Doug Archives

What Have You Done For Me Lately Ever?

Ed Morrissey notes an exchange between Chris Matthews and Texas State Senator Kirk Watson that is rather telling in regards to Obama’s accomplishment thus far.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews: “You are a big Barack supporter, right, Senator?”

State Sen. Watson: “I am. Yes, I am.”

Matthews: “Well, name some of his legislative accomplishments. No, Senator, I want you to name some of Barack Obama’s legislative accomplishments tonight if you can.”

State Sen. Watson: “Well, you know, what I will talk about is more about what he is offering the American people right now.”

Matthews: “No. No. What has he accomplished, sir? You say you support him. Sir, you have to give me his accomplishments. You’ve supported him for president. You are on national television. Name his legislative accomplishments, Barack Obama, sir.”

State Sen. Watson: “Well, I’m not going to be able to name you specific items of legislative accomplishments.”

Matthews: “Can you name any? Can you name anything he’s accomplished as a Congressman?”

State Sen. Watson: “No, I’m not going to be able to do that tonight.”

Matthews: “Well, that is a problem isn’t it?”

(Video is here.)

Indeed, that is the problem. A speech with “something something something change! something something something hope!” may get ’em swooning, but it’s also the perfect way to fly in under the radar and foist on the American people policies they had no idea were coming.

And it actually says more about Obama’s supporters, since they’re more than willing to vote based on platitudes and “free” government goodies than on actual, y’know, policies. Getting more people involved in politics is one thing, and a good thing, but getting them voting without a clue of why they’re voting is not a good thing at all for the democratic process.

[tags]Barak Obama,Democrats,Kirk Watson,Ed Morrissey,democracy[/tags]

Open Question for Venezuela

So how’s that socialism working out?

The pressure on both firms may signal a tougher line by the government against foreign companies in politically sensitive industries such as food. The increasing scarcity of staples such as milk, chicken and eggs is denting Mr. Chávez’s popularity and might worsen the political climate for food companies.

In a sign of how serious the shortages have become, looters last week ransacked government food warehouses in Mr. Chávez’s hometown of Sabaneta. About 100 soldiers and police were sent to restore order, according to the Associated Press.

Empresas Polar, Venezuela’s largest food producer, responded yesterday to nationalization threats, saying it has had no role in the country’s chronic food shortages. Mr. Chávez said Sunday that Polar was "a clear example" of a company that could be nationalized if it were caught hoarding food.

Shortages have become a problem because of price controls implemented by Mr. Chávez in an effort to stem galloping inflation caused by Venezuela’s oil-fueled spending. Companies in many industries complain official prices don’t leave room for profits. Mr. Chávez accuses the companies of hoarding food.

If nationalizing industry causes shortages and inflation, fix it by nationalizing more industries.  Brilliant.  After the Soviet Union, North Korea, communist Eastern Europe, Cuba and many other examples, you’d think people would come to understand that socialism, in spite of all the flowery talk about it being "for the people", is really all about the government and its power.  (Remember that when you hear the about all the "free" goodies you’ll supposedly get from Democrats this election year.)

No human or committee of humans can ever hope to manage something as incredibly complex as a national economy.  Regulate, yes.  Nudge, yes.  Manage, no.  If a business can’t make a profit, it won’t stay in business, and won’t provide the goods or services it was providing. 

Now, Chavez ain’t no dummy.  He knows that all this bullying of corporations gives him street cred as a "man of the people", but even that sheen is beginning to dull as reality sets in. 

Tell ya’ what, though.  I’ll bet Sean Penn, Harry Belafonte and the other glitterati that visit Venezuela won’t have to stand in those lines.  Bad for Hugo’s PR machine, dontcha’ know?

[tags]Venezuela,Hugo Chavez,socialism[/tags]

SCO’s McCain Poll Results

The poll on whether or not you’d vote for John McCain for President had the following results:

  • I’d vote for him, and typically vote Republican (71%, 12 Votes)
  • I’d stay home and not vote, or not vote on the Presidential race (18%, 3 Votes)
  • I’d vote for him even though I typically vote Democrat (6%, 1 Votes)
  • I’d vote Democrat regardless of the Republican nominee (6%, 1 Votes)
  • I’d vote against him even though I typically vote Republican (0%, 0 Votes)

Now, this is certainly a non-scientific poll, as most blog polls are, and less so since only 17 folks voted. But it does seem as though, as best as we can tell from this, that McCain’s chance of getting Republicans to vote for him seems pretty good. What I found interesting is that the “stay home” option came in second. This may mostly be due to the possibility that we get far fewer Democrats visiting than Republicans, and thus the “Democrat voting for McCain” option is underrepresented (hence non-scientific). And apparently Ann Coulter doesn’t read us, or doesn’t vote in our poll, since no Republican said they’d vote against him. Still, I wonder what the national numbers might look like.

My mantra is “I hate polls”, so it may seem to be a cognitive dissonance that we have a poll on this blog. What I’ve tried to do, however, is stick to questions of what you have done or will do or about your experience. Polls that are generally on topics outside of the typical persons area of expertise (“Is the economy in the country better or worse?”) are of little to no use (and are certainly not newsworthy, in spite of what much of the media would have you believe), whereas a question about your own experience (“Is your economic situation better?”) is worth more as a data point. Hence, we’ll still have them here, and if you have any suggestions for a new poll question, we’re happy to hear it.

The Hydrocarbon Mother Lode

Scientists have discovered a hydrocarbon reserve larger than all of our current oil and gas reserves. Hydrocarbons, as you know, are those dregs of ancient dinosaurs and plants that we mine for energy. So then, where is this incredible field?

Oh, about 750 million miles away.

Before we get too excited here, let’s remember. There’s still an energy problem. Global warming, too. Nobody’s going to be importing oil substitutes from Titan anytime soon.

That said, data from the Cassini probe orbiting Saturn has shown that the ringed planet’s moon has “hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth,” according to research reported in the Geophysical Research Letters. The stuff is literally falling from the sky.

Lakes are scattered across the moon, with each of several dozen holding more hydrocarbon liquid – largely in the form of methane and ethane — than all of Earth’s oil and gas reserves.

OK, so it’s technically not the “mother lode” since it’s not physically connected to the oil and gas here. And it’s technically not biological in nature, since (and we’re pretty sure about this) dinosaurs and plants have never existed on Titan.

Which begs the question: Where did it come from, and are the same processes happening here on Earth? If so, perhaps oil isn’t from dead dinos. Worth looking into.

[tags]abiotic oil,Saturn,Titan,hydrocarbons,methane,ethane,energy,space,Cassini probe[/tags]

I understand that schools should and do determine what’s appropriate to be said during school hours, but with all the other speech and such that they do allow, this prohibition looks rather targeted.

A federal judge has rejected a claim that the Poway Unified School District violated a teenager’s First Amendment rights by pulling him out of class for wearing a T-shirt with an anti-gay slogan.

Tuesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge John Houston reaffirmed an earlier decision in which he found the school district’s policy on hate speech lawful.

Tyler Harper sued the school in 2004 after the district said he could not wear a shirt printed with a Bible verse condemning homosexuality. His younger sister, Kelsie, was named as a plaintiff after he graduated.

Via Stop the ACLU.

Not Just Another Press Release

You expect this sort of talk from the Bush administration.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces an “extraordinary crisis”. Last year’s mass defection of ordinary Sunnis from al-Qaeda to the US military “created panic, fear and the unwillingness to fight”. The terrorist group’s security structure suffered “total collapse”.

But this is not the script from the latest press briefing in DC.

These are the words not of al-Qaeda’s enemies but of one of its own leaders in Anbar province — once the group’s stronghold. They were set down last summer in a 39-page letter seized during a US raid on an al-Qaeda base near Samarra in November.

The US military released extracts from that letter yesterday along with a second seized in another November raid that is almost as startling.

That second document is a bitter 16-page testament written last October by a local al-Qaeda leader near Balad, north of Baghdad. “I am Abu-Tariq, emir of the al-Layin and al-Mashahdah sector,” the author begins. He goes on to describe how his force of 600 shrank to fewer than 20.

“We were mistreated, cheated and betrayed by some of our brothers,” he says. “Those people were nothing but hypocrites, liars and traitors and were waiting for the right moment to switch sides with whoever pays them most.”

Given that, this pronouncement seems at odds with reality.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said twice Sunday that Iraq “is a failure,” adding that President Bush’s troop surge has “not produced the desired effect.”

“The purpose of the surge was to create a secure time for the government of Iraq to make the political change to bring reconciliation to Iraq,” Pelosi said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “They have not done that.”

The speaker hastened to add: “The troops have succeeded, God bless them.”

If al Qaeda is having to regroup and has lost all this ground, then the Iraqi government does have “a secure time”, at least far more secure than it has been. If that’s her definition of success, I’d say the Surge has been quite successful.

That the Iraqis have had a tough time coming together and resolving differences is simply human nature in action. As I mentioned earlier, culture and tribalism can work against a shared national identity, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. It will take time, but we are giving them that time, successfully.

[tags]Iraq,al Qaeda,Afghanistan,Nancy Pelosi,terrorism[/tags]

Live by the Asset Seizure…

…die by the asset seizure.

Exxon Mobil Corp has moved to freeze up to $12 billion in Venezuelan assets around the world as the U.S. company fights for payment in return for the state’s takeover of a huge oil project last year.

The company said it has received court orders in Britain, the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles each freezing up to $12 billion in assets of Venezuela state oil firm PDVSA. An Exxon spokeswoman said the total that could be frozen worldwide was $12 billion.

Exxon also won a court order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in December freezing more than $300 million belonging to PDVSA, as Exxon argued it would have little chance to recoup its investment from PDVSA should it win its arbitration.

A taste of his own medicine that Chavez may find does not agree with his pallet. But somehow, socialists always seem to think that grabbing up whole industry sectors is the way to utopia. He’s been threatening to do it with the food sector as well because of food shortages caused by price controls.

And that is the lesson here, taught many times over the centuries but lost on socialists; price controls don’t work. And since that’s one of hallmarks of a socialist government, determined to control an economy down to every little detail, then socialism is doomed to fail as well.

A committee cannot hope to manipulate an economy to the degree that Chavez wants to. The sooner the people of Venezuela understand that, the sooner they can remove him from power before he starts expropriating that, too.

[tags]Venezuela,Hugo Chavez,socialism,economics,Exxon,PDVSA[/tags]

Record Profits, But…

When oil company revenues are reported under screaming headlines in the paper or on new sites, they’re only telling you part of the story. Dr. Mark Perry fills us in.

Corporate profits receive a lot of media attention, but what receives considerably less attention are the corporate taxes paid on corporate profits. Do a Google search for “Exxon profits” and you’ll get about 8,000 hits. Now try “Exxon taxes” and you’ll get a little more than 300 hits. That’s a ratio of about 33 to 1.

I’m pretty sure that Exxon’s tax payment in 2007 of $30 billion (that’s $30,000,000,000) is a record, exceeding the $28 billion it paid last year.

By the way, Exxon pays taxes at a rate of 41% on its taxable income!

Dr. Perry has a quick graphic to illustrate profits vs. taxes, and, after a little quick math, notes that this one corporation, Exxon, pays more taxes than the entire bottom 50% of all taxpayers.

Just asking for a little perspective.

[tags]economics,taxes,Exxon Mobile,profits,oil industry[/tags]

Nose Removed, Face Spited

And those who need blood transfusions pay the price.

San Jose State University’s decision this week to ban blood drives on the 30,000-student campus over discrimination concerns is drawing a gush of criticism from local blood banks.

Stanford Blood Center officials said they actually agree with San Jose State President Don Kassing that the federal Food and Drug Administration is wrong to prohibit blood donations from gay men.

But in a statement Friday, the center called his decision to suspend campus blood drives for that reason "a terribly misguided tactic that could have a devastating impact on the blood supply, and therefore, patients in our community."

Kassing’s stand — based on the university’s non-discrimination policy — has focused attention on a longstanding FDA rule that many say is overly restrictive. Critics, however, worry it sets a bad example that could exacerbate blood shortages if others follow his lead.

It’s one thing to stand up for your principles, and it’s certainly San Jose State’s prerogative to do this, even though I disagree with the principle.  But to shut down blood drives on campus is just entirely misguided and ignores the very real cost of this particular type of stand.

Gay rights groups on several college campuses, including Stanford’s, have held protests on the issue in recent years. At San Jose State, it was an employee’s complaint last year that prompted Kassing’s office to investigate whether the rule made blood drives discriminatory.

They decided it did, since gay men were being treated differently than other groups of people with similar risk factors.

There is no inherent "right" to give blood, but fair enough; let’s assume some sort of evil "discrimination".  Who’s paying the price?  Certainly not the blood banks.  While we’re never really awash in too much donated blood, they’ll still do their jobs as best they can.  Not the FDA.  How does this really affect them?

No, the folks who are really getting punished for this restriction (and pardon me if the regulations regarding the nation’s blood supply err on the side of caution) are those who actually need the blood.  The patients in hospitals who need it to live and who, I’m pretty sure, are quite happy not to have to worry about AIDS-tainted blood. 

These are "bleeding-heart liberals" who care more about hurt feelings over donating restrictions (and really, that’s the only harm I see here) than they do people whose lives may depend on them.  How revealing.

[tags]San Jose State University,Don Kassing,FDA,homosexuality,blood donations,AIDS[/tags]

Romney Out, McCain Rising

With Mitt Romney giving his withdrawal speech today at CPAC, the SCO poll should probably be worded, "Since John McCain is the Republican candidate for President…."  OK, OK, technically it isn’t true yet, but this essentially seals the nomination for McCain.

That’s one less chance for a brokered convention this year.  Ah well, the Democrats may still give us one, unless Howard Dean has his way.

[tags]Mitt Romney,John McCain,Howard Dean,brokered convention[/tags]

The Long Road to Democracy

Some on the anti-war Left, while they disagree with having gone into Iraq, did agree that entering Afghanistan was justified, since we were attacked by al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden was being harbored there. That’s a fair and debatable point. However, bringing democracy to the country is proving difficult for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the culture.

In an article on “Strategy Page”, some of the reasons are listed.

NATO military officials understand that not enough foreign troops are in Afghanistan to shut down the Taliban, but also realize that unless the Afghan government can deal with its own problems (corruption, mainly, but lack of administrative skills, religious bigotry and incompetence), the country will continue to be a lawless, poor, and violent backwater in a rapidly changing world. The senior people in the Afghan government are trying, but the obstacles are formidable. The drug trade fits in with traditional Afghan, “get all you can, when you can, any way you can” attitudes. Meantime, the establishment of a national government has backfired in some respects. Religious conservatives are trying to impose their own version of Islam in the entire country via the courts. This is causing unrest, just as it did when the Taliban tried the same thing in the 1990s. The national government has a tricky problem here, since religious tolerance is not an Afghan custom. In the past, the different parts of the country simply ignored each other, because there was no national government that actually imposed national laws everywhere. Whenever that has been tried, like in the 1970s by a communist dominated government, the results are disastrous (as in rebellion and much civil disorder).

Note how culture plays much of a role, and the idea of a shared national identity, outside of tribe and religion, is required for democracy to flourish. In addition, the wrong kind of shared values, such as the “get all you can, when you can, any way you can” thought above, keep this from happening. These are many of the problems faced when giving people control of their own government who have never, in their lives, had this responsibility. Democracy in Afghanistan may be a long time coming, but fortunately the slow progress isn’t being beaten up in the press.

I say all that to say this; cut Iraq some slaq … er, slack. Those suggesting we pull out of Iraq because of their slow progress politically should give it a chance. Radical change takes time. Selfishness is so much easier to express than selflessness, and that’s why building a democracy takes so much effort.


Super Tuesday Results

As results come in, the Google Gadget below will show the current returns. You may have to reload the page to see updates.

The Governmental Right to Harass?

Of course not, you might say.  No government has the right to do that.  Agreed, but one particular government, of a very specific political persuasion, seems to think that it does.  Read "A Libertarian Perspective on the Berkeley v. Marines Showdown", especially the part where he puts the shoe on the other foot.  (I wouldn’t call myself a libertarian, but we do agree on many things.)

Wage Garnishing for Freedom

Yeah, right, this is the first thing I think about when I hear the word "freedom".

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to garnish the wages of workers who refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.

The New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed on ABC’s "This Week," she said: "I think there are a number of mechanisms" that are possible, including "going after people’s wages, automatic enrollment."

I’m sorry, but that does not give me a warm fuzzy about what other freedoms Hillary might take away from us for "our own good". 

"What the Public Wants"

That’s what many folks think that Hollywood produces, and it’s the excuse given when others lament what comes out of the movie industry.  The public wants it, and the movie houses’ job is to make money, so the produce what does it best.

If that’s so, it’s time for a change of direction in Hollywood.

Americans flock to movies with patriotic, moral content, according to a study that looked at thousands of movies released by Hollywood in recent years, but they avoid those with socialist and anti-capitalist themes in droves.

"Movies with very strong Judeo-Christian values, capitalist ideals, patriotism and pro-American attitudes do much better at the box office than movies promoting socialism, Marxism, left-wing political correctness and atheism," said Ted Baehr, publisher of MOVIDEGUIDE©: A Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment, and chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission ministry in Hollywood.

The article goes on to note that the type of movies that Baehr supports make a lot more money, on average, that the others, and this trend goes back at least as far as 2002.  If that’s the case, Hollywood would be making more of them; that’s what the public wants. 

This also goes back to the fact that G and PG rated films make more money than R and NC-17 ones.  Shouldn’t we be seeing more of the ones that bring in the cash?  Well, we’re not likely to see that.

[Baehr] said the results also show that there are two reasons Hollywood releases movies. The first is to entertain and make a profit, while the second is to "show you’re just as Hollywood PC as the next producer."

"If you’re making a movie like ‘Redacted,’ you’re cruising for a box office failure," he said.

He said such projects will only do filmmakers good "in the small inner circle of the elite system that is contrary to the values of faith and tolerance and grace."

The results show the "average movie-goer" has more common sense than the average person who considers himself among those "elite," he said. He also noted that those are only a portion of the Hollywood industry, because "there are a lot of good people, producers, writers and directors" in Hollywood.

I think, too, that the PC ones are as much for indoctrinating and influencing the culture as they are for ideology’s sake.  As such, the excuses for the Hollywood Left don’t hold water.

[tags]Hollywood,movies,Ted Baehr,MOVIEGUIDE[/tags]

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