"I wish they would only take me as I am" - Vincent Van Gogh               "How Can I believe in God when just last week I got my tounge caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?" - Woody Allen              "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake" - Henry David Thoreau              "I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia" - Woody Allen            "When promulgating esoteric cogitations, eschew platitudinous ponderosities" - Mark Rowan, my father            "Up, sluggard, and waste not life, for in the grave there will be sleep enough" - Benjamin Franklin             "What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world." - Albert Einstein            "Welfare's purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence" - Ronald Reagan            "It's odd that you can get so anesthetized by your own pain or your own problem that you don't quite fully share the hell of someone close to you." - Lady Bird Johnson              "I still want to be the candidate for guys with confederate flags in their pickup truck" - Howard Dean

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Still mad about Katrina

It's been over a year since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, but I am still quite mad about the way in which the aftermath has been handled, and the way in which blame has been spread. While the hurricane was a natural disaster, the political follow-up has been nothing short of a fiscal monstrosity, both by President Bush and others. Everytime I hear about it I get a bit riled-up, and so I shall use this forum to vent.

Many people faulted President Bush for his poor leadership following the storm. It's tough to argue that he was not "the man in charge", my personal feeling was that it was not his responsibilty. Few people seem to agree with that. But, if local politicians (Mayor Nagin, Governor Blanco) don't have primary responsibility for local problems, then what are they good for? Nothing, seemed to be the answer to that question in the days and weeks following the storm.

I will, however, fault the President heavily for one thing....his pledge of $20B in assistance. As Reagan said, the 9 scariest words are 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.' Accounts of the debit cards provided to the refugees being used for strip clubs, lottery tickets, etc...is evidence of the failure of this tactic. It's not so much the $20,000,000,000.00 figure that bothers me, but rather that the government was deciding how to issue it. A donation of half that much to private groups, such as the red-cross, would have done twice as much good (assuming Gov. Blanco would allow it).

Related to this, I recently got an e-mail forward discussing how ridiculously excessive the $250B request that state seantor Mary Landrieu (D) made was (NOTE: I seem to recall that this bill was also sponsored by the Republican state senator, as well, though that was not mentioned in the e-mail). Again, we have an issue of who should be rebuilding, and my opinion is unchanged. There is a lot of money to be made in New Orleans, and as real estate investors, contractors, construction workers, and everyone else begins to taste that, the city will be rebuilt better than before, and would do so without any government involvement. This is the beauty of the free market, and if Katrina teaches the government one thing, this should be it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

More Newt

While driving through Missouri on Thanksgiving, on my way to my in-laws home, I happened to catch a 'best-of Sean Hannity' show on talk radio. I don't normally listen to Hannity, but I stayed tuned because he was talking to Newt Gingrich. Newt had some interesting things to say, among them some comments about the stepping-down of Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. When asked for his thoughts on the matter, he stated his respect for Secretary Rumsfeld, but then discussed the poor timing on the part of President Bush. According to the former Speaker, if decision to let Rumsfeld go was so imminent, why wait until the day after the election to announce it? This amounts to nothing more than conceding defeat to the Democrats. Instead, as Mr. Gingrich put it, had the announcement been made a week before the election, it may have swayed enough votes to maintain a Republican majority in the Senate, and perhaps a few House seats as well.

While there were many serious issues influencing this election, the war in Iraq is certainly one of the top issues facing voters. Secretary Rumsfeld has been under increasing scrutiny for the war, and has taken the heat for a lot of the negative aspects of the war, including many which were beyond his control or oversight. Likewise, many voters were likely dissuaded from voting Republican, hoping for atleast a change of direction. Thus, had President Bush been willing to change direction before the election--as opposed to only hours afterwards--he may have had an easier time come the next two years.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Newt has my support

With 2 years left until the next Presidential election, any commentary at this point is mere speculation. The current speculation seems to indicate that Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are the Republican front-runners among a large crowd of possible candidates. Of that large pool of potential Republican nominees, Newt Gingrich seems to be the dark horse. His name seems to pop-up whenever 2008 is mentioned, yet most of the focus of news stories seems to be directed at Romney or Giuliana. According to Newsmax:
Sources close to the former speaker say Gingrich believes the Republican Party has once again lost its way, and needs to refocus its agenda with an eye toward regaining Congress in 2008.

Stepping back into the political spotlight could help Gingrich’s presidential aspirations as well.

He recently told an interviewer that he won’t decide whether to seek the White House in 2008 until September of 2007.
Of course, that last sentence means 'He has already decided he wants the position'. Thus his recent desire to direct the Republican party back to Reagan conservatism. His success in the past has come by utilizing the same approach; returning the Grand Ole' Party to their real values, and that intent will likely be very appealing to many conservatives, myself included. I have and continue to support President Bush, though there are many issues I think he is too liberal on. I have always felt that Newt is a respectable, honest, driven man who truly cares about our country. Furthermore, I think he typically is typically on the correct side of the issue.

It's too soon to tell, but among the likely candidates, Newt currently has my support.
Cross-Posted at 123beta

Monday, November 20, 2006

Charles Rangel Wants to Reinstitute the Draft

During the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry and many of his Democratic colleagues perpetually implied that if reelected, President Bush would re-institute the draft. Despite continually accusing Republicans of fear-mongering, Senator Kerry was hypocritically doing just so. He was using peoples fears of a vietnam-era draft to dissuade them from voting for the President. However hypocritical that was, one top democrat has now gone one step farther with the hypocrisy.
During a CNN interview today, Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) again expressed his support for reinstituting the draft, and will draft legislation to do so. In the past he has called for mandatory military service
Democratic Representative Charles Rangel said he will again introduce legislation to revive a U.S. military draft when his party takes control of Congress in January.....Military leaders spoke out against reinstating the draft when Rangel introduced such legislation in January 2003, prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Commanders such as Air Force General Richard Myers, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the current volunteer force was better trained and capable than the conscripted troops in the past
Despite the advice of Military experts, Rangel is deciding to again present faulty legislation. Read more »

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bill Gates supports Vouchers

Though the article does not specifically mention so, a recent AP interview with Bill Gates presents some of his ideas concerning how to improve the failing educational system. Not surprisingly, he does not support changing text-books to include the sexual orientation of various historical figures, but rather favors a free market approach...the type completely opposed by virtually every teachers' union.
"Real accountability means more than having goals; it also means having clear consequences for not meeting the goals," he said in a speech earlier Monday to Washington state educators who came to hear the results of an education task force.
In a free market sense, this would mean that poor-performing schools would close, as parents would opt to use their voucher at better schools. This would ensure that schools actually attempt to perform well.
Gates said schools should also be able to pay the best teachers better and offer incentives to attract people with rare abilities.

"It's astonishing to me to have a system that doesn't allow us to pay more for someone with scarce abilities, that doesn't allow us to pay more to reward strong performance," he said. "That is tantamount to saying teacher talent and performance don't matter and that's basically saying students don't matter."

He also spoke of some creative school programs -- particularly charter schools run by private companies -- that should be a model for innovation in the nation's schools.
Gates is absolutely correct. I have several friends who are teachers. They go above and beyond for their students, but make virtually the same (or less) than those teachers who do the bare minimum. Of course, you can't blame lackluster teachers because there is no incentive to perform well.

Furthermore, those charter schools that Bill is talking about typically operate at much lower costs than public schools. When financial accountability comes into play (its fairly absent in public schools), fiscal responsibility follows.

I would be willing to wager that if Bill Gates were put in charge of schools in America, they would be the envy of the world. Test scores would rise, costs would plummet, and the IPO of the schools he started would be in high demand.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

No on Proposition 89

People who think that the vast amount of money spent by politicians is a sign of corruption drive me nuts. As The Only Republican in San Francisco discussed, it's really a sign of health. People claim that a politician with a great deal more money is somehow corrupt, or that the candidate with less money is at a disadvantage. Rather it is not a sign of corruption, but rather an indication that the candidate with more money to spend has more support (with the exception of nutjob Ned Lamont). People donate money because they support a candidate. Thus, more support leads to more money, more money leads to a better campaign. It's something I've written about in the past in my response to Rep. Nancy Pelosi's hopes of banning all lobbyist contributions.

What Rep. Pelosi fails to understand is the same erroneous thought process that is the basis for Proposition 89, which would create "clean money" elections to "level the playing field". Essentially, if Prop 89 passes, candidates who qualify would be eligible for government financing if they choose to eschew private contributions. If the opposing candidate out-fundraises the "clean money" candidate, the Government will match that amount, thus ensuring that each candidate has equal funds, contradictory to the support=money scenario above. Whether or not you deserve the financial support, the government will give it to you. We should all recognize government funded elections as a huge failure, contradictory to the US system.

In our current financing scheme a candidate who supports an extreme ideal is unlikely to gain much support, and will, thus, not gain much financial backing, lowering his chances in the election. This is a logical cause-and-effect scenario. However, under the somewhat socialist model proposed by proposition 89, such extreme candidates will be entitled to equal financial backing, paid for by the state. After all, we wouldn't want him to be at a disadvantage. Prop 89 fails to understand why a candidate does not have financial support.

The concept that Proposition 89 will somehow eliminate corruption is also absurd, and seems to rely on the mistaken premise that political contributions are nothing more than bribes. Rather, political contributions are a type of freedom; freedom of speech/expression by allowing people and companies to support the candidates they wish. Occassionally a candidate can be bought. Yet, even with public financing a candidate is still able to accept personal bribes. Consider Rep. Duke Cunningham, or Senator Harry Reid.

Proposition 89 would not level the playing field, it would give an extra advantage to those who don't deserve it at the expense of those who do. It would stifle the freedom of expression we currently enjoy, and create an unfair, unrepresentative financial support system. If one wants to target corruption, there are better ways to do it.

Cross Posted at California Conservative

God Bless our Troops

While John Kerry enjoys the taste of foot from his air conditioned office and private plane, our troops, in harms way, still manage to show a sense of humor.

Cross-posted at California Conservative