Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Tone-Deaf Liberal Media

Dear liberals, journalists (same thing) and nutjobs,
Despite your attempts to distract from the real story of the Journolist scandal (see Amanda Marcotte's piece, Writing Future Scandals So the Right Doesn't Have To, most people actually get what the problem is with having a listserv where you strategize how to cover news. Keep telling yourselves that speaking at a convention where, assumably, anyone can pay to attend, is exactly like being in a group that (a) no one gets to know about and (b) only people on the left are allowed to join. Yeah, those are exactly the same!

Fortunately, some liberals get the problem with Journolist:

Chuck Todd, political director and chief White House correspondent for NBC News, who was not part of Journolist, told me this:

“I am sure Ezra had good intentions when he created it, but I am offended the right is using this as a sledgehammer against those of us who don’t practice activist journalism.

“Journolist was pretty offensive. Those of us who are mainstream journalists got mixed in with journalists with an agenda. Those folks who thought they were improving journalism are destroying the credibility of journalism.

“This has kept me up nights. I try to be fair. It’s very depressing.”

Emphasis mine.

I've always told friends and family that sure, journalists are liberals, but most of them actually try to keep their biases in check and function as reporters and editors. It's possible to do this if you remain mindful of your own opinions and remain faithful to the idea that objectively presenting information is more persuasive than distorting the facts. But Journolist has turned that argument on its head; it has given the Rush Limbaugh's of the world the best evidence that there is indeed a liberal cabal planning news coverage and spinning events to favor certain (Democrat, liberal) candidates and disfavor (Republican, conservative) others. And worse for journalists is that no one remains untarred by this broad brush.

I'm sure Ezra Klein thought it would be really cool to allow liberal journalists to vent in private about the people and events they write about publicly, but doing so in this way is simply unethical. Journalists sitting around a bar talking about the events of the day is one thing, but I never met a reporter who talked with his buddies about how to prevent damage to one candidate from inconvenient information. That's not journalism. That's public relations.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Facebook Can Be Used Against You

There are plenty of reasons to watch what you say on social networking sites, but litigation is probably not the one you considered before flaming your boss on your Wall.

The first thing I do after I receive a copy of an employee-filed complaint -- before I read the complaint -- is check the plaintiff-employee out on Facebook and other social networking sites.

I print any information that employee has made publicly available. I save any pictures the employee has published online and I send a list of the employee's friends to my employer-client to cross-check against a list of current and former employees. I do this because, generally, a Facebook user will allow friends greater access to online content.

Why do I want this information? Because many social media users do not filter what they publish online -- they find social media cathartic. So, for every couple of banal "I'm going to the movies with John tonight" online posts, you'll find an "I just had the worst day in the office because …" post.

It may be considered unfair to have your words used against you in the court of law, but remember that one of the lessons from the JournoList flap is that what you say on the internet is never private and cxan always come back to bite you. That's why you should think about it before hitting the send button (I've even had people say intemperate things in a comment and delete it, not knowing I still saw what they'd sent).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Daily KOS: Take Out Organized Religion

Oh, dear. The philosophy of tolerance has none for organized religion, especially Christianity (also known as "chirstianity" by the author).

It is time to stop taking all this sitting down. It is time to begin working actively to bring about the end of organized religion. At the beginning of the 21st century, it is a wonder that a group of ignorant, bigoted and hateful men (yes, mostly men) can preach against scientific progress and try to take this country and the world a few centuries back. It is time to face the truth -- THERE IS NO GOD. I don't begrudge the faith to those who believe -- but I am not out there trying to impose vegetarianism or red uniforms on anyone. So, please, keep your religion out of my face. Humanity may have needed to believe in rocks or celestial bodies when we barely could walk upright. At the beginning of the 21st century, it is finally time to dispense with the crutch. Religion in general and chirstianity sic) in particular are EVIL.

It's always lovely to see the mask slip from the diversity and tolerance crowd. Forget the massive good Christianity (in particular) does and has done through the years, taking care of the poor and infirm, leading calls for civil rights for blacks and women, and so on. Forget the massive aid Christians give to organizations that help victims of natural disasters or despotic regimes. No, the fact that the Church is made of humans with human failings makes it, somehow, intolerable.

Forget about the Constitutional implications here (the author uses a lot of double speak about "freedom to believe what you want" while discussing tearing down churches). This is the sort of thing liberals do best. Call it more of the "for your own good" syndrome. Hey, we know that faith in God typically makes people happier, healthier, more generous and better citizens, but religion is just baaaad for you. Besides, if we manage to get rid of the Catholic church, there won't ever be any pedophiles again!

The fact is that evil exists. Period. If you take away one's freedom of religion, you won't have less evil, but more evil. Look at what happened in both the Soviet Union and China, where organized religion was basically outlawed. More people died as a result of communism than Christianity (and please don't be stupid and call Hitler a Christian), so it's really quite difficult to take seriously any liberal who supports the tenets of socialism and communism saying the problem is praying to God.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

About That Socialized Medicine: Cutting Services at the NHS

It doesn't come as any surprise to sensible people, but, apparently, there are some people shocked that the National Health Service is cutting the services patients can get.

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered widespread cuts planned across the NHS, many of which have already been agreed by senior health service officials. They include:

* Restrictions on some of the most basic and common operations, including hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and orthodontic procedures.

* Plans to cut hundreds of thousands of pounds from budgets for the terminally ill, with dying cancer patients to be told to manage their own symptoms if their condition worsens at evenings or weekends.

* The closure of nursing homes for the elderly.

* A reduction in acute hospital beds, including those for the mentally ill, with targets to discourage GPs from sending patients to hospitals and reduce the number of people using accident and emergency departments.

* Tighter rationing of NHS funding for IVF treatment, and for surgery for obesity.

* Thousands of job losses at NHS hospitals, including 500 staff to go at a trust where cancer patients recently suffered delays in diagnosis and treatment because of staff shortages.

* Cost-cutting programmes in paediatric and maternity services, care of the elderly and services that provide respite breaks to long-term carers.

There's no such thing as "basic" healthcare. There's only healthcare that solves your problem, whether it's a $7.50 bottle of penicillin or a $50,000 heart bypass. This is why the argument that your insurance company "rations" your healthcare is pretty much nonsense. The rationing comes when you are barred from getting treatment because the government has decided you don't really need pain meds for cancer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

JournoList: The Vast Leftwing Conspiracy

The JournoList story is an inside baseball tale, but what's fascinating about it is that it proves what conservatives have argued for 30 years: there really is a vast leftwing conspiracy.

I think JournoList is—or was—fundamentally different, and not simply because one of its members proposed to make palpably false accusations. As best I can tell, those involved in JournoList considered themselves part of a team. And their goal was to make sure the team won. In 2008, this was Mr. Obama's team. More recently, the goal seems to have been to defeat the conservative team.

Ezra Klein and others have argued that it was mainly opinion people and columnists saying the outrageous things about Rush Limbaugh, Fred Barnes and Karl Rove. But while people who aren't beat reporters might have been commenting on JournoList, there were 400 subscribers and more than a few of them were mostly reporters and editors, the regular kind who talk about professional ethics and objectivity. How many of them read the JournoList posts without making their own comments but who absorbed the ideas written there? Until the list of subscribers is revealed, we won't know.

UPDATE: More at, where the 3 theories of media bias are discussed well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Is Now the Club To Bludgeon Conservatives

Does anyone honestly think David Frum is a conservative? There's absolutely nothing about the conservative movement that Frum agrees with, and while he might not be Amanda Marcotte, he spends more time bashing conservatives than discussing his alternatives.

Take the Shirley Sherrod controversy. As I said in the comments of the previous post, I can't believe Andrew Breitbart deliberately edited the video and put it out on the net. It took less than 12 hours for the story to be refuted, and that makes it hardly worth the trashing of his own reputation, doesn't it? I can see that Breitbart snapped up the video like Rosie O'Donnell gobbles down chocolates, but being gullible isn't the same as intentionally harming this woman.

Of course, the leftwingers are all portraying this as the latest example of conservative racism, and it certainly knocked the Journolist story off the top spot on Memeorandum. But the best line comes from Legal Insurrection:

Media Matters and Think Progress, the ultimate out-of-context word and phrase manipulators, are hot on the case because Shirley Sherrod was taken out of context.

So how about some context for the handful (out of many millions) of people who have attended Tea Party rallies carrying racist signs?

How about considering that some of the people were not really Tea Party supporters but plants by the opposition designed to create controversy? Or that some of the photos were not even at Tea Party rallies? Or that some of the people were kicked out of the Tea Party movement? Or that some of the accusations of racist words being shouted are denied and the videos show otherwise? Or that numerous blacks who are active in the Tea Party movement deny that there is widespread racism? Or that the Tea Party philosophy of limited government and free enterprise is completely race neutral?

"Context for we, but not for thee," seems to be the philosophy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Video's Worth 1,000 Words

This video (the full version) tells the story that this viral video didn't.

The short of it: Shirley Sherrod tells a story at an NAACP meeting about her own racist attitude and behavior toward a white farmer she was supposed to help while working at a nonprofit. That's the story that made the circuit this morning.

But the real story was more nuianced, as the video shows. Unfortunately, the White House forced her to resign over this, which shows how scared they are of racial issues. This was clearly a case where the WH overreacted, which, given their usual languid response to issues (*cough* gulf oil spill *cough*), is unbelievable.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Agree with Paul Krugman

Or, at least, his conclusion:

What I expect, instead, if and when the midterms go badly, is that the usual suspects will say that it was because Mr. Obama was too liberal — when his real mistake was doing too little to create jobs.

But, of course, Barack Obama hasn't done anything to create jobs precisely because of his liberalness. Obama has pursued a course that Americans have objected to vociferously, yet it has done nothing to stop the assault on the American economy.

Some of my friends argue that Obama seeks to ruin our economy and replace it with socialism, communism, or some form of dictatorship, but I'm not that conspiratorial. I do believe BO thinks his policies are best for solving the country's problems, but his answers are all wrong. While Krugman complains that the stimulus package was simply too small to turn around our economic woes, most of us recognize that personal bad economic times don't get better by continuing to rack up giant credit card bills. It gets better by (a) cutting spending and (b) increasing income. In the case of our country, this would mean holding the line on discretionary spending (no increases) and giving businesses incentives for hiring and producing. This could be accomplished in a variety of ways, including assuring businesses that you weren't going to add a bunch of new regulations that are going to cost them billions to implement (such as Obamacare).

Instead, what we have are Democrats behaving like Democrats, then shrugging when Americans reject it. For them, the problem isn't their arrogance and terrible policies; the problem is America.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

When in Doubt, Blame Your Enemies

From the Barack Obama is a big, fat liar file:

Jake Tapper interviewed Vice President Joe Biden and challenged him on the administration’s new Recovery Summer public-relations sloganeering, with economic indicators retreating and consumer confidence falling. Biden implicitly acknowledged the failure of the Porkulus bill, but had a ready villain to blame — the dastardly Republicans who wouldn’t let the administration spend as much as they wanted

As Ed Morrissey explains, the Porkulus bill was the size it is because that's what Democrats wanted, not because of any opposition by Republicans. January 2009 was the height of I Won (so you can stuff it) freedom that swept Washington last year. The fact that the so-called stimulus package has produced a net 14,000 private sector jobs per month just points out the utter failure of Democrats to do anything about the economy. But then, they haven't really been interested in job creation. Can't let that crisis go to waste, you know.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Saddest Truth

Charles Krauthammer writes that Barack Obama's presidency is a play in two acts and he's already gotten everything he could have wanted in the first act (his first four years).

But Obama's most far-reaching accomplishment is his structural alteration of the U.S. budget. The stimulus, the vast expansion of domestic spending, the creation of ruinous deficits as far as the eye can see are not easily reversed.

These are not mere temporary countercyclical measures. They are structural deficits because, as everyone from Obama on down admits, the real money is in entitlements, most specifically Medicare and Medicaid. But Obamacare freezes these out as a source of debt reduction. Obamacare's $500 billion in Medicare cuts and $600 billion in tax increases are siphoned away for a new entitlement -- and no longer available for deficit reduction.

The result? There just isn't enough to cut elsewhere to prevent national insolvency. That will require massive tax increases -- most likely a European-style value-added tax. Just as President Ronald Reagan cut taxes to starve the federal government and prevent massive growth in spending, Obama's wild spending -- and quarantining health-care costs from providing possible relief -- will necessitate huge tax increases.

The net effect of 18 months of Obamaism will be to undo much of Reaganism. Both presidencies were highly ideological, grandly ambitious and often underappreciated by their own side. In his early years, Reagan was bitterly attacked from his right. (Typical Washington Post headline: "For Reagan and the New Right, the Honeymoon Is Over" -- and that was six months into his presidency!) Obama is attacked from his left for insufficient zeal on gay rights, immigration reform, closing Guantanamo -- the list is long. The critics don't understand the big picture. Obama's transformational agenda is a play in two acts.

Act One is over. The stimulus, Obamacare, financial reform have exhausted his first-term mandate. It will bear no more heavy lifting. And the Democrats will pay the price for ideological overreaching by losing one or both houses, whether de facto or de jure. The rest of the first term will be spent consolidating these gains (writing the regulations, for example) and preparing for Act Two.

I've been stunned when I've read the grumbling from leftwingers about how centrist Obama is. They aren't happy with spending $1 trillion we don't have; they insist we spend much, much more. They don't like Obamacare because it isn't socialist enough to have a public option. They complain that financial reform doesn't go far enough because some people will still be able to make a profit.

And yet, all that Obama has done to us is precisely why so many people want to kick the Democrats out. It's bizarre to me that so many people blindly voted for this man because they wanted to make history or they wanted to believe, like small children that they can eat their cake and still have it.

Krauthammer goes on to say that the second act of Obama's show will come after 2012. If Republicans win in 2010, it's far more likely Obama will be re-elected. If the consequences weren't so dire, it would almost be worth having the Democrats in charge until then.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Texas Governor Ad: Bill White Is Barack Obama

I thought this ad against Democrat candidate for Texas governor Bill White to be interesting. In 2006 and 2008, Democrats successfully ran against George W. Bush, even though he wasn't running. They ran against him in national, state and local races. Now, apparently, Republicans at all levels may find it effective to nationalize their local elections and run against Barack Obama.

In fairness to Bill White, he's no Barack Obama. He supports the death penalty and the Second Amendment, but it's pretty hard to be a Texan and not support those issues.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Democrats Wanted to Be In Charge Until They Were Responsible

Greg Sargent is crying in his beer that "Republican obstructionism" is preventing Democrats from ruining things further and Democrats are getting blamed for the crappy economy they're in charge of!

What's more, the public is deeply unhappy with the Federal government's performance, with an astonishing 64 percent saying they're dissatisfied or angry about it.

Yet Republicans are not paying any price for this. While the poll shows the GOP is not trusted on the economy, Republicans have edged ahead in the generic ballot matchup, 47-46. Anti-incumbent sentiment is soaring -- only one-fourth say they're inclined to re-elected their Representative -- which will also help Republicans. And a majority, 51 percent, support GOP control of Congress so it can act as a "check" on Obama's policies.

This clearly demonstrates that people have not connected GOP obstructionism with one of its most visible results: The prevention of the extended of unemployment benefits that a sizable majority says it wants.

People also say (by large margins) that they want less government spending and lower taxes, but I notice Sargent isn't wasting any time worrying about what Americans want when it comes to that.

If this Gold-Plated Witch on Wheels is cackling, it's because she remembers liberals gleefully talking about Republican minorities for decades to come and how elections have consequences. How are those consequences doing now, buddy?

Taxing the Rich

Dana has a nice post on the liberal obsession with taxing behavior they dislike, which makes very good points, but lead me to this Ross Douthat column which argues that "taxing the rich" can sometimes be a good thing.

The left-wing instinct, when faced with high-rolling irresponsibility, is usually to call for tax increases on the rich. But the problem, here and elsewhere, isn’t exactly that we tax high rollers’ incomes too lightly. It’s that we subsidize their irresponsibility too heavily — underwriting their bad bets and bailing out their follies. The class warfare we need is a conservative class warfare, which would force the million-dollar defaulters to pay their own way from here on out.

Over the last couple of years, there's been a great deal of talk about "too big to fail" companies and bailing out banks and such. There are those who argue that such bailouts were necessary to keep our economy from falling off a cliff, but it certainly illuminates the idea that there's one set of rules for the rich and another for the rest of us.

Back during the S&L crisis of the late 1980s, I thought it was insane that there was federal insurance covering at least $100k of anybody's money in the shakiest institution in town. That insurance encouraged people to find the worst savings and loan with the highest interest rate to bank with, safe in the knowledge that they would be able to get their funds regardless of the institution's solvency. That the taxpayer was on the hook for these ponzi schemes was no matter to me; I liked getting the high interest rates. Of course, I was young and liberal then, not realizing that I would be expected to pay higher taxes for years to come for financing these bogus schemes.

It's 20 years later and, apparently, we've still not learned the S&L lesson that bailing out bad companies doesn't really improve their performance. Why are we still subsidizing bad business decisions for big businesses? No doubt the employees of said institutions would be harmed (fired) when the company goes bust, but why are GM employees more deserving of my tax dollars than my favorite doughnut shop owner?
This policy is typical of the way the federal government does business. In case after case, Washington’s web of subsidies and tax breaks effectively takes money from the middle class and hands it out to speculators and have-mores. We subsidize drug companies, oil companies, agribusinesses disguised as “family farms” and “clean energy” firms that aren’t energy-efficient at all. We give tax breaks to immensely profitable corporations that don’t need the money and boondoggles that wouldn’t exist without government favoritism.

Douthat also points out this subsidizing the rich is evident in Social Security and Medicare, as well. The problem with means testing those programs, though, is that they were never sold as welfare programs (which would make them more vulnerable to cost-cutting). We were all told that everyone gets a share. IMO, the biggest problem with Social Security is the cap on the tax. Why is it that only the first $106,800? If you're going to tax people for this, it would bring in more income to tax the whole thing, not that I'm a big tax-everybody-person.

The bottom line here is that subsidizing bad behavior is bad public policy, whether you're talking about welfare, unemployment, or government subsidies for businesses. They all send the wrong message: taxpayers are suckers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Speaking of Jobs...

Maybe I should apply to be a burger flipper.

The first time I ever grilled a hamburger was yesterday and this is the photographic evidence to prove it.

Stupid Liberal Tricks: Republicans Hate the Unemployed

Steve Benen must be a total idiot or just a jerk to write this:

"The jobs are there"? No, they're really not. Nationwide, there are five applicants for every one opening, which is a terribly painful ratio. Pennsylvania's unemployment rate is currently at a 26-year high.

Corbett not only seems confused about economic conditions, but his animosity about the jobless' attitudes is awful. Yes, I can appreciate the fact that an unemployed worker who's exhausted his/her benefits will be more desperate to take any job than an unemployed worker who's still receiving public aid. But this dynamic matters a whole lot more when there are plenty of job opportunities for those who want them. That's just not the current reality.

To hear Corbett tell it, the unemployed prefer to be unemployed -- turning down job opportunities that pay more, choosing to rely on aid that offers far less. Worse, Corbett doesn't seem to realize that his approach makes the larger problem worse -- cutting people off from unemployment benefits undercuts consumer spending, which in turn leads to less demand and fewer job opportunities.

Ok, so Benen is just an ass, obviously. And, amazingly, he twists the idea that people will wait to find a job longer if they are receiving unemployment than if they aren't into "hate."

Hey, jerk. Take it from somebody who's been unemployed. It's a sucky market to find a job but you can do it. What you can't do (and find employment) is decide to wait a month and take a "vacation" before you start looking. Or only look at jobs that pay as well as the one you left. Or try to get a better paying job. See, the idea is that you take a job close to what you were making--maybe not as much--and then keep looking for a better job. The old ditty about finding a better job while you have one is still true.

How do I know the market sucks but you can find a job if you bust your ass and look? Because I decided to find a full-time job last December to help pay off our debt (see Another Reason to Live Debt-Free) because I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I busted my ass to find a full-time job (or, at least, I tried harder than usual). I put out lots of resumes. I had tons of phone interviews. I had lots of in-person interviews. I called in favors from friends who tried to get me hired. And guess what? Eventually, I got a full-time job. It took six months to do it, but I got one, and I'm making more money now than I've ever made (God is good).

Along the way, I took a patchwork of part-time jobs and one-day gigs to add money to our budget. I'm still working both my part-time and full-time jobs to try to get all the debt paid off faster (we're still hoping for the end of the year). Our plans didn't work the way we thought they would because it took much longer than usual for me to find a job, but, nonetheless, we'll make it.

This isn't bragging. Near the end, I'd begun having that "Oh, shit" feeling one gets when you realize things are way worse than you thought they were. I'd started contemplating taking a lesser paying job (along with my part-time gigs) just so I'd be gainfully employed. What I'm saying is, it's a bad market, but there are jobs, and telling people they're going to have to settle for less and make it up in volume doesn't mean you hate the unemployed.

Or, put another way:
Republicans assume someone earning $50,000 who loses his job is likely to hold out for a $50,000 position while utilizing his unemployment benefits. If his jobless benefits expire before he finds a position he may be forced to accept a lower paying job – say $35,000. Ironically, the job seeker will still make more than he made on unemployment and he is gaining valuable job experience and will likely be able to move back up the wage ladder as the economy grows and recovers. Extending jobless benefits may allow the job seeker to avoid accepting a lower paying job keeping him out of the employment market longer potentially making him less and less attractive to potential employers. It is hard for most workers to accept that they aren’t worth the $50,000 they made last year to accept that $35,000 position – but it is most likely the best economic decision they could make.

Economists are arguing that it could take nearly a decade for the job market to recover. That means a lot of people are going to have to take jobs they would have turned down only a couple of years ago. It's tough when you've been living on $100k to discover your same talents are only worth $70,000 now, but that's the reality we are living in. And there's nothing hateful about realizing that unemployment benefits we can't afford because of our national debt is giving people false hope that they'll get that $100k a year job in four more months.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Democrats: Governing Is Haaaard

When I read whining like this and the attached Atrios post, I have to fight the urge to reach through the computer and smack these people. I mean, seriously, guys, grow the f*** up.

You wanted to run the country. You hated George W. Bush and Republicans and bragged about how much better you would do when in office. Well, you're in office now with the largest majorities in forever and you still can't pass any legislation. I have a novel idea for you: maybe--just maybe--most people didn't vote for your stupid, radical ideas and they've spent the last 18 months letting you know they didn't. If you weren't such egotistical moronic jerks, you would have looked at the Tea Party rallies, the townhall meetings, the innundation of phonecalls, e-mails and letters from your constituents and decided to go in a different direction from the leftwing agenda you started with. You would have understood that giving Americans the finger over Obamacare was going to scare the pee out of your conservative wing and spell doom for any more cooperation from them...because you don't care about their concerns any more than you care about regular Americans' concerns.

If you want Americans to support your policies and you want your own membership to support your policies, then quit treating everybody like they are children who don't understand what is for their own good. Start treating the citizens of this country as adults, not wards of the state. And when we tell you DON'T PASS OBAMACARE, listen to us. Then you wouldn't be left whining that, oh, boo-hoo, we can't pass any more radical legislation that Americans are gonna hate.

Instead, what we're watching is the disintegration of the American left, which wants to burn down the house before the rabble beats down the door. After all, once you pull the lever in the voting booth, you quit having an opinion about politics, right? Certainly, you don't have an opinion those great scholars in the Democratic Party consider important.

Children and Materialism

This story on materialism and what it teaches our children got me thinking and remembering.

One day not long after Christmas, Sara comes home chattering eagerly about a new toy that has made its appearance—something that apparently stands out from the now mundane ponies, mermaids, and Barbies.

“It’s a stuffed animal that can transform into a fruit and even smells like a fruit,” she explains excitedly. “A Fur Berry. And there are four, maybe even five different kinds! And Tekla has one, and so does Flora, and Anna, and …” She stops her speech and looks at me expectantly.

“Well that’s great. Lots of Fur Berries, lots of opportunities to make swaps.”

But she’s shaking her head as if I don’t understand. I turn and face her. She is not eager or excited as I first thought, but agitated. In fact, her big brown eyes are blinking hard, fighting back tears. “No, Mommy,” she says with a hint of desperation. “Everyone has a Fur Berry—don’t you see?—everyone but me.” I may have been slow on the uptake, but now the message is clear. Swapping isn’t enough. A Fur Berry is not a toy one merely obtains on exchange for just a day or two at the most. Its importance lies far beyond its transient entertainment value. It will earn her social cachet, and it’s vital that I as a parent understand this. But somehow, I find myself unable to accept Sara’s urgent need for this fuzzy, pastel-colored plaything.

Days go by, however, and the Fur Berry is the only topic she’s willing to discuss, and always with the teary eyes. Eventually she does concede that, okay, not everyone has a Fur Berry. Only the girls. And well, not all the girls either, only a few. But they are the girls that matter. They are the girls who decide who is in and who is out.

My husband and I are dismayed. She’s only in first grade, yet peer pressure and the tyranny of cliques have already reared their ugly heads. Sooner than I expected, I find myself recalling my own painful struggles of early adolescence. I was never a popular child, introverted and bookish, awkward and unfashionable. And this last quality, my lack of style, was the most problematic. I was sadly aware of how popularity was connected to wealth, and that material possessions could impact one’s social standing: all my clothes came from the Sears catalogue, while many of the other girls were wearing trendy stone-washed Guess jeans. “A waste of money,” my mother would say, “and totally unimportant.” But I remember the looks of scorn on my classmates’ faces.

In a world where what's in today is out tomorrow, it's easy to tell ourselves that these fads aren't important, and that telling our children "no" is teaching them valuable lessons in avoiding materialism. But as the author herself notes, the humiliation of not having what others have can leave lifelong scars.

In Little Women, Amy succumbs to any and every fad at school, and eventually needs to buy pickled limes to repay her friends. Pickled limes? you might say. Why would anyone want something so disgusting? But fads are fads and yesterday's pickled limes becomes today's Lego Star Wars ship and tomorrow's Fur Berry. Yes, these trends are temporary, but sometimes there's more at work to them than first appears.

When I was in high school, designer jeans were all the rage. My family couldn't afford them. My mother had gone to college to get her BSN, and my father's $8-an-hour job didn't stretch much beyond the necessities. If I wanted spending money, I had to work for it, and I did so without complaint. Having my own, earned money was very freeing in most ways, but I couldn't afford designer jeans on minimum wage.

Because of our tight budget, I knew Christmas would be skimpy, and I didn't expect much of anything. Maybe a book I'd been wanting, or the latest Billy Joel album. But then, under the tree, was a tiny box that weighed next to nothing. In the box was a small strip of paper that read, I.O.U. one pair designer jeans. It was a humbling experience, knowing that my parents were willing to sacrifice something they wanted to get me something I wanted, and it was a lesson I never forgot. At that point, the jeans weren't just a pair of jeans; it was an acknowledgement that having what others had sometimes meant a great deal.

I still have that pair of jeans in my closet, believe it or not. They've traveled from my teenage bedroom at my parents' house to the tiny apartment I rented when I was a single woman to both the houses I've owned as a married adult. My husband has even asked me why on earth I have this old pair of jeans in the back of the closet? Why keep something so horribly out of fashion, something I'll never wear?

The answer, of course, is to remind me that loving your kids is about more than giving in to them every time they want something new. Those jeans remind me that my parents honestly cared about the travails of adolescence and the meanness of teenage girls, and that, for them, being a little late on some bill or not getting something for themselves was a small sacrifice to make to take away a little of that pain. And considering the amount of time my parents had spent lecturing my siblings and me on not following the crowd or giving in to peer pressure, the fact that even they understood the problems one faces in junior high and high school was comforting.

I don't buy my children every fad item that comes along. But I do buy some of them, particularly when my children have hit junior high, where fitting in becomes so important. We still don't have money to buy every new thing, but I've bought a single pair of outrageously priced jeans so that one daughter could look cool the first day of school. I've let my son have his shaggy hair the way he'd like, rather than insist he look clean and neat. And I'm sure there will be more of that balancing act in the future.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Obama Tax Cometh

Dana has a great post up discussing what that saved tax money from the Bush tax cuts can buy...and not for the rich.

Using tax years 2000 and 2004 Forms 1040¹ (picked because 2000 was the last year under the pre-tax cut numbers, and 2004, because it had all of the 2003 tax cuts figured in) and an adjusted gross income of $60,000 for a family of four, with two children under 17 at the end of the tax year, and using the standard deduction, that $60,000 AGI in 2000 would have paid $5,214 in federal income taxes, while in 2004, only $2,974 in federal income taxes, for a savings of $2,240. Perhaps that’s just chump change to you, but it works out to $186.66 a month.

Now, what’s $186.66 a month to a family of four? Well, it might be a whole week’s worth of groceries, or perhaps it’s their electric and water bills for the month. Maybe it’s a car payment, so they can get to work. If we assume that the $60,000 is jointly and evenly earned by two people, working full-time jobs, you’re looking at an hourly wage of $14.42 an hour; $2,240 = 155.34 hours of work for them, or just shy of four weeks of full time work! Under the 2000 tax rates, each of those two people would be working two more weeks out of the year for the federal government . . . and two weeks less for themselves.

Sadly, even as liberals argue about "tax cuts for the rich," they are perfectly willing to let tax cuts for everyone expire provided they stick it to the rich in the process. I mean, why should you get $1000 tax credit per kid? You don't need it, right?

Robert Reich argues today that the recession is all the rich people's fault. Why? Because they haven't been paying enough all these years. If they had, there would have been plenty of goodies for all of us!
Government could have given employees more bargaining power to get higher wages, especially in industries sheltered from global competition and requiring personal service: big-box retail stores, restaurants and hotel chains, and child- and eldercare, for instance. Safety nets could have been enlarged to compensate for increasing anxieties about job loss: unemployment insurance covering part-time work, wage insurance if pay drops, transition assistance to move to new jobs in new locations, insurance for communities that lose a major employer so they can lure other employers. With the gains from economic growth the nation could have provided Medicare for all, better schools, early childhood education, more affordable public universities, more extensive public transportation. And if more money was needed, taxes could have been raised on the rich.

Big, profitable companies could have been barred from laying off a large number of workers all at once, and could have been required to pay severance—say, a year of wages—to anyone they let go. Corporations whose research was subsidized by taxpayers could have been required to create jobs in the United States. The minimum wage could have been linked to inflation. And America's trading partners could have been pushed to establish minimum wages pegged to half their countries' median wages—thereby ensuring that all citizens shared in gains from trade and creating a new global middle class that would buy more of our exports.

I always love liberal economics. In the liberal economic world, everybody works real hard and doesn't care how much they make. Entrepreneurs and big business guys are delighted to have 90% of their money taken in taxes and they still want to make more money so the government can take it!

Of course, in the real world, such policies provide little incentive to produce more than the minimum. And on top of that, these tax policies don't just hurt "the rich." They hurt everyone.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

There's No Such Thing as Free Lemonade

I knew when I read this story about the little girls giving away "free" lemonade and the conservative lesson from it, that liberals would go nuts. I wasn't disappointed.

The author tells the story of three little girls running a lemonade stand. When asked how much they were charging, the girls responded that it was "free."

"You must charge something for the lemonade," I explained. "That's the whole point of a lemonade stand. You figure out your costs -- how much the lemonade costs, and the cups -- and then you charge a little more than what it costs you, so you can make money. Then you can buy more stuff, and make more lemonade, and sell it and make more money."

In other words, for a conservative, a lemonade stand isn't a charity event. It's a way to teach children about entrepreneurship and running one's own business. You won't stay in business very long if you give away your goods or services for free, after all.

And then the author draws the analogy with government "free" money:
No wonder America is getting it all wrong when it comes to government, and taxes, and policy. We all act as if the "lemonade" or benefits we're "giving away" is free.

And so the voters demand more -- more subsidies for mortgages, more bailouts, more loan modification and longer periods of unemployment benefits.

They're all very nice. But these things aren't free.

The government only gets the money to pay these benefits by raising taxes, meaning taxpayers pay for the "free lemonade." Or by printing money -- which is essentially a tax on savings, since printing more money devalues the wealth we hold in dollars.

If we can't teach our kids the basics of running a lemonade stand, how can we ever teach Congress the basics of economics?

The problem here is that castigating little girls for giving away their parents' stuff is a sickness to the moonbats. As always, the best nuttiness is in the comments:
"Take THAT, kids! If we didn't have people like Savage to stop this type of behavior now, soon they'd start thinking that you have a right to not die of something simple like a tooth infection if you couldn't afford the medical bills."

"But why he would create this parable is beyond me.Surely he can't be saying that children giving away lemonade on a corner is the reason HIS generations' reckless and greedy behavior almost brought the world to its knees."

"The guy is an idiot anyhow, parents (good parents) never charge their kids for lemonade stand supplies anyhow. Those were some sweet young ladies and I would be proud to have them for my daughters."

These sorts of dumbass comments are why I typically don't argue with liberals anymore. Their concrete thought patterns and kneejerk reactions leave them with only a couple of options when presented with an argument for individual liberty:
1. Accuse the conservative of evil, heartless behavior

2. Call him/her a racist

Because the idea that the whole story is an object lesson is beyond them.

What Federal Waste?

Nothing to cut in the federal budget.

Federal Government Helped Pay Home Air-Conditioning Bills for Federal Employees, Prisoners and More Than 11,000 Dead People

Another recurring problem the GAO found was the payment of benefits to federal employees who make too much money to qualify for the program. The GAO found that 1,100 federal employees were receiving heating and A/C subsidies despite being able to afford to pay their own bills.

“Matching LIHEAP data with federal civilian payroll records, we identified about 1,100 federal employees whose federal salary exceeded the maximum income threshold at the time of their application,” the GAO reported.

One such case involved a Chicago-area Postal Service employee making $80,000 per year. According to the GAO, the woman, who was not named in the report, claimed on her LIHEAP application that she had no income. However, when pressed by GAO investigators, she admitted that she was not entitled to the benefits but wanted the money anyway because: “Times are tough and I needed the money.” She also said that she saw “long lines” and wanted some “free money.”

Why should poor people have all the fun??

Romneycare Sucks and Obamacare Will, Too

Dysfunctional. Rationing. Limited care. No, it's not Obamacare, it's Romneycare.

One of the reasons I never supported Mitt Romney in 2008 was because of his Massachusetts health care plan, the one that forced people to buy insurance, the plan Barack Obama used to ram through Obamacare.

And guess what? If you wanna see what Obamacare is going to look like, go to Massachusetts.

In a new paper, Stanford economists John Cogan and Dan Kessler and Glenn Hubbard of Columbia find that the Massachusetts plan increased private employer-sponsored premiums by about 6%. Another study released last week by the state found that the number of people gaming the "individual mandate"—buying insurance only when they are about to incur major medical costs, then dumping coverage—has quadrupled since 2006. State regulators estimate that this amounts to a de facto 1% tax on insurance premiums for everyone else in the individual market and recommend a limited enrollment period to discourage such abuses. (This will be illegal under ObamaCare.)

Liberals tell you that it doesn't matter if costs are controlled, only that everybody has coverage. But coverage that sucks isn't really better than no coverage at all when you don't even have the option of getting your own. We're headed for a government takeover of the system most of us have liked.

Why Homeowners Associations Suck

There are plenty of reasons to hate HOAs--the dues, the haphazard enforcement, the onerous regulation--but this story highlights the best reason to hate homeowners associations: the ability to foreclose on your home for lack of payment of HOA dues.

The Clauers' four-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot home had been sold on the courthouse steps for just $3,500 — enough to cover outstanding HOA dues and legal costs.

The new owner quickly sold it for $135,000 and netted a tidy profit.

I can't imagine the person who bought the house on the courthouse steps. Taking one look at the property must've told them there was something wrong with the situation, and I couldn't sleep at night if I'd kicked a family out of their house under these circumstances.

HOAs are a menace. In exchange for access to the community pool, you give up most of your rights to the peaceful enjoyment of your property. Some people argue that preventing your neighbor from painting his house purple or parking his car in the yard is worth it, but I frankly think HOAs are the work of the devil (and I live in a neighborhood with an HOA).

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Keep Your Hands Off My A/C

In Texas, it gets hot. The heat starts as early as May and lasts until Halloween. I'm not complaining. I'm just stating a fact: air conditioning is a necessity here.

There are lots of great things about Texas: no personal income tax, more personal freedom and less government intrusion, beautiful scenery, wonderful coasts (well, except during hurricanes and oil spills), and friendly people. But there's no doubt the heat can be a problem. That's why reading guys complaining that A/C created Republican dominance is just bullshit.

Love it or hate it, refrigerated cooling has been a major boon to the Republican Party. The advent of A.C. helped launch the massive Southern and Western population growth that’s transformed our electoral map in the last half century.

I kind of doubt that A/C alone brought us Ronald Reagan. Those Republican-leaning people would have dominated the states they lived in even if they weren't in the South.

And as callous as it sounds, I don't really care when some liberal wrings his hands because people stay inside under the A/C rather than sitting on the front porch yelling to the guy acros the street. Being able to sleep comfortably at night is worth all the community spirit in Texas, IMO.

The money quote comes near the end of the article:
Besides people changing their individual habits, do you feel like the government needs to intervene in the way we use air conditioning?

I think that we need to be changing a lot of the features of our society that have helped make us dependent on air conditioning in the first place. In the end, someone will have to put some very hard limits on energy consumption and emissions overall.

The short answer is: yes. Because liberals can't just change their own behavior to align with their thinking; they have to make everybody else do what they think they should.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Probably Obama Supporters

Our Worst President Ever?

The more I think about the abject cynicism of Barack Obama, the more I'm drawn to the conclusion that, despite liberal professors' views to the contrary, he might be our worst president ever.

I don't take any great glee in announcing this. I fully expected to disagree with the vast majority of his policies. But I do try to accept that his vision for America and mine might be different, but that doesn't mean he hates the country, or that he wants to do it harm. There are those who fervently believe these things, but that's just nuts. You can be completely wrong about the maintenance your car needs and still run it out of oil.

After reading this Dick Morris column, though, I'm becoming ever more disgusted with the constant campaign mode of this president and his constant Republican bashing. This isn't just disagreement. It's constant war. Is there a compromise for this president, and is it possible for him to cast those who disagree with him as other than obstructionists?

For my liberal friends, I've noted some of their pet legislation signed into law by George W. Bush: No Child Left Behind (sponsored by Ted Kennedy) and the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act (co-sponsored by Russ Feingold). What legislation sponsored by and championed by Republicans has Barack Obama signed into law? Where, precisely, has he compromised?

The answer is that he hasn't. His rhetoric is designed not to bring sides together but to blame someone, anyone for the ills of the country, and that scapegoat won't be himself. His cynical approach to illegal immigration is just the most recent example.

Like Dick Morris, I believe that heavy fines and enforcement will drive most illegal immigrants back to their countries of origin. Unlike him, I don't think all of them will go because there are reasons besides the dollar to stay in this country. But Obama's cynical and racist ploy on this issue (trying to appeal to Hispanics who are disenchanted with him) is not worthy of America. Only 18 months into his term and he's already vying for the worst president slot, IMO.

Happy Independence Day!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Obamacare: Longer Waits

Who could have predicted this?

Emergency rooms, the only choice for patients who can't find care elsewhere, may grow even more crowded with longer wait times under the nation's new health law.

That might come as a surprise to those who thought getting 32 million more people covered by health insurance would ease ER crowding. It would seem these patients would be able to get routine health care by visiting a doctor's office, as most of the insured do.

Who knew? Oh, yeah, we knew.

When Your Qualifications Are Suspect...

Presidential Scholars: Obama Is Our 15th Best President -- Bush Is In The Bottom Five

...You can expect no other results.

From Hot Air:

The One came eighth overall in intelligence, right ahead of Billy Jeff, and sixth overall in the category of, ummm, “imagination.” Reagan finished fifth overall in terms of communication abilities (two spots ahead of Obama) and third in “luck,” which I can only take to be a thinly veiled judgment that the demise of the U.S.S.R. after he left office is more coincidence than cause and effect. He also gets the “amiable dunce” treatment, placing 36 out of 43 in intelligence. But don’t take it to heart. This is obviously a poll of lefty academics, with only one Republican from the 20th century (Eisenhower) appearing in the top 15. How ridiculous is it? Number one in the category of “handling the economy” is … FDR. Somewhere, Amity Shlaes is smiling.

From Jules Crittenden:
Is there nothing he can’t do? Less than 2 years in, the Nobel peace laureate is now the 15th best president, according to historians, who like the Norwegian Nobel Committee apparently haven’t noticed that aside from getting elected, he hasn’t exactly committed much peace or history or anything else yet. Unless you count the record deficit, the haphazard politically driven Rube Goldberg re-ordering of the economy with as-yet unknown consequences, the blithe alienating of key allies and the yawning at Islamic terrorism … and I do. They forgot to note that among the things he inherited was George W. Bush’s war strategy and George W. Bush’s victorious general, with hopes of inheriting some of his success in that department.

I would argue that George W. Bush was the compromiser-in-chief, giving Democrats No Child Left Behind, McCain-Feingold and an amnesty bill. Teh One has given Republicans...nothing. But let's not fool ourselves what this poll was about. There just hasn't been enough Bush-bashing lately.