The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


In his best-selling in-depth biography of Steve Jobs, Apple’s iconoclastic CEO, Walter Issacson notes that Job’s always spoke his mind to and about both friends and enemies. Based on the biography, I think it’s fair to state that Job’s was an ideological friend of Barack Obama. Yet, after conversations with the President, Job’s—a man who accomplished great things—is quoted as saying, “"the president is very smart. But he kept explaining to us reasons why things can't get done."

That’s what President Obama did in his recent State of the Union speech (and at virtually every campaign stop as he barnstormed important swing states afterward). He parrots the public's frustration by saying “Washington is broken.” But the President implies that somehow he is removed from the wreckage, that he is blameless for the gridlock, the bickering, and the hyper-partisan atmosphere. That, in itself, is astonishing. He is, after all, President—the most powerful person in Washington. If the town and it politics are broken, the buck must stop with him. If the atmosphere is hyperpartisan, he shares a significant part of the blame. If things don’t get done, he is the one who must accept a large part of criticism.

In a way, his comments are pathetic—'the meanie Republicans won’t let me do what I think is right for all of you,' he whines, 'and therefore, I can’t get anything accomplished.' Polls have indicated that many things that the President thinks are right, don’t sit very well with a majority of Americans. But in a way, that’s beside the point.

Politics 101 tells us that negotiation—a give and take—often outside the public eye, is how things get accomplished. You give something to your opponents and they give something to you. You both work to get to “yes.” I suspect that the critics of the President who argue that he seems unwilling to get to yes, are not lying. It’s almost as if Obama, like a Hollywood A-lister, is surrounded by sycophants who always say ‘yes’ to him. He seems unaccustomed to push-back, to folks who say ‘no.’ And when he gets pushback, he seems unwilling or unable to adapt his positions.

His job is to get things accomplished. How? By negotiating, by listening, by meeting with those who oppose you. By being dogged in your pursuit of getting to ‘yes.’ That doesn’t mean he can’t play hardball, but in the end, he will be measured not by what he says, but by what he gets done.

In reality, Washington isn’t “broken.” It’s just a bunch of venal politicians, each with his or her own agenda and ideology, trying to outmaneuver one another.

Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton (to name a few) worked in a “broken” Washington, and they got things done. They never used the toxic political atmosphere as an excuse. They never whined.

The only thing that appears to be broken is Barack Obama’s ability to lead, and more importantly, to get things done.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Fantasy Future

The President’s State of the Union speech will either serve Barack Obama well or expose the vacuity of his leadership and more importantly, his grasp of the problems facing this nation. Time will tell.

The President has essentially stopped governing and is now doing what he does best—campaigning. Although if you listened to his SOTU, you’d think his record on both domestic and foreign affairs was excellent.

You’d think that increasing spending across the board; countenancing only cosmetic changes to entitlement programs like social security and medicare, “making government more efficient” and long string of other political clichés would actually help reduce the deficit that our children and grandchildren will have to repay. But wait, you’d also discard arithmetic and believe that “taxing the rich” and reducing military budgets will magically offset a deficit that is growing at 4 billion dollars a day!

In the foreign policy realm, you’d think that the Arab Spring has vindicated the President’s approach to the Middle East. You’d nullify overwhelming evidence to the contrary and believe that the Muslim brotherhood and other Islamist groups can and will embrace true democratic reforms, you’d discount the belligerence of Iran; you’d agree with the President when he vetoes the construction of a pipeline from Canada that would help wean us from Arab oil.

You’d believe that the financial catastrophe that is on-going in Europe is theirs alone and that we can learn nothing from it. You’d think that the very European social democracies that are now bankrupt are a good model for the United States to emulate.

Richard Fernandez provides useful insight when he writes:
The great intellectual failing of the Obama administration has been its tendency to see Europe and to some extent the Middle East as harbingers of a “fair” future rather than as canaries in a coal mine; to confuse danger with opportunity and conflate its PR operations with leadership. It wants to be like what is dying rather than countenance a life that is not to its ideological liking. Or perhaps it is calculation. After all, if there is no “long run” and the administration knows there is no future at all, then short-term optimization is actually a viable strategy …

It can be argued that the administration by predicating its policy on short term gain and a fantasy future, is really acting as if a real future were no longer possible at all. And therefore they are gittin’ while the gittin’s good. But eventually the word will get out. Once Hope and Change vanishes, it won’t degrade gradually, as any genuinely sound effort would adjust its goals when met with difficulty, but it will collapse utterly, in the manner of a bubble burst.

If we follow the President as he leads us toward a fantasy future, the bubble will burst. And when it does, the people who suffer the most will be the very same people whom our President professes to care about so deeply.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Inquisitor

College sports is a business machine that generates billions of dollars in revenue for universities, the media, local and national businesses, and many others. The only constituency that does not make money is the athletes themselves. The athletes are barred from any compensation by a Gestapo-like organization—the NCAA—that gives new meaning to the phrase sanctimonious hypocrisy.

While college player receive no financial compensation, the NCAA profits handsomely. Its top 14 executives had over $6 million in salaries and bonuses last year from a budget of well over $700 million—all extracted from revenues earned from the endeavors of collegiate athletes.

The NCAA tells us that it must maintain the "purity of the game," that “student athletes” (the NCAA never uses the word “player”) must be above reproach. That even the smallest compensation is verboten. That players have no rights to their image and its use long after they’ve left college.

Colleges and players live in fear of the NCAA. They cannot question or criticize their vicious reign because doing so puts them on an undesirables list. They cannot defend their players who are accused of wrong-doing because it opens the door to further “investigations” and penalties.

Joe Nocera writes about the case of Ryan Boatright, a freshman guard on the University of Connecticut basketball team:
It was early in the evening of Jan. 13 when Ryan Boatright, the freshman basketball player at the University of Connecticut, learned that he was being suspended from the team for the second time this season. Earlier that day, he had flown into South Bend, Ind., with his teammates for a game against Notre Dame. The 19-year-old point guard was excited because some 400 people from his hometown, Aurora, Ill., were coming to see him play.

When his coach, Jim Calhoun, broke the news that the N.C.A.A. was still investigating him, Boatright collapsed in Calhoun’s arms. In tears, he called his mother, Tanesha, who began weeping uncontrollably. As I chronicled on Saturday, it was her acceptance of plane tickets a year or so ago that had caused his first suspension. The N.C.A.A. had ruled the tickets an “improper benefit,” and had ordered him to sit out six games and pay a $100-per-month fine to repay the tickets. What more, she wondered, could the N.C.A.A. want?

A lot, it turned out. Tanesha is a single mother raising four children on a small salary. The N.C.A.A. investigators viewed her circumstances as a cause for suspicion, not sympathy. For instance, she owns a car. Where did she get the money to pay for it, they asked? How did she pay for her home? And so on.

The NCAA has no legal authority to ask these questions, but it can (and often does) ruin the careers of athletes whose parents and friends refuse to cooperate. It is a regulatory body that is so caught up in its zeal to “protect the game” that its has become the grand inquisitor. Nocera comments further on the grand inquisitor's approach:
When I asked the N.C.A.A. about the Boatright case, the response I received was deeply disingenuous. Refusing to discuss the actions of its investigators, it essentially said that Connecticut, not the N.C.A.A., declared Boatright ineligible. That is technically true. Schools declare athletes ineligible because if they don’t, the N.C.A.A. will deprive them of scholarships, force them to forfeit games and prevent them from playing in postseason games. Most astonishing, an N.C.A.A. spokeswoman told me that the organization does not have the legal authority to compel cooperation from parents. Again, technically true: Its real weapon — the threat of destroying their sons’ careers — is far more potent than any mere subpoena.

Our country is faced with many problems, and there’s little question that the NCAA’s tyrany is small potatoes. There’s also no question that there are abuses in college athletics. But that doesn’t mean that the NCAA should have free reign to terrorize young men and women and the institutions that provide them with an opportunity to play.

It’s time for a congressional committee to investigate the NCAA investigators and to shut down the petty inquisitions that ruin lives and do little, if anything, to make the college game cleaner. When billions of dollars are in play, people will bend rules. That’s not a good thing, but neither is a sanctimonious, hypocritical inquisitor that has gotten completely out of control.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Presdient Obama will give his state of the Union address tomorrow night. Before he does, let’s consider a few hypotheticals. What if, over his three years as president …

  • Obama had taken steps that reduced the 6.8 percent unemployment, to say, 6.0 percent.

  • Gasoline prices had risen 20 percent from $1.68/gal in January, 2009 to a modest $2.00/gal today.

  • Household income had remained steady.

  • The public debt was under control and increased by only one billion dollars per day.

  • Bi-partisan legislation was formulated to address the severe problems facing entitlements.

The President would mention those things tomorrow night, would use them as campaign themes, and would be easily and effortlessly be re-elected later this year. He would be praised by the media and given grudging respect by his opposition. He would be unbeatable in November.

But reality is somewhat different:

  • Unemployment has increased from 6.8 to 8.5 percent, with the real number closer to 11 percent (if we count those who’ve simply stopped looking). Private sector job growth is stagnant and the President insists on demonizing those who are best able to create private sector jobs.

  • Gasoline is now $3.39/gal, an increase of 102 percent. To put things into perspective, the increase over the eight years of the previous president was about 20 percent. In addition, newly minted FDA regulations and a reduction in domestic oil production and acquisition (think: the Keystone pipeline) has caused annual electric bills to increase to a record $1,420 today.

  • Median household income has dropped by 7 percent. Instead of recommended strategies to improve that dismal number, the President suggests that taxing the “1 percent“ and thereby remedying “income inequality” will somehow provide a fix. He never explains how.

  • Public debt increases at $4 billion per day, and at the same time, the President continues to advocate even more spending.

  • Nothing has been done to change entitlements, and those who have had the political courage to propose changes have been demonized by the President as "unamerican."

When President Obama speaks tomorrow night, listen carefully. Will he take responsibility for his dismal economic record, or will he blame others—the congress, the “rich,” the demon Republicans, the circumstances? Will he adapt his approach and take a more realistic view of our economic problems, or will he plow forward, ignoring his failures? Will he reach out to the opposition party or will he blame them for his administration’s incompetence? We’ll see.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


It’s interesting the President Obama’s decision to vote “present” on the Keystone pipeline has dropped from the news. As usual, the media would prefer not to prolong stories that reflect poorly on their annointed politician. After all, in a time of unprecedented joblessness for the "99 percent," it’s really very difficult to explain how a project that would lead to thousands of “shovel ready” jobs for “hard-working” Americans could be shelved in an effort to placate the radical environmental lobby.

But that’s not really what happened. By voting present, i.e., by delaying a decision, Barack Obama guaranteed that the Greens would support his 2012 campaign monetarily. But at the same time, the promise that the pipeline might be approved guaranteed that the labor unions, who are unequivocally in favor of it, would also contribute millions to his re-election. Always follow the money.

But the world moves on. A few days ago, Canadian Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver, wrote an “open letter” in Canada’s Financial Post . In the aftermath of Keystone, he writes:
Canada is on the edge of a historic choice: to diversify our energy markets away from our traditional trading partner in the United States or to continue with the status quo.

Virtually all our energy exports go to the United States. As a country, we must seek new markets for our products and services and the booming Asia-Pacific economies have shown great interest in our oil, gas, metals and minerals. For our government, the choice is clear: we need to diversify our markets in order to create jobs and economic growth for Canadians across this country. We must expand our trade with the fast-growing Asian economies. We know that increasing trade will help ensure the financial security of Canadians and their families.

But it appears that the same forces that threaten to derail our national efforts to attain energy independence, to build better infrastructure, and to introduce new technologies are at work in Canada. Oliver continues:
Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. Their goal is to stop any major project, no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth. No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydroelectric dams.

These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special-interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest. They attract jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world to lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources. Finally, if all other avenues have failed, they will take a quintessential American approach: Sue everyone and anyone to delay the project even further. They do this because they know it can work. It works because it helps them to achieve their ultimate objective: delay a project to the point it becomes economically unviable.

Anyone looking at the record of approvals for certain major projects across Canada cannot help but come to the conclusion that many of these projects have been delayed too long. In many cases, these projects would create thousands upon thousands of jobs for Canadians, yet they can take years to get started due to the slow, complex and cumbersome regulatory process.

Sound familiar?

The Green Movement claims to sit on a higher moral plane—“saving the planet” is, after all, a calling that few can criticize. But in reality, they are just another lobbying group that reflexively argues against forestry, mining, oil production, hydroelectric energy, nuclear energy, even solar and wind energy. They are the 21st century’s Luddites.

But worse, their moral hubris seems to discount the very real needs of the 99 percent—you know, the 99% who need jobs and (in the near term) affordable gasoline so they can get to those jobs, the 99% who need affordable electricity rates so they can keep the lights on in their homes, the 99% who purchase fuel oil so that their home can stay warm in the winter.

So while Barack Obama and his Green friends give speeches about saving the planet, combating “climate change,” and controlling the rapacious corporations who rape the land and its people, the 99% remain jobless and broke. No worries … there’s no story there, let’s all just move along.