Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm thinking someone needs to get grilled

Please note that I do not say the following lightly:

As reported here, yesterday Secretary of Defense "Bill" Gates (that's what the President calls him) said: "The strategy that the president put forward in late March is the first real strategy we have had for Afghanistan since the early 1980s".

Ya know, as SECDEF I'm pretty sure that he was in a position to forward a "real" strategy for Afghanistan for the last 3 years. . .which makes me wonder what the heck he's been doing? Are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in harm's way not enough of a motivator to put the development of a strategy for their theater of engagement on a "to do" list? Or is he so inefficient that he just never got around to it?

I think Americans need answers. If only one of our elected representatives cared to ask the right questions.

Monday, September 14, 2009

In case you missed it--UPDATED

Last night, at one of the endless, mindless awards shows that allow entertainment types to aggrandize themselves on a network's dime, a showboat of an artist took the stage uninvited and intimidated a much younger woman into yielding the floor to him despite that fact that the moment was, for all intents and purposes, entirely about the woman. This showboat then proceeded to tell the woman--who happens to be of another race than the showboat--that her work was somehow less qualified for recognition than was the work of another woman who happens to be of the same race as the showboat, despite there being absolutely no evidence that such is the case. In fact, the audience didn't seem too surprised when the "winner" was revealed, so I guess you could say that popular opinion was at best split as to who was the most deserving of the title. It should be noted that exactly one of the 5 nominees for the award were of the same race as the . . .ahem. . ."gentleman" who ruined the night. Yet there he was, on national TV, making sure the whole world knew that in his mind, there was only one deserving winner for this award.

And lest we forget, this showboat has made several public pronouncements regarding equality of race in this country. It is not a stretch to say that EVERYTHING this guy does is about race, and it is definitely not a stretch to make that claim when the subject of his tirade last night was a member of a different race.

SO of course, Mr. Race-arbiter-in-chief said something about it today, right? I mean, this case (or to be more accurate, this nutcase) has several more suspicious marks of actual racism than did that famous incident with Skip Gates, right? And yet Obama couldn't WAIT to get on the air and claim that law enforcement acted stupidly to his friend Skip; lord only knows what kind of verbal harranguing is going to come out of this situation.

Actually, President Obama was oddly silent on the whole thing.

And I'd love to believe that he's actually learned that there's a limit to how often people will listen to him react foolishly with regards to race relations. Or maybe that it is not his place, as the President, to talk about silly events in pop culture.

But color me skeptical. These events aren't supposed to happen anymore, not with the great Obama as President. And like it or not, he "owns" race issues. He's gone to that well one too many times in other circumstances that absolutely did not merit his involvement to just turn a blind eye now. At the very least, this has got to be what he calls a "teachable moment". . .right?

No, I think Obama's silence can be chalked up to one thing and one thing only: the showboat is a black man. And as much as Kanye West deserves an upbraiding of historic proportions from every person who has any influence anywhere, especially from any man who purports to be some kind of racial healer, we will not hear anything from Obama.

The cowardly lion had absolutely nothing on this guy.

You know, I've said many a time before that being a lefty means never having to say you're sorry. There's always some out, some scapegoat that can be blamed that keeps a lefty from taking accountability for his or her actions.

Well, I've got another axiom of today's America: being black means never having to worry about being called a racist.

For the rest of America, though: stand by. Your lecture is a-comin'--and with far less of a "trigger" than was provided by West last night!

UPDATE: HotAir is reporting that an ABC reporter tweeted that Obama called West something unkind. . .off the record. I'm treating that with a huge ol' piece of salt; as far as we know, some young whipper-snapper at ABC thought this was an easy way for their guy to score points with a country that is well aware of what West did last night. Off the record means "does not exist", and that's exactly how I'm treating that report: Obama didn't say nuthin'! I'll wait for Gibbs or Obama himself to weigh in on this WITH THE TAPES ROLLING before I believe they actually called West out.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

What it means that Obama is before Congress tonight

I know, I know: He's already started talking as I write this. But I haven't listened to the speech, nor have I read any excerpts. I swear.

But I can't help but think this speech, regardless of how it goes down, means quite a few things:

a) the MSM's spin that the townhall protests were unauthentic, ineffective, whatever word they used--those reports are inoperative in the White House. Which means that the folks there may not be as disconnected as we thought; it should also be used as a hammer by every commentator on the right as incriminating evidence the the media is fully agenda-driven at this time. For let's face it: if the White House believed the media, they wouldn't be putting their man in front of the cameras again. And if the White House doesn't believe the media. . .why should you?

b) Paragraph a doesn't hold true in ONLY ONE CIRCUMSTANCE: if President Obama comes out tonight and actually says something amazing. Like the Public Option AND Co-ops are off the table; like he agrees with Sarah Palin that the end-of-life counseling was a horrible idea; or like he will not cut Medicare Advantage and will make sure that current government-provided health programs are better before he tries to come back again. Absent anything earth-shattering--in other words, if tonight turns out to be platitudes, vagueness, and full of half-truths or straight-out obfuscations--the appearance tonight shows that the opposition to HR 3200 mounted an effective protest in August.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

For Mr. Elwood Blues

Big news of the day: Van Jones resigns from his czar position in the administration.

THIS was a good way to wake up today!

The Jones debacle got me thinking--actually, thinking AGAIN--about czars. What are they paid? HOW are they paid? (for example, Congressional staffers get paid by their sponsor member, who have a pretty tight budget for such things--is the same true for the President's non-confirmed staff? Or does Obama saying "he's with me" mean automatic entitlement to Senior Executive Service pay?) And do these czars have to take an oath to the Constitution, like every other employee of the federal government does?

So I ran a google search. . .which led me to yahoo's questions site where a "lilmisspriss200533" had asked "how much are the Czars in the Obama Administration being paid?" As one of the responses (and it should be noted that ANYBODY can respond until the answer is considered "resolved"), Mr. Elwood Blues posted the following:

OMG!! Look at all these Obama czars!!

Donald E. Powell.
Oh, sorry that was Bush’s Czar to Rebuild Gulf Coast; see…

John P. Walters.
Oops, that was one of Bush's Drug Czars; see…

Karen Hughes.
No, that was Bush's Public Diplomacy Czar; see…

Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute.
Bush's 'War Czar' -- see…

Then there's Bush's 'Copyright Czar' -- see,2817,233…
And Bush's Spy Czar -- see…
And Bush's Heath Czar -- see…
And Bush's Privacy Czar -- see…
And Bush's Corruption Czar -- see remarks of White House spokesman Scott Stanzel…

Randall Tobias.
Bush's AIDS Czar. See…

Dr. Mark Dybul.
Bush's other AIDS Czar. See…

Richard Stickler.
Bush's Mine Safety Czar -- see…

John Negroponte.
Bush's Intelligence Czar -- see…

Otto Reich.
Bush's Latin America czar -- see…

Yeah, all these czars are just terrible, now that Obama is appointing them! Somehow it just wasn't a problem under G.W. Bush though -- why do you think that is?

And I thought: fair enough. I don't like czars under any administration, because all they do is help obfuscate that which should be perfectly transparent. If there were czars under Bush, that's just as bad as czars under Obama.

But that list seemed long to me. I could remember Hughes and Rove--who could forget?--but the rest kinda left me curious. So, in the spirit of Phineas and Ferb, I knew what I was going to do today: look at this list and see how many of them were "czars" in the same vein as the recently-resigned Van Jones.

By name:
* Powell, Donald E. Served as Bush's "czar" to rebuild the Gulf Coast AS AN EMPLOYEE OF DHS, and therefore his employment was subject to oversight by Congress, who confirmed the Secretary of DHS.
* Walters, John P. Served as Bush's drug "czar" WHEN THAT POSITION WAS A CABINET-LEVEL POSITION and therefore subject to Congressional oversight. Walters was confirmed by the Senate on December 5, 2001. Guess who ended that position's responsibility to Congress? I'll give you a hint: it was after January 20, 2009.
* Hughes, Karen. Served multiple roles in the Bush White House, but in the position described by "Mr. Blues" above, she was actually in a Senate-confirmed position as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. So even a "gimme" for the czar list turned out to be a non-starter in this argument.

Shall I go on?

oh, why not?

* Lt Gen Douglas Lute was nominated by Bush to serve as Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan. He was confirmed by the Senate on June 28, 2007.
* "Copyright Czar"--as a position--didn't exist until October 2008, when Bush signed the PRO-IP act. He never appointed someone to fill the position.
* "Spy Czar" is the fun name for John Negroponte's position as Director of National Intelligence, a position that was confirmed by the Senate.
* "Health Czar"--near as I can tell--refers to Dr. John Howard, who, as a corollary to his position as director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also was appointed by Bush to work as special coordinator to handle the medical issues afflicting 9/11 rescue workers, specifically those at the World Trade Center site. This was not a new job unto itself; rather, it was an additional duty he did on top of his work as NIOSH director--which, as part of the Department of Health and Human Services, fell under Congressional Oversight.
* "Privacy czar", I don't believe, ever existed under Bush, either. The article Mr. Blues links to goes no further than saying Bush considered creating such a position in 2002; I cannot find anything about that position eventually coming to fruition.
* "Corruption czar"--again, several press releases about Bush's intent, but nothing to be found regarding the creation of the actual post.
* Tobias, Randall. Nominated by Bush--AND CONFIRMED BY THE SENATE--to be the first US Global AIDS Coordinator. Later he became the first US Director of Foreign Assistance, serving concurrently as Administrator of the US Agency for International Development--for which he was confirmed by the Senate in 2006. That's the history of Bush's so-called "AIDS Czar".
* Dr. Mark Dybul, Bush's other "AIDS Czar", was the Global AIDS Coordinator, a position within the State Department that reports directly to the SECSTATE and requires Senate confirmation.
* Richard Stickler, Bush's "Mine Safety Czar", actually held the position of Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Granted, he was never confirmed by the Senate--although Bush submitted his name twice. He was a recess appointment, and regardless of his confirmation status, he was asked to testify before Congress numerous times due to his role with the administration.
* John Negroponte--that would be the "spy czar", so see above.
* Otto Reich, Bush's "Latin America czar", was really a recess appointment to the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere position, and then he was appointed US Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere. That second job is a little sketchy--I don't know what a Special Envoy does, and I can't find if it is a job that falls under SECSTATE.

So of Mr. Blues' list, only ONE is even questionable as a non-Congressional oversight position. The lesson there, I would think, is that just because the NYTimes, LA Times, Newsweek, and other liberal organs in the media report that someone is a "czar", that doesn't mean that they are so. All of these folks under Bush (again, except for possibly Reich) had a responsibility to report to Congress, and most were approved for the positions they held by Congress.

Compare that with what Obama has done. Do you remember Van Jones appearing before Congress in his role as Green Jobs adviser? (He appeared before his appointment--and note that key word, "appointment", as opposed to "nomination" or "confirmation") What about any of Obama's other "advisors"?

Yes, that is a problem. Especially for an administration that signalled at one point to be all about transparency and accountability. What, Obama, don't your cabinet members have the ability to lead?

Or is the problem higher than that?

And again, I ask: HOW are these "advisors" paid? And do they, like every other Federal Employee, take an oath?

Enquiring mind wants to know!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

once again, evidence that John Edwards was right

I very rarely read the newspaper. After this morning, I don't know if I'm going to hurry to change that habit at all--although I am darn glad that I now know the story of Amanda Kurowski.

On the Washington Times front page today was an article, titled "Home schooler ordered to Attend Public School--Mom's religious views ripped by Court".

Well how's that for a wake-up call?

Now I'm all about source documents to help me avoid getting duped by somebody's spin. SO enjoy this. . .but in case you don't want to read the whole kit and kaboodle, here's a summary:

Divorced parents of a 10-year old disagree about her educational plan to date, which has provided for her to be home-schooled by her mother. The curriculum the mother teaches Amanda (the 10-year old at the center of this debate) is not in question, as it includes everything that the local school district teaches; the effectiveness of the home-schooling is not in question, as Amanda is performing at or above grade level; AND Amanda participates in several classes every week at the local school, so she is not a shut-in that is afraid of other kids (as evidenced by statements collected from her teachers at that school).

As per the agreement in place between mother and father, the fact that they did not see eye-to-eye on Amanda's education meant that a mediator (in this case a Guardian Ad Litem, henceforth referred to as a GAL) would get involved and help the situation come to resolution. Remember what this is: a third party representative of the state, with no relation to the young girl, who suddenly gets a say in the education of this young girl just because two divorced parents don't see eye to eye. Oh, and by the way, it appears that the Mother and the GAL don't exactly have a great relationship, either. Please keep that in mind as the saga unfolds below:

Earlier this year, Mother sought to change the custody agreement in place between herself and the father (the situation between the parents is ugly--and I mean ugly!); coincident to that request, the GAL recommended that Amanda see a counselor. That counselor interviews Amanda, and according to the court order, the counselor "found Amanda to lack some youthful characteristics. . .the counselor concluded that Amanda would likely benefit from frequent contact with her similarly aged sibling (Mr. Kurowski's other daughter, age seven), and in the community." There was a religious element to the counselor's findings as well, but they don't play much into the "actionable" recommendation forwarded from the counselor.

Based on that report, the GAL concluded that Amanda's interests--particularly her intellectual and emotional development--would be best served by exposure to a public school setting in which she would be challenged to solve problems presented by a group learning situation and by the social interactivity of children of her age.

Let's recap what just happened there: a representative of the state took a report from a counselor--a counselor that only entered the fray because the state representative wanted her to--that said an eldest child was mature for her age and would benefit from more contact with her half-sister, and used it as a club to say that the academically advanced Amanda would benefit intellectually and emotionally from being exposed to the social strata of a public school, specifically against the wishes of the student's mother, who happens to have a strained professional and personal relationship with this particular state representative. The GAL's recommendation ignored a specific element of the counselor's report, favoring additional exposure to children of Amanda's age rather than just more contact with Amanda's half-sister. And at no time in the proceedings to this point had insufficient exposure to children of Amanda's age even been "professionally" identified as a deficiency that needed to be remedied!

SO the judge gets to chime in on this circus play-by-play. In her decision, Judge Lucinda Sadler declared that education is "by its nature an exploration and examination of new things, and . . . a child requires academic, social, cultural, and physical interaction with a variety of experiences, people, concepts, and surroundings." The judge then defines this debate as centering "on whether enrollment in public school will provide Amanda with an increased oportunity for group learning, group interaction, social problem solving, and exposure to a variety of points of view." In light of that definition, the judge concludes that it would be in Amanda's best interests to attend a public school.

So AGAIN to recap: an intelligent, congenial 10-year who is unfortunate enough to have two parents that don't like each other is told by a Judge--that has no relation to her and may have no experience in education matters--that the successful (by all indications) education system she's known since first grade is deficient because it doesn't resemble the Judge's opinion of a proper educational environment, which, it should be noted, is heavy on group-think idealism and awful short on deference to success. The judge, in her decision, describes Amanda as "generally likeable and well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level". . .and yet the judge STILL can't help but upend the education system that helped make Amanda all those things.

Oh, and the judge can't help but REALLY step out of bounds. She writes: "Despite Ms. Voydatch's (Amanda's mother) insistence that Amanda's choice to share her mother's religious beliefs is a free choice, it would be remarkable if a ten year old child who spends her school time with her mother and the vast majority of all of her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view. Amanda's vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view." (emphasis mine) I'm sorry, but where in the world is it a judge's business to write about a child's religious beliefs, or, more importantly, to suggest that parents have any responsibility whatsoever to expose them to "other points of view" with regards to religious faith? And is it really so remarkable that a mature, intelligent pre-teen is able to express THEIR religious beliefs clearly? And what the heck is the judge saying here--that one of the reasons she supports sending Amanda to public schools is because the girl needs to consider other points of view on that issue, and that the school's religion-free curriculum is going to somehow improve her knowledge of faith-based issues? But EVEN MORE TO THE POINT: is it a bad thing that a child adopts the beliefs of her closest parent? Really??? 'Cuz this appears to me to be a solution in search of a problem. . .and I wouldn't even call it a solution. (Of course, I'm not after the destruction of religion in this country. This is a solution ONLY if your intent is to increase the influence of the state in the affairs of faith).

I swear, I don't know what the heck is happening with my country.

But to the point of the title: John Edwards' famous Two Americas is very true. . .just not in the way he advertised. No, this country is split into two along the following lines: those who want the government to keep out of DECISIONS that most of us consider to be personal in nature; and those who just can't wait to put ALL decisions under the control of the government.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

getting sick of the hysterics

. . .but this time, my scorn is not directed at a normal source.

President Obama is going to invade a good number of schools early next week, with an address direct to the children of the country. In response, some on the right (such as vodkapundit) have advocated keeping our kids home from school that day.

I disagree. For five reasons:

a) the likelihood is that Obama's address will be very generic. "Stay in school", "work hard", "learn something new every day", "challenge yourself", blah blah blah. I really doubt that anything that comes from the President's mouth is going to be objectionable; as long as the "extra" activities are kept in check, this event likely won't harm anybody but Obama.

b) keep in mind who is doing the talking in the eyes of those who will be receiving the talk. Obama, measurably, holds some kind of spell over a good number of people just a little older than high school kids, and may in fact hold an equal amount of influence over high school kids. If "he" says stay in school. . .maybe just maybe somebody will heed that advice. And let's not forget: that's a good thing.

c) Obama keeps presenting us with great teaching opportunities, and this is no different. In fact, earlier tonight I had a discussion with my sixth grader and told him what my expectation was of this event, and I asked him to listen on Tuesday. Not listen and obey, mind you, but just listen. I think that listening is something that civil societies do. . .and something that the activist youth of this country does not do, to the detriment of us all. My son and I will have a talk after the event (if it comes to pass; I have no idea if this school will participate), so I am unconcerned about how much influence this event will have on my son's life. For all I know, I'll have nothing to add to what the President says (and it should be noted that as of this writing, supposedly I'll be able to know the content of the lecture before it is aired); but if I do, I will have ample opportunity to inject myself into the situation. I want my son to develop an open mind and the ability to figure out his own "right" and "wrong"; that can't be done if he only hears me. It's a trap I think numerous kids fall into on our college's campuses year in and year out, and I don't want my son to be manipulated like the meat of the week when he gets out on his own.

Which takes me slightly off-topic, but here's a good place for my thought du jour: I think one of the reasons college-aged kids are so liberal (by number) is because the message of liberals is so new as to be intoxicating to that age group. Maybe liberalism is new because politics as a whole is new and the overwhelming message on a campus is liberal; maybe liberalism is new because the kids were raised conservatively without any exposure to the "other side". Either way, part of the attraction is the natural progression away from established authority (in this case, parents). I want to make sure my son isn't spellbound by the snake-charming music that he will likely be exposed to in a scant few years, and to me the best way to do that is to arm him with the arguments of the left and to share why I don't believe them. I hope he adopts my views, but more importantly than that, I hope he learns to speak for himself rather than channeling the wisdom of the nearest elder.

Anyhow, back on-topic now:

d) As I wrote earlier, Obama has nothing to gain here. By hook or by crook, he is probably well-liked in the youth of this country. But what better way to lose an audience than to waste that audience's time? If Obama does what I think he'll do--nay, almost what he MUST do in order to allow his beloved teacher's unions to survive next week--he will share no insights, no real inspiration, and will probably overdose on cliche. I can almost see the highschool classrooms filled with kids texting away to each other about what a lame President we have. In fact, I almost can't think of a message he could communicate that wouldn't be greeted with an overwhelming "whatevs, dude"--on the high side. On the low side, if he says something remarkable (like how he needs the youth of the country to help change the course of our nation). . .well, the reaction from the students may very well be the least of his concerns.

and 5) if there is a lesson to be learned from August, I think, it is that informed citizens that choose to engage in a debate have a great deal of power to shape that debate. In the off chance that Obama's address is completely inappropriate, if all the conservative-raised kids in the country aren't in a classroom to lend their voice to the after-action discussion, then there is a much better chance that indoctrination will be the order of the day. (keep in mind that a goodly number of the "facilitators" are likely Obamabots in teacher's clothing) All it takes to keep this from happening, however, is one voice per room that is willing to take on the "wisdom" of a leftist message. If the resident adult is faced with just one voice of dissent, hopefully they will decide that the moment has passed and it's time to get on with a real lesson plan. Never forget: you can't win a fight when you don't even show up. The left has gained politically for years based almost entirely on conservatives' low enthusiasm for activism--don't grow amnesia now that we've seen how effectively engagement can work for our side!

P.S. And about those "extra" activities: I've already asked my son to think about what he should write if he is asked to send a letter to President Obama detailing the ways in which my sweet, innocent 11 year-old could help out the most powerful man in the world. (talk about lame!) I know, I know--that activity is no longer on the "approved" list (because now we have to have our reactions to the appearance of the President scripted, don't you know. Thank you, media--this arrogance is entirely because of your obsequiousness with the man). But that doesn't mean it won't appear in our classrooms, and if it does, I want my son to be prepared. And I hope that he feels up to a fight. Because all he has to do is let me know that this request was even presented to him, and I will happily take it from there.