Thursday, September 17, 2009

A devastating critique of Obama by George Will - "An increasing number of Americans do not believe that he believes what he says."

George Will in his usual concise, erudite writing style has written a biting critique of President Obama in a Newsweek column entitled, "Mitch McConnell Smiled? Why Obama is CPR for GOP." The gist of it is people no longer believe what Obama says despite his constant speeches and talks to the American people.

Will begins by writing:

On the 233rd day of his presidency, Barack Obama grabbed the country's lapels for the 263rd time—that was, as of last Wednesday, the count of his speeches, press conferences, town halls, interviews, and other public remarks. His speech to Congress was the 122nd time he had publicly discussed health care. Just 14 hours would pass before the 123rd, on Thursday morning. His incessant talking cannot combat what it has caused: An increasing number of Americans do not believe that he believes what he says.

Regarding the condition of our health care system:

He says America's health-care system is going to wrack and ruin and requires root-and-branch reform—but that if you like your health care (as a large majority of Americans do), nothing will change for you. His slippery new formulation is that nothing in his plan will "require" anyone to change coverage. He used to say, "If you like your health-care plan, you'll be able to keep your health-care plan, period." He had to stop saying that because various disinterested analysts agree that his plan will give many employers incentives to stop providing coverage for employees.

Concerning "scare tactics" and Medicare:

He deplores "scare tactics" but says that unless he gets his way, people will die. He praises temperate discourse but says many of his opponents are liars. He says Medicare is an exemplary program that validates government's prowess at running health systems. But he also says Medicare is unsustainable and going broke, and that he will pay for much of his reforms by eliminating the hundreds of billions of dollars of waste and fraud in this paragon of a program, and in Medicaid. He says Congress will cut Medicare (it will not) by $500 billion—without affecting benefits.

Concerning uninsureds and insurance companies:

He says the nation's economic health depends on controlling health-care costs. Yet so important is the trial bar in financing the Democratic Party, he says not a syllable in significant and specific support of tort reforms that could save hundreds of billions of dollars by reducing "defensive medicine" intended to protect not patients from illnesses but doctors from lawyers. He has said he will not add a dime to the deficit when bringing 47 million people into government-guaranteed health care. But Wednesday night, 17 million went missing: "There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage." Almost 10 million of the uninsured are not citizens, and most of them are illegal immigrants. Presumably the other 7 million could get insurance but chose not to. Democrats propose fines to eliminate that choice. He suggests health-insurance companies are making excessive profits. But since 1996, profits of the six such companies in the S&P 500 have been below the 500's average. He says a "public option"—a government insurance program—would not be subsidized to enable it to compete unfairly with private insurers. (The post office and the government's transportation -"public option," Amtrak, devour subsidies.) He says the public option is vital for keeping health insurers "honest"—but that it is only a wee "sliver" of reform. About that, Nancy Pelosi -disagrees.

President Obama is quickly pushing aside George Bush as one of our more polarizing presidents and he's still in first eight months of his presidency.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A billion here and a billion there starts to add up even for Harvard whose endowment which dropped 30% over the last year.

One of the casualties from the recent, current recession is Harvard's endowment which at the end of June stood at $26 billion, now from nearly $37 billion a year ago. That's not chump change even for Harvard.

As a result Harvard had to let go of 275 employees and freeze salaries. The endowment covers over a third of Harvard's yearly operating budget. I can't say I'll weep for Harvard, which epitomizes the liberal education establishment in America. A school which was founded on an explicit Christian vision for education jettisoned that vision years ago.

While everybody has been hit by the recession, the big and little, good and bad, the recession may well have a leveling effect because Harvard has had a lot farther distance to fall than others.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Former 60s radical discusses Leftist ideology motivating Obama and others in his Administration.

In a powerful interview, David Horowitz, a former 60s radical talks about what's at stake with President Obama and others in and around his Administration who are children of the Left and are pushing for an aggressive expansion of government. It's a powerful interview because he highlights from personal experience where the left wants to go and how they're using the Obama Administration to get there.

Horowitz points out that the radical Left is ultimately about power so they can do what they want in society, regardless of the consequences.

Horowitz, whose parents were card carrying members of the Communist Party and was himself a 60s radical, points out that the Left really doesn't care about the outcome of what they are proposing. Whether it's health care or whatever they want to impose their ideologically driven vision for society without concern for the actual consequences of their policies.

Horowitz points to the Left's designs during the Vietnam war. They used the Vietnamese and Cambodian people as a shield, rationale for ending the war and opposing American policies in general. Of course, an outcome of the debacle in Vietnam was the mass murder of millions of Cambodians and Vietnamese people at the hands of the Communists. The Left was absolutely silent about the resulting slaughter.

Again what's underlying the Left and the conflict in our society are differing worldviews. The Left's philosophy emanates from Rousseau and others who believed their savior is not Christ but the State. The State would provide them with freedom and salvation from the oppressive social conventions of family, church and community associations. By giving their allegiance and power to the state, people would be free to become whatever they wanted. Of course, this is the big lie. The outworking of Rousseau's ideas, as expressed through Marxism and Communist practices, led to the murder of over a hundred million people during the 20th Century.

Rousseau's and the modern American Left's view of man is fundamentally flawed. That man is basically good and the reason for suffering and evil in society are the oppressive social conventions and institutions in society not something inherent in man. For Marx, who grounded everything in economics, it was the oppressive bourgeoisie.

In the West and America, the "soft despotism" of the Left seeks to expand government control and regulation into every area of life, e.g. health care, education, welfare, and so on. The result is not a happier, healthy society with more freedom but one worse off across the board. That's the trajectory Obama and his Administration have us on.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Political correctness and misguided Department of Human Rights appear to infringe on teacher's rights.

A front page Pioneer Press story titled, "Former Anoka-Hennepin student's claim of harassment was retaliation, 6 students and 2 teachers say" raises troubling questions about the alleged anti-gay harassment of an Anoka Hennepin high school student. It also suggests political correctness run amok and abuse of individual rights by government agencies.

The student who said two Anoka-Hennepin School District teachers harassed him with comments hinting he was gay made the allegations only after one of the instructors reported him to school officials for talking about bringing a gun to school, former students and the lawyer for one of the teachers assert.

Six former students at the school claim in a letter that the student, Alex Merritt, "went around saying he was going to get that teacher fired for sending him down (to the office) ... He was only trying to get himself out of trouble."

"That's what precipitated this whole thing — the gun incident," said Philip Villaume, an attorney who represents Diane Cleveland, one of the teachers. "I don't know whether the administration will admit that she reported the gun incident, but that's what happened.

"But ... for that report to the administration about the gun, none of this would've happened," he said. "Basically, the student took things that were said in class, or things that happened in class, and either exaggerated or misconstrued them."

Villaume and some former students claim that Merritt made his January 2008 allegations only after Cleveland reported to school officials that he and some other students had discussed bringing a gun to school. Teachers are required by law to report such incidents.

"She had been told by the school (police) liaison officer that this group of kids had been heard talking about taking a gun to school," Villaume said. "She had to report that. Within a few days of that, she was being targeted for making harassing or discriminatory remarks, which she absolutely denies making."

...Six former students at the school claim in a letter that the student, Alex Merritt, "went around saying he was going to get that teacher fired for sending him down (to the office) ... He was only trying to get himself out of trouble."

"That's what precipitated this whole thing — the gun incident," said Philip Villaume, an attorney who represents Diane Cleveland, one of the teachers. "I don't know whether the administration will admit that she reported the gun incident, but that's what happened.

"But ... for that report to the administration about the gun, none of this would've happened," he said. "Basically, the student took things that were said in class, or things that happened in class, and either exaggerated or misconstrued them."

So contrary to prior news reports, there's another side to this story. The charged teachers and a number of students say the alleged harassment never occurred. And the student alleging the harassment apparently had a grudge against the teacher and, in the minds of other students, wanted to get him fired.

In today's politically charged, politically correct environment, any hint of anti-gay comments immediately grab headlines and the accused is assumed to be guilty.

This story also points out the dangers inherent in the state's Department of Human Rights which operates on the assumption that if there's an allegation of discrimination, the accused person or organization is forced to prove their innocence rather than be proven guilty. This means a person must go to great expense to prove they're not guilty. This turns our justice system on it's head regarding presumption of innocence.

According to the news story, the state human rights department never interviewed Cleveland or Filson, nor did agency investigators interview any of the students who might have witnessed the alleged incidents. Instead it was looking at whether the school was guilty of discrimination. Apparently, they thought the school was guilty without asking the accused teachers or students with some knowledge of the situation.

Although the school district denied it violated the state's Human Rights Act and admitted no wrongdoing, it paid Merritt $25,000 in a settlement finalized in July by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The agency said its investigation found sufficient evidence that Merritt "had been subjected to unwelcome harassment" by Cleveland and another teacher, Walt Filson, and that the harassment forced the student to transfer to another school.

...In reaching its harassment finding, the state human rights department never interviewed Cleveland or Filson, nor did agency investigators interview any of the students who might have witnessed the alleged incidents.

Instead, the department relied on the investigation conducted by DeAnn LaValle, director of employee services for the Anoka-Hennepin School District. Records show officials spoke to Cleveland twice with a union representative present, and Filson once without union representation.

The teachers claim that in those meetings, they denied the student's allegations. But it is unclear whether the Department of Human Rights knew that the two teachers disputed the student's claims.

Jeff Holman, a spokesman for the agency, said such information is part of the investigation and state privacy laws prohibit the department from talking about it.

Holman said there was no need for the agency to investigate the teacher's claims because it was looking only into whether the district had violated the Human Rights Act, and the agency concluded there had been a violation, based on the district's own admissions.

"Because the district's own investigation had determined the comments were made, the Department of Human Rights had no need to prove what the district had already admitted," he said.

But Filson, who spent nearly three decades as a police officer before becoming a teacher, said he believes it is unfair that the human rights department issued a report accusing him of wrongdoing when it had never interviewed him.

"The accusations are false," Filson said in an interview with the Pioneer Press in his first public comments on the matter. "The Department of Human Rights never spoke to me or the other teacher, or the other students in the classes. In 28 years in law enforcement, I don't think I ever closed an investigation without at least attempting to talk to the accused."

Filson taught law enforcement and Cleveland was a social studies teacher. Both are on voluntary unpaid leaves.

I've always had misgivings about the State Department of Human Rights, because it's premised on the belief that individuals accused must prove their innocence rather than the department must prove their guilt. And the department's activities are premised on group identity issues, e.g. race, sex, sexual orientation, etc. rather than on individuals.

And it looks like the school district wanted to avoid controversy, so they decided to pay a settlement rather than find out whether there actually was harassment.

If today's story is accurate, the teachers are left with damaged reputations and I wonder whether the school district may well be paying out more money.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Did Census Bureau really "fire" ACORN, or keep them on the payroll with a new identity?

There are breaking news reports that the U.S. Census Bureau has severed ties with ACORN due to the continuing scandal surrounding that organization.

In a letter to ACORN's national headquarters, Census Director Robert M. Groves wrote:

"Over the last several months, through ongoing communication with our regional offices, it is clear that ACORN's affiliation with the 2010 Census promotion has caused sufficient concern in the general public, has indeed become a distraction from our mission, and may even become a discouragement to public cooperation, negatively impacting 2010 Census efforts."

"Unfortunately, we no longer have confidence that our national partnership agreement is being effectively managed through your many local offices. For the reasons stated, we therefore have decided to terminate the partnership."

But ACORN's move last June to distance itself from its tarnished name may mean that the Census Bureau's announcement is just a ruse. Did they really "fire" ACORN, or are they still on the Census payroll under their new alias, Community Organizations International?

Would you care to clarify, Mr. Groves?

Michael Moore hates capitalism, the very hand which feeds him.

Leftist filmmaker Michael Moore hates capitalism. Not surprising given his political and ideological sensibilities. However, it's the very economic system which allows him to be financially successful at what he does - make films. He's biting the hand that feeds him.

He debuted his new film, "Capitalism: A Love Story" at the Venice film festival. He says that "Capitalism is an evil, and you cannot regulate evil." He goes on to say that “You have to eliminate it and replace it with something that’s good for all people, and that something is called democracy.”

I'm curious how democracy, a political system, can replace capitalism, a economic system. I can't say I'm surprised at Moore's confused thinking which is often voiced by those on the left who hate capitalism despite all the evidence that it's the source of wealth creation in the world.

Certainly, there are abuses by those operating in the free market, capitalist economic system. Just look at the financial activities by both private businessmen and government leaders who helped bring on the crisis. The problem isn't with the system per se but the people working in the system.

One has to ask what's the alternative to the capitalist, free market system? Beyond Moore's incomprehensible response, democracy, the answer by the left is ultimately socialism; government control of the means of production. The result as we saw with USSR and other communist regimes is poverty and despair.

This discussion does point out a significant worldview issue. The nature of man. People on the left view man as basically good and any problems in society are the result of bad institutions and systems. Those operating from a Judeo-Christian perspective view man as made in the image of God but also fallen or sinful. That's the fundamental problem not bad institutions.

The answer isn't getting rid of capitalism but restoring the moral fabric of our society. Frankly, Moore's secularist worldview undermines any sort of workable moral system, because it denies the existence of any transcendent truth in which morality is based. Moore's prescription for our economic system is sawing off the branch he's sitting on.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Historic drop in support of unions by American people.

I came across this interesting Gallup poll on the general public's attitude towards unions. In the past year there's been a significant drop in support. From 59% approving of unions last year to 48% this year. That's the first sub-50% total ever. Gallup began polling the issue back in the 1930s.

The 48% of Americans now approving of unions represents the first sub-50% approval since Gallup first asked the question in the 1930s. The previous low was 55%, found in both 1979 and 1981.

Public reaction to labor unions is one of the longest-running trends The Gallup Poll has maintained. Gallup first asked "Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?" in 1936, a year after Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act establishing the right of most private-sector employees to join unions, to bargain collectively with their employers, and to strike. That first poll found 72% of Americans approving of unions and only 20% disapproving.

While approval of unions has declined since 2008 among most major demographic and political groups, the biggest drop has been among political independents.

Why the drop? Gallup points to the GM bailout and the problems they are causing companies facing difficult economic times.

Organized labor was put in the spotlight last December as Congress considered a major bailout package for the ailing U.S. auto industry. Gallup polling at that time found a substantial segment of Americans blaming the auto unions for the industry's problems, although more blamed auto executives.

Perhaps accordingly, Gallup records significant increases in the August 2009 Work and Education survey compared with August 2006 in sentiment that unions have a negative effect on companies where workers are organized, and on the economy generally.

The percentage saying unions mostly hurt the companies where workers are organized has risen from 39% in 2006 to 46% in the latest poll. As a result, Americans are now evenly divided over whether unions mostly help or mostly hurt these companies, whereas in all previous measures the balance of opinion was positive.

The percent of workers who are members of unions have dropped significantly in recent years except in the public or government sector. In education, the teacher's unions have blocked or opposed nearly every meaningful effort at school reform. Their goal of course is money and jobs for teachers not the educational welfare of kids. In addition, unions have jumped on board the radical social agenda of the left thus doing further damage to society. Unions do have their place in society but in recent times they'll done more harm than good in many instances.

Rep. Wilson was right!

Vice President Joe Biden says he was "embarrassed" and that it "demeaned the institution" when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted, "You lie!" during President Obama's address to Congress on health care reform last night. (Read story...)

We agree that the comment was inappropriate because it dishonored the Office of the President. As they say in the military, "You salute the rank, not the man." The Commander in Chief is owed more respect than what Wilson showed with his outburst.

But the truth is that Rep. Wilson was right. The President really was lying, not just about health coverage for illegal immigrants, which is what triggered Wilson's outburst, but about a whole lot of other things as well (eg., people being able to keep their current insurance if they want to, not increasing deficits, etc.). His address was a clever string of half truths and false assurances designed to deceive the American people and provide the Democrat majority in Congress with cover to ram their health care "reform" bill down our throats.

Rep. Wilson was right to apologize to the President for his inappropriate outburst, but he should not be ashamed for telling the truth.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"I Pledge" to ignore older Americans

There has been a lot of talk about President Obama's video "I Pledge" recently, however I haven't heard much about the ageism of the piece. By my rough count there are about 100 individual "pledges" but only 3 or 4 are by people with grey hair - and that's stretching it.

I'm surprised his handlers didn't catch this omission. Or was it on purpose?

Clearly, President Obama's idea of diversity and inclusiveness is lacking by ignoring this important demographic.

I Pledge!

A wild interview with Obama's "green jobs advisor"; a revolutionary is joining the White House staff.

Here's an interesting interview with President Obama's green jobs advisor, Van Jones.

It's from 2008 and displays his radical worldview on economic and environmental issues.

First it was cap and trade, then health care, then educating our children from the oval office and now it's capitalism. What will be next?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Though White House retreats some on President's educational address to nation's students, it's still inappropriate and reflects a liberal mindset.

Yesterday, I criticised President Obama's plan to play the father role to our nation's children. Today, the administration is backtracking a bit. (I'm not implying there's a connection.)

In a story entitled, "White House Withdraws Call for Students to 'Help' Obama":
The Obama administration is rethinking its course recommendations for students ahead of President Obama's address to the the nation's schoolchildren next week, rewriting its suggestions to teachers for student assignments on how to "help the president."

White House aides said the language was supposed to be an inspirational, pro-education message to America's youths, but its unintended consequences were evident.

Among the activities initially suggested for pre-K to 6th grade students was to "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president."

Another assignment for students after hearing the speech was to discuss what "the president wants us to do."

The suggestion about writing letters has since been changed to: "Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals."

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the changes to the language are intended to make the lesson plans clearer. He added that the speech is not a policy speech, but is intended to encourage kids to work hard and commit to school.

The speech is "about the value of education and the importance of staying in school as part of his effort to dramatically cut the dropout rate," Vietor said.

I find that his plans are problematic and out of line. I believe the President is inappropriately injecting himself into an area outside of his area of responsibility or jurisdiction. The President Obama should not be injecting himself directly into the lives of children and the local classroom by giving them curricula assignments.

He's both injecting himself between parents and their children on a massive scale, and he's injecting himself into curricula issues.

The White House says he wants to encourage kids to work hard and commit to school. Fine. He could do this by speaking generally to the public and educators not by rounding up kids to hear his pitch when not invited to do so.

His actions flow from a liberal mindset that political leaders have no limits to their area of responsibility and involvement in society. They believe they can and should inject themselves into all areas of life. There are no limits.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Obama's talk to the nation's school children. Is the Daddy State now upon us?

There's been controversy over President Obama's plans to address our nation's kids directly on September 8th. At one level, this seems innocuous enough. But a closer look at exactly what he's doing raises some troubling questions. It looks like the President is using his bully pulpit to circumvent parents and inject himself unnecessarily in the lives of millions of school children.

The US Department of Education has released recommended guidelines for what teachers can do to prepare their children for the President's address.
  • One is encouraging the children in grades preK-6 to read books on past presidents and current one's on Obama. It seems a bit presumptuous to have children read biographies of himself.
  • It encourages teachers to ask students why what President Obama says is important. I wonder whether that should carry over to speeches he gives regarding abortion, expansion of government run health care and efforts to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act?
  • Asking the kids to think about what the president is asking them to do? (He'll be telling them to do things?)
  • Then he wants to the students to come together and discuss what the president wants them to do.
The Department of Education encourages an even deeper level of engagement by middle and high school students.

Knowing Obama's collectivist orientation, meaning he supports a gradual and not so gradual shift towards more government, e.g. socialism, it smacks of paternalism by the state. This is what one sees in a lot of socialist societies. The political leader whether it's "papa" Stalin, Castro, or whoever presents himself as the benevolent, provider and protector of the people.

It also demonstrates a lack of boundaries. Obama wants to inject himself and by extension government, into every area of life. In this instance, circumventing parents, and speak to millions of school children on what he thinks is best for them.

In a sense, this is in character with government leaders who seek to raise our children for us. He's taking Hilary Clinton's mantra, "it takes a village to raise a children" to a whole new level; the federal government is now raising our children.

I have appreciated and applauded Obama's efforts to, in a general sense, point out the importance role fathers play in the lives of children. But the general addressing of the issue is much different than what he's doing here, circumventing parents and seeing to, in a sense, be the great father to the children in our nation.