Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thoughts on Federal Charges for Abdulhakim Muhammad

A story in the Democrat Gazette dealt with the topic of federal charges being brought against Abdulhakim Muhammad for his murder of Pvt. William Andrew Long and wounding of Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula. Long's father Daris hoped that the filing of federal charges would help the case of his son and Ezeagwula being awarded Purple Hearts, which would in turn help Ezeagwula receive medical benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Listen, I'm all in favor of honoring Pvt. Ezeagwula and the memory of Pvt. Long. I'm also not opposed to some way being found for Ezeagwula to receive medical benefits. But filing federal charges against Muhammad, and even to a degree giving his victims Purple Hearts, would play right into what he wants. From the beginning, Muhammad has tried to make himself out to be something more than he is. As far as anyone can tell he's not a true terrorist, he's a wannabe. Instead of a wannabe gangster he chose to be a wannabe jihadist. Federal charges and giving his victims honors like those suggested would make Muhammad's day. The memory of Long should be honored and Ezeagwula should be taken care of, but Muhammad needs to disappear.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The thinking that got our country into this mess.

I'm reading William Greider's 1981 Atlantic article, "The Education of David Stockman." , about Ronald Reagan's incoming budget director. Not only is it a great glimpse behind the scenes of the beginnings of "Reaganomics", but there's a quote from Stockman that jumped out at me in light of today's problems:

Social Security was much more volatile, but Stockman noted that the Senate had already expressed a willingness in test votes to reconsider such basic components as annual cost-of-living increases for retirees. In the House, the Democrats, led by J. J. Pickle, of Texas, were preparing their own set of reforms to keep the system from bankruptcy, so Stockman thought it would be possible to develop a consensus for real changes. He didn't much care for Pickle's proposals, because the impact of the reforms stretched out over some years, whereas Stockman was looking for immediate relief. "I'm just not going to spend a lot of political capital solving some other guy's problem in 2010.

For some reason I feel like this terribly unflattering moment for Mr. Stockman, captures so much of the attitude that led us to this point with our debt/deficit problems and with issues of entitlement spending. It's something few people in Washington have ever spoken aloud, but a mindset that their daily actions speak to.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dustin McDaniel vs. Jon Hubbard.

For those of you unfamiliar with the whole Dustin McDaniel and Rep. Jon Hubbard spat, here's a brief summary from the first part of the Democrat Gazette's story covering it:

A Jonesboro lawmaker has accused the attorney general of pandering to Hispanic voters and providing special treatment to the group by offering a Spanish-language version of the office’s website. The attorney general responded that the legislator could be seen as “an angry, misguided person.”
Rep. Jon Hubbard, a Republican, made the accusations in e-mails to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, between July 12 and Monday that also went to news media, the GOP lieutenant governor and about 30 Republican members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“Dustin, I regret that you are not as passionate about representing the people of Arkansas as you are about propping up this person masquerading as [the president of the United States],” he wrote in one of them. Hubbard said by phone Tuesday that he believes that President Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen as required by the U.S. Constitution.

And the Arkansas Times has a post that has the full texts of the emails. It can be found here.

My thoughts?  It's a little frustrating that I totally dig McDaniel's response (aside from the personal digs involving his former seat in Jonesboro which I could really give a crap about) considering how much I don't dig any number of other things that he's done with his office.

A section of Hubbard's first email also cracked me up:
Is there a state policy that provides special treatment for Hispanics in Arkansas, while no other ethnic groups are given the same special consideration?
    I seriously doubt Hubbard was caring very deeply about the concerns of any other ethnic groups in our state when he wrote that. There's a reason that across the majority of the country you can select Spanish on an automated voice system or an ATM. It's because it's the only other language that has a big enough presence to warrant it. Most of our country isn't going out of its way to put every freaking language as an option.

 C'mon Hubbard just come out and say it, you don't like people speaking a language other than English in Arkansas.  There's no point in couching it in all that pretty talk.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

American Exceptionalism and "the best health care system in the world"

As I listened to the radio today (take a guess which show), I heard state representative David Meeks say that America had "the best health care system in the world". I also recall Rudy saying that in a debate a few years ago when he ran for president. Saying something along the lines of "where are Canadians going to go to get their health care?"

                                     Well, that's how I remember Rudy in 2007/2008

Does our country really have the best health care system in the world? I don't think so.

Of course I don't think we have the worst either and I'm not sure anyone has the best. People who hail from countries with more socialized health care have spoken very highly of it. Their stories are a far cry from the horror stories your average Republican tells about socialized medicine. But there's also the occasional reliable story that tells about the negatives of socialized medicine, such as long waits for crucial procedures.

As much as I hear the health care horror stories from own country that have led to people on both sides of the aisle saying we need to do "something", I also hear people who are more or less satisfied with the care they get when they go to a doctor/hospital. I also have my own experience to go by which has been mostly positive (but I've yet to deal with anything catastrophic).

Our country has some of the best doctors in the world and some of the best hospitals. But something must not be perfect if our citizens are taking trips to places like India for procedures. Of course, as this article in Forbes points out, the largest segment of medical tourism going on in the world is that of people coming to the United States. This is because our health care is considered the most advanced in the world.

So basically our health care system is a gas guzzling pimped out luxury SUV with the highest level of trim out. Whereas you could compare the health care system of a European country to a Honda Civic that gets 40 miles to the gallon. If you want a car that will basically drive itself, tell you bedtime stories and rob from your bank account at the same time, go with the SUV, if you want a car that is simple and does an affordably basic job of getting you from point A to point B go with the Civic.

                  U.S.A                                                           Europe                                             
 My point with all this is that "best" is all in what you're grading on. Our country has the most advanced health care in the world, but I couldn't call it the best. Just like I couldn't call Great Britain's the best.

Which brings us to American Exceptionalism. Anytime someone tries to point to American being the best for anything other than the concepts that we were founded on, I get somewhat annoyed. So many of the positive things about this country have been a direct result of many of our founding concepts. I remember Palin flipping out because Obama said that our military was one of the best armies in history. Apparently "one of the" wasn't enough for Sarah. I guess she had all these matchups in her head where our army fights the hordes of Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great's army in Death Valley with spears and win.

Okay, sorry to digress. My point is that I don't need to think my country has the best health care system in the world to love it. A system ranking among the best is enough for me. Wait, I don't believe in American Exceptionalism? Shut up.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Update: Crawford's office says quote was not referring to FBI and veteran's benefits.

A call to Rep. Crawford's D.C. office yielded a spokesman who said that the section quoted previously was part of a lengthy interview and was referring to the stop on U.S. borrowing, not the specific programs and agencies that the writer of the story mentioned.

Of course, I don't know enough to say for sure that the programs and agencies mentioned wouldn't be affected by the stop in borrowing. I just know that while I would hate to see veterans benefits affected, I would REALLY hate to find our government unable to fund the FBI.

Update: A search revealed that the Arkansas Democratic Party also caught the article. Which of course they are inevitably spinning to say basically,"Crawford wants to end FBI and veteran's benefits for years."

From the news release:
“There simply aren’t words for the disastrous effect this ‘solution’ would have on our economy, our national security, and the quality of life for our veterans who have put their lives on the line to protect our country,” Candace Martin, communications director of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said. “Crawford’s only solution is to let America default. Close the FBI. Close the VA. Not just for a day, but for years. Crawford is willing to put our country in harm’s way to protect his special interests like big oil and tax breaks for millionaires.”

You can view their post here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Did Rick Crawford really say we could do without the FBI?

A Washington Post story carried in today's Democrat-Gazette, seems to imply that Rick Crawford thinks our country would be just fine without the FBI for a couple of years. Here's the relevant section (with the bits I'm talking about in bold):

"Crawford, a freshman legislator, said the president could cope with a full stop on U.S. borrowing by using incoming tax revenue to pay for the services he thinks are essential: soldiers, Medicare and Social Security, and interest on existing debt.

That approach, outside experts have said, might mean the government wouldn’t be able to afford the FBI, veterans’ benefits or other federal services.

That’s all right with Crawford.

'That wouldn’t work for just a few days. That would work for a few years,” said Crawford, who added that he would agree to raising the debt limit only if such a bill included major changes in federal budget priorities. Budget deficits, he said, require “that we take some painful measures now. I’d rather swallow that bitter pill today.'"

The question is whether or not Crawford was speaking specifically about the government not being able to afford the FBI, etc, or referring to the plan to allow Obama to pay for essential services with incoming tax revenue.

This section of the Post's story needs a little more clarity. I, for one would like to know. What we have is either a newspaper article that is structured to make it sound like a congressman thinks we don't need the FBI for a few years, or a congressman who actually does think that.

I would hate to see veterans not get their benefits but I would hardly put that in the same category as the FBI which has a hand in investigating many crimes, including homegrown terror plots, that are very relevant to the security of the general public. It's too late to contact his Washington office but I'll definitely be following up on this.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Haven't heard any anti-global warming jokes lately...

Anytime it snows in Arkansas, or gets drastically cold in the winter, I inevitably hear or see someone making a joke whose point is that in essence "Al Gore is full of crap, on this global warming stuff." It's funny how you don't hear any of that during a hellish Arkansas summer.

I'm pretty much apathetic on the topic of global warming, but I realize that climate scientists aren't claiming that there will no longer be winter. Making the whole "there's snow on the ground, global warming is BS" joke is pretty stupid.

I really don't care about global warming that much and I get annoyed by people who talk oh so passionately about the need for green energy on one side and the people who spew venom against cap and trade on the other. Nothing mankind could do would make much of a difference at this point anyway. I take the P.J. O'Rourke view: "My suggestion is install air conditioning and buy beachfront land in Greenland."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Assessing the GOP candidates.

This is an admittedly silly exercise. But everyone is doing it, so screw it. Here's my take on the GOP presidential candidates. Most of my thoughts will probably sound like what the rest of the media is saying but I can't help it if some of what is said is true.

Michele Bachmann-- Has proven herself as more than Palin-lite. Of course, I never liked Palin and I don't much care for Bachmann either. Her limited government rhetoric would probably only go so far as spending if she were president, probably has more standard issue hawkish Republican views and would probably not care much for civil liberties she didn't like.  Also can't admit when she misspeaks. Assigns blame to media when she makes a mistake, rather than admit it and move on. A very Palin trait.

Mitt Romney-- Romneycare would be far less of a liability in the general election than the primary. He looks presidential and doesn't come across as too batty (sorry Bachmann). His coming from the business world would probably be a strength if the economy and unemployment rate stay dire. Not so sure it should be though since most of his business experience was with streamlining and firing rather than hiring. Not that I really believe that government can create private sector jobs anyway...

Ron Paul--- Has certainly had an impact on the past few years. Libertarian ideas would play very well with the public in a general election if Republicans would get behind them. Still, Paul is very clumsy in his speaking and, as much as I respect him, goes very off track during some lines of questioning. It would be much better if libertarian ideas were presented by someone more like...

Gary Johnson--Has been royally screwed in this process so far, as with his exclusion from the most recent debate. Did admittedly come across as very squirrely in the first debate but could improve. Too bad the media narrative has in essence put up a ceiling for him. Built up a construction business from practically nothing to one that employed over 1,000 people. Also an athlete who has climbed to the top of Mount Everest. Two term governor of New Mexico so he's a libertarian with executive experience, and a record that matches with his beliefs. He is also more popular in his state than most of the other former governors running are in their states. With a story and credentials like that, only a Republican party still clinging to the last vestiges of its social conservative element would write him off like this.

Jon Huntsman-- Would be a great general election candidate. Not angry enough for most primary voters but the right temperament for the office.  Ambassador to China is a nice bit of experience and so what if it was under Obama? It wasn't like he was a cabinet member or something. Seems to have had a decent record of policies in Utah that promoted growth. As far as cap and trade and civil unions, I doubt this election is going to be decided on those things and I doubt either of those are high on the average American's list of concerns. Too bad I can't say that for the average GOP primary voter with any certainty.

Rick Perry -- Probably does stand a good chance for the nomination if he enters the race. Could appease several disparate parts of the party. The specter of Cameron Todd Willingham should be something that is brought up, but appearing tough on crime seems more important than justice to many on the right. Doubt any Republican campaigns will bring it up if he runs. If he won, would Obama's campaign bring it up?

Herman Cain-- Probably one of the best candidates running as far as delivery. A wonderful voice. As far as what that voice says on policy... well...seems like he's still working on that at times.

Tim Pawlenty-- An Esquire profile of Jon Huntsman featured a quote by his chief strategist about Pawlenty. Might be the most accurate description I've heard of him so far: "There's nothing worse than seeing a nice guy pretend that he's angry."

Newt Gingrich---

Rick Santorum-- Even in a GOP primary race, this election isn't going to be decided by who is the most pro-life, anti-gay rights candidate. So Santorum needs to calm down before his veins explode.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Can I please have a political party that talks like this?

  Just wanted to post a video that someone I know linked to. It's of former Reagan budget director David Stockman on the Dylan Ratigan Show. It's one of the clearest explanations of the stupidity of the bailouts that I've ever seen and also a clear explanation of the failures of the Ben Bernank . It would be nice if there was a party that would spend more of their time talking about and trying to educate Americans on these issues, rather than just throwing red meat to their base.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

And in honor of the 4th I present to you the most absurd, yet awesomely American, picture ever.