 billion pension gap that has left it neck-and-neck with California for the worst state credit rating in the country. The Democrat-controlled legislature has been stalled over how to reverse its failure over decades to adequately fund pensions for state workers.... Several states are struggling to right their pension funds, which have been battered by lackluster investment returns, increases in benefits paid out and chronic underfunding. But Illinois stands out as the worst, with only 45% of assets needed to meet future obligations based on 2010 data....
After the Democrat governor and the state House and Senate, both with Democrat super-majorities, failed once again to enact some kind, any kind, of reform, the governor came up with a bold new plan.  A "bipartisan" commission appointed by the super-majority Democrats and the rump band of surviving Republicans that would come up with binding changes.  That's right -- pawn the whole mess off to a committee that Dems would give, for once, equal representation to Republicans so the latter can take equal heat for cuts to the over-generous pension benefits.  Do Democrats possibly think that Illinois Republicans could be stupid enough to fall for such a transparent ploy?  ... Don't answer that question.

From the Chicago Tribune (link) yesterday:
The Illinois House adjourned this afternoon without even voting on Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's desperation pension reform plan. Quinn threw his support behind a bill that would set up a commission to decide how to fix Illinois' financially failing government worker retirement systems. Conventional efforts to craft a compromise on pension changes have gone nowhere during the lame-duck session. The new measure filed today would set up an eight-member commission appointed by the four legislative leaders. The panel would issue a report on pension system changes that would become law unless the General Assembly voted to overturn it.
One way or another, pensions will be reduced, though I feel for honest retirees.  But public employees vote heavily Democratic, so in some large sense it's their own fault, to say nothing of the rampant abuse like final-year salary spiking that guarantees by formula a higher, undeserved pension.  What is unsustainable will end, and what can't last forever won't.

John M Greco

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Conflicting Views of Radical Islam

Victor Davis Hanson writes (link) that recent Obama nominees Hagel and Brennen give us clear insight, if any more was needed, into Obama's view of the meaning of radical Islam and America's culpability, if any, in its rise:

First, Hanson summarizes what he calls the “Standard View”, one I share:
....radical jihadists and Islamists scapegoated the West for the mostly self-inflicted wounds of the Middle East. Endemic tribalism, gender apartheid, statism, corruption, religious intolerance, fundamentalism, and an absence of transparency — in a globally connected world that is progressing without these burdens — best explain why the region is a remarkably poor place, despite enormous natural wealth.
In rage at the more successful systems abroad — who, after all, should not be successful given their obvious decadence and absence of piety — the Islamists call for a reactionary return to centuries-past glories. These mythologies are based on solutions found in sharia and the Koran rather than in liberalizing their societies. 
....Finally, hatred and violence is usually directed at the U.S. — and not to the same degree at Russia or China, whose records on Islama are far more intolerant than that of the West — largely because such grievances against the world’s superpower better resonate worldwide, and because a self-critical America is so bothered by such dislike in a way not true of a Putin or the Chinese Communist Party.
Hanson then contrasts the “Standard View” to that of Obama’s (and, I would add, that of many American liberals):
...jihad, Islamism, and Muslim intolerance are largely ... a product of either Western ignorance of Middle East customs or willful [Western] prejudices. A far better approach than a “war on terrorism” or zero-tolerance of Islamic hate-filled extremism toward the United States, or constant calls for Middle Easterners to reform, is a more subtle understanding of what drives such hatred — poverty, hopelessness, illiteracy — for which to some degree the West is culpable and therefore obligated to be patient with and understanding of otherwise incomprehensible rhetoric and violence.
Obama's view to me is that The West is over-reacting to a problem in Islam of significantly their own making and so must be understanding, patient, and self-effacing in response -- what to me seems to be an attitude of "It's the West's fault" and "Muslims will be Muslims." 
John M Greco

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The New Tax Deal Just Dents Debt

The so-called fiscal cliff avoidance federal tax deal is done, and both parties caved on long-standing positions.  After almost a decade of claiming the Bush-era temporary tax cuts were responsible for all things bad, budgetarily speaking, Democrats supported a deal that made those cuts permanent for over 98% of taxpayers.  That’s right – just as with the “fierce moral urgency” when GW Bush was president to closing the Guantanamo terrorist prison and stopping renditions, which is still open and still going on, respectively, after four years of Obama – the Democrats were just posturing. 

The new tax scheme will raise revenues a relatively small amount compared to what is needed to reduce and pay off the debt, which is growing every day.  The federal government could confiscate all of the wealth of the top 1% of Americans and most of the problem would still be there.

As an aside, Billionaire Warren Buffet has debased the debate, which should be about reforming spending, to claim that the rich were not paying their “fair share” and using half-truths to spin a lie.  In fact, as one can simple ascertain from official government data (link), the top 1% of earners take in 20% of all income but pay 38% of all taxes, and the top 10% of earners take in 46% of all but pay 70% of all taxes.  How’s that for tax-paying fairness right now in the Warren Buffet top 1% cohort – earn 20% of all income but pay 38% of all taxes.  Now, Buffet may want the top 1% to pay, say, 50% rather than 38% of all taxes, but he lies, and he knows he lies, when he says the top 1% of earners are not paying their fair share, because paying anything above a flat rate for everyone is already their “fair share”.  And again, confiscating all of the wealth of the top 1% still leaves most of the debt problem unsolved.  Buffett prefers to stoke the flames of raw envy for his own moral preening and to ingratiate himself with regulation-happy Democrats so he can get special treatment from them, and get pretty, young CNBC TV hosts to travel to Omaha to fawn all over him.         

From the liberal Politico (link):  “The staggering national debt — up about 60 percent from the $10 trillion Obama inherited when he took office in January 2009 — is the single biggest blemish on Obama’s record, even if the rapid descent into red began under President George W. Bush. 

Well, even that stern statement from a liberal about Obama’s culpability is a half-truth amounting to a lie.  Budget deficits were actually "rapidly undescending" in Bush’s second term until the Democrats took over Congress. 

As Glenn Reynolds writes (link), “You can blame Bush all you want, and Obama likes to talk about ‘two wars on the credit card,’ but this chart [above on his blog page] illustrates that things were actually improving until we got a Democratic Congress in 2007, and got worse when we elected Obama."  Actually much worse.

John M Greco