Friday, August 19, 2011

Bad Luck?!

I sat slack-jawed in disbelief this evening as I listened to the President of the United States assert that our current economic crisis, which grows worse by the hour, is due to "a run of bad luck." Having exhausted the Arab Spring, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the situation in Europe and every other imaginable excuse for the failure of his policies, Obama now falls back on "bad luck"?! Can you imagine any other president attempting this, let alone expecting to get away with it?

When I was born, Harry Truman was president. In my lifetime, I have never seen such a comi-tragic abdication of presidential authority. Bad luck?! Is Obama the Diviner in Chief? Did we elect him to prognosticate, to calculate the odds, to read the Tarot, or did we elect him to lead? Bad luck?! Does it never occur to this man that it is what he is doing and not what is happening that is causing the problem? The fault, dear Barack, is not in our stars, but in us, that we are ideologues.

Can you imagine Abraham Lincoln after the defeats at Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville declaring that the Union had merely suffered a run of bad luck? He took responsibility - personal and political - and made the changes necessary. He did not go on a campaign tour; he did not go on vacation. And yet the nation now faces a crisis analogous to, if not of the magnitude of, 1863: We face the threat of the collapse of the American economy.

The situation in Europe, as in the United States, is proof positive that creeping socialism leads only to bankruptcy -- the bankruptcy of the human spirit as well as of the economy. Americans are tired, they are frustrated, they are exhausted. We cannot continue paying bills run up by politicians in search of votes for re-election, and debts accumulated that our grandchildren will not be able to pay. But the president and his cronies are oblivious to this.

The much anticipated jobs plan which the president has graciously withheld until after his vacation on Martha's Vineyard from a nation whose effective unemployment rate is 18 percent will, by all accounts, represent nothing but another government stimulus package. But where will the money come from? Shall we borrow more from Communist China, which already upbraids us (the U.S.!) for fiscal irresponsibility, or shall we merely print more money as Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke suggests? Either way, we saddle our descendants with the onus of a debt they cannot hope to repay.

I ask again: Who will vote for Obama next year? Who wants four more years of these inane policies, this vacuum of leadership? Who but those so steeped in the cult of "social justice" that they will drink the Cool-Aid of pseudo-socialist ideology until we all choke to death, will mark their paltry ballots for this man?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Ghost Factory

More young Americans have been killed in Afghanistan today. I have just been looking at their pictures on line. And they remind me of nothing so much as those of my high school classmates killed in Vietnam.

I used to write in my yearbook each time I learned that another one had died. Above their photographs I would hand print "Killed in Vietnam" and below, the date. Five, ten, fifteen... eventually I lost count. But what haunts me is the fact that the faces now are so much the same: young men, boys really, smiling, earnest, innocent. In the past, every time I visited Washington, I went to The Wall to look for their names, and each time I traced them with my fingertips. Not just names -- memories of boys I knew, with whom I shared lockers, classes, laughs and the hysterical agonies and joys of growing up. Dead. All dead. Forever.

It's happening again. Now at this point in our history, and at my age; and though politicians and pundits can explain at length the necessity of it, still no one can express the loss. The poignant inevitability. The emptiness. The senselessness. Walt Whitman, a Civil War nurse, wrote: Think how much, and of importance, has been lost forever, buried in the grave, in eternal darkness. They had parents, they had promise, they had lives and loves. To which they were entitled. Just like you and me.

And our "president" enjoys a ten day vacation on Martha's Vineyard.

Killing the Wrong Guy

I learned yesterday that the unofficial Democratic Party strategy to re-elect President Obama is to "kill Romney." My reaction to this inadvertent revelation is threefold.

First: This concept is coming from some of the very same people who reared up in righteous indignation after the shootings in Tucson, blaming the Republicans in general and Sarah Palin in particular, for having "targeted" certain Democratic incumbents for defeat. Their high dudgeon then was irrational, given the fact that neither the Republican Party nor Governor Palin had anything to do with the shootings, and that the shooter was certifiably insane. But these facts did not concern the critics on the left, which just proves my point that not even reality can sway an ideologue. This sort of hypocrisy is beyond breathtaking; it is asphyxiating.

Second: The enunciation of this strategy simply lays bare the fact that the president has nothing to run on. He cannot boast of his record, which consists of record spending, record deficits, record unemployment and record national debt and the downgrading of America's credit rating. There is an old adage in the law which holds that if you have the facts on your side, then argue the facts; if you do not have the facts, then argue the law; and if you do not have the law, then attack your opponent. This is the position in which the forces that have created and have sustained Obama find themselves. They have no recourse but to assassinate the character of whomever runs against him. It is not a strategy; it is a confession.

Third: Relieved now of the threat of Sarah Palin, the Democrats propose to kill Romney. I do not believe that Romney can get the nomination, and so I am pleased that all of their venom is focused upon him. They are killing the wrong guy. In the debt ceiling debate, Romney was silent, as were most of the Republican candidates. There is a vacuum of leadership in this country, and Romney had neither the courage, the independence nor the insight to step into it. That demonstrates to my satisfaction that he is not the antidote to the poison of Obama. We do not need to replace one vacuum with another.

Barack Obama is an utter failure as a leader and as a president. His is the most tragically ineffectual presidency since -- no, not Jimmy Carter -- James Buchanan. That pudgy, milquetoast president presided in the late 1850s at a time of imminent danger to the nation, and still he managed to do nothing. The result was the Civil War -- the nation torn apart, 612,000 Americans killed.

What I believe we have to look forward to here and now is what we see in silhouette in Europe: widespread discontent erupting into civil disorder in the streets. For generations, politicians on the left in Europe and America have sold their electorates a bill of goods; namely, that pie in the sky can not only be afforded, it can be expanded indefinitely. My fear is that what we see in London and Birmingham today will soon play itself out in the streets of New York and Chicago.

What we suffer from in the long term is the creeping sickness of socialism in our society, coupled with the current lack of leadership, vision and integrity in Washington. Meanwhile, the president enjoys a ten day vacation on Martha's Vineyard. And Rome burns.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reply to Comment

Occasionally it is necessary for me to reply to a comment at great length, which is not possible given the limitations of the comments section. I wish to take all comments seriously, and so I shall reply to a recent one here...

--Thank you for your comment. Let me respond to each point in turn:

You find my analogy wanting.
Then let's return to the crux of the matter: cherry-picking.

--Cherry-picking is the crux of your matter, not mine. I did not say that I would withhold taxes for programs I disagree with or do not benefit from; rather, that I am prepared to pay a reasonable amount of tax to support legitimate activities of government. I do not consider 50-plus percent of my income reasonable. Neither do I consider many, perhaps most, of the government's activities legitimate.

You don't think you should have to help pay for the California public school system your "entire lifetime." Is not some of that tax money going to what is generally thought of as a rather good state university system? One you would presumably not be ashamed to enroll your own children in?

--The same point applies. I will support public education to a reasonable degree, which is not now the case. But the fact that the elementary and secondary school systems in California rank near the bottom in the nation for quality of education regardless of how much we are taxed rankles, and speaks to a larger problem. For too long public education in this state and in the nation at large has been the hostage of the teachers unions and their cronies in the Democratic Party. That iron grip must be broken before educational standards can rise. (On the subject of state universities: I learned recently that over fifty percent of the employees in the state system are administrators and not teachers. This is an absurd and disgraceful waste of money.)

On the non-university level, you might argue that substandard schools are not in the common good. Ok, they're in the common less-than-ideal. But what would you have your fellow citizens do? Stay home and work their way through Wikipedia entries -- assuming they learned how to read on their own at some point? (Assuming they have a paid-up electric bill and a computer, too.)

--Your alternative to government-sponsored education is glibly ridiculous. But the larger and more relevant point is this: Every argument you make contains the same erroneous assumption, which lies at the heart of the malaise from which our nation suffers; namely, that if government does not do it, it will not get done. This is the true crux of the matter, and it is a numb, counter-productive way of thinking into which too many of us have slipped. Lincoln said that the government should do nothing the people can do better for themselves. I agree emphatically. I consider myself the chief educator of my children – that is my primary responsibility. I taught them how to read, write and do math. That is part of my job as a parent, and part of the joy of parenting.

--Which brings us to the second crucial point: personal responsibility. It is my responsibility (and no one else's) to see to it that my children are well educated and well trained. That is every parent’s responsibility. What I resent is public interest groups using government to force me to take responsibility for other people’s lives, and using the cynical tactic of confiscating my income to do so. Government should be the educator of last resort, providing a quality education to the children of those who cannot provide it for them. Every statistic available shows that private schools do far better with far fewer resources than public schools. Thus, everyone should have access to private schools, and the way to do that is to work hard, save money and plan for your children's futures. Sacrifices must be made, priorities must be set, and that is the individual's responsibility. Those who cannot achieve such access for reasons beyond their control have a right to expect a good quality public education for their children, which is simply not now the case. Government is a failure as an educator, and again, I resent being forced to pay an exorbitant amount of tax to sustain that failure.

You think it's an unfair burden on your finances to help pay for stuff you don't personally use unless it's outstanding and/or of direct use to YOU? What a strange standard.
Does that mean that your taxes should not go for public libraries that may contain books that you, personally, have no interest in reading or have already read?

--Again, your point is so glib as to be absurd. I am prepared to pay a reasonable amount of tax to support the legitimate activities of government as outlined in the Constitution. I have that duty as a citizen. What I resent is being compelled at the risk of imprisonment to support the pet projects of special interest and activist groups whether they work or not and whether I agree with them or not.

In a recent posting you say that people who are unwilling or unable to care for children should not have any. Excellent advice -- but not compatible with your anger in saying "I am now told that under Obamacare, I will be paying for strangers' birth control pills?"

Surely you agree that the pennies of your earnings that might go toward making birth control available to all women is a far better investment than having to terminate or carry to term an unwanted pregnancy?

--No, I do not agree. (And bear in mind that those “pennies” will be on top of everything else I am compelled to pay for.) In effect, you are saying: Young women are getting pregnant and can't help getting pregnant, and so government must take money from me and give it to them. Viewed as this simple schematic, the idea appears preposterous. The logic of it (if there is any logic at all to it) breaks down at the point where you imply that they cannot help getting pregnant. Yes, they can, and they have a responsibility to do so. It is not my responsibility to see to it that you do not get pregnant or to pay for it if you do. That is your responsibility, and again, I resent the advocates of planned parenthood or any other special interest group using government to make it my responsibility.

So, in the interest of constructive exchange, if the nation were to return to these values you find so denigrated, how would you see to it that children are educated? What measures would you propose so that no unwanted child is ever born?

--The answer to both questions is: Take responsibility for your own life and the behavior of your children. Work hard, save money and put your children into private school, school them at home or, in any case, lower taxes and allow people to use the money to provide vouchers for private education. This last will reduce public school enrollment and allow competition to compel the public schools to do a better job, rather than using the tax laws to force me to support a failed system of public education.

--As for your question, How do I propose to see to it that no unwanted child is ever born? Again, it is absurd. No one can do that; certainly not government. What I can do, and what every individual can do, is to take responsibility for his or her own behavior and train their children to do so. And, if the unwanted happens, to take responsibility for that too, rather than shunt it off onto the government and the taxpayers. Once more: I am not responsible for your life and behavior. It is not my responsibility to provide for your birth control – that is your responsibility, and government should not be used to force me to become responsible for it. Confucius pointed out that if every person swept the sidewalk in front of his own house the whole city would be clean. If there is a solution to the question of unwanted pregnancies it lies in that – people taking responsibility for their own behavior and that of their children. But further on this point: To be born unwanted is not to lack value as a human being. Unwanted children may lead valuable, productive, even exceptional lives. Again, it is a matter of taking personal responsibility, and not simply blaming others and relying on government to run one’s life.

--As I said: Inherent in all of your arguments is the reflexive, mind-numbed assumption of the liberals that government is the answer, and that government should substitute its power for the responsibility of individuals. For too long we have lived this way, and now we see where it leads: to the bankruptcy of the economy, the denigration of personal responsibility and dignity, and to the depletion of the spirit of society.

Monday, August 8, 2011

P.S. -- P.O.'d

Okay, I'll just come out and say it: I'm pissed off. I have in my lifetime done just about every job you can imagine, from agriculture to publishing, from working in a butcher shop to working for an NFL team. I have mopped floors, emptied trash bins, milked cows, pumped gas, taught school, written novels and screenplays. I got my first job when I was thirteen, and I have not stopped working since. I worked through high school, college and grad school. And I expect to go on working until the day I die.

In college I vacuumed floors at the Ben Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia (I once calculated that I vacuumed no less than three miles of carpet in one summer.) While I was at film school in Paris, I worked as an apprentice butcher. My first job was to go into the meat locker every morning, get down on my hands and knees, and mop up the frozen blood from the carcasses that hung overhead. Later, when I graduated to cutting meat, my hands became so frozen during the day that, while I sat in lectures at film school in the afternoon, they would thaw and blood would flow from dozens of cuts I had unknowingly inflicted on myself. My mother committed suicide when I was fifteen and my father drank himself to death. My family left me nothing. I started out my adult life with nothing.

At one time in my twenties I moved fourteen times in two years because I could not afford to pay the rent. There were many months when I had to choose between food and rent, or between eating or paying the phone bill. I was even homeless, briefly, on two occasions. Anything I have now I acquired through unremitting hard work, a stubborn refusal to give up, and a talent with which I was born.

I am not wealthy, largely because the government will not permit me to be. Currently, the government confiscates over fifty percent of my income in taxes of various kinds. And yet, despite this, the president tells me that I am not "paying my fair share." He pontificates that I have been lucky, and because of that, that I have a moral obligation to contribute more. I have four children. I have put one through college and grad school, I have two more in college currently, and the fourth is in private elementary school. None of my children attended public school, since I consider it a form of child abuse to put a child into a public school in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, I am forced to pay taxes to support the public school system, which I cannot in good conscience make use of.

And still the president, this smug, sanctimonious son of a bitch, insists that I must contribute more. For what? I am now told that under Obamacare, I will be paying for strangers' birth control pills? With Nancy Pelosi's twisted logic, I must fund years' worth of unemployment benefits that actually pay people not to work? Under the new California law, I will have to subsidize a college education for illegals, who cannot even work legally once they have graduated? I am certainly willing to pay a reasonable amount in taxes to support the legitimate activities of government, but over fifty percent of my income? The American Revolution was fought because the nominal tax rate under the British was twelve percent!

I own a small business. I would like to hire an assistant, someone to answer the phone, handle the scheduling, take notes at meetings, and learn the film business from inside. I would like to, but I cannot afford to because I must pay so much in taxes. I would gladly create a job for someone who needs a job and wants a career, someone who would pay taxes, and I would do it if the government would get off my back and out of my way. Don't they understand this? No. They keep demanding more to fund their criminal overspending on programs the Founders never envisioned when they wrote the Constitution. Programs that, as often as not, waste money, accomplish nothing, indeed, produce the opposite of the intended result - programs the main purpose of which is to buy votes for professional politicians.

The government did not generate the wealth I have created - I did. The government did not earn the money I have worked my entire life for - I did. It is not their money, it is mine, and Bill Clinton's bald assertion to the contrary, the government does not know better how to spend my money than I do. I feel like a fool. I play by the rules, I obey the law, and yet everywhere I see scoundrels and wastrels flourishing - at my expense. It has to stop.

I see this country becoming a shadow of itself, spending itself into oblivion, utterly bereft of leadership, cut from its spiritual, philosophical and political moorings, drifting toward a bleak future in which my children and grandchildren will have to labor under the debt my generation has accumulated, and for this they will rightly upbraid me. Obama promised change, and he gave us more of the same, and worse. In short - he lied. It is now time for a true change: a return to the values which made this nation preeminent on Earth, the dream of all those who, like me, feel cheated of their liberty and opportunity and the rewards of their labor by a cynical system populated by buffoons, liars, toadies and worse.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Starring Obama as Reagan

I think it has now become clear that the current administration's policies have been a disaster for the American economy. Never in my lifetime have I seen such a vacuum of leadership at the top in Washington. Only the lamentable presidency of Jimmy Carter comes close. As I watch President Obama attempting, pathetically, to assign blame for his failures to George Bush, earthquakes, tsunamis, drought, fires, the Arab Spring and the economic crisis in Europe, I wonder when he will simply chalk everything up to the idea that God hates the United States. I have never witnessed such a despicable attempt on the part of a chief executive to shirk responsibility and deny that his policies, driven by an inane and futile ideology, have failed. His behavior is a disgrace, and in face of it, it is no wonder that the credit rating of the U.S. has been downgraded.

In watching this farce of a presidency, I notice that Obama more and more quotes from and refers to Ronald Reagan. This, I think, is telling. When Reagan was elected president, left-wing pundits pontificated that he was nothing but an actor playing the role of president. History has proved them wrong. But as I have watched Obama, whose miserable failure to lead the nation becomes clearer with each passing day, I began to wonder whether he actually wants to be president.

Then it occurred to me that the truth is that all he wants is to be president. He does not want to lead and he does not want to govern, simply because he is incapable of doing so. Whereas Reagan was accused of being an actor who merely wanted play the role of president, Obama is, in fact, merely playing that role. He is the actor-in-chief, incapable of actually exercising the duties of the presidency, concerned only with his re-election. He looks the part, he reads well from teleprompters, but when he is obliged to speak on his own, he is confused, uninformed, nearly incoherent. This is the man who claimed that he had campaigned in "fifty-seven states," who wrote in the guest book at Windsor Palace that the year was 2008, and who could not remember his own daughter's age. This is the president who submitted his budget to the Senate only to see it defeated 97 to 0. During the critical debt reduction debate, he presented no plan of his own, was largely absent, and when, briefly, he intervened, he only made matters worse, blowing the deal he had himself made with Speaker Boehner. Mr. Obama has proved amply that he cannot govern; he knows only how to campaign.

At Tucson, after the tragic shootings there, he delivered a campaign speech. In the wake of the so-called debt-ceiling deal, he delivered a campaign speech. After the downgrading by S&P he delivered a campaign speech. Now he is on a "jobs" bus tour - paid for by the taxpayers - delivering one campaign speech after another. He does not have a clue what it means to be an executive, let alone the chief executive. Before being elected to the presidency, he ran nothing, was the executive officer of nothing, governed nothing. He is not an authentic leader, nor an authentic president, but merely a political shill whose only skill lies in running for office.

In the meantime, as he poses for photo-ops and delivers the same pointless, prepared speech over and over ("Americans voted for divided government, not dysfunctional government"), American servicemen are being killed in the Middle East (30 were killed yesterday), the deficit grows by billions each day, the jobless rate remains above nine percent, the nation's credit rating is downgraded for the first time in history, and all Mr. Obama can think to do is to go on a bus tour, celebrate his birthday, and play golf.

(Just now, this evening, I see that today Obama suggested that the federal government should pay unemployed construction workers to repair the nation's aging infrastructure. Where will the money come from? We are broke, and he still does not seem to understand that. But, further, the federal government does not create jobs - only the private sector can do that, and so how does making unemployed construction workers de facto employees of the government help solve the unemployment problem? Better for the government to get out of the way, as Reagan said, and let the private sector do what it does best - create jobs and produce wealth. Lower taxes, relax regulations, and provide incentive which translates into opportunity. But Obama and his cronies on the left cannot or will not see this, because they believe in the power of government and not in the power of the private sector and of individuals.)

I ask you: Who wants four more years of this? Who will vote again for this man, regardless of the color of his skin? Who has confidence in his "leadership"? When are even his most ardent supporters on the left going to admit that Obama and his pseudo-socialist agenda have failed, and failed miserably?

Never, I suspect, just as Obama himself will not admit it since he is incapable, ideologically, of facing the fact that he has failed. Treasury Secretary Geithner and all of his ivory-tower economic advisers should be fired. Attorney General Holder and his corrupt Justice Department staff who refuse to enforce the laws of the United States should be fired. But they will not be, because this administration is not driven by concern for the long-term interests of the United States, nor for the near-term welfare of its citizens, nor even by reality. It is driven by a left-wing ideology which, even in the face of its own failure, insists upon the correctness of its policies. And Obama is driven, apparently, by nothing more than his desire to be re-elected. This is madness, of which even Richard Nixon in the depths of Watergate would not have been capable.