Monday, October 29, 2012

On the Money

There are big things worth talking about this week. There’s a giant storm about to hit landfall on the east coast. There is more clarity coming out piecemeal on the Benghazi story (all of it looking bad for the President). So, in a way, talking about economic issues today is a bit of a break from more pressing issues. Still, I think most people are making decisions this election based on their personal economic issues than on any other reason. So, one week out from the election, the economy is probably worth a post.
There are technical indicators marking when a recession hits bottom and is about to bounce back up to the higher place it plunged from. Supposedly those indicators showed up in June 2009. If it is true that we’ve been “recovering” since that time, then the question remains, why haven’t we bounced back up?
I wrote about the expected bounce back up in March, in a piece called “The Trampoline Effect,” a description provided by my son Political Sphere. I also wrote about it in a piece last November called “Parabolas.” If a recession hits bottom and then lingers there, rather than bouncing back, it is because someone/something is interfering with the natural recovery process.
There’s a piece from Friday’s Wall Street Journal, called “Chronic Fatigue Economy,” spelling out what this bounceless recovery looks like. It shows that the 2% 3rd quarter growth for 2012 pulls the year’s growth rate all the way up to 1.7% Last year’s growth was 1.8%. 2010’s growth was 2.4% So growth is not only sluggish; it’s slowing. In the entire 13 quarters of “recovery,” only two quarters (in separate years) have reached 3% growth. Typical cumulative growth at the 13-quarter mark of the past 9 recoveries averages 16.8%; this recovery is up to a cumulative 7.2%.
Then there’s the problem of how we got even the meager growth we got. Federal spending rose 9.6% in the 3rd quarter of 2012; overall government outlays rose 3.7% (that means, I believe, state and local government outlays in addition to federal). Of the 2% 3rd quarter growth increase, an estimated 0.7% can be chalked up to government growth, which means private growth was closer to 1.3%.
But maybe things are about to get better? Probably not. Business investment dropped, and business investment has to come before job and wage growth. So this is not the time to hope that Obamanomics is just moments away from bearing good fruits.
Here’s another way to think about it, from the WSJ story. If this recovery had been an actual recovery, as was Reagan’s,
That’s about $1/2 trillion in foregone output. The budget deficit would be half as large today if this were a normal expansion.
Large deficits themselves contribute to stalled growth. According to Michael J. Boskin of the Hoover Institution,
[L]arge deficits potentially cause two separate but related problems—shifting the bill for financing the current generation’s consumption to future generations and crowding out of private investment. Thus, deficits are more problematic during economic expansions, if they reduce domestic investment and hence future income, when the national debt is high or rapidly rising relative to GDP, and when they finance consumption, not productive public investment.
The large deficits and expansion of the national debt since the end of 2008 are unprecedented since World War II. The debt-GDP ratio will have doubled, from 40.5 percent to almost 80 percent, by next year. Every year since 2008, the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP has been larger than the previous post-World War II record of 6.0 percent in 1983.
Obama’s economic plan is to “make the rich pay their fair share,” which, translated out of non-progressivist lingo, means “take more money from those who have made it and put it in government’s hands, so that it can’t be used to invest in business growth.” At some point the hidden borrowing, and associated hidden costs to consumers, from federal printing of money not connected to production of actual wealth, will hit a limit, what people are referring to as the fiscal cliff. Until that happens, what we have to look forward to is this new pathetic normal. As the WSJ put it, “We borrowed $5 trillion and all we got was this lousy 1.7% growth.”
Or, hopefully in the nick of time, we can turn to Romney’s plan to set more money free in the private sector: get rid of Obamacare, cut overall tax rates, reform and simplify the tax code to make it less worth avoiding, get rid of unnecessary regulation and do everything conceivable to encourage private sector business. It looks like a clear choice to me.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Look Who's Smiling

Last winter I came across a piece about predicting presidential campaign winners based on who smiled the most, or essentially who inspired optimism for a positive future. I wrote comparing the primary candidates in January. The comparison is becoming more obvious as we approach Election Day.
This cover showed up in the Des Moines Register yesterday, illustrating this very point.
It is becoming a theme here that I have been praying for clarity, for Americans to see clearly who the President is and who Mitt Romney is, so that their decision will be based on reality and not deceit. I think that is what we are seeing, more and more.

Peggy Noonan has a piece today describing what happened at (and since) the first debate as Americans finally see the real Obama:

People saw for the first time an Obama they may have heard about on radio or in a newspaper but had never seen.
They didn't see some odd version of the president. They saw the president.
And they didn't like what they saw, and that would linger.

What people now see is not some larger-than-life transformational figure representing all the positive hopes for change they can place on a blank slate. What people see now is a petty, narcissistic, self-absorbed, little man, who condescends to disdain America and Americans. At the same time this negatively real Obama was exposed, the real Romney also appeared—reasonable, cool, confident, capable, experienced, and caring.
Contrast is more evident in this election than in any I recall since Reagan/Carter—and maybe surpassing that as well. In the language of the Spherical Model, what we see now in Obama is uncivilized. And what we see in Romney is quintessential civilization.
Obama did an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, slated to his newsstands today, in which he is reported to have had this exchange, described by Douglas Brinkley:
"As we left the Oval Office, executive editor Eric Bates told Obama that he had asked his 6-year-old if there was anything she wanted him to say to the president. ... [S]he said, 'Tell him: You can do it.' Obama grinned," Brinkley wrote, according to Politico. "'You know, kids have good instincts,' Obama offered. 'They look at the other guy and say, 'Well, that's a bullsh**er, I can tell."
There is so much wrong with this. A positive, complimentary moment had just been passed along from a very young child. Obama doesn’t graciously say, “Thank you; the encouragement means so much to me.” He turns it into a vitriolic, anti-Romney moment, putting profanity in the mouths of children. Let me just say that, as a person dedicated to civilization, imperfect in my efforts, I not only never used such a word as a 6-year-old; I have never used that term at any age.
Lena Dunham from "Your First Time" ad
Yesterday I became aware of a new Obama campaign ad, unbelievably profane, called “Your First Time.” It has a 20-something actress describing her first vote, for Obama, to losing one’s virginity.  Ugly. Not funny. And not even original, but a copy of a Putin ad in Russia from last winter.
While Obama is out on the stump in Iowa, but apparently living in his own alternate universe, he says,
We joke about Romnesia, but all of this speaks to something that is really important and that the issue of trust. There is no more serious issue on a presidential campaign than trust. Trust matters. And here's the thing. Iowa, you know me. You know that I say what I mean. And I mean what I say….
And you can take and videotape things I said 10 years ago, 12 years ago, and you would say, man, this is the same guy. Has the same values. Cares about the same people. Doesn't forget where he came from. Knows who he is fighting for.
Except, of course, people take his advice and put together montages of his contrasting statements, because they’re so easy to find. This one is 10 minutes. This one is 13 ½ minutes. This is an 8-minute list Glenn Beck put together.  This one is an entertaining montage of varying “top priorities.” 
This is while more condemning details come out daily about what actually happened in Benghazi. It looks like purposeful neglect before and during the attack, pointing directly to the President, with added cover-up. This man may be seen historically as the absolute worst decision ever made by American voters.
Meanwhile, stories about the real Romney keep leaking out. Deroy Murdock wrote a piece in yesterday’s National Review Online, listing some of the untold stories of Mitt Romney’s private acts of decency (including even some stories I hadn’t come across before). He ends with this explanation:
Why is the real Romney totally unlike the terrifying caricature that has haunted this campaign? Team Obama’s distortions and lies have conspired with Mitt Romney’s modesty to mask his good deeds. Instead, Romney fans should make these secrets famous.
There is a beautiful story told about the behind-the-scenes view during a beyond capacity (10,000, with probably 1,000 turned away) crowd at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado Wednesday, as told in The Ulsterman Report, passed along by a “longtime DC political operative.” You’ll want to read this entire piece, but here are a couple of essential moments, from the beginning, and then from the end:
You know, I’ve gone from just trying to defeat Obama to really trying to help Governor Romney be this country’s next president.  I’m really starting to believe there might be something very special about this man….
[after giving his speech to cheering crowds] The governor returns backstage and he is smiling and shaking hands, taking congratulations from everybody around him.  He’s saying how great it was.  Somebody yells out he’s going to win Colorado and the governor laughs and says he thinks so too.  And then something very interesting happens.  He moves away from the group of people just a bit.  Maybe ten or fifteen feet or so.  Just enough to have a little space to himself.  And enough people notice that the area gets a lot more quiet, and they are trying to watch the governor without looking like they are watching the governor.  They can all kind of tell something is happening right then.  It was described as something very peaceful and powerful that came over that backstage area for a moment.  And the governor, he lowers his head and his eyes shut tight and you could see him take a slow deep breath and then he lets it out and says quietly, but just loud enough for some to hear, “Lord, if this is your will, please help to make me worthy.  Please give me the strength Lord.”  And then his eyes open up, and he’s back to smiling and laughing and shaking hands and being the candidate once again.
I’m 100% convinced Mitt Romney was shaken to his soul right then and there.  I think at that moment it was sinking in he might really be the next American president, and it humbled him right to his core, in every nerve of his body.  And as he was saying that little prayer, you could hear the sound of thunder from all those thundersticks outside. Like this huge low rumble that just surrounded all of them at once.  A quiet little prayer, and the sound of thunder.
The sound of God.
Humility and love—for God, for America, and for individual people. This man is civilized. I think there will come a day when we express thanks to God for preparing him for us, for this time, when such a man is so very needed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Let the Voting Begin

Early voting started Monday in Texas. Reports from a friend were that lines at our nearby early voting location (one of 37 or so in Harris County) had wait times over an hour by late morning through the rest of the day. People are excited to vote.
My State Senator Dan Patrick reported the probable first day voting record:
47,093 people voted today. If you combine that with the 40,566 who have returned ballots [absentee ballots], 87,659 votes are already in the can. There are still nearly 40,000 mail ballots that have not been returned—most will be.
He reported 1636 voters at the location near me, which was the third highest in his district. He totaled the locations in the district:
That’s a total of 10,812 votes or 22% of the total votes in Harris County. Senate District 7 is about 69% Republican.
Senate District 7 usually is ranked #1 or #2 for voter turnout in the state. Thanks to the voters who turned out today and special thanks to all of the volunteers who will work long hours at the polls over the next two and a half weeks.
One of my main sources of political food on Facebook is a friend named Shawn. (Shawn sometimes helps co-host on on weekend evenings.) Shawn voted today, the second day of early voting, and then he posted this rather beautiful summary of what that meant:
So I'm voting today. It's obvious WHO I will vote for. But it's even more important to know WHAT I'm voting for:  

 (1) I'm voting to preserve the Supreme Court.
 (2) I'm voting to restore constitutional government.
 (3) I'm voting to eliminate governmental corruption.
 (4) I'm voting to preserve our patriotic heritage.
 (5) I'm voting to support our military.
 (6) I'm voting to preserve the family and marriage.
 (7) I'm voting to preserve the lives of innocents.
 (8) I'm voting for my children's future.
 (9) I'm voting against the redistribution of wealth and its accompanying socialistic      philosophies.
 (10) I'm voting for the Bill of Rights, especially Amendments 1 & 2.
 (11) I'm voting for the right to control my own healthcare.
 (12) I'm voting for the founding fathers.
 (13) I'm voting for the restoration of the rights of the individual states as outlined by the Constitution.
 (14) I'm voting for liberty. 

Any questions?

I prefer voting on Election Day, as kind of a celebration of American freedom. But I’ve been known to give in and show up early, and this year I haven’t been undecided in the presidential race for a very long time. And I’ve made final decisions on the local races, such as school board race, as well (see the comment I added to this post). So, we'll see whether I just can't wait.
I put up four candidate signs in my yard—the only candidate signs on my street. It feels kind of bold and loud, compared to putting my thoughts online for all to read. Now my neighbors, who see me walk to the mailbox in person, know my political leanings. But maybe they can use the information.
If I had a sign that could hold it, I think I’d post Shawn’s list on the front lawn as well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Good Feeling about This

At the Spherical Model we talk about the interrelationships of the political, economic, and social (civilization) spheres. It’s significant that freedom goes hand-in-hand with free enterprise, and these two are possible and maintainable in concert with the principles of civilization. These principles include having a religious people, because God is the grantor of our inalienable rights, not a person or man-made entity such as a government.

The Economic Sphere has free-enterprise north
and controlled economy south.
The Civilization Sphere has civilization north
and savagery south
So I believe God is interested in this unique nation established with the idea that a righteous people could govern themselves within limited laws meant to protect life, liberty and property. I think we’re at a critical historical moment in this country, deciding whether to continue in our efforts to actually abide by the freedom and civilization yielding Constitution, or to trash that in exchange for tyranny. I think the times merit asking for divine help, just as our founders did.
I’ve mentioned here before that my prayers lately have been that people will be given a clear choice, that deceit will be lifted and people will see the candidates and the situation as they really are. I believe we still have a critical mass of people who want to choose right but have made errors in not knowing how to recognize what is right.
But I also believe that, since 2008 there has been an awakening. Good people are tuning in, paying attention, and trying to learn what to do to prevent the bad and press for the good. I think what we’re seeing is a real movement northward on the sphere—in politics, free-enterprise principles, and particularly in turning to God and His principles.
I’ve been concerned, because the odds have seemed against us. But I have felt peace within my heart about it; I get the sense things are in God’s hands, and, while I should do my part as well as I can, I should not despair. So, it was with this faith that all would be well that I also asked, “Could I please have some hopeful evidence, so I don’t have to feel tense as things go down to the wire?”
In sports, I actually enjoy being far ahead, so the outcome is certain; I just set up secondary goals to make the game remain interesting. Plus, I’ve been concerned that a close ending in our election might allow the enemy to fraudulently claim a win (like in Washington State a few years ago when the Republican won the governorship until someone just happened to discover a few boxes of uncounted ballots in a garage somewhere that gave the win to the Democrat).
Then the first debate happened, and the trend has been undeniably in our direction since then. Just in answer to my prayers? I don’t know, but it feels that way.
I happened to be listening to Glenn Beck on radio the other day, and he was talking to a black pastor, E. W. Jackson, who has been encouraging Christians, and particularly black Christians, to end the mindless loyalty to the Democrat party and vote according to their actual values. It was during that interview that I got a sense that something being said here is very true. I enjoyed the whole interview, but it was just a few moments that really hit me.
Glenn had said, “I have firm reliance on the protection of divine providence. I don’t believe that God is neutral in the affairs of man or the freedom of man, and if America falls, the whole world falls. I mean, there’s nobody to stand for freedom.” And Pastor Jackson agreed. Glenn added, “I think we’re on the threshold of miracles and profound change. Do you feel that way?”
This isn’t normal radio. Glenn feels free to talk about religion as much as anything else, and does so pretty often. But here he was talking with someone who talks about God all the time too. So there was an extra freedom of religious expression. The pastor responded, “It is not just our Constitution or Declaration. It’s the sense that we are not a mere historical happenstance, but we are a providential nation, that the favor of God has been on us.”
This next part is the moment, from Pastor Jackson, when it hit me, this is true:
I think it’s God moving. I don’t think it’s attributable to me as a person but rather to God moving on people’s hearts and saying, "Okay, there are enough of you standing up; I’m going to move in your behalf." And I agree with you, Glenn. I think God is going to do some marvelous things to help bring this nation back to Him.
So this was on my mind, this idea that, not only is this a critical moment in history, but this is what it looks like when God moves people toward Him on a large scale. It has come after hardship, but not just hardship—after the tribulations convince people to turn to God for help, rather than to government or some other worldly idol.
With this on my mind, a couple of other media moments have also caught my interest. One was an endorsement of Romney by Dennis Miller. I don’t know this man’s religion; I know he considers himself conservative but more rationally so than many. He’s a comedian and radio host, so there’s a bit of an edginess there. But he said of Romney, “This is an eminently decent man.... If we are going to start demonizing good men like Mitt Romney..., we've fallen through some kind of cosmic wormhole that we cannot recover from... This is a good man....” At last we’re again at a point where decency is neither dismissed nor derided, but lauded as it ought to be.
On Friday, the day after the radio interview with Pastor Jackson, Glenn Beck’s TV show was a Q&A session, “Ask Glenn Anything.” In this episode there was another moment that reminded me something big is happening, something God is handling for us. An audience member, Tony Brown, asked, “God forbid we lose the election, how do we save our nation going forward?”
Glenn joked a little for a moment, and then he got more serious. This is how that went:
Glenn: Uh, who wants to carpool to Canada? [laughter] Um, I haven’t thought of that one, because…. I’ll be real honest with you, I was down on my knees this morning, and I was praying, “Help us out here, Lord. Please help us out. Recognize how many people there are.… And I, again, this happens to me all the time, almost every day whenever I’m praying. And you guys have watched the show long enough, do you think I’m an optimist? And, um, I was overwhelmed again. And this time it was almost like, “Dude, I got this. I got it.”
Stu: God calls you Dude?
Glenn: [nods] He almost did today, He almost did. It was like, “Dude, stop calling me. I got it.” I just, I just feel that we are going to be fine. Unfortunately I am seasoned enough to know that doesn’t necessarily mean the kind of “fine” I’m looking for, but the kind of “fine” He’s looking for.
That’s what I think too—all of it. God has been telling me, “Don’t worry; it’s in My hands.” And also, that will be true regardless of how the election turns out. I do predict a Romney win, and with that a chance to put the brakes on the free fall toward tyranny, with a chance to pull the nation back up into the northern hemisphere where we can thrive. But, while a lot of good things can change direction right away, there is probably still a period of pain between now and actual recovery.
It took at least a couple of years for the Reagan recovery to kick into gear following the Carter years. Things in many ways are worse this time. I think we’ll get better business conditions almost right away. But there’s still the massive debt of the last few years. It’s like a spendthrift getting near bankruptcy, finally stopping the profligate spending and getting a good paying job—all is well and headed in the right direction, but there are still some years ahead of careful, humble living to overcome the debt. Add onto that more dire conditions in the world, financially, politically, and spiritually.
During the recovery time, we must not get dispirited. And we especially need to keep faith that we’ve turned in a better direction, and never give in to complaints from those who think we can get north by going south.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Benghazi Boondoggle

I’m trying to make sense of this chain of confusion surrounding the attack on our ambassador in Libya on September 11, 2012. You’d think after more than a month we could get a basic story. Instead we get obfuscation.
The President's Rose Garden Speech 9-12-2012
photo found here
In the debate on Tuesday, Romney got the President to go on record as saying he knew within 24 hours of the event that it was a terrorist attack—the President even claimed he had said so at the time in his speech in the White House Rose Garden and suggested checking the transcript. As if moderator Candy Crowley was keeping a spare copy in a capacious handbag (she did step in and incorrectly support the President, which she had to walk back later).
Finding both a transcript and the 5-minute speech on video of the Rose Garden speech was no problem. I missed the word “terror” the first two times I listened. Finally I found it with a careful reading. It is, as the conservatives have been pointing out since, in reference to the original 9/11 attack and terror attacks in general, which he brings up in the previous paragraph, near the end of the speech, not, by my reading, in reference to the Benghazi attack. What a silly thing to be arguing about. Even when he calls something terrorism, he talks of it as simply a more heinous crime than most crimes, and refers to bringing the specific perpetrators to justice; he doesn’t recognize terrorism as an act of war perpetrated by our nation’s enemies. So, even if he called it terrorism, which he didn’t, he didn’t use the term the way the rest of us use it. But there’s still the obfuscation.
Throughout the Rose Garden speech he talks about the anti-Muslim video that supposedly set off the spontaneous protest, a video that logged only 17 YouTube views between being uploaded July 2nd and September 10th, the day before the attack. Except—now we know there was no spontaneous protest. We also know that Charlene Lamb, National Security agent under Hillary Clinton, was able to see video surveillance of the attack in real time, so it was instantly known that there was no protest springing up from a video. Unlike the same day in Egypt, there was only a pre-planned thoroughly executed targeted attack—on the anniversary of 9/11. There are reports that the administration had been warned of a possible attack 2-3 days ahead. And there are arguments about who had failed to provide additional security, which may have been directly requested. So, no video-related protest. Nor did intel ever suggest the obscure video was related in any way; someone in the administration put that out without any supporting evidence.
Hillary Clinton denounces the video on September 13th, and repeats the claim September 14th. White House Spokesman Jay Carney puts forward the video-protest story in a press briefing also on September 14th. UN Ambassador Susan Rice (an odd choice of spokesperson, since she wasn’t in any chain of command in intelligence or national security) is sent out to do the rounds of Sunday talk shows on September 16th, with the instruction that she should insist the Benghazi attack was the result of this obscure video. September 18th the President repeats the claim on David Letterman’s show.
On September 19th, finally someone in the administration admits they know it was an act of terrorism: National Counterterrorism Director Matthew Olsen, to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, says, “I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy.”
But then, on September 25th, yet another six days later, a full two weeks after the event, Obama makes the claim six times in his speech to the UN.
If he knew it was a planned terrorist attack (as we all knew within 24 hours, so presumably the President was aware as well), why did he insist on bringing up the irrelevant video at all, and why cling to that story so relentlessly for so long?
More speculation and stories come out daily, so we don’t really know the answer yet, but here are some of the speculations I’ve seen:
·         The President has a stake in putting forth the idea that Islam ought to be protected (with many sub-speculations on why he would take it upon himself to do that).

·         “Being hit with the worst terror attack since 9/11—in a city we saved—would have exposed Obama's boasting about his Libya triumph and al-Qaida being "on the run" and "on the path to defeat" as absurd propaganda.  Al-Qaida is now in Libya, Mali, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan….But we can't let folks find that out until after Nov. 6.” (Pat Buchanan’s theory)

·         There was no security leak about Ambassador Stevens’s location, his travel to Benghazi and a safe house; President Obama himself had arranged for Stevens to meet with Libyan rebels to negotiate for the recovery of weapons the US had provided to them (during the Arab Spring uprising?), and these rebels turned out to be his attackers.

·         Obama arranged with the Muslim Brotherhood to kidnap Ambassador Stevens, with the idea that, because of Obama’s warm relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, he would save the day by arranging for the Ambassador’s release—in exchange for secretly releasing the Blind Sheik. But the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t go along with the original plan.
Some of these seem more suited for action-thriller fiction than news. We don’t yet know the background of what happened. But I can guarantee that there is no non-nefarious reason for the President of the United States to make up as scapegoat an irrelevant video, telling and re-telling this falsehood to the American people, and failing even yet to explain why.
I would like this question to come up at Monday’s foreign policy debate:
Mr. President, since it is now known that the Benghazi attack was a planned terrorist attack, and that this fact was known by the State Department even as the attack was underway, why did the White House assert and persist in the fiction that this was a spontaneous protest reacting to an obscure, almost unviewed amateur video? It appears there was purposeful disinformation given to the American people. Where did the claim of the video as cause come from (the agency, position or rank, if you’d rather not reveal a name), and why was this claim continued against all evidence for so long?
I would accept this alternative question (inspired by BryanPreston in reference to Obama’s book):
Mr. President, on page 261 of your book The Audacity of Hope, you declare that if the post-9/11 political winds were to shift in an ugly direction against Muslims, you would stand with them. In the Middle East on September 11, 2012, following a terrorist attack in which our Ambassador was murdered along with three other American defenders, you stepped forward to defend the Muslim World against an obscure anti-Muslim video. How do we interpret your allegiance to America based on your words and actions?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Second Debate Play-by-Play

photo found here
My son Political Sphere phoned right after the debate last night, before I’d heard much media response, “because that’s my job,” he said. So I got his take first, as I did following the VP debate. He made a good point I thought I’d use to structure this post today, which I’m pretty sure is different from takes you’ll read elsewhere.

PS said (paraphrased by me, since I don’t record phone conversations), “Obama is to Romney what anti-Mormon preachers are to Mormonism. They claim some wild beliefs, and when you say, ‘No, I don’t believe that,’ they in-your-face say, ‘Yes you do; you believe what I say you do.’”
That is a good way to explain what I saw in the debate (also in the first presidential debate). Obama tells the audience what Romney’s plan is; Romney tells clearly what his plan really is; Obama reiterates what he says Romney’s plan is. Then, afterward, the media claims this was a different Romney than they’d seen before, even though he has been surprisingly consistent to anyone actually paying attention.
From Facebook page
If you really want to know what Mormons believe, go ask a Mormon. Online, is a wealth of information. There’s an amazing amount of detail as well in the Newsroom, particularly under Topics and Background. Mormons send out more than 50,000 missionaries worldwide to tell anyone who will listen what Mormons believe. Sunday meetings are always open to visitors. Why would you go to someone who is not only not Mormon, but someone who has a stake in denigrating Mormonism to give you an accurate account of Mormon beliefs?
Likewise, there’s an official Romney campaign site out there. He’s had his full 57-point plan out there since early in the primary season. He has summarized that into the more succinct but less detailed 5-point plan since well before the debate season. His speech transcripts and videos are all over the internet. Now there are the debates, recorded and transcribed.
Yet Obama, who has a stake in denigrating Romney, wants you to believe Romney’s plan is what he tells you it is and uses his debate time to that end. I guess if you have a really bad record you need to deflect attention from, this approach might make sense.
Here are a few examples.
The first audience question is about what can be done for college graduates facing the prospect of no jobs. Romney answers first, with two points: we need to work on getting costs down for college [which I and others are predicting will be the next economic bubble to pop], and we need to get the economy working so there are jobs.
Obama then answers, out of touch with the questioner’s fears, “And what I want to do, is build on the five million jobs that we've created over the last 30 months in the private sector alone.” And then, with not much of a segue, attacks Romney’s position on the auto industry bailout four years ago: “Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt.”
Romney of course clarified that:
And one thing that the president said, which I want to make sure that we understand, he said that I said we should take Detroit bankrupt. And that's right. My plan was to have the company go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did and Macy's and Continental Airlines and come out stronger.
And I know he keeps saying, you want to take Detroit bankrupt. Well, the president took Detroit bankrupt. You took General Motors bankrupt. You took Chrysler bankrupt. So when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did.
And I think it's important to know that that was a process that was necessary to get those companies back on their feet, so they could start hiring more people. That was precisely what I recommended and ultimately what happened.
Obama came back with: “What Governor Romney said just isn't true. He wanted to take them into bankruptcy without providing them any way to stay open. And we would have lost a million jobs.” Who do you want to believe: someone who has a long record of bringing troubled businesses and organizations through a process of recovery, or someone with an abysmal record over the last four years and not much else in his life to show economic knowledge?
Then Obama goes on with the attempt to caricature Romney:
Governor Romney doesn't have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That's been his philosophy in the private sector, that's been his philosophy as governor, that's been his philosophy as a presidential candidate.
Except that we keep hearing Romney enumerate his five-point plan, and plutocracy has never been part of it. With the moderator’s aid, Obama didn’t have to suffer a full Romney rebuttal at this point. Romney, over the chaos of being talked over, was able to say, “That Detroit answer, and the rest of the answer—way off the mark.”
The next question is energy related:
QUESTION: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it's not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?
Obama answers first, not actually answering the question, except by implication saying it is government’s duty to control energy. He claims credit for increased oil production, coal production and coal employment, and natural gas, and insists that investing in “green” energy is the answer to energy and employment. All of this is provably false.
Then he tells us what Romney’s plan for energy is: “Now, Governor Romney will say he's got an all-of-the-above plan, but basically his plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policies.”
This may have worked in stump speeches, where the president gets cheers for offering up sneers and derision toward his opponent. But this is in person with the real Romney there. And he knows the facts:
·         Oil production is up, but none of it on public lands.
o   Oil production on public lands down by 14%
o   Natural gas production on public lands down 9%
o   Permits for drilling cut in half
·         Increases have come from private lands, much from the Bakken Range in North Dakota.
o   The administration has brought lawsuits against drillers there based on reports of the deaths of a few birds.
·         The EPA has made building a coal plant virtually impossible, because of regulations.
·         The administration blocked the building of the pipeline from Canada.
·         The Romney plan is: “I'll get America and North America energy independent. I'll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses.”
The moderator tries to direct the rebuttal toward answering the question about the cost of a gallon of gasoline. Obama doesn’t actually answer that; he just doubles down on lying (and we must know the fact checkers will follow up, so this is only going to sway someone not paying attention—probably someone not watching).
After this comes one of the most spark-producing moments of the debate. Romney takes on the lies, spells out the facts, again. And Obama essentially says, “Nuh uh.” I’m including the entire chunk of this exchange, because, even without seeing Obama clench his fist, turn his back, and walk away, Romney is in such control of the argument:
ROMNEY: And production on private -- on government land --
OBAMA: Production is up.
ROMNEY: -- is down.
OBAMA: No, it isn't.
ROMNEY: Production on government land of oil is down 14 percent.
OBAMA: Governor --
ROMNEY: And production on gas --
OBAMA: It's just not true.
ROMNEY: It's absolutely true. Look, there's no question but the people recognize that we have not produced more (inaudible) on federal lands and in federal waters. And coal, coal production is not up; coal jobs are not up.
I was just at a coal facility, where some 1,200 people lost their jobs. The right course for America is to have a true all-of-the-above policy. I don't think anyone really believes that you're a person who's going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal. You'll get your chance in a moment. I'm still speaking.
OBAMA: Well --
ROMNEY: And the answer is I don't believe people think that's the case --
OBAMA: -- (inaudible).
ROMNEY: That wasn't the question.
ROMNEY: That was a statement. I don't think the American people believe that. I will fight for oil, coal and natural gas. And the proof, the proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you're paying at the pump. If you're paying less than you paid a year or two ago, why, then, the strategy is working. But you're paying more. When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon. Now, it's $4.00 a gallon. The price of electricity is up.
If the president's energy policies are working, you're going to see the cost of energy come down. I will fight to create more energy in this country, to get America energy secure. And part of that is bringing in a pipeline of oil from Canada, taking advantage of the oil and coal we have here, drilling offshore in Alaska, drilling offshore in Virginia where the people want it. Those things will get us the energy we need.
Obama then insists that low prices were a symptom of an economy on the verge of collapse. That would only be true if they were suddenly and singularly low, only at that point during Bush’s eight years. Since that’s not true, there’s some other cost. Some based on worldwide oil prices, but a significant amount from the inability of the dollar to buy as much as it used to—because of printing money to deal with debt.
Back to Obama’s effort to define Romney. On the next question, related to taxes, he says,
Now, Governor Romney has a different philosophy. He was on 60 Minutes just two weeks ago and he was asked: Is it fair for somebody like you, making $20 million a year, to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or a bus driver, somebody making $50,000 year? And he said, "Yes, I think that's fair." Not only that, he said, "I think that's what grows the economy."
Romney responds with the classic backward-step-pivot-forward move, and it’s one of the most devastating, unanswerable blows of the night:
You heard what I said about my tax plan. The top 5 percent will continue to pay 60 percent, as they do today. I'm not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people.
And why do I want to bring rates down, and at the same time lower exemptions and deductions, particularly for people at the high end? Because if you bring rates down, it makes it easier for small business to keep more of their capital and hire people.
And for me, this is about jobs. I want to get America's economy going again. Fifty-four percent of America's workers work in businesses that are taxed as individuals. So when you bring those rates down, those small businesses are able to keep more money and hire more people.
For me, I look at what's happened in the last four years and say this has been a disappointment. We can do better than this. We don't have to settle for, how many months, 43 months with unemployment above 8 percent, 23 million Americans struggling to find a good job right now.
There are 3.5 million more women living in poverty today than when the president took office.
We don't have to live like this. We can get this economy going again. My five-point plan does it. Energy independence for North America in five years. Opening up more trade, particularly in Latin America. Cracking down on China when they cheat. Getting us to a balanced budget. Fixing our training programs for our workers. And finally, championing small business.
I want to make small businesses grow and thrive. I know how to make that happen. I spent my life in the private sector. I know why jobs come and why they go. And they're going now because of the policies of this administration.
We’re already long on this post, having included so much of the transcript. We haven’t covered women’s issues, or Libya (worth a post by itself); those will have to come up another day. And I want to mention how amused I am that the president thinks the answer to the gun question is hiring more teachers. But I want to end with the final question.
QUESTION: Hi, Governor. I think this is a tough question. To each of you. What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?
This is indeed an opportunity for Romney, who has been so distorted by the Obama campaign. He is able to portray himself as caring, understanding the plight of the regular Americans. I like this part of the answer:
I understand that I can get this country on track again. We don't have to settle for what we're going through. We don't have to settle for gasoline at four bucks. We don't have to settle for unemployment at a chronically high level. We don't have to settle for 47 million people on food stamps. We don't have to settle for 50 percent of kids coming out of college not able to get work. We don't have to settle for 23 million people struggling to find a good job.
If I become president, I'll get America working again.
Obama doesn’t answer the question of what about him has been a misperception. He couldn’t very well say, “I guess the biggest misperception is that I’m a great orator.” So he took a last swipe at Romney, adding to the very problem the questioner has pointed out and asked them to rectify.
I believe Governor Romney is a good man. Loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about.
The liberal side had insisted the president use the “47%” thing this debate, knowing it was the strongest attack they had. But Romney had already pointed out that he wants to help all 100% of Americans, and has the capacity to act on that promise. The issue is a non-issue for anyone who actually listened to the secret recording. Romney was talking to donors at a campaign event. They wanted to know how their money was being spent. He said that the campaign’s message of lower taxes wasn’t resonating with the 47% who pay no taxes, so they weren’t going to keep pressing that message on them. Hardly scandalous or shocking.
This is at a point in the debate where there will be no rebuttal allowed. It’s like a playground taunter going “neener neener neener” before running off to safety.
So, once again, the debate has done what we needed it to: reveal who each candidate really is, so we have a clear choice.



Monday, October 15, 2012

Parents Bring about Civilization

The other day I saw a short clip of Andrew Klavan, mentioning again his suggestion that for every proposal government makes, they elected official then asks, “to keep us free,” as a test for whether the law does what it ought to do. [I can't re-find the 30-second clip I viewed, but this is a good recent one.] I used that suggestion in a piece last April, as an exercise, and found that the phrase is good at guiding us toward the proper role of government.
So I re-read that piece the other day. And it occurred to me: what if we come up with a similar test phrase concerning civilization principles?
There are two parts describing the hallmarks of civilization, according to the Spherical Model: one part is about honoring God, the grantor of our rights, and the other is about honoring family, the perpetuator of the principles. So it may be that a single phrase won’t cover all issues. But, for our experimental purposes today, I thought I’d try a family-based phrase:
We should_____, so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
Let’s give it a try.
·         We should disallow religious symbols on public property, so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
·         We should discourage voucher systems that allow tax money to follow students who could choose private or parochial school options, so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
·         We should use tax money to provide health clinics in high schools[*] that dispense birth control medicines and devices to minors without parental notification, so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
·         We should have our public schools teach alternative sexual lifestyle information, including graphic information at the high school level, with a difficult opt-out policy (or no opt-out), so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
·         We should make sure our schools have a no tolerance policy for bullying, combined with a refusal to teach “religious values,” so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
·         We should give special privileges, such as in college admission and in hiring practices, based on race rather than ability and character, so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
·         We should experimentally redefine marriage to equal “being in a sexual relationship with another consenting person at this time,” instead of the long-standing definition of “a husband and wife, permanently committed and faithful, who raise their own offspring together,” so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
·         We should encourage divorce whenever marriage is perceived by one or both married parties to interfere with personal happiness goals, rather than considering best circumstances for children, so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
·         We should always allow women the option of abortion, for any reason at any point in pregnancy, without imposing our personal values on that woman, so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
None of these make sense. They’re common “liberal” suggestions, but they do the opposite of helping parents civilize the upcoming generation. But if we turn some things around to actually help parents, we can see a different picture.
·         We should allow and offer as many educational options as can be invented, allowing parents to decide how and where their children will be educated, so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
·         We should encourage and honor religious practice such as prayer or displays of symbols, in public and private, remembering that God the Creator is the grantor of our inalienable rights and has offered direction for living civilized lives, so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
·         We should encourage individuals and families to donate time, money, and whatever they can offer to help those truly in need, encouraging hard work, self-reliance, and selfless service, so that we can help parents raise civilized children.
Not everyone is in a marriage or family situation, but everyone is affected by family strength in society. Whenever we look at the “social” issues, we can gain clarity by looking at the effect on parental rights and responsibilities. A majority of children born out of wedlock, outside the normal circumstances in which civilization and economic prosperity are perpetuated, is a drain on the resources and stamina of the successful providers.
We’ve been moving southward toward savagery for too long, with some visible, scary results. We need a change of direction, northward toward civilization. One successful family at a time.
I want to repeat a quote I used in June 2011, in a piece about an Orson Scott Card book in the Ender series. Valentine, Ender’s sister, has a conversation with Olhado [pronounced Ohl-yah-doo; the language is essentially Portuguese], one of Ender’s grown stepsons. Ender joined a very dysfunctional family in the previous book, and now 25 years have passed. The others all went into science fields, but Olhado is a brickyard foreman. When he was young, he had many philosophical ideas that no one listened to, so Valentine is coming now to get his opinions. He tells her what happened when Andrew [Ender] joined the family, and how it affected his life.
“I saw what Andrew did in our family. I saw that he came in and listened and watched us. He tried to discover our need and then supply it. He took responsibility for other people and it didn’t seem to matter to him how much it cost him. And in the end, while he could never make the Ribeira family normal, he gave us peace and pride and identity. Stability. He married Mother and was kind to her. He loved us all. He was always there when we wanted him, and seemed unhurt by it when we didn’t. He was firm with us about expecting civilized behavior, but never indulged his whims at our expense. And I thought: This is so much more important than science. Or politics, either. Or any particular profession or accomplishment or thing you can make. I thought: If I could just make a good family, if I could just learn to be to other children, their whole lives, what Andrew was, coming so late into ours, then that would mean more in the long run, it would be a finer accomplishment than anything I could ever do with my mind or my hands.” 

“So you’re a career father,” said Valentine. 

“Who works at a brick factory to feed and clothe the family. Not a brickmaker who also has kids…. 

“Jacqueline. My wife. She followed her own road to the same place. We do what we must to earn our place in the community, but we live for the hours at home. For each other, for the children. It will never get me written up in the history books…. It’s a boring life, to read about,” said Olhado. “Not to live, though.” (pp. 448-449, Xenocide) 

To be a good parent: not for the history books, but heroic nonetheless. It’s what makes for civilization when every other path fails. Whatever we do as a society, it should be with the purpose of helping parents perform this quietly powerful role.

[*] Obamacare contains such a provision; you can read about it here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Round Two

After the first, very entertaining, first presidential debate, I was looking forward to the VP debate last night—but with some concerns. Our expectations for Joe Biden were so low, I thought anything he did that wasn’t a total gaffe-fest would be regarded as a win. And our expectations for Paul Ryan were high, for good reason. While he hasn’t had experience on the national debate stage, he has been one of the clearest elected officials at explaining conservative principles, especially in relation to budget issues. He has a good grasp of data and details, in the context of framing principles. So, with high expectations, my concern was that anything less than a home run would be spun as a loss.

So it was with that slight apprehension that I watched the debate. I found myself agitated, irritated—had to get up and pace. Went through part of my tai-chi routine (which, it turns out, doesn’t relieve stress very much if you do it while continuing to allow the stress input) and did some deep breathing. It wasn’t fun.
I didn’t fully understand the agitation while going through it. I was pleased with most of Paul Ryan’s answers. Despite the odds against him (a brawling Joe Biden aided by a complicit moderator, Martha Raddatz), he made some well-worded points.
I think what upsets me is bullying. And that is pretty much the only way to describe Joe Biden’s behavior. It was inappropriate in a world leader. It was inappropriate for any civilized person involved in a respectful exchange of ideas. He talked over Ryan. He interrupted endlessly. He sneered, laughed, rolled his eyes, referred to some of Ryan’s assertions as “malarkey” (followed by a response that totally failed to address said assertions).
I was thinking Chris Matthews must be pleased that the VP followed his advice to watch his show (Hardball) to get pointers on how to debate. (Tweet passed on from Greta Van Susteren @gretawire: “Does this debate feel like a Chris Matthews show on crack?”) To me that means: raise your voice, talk over your opponent, ridicule any dissenting opinion as self-evidently stupid, and by all means prevent the dissenting opinion from being expressed uninterrupted.
One surprise I’m experiencing this debate season is the response other people are having to the debates. I am simply not used to having the general public see what I see. So some of my apprehension during the debate was that Biden might be seen as powerful, engaged, and in control of the debate. And it was a while before I got the chance to hear from the outside world. I missed the immediate post-debate discussion on TV; I was talking about what we’d seen with Mr. Spherical Model, and then got a phonecall from our son Political Sphere, to hear his reactions. Mr. Spherical Model was concerned that there was too much on foreign policy, which is a disadvantage to anyone not in office where the administration is privy to secret briefings. (I thought Paul Ryan had done well on foreign policy nevertheless.[*]) Political Sphere was better able than I was to explain what we’d seen. He had noticed the split screen comparison, with Biden laughing, mocking, and sneering inappropriately, and he predicted that would be off-putting especially to independents.
Eventually I got online to gauge the public’s reaction. The most common reaction was that it was painful to watch. The interruptions were frustrating and anger-inducing, particularly to conservatives, but also to independents and undecided who were trying to actually hear both sides. Someone counted:
OFFICIAL INTERRUPTION COUNT: 116 times in under 40 minutes. Moderator interrupted Ryan 34 times, Biden interrupted Ryan 82 times. [The Blacksphere Facebook status early morning 10-12-2012]
I did not see any count of Ryan interrupting the others when it was their turn to speak—possibly because he didn’t. (The think the 40 minutes refers to time allotted to Paul Ryan, of the total 90 minutes.)
Speaking of moderator Martha Raddatz: we knew going in that she was liberal, that she was tight with the Obama crowd (Obama attended her wedding and later hired her husband). We have no other expectation from moderators than that they will side with the liberal side. That was true of Jim Lehrer as well. He tried to guide Obama to make a point at times, and offered Obama more time by several minutes. But, to his credit, he mostly stayed out of the way, and when Romney made it clear he would respond to false allegations against him, Mr. Lehrer stepped back and let that happen, which was respectful. Also, his questions allowed an actual comparison of philosophies.
Ms. Raddatz asked a question, interrupted the answer, insisted we hadn’t heard details, got the question answered again, repeated that we hadn’t gotten details, got the answer again…. To the point that I was wondering why she seemed unaware of a large hole in her head. I think those who were angry with Jim Lehrer for “letting things get out of control,” which should be translated into regular person-speak as “didn’t prevent the dissenting opinion from getting spoken,” were pleased with Martha Raddatz’s performance. And therefore we can expect that behavior from moderators in the next two debates.
There were moments when I temporarily longed for a Newt Gingrich debate attack on the moderator; in the long run, I think Ryan’s respectful deference is the better way. While it’s hard to watch meekness and see strength, in the end, “the meek will inherit the earth,” or, in this case receive the vote.
I wondered about the fact checkers. It is a luxury we didn’t used to have, and even though these services tend to come from the liberal side, there is more fairness there than we are used to. Biden’s evening wasfull of untruths. Ryan’s was exceptionally accurate. (The only complaints were more rhetorical interpretation—and considering how few words Ryan was allowed to get out, his performance is even more amazing. I could quibble about the comparison to Obamacare and Massachusetts Care, where they say in Massachusetts more people actual go private insurance--they fail to note that Massachusetts offered no public option, as Obamacare does, so Massachusetts was not designed to pull people away from private options. In other words, Ryan was right again.)
Most amusing was possibly Biden’s assertion, more than once, that “I always say what I mean.” Oh, my! The list here could take an entire post. He apparently truly supports China’s one-child limitation and believes a person really does have to use a slight Indian accent to go to a deli. While he was inaccurate in the debate, I didn’t think he was his usual gaffe explosion; but this allowed us to attach all his previous gaffes to his debate performance.
My expectation is that the VP debate will not have a huge effect on the polls. Biden’s performance will certainly not erase the failure of the President’s first debate performance, and could possibly hurt further. And Ryan’s performance will certainly not interfere with the momentum  picked up by Romney in that first debate.

[*] Romney continues to press the Obama administration on mistakes in Libya. And on that note, I was amused at the top-of-the-hour radio news headline I heard this afternoon: “The administration claims to be clueless, rather than lying, about the need for greater security at the Libyan embassy.” [This is KTRH Radio, Houston, 3:00 PM 10-12-2012; I am recalling the words after the fact, so this might not be an exact quote, but the use of the terms “clueless” and “lying” were used as I’ve reported.]