Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Social Network

Newsweek's David Lyons suggests the origins of Facebook movie, The Social Network, set for release on October 1, exposes a serious and insidious threat to the future of the U.S. economy:
The risk is that by focusing an entire generation of bright young entrepreneurs on such silly things, we’ll fall behind in creating the fundamental building blocks of our economy. The transistor and the integrated circuit gave rise to the last half century of prosperity. But what comes next? “If we distract people with the lure of easy money, with making companies that don’t solve anything hard, we’re going to wind up derailing the thing that has been driving our economy,” Myhrvold says.

We’ve already fallen behind in areas like alternative energy, better batteries, and nanotechnology. Instead of racing to catch up, we’re buying seeds and garden gnomes on Facebook. This won’t end well.
The author seems to suggest that an intervention of some kind is needed to insure that venture money and America's talent are focused on the right things.  An intervention by whom?  Although he doesn't come out and say so, I'm thinking he means the federal government.  And why not?  The statist media has yet to find a non-existent national or world crisis for which the federal government can't provide an inefficient, ineffective, wasteful and fiscally immoral solution.  Admittedly I am an old free markets relic of a bygone age, but I find Lyons argument entirely unpersuasive.

The real societal revelation of a movie about Facebook is better captured by an insightful pre-teen friend of mine (Thanks, JS):

My ultimate regards to Mr. Fincher for his outstanding work in taking the 'person-with-no-life' scenario to the next level. Really. Here, we have Facebook, a website supposedly to connect with old friends but is really used to have obssesive compensation rants about their problems and how mighty they think they are, and then we have the film world, a place where looks matter more than brains and faces are more recognizable than talents. You know what happens when they are combined? A dramatic, action, political, movie about; Facebook! Because apparently the film world is making an 'original breakthrough'.

Just the thought of the making of Facebook, a website to talk on, being brought up as a serious movie idea makes me rather tempestuous. Maybe I'm off my meds or something, but this new movie 'The Social Network' will probably destroy more brain cells than sucking helium. Now, if you want to go see it, then by all means, go see it. I'm not stopping you. But think about something else you can do in that time. And it better not be checking your Facebook status.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No Emeritus Status for Old Terrorists

In a surprising development, the Trustees of the University of Illinois today denied emeritus status to its retired Weather Underground terrorist professor, William Ayers.  The unanimous vote came after an impassioned statement by board chair, Christopher Kennedy, son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy.  From the Chicago Tribune:
In a very unusual move, University of Illinois trustees Thursday denied giving emeritus status to controversial retired professor William Ayers.

The vote, at a U. of I. board meeting in Urbana, was unanimous and came after a passionate speech by board chair Christopher Kennedy, who invoked the 1968 assassination of his father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in saying that he was voting his conscience.

The other trustees, without comment, also voted against the appointment.

Ayers, the Vietnam War-era radical, had been an education faculty member at UIC since 1987. He retired effective Aug. 31 and then sought the emeritus faculty status, a largely honorific title that includes some benefits such as library privileges.

A co-founder of the Weather Underground anti-war group, Ayers was frequently in the media spotlight and, as such, was one of the university's best-known faculty members.

While trustees regularly vote on emeritus appointments, they rarely comment about them.

But in an emotional statement, Kennedy discussed his reasons for voting against Ayers' request.

"I am guided by my conscience and one which has been formed by a series of experiences, many of which have been shared with the people of our country and mark each of us in a profound way," Kennedy said.

He said he could not confer the title "to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father."

Kennedy was referring to a 1974 book co-authored by Ayers, "Prairie Fire," which was dedicated to a long list of people including Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan and "all political prisoners in the U.S."

Ayers became a controversial figure in Barack Obama's presidential campaign because they worked on a school-reform initiative together, leading opponents to say Obama was linked to a "terrorist." UIC was forced to release more than 1,000 files detailing the activities of that group. The university also faced questions in 2001 after Ayers wrote in his memoir about helping with the non-fatal bombings of government buildings.

According to the UIC faculty handbook, the granting of emeritus status is "based on merit" and is "an extraordinary title that is given for extraordinary service."

Kennedy said he hoped faculty, staff and Illinois residents "understand my motives and my reasoning" and concluded: "How could I do anything else?"
It may seem a small thing, but it is noteworthy that Kennedy took a stand against one of President Obama's most radical, leftist ideological mentors.  I think his father would be proud.
 “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”          - Robert F. Kennedy


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

House GOP Pledge to America

Thursday morning, House Republicans will release their "Pledge to America."  National Review has obtained an advance copy and Daniel Foster has offered his assessment today at The Corner.  His designation of its strengths and weaknesses seems fair on balance, but I would point out that we are in the closing days of a critical election season, and some of its shortcomings can assuredly be attributed to that reality.

I am struck by his conclusion, in which Foster illuminates the preamble to the GOP Pledge:
That commitment to limited government and constitutionalism is signaled early on, in a preamble full of philosophical flourishes that borrow from America’s founding documents. The Pledge declares that “Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive” the “economic, political, and religious liberty” of men and women, “it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course.”

In a self-governing society, the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed, and regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent.

An unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values, striking down long-standing laws and institutions and scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people.

An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many.

Rising joblessness, crushing debt, and a polarizing political environment are fraying the bonds among our people and blurring our sense of national purpose.

Like free peoples of the past, our citizens refuse to accommodate a government that believes it can replace the will of the people with its own. The American people are speaking out, demanding that we realign our country’s compass with its founding principles and apply those principles to solve our common problems for the common good.

The need for urgent action to repair our economy and reclaim our government for the people cannot be overstated.

With this document, we pledge to dedicate ourselves to the task of reconnecting our highest aspirations to the permanent truths of our founding by keeping faith with the values our nation was founded on, the principles we stand for, and the priorities of our people. This is our Pledge to America.
I hope and pray the Republicans will stand and deliver on these powerful words and sacred promises.

CBS News has posted the full text of the Pledge to America here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Obama Scrubs "Our Creator" from Declaration of Independence Preamble

Jason McNew at American Thinker notes that President Obama has suddenly taken to quoting the Founding Fathers.....well, sort of:
Hobbes, Locke, and Cicero be damned. President Obama single handedly overturns Natural Law. [snip].

Friday evening President Obama addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. At around 22:30, he incorporates part of the preamble of The Declaration of Independence, removing "Creator".

"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal..... endowed with certain unalienable rights, life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"

After President Obama says "created equal...", there is a long pause during which he scowls and blinks several times. For once, he may actually have opted to not read something that was on the teleprompter. Is looks like he is disgusted and decided it would be better not to read what the preamble actually says.

President Obama, if our Creator is not the purveyor of our human rights, then who is? The government?
Check out the video here.

Perhaps the President is trying to hedge against a popular backlash that might ensue if he makes an overt reference to God.  Not so, acccording to an Independence Day report by Scott Rasmussen:
The Declaration of Independence, written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, asserts that “we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 88% of American Adults agree with this phrase. Only six percent (6%) do not.
Perhaps we should just add Friday's performance to the list of "bizarre" actions described by Dinesh D'Souza in his cover story this week at Forbes Magazine.

The Real John Boehner

Who is John Boehner?  If you got all your information from President Obama, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, The Washington Post and The New York Times you would certainly think he was a corrupt, empty suit, out of touch, and oh, I almost forgot...exceptionally tanned, elitist.  It's a sad state of American journalism that you have to look across the pond to The Telegraph to get more than DNC talking points on the man who may become Speaker of the House in 2011.  Tony Harnden writes (via KJ at The Corner):
Democrats have started a website that claims he spent $1 million on "luxury hotels, exclusive golf resorts and gourmet dining for himself and his fat-cat contributors". On the I-75 freeway outside Cincinnati, a huge poster showing a tanned Mr Boehner playing golf accuses him of teeing off 119 times in a year.

Yet Mr Boehner's life story is the type of classic up-by-the-bootstraps tale of the American Dream that can put a tear in a voter's eye. As his story becomes better known, the Democrats could even be drawing favourable attention upon him. Right now, most Americans have never heard of Mr Boehner, and fewer still can pronounce his name, which rhymes with Rayner. The alleged elitist country club Republican is an Ohio Congressman who grew up in near poverty.

His sister Lynda Meineke, who is 51, is a waitress and bar tender at Andy's Cafe in Carthage, Ohio, a family business that was founded by their grandfather Andy Boehner in 1938. As a child, one of Mr Boehner's jobs was to mop the floor.

Sitting outside the bar this week, sipping a bottle of Bud Light and smoking a cigarette, Mrs Meineke described her childhood as "cramped" but happy. "We learned how to share. If there was a toy, it wasn't just for you but for all the younger ones."

Mr Boehner, 61, is the second of 12 who grew up in a German-Irish family in Reading, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati. All but two of them still live within a few miles of each other. Two are unemployed and most of the others have blue-collar jobs.

The future Congressman started work as a janitor and took seven years to get his degree – the first in the family to do so – because he had several jobs to pay his way. He joined a plastics and packaging company, rising to president before entering local politics by being elected to the town board.

The family house on Hill Street initially had two bedrooms with Mr Boehner and three brothers sleeping in one, their sister in another and their parents on a pull-out bed in the living room. Their father Earl later built a three-bedroom extension.

Mrs Meineke, whose husband is an unemployed builder, still lives in the modest house. She remembers her father rising at dawn to go off to the café, which he ran with his twin brother and was a favourite with truck drivers.

"Then my mother would get up before all of us, and drink coffee and listen to the radio, packing our lunches and writing our names on all the brown bags.
Read the whole thing.

There can and will be honest and energetic debate over whether Boehner is the right man to fill the top job in the House if the GOP wins back the majority in November.  Fred Barnes predicts Eric Cantor will become speaker.  Perhaps he will be challenged by one of the Tea Party superstars like Paul Ryan or Michelle Bachmann.  It's too soon to tell.  But in my view, conservatives should speak up and speak out for this guy:

I think the background music "Don't Tread on Me" by Metallica adds a nice touch.  (h/t fearblocke)

Update:  The ubiquitous crew of has made Harnden's piece a Must Read for the weekend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Democrat Rep. Gene Taylor (MS-4) Signs on to Repeal Health Care Bill

This evening I received an energized voice message from my sister informing me that her congressman, Gene Taylor (D-MS) had signed on to Steve King's (R-IA) petition to repeal the health care reform bill, becoming the first Democrat to do so.  Jake Sherman at Politico shares my sister's hunch that this is an important development:
Taylor is the 172nd person to sign on the act to repeal the bill – following conservative Republican Rep. Steve King (Iowa), who offered the act on June 16. The entire House Republican leadership has also signed onto the petition. Taylor is the second person to join the effort to repeal the bill since the August recess, following Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach.

Taylor underscores how unpopular the legislation is in some conservative districts held by Democrats — although he voted against the bill. Taylor, though, has bucked trends for years, holding onto the Gulf Coast seat since 1989.

He earned some conservative praise for his signature.

“We are pleased to see Representative Gene Taylor choosing principle over party,” Heritage Action CEO Michael A. Needham said in a news release. “His commitment to representing his constituents, who have been opposed to Obamacare from the beginning, is refreshing.”
Indeed.  Congressman Taylor has a long and strong record of voting for principle over politics and listening to his constituents.  Perhaps he will be invited to make the key note address at the 2012 Republican Convention in a reprise of former Georgia Governor, then Senator Zell Miller's stunning performance in 2004:

Read more from Ed Morrissey and The Wall Street Journal here and here.  H/T Leslie!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Constitution State" Health Insurers Cry Foul on Obamacare

On Monday I told you about HHS Secretary Kathleen's Sibelius's warning to health insurers that they would find themselves in the statist penalty box if they tried to raise rates and blame it on Obamacare.  On Tuesday, I told you that Republican nominee and former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon was giving Connecticut Democratic AG Richard Blumenthal (and Vietnam Veteran wannabe now that the war is over) a run for the money in the race to replace retiring Christopher "Friend of Angelo" Dodd in the United States Senate.

Today, in a serendipitous amalgamation of these seemingly unrelated revelations, we learn that the companies that provide health insurance to the citizenry of the historically solid blue state of Connecticut are requesting significant rate increases to assuage the devastating blow that the new Democratic health care mandates deliver.  From
Health insurers are asking for immediate rate hikes of more than 20 percent in Connecticut for some plans, citing rising medical costs and federal health reform laws as reasons.

Both issues — the new federal health care reform and rising medical costs — are significant drivers of the increases, according to filings by insurers with state regulators that were reviewed by The Courant.

It remains to be seen how much of the requests will be approved. Many people might not see an increase before Jan. 1, and these proposed changes would largely affect new business, mostly in the individual market.

But the overall price shift is the clearest indicator yet of what customers and employers can expect when health insurers submit proposed 2011 rates in late October and November. The current round of price requests launches a clash between insurers who say the increases are justified and consumer advocates and government officials who say the numbers are wildly inflated.

Aetna asked earlier this summer for an average 24.7 percent increase over last year for small-group HMO plans. State regulators approved an average increase of 18 percent for all of Aetna's small-group plans and 14.2 percent for large-group and middle-market plans, according to Aetna and an initial review of documents provided to The Courant by the state Insurance Department.

A complete tally of average price requests is not available, as the Insurance Department must decide on hundreds of health plans and variations of plans for the five major companies offering medical coverage in Connecticut. But an examination of the documents suggests that the requests might be even larger than those of recent years at a time when health insurance has become a political hot potato leading into the midterm elections.

In what might appear to be an oddity, companies are citing a huge range of effects that the health care reform mandates will have on plan prices — from near zero to well over 20 percent. The reason is that among all the plans, some already deliver the provisions required by health reform, while others do not.

ConnectiCare is seeking an average 22.2 percent hike for its individual-market HMO plans, according to a filing with state regulators. The insurer's plans would result in an average annual increase of about 13 percent for the overall individual market, including HMO and other plans; 12 percent for small-group plans; and 11 percent to 12 percent for large-group plans, said vice president of actuarial services Kevin Grozio.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut, by far the largest insurer of Connecticut residents, said in a letter that it expects the federal health reform law to increase rates by as much as 22.9 percent for just a single provision — removing annual spending caps. The mandate to provide benefits to children regardless of pre-existing conditions will raise premiums by 4.8 percent, Anthem said in the letter. Mandated preventive care with no deductibles would raise rates by as much as 8.5 percent, Anthem said.

It was unclear how those separate factors would add up for Anthem's plans, but those potential increases were all on top of rising medical costs.

CIGNA Corp. is asking for an increase of up to 1.3 percent for adding preventive care provisions, a 1 percent increase for waiving pre-existing conditions for children up to 19, and an increase of 14.5 percent for children from birth to 18 for new business, according to the Insurance Department.
I wonder how the prospect of soaring health insurance premiums will sit with Blumenthal's life raft, the women voters of Connecticut?  Methinks, not so much.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

McMahon Surging in Connecticut

If you want a clear omen that dark clouds are gathering for the Democrats in November, check out today's Quinnipiac University poll results for the Connecticut U.S. Senate race:
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat, leads Republican former wrestling executive Linda McMahon 51 - 45 percent among likely voters in the U.S. Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Another 3 percent are undecided and 11 percent of those who do name a candidate say they could change their mind by Election Day. This is the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University's first general election likely voter survey in Connecticut in this election cycle and can not be compared to earlier surveys of registered voters.

In today's survey, conducted by telephone with live interviewers, Blumenthal leads 87 - 10 percent among Democrats and gets 47 percent of independent voters to McMahon's 46 percent. McMahon leads 91 - 9 percent among Republicans. Women back Blumenthal 56 - 41 percent, while men split 47 - 48 percent.

Among those backing McMahon, 42 percent say their vote is mainly against Blumenthal, while 53 percent say they mainly are pro-McMahon. Blumenthal backers are 22 percent anti- McMahon and 73 percent pro-Blumenthal.

"This is now a 6 point race among likely voters. With seven weeks to go and lots of money to be spent, anything can happen," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, PhD.

"For Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, an elected official with a 70 percent approval rating, this race is surprisingly close. It is not that voters are wild about McMahon; her favorability rating is tepid. And many of her supporters are more anti-Blumenthal."

"The question is whether Linda McMahon can ride the anti-establishment, anti-Democratic wave to victory in blue Connecticut, a state that hasn't voted for a Republican for Senator since Lowell Weicker in 1982," Dr. Schwartz added.

"President Barack Obama appears to be a drag on Blumenthal, even in Connecticut, where the President's job approval rating is a negative 45 - 52 percent.

"McMahon would be Connecticut's first female Senator. But it is Blumenthal's advantage among women that is making the difference in the race. While men have a mixed opinion of both candidates, women are divided on McMahon but love Blumenthal by a more than 2-1 margin. It may be because women are less likely than men to be turned off byBlumenthal's Vietnam misstatements, and more likely to be turned off by McMahon's wrestling background." (emphasis mine)
Perhaps my views are completely alien to those of most Connecticut women, but I sincerely doubt it, and certainly hope not.  Here are my two cents:

Blumenthal's "misstatements" about his Vietnam service offend me greatly. His explanations and the rallying cries of his veteran constituents do not change that for me.  On multiple occasions he made statements that were knowingly false and misleading to aggrandize himself with his audience of the moment.

McMahon's professional career in the world of professional wrestling and her personal fortune were the product of hard work at a family business in an industry clearly dominated by men.  I'm not a wrestling fan.  Never have been.  But I do know how difficult it is to be successful and grow a small business.  And it won't hurt that she knows a little something about theatrics and fighting if she makes it to Washington.

In my mind, it would be a sweet ending to Chris Dodd's long overdue departure from the Senate.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Zero Tolerance for ObamaCare Dissent at HHS

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius sent a chilling message to Karen Ignagni, the top lobbyist for America's health insurance industry.  Her message (from the HHS website funded by American taxpayers) states, in part:
Dear Ms. Ignagni:

It has come to my attention that several health insurer carriers are sending letters to their enrollees falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. I urge you to inform your members that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases. (emphasis added)
When the peerless, acute-thinking Michael Barone issues a warning that a member of the executive branch has overstepped, it is time to take notice.  From Townhall  (H/T
"There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases."

That sounds like a stern headmistress dressing down some sophomores who have been misbehaving. But it's actually from a letter sent Thursday from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans -- the chief lobbyist for private health insurance companies.

Sebelius objects to claims by health insurers that they are raising premiums because of increased costs imposed by the Obamacare law passed by Congress last March.

She acknowledges that many of the law's "key protections" take effect later this month and does not deny that these impose additional costs on insurers. But she says that "according to our analysis and those of some industry and academic experts, any potential premium impact ... will be minimal."

Well, that's reassuring. Er, except that if that's the conclusion of "some" industry and academic experts, it's presumably not the conclusion of all industry and academic experts, or the secretary would have said so.

Sebelius also argues that "any premium increases will be moderated by out-of-pocket savings resulting from the law." But she's pretty vague about the numbers -- "up to $1 billion in 2013." Anyone who watches TV ads knows that "up to" can mean zero.
Read the whole thing.  I think Barone is being too soft on Sibelius.  Rather than a stern headmistress, her self-righteous antics remind me of another health care dictator from the movies.   Nurse Ratched:

The difference is, unlike the residents under Nurse Ratched's "care", we Americans still have a voice and a choice.  At least for now.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Union

Leon Russell and Elton John first performed together  on piano and guitar forty years ago. On October 19, they will release a new album entitled The Union.

I became a fan of Leon Russell back in the mid-seventies after seeing him in concert with my college roommate. Elton John describes Russell as the most influential pianist in his career and captures my feelings about him in an interview promoting the album on Amazon, confessing that he's pissed off that people seem to have forgotten about him. Here's a recording of one of the songs, "I Should Have Sent Roses."

What's interesting to me is how Russell's mastery of the piano sharpened through the years.  Compare this 1971 recording session to a later performance here.  This enduring pair definitely gives life to another song from the album, "You're Never Too Old."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Take the Hill in CA-51

Neil Stevens at Red State shines a light on CA-51 candidate, Nick Popaditch, a former Gunnery Sergeant for the United States Marine Corps who served the U.S. bravely in Iraq:
Nick Popaditch is running for Congress. Previous occupation? Gunnery Sergeant, USMC. That patch he wears? Not preparing for Talk like a Pirate day, but rather a wound at Fallujah. His district? California’s 51st.

Oh yes, that district. Inland California tends to be right-leaning, but Imperial County is one big exception. It’s a poor expanse of desert along the Mexican border stretching from Arizona to San Diego County. Since redistricting shifted the seat’s number from 50 to 51, Democrat Bob Filner won by 19, 26, 27, and 48 points. This is not friendly territory, so it’s good we have a tough, strong, disciplined candidate like Nick Popaditch running there.
A few months back, a local left-wing newspaper, The Imperial Valley Press, decided to poke fun at Popaditch for his physical appearance by publishing this political cartoon:

Predictably, this American hero brushed off this impotent slander with clarity and humor on Fox News:

James Simpson at Big Government delivered an excellent presentation of the story at the time which is worth a read here.