Another Write-wing Conspirator

Commentary, observations, musing, and ranting from the middle of the road (or just to the right of center. Usually.) featuring The Curmudgeon

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  • Welcome to The Curmudgeon’s lair

    Welcome to my curmudgeondom. As you’ll soon learn, your reactions to my missives here are likely to range from fear to loathing to tears to outright rage—and I just might even evoke from you an occasional sober nod or two.

    If you see a posting you like and wish to share it with others, by all means feel free to do so. I'd prefer that you send the link to your friends, but you're also welcome to reproduce anything here—as long as you retain my identity on the document. If you have a web site of your own and wish to post a link to this blog (or to a specific post), again, feel free to do so.

    The purpose of this blog is simple: to provide me a vehicle for sounding-off on whatever topic suits me at the moment. While there’s sure to be no shortage of politically-oriented palaver here, it is by no means all (nor necessarily even most) of what will be proffered to your discerning mind. You’ll also find that my personal politics, ethics, morals, and standards are pretty much “all over the map” (according to my mother-in-law)—so, don’t be surprised to see rants regarding, say, the interference of churches in politics, politically-correct anything, “nanny” laws, taxes, the United Nations, Congress, the Commissioner of Baseball, the State of Ohio’s speed limits, steroids, Jesse Jackson, the “mainstream” media, ultra-liberals, ultra-conservatives, the price of cigarettes, Obamarxism, regulating sales of alcohol, gasoline price manipulation, Muslim foot baths, illegal immigration, laws banning the sale of adult sex toys, cell phones, heavy-handed cops, meddlesome politicians, Hillary, Billary, our all-but-self-proclaimed uncrowned Queen Nancy, “W”, eminent domain, freedom of speech, and the designated hitter all in succession. It is, as I said, my curmudgeondom — and I have the credentials and bona fides to lay claim to the title of The Curmudgeon. So, there.

    Some of the postings you'll encounter may seem familiar—especially to those who know me personally. By way of explanation… I once had an ongoing relationship with a local newspaper, and had a number of published opinion pieces—some of which may be posted here. My arrangement was for a feature entitled An Opposing View; given that the editorial staff had a generally liberal, left-of-center view, it stands to reason that my "opposing" view would generally be perceived as coming from the right (in more ways than one, in my own humble opinion). These posts will be annotated as having been previously published.

    Comments, of course, are always welcome. You may agree or disagree with me. Doesn’t matter. Of course, I reserve the right to completely ignore you — but, feel free to let your feelings be known, anyway. And if you don't want to comment directly here, my e-mail address is: jimseeber@gmail.com .

    Oh, and…yes, I can spell. That "Write-wing" is only a play on words. So, there. Again.

    Welcome, once again. Strap in and hang on.

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  • About this “curmudgeon” guy…

    Armchair philosopher, politically-incorrect political commentator, raconteur, retired air traffic controller, dilettante truck driver, US Army veteran, recluse, sometime-writer, redneck convert neè Buckeye, ne'er-do-well, bon vivant, unrepentant libertine, unapologetic libertarian, and (of course) curmudgeon…

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Archive for April, 2010

Yearning for Simplicity

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 27, 2010

…starting with income taxes and voter registration

For those of us who undergo that annual transmogrification from rational human beings to raging, babbling idiots when presented with a tax return to complete, it came as some ironic comfort to learn that even IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman doesn’t tread in the shadow of the tax code. “I find the tax code complex,” said Shulman, “so I use a (tax return) preparer.”

It was, at least, a bit more entertaining than the revelation that (then) Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner had “carelessly” failed to pay some $34,000 in income taxes. (I’ll set aside for a separate rant the dubious logic of having an alleged tax cheat who’s that “careless” about both money and compliance with tax laws placed in charge of the U.S. Treasury.)

These are but two examples one could cite in calling for a “flat tax” to replace the monument to esoterica that is the United States Tax Code.

Actually offering-up such a suggestion, however, invites a familiar litany of responses including rolling of the eyes, exaggerated sighs, dismissive waves of the hand, and condescending insistences that “It won’t work” (with the addition of “you imbecile” unspoken—but generally understood).

What it doesn’t seem to ever evoke is an explanation. Though quick to dismiss the notion, none of these supposed experts ever gets around to telling us why it wouldn’t work—which leads many of us to suspect that it actually could.

There might have to be some adjustments, of course. Claims that such a tax scheme would unfairly burden the poor seem unfounded, but might warrant excluding income below a designated minimum threshold. And there may have to be some allowance for extraordinary circumstances — such as a catastrophic illness or devastating loss from natural disaster, for example — but, that’s it. Just have everyone pay the same percentage of their income and be done with it. (Opinions vary, but 15% seems to be the most commonly suggested—though some speculate as low as 8%. Whether to keep the personal exemption is another question, and there are those who also advocate allowing exemptions for dependents.)

Though there’s again no shortage of really smart people who claim that it wouldn’t work, there are also a lot of really smart people who insist that it would. Given how well the present system has worked out (hold your laughter, please), it might be time to consider it.

While we’re at it, let’s take a look at voter registration; in fact, it could be made to dovetail nicely with a tax code revision.

Consider the following:

First, require that a tax return be filed by everyone eighteen years of age or older (whether they had any income or not) and by everyone — regardless of age — who has income of any sort. If the new scheme is to continue allowing exemptions, then everyone would get to claim one exemption for themselves — just as under the current scheme — and one exemption may also be taken for each dependent child. Require also that both names and Social Security numbers for filers and dependents alike (yes; even infants) be affixed to each return. (Those under eighteen who are claimed as dependents would see their tax withholdings refunded. It’s only fair; many are high school kids with part-time jobs, anyway—and it’s simply wrong to demand taxes from those who are not yet old enough to vote.) There may also be room in this proposal for allowing the dependent exemption to continue until a later age (twenty-two, perhaps?) for full-time students. All other income withholding continues in its current format (e.g., Social Security, disability, etc), and tax is assessed only on net income.

Since Social Security numbers are required for tax returns, there’d be greater accountability both for tax revenue and to ensure that those who file returns are eligible for employment in the U.S—an added bonus that just might help curtail illegal immigration. Funds withheld and deposited to Social Security accounts that are not accounted for by corresponding tax returns would trigger an alert to IRS—and to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

That’s it. No deductions. No exceptions.

Upon IRS receipt of the tax returns, filers who are also eligible to vote would automatically be registered to do so, and would be issued voter eligibility certificates that must be presented when voting. And since everyone would be required to file a tax return, other manners of voter registration — notorious for being rife with fraud — could be done away with altogether. Voter registration would expire after one year; it would then be automatically reinstated with the filing of the succeeding year’s tax return, and a new eligibility certificate issued—obviating the need to maintain voter rolls.

You pay taxes according to a code that doesn’t require a Rosetta Stone to decipher, you file a tax return, you vote; it’s just that simple. No more ACORN-like voter registration scandals, no more non-citizens voting, and those long-buried corpses that miraculously spring back to life every few years (just long enough to cast ballots) would finally be laid to rest—permanently.

Would all this work?

Only one way to find out for certain—but it’s unlikely to be any worse than the current system, in any event.

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Posted in ballot, border security, corruption, deficit, economy, flat tax, illegal aliens, immigration, income tax, national security, obama, opinion, politics, tax, vote | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Case for Government Sticking to the Job It’s Actually SUPPOSED to Do

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 25, 2010

An object lesson in how not to provide for the common defense and secure the blessings of liberty.

At a time when the federal government seems obsessed with by turns either boldly thrusting or slyly insinuating itself into a seemingly endless array of initiatives in which it doesn’t belong, it might be nice to see our fearless leaders occupy themselves with addressing a few minor issues lying within the realm of authority that they actually have.

Securing the nation, for example, springs to mind.

Unburdened for the moment of the crushing pressure of dealing with such crucial matters as athletes using steroids, major league baseball going on strike, publicly spanking corporate executives, and removing salt from our hot dogs, Congress might now be disposed toward turning its attention to the nation’s southern border—preferably before that particular handbasket actually completes its long-unfolding journey to Hell.

With the memory of rancher Rob Krentz’s murder (allegedly at the hands of an illegal immigrant) still fresh, Arizona’s legislature finally decided that several decades of federal neglect was enough and took steps to crack down on illegal immigration—ordinarily (and by law, arguably) the exclusive domain of the federal government. Refusing to be dissuaded by criticism from immigrants’ rights activists, lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a measure granting police broader authority in identifying and apprehending illegal aliens. Though police are required by law to enforce this legislation in accordance with federal standards already in place, the great hue and cry over immigrants’ rights and hand-wringing over perceived threats to civil liberties commenced even before the measure was passed.

Making good on her stated intent to sign the legislation, Governor Jan Brewer remarked that “We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act. But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”

Coincidentally, the White House also found use for the term “misguided” as Barack Obama condemned Arizona’s action.

He’s probably correct—to a degree.

Border security is rightly a federal matter. So is immigration. No argument, there.

The problem is that the federal government has been profoundly — some say willfully — neglectful of its duty to secure the border, and long ago lost any semblance of control over the flood of illegal immigrants, with an estimated twelve million illegal aliens now in the U.S. Obama acknowledged the federal government’s failings, as well, though in a back-handed manner—and with a different agenda altogether.

In keeping with his regime’s policy of never letting a good crisis go to waste, Obama seized the opportunity to blame Congress for not enacting comprehensive immigration reform — and of course urged lawmakers to do so forthwith — claiming that federal complacency has led others to act precipitously.

He’s partially correct—but demanding the wrong solution.

Arizonans didn’t act out of frustration over Congress’s inability to enact comprehensive immigration reform; they acted out of frustration over the federal government’s utter failure (or refusal) to enforce existing law.

We’ve heard for several years the mounting cries for comprehensive immigration reform, and those demands consistently include calls for amnesty or pathways to citizenship—measures overwhelmingly opposed by the populace. Indeed, there’s common belief that lax enforcement has been but one tool employed in applying pressure for passage of this so-called “reform,” allowing proponents to cite the resulting state of affairs to bolster charges that the immigration system is “broken”—which it isn’t.

Stripped to its essence, Obama’s renewed demand for “reform” is nothing more than political opportunism, attempting to capitalize on Arizona’s exasperation by reviving proposed legislation that’s currently stalled in congressional doldrums—legislation which includes an amnesty provision. Indeed, it could be argued that the Arizona legislature may have unwittingly supplied the Obama regime with the perfect vehicle for advancing his amnesty-and-citizenship scheme; on the other hand — possibly lacking adequate support in a Congress still reeling from the recent health care reform nightmare — Obama may now be forced to abandon his plan in order to soothe tensions in the region and focus on the remainder of his agenda.

Back when nationwide media attention was first drawn to the Minuteman Project’s efforts to monitor the border, numerous suggestions and requests went out for troops — whether Regular Army or National Guard — to be deployed to safeguard the border and establish a presence intended to keep a lid on things; each either fell on deaf ears or was greeted with a laundry list of reasons (including legal uncertainties) why this couldn’t be done. Mindful of a growing list of crimes committed by illegal aliens and mounting losses incurred by area residents, I speculated at the time that (a) as tensions rose, the likelihood increased that there’d be a general flare-up of violence in the region, and (b) that troops might eventually be dispatched to preserve order—but also that there was at least an even chance that they’d be tasked with ensuring the safety and well-being of illegal aliens rather than with safeguarding the lives and property of the citizens they’re intended to protect and serve.

Owing to Arizona’s actions, we may soon find out.

It’s said that Nature abhors a vacuum; it could be argued that government does, as well. Arizona lawmakers acted — for better or worse — simply because the federal government repeatedly failed to do so. By chronically ignoring one of its most fundamental responsibilities, the federal government created a perfect storm of unrest and danger.

Something for the nation’s political leaders to think about the next time they decide to address matters that lie beyond their rightful scope of authority—all the while neglecting their statutory duties.

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Posted in Arizona, border security, corruption, economy, election, illegal aliens, immigration, immigration reform, national security, obama, political correctness, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 20, 2010

…and de facto wards of the state

In a recent blog entry, “Swan Trumpet” — who sometimes comments here — brought up an interesting vignette about taxation and the effects thereof.

To briefly recap: Years ago, Democrats forced the imposition of taxes on certain luxury items—including yachts. Yacht-building was then a well-established industry in Maine. Apparently being better at basic arithmetic than the average congressional Democrat, the rich folks who wanted to buy yachts quickly deduced that they could obtain their stylish boats more cheaply from foreign suppliers not subject to the effects of taxation. Not surprisingly, yacht sales in Maine plummeted, jobs were lost, and a thriving industry died—and the Democrats never did get the tax money they’d sought (one cannot tax what isn’t produced).

Thus, we become re-acquainted with The Law of Unintended Consequences, the current vernacular for which is often expressed as “Didn’t see that coming.” (During my Army days, this was commonly referred to simply as “piss-poor prior planning”—reflecting the often-pithy nature of soldiers.) In addition to the results noted above, consider the following:

– loss of revenue previously generated by now-defunct (or much-diminished) firms.
– cost of unemployment benefits paid to laid-off workers.
– loss of income tax previously paid by the laid-off employees.
– declining tax base in the surrounding community.

In other words…far from becoming the cash cow envisioned by Democrats, the venture resulted in a substantial net loss. (“Swan Trumpet” also comments on the cultural impact; her blog entry may be viewed here: Being a Democrat Means You Were Born Yesterday).

Now…ordinarily, this might be pretty much the end of the story. I’d come up with some witty comments to tack on, press “Enter,” and go on to the next target.

Ordinarily.

However, I mentioned the story to my wife. And we talked about it.

I should know better.

Smart girl, my wife. After I mentioned how the whole scheme had backfired, she zeroed-in like a laser on another idea. “I don’t think Democrats would really see that as a loss. Having more people dependent on them would be seen as a gain. Isn’t that what they’re really after?”

At about this point, my pinkie finger suddenly froze, poised over the “Enter” button.

As often happens, my mind began to meander around…

Her comment reminded me of something Star Parker had written likening the welfare system to a modern enslavement of sorts, even referring to it as “Uncle Sam’s plantation.” The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. (It should be noted that Ms. Parker is far from being the only commentator to see in welfare assistance a cycle of dependence, and she’s not alone in perceiving a racial component; interestingly, it’s a frequently-held view among conservative blacks—though it is by no means an exclusively-black issue. Jesse Lee Peterson has been even more vocal in his denunciation of a system that he insists blacks must cast-off. Noted scholars Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have both weighed-in similarly.)

Was this creation of a dependent class also an unintended consequence?

Many years ago, a study conducted by the Wharton School of Business pinpointed the one constant in virtually every election: People vote their pocketbooks. In good economic times, voters support the incumbent who has benefited them; when times get tough, they support the candidate showing the greatest potential to improve their lot. (Noted political consultant James Carville famously hung a sign in the White House that summed it up well: “It’s the economy, stupid.”) This applies both to the electorate in general, and to individual voters.

Before too-hastily condemning the welfare system as the cause of all our troubles, however, consider also that our dependence on Uncle Sam can take many forms; welfare is merely the most visible—and most maligned.

Have you noticed lately the size of the federal workforce? Though not a form of financial assistance to the poverty-stricken, it is nonetheless another source of federal cash; the employees within this system are every bit as dependent on their earnings as welfare recipients are on their dole—and will likewise vote for the guy who’s going to benefit them the most…like, maybe…oh, I don’t know…perhaps the one responsible for creating that federal job?

Now, consider all those “pork barrel” projects and set-asides. They create jobs, too (though not very efficiently)—and they also add to the pool of voters dependent on the flow of federal money.

Add to this the massive effect on communities surrounding federal installations in the form of tax-base computation, spin-off businesses, and vendors.

Though not always readily apparent, the impact of federal funds grows more and more pervasive—with a concomitant increase in the strings attached to that money.

Again the question arises: How much of this is “unintended consequence”—and how much is by design?

The premise is simple enough: By gradually increasing the people’s dependence upon the government, the government essentially ensures that the people will acquiesce to what would otherwise be unacceptable government demands in order to perpetuate the government’s support. Moreover, those dependent on that support can be expected to vote to retain the government that spoon-feeds them; factor-in a smattering of “what have you done for me lately” mentality, and one has the makings of a very loyal base.

And for those who dare to resist, a clear message is imparted: Get with the program—or we’ll withhold the goodies.

This is a system that works well when training pets—and when transforming the populace into virtual wards of the state.

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Posted in corruption, economy, federal contract, government contract, politics, vote | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Expanding Role of Federal Blackmail

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 16, 2010

And you thought climbing into bed with the Mafia was a bad idea.

Barack Obama has decreed that hospitals receiving Federal funding (nearly all hospitals do) must allow patients to designate who will have visitation rights and authority to make medical decisions on their behalf—an action specifically intended to expand the role of homosexual partners, giving them status equal to family members.

On first blush, this doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy. Frankly, I’d already presumed that patients had the right to designate anybody they want to act on their behalf — particularly those armed with a power of attorney — and I certainly wouldn’t oppose a move designed solely to achieve that end.

At this point, I’ll clarify what this blog entry isn’t about.

It isn’t about Obama’s tossing a gesture toward homosexual-activist organizations (they’ve been critical of Obama for not being enthusiastic enough in furthering their agenda). Nor is it a commentary about whether homosexual activity per se is inherently right or wrong; personally, I feel that what goes on between consenting adults is their own business, and the government shouldn’t be involved with determining or standing in judgment of who we sleep with or what we do in the sexual realm. And it isn’t about the collective groan likely to sweep the nation in the face of yet another step in a direction most of us don’t wish to go as the push for homosexual rights continues unabated.

It isn’t about patients’ rights, either.

By way of explanation, let’s take a little stroll down memory lane.

Recall, if you will (for those old enough to remember that far back) the old days of jumping into your car and pushing the seat belt aside before you started the engine and headed down the road. Foolish though this practice was, it was perfectly legal to do so. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that lap belts even became standard equipment (shoulder harnesses were still reserved for racing cars and aircraft cockpits). Their use was encouraged, but not mandatory; we had the right to become impaled on a steering column or sail head-first through a windshield—and if we did so, well, that was our own damned fault.

This bothered some folks. They figured that if we didn’t have sense enough to ensure our own safety, then it was high time Congress did so on our behalf—and demanded a law to correct what they saw as a deficiency. (You’ll find their latter-day followers demanding Federal intervention to control evil hamburgers, hot dogs, and sodas. And booze. And tobacco.)

There was just one minor problem: Congress didn’t have the authority to require us to use seat belts. (It still doesn’t, by the way.)

Congress does, however, have the power to withhold Federal funding for interstate highway construction and repair. And in the finest congressional tradition, it seized upon the opportunity to expand its influence by any means available. It was unequivocal in its message to the states: No, we don’t have the authority to mandate seat belt use, and we can’t legally compel you to mandate it, either—but, if you don’t, we’ll cut off your Federal funding.

Note that Congress judged the tactic a winner; the same approach was used to force states to raise the minimum drinking age to 21. (At least the seat belt issue was related — however remotely — to the act of driving; tampering with the drinking age was a blatant incursion into an area hitherto considered the exclusive domain of state governments.)

To a Mafia don, this might appear to be business as usual; the rest of us, however, might reasonably think of it as blackmail.

Set aside the onerous issue of the proliferation of “nanny” laws to increasingly regulate everything in our midst and think of yourself for just a moment as a down-on-your-luck businessman who acts out of desperation and unwisely enlists the aid of the local crime lord. Sure, the mobster will help you out — whether it be money or muscle that’s needed — but, afterward…

Say “Hello” to your new partner. Now that you’ve invited him in, he’s not likely to leave of his own accord; he owns you. You would do well to remember at all times that “business as usual” for him includes bribery, bullying, and blackmail.

So it is with Federal money. If you’re a manufacturer who lands a fat government contract, it’s not unlike being partnered-up with the Mafia. You’ve crawled into bed with Uncle Sam, and in so doing put him in a position to control who you hire, how you run your business, and even who you may (or must) do business with.

And that, gentle reader, is what this blog entry is about. (See? I do get to the point—eventually.)

I’ll remind you that Obama’s edict applies only to hospitals that on some level do business with the Federal government (which, again, is pretty much all of them). There exists otherwise no legal authority to set such a requirement. But by accepting Medicare or Medicaid payments, a hospital invites the Federal mobster into its bed—with predictable results.

Note also that this policy change resulted from a mere stroke of a pen, and the decision to implement that policy was made by one man. No new legislation. No debate. No cost-benefit analysis. No filibuster. No protests. No rallies.

And no recourse.

At a time when the Federal government is insinuating itself into our lives to a degree (and at a rate) unprecedented in our history, it should give us pause—and prompt us to wonder what else might be on that one man’s agenda.

Especially since that one man considers bribery, bullying, and blackmail to be business as usual.

________

Posted in corruption, obama, ObamaCare, politics | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Meanwhile, back at Rancho Relativism…

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 13, 2010

“Leaky” Leahy does an about-face

Appearing last Sunday on Meet the Press, Sen. Patrick “Leaky” Leahy (D-VT) weighed-in on the coming confirmation hearings for the Obama regime’s as-yet-unnamed nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens—and furnished grist for the “It’s all relative” mill:

“Look, the Constitution says that 51 senators can confirm somebody. It doesn’t require 60 senators. I don’t think there’s going to be any kind of a filibuster. You know, this last year we had about 100 and some-odd filibusters that–totally unprecedented. Actually, that’s the lazy person’s way out. The American people pay us and, and elect us to vote yes or no, not to vote maybe. Every time you have a filibuster, you’re saying, ‘I’m not going to vote yes or no, I’m going to vote maybe.’ That’s irresponsible.”

Hmmmm. And what did he have to say about filibusters and the nuclear option back when the Democrats were the minority party? Let’s check the Congressional Record archives for April 6, 2005:

“Eliminating the filibuster by the nuclear option would violate and destroy the Constitution’s design of the Senate as an effective check on the executive. The elimination of the filibuster would reduce any incentive for a President to consult with home-State Senators or seek the advice of the Senate on lifetime appointments to the Federal judiciary. It is a leap not only toward one-party rule and absolute majoritarianism in the Senate but to an unchecked executive.”

Interesting. File this one under “Things that are only wrong when the other guy does it.”

For those who are short of memory, Leahy is the same guy who was hell-bent on crucifying whoever he could during the Valerie Plame “outing” fiasco—apparently forgetting that he earned the derisive nickname “Leaky” following his forced departure from the Senate Intelligence Committee after finally admitting (he initially denied it) that he’d leaked classified information to the press. (Though never confirmed publicly — possibly owing to security considerations — it’s been widely accepted that his actions resulted in the death of at least one covert agent.)

But…it’s all relative—right?

________

Posted in corruption, filibuster, national security, nuclear option, obama, opinion, politics, Senate confirmation, Supreme Court | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Beauty of Brevity—and the KISS* Principle

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 12, 2010

*Keep It Simple, Stupid

It’s said that Calvin Coolidge was once approached by the wife of a prominent political figure at a dinner party. “Mr. President,” she told him, “my husband bet me that I wouldn’t be able to get you to say three words all evening.”

“You lose,” replied Coolidge, as he turned and walked away.

They didn’t call him “Silent Cal” for nothing.

This vignette is presented in stark contrast to Barack Obama’s seventeen-minute televised response to a simple tax question that could practically have been satisfied with an equally simple “yes” or “no.” Indeed, no one in recent memory is so adept as Obama at transforming a ten-second response into a speech of indeterminate length addressing a topic totally unrelated to the question presented. (Bret Baier of Fox News was recently excoriated by the left for vainly attempting to compel him to remain on-topic and furnish something resembling a straight answer—though he was probably destined to be excoriated, anyway, because…well, just because; such is the level of adoration showered upon The Anointed One by the “mainstream” media.) Having now endured countless Obama appearances spanning seemingly endless hours of empty talk, many who at the time ridiculed Bill Clinton’s then-legendary marathon speechifying now yearn wistfully for his relative brevity.

For politicians to exhibit galling degrees of verbosity and posturing is neither unusual nor even particularly new — there is a rich history of renowned orators and speeches immortalized for posterity — though Obama’s rather extreme performances are a little surprising, given the established trend toward parceling information in neat little sound bites. The practice is likely a by-product of avoiding taking firm stands on delicate issues or being tied to specific data; speaking in euphemisms, vague generalities and ambiguous terms lays the groundwork for later claims of “plausible deniability” and even outright reversals of policy should the need arise.

Nor is this wordiness confined to oration; need we be reminded of the recent epic-length health care legislation?

In general, we prefer that matters be kept more brief. Most of us lose interest in a speech the length of the State of the Union address after only a few minutes and a smattering of insincere standing ovations. We’re even less likely to read the entire health-care bill than Congress is (any bets on how many representatives still haven’t read it?). How many people have never read an entire installment contract when making a major purchase? We know we should—but most consumers simply don’t have the patience and self-discipline to choke the whole thing down (and are quickly befuddled by legalese, anyway). Even those same congressional representatives who are so practiced at wasting our time have established time-allotment rules regarding their own guests; office visits are uniformly short and sweet—and lobbyists long ago perfected the art of maximizing this “face time.” Apart from our severely-strained attention spans, we grow (rightly) suspicious when confronted with protracted speeches or documents of daunting length; more often than not, the speeches are intended not to inform or explain, but to sell—and book-length legislation typically conceals as much as it reveals.

Charles Krauthammer wryly noted that the aforementioned Obama soliloquy was many times longer even than Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—and said far less. While Lincoln was himself noted for his own lengthy speeches, one might surmise that he was under the influence of Robert Browning’s immortal missive that day, adopting the “less is more” approach. Indeed (contrary to popular belief), Lincoln was not the keynote speaker at the dedication of what was then known as the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg; noted orator Edward Everett was. Everett’s presentation had lasted a full two hours when Lincoln finally rose to deliver what was listed in the program as “Dedicatory Remarks”—and stepped into history.

The difference between the two men’s efforts? Everett summed it up in a brief note he penned to Lincoln the following day, requesting a copy of Lincoln’s address:

“Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

That’s right; two minutes. *

Ah, the beauty of brevity.

We have our favorite eloquent speakers and writers who delight us with elegant prose; what we need now is a crop of public figures who get to the point, give straight answers, and know when to shut the hell up.

Which is why I virtually deify Calvin Coolidge. Can’t say that I know much about the man’s politics — nor care — but he had (borrowing a line from Sir John Gielgud’s characterization of “Hobson” in the film Arthur) “a wonderful economy with words.”

At a press conference amid growing economic concern, a reporter asked Coolidge for his thoughts regarding the inflationary trend that was then insinuating itself into the financial picture.

Silent Cal’s reply?

“I’m against it.”

Oh, bless that man.



* Don’t believe me? Go read it—and time yourself. I dare you. (It’s still a good read, by the way.) Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

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Posted in bloviating, economy, election, health care reform, hot air, obama, ObamaCare, opinion, political correctness, politics, speech, speeches | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Obama’s Energy Gambit

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 3, 2010

Absurdities punctuated by contradictions

Apparently fooling no one, the Obama regime announced what it hoped would be seen as wide-reaching initiatives in the realm of not-so-green energy production.

It took about five minutes for critics to dissect and discredit the announcement. The only real mystery here is: What’s he up to this time?

On its surface, it appears an ill-conceived effort on Obama’s part. Proponents of expanded oil exploration (the “Drill, baby, drill” contingent) quickly pointed-out the most glaring shortcomings of his announcement: That it would take at least two years to have any effect, that it omitted the most-coveted reserves (notably the rich ANWR oil-fields)—and in fact excluded more areas than it identified as acceptable for exploration, and that the very use of the term “explore” doesn’t carry with it the promise of actual fuel production. In this supposed acknowledgment that “green” technology is not yet the panacea many would like for it to be, The Anointed One suggests an interest in resorting to less-trendy energy sources (“suggests” is the key word, here). He even gives a nod to coal as an acceptable energy source (did anyone notice a slight choking sound accompanying those words as they escaped his lips?). The notion that he’d publicly embrace (or appear to) fossil fuels is reported to have shocked tree-huggers so deeply that they found themselves no longer hugging; rather, they were clinging desperately for support as their knees went weak.

Be not afraid, wood-nymphs; had you been paying attention these past few years, you’d know to not believe anything Obama says. (On the other hand…had you been paying attention, he’d never have been elected in the first place.)

If there was a surprise in all this, it was that Obama would deign to even mention coal, at all. He’s clearly established himself as no friend to the coal industry (conveniently overlooking the simple fact that half the nation’s — and the world’s — electricity is generated by coal-fired power plants, and completely ignoring coal’s economic importance). Moreover, coal is anathema to his green-minded left wing; throwing genuine support to coal at this point would risk alienating a significant percentage of his liberal base.

He should re-think his position.

Public perceptions of coal notwithstanding, coal could well prove a boon for U.S. energy—if allowed to do so. It’s estimated that domestic coal reserves have the capacity to end dependence on foreign oil (can you say “national security”?)—and USGS surveys indicate that peak coal (the point at which maximum production has been reached—and a period of declining production begins) won’t be reached until about 2030. Contrary to the long-held image of coal as a dirty, pollution-spewing, outmoded energy source, current technology permits coal’s conversion to both liquid and gas fuels at a cost comparable to that of petroleum-based fuels—and “clean coal” power plants could easily supplant their smoke-belching ancestors. No, it’s not the ultimate, perfect energy source; it could do the trick, however, until “green” alternatives catch-up. (Something to think about while watching news video of “wind farms” in the northern U.S. rendered useless when their enormous turbines were frozen still by harsh winter weather.)

Petroleum experts, meanwhile, openly scoffed at this claimed shift in the White House’s position, correctly noting that no drilling has yet been authorized—and doubts were raised that even one oil platform would ever be established. A trademark Obama performance, the “announcement” was predictably long on vague, abstract aims—and just as predictably short on specific commitments.

Oh, and Obama also reminded us that he’d given the green light to building the first nuclear power plant to be constructed in this nation in three decades (no word yet on when that’ll actually come to pass—if it ever does).

At this point, it might be helpful to consider a few significant points:

 

Despite his new suggestions (and they’re just that: mere suggestions…hints—not hard commitments) of openness to further oil exploration, it must be remembered that throughout his campaign for the White House Obama opposed — consistently and firmly — any new drilling.

While seeming to be amenable to increased coal use, Obama’s EPA just a few months ago rejected seventy-nine mining permits. (It should also be noted that obtaining new permits is a slow process; one estimate places the interval between permit request to actual production at up to seven years.)

While outwardly encouraging the development of nuclear power, Obama terminated the Yucca Mountain (NV) project after the expenditure of nearly $10 billion—leaving the nuclear industry with no long-term repository for spent nuclear fuel.

 

To repeat the question posed above: What’s Obama up to this time? (Recall once again his own words: “I always have a plan.”)

The prevailing guess is that he intends to somehow leverage the salvation of his “cap-and-screw trade” proposal (currently languishing in Congress—bereft of supporters in the wake of the bitter health care reform scuffle). Given his reputation for employing varying combinations of smoke, mirrors, bribes, and blackmail…well, it certainly seems a reasonable conclusion. (One might be well-advised to put-off buying oil futures just yet.)

So…how should we regard the seeming contradictions posed by Obama’s momentous announcement?

Warily. Very warily.

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