Monday, February 25, 2013

Brief and Direct: Why are Firemen Always the First To Be Laid Off?

After garbage workers, that is.

Another in an unscheduled series of short commentaries on current events

Maybe because we'll miss them the most.

Because the President has forgotten he's already been elected and he's been campaigning across the country to defeat his own idea, there are too many sources to quote regarding the dire consequences President Obama sees if the sequester, or Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), isn't averted. So without individual attribution here are some of the services we will lose.

Local first responders--fire, police, EMS.


Military "readiness" and "preparedness."

Airport security and TSA.

Homeland Security. Border Patrol.


(Wait a minute, wasn't NASA killed last year?  Here's one that's for sure going to save money: the National Drug Intelligence Center, still slated for a $2 million cut to a $20 million dollar budget. But it was closed on 6/15/2012. Why does it need a budget?)

FBI, NRC, the federal prison system, SEC.

Sounds awful, until we notice that these "cuts" come out of a budget that's already scheduled to increase more than the cuts amount to. And that Republicans have offered to give the President emergency authority to allocate these cuts in ways that are "least harmful."

The basic insincerity of the President is clear if you just cast a skeptical eye on these threats. The threats always target services that the federal government has at least some legitimate reason to be involved in, never mentioning pork barrel programs whose elimination would hardly be noticed by anybody who doesn't lose a job as the result. And why should anybody elsewhere lose a job, at least because of the sequester? There will still be more money available than there was last year. At worst, we're talking about simply holding the line against expansion of government.

This is the most transparent administration, ever, at least in this case. It's transparently obvious that the President's aim is to scare the gullible. You don't scare them by threatening to cut off funding to a study of the hare-brained snail darter, you scare them by saying they won't have police or fire service.

This has been standard operating procedure for years. The lists at city and state level usually include no more garbage pickups, no road repairs (and maybe the President mentioned those services, too). I wouldn't even be surprised to see them threaten to cut out Saturday mail delivery.

Cross-posted at RedState.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Brief and Direct: Dr. Carson's Inspiring Idea

What Republicans can learn from Dr. Benjamin Carson

Another in an unscheduled series of short commentaries on current events

Setting the stage

Dr. Benjamin Carson ruffled some feathers with his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast a couple of weeks ago. You can't blame the Left for being ruffled--the speech was a High Right Fastball under the chin. They didn't like anything he said, and they didn't like the way he said it. They didn't like it that President Obama had to sit through it, and they really didn't like the fact that it was delivered by a black man who had studied and worked and achieved his way up from the worst kind of poverty to become the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md.

Some on the Right ignored both the message and the messenger and concentrated on the event, choosing to be offended by the fact that Dr. Carson delivered a 'political' message at the prayer breakfast. To mention just one example, Cal Thomas, writing in syndication and online, sniffed that Dr. Carson's criticisms of the President's policies had been "inappropriate for the occasion."
"If Carson wanted to voice his opinion about the president’s policies, he could have done so backstage. Even better, he might have asked for a private meeting with the man."
He was joined in his opinion by several other Conservatives of repute. Technically, they were right, but that's the kind of technicality that has been relegating Republicans to 'back row, right,' in pictures of important political and news events since Ronald Reagan left the White House.


The inspiring idea I want to point out has nothing to do with the content of Carson's remarks, accomplishments, or his life, inspiring as they were and are. His inspiration was to do just what Thomas and the entire Left say he shouldn't have done--use an 'inappropriate' venue to deliver a conservative message.

I've beaten this dead horse into glue before: If nobody hears our message, we might as well not have one. We must make our statements in ways and places that can't be ignored or marginalized. Had Dr. Carson followed Cal Thomas' advice, nobody would have known about it. More important, nobody else would have heard his conservative ideas.

I may be wrong, but I'd bet that Dr. Carson has given the same speech to local groups before, yet nobody knows it. If you Google search for 'dr benjamin carson,' you get about 12 million hits. Of those, about 5.5 million are references to his speech at the breakfast. Draw your own conclusions, but I believe there are a lot of people who now know not only who he is, but what he said that morning and that there is more to the story than simply what the President and all his men tell us.

Further, millions more heard him and heard about him on television and radio, and had a chance to hear his message without a media filter. Perhaps even more important, millions of people heard or saw a non-political, highly educated, brilliant and talented professional black civilian deliver a speech promoting conservative values in a reasonable and thoughtful manner, and he didn't grow horns or fangs, and after it was all over the MSM didn't even try to rebut his words or reasoning, only his location. None of that would have happened had he chosen an 'appropriate' venue for his presentation.

The end justifies the means

Most conservatives don't like that phrase and we tend to oppose the idea, but it really depends on how distasteful the means are and how vital the end is. Dr. Carson balanced the two and delivered a speech that may have broken some rules but which was covered by most of the popular press, and the only spin they could generate was that it was "inappropriate for the occasion."

I don't suggest that Dr. Carson had any of these strategies in mind. There's no reason to believe he did anything other than deliver a speech that he thought was completely apropos, and he says so

Whether he intended to make two kinds of statements that morning or not, he gave us an example that should be inspiring to Republicans, conservative or not. Get your message ready and when you deliver it, make it count by forcing the the MSM to both report it and report it accurately. The truth is always appropriate, but if it's spoken in a manner, time, and place that the MSM is forced to report it, it's even better.

Needed next: Ways to make this happen every week.

For another take on the Cal Thomas column, check out Chicks On The Right.

Cross-posted at RedState.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Brief and Direct: Sequestration Needs to Happen

Nobody can agree on the small things, but EVERYTHING needs to be cut

Sequestration is to arrive soon, allegedly to the surprise of the President, the Democrats, and the popular press. According to at least one source in that popular press, if sequestration is allowed to take effect there will be numerous programs and services to the public curtailed. Other sources, such as Chris Cillizza of WaPo, provide a less pessimistic view.

A good President would seize this opportunity to shrink the deficit a little bit by cutting spending in areas that he normally wouldn't get a chance to touch, and to build some bridges to the other party. A poor one will use it as a campaign talking point.

You have probably heard him say that Republicans don't care about all the problems the sequester will bring on, they just don't want taxes raised on their rich friends--even though they already allowed taxes to go up on those friends in January, but never mind about that. The fact is, some of us do think they should let it happen, but not for that reason.

First, I don't see sequestration as causing a big problem for the country, although depending on how President Obama decides to implement it there can be significant hardships for certain groups of people. But that's already been happening for four years. This will mostly just be a different group of people, but the relatively small size of the sequester should allow a good administrator to work around it with minimal disruption of operations, or even none, if he wants to.

Second, Sequestration has been called using a meat ax to do what should be done with a scalpel. Here's what's wrong with that characterization: Our overspending problem needs an ax taken to it, whether meat or lumberjack's. Scalpels have been tried in the past, as have butcher and even Bowie knives, but it never works because opposing sides can never agree upon enough of what to pare. In the end, the hearings to decide what to cut cost more than what is saved IF anything ends up being cut at all.

Third, the attractive thing about sequestration is that the decisions have already been made. EVERYTHING will be cut. Well, almost half of everything, anyway. But sacred cows will bleed, even if it will only be flesh wounds, and even though they won't be deep enough to do any real fiscal good in the end. The good will come from the post-mortem that will follow the fact. The world will not end, and if the Republicans can hold their nerve they will have won a real victory from which to launch the next assault on overspending.

A. B. Stoddard of The Hill suggested Wednesday on Fox Special Report that Republicans should take "a third bite of the apple" with the Democrats and compromise on sequestration, going along with the President and cutting spending down the road. I guess the first bite would have been the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling the last time with a promise of a 'grand bargain' that was scuttled by President Obama at the last moment in favor of his sequester plan, and the second was the tax rate increase passed last month in return for spending cuts (which are unspecified and will not happen). Not being a conservative, A. B. believes that this time the football will NOT be pulled away, and spending cuts will pass later.

No. This is a chance to actually do something rather than merely talk about what we intend to do. This situation is analogous to our illegal immigration situation. This is why conservatives demand that the border be secured first before we even talk about next steps. If decisions are made that satisfy liberal demands first, they will never support border security.

Democrats always insist that we do what they want first, then at some point in the future they'll reward us with what we want. Only it never happens. Although Republicans seem never to learn, if they hold firm here, there may be some hope left. They need to earn respect by standing by their own principles, allowing sequestration, and facing the consequences of "reduced" spending like responsible legislators.

Cross-posted at RedState.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Maybe It's the Undisciplined Messaging and Messages

In response to Ben Howe's 

It’s the Messaging, Stupid. It’s the Stupid Messaging.

More than the messengers? I mostly agree. 
[D]umb, ill-prepared and gaffe-tastic candidates will always be a part of American politics. You don’t win by making a strategy that consists of preventing people you think are too dumb en masse from picking a candidate. You win by effectively selling your ideas.
Yes. To every pundit who has appeared on TV to say we can't continue to nominate candidates who say dumb things, I say that Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin were both seasoned politicians who had been elected to office many times previously. Did anybody out there know in advance they'd each make one public statement that bordered on the insane, at least AS SPUN BY THE MSM? They were indeed dumb statements to make, but were they predictable? More predictable was our Republican response, to abandon them to the open sea, rather than to defend them as merely victims of their own tongues who really meant, [insert whatever NEEDED to be said, even if it had to be precisely the opposite of what actually WAS said.  Democrats do this all the time.] But the fact that they did say them illustrates a different problem with the GOP--they had no help in learning how to handle the press and its gotcha questions.
We, as the low-tax & personal responsibility party cannot waltz into a low income housing area, look around, shake our heads and say “Hey, when are you guys going to stop being idiots and voting for people that think you’re stupid — also, you don’t pay enough taxes."
Whether or not we view that as what happened, the people we’re talking to certainly did.
Actually, that isn't even close to what was said. But it's metaphorically what was reported and repeated in the media WITHOUT REFUTATION. I know it's lame to say, "But he didn't say THAT," but it's even lamer to say "We agree with you and we're denouncing the scoundrel." There ARE other things to say and do.
Of course, it’s not only messaging. There’s the issue of policy perscritpions[sic] that run counter to our alleged shared beliefs. As Michelle Malkin pointed out, Rove played a major role in “disastrous Medicare prescription drug entitlement expansion that created an unfunded liability of $9.4 trillion over the next 75 years, No Child Left Behind federal education expansion, steel tariffs, ag subsidies, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.”
Right, again. Had Rove and W. not done some of those things, we might still have a 2-term Obama, and he might even have had more support. But we Republicans would have been spared the countless claims that we had added to the debt as much as all previous administrations combined, and we would have had some credibility as we tried to take on the mantle of the Small(er) Government, Fiscal Responsibility Party in 2012. Maybe a few more Tea Partiers would have voted for us instead of Ron Paul or Gomer Pyle on TVLand. We might have even gotten some Democrat votes.
As the headline says, “It’s the messaging, stupid. It’s the stupid messaging.”
...You have to do more than be right. You have to convince people you are right.
...Somehow we’re failing to convince people that keeping more of their paycheck and affording them less government interference in their lives is a good thing. “Don’t blame the messenger” just doesn’t apply here. The messenger is without a doubt the problem.
That's the right track, but there is more to it.  There is also a problem with the listener. If he is predisposed to reject the messenger, the message, no matter who delivers it, will not have any effect, because it won't be heard. The exception is if the speaker can capture the voter's interest and hold on to it long enough to break down that barrier.

Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute makes a strong case that we have a huge cultural hurdle to overcome--Republicans are looked upon as selfish (and Democrats are considered to be generous, or selfless) by too many people, and they don't want to listen to a "selfish" message from a "selfish" Republican, which is exactly what a message of self-reliance and independence sounds like if you only hear a little bit of it.

That's a big reason why they "like" Obama better than they "like" us in the polls, even though they tend mostly to agree with our ideas rather than with Democrat ideas, when they hear them from a pollster.  And as Rush Limbaugh has been pointing out this week, the Democrat ideas simply don't stick to Obama.

They're predisposed to dismiss us and our ideas before they even hear us, so they don't hear us.

Obviously, this won't change in one election cycle, but it's a key problem that needs to be considered as our great speakers deliver our not-really-selfish message to the people we need to convince to listen to us and then believe us. So I guess I agree in the end--it's the stupid, no, undisciplined, unfocused and inadequate messaging and messages (not the principled message itself) that we have to modify to enable the ideas and solutions to be heard, no matter who the messenger is.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Brief and Direct: An Answer from the Ayn Rand Institute

How is it possible that we lose to Democrats?

Perhaps you have been asking yourself that question. After all, we win the debate on all the big issues, as verified by polls as recently as today, with questions in the form of "Do you agree with President Obama on...?" The majority of respondents don't agree with him on anything except defense in general, while they disagree with his specific policies, including those regarding defense.

The Flagstaff Tea Party was host last week to Yaron Brook, Executive Director and President of the Ayn Rand Institute. He spent over an hour answering the question, "Why are we losing?" not just the most recent election, but the war for public opinion for the last fifty years or so. The answer is intuitively obvious once revealed, but it doesn't easily convert to a sound bite, so we don't hear it in the popular media (nor would it be helpful if we did). And it involves cultural psychology.

Self-interest vs. selflessness

Our culture teaches us to revere those who give of themselves (the selfless ones), and to scorn those who make a lot of money (the self-interested ones), at least until they start to give it away. Although we suspend those prejudices when we go to work ourselves, we still hold them and apply them to public figures, including political candidates, so when one party convinces "us" that it's the party that gives to the needy, and ours is the party that says we can't afford to keep doing it that way, guess who wins. The subconscious prejudice frequently overwhelms logic, especially when we don't point out that our principles will make it easier to help the truly needy than theirs will, that self-interest promotes the public good far more than altruism does..

I note the parallel question, "How can President Obama's personal approval ratings be so high when his policies are all unpopular?" This wasn't addressed by Brook, but it has the same answer. Why is President Obama looked upon as "likable," while Mitt Romney has been called "unlikable," to say the least? It isn't all because of the advertising hatchet-job Obama's campaign ran against Romney.

A brief comparison of the two men: Barack Obama has had a career in politics, preceded by a stint as a lecturer at the university level and a job as community organizer. He had no experience that relates to making hard decisions or even of doing the hard work of being President. He was never highly compensated until he was elected to political office. He was Constitutionally qualified to become President. He is a Democrat.

Mitt Romney is almost precisely the opposite. He has worked in profit-making concerns since he was young (excepting his Mormon mission time), even while starting his family and going to college. He ran his own company and was compensated well enough to be considered rich, to become Governor of Massachusetts, and to run for President. He was prepared by experience to be President. He is a Republican.

Each epitomizes his party as it is connoted in the public mind, and that is the key to Brook's answer--we are losing because the Republican Party is perceived to be the party of self-interest, frequently morphed into selfishness. The Democrat Party is perceived as the party of selflessness.  Selfish Republican Romney loses to selfless Democrat Obama in the hearts of enough voters to make the difference.

To close out my presidential metaphor, we couldn't have had two more stereotypical candidates running for office last time if we had tried, and our society is predisposed to prefer both the image and the facts of Obama over those of Romney, even though both the image and the facts are misleading. The attributes we liked in candidate Romney were much less highly regarded by the general population, and the baggage they carried with them hurt him.

What can we do about it?

Brook admitted it will take time to change a cultural norm, but a start would be for our side to start standing up publicly for our own principles. For those principles that would make it hard for a politician to explain during a race, let our non-politicians talk about them.

The left has been using this tactic against us for years; we should be following their example of success.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Brief and Direct: Beware the Shiny Objects

Another in an unscheduled series of short commentaries on current events

In a recent diary, I made a case that we are too often distracted by “shiny objects” put into play by the Democrats and kept in the public eye by their minions in the press.  Examples I used included gun control, but the shiny new issue of Immigration Reform has been rolled out since then, with the help of our two Arizona Senators, Marco Rubio, and I suppose Lindsey Graham.  Shiny objects take our eyes off the ball, distracting us from the issues that we should be paying attention to. Shiny objects are probably not unimportant, but they definitely are distractions.
Both gun control and immigration reform are classic examples of shiny objects.  They are attractive.  They capture our attentionThey are important, but they don’t really require immediate attention at all. Both can and should be handled through normal channels and nothing will be lost, because nothing can really be achieved by addressing them in the mode of the Crisis of the Month.  It’s simply not possible to do anything effective about either issue in crisis mode; all we’ll get will be style, no substance, and real solutions if there are any are more likely to be worked out away from public view.
So, Republicans, what are they distracting us from?  A bloated government, no budget from the Senate (resulting in Continuing Resolutions that expand the deficit and balloon the National Debt), out-of-control spending,  serious unemployment, and the question of how to deal with the Debt Ceiling.  These are real problems that the government is Constitutionally charged with addressing (unemployment’s included because it is government policy that’s made that problem worse).
What to do?  Let the Democrats pontificate about the shiny objects.  Let THEM propose unpalatable “solutions” to non-critical “problems.”  Meanwhile, John Boehner has the right take now, if I understand him. Engage the Democrats on these shiny objects in “regular order.”  Committee hearings.  Deliberations.  In other words, think before you act.
Do the same for the big issue of federal spending, but use your airtime to talk about it and explain why WE have the right answers (smaller government and less spending) instead of tilting at the gun and immigration windmills.  If you simply HAVE to say something about immigration, just point out that border security has been promised (and paid for), and it hasn’t happened no matter what this week’s Big Lie is, and until security is achieved we have to keep working on it in regular order.  In fact, the Democrats have already agreed to it.