Thursday, July 30, 2009
I had a life changing trip to Honduras after hurricane Mitch to install 8 newly developed portable water treatment units. The main killer associated with natural disasters is not usually the disaster, it is the water-borne illness that follows weeks and months later. The small privately owned environmental engineering company I worked for had personal relationships with the Episcopal Church in Honduras. Immediately after the storm, when the owner of the company asked the Episcopal Bishop what he (Honduras) needed, that answer was water. After a quick survey of available water treatment units, it was clear that none were large enough to be of use and, at the same time, portable enough to move across a country with no roads. We needed something that would produce a lot of water and that would fit on a single 4 wheel drive pickup. Our owner pulled about 20 of us with related experience into the back parking lot and in two days we had a working proto-type. A week or so later, we had built the first 8 units, tested them, and broke them down for shipment. That effort turned into Water Missions International. If you want to give money to an organization that puts that money to very good use, write them a check.
All that said because I fell in love with Honduras and the people there. Even in their absolutely destitute poverty, they were warm and generous. Now, our Gov't betrays them and I take it personally.
It has been difficult to tell in our popular press exactly what has been happening there. I was puzzled when I heard that our government was siding with Zelaya, the ousted president, because it sounded like Zelaya was violating the Honduran constitution and that the actions of the legislature, courts, and military had been entirely legal. But, obviously, I thought, surely our State Department would not side with one who wanted to uproot the national constitution of Honduras against the legitimate Honduran government. Surely, there must be more to the story.
Well I still don't understand. Today, I finally found a clear legal presentation of the situation written by Miguel Estrada, a Honduran immigrant to the US and a lawyer. There can be no doubt that the removal of Zelaya was legal and appropriate. The documents substantiating the actions are posted on the Honduran Supreme Court's web site.
It is clear that Zelaya tried to uproot the Honduran constitution, violated explicit portions of that document, and committed acts that were/are explicitly listed as treasonous in their constitution. His removal from office was entirely legal and appropriate.
So, I am left wondering why our current administration supports Zelaya and is tightening the pressure on the legal and right govermnent of Honduras to reinstate him.
I can only come up with one idea and I hope it is horribly wrong. The only reason I can see for the Obama administration to support Zelaya and reject the legitimate government of Honduras is because Obama (and, maybe those around him) relates to our constitution in exactly the same way Zelaya related to his. Maybe they see our founding document as an impediment to their ends. I really hope that is not the case. I really hope that there are other, less objectionable, reasons for our government supporting a treasonous deposed president in opposition to a legitimate and right and functioning Honduran gov't.
Any ideas? I'm open and hoping to have that idea replaced with a more palatable one.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
The Obama administration and the liberals in government are telling us that government must insert itself into our system in order to create more competition and thus, via market pressures, force down costs. Their object is ostensibly to save money.
Any of us who have watched how our government function for any period of time will immediately reject the idea that the government is inherently efficient and effective. The idea that government intervention in a market will cause costs to drop is laughable. Please note the recent example of the government injecting massive amounts of capital into the real estate market over a decade or so and then wondering why it over heated and crashed.
Look at the existing government run health care systems. Are they models of efficiency and effectiveness? The question is not whether they provide some level of service. The question is whether or not they are a model after which to fashion the rest of our health care sector.
In the face of history pointing us in the opposite direction and, now, numerous partisan and non-partisan organizations, including the Congressional Budget Office, agreeing that the plans currently flowing through our legislature will cost $trillions, not SAVE it, our President urges Congress not to squander this chance to reform health care.
So, we're left to try to discern the motives of our elected leaders. Why do they insist on passing a law that will surely increase the cost of health care when that is in direct opposition to the expressed objective of decreasing cost?
My only conclusion is that they favor more government at the costs of a better(cheaper) health care system and at the cost of growth in the wider economy.
P.S. - Obviously, health care is expensive. We modern humans are trying to rid ourselves of the kind or scourges that have killed millions throughout history. Such an effort will be expensive. However, we should not kid ourselves that such an effort would not reach a point of diminishing returns. So, we must strike a balance somehow between what we want and what we're willing or able to afford. The market is actually doing that for us. We need to shorten the linkage between the health care consumer and provider to facilitate normal market adjustments rather than insulate the consumer from the provider and vice-versa.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
-Bill Murray, Rushmore
I really like the word “epiphany.” I like the idea that knowledge, wisdom, revelation what-have-you can just strike like lightning. My problem is that I don't necessarily agree with it. Something that's been striking me lately is how life tends to move in cycles. The pressures, the gnarly uncomprising facts we have to work around, the truths we extrapolate from the ebb and flow in life tend to build and when they build, they culminate in some truth that we like to think of as an epiphany. The reality is if we stop to think about these things, there's not much that any muse has bequeathed us beyond our ability to discern and interpret.
These things are often much simpler than we like to think. We as Americans like to think that nothing is simple, that every problem must be solved. We're hooked on this legalistic idea of entitlement; we have these rights, we have these abilities and anything that gets in our way is inherently unjust. Life sometimes complicates this and when it does, we think someone should remove these roadblocks. Our society has arrived at a strange moment in its evolution; we don't love freedom anymore. We're “entitled” to it. The fact of the matter is that we're not entitled to a damn thing. This has put an unfamiliar strain on conservatism as a philosophy and as a result, we've become a group of bitterly disappointed romantics, not just because of the outcome of the recent election, the passing of the largest tax hikes in our history, and the disturbing turn our current administration has taken in terms of both media relations and foreign policy. Not to sound too mopey or stereotypical, but our problem is we've become John Gault. We work hard, we love America, we vote, and we get ignored and called crackpots and extremists by unconstitutional government agencies. We don't understand, and we don't understand because have yet to entirely acknowledge a basic truth that liberals have understood for decades, and that is that people are basically selfish.
This probably sounds condescending. Of course conservatives understand that people just plain suck sometimes. However, conservatives also believe wholeheartedly in the ability of people to make up their own minds. People must be free to come to revelation on their own for it to be at all meaningful. This isn't not true, but it's not as true as people would like to think. Our perspectives are built on how information is presented, how it's retained, and the volume of it we encounter. Public opinion is far more malleable than we think, which is a notion that liberals, again, have understood for decades.
Why are conservatives afraid to acknowledge this? Is it because it means that the individual doesn't have the impact we thought he or she might have and consequently, any impact we have? I don't think so. I think it's because it means that the good guys lost. We feel as though trying to do anything but let the truth act on its own is dishonest, because trying to present information in anything but a natural light is a step towards misrepresenting it. Liberalism in America has taken on some disturbing characteristics in the past several years and what makes it even more disturbing is the sheer effectiveness of these tactics. They're organized, centralized, hellbent on taking us down and advancing their own agenda, even at the cost of the American people. As a result, we feel soiled, sinful, looking this truth in the eye and acting on it. We'd feel that, by simply admitting this, we'd be abandoning our principles of self-determination and individualism because we'd be admitting that people need to have things determined for them. We'd be forced to acknowledge the need to organize, centralize and become hellbent ourselves. We're disturbed because we think the only way to win is to adapt the ways of the enemy and in doing so, we'd lose a piece of our souls.
Sorry, conservative America. I'm fresh out of sympathy. I was raised in a thoroughly red state and steeped in a philosophical and religious tradition that has does nothing but espouse personal freedom, so I buy into everything genuinely conservative (from a political standpoint. Social conservatives spend too much time telling me what to do; it gives me the creeps), but we've spent so much time fighting the idea that centralized authority is evil that we've checked every power we ourselves could have taken. Now, big government is here, and we haven't spent a second actual fighting the establishment. We've spent all of our time fighting the idea of establishment, of centralized authority. The problem isn't that we're wrong; the current administration has done nothing but prove us right nearly from day one. The problem is that we've failed to move with this knowledge, to be anything but romantic with it.
It sounds as though I'm reaming conservatism for being ineffectual. Not so; I'm reaming conservatives, not conservatism. We've always known that the best government is one that's nearly non-existant and the economy that works most harmoniously is one that operates entirely unmolested. Congressional Republicans under the Bush administration completely failed to adhere to those principles and soured the goodwill of the American public. There is a price to be paid for selling one's soul.
I know they had help. Congressional and social Democrats ruthlessly promoted their own ends for the sole purpose of expanding their own power base, will take steps to quell any form of rebellion, and will brook no dissent. They played on the will of the American people and propped up a candidate that dealt entirely in Hallmark-card platitudes about change and played on racial guilt to get votes from cultural elitists that still manage to insulate themselves from “diversity.” Their attitude towards the American people and anyone that raises a voice of protest is shockingly insensitive and openly hostile. They inspire dread in us for their intolerance to criticism, and they should. We know where this will lead.
I pose two questions in response. The first should seem obvious at this point. I'm young, so I can't remember that far back, but as long as I've been alive, this is how liberals have always conducted themselves. This brings me to my question—are you surprised? If this is how they've always conducted themselves, then how can we expect them to behave any differently? To do the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result each time is, according to Albert Einstein, insane. Just as modern liberals have always understood government to be about power, they've also always understood that politics is like any conflict, armed or otherwise. You do what you must to win and it doesn't matter who you have to step over to do it. Conservatives need to understand this. The traditional conservative finds this tiring and counterproductive to the true mission of government and again, rightfully so. This does not, however, stop liberals from waging politics like war, leaving conservatives a moody, self-pitying lot that spends an equal amount of time licking their wounds as fighting back. So liberals don't play fair. This bring me to my next question: so what? No, we shouldn't have to look at it like this, no, we shouldn't have to sacrifice the true focus of this enterprise if only to be successful. This is irrelevant. What happened is what happened, so here's my proposed solution--deal with it.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
One of the frequent refrains we heard after 9/11 was that we'd lost significant capacity in our intelligence services. Well, now, in a purely politically driven pursuit of GWB and Dick Cheney (Note: they're not in office anymore), our current administration is apparently considering investigating and indicting members of the CIA for doing their jobs.
Last month, Pelosi was calling them liars(she apparently wasn't listening while she was briefed about waterboarding).
The Dems are now saying the CIA hid secret projects (that, according to the Wall Street Journal, were intended to help kill people like Osama bin Laden) and now, we're going to prosecute.
I can't imagine a more effective way to encourage our CIA operatives to shift permanently into CYA mode. If with every new administration our intelligence services have to worry whether of not they're going to be prosecuted for doing their jobs, we will end up with no intelligence at all.
If there have been laws broken in the intelligence services, the PRESS IS NOT THE WAY to address those issues. If you're a legislator or the head of the Justice Dept. with half a brain, you pursue these issues behind closed doors with the utmost integrity and prudence.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Thanks go to Drudge for posting the link in the first place.
The first thing that impressed me about this particular appearance by the Vice President was just how incident free it was. Mr. Biden went from being fairly visible at the beginning of the Obama administration to becoming rather more subdued. This is understandable, after making cracks on the President about the prevalence of his teleprompter and his dropping the F bomb in front of a live mic for the press. Classic. He seems much more composed, far less reactionary. The change from his “shoot from the hip” style of dealing with the press is a pleasant change of pace, but the drastic nature of this change just goes to highlight his inability to deal with direct questions in an improvised manner in an unplanned context. Nice try, though.
The second thing that scares me to death about this is the talk of a second stimulus. Yeah, very impressive referencing a Noble prize winning economist, but I remember when Al Gore and Yasser Arafat won theirs. Not terribly impressed and economics is nowhere near as complicated as people like to pretend it is. It functions on the exact same principles that running an household does. I don’t even really pay taxes (I am SO aware of the irony of this, believe me) and I don’t have a family, but I still have the same basic pressures on my income and for all the forbidding terminology that goes along with it, so do sovereign states.
Despite all this, we’re talking about a second stimulus $787 billion later. I'm not going to belabor the notion of the first stimulus—it passed, and here we all dealing with it. The problem is the door it opened. A stimulus is not only (quite literally) the most counterproductive solution that can be conceived, it's a free pass at any solutions that Congressional Democrats and the President to do whatever they want in terms of correcting the situation. What the Fed managed to accomplish with the bailout was an unprecedented coup in terms of not just government intervention in an economy, it was also an unprecedented assertion of government control over issues with which they originally had very little to do. This disturbs me, especially when they started doing things like continuing to assert that control over the banking and automotive industries while making life difficult for those who decided not to play ball. Government doesn’t operate that way, organized crime does. So why is it that our government continually tries to “fix” a problem that might not actually be a problem, but just a natural cycle? Why are they so bent on spending as much money as they can as if spending money will make the problem go away?
The stimulus package will not work and when it's failure is undeniable, they will simply do it again. The economy itself, ironically, a good indicator of the mood of the populace; as long as people are feeling unsure about the economic climate, they're simply not going to spend, which will keep the economy depressed. Coupled with the dip in Gallup/Rasmussen polls in the President's approval rating, we seem to get a pretty clear picture of the common mood: the stimulus is a bad idea. Even discussion of a second stimulus, even the open-ended response on the part of the Vice President, screams of an abject lack of responsibility on the part of our government. Each step of this public appearance was, I will admit, a series of deft political maneuvers designed for a viewer that is unfamiliar with the situation. Tax cuts for the poorest elements of the economy, expansion of unemployment benefits, taking shots at stimulus critics like Sen. Coburn are all textbook perfect moves. They're also all insulting superficial. Expanding unemployment benefits does nothing when there's no money to fund the system, the poorest elements of the economy aren't the sectors that drive it, and I find it interesting that the Vice President mentioned that forty seven of the programs pointed out by Sen. Coburn were cut after the Senator made them public. The current administration firmly believes that America is peopled by morons.
That's the thing about society, Mr. Vice President. It's a natural phenomenon borne out of all of our instincts, the best and the basest. It also moves like a natural cycle; seasons of thick and thin, feast and famine. The economy is an extension of that and moves in like style—no matter how badly you abuse it, the cycle will move forward and still right itself. Government is a similar beast. The season of overgovernment may be now, but treating the entirety of the American people like idiots naturally has serious consequences. Feast while you can.