Monday, July 25, 2011

Trust Me.

We are in the last week of negotiations between Congress and the President over the current debt ceiling.  The main sticking point seems to be that Democrats wish to increase revenue while Republicans want to reduce spending.

I like the Republican approach.  To me, the Democrats are taking us into uncharted territory.

Why do I characterize the argument in this fashion?  It has to do with defined outcomes.

Take note of our space program:  NASA funding is being cut, and as a result, there will be no more space shuttle flights, no astronaut training program, no R&D in this area.  Cutting NASA funding has defined outcomes.

In contrast, if we try to increase revenue, the results are not necessarily predictable.  Increasing tax rates on “the rich” does not guarantee an increase in revenue to the federal government.

We forget that “the rich” are also “the powerful.”  They will make decisions on whether or not they wish to play in the new game.  If special concessions are not granted, they will move their wealth into assets that are not exposed to the federal tax programs.

When the expected governmental revenue is not realized, we end up with the same problem, only worse.  Because of the time wasted in the experiment, we now face even more difficult prospects.

Our politicians may very well allow President Obama “another go” at solving the problem his way.  Our President instills hope and assures us that he can cut the interest on the federal debt and operate our country with the federal government consuming 25% of GDP rather than the traditional 20%.

Unfortunately, these promises have those pesky quantifiable risks.  Will our President truly save money on the interest paid on our national debt?  With interest rates rising and the amount of debt increasing, does his assurance ring true?

How about the increase in the size of government?  If we have never in our history had the federal government taking 25% of GDP, how do we know this will be good for the country?  When our politicians tell us it is “no big deal,” can they be believed?

We are being asked to weigh two “equal” policies of Republicans and Democrats, but what we are NOT being told is that one of them has substantial risk.  What does our President say about all this?

“Trust me.”

UPDATE 7/26/2011:
House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid present options for dealing with our federal debt.  CNN Money lays out the four components of Senator Reid's debt ceiling plan:

Specifically, Reid's plan includes $1.2 trillion in savings from various domestic and defense programs, along with $1 trillion in savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also generates $400 billion in interest savings on the debt, and another $40 billion by rooting out waste, fraud and abuse.
Note Senator Reid's "$400 billion in interest savings on the debt."  With rising interest rates and the amount of our public debt increasing , how will he accomplish that?  (I know, "Trust him.")

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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Undefeated

This past weekend, I went to the documentary of Sarah Palin’s public service experience.  My wife attended reluctantly.  She is a Democrat, and went with me as a pure act of love.

What were our impressions?  To say they were “mixed” would be an understatement.
The documentary is based on Sarah Palin’s book, “Going Rogue,” and faithfully represents the experience of Governor Palin in coming to prominence on the national political scene.  It tacks on a Tea Party connection at the end, fostering the notion that Sarah Palin is the de-facto leader of the movement.  The film ends with Andrew Breitbart generating enthusiasm for the Tea Party and its potential for changing the political climate in America.

The movie has some faults.  It is annoying in the way it intersperses staged scenes of dramatic action.  Actors who play to the camera in crowd scenes and in smoke-filled rooms break the sense of cinéma vérité.

The narrative is provided by conservative political pundits, and they are presented in an odd fashion. The camera frames them on one side of the picture and then jumps them to the other side in a technique that is irritating to view.  (Maybe I need to see more documentaries.)
How does the audience react?  The theater we attended in Denver featured an older audience.  The female members of the audience would occasionally let out a “whoop!” or a “Go Sarah!” when Governor Palin stood up to the various forces arrayed against her.

The film is inspirational, but my wife was completely put off by the whole experience.  She sees Governor Palin as opportunistic and calculating, and thinks the governor is using politics as a “get rich quick” scheme.  She believes Mrs. Palin is an inadequate mother to her children, and is a person who plays to a base of religious fundamentalists.  Her take is that Sarah Palin as an affront to sensible women everywhere.

My wife is a testament to the power of our American culture. In a few short months, our culture has fashioned an extreme caricature of a female political figure, and has made it believable.  Just three years ago, very few people outside of Alaska knew who Sarah Palin was.  Now, a large number of Americans have been taught to despise her.

This movie has an opportunity to strip that persona of its validity, but it falls short.  “The Undefeated” relies on its audience having an “Inside Baseball” knowledge of politics.  The problem is that if you are a normal American, you probably have no idea who Mark Levin is.  When he is featured in the movie, you lose the impact of his remarks because you may not understand why he is there.

The same is true of Andrew Breitbart.  His credentials are shown for a few seconds below his picture, but there is no character development.  We have no understanding of his journey.  His remarks end up lacking legitimacy because the film doesn’t tell the audience who he is.

Yes, “The Undefeated” may be ground-breaking, but it is unsatisfying.

There is a long way to go.

UPDATE 7/20/2011:
Linked by Chris Smith at The Other McCain!  Welcome back, Smitty.  Enjoy your R&R with the Mrs. and the coming "Blessed Event."

UPDATE 7/22/2011:
John Nolte at Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood directs our attention to The Scorecard.  Also note this page.  Scroll down to the letter grade rankings in the bottom right hand corner.  If you are interested in Governor Palin, you rank her either as an "A" or an "F."

It's fascinating that when Americans have an opinion on the Arctic Fox, there is no middle ground.  (I guess my wife and I exemplify that.)

UPDATE 7/25/2011:
We went to see the movie "Buck" this past weekend.  It is a documentary about Buck Brannaman from Cedar Creek Productions, and is quite a bit better than Stephen  Bannon's work at Victory Films.

"Buck" has an emotional sequence toward the end that shows the savaging of a handler by a stallion.  Contrast that with the savaging of Governor Palin that is shown in the first few minutes of "The Undefeated."

Note that in "Buck," the savaging is a problem.  In "The Undefeated" it is celebrated as entertainment.

UPDATE 7/27/2011:
Smitty at The Other McCain is a dad!  Let this be the first link for the World's Youngest Blogger.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Over this past weekend, we were treated to details of a Royal visit in California, a Republican Congressman dining in Washington, DC and a “Saturday Night Live” re-run.  The events neatly fit the title of that old Clint Eastwood movie referenced above.

First, "The Good:”
Kate Middleton has us smitten.  The Duchess of Cambridge and her husband visited North America last week, and finished their trip in Hollywood.  Kate exhibits a sophisticated fashion sense, and has a radiant goodness about her.  We can’t get enough.

But now, there’s "The Bad:”

Congressman Paul Ryan was accosted in Washington, DC while dining at Bistro Bis.  A Rutgers University professor celebrating her birthday was overcome with outrage over the Congressman drinking a glass of Pinot (a 2004 Jayer-Gilles Echézeaux) with his meal.  Professor Feinberg was incensed that a Congressman promoting austere budgetary policies was drinking an expensive wine.

And finally, “The Ugly:”

Tina Fey appeared on television in a re-run of “Saturday Night Live” and performed in a sketch about hapless Republican contenders in the upcoming 2012 election.  The skit featured Ms. Fey in the role of Sarah Palin and Kristen Wiig as Michele Bachmann.  Both of the Republican women were portrayed as inappropriate and unqualified.

These three separate incidents reflect our culture: There is a duality in play.

We celebrate lavish events, and yet take certain individuals to task for “their excess.”  We celebrate style and female charm, but also enjoy mocking women of accomplishment and independence.

Our culture loves “The Discrepancy.”  We have an entertainment venue that features a pregnant lady for a host, targets the show for a Mother’s Day audience, and then objectifies women of a particular political group.

Does it seem “over the top?”

Maybe, but our American culture doesn’t even stop to take notice.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Can "Teasing" Go Too Far?

A James Taranto story in the Chicago Daily Observer reports that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been convicted on 17 of 20 counts of corruption.  Mr. Taranto also brings our attention to a report by Tom Blumer.  Mr. Blumer notes that AP wire services failed to specify that the former governor of Illinois was a member of the Democratic Party.

Mr. Taranto points out an interesting discrepancy.  He references stories on the conviction of former California congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham that prominently featured Mr. Cunningham as a Republican.  There is a clear difference in the manner in which the two political figures have been portrayed in our culture, and that discrepancy is getting hard to ignore.

I mention that it is “getting hard to ignore” because many Americans still find it convenient to brush aside “the discrepancy.”

An anonymous commenter on my post about the movie “Julie & Julia” wrote that the differing treatment is nothing special: It is simply a case of “Republicans who don’t like being teased.”

Well, I suppose the significance of “the teasing” depends on whether you are the one being teased.  Do the constituents of Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen see his political speech as teasing?  Does the treatment of Sarah Palin make one think she is being teased?  Do our courts issue restraining orders for teasing?

Teasing can turn into bullying, and bullying can escalate into harassment.  When harassment turns to political violence, we take note.  It becomes “hard to ignore.”

Here’s hoping that 2011 is the year Americans stop ignoring “the discrepancy,” and start honing their cultural awareness.
UPDATE 7/13/2011:
Never mind about that political violence link...
A jury has ruled the SEIU members are not guilty.

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