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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The "Public Option" in 40 Seconds


Some Perspective on the National Debt

It's often claimed by the Left that the cost of the Bush administration's war on terror is comparable to the entitlement spending planned by the Obama administration. Here's a bit of perspective on President Bush's war spending relative to national debt:

National Debt Over TimeAnd Bush's deficit compared to Obama's?

The Bush deficit vs the Obama deficit
There is simply no comparing the Bush administration's spending to that of the Obama administration's.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Left and Cutting the Minimum Wage

Fox anchor Juliet HuddyThe liberals on were all aflutter today because, in a segment on Fox News, someone dared to raise the question of whether or not lowering the minimum wage would ease unemployment. Oh the audacity!

The idea of reducing the minimum wage to lower unemployment is based on the understanding that if the amount of money a company has to pay its employees is set at X, the number of people it employs is Y and the minimum amount each employee must be paid is Z, then the smaller Z is the larger Y can be. Which begs the question, is it better to work for less than the government-mandated minimum wage (which currently sits at $7.25 an hour) or to not work at all?

Let's turn to the Nobel Prize-winning economist (back before the Nobel Committee became a glorified cheer squad for liberalism), Milton Friedman for a fuller explanation of the minimum wage:

Of course, to understand Friedman's explanation of the minimum wage, one first has to move away from appeals to pathos - something which is utterly impossible for the Left to do. Nonetheless, if there were a single thing the government could do to decrease unemployment in this country without also further increasing the national deficit, it would be to decrease the minimum wage.

So, when the Left argues against lowering the minimum wage, one can't help but wonder: Why? Either it's because, in their economic ignorance, they see it as a cause for "social justice" or it's because they're being politically pragmatic and understand that the more people reliant on the government for sustenance, the more votes they can count on come election day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reality Check on the Recovery: We're Probably Not Out of the Woods Yet

As I pointed out months ago, the current uptick in the markets is very possibly just temporary. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's best to taper your enthusiasm about any supposed economic "recovery."

Mega-Bear Quartet*Information found on

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MSM Agenda-Setting in the 2008 Election

What is it, what role did it play in the 2008 presidential election and where is it going?

Agenda-Setting in the Media

Maxwell McCombs and Amy Reynolds (2002) note that Bernard Cohen sums up the idea of media agenda-setting best “with his observation that the news media may not be successful in telling people what to think, but they are stunningly successful in telling them what to think about (Cohen, 1963)” (p. 1). To that end, agenda-setting theory states that the amount of news coverage a topic gets is associated with its “salience” among the news-consuming public.

The question is frequently asked of communication theorists: Is society the way it is because of the media, or are the media the way they are because of society? Which is the preexisting condition? In the earlier stages of mass communication research, the prevailing wisdom certainly seemed to suggest the former – that societal opinion was formed in response to the media. McCombs and Reynolds (2002) note the following:
(Walter) Lippman’s opening chapter in Public Opinion, which is titled “The World Outside and the Pictures in Our Heads,” summarized the agenda-setting idea, even though he did not use that phrase. His thesis was that the news media, our windows to the vast world beyond our direct experience, determine our cognitive maps of that world. Public opinion, argued Lipmann, responds not to the environment, but to the pseudoenvironment constructed by the news media” (p. 2).
We can say of the agenda-setting model that a few things seem to be quite clear. When it comes to information which cannot be obtained autonomously, we can certainly argue that our knowledge of things with which we have no direct experience is entirely limited to the information garnered through various media. For example, it is impossible for a person who has never been to (or had any direct association with) Vietnam to form uniquely autonomous opinions about Vietnam.

Every opinion that such a person might form is entirely dependent on information provided to that person via a second or third party source. In this way, we can conceptualize the validity of Lippman’s point – that public opinion of an issue is inherently tied to the media portrayal of that issue, particularly when it is fundamentally impossible for individuals to autonomously ascertain first-hand information about that event. Hence Cohen’s point – that the media tell the public what to think about.

Perhaps the most concise counter-argument to agenda-setting theory is the natural history account. McCombs and Reynolds (2002) note the following regarding natural history:
Commonly, the measures are the total number of news stories about the item and the percentage of the public citing an issue as the most important problem facing the country. This perspective is named natural history because the focus typically is on the public agenda in the rise and fall of a single item over time (p. 7)
The natural history account of media agenda-setting simply suggests that the media cover what they do because the public have a preexisting interest in the topic. A natural history theorist might say, for example, that the media covered the economy more during the 2008 presidential election because that is the issue about which the general public cared most. The agenda-setting theorist would argue that the media focused on the economy, and so the public focus was directed to the economy as a result.

Phyllis A. Anastasio, Karen C. Rose and Judith Chapman (1999) contend that, “By showing only a tiny and unrepresentative portion of the world through its window, the media may help to create the very world it seeks to reflect” (p.152). It’s clear from this statement, that Anastasio et al. share Walter Lippman’s view of media agenda-setting. But Anastasio et al. (1999) add an interesting caveat to the agenda-setting model:
Neutral media coverage of a controversial event, such as an election, often results in members of both sides of the controversy perceiving the media as hostile to their own group. Because coverage of both sides of an issue tends to emphasize differences between sides, the perceiver's own group membership is made salient and thus sets in motion the motivation to perceive the in-group as superior and the out-group as inferior. Thus, neutral coverage of the in-group is perceived as unfair and hostile in comparison with the inflated perceptions of the correctness of one's in-group.
The assertion here is that, even in the instances where media coverage is objectively neutral, consumers of that news perceive it as biased because they think it misrepresents/ inadequately represents their worldview. Anastasio et al. (1999) refer to this phenomenon as “social identity.”
Social identity is a powerful sculptor not only of perceptions, but of opinions as well. Research has shown that opinions are often influenced by other members of the in-group. Even when an in-group member presents an opinion that is unpopular and goes against one's natural inclinations, the in-group member still remains a persuasive force, much more so than any out group member.
This suggests that the source of information invariably decides how well that information is received within a specific social identity classification. For example, Americans might trust an American broadcaster more on the Afghanistan War than someone working for Al Jazeera.
Anastasio et al. (1999) also contend there are two major routes of persuasion through which attitudes and opinions are changed: the central and peripheral routes. The central route is one were an individual weighs all sides of the debate before coming to a conclusion. Anastasio et al. (1999) define the peripheral route in the following way:
The perceiver lacks either the motivation or the ability (e.g., because of time constraints or other pressing issues that drain cognitive resources) to fully process much of the message's information. When this is the case, any number of peripheral cues contained within the message may provide "mental shortcuts" that the perceiver can use to arrive at an opinion or decision.
Anastasio et al. (1999) set out to answer whether coverage emphasizing intergroup differences and intragroup similarities fueled the tendency to side with one's in-group. They found that the homogeneity of coverage greatly influences opinion to coincide with that coverage, but heterogeneous coverage results in heterogeneous opinion. The implication of their findings suggests that the media, when acting in unison, have an overwhelming influence on public opinion. Anastasio et al. conclude:
Not only do the media bias people's perceptions by offering an unrepresentative view of the world at times, but it may also facilitate biased processing of accurate information by presenting that information with an emphasis on intergroup differences… In summary, on the one hand, multiple news broadcasts that dissect the world into distinct social categories and emphasize group differences have the ability to perpetuate actual differences. On the other hand, news that obscures intergroup boundaries may have an equally great potential to diminish group differences and forge necessary connections. The media, which disseminates information and creates social norms, most likely has the power to build bridges as well as destroy them.
The implication for agenda-setting is that the influence of media coverage is relative to the consumer’s sense of self – how (and with whom) one self-identifies. In turn, the media can either feed or diffuse the divisiveness of perception through the relative divisiveness of coverage.
David Domke, Dhavan V. Shah and Daniel B. Wackman (2000) posit a slightly different view of agenda-setting which plays off of social identity, that political candidates and news media, through selection and emphasis of certain values and issues in an electoral campaign, are likely to influence which cognitions are activated as voters evaluate a political environment. Through their research, Domke et al. (2000) found:
The pattern of evidence, then, suggests that even after accounting for participants' issue positions, issue importance, age, party affiliation, and the total number of candidate attributions, discussion of issues in terms of rights and morals by politicians and news media not only increased the likelihood of attributions about candidate morality but also significantly altered the weight that participants placed on these appraisals in candidate choice.
The implication here is, as Lippman suggested, that not only do the media tell people what to think about (as Cohen asserted), but they influence how people think about specific issues. Here, Domke et al. take a slightly more coverage-centric approach to agenda-setting than Anastasio et al. – who focus primarily on who is delivering or receiving the message. The two theories can coexist with relative ease, and both seem to assert the validity of agenda-setting theory – that the media lead public opinion.

The 2008 Presidential Election

If we take the 2008 election as a case study, we can say with some certainty two things. First, that media coverage generally leads (it does not follow) public opinion. Second, the preexisting opinions and priorities of the general public don’t necessarily set the media agenda.
Media Tenor International ran a content analyses on all of the 2008 election coverage and found that, not only did the media give more favorable coverage to Barack Obama than to John McCain, but that the coverage, in many instances, seemed to spur public opinion (2008):

Significant in Media Tenor’s graphic above is the TV Tone excluding horse race issues. Naturally, coverage which focused on public opinion polls would follow or concur with opinion polling, but, with the exception of a few spikes on coverage, two things seem clear from Media Tenor’s content analysis. First, media coverage and public opinion very rarely fluctuated in opposition to one another (i.e. negative coverage did not increase for one candidate without that same candidate’s poll numbers dropping). Second, negative coverage for Mr. Obama seems to have preceded drops in his poll numbers whereas the opposite appears to be true for his spikes in opinion polling.

Interestingly, Media Tenor also found there was a disproportionate amount of coverage on horserace issues (polling):

Within the agenda-setting context, what can we say about this data? Or, more poignantly, what were the media trying to influence the public to think about and did that coverage have a causal relationship with public opinion?

First we should perhaps note that the Pew Research Center also found that the media gave more favorable coverage to Mr. Obama than to Mr. McCain. “In all, 36% of stories about Obama have been positive, vs. 35% that have been neutral. And 29% have been negative… only 14% of stories in which McCain was a significant factor were positive, while 57% were negative. The rest, another 29%, were neutral or mixed” (2008):

Second, Pew also found that the topics covered by the media tended to be those which favored Mr. Obama:

At the same time that this Pew study was released, Gallup Polling (2008) noted the following:
(The) top voter issue this year is the economy. The relevance of the economy has intensified since Sept. 15 with the extraordinary crisis on Wall Street and deteriorating consumer confidence. Gas prices, Iraq, healthcare, and terrorism remain important, but are taking second seat to the economy. Obama's perceived strengths: domestic issues, compassion, empathy, bringing about change. McCain's perceived strengths: experience, international issues, terrorism, viewed as capable commander in chief. All in all, at least in the short term, Gallup data make it clear that the uptick in negativity about U.S. economic conditions has benefitted Obama.
The conclusion we can draw from this is that the media were clearly covering those topics which favored Mr. Obama. What we can’t conclusively derive is if the media were covering these topics because of a preexisting public interest in them, or if the media coverage lead the public interest – which is the crux of the agenda-setting debate.

It may be the case that American mainstream media are so expansive and vast in their reach that doing an accurate content analysis-to-opinion poll comparison is impossible. Media Tenor certainly quantified the 2008 coverage data relative to polling, but their findings suggest that the coverage of the polling skews any connection we might make regarding the effects of the media on public opinion. Moreover, in a 24/7 news cycle where all news is not created equal (in audience or credibility), any comparative content analysis between news organizations is virtually impossible – as is finding any causal link to public opinion.

An interesting fact to note, however, is that - despite the Left-leaning coverage of the media and the eventual result of the election – 2008 CNN exit polls suggest that more Americans identified themselves as conservative (34%) than liberal (21%); these figures are basically identical to those of CNN’s 2004 exit polling. In the same vein, a recent Gallup poll found that Conservatives are the largest ideological group in the country – “40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal” (2009).

The implication here is that more Americans lean Right than Left, but the media coverage was decidedly Left-leaning in tenor and content, and - perhaps as a result - the democratic candidate won the election. These findings seem to contradict the suggestion that media reflects rather than affects public opinion. One would expect that a mostly self-professed conservative population, if left to its own devices, would vote for the more conservative candidate. Clearly, that is not what happened.

Is it the case that looking at the media coverage before the election could have lead to an accurate prediction of the election? While it seems clear from the data that the media affected public opinion, that causal link does not appear to be the exclusive motivating factor of voting habits. Were we to take the average media depiction of the pre-2008 election environment to make a prediction about the results of that election, as Media Tenor notes, we would have concluded that Mr. Obama would win more decisively than he actually did (2008).

So, we can conclude that the media affect public opinion and that they perhaps affected public opinion enough in 2008 to make the difference in the election. But we cannot accurately say that agenda-setting serves as an accurate predictor in all cases. It seems to be the case, rather, that public opinion was just split enough in 2008 for media coverage to tip the scales in favor of Mr. Obama.

The Future of the Agenda-Setting Model

One diluting factor of the classic agenda-setting model is the increasing application of media uses and gratifications. Uses and gratifications theory contends that people use various media relative to the gratifications they seek from those media. In other words, people use media which reinforce their preexisting worldviews – which is a stance supported by the findings of Anastasio et al. Pew (2004) notes:
People who pay close attention to hard news express a preference for news that suits their point of view. Among those who follow international, national, local government, and business news, 43% say they like news with their point of view.
With an uptick in niched information sources, primarily driven by the internet and social media, Americans are increasingly presented with opportunities to consume information presented to them in a light which is favorable to their preexisting beliefs. The implication here for the classic agenda-setting model is that the mainstream media will likely experience a decrease in influence.

To a large extent, the main stream media still very much continue to frame the major debates. What they cover, by in large, still gets the most attention. But people are no longer restricted to the Walter Lippman pseudoenvironment constructed by mainstream news media. If a person really wants to ascertain information about a given topic, the number of sources available to them today is exponentially larger than in Lippman’s time. And, more than ever before, citizen journalism is beginning to drive the news. Hot topics of discussion on Twitter are making nightly newscasts, pedestrian camera phones now capture and upload current events faster than the media can even arrive on the scene and blogs are rivaling news websites in traffic.

It is increasingly the case that the traditional media are losing their monopoly on topic selection. And so we find ourselves at odds even with Bernard Cohen’s account of agenda-setting. The media are entirely dependent on ratings/circulation for profit (and, as a consequence, existence), and competition for the service they provide (information) is becoming fiercer and more niched. It’s not so much the case anymore that the media tell us what to think about… it’s more like we tell the media to show us why our worldview is correct – which feeds into the findings of both Anastasio et al. and Domke et al.

Mainstream media’s widespread influence will persist because they, by definition, have the best reach. It will always be the case that a medium with a larger base of consumers has more influence. That is much is intuitive. What remains to be seen for the agenda-setting model is how it can be reconciled with an increasingly polarized consumer base. It may be the case that the future of agenda-setting theory will focus on the affects of specific media within specific demographics. For example, quantifying the effect of New York Times coverage of specific issues and the corresponding/resulting salience of those issues within the democratic voter base.

To take it a step further, agenda-setting will play an increasing role in determining which media affect the salience of issues for which other media. Like, for example, determining how the New York Times selects the topics it covers and then quantifying which media pick up those topics after they get New York Times exposure. In this way, we can think of agenda-setting as a means for creating a sort of objective rank-order of various media relative to specific consumer bases. We’ll be able to tell which media serve as the catalysts for salience for specific demographics – a formula which has amazing business potential in the form of targeted advertising.

Communication theorists will continue to play a large role in determining which factors lead to greater salience within given populations. Despite all this, the goal of communication theory remains the same – to determine who says what to whom through which medium with what effect – and agenda-setting theory still plays (and will continue to play) a role in achieving that goal.

Anastasio, P. A., Rose, K. C., Chapman, J. (1999). Can the Media Create Public Opinion? A Social-Identity Approach. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(5), 152-155. Retrieved from:

CNN Exit Polling (2004). Retrieved from:

CNN Exit Polling (2008). Retrieved from:

Domke, D., Shah, D.V., Wackman, D. B. (2000). Rights and Morals, Issues, and Candidate Integrity: Insights into the Role of the News Media. Political Psychology, 21(4), 641-665. Retrieved from:

Gallup (October 22, 2008). Gallup's Quick Read on the Election.
Retrieved from:

Gallup (October 22, 2009). “Conservatives” Are Single-Largest Ideological Group.
Retrieved from:

Media Tenor (July 11, 2008). Campaign Watch: Image vs. Issues.
Retrieved from:

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (June 8, 2004). News Audiences Increasingly Politicized: Online News Audience Larger, More Diverse.
Retrieved from:

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (October 22, 2008). Winning the Media Campaign. Retrieved from:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Major attacks in Pakistan since Oct. 5

Major attacks in Pakistan since Oct. 5:
Found in The Long Journal

Oct. 28, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed 89 Pakistanis and wounded hundreds more in an attack on a bazaar in Peshawar.

Oct. 27, 2009: A brigadier general who served as the director of defense services guards at the Army General Headquarters escaped an assassination attempt in Islamabad.

Oct. 23, 2009: The Taliban detonated an anti-tank mine and hit a bus transporting a wedding party in Mohmand. The explosion killed 15 of the passengers and wounded six more.

Oct. 23, 2009: The Taliban detonated a car bomb outside a popular restaurant in the residential Hayatabad area in Peshawar. The attack wounded 13 civilians; nine are said to be in critical condition.

Oct. 23, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed seven people during an attack at a security checkpoint near the Kamra Air Weapon Complex in the district of Attock in Punjab province.

Oct. 21, 2009: The Taliban assassinated a brigadier general and his driver during an ambush in Islamabad.

Oct. 20, 2009: A pair of suicide bombers detonated their vests at Islamabad's International Islamic University, killing five.

Oct. 16, 2009: A pair of suicide bombers, including a female, attacked a police station and a building housing an intelligence service in Peshawar, killing 11.

Oct. 15, 2009: Terrorist assault teams attacked the Federal Investigation Agency building, the Manawan police training centre, and the Elite Force Headquarters in Lahore. Twenty-six people, including nine terrorists and 12 policemen, were killed.

Oct. 15, 2009: A suicide bomber rammed a car into a police station in Kohat, killing 11 people, including policemen and children.

Oct. 12, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives as a military convoy passed through a checkpoint in a market in Alpuri in Shangla. Forty-one people, including six security personnel, were killed in the attack.

Oct. 10, 2009: An assault team attacked the Army General Headquarters and took 42 security personnel captive. Eleven soldiers were killed, including a brigadier general and a lieutenant colonel, along with nine members of the assault team; and 39 hostages were freed.

Oct. 9, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives in a bazaar in Peshawar, killing 49 civilians.

Oct. 5, 2009: A suicide bomber entered the World Food Program office in Islamabad and detonated his vest, killing five UN workers, including an Iraqi.

Read the U.S. House Health Care Bill

Here is the U.S. House of Representatives Health Care Plan Bill (pdf of 1,990 bill).

What are your thoughts?

We already know that end-of-life counseling made its way back into the health bill and that it will slap a 5.4% tax on wealthy. We also know that the bill will give those who don't want to be insured an additional 2.5% income tax, and employers who don't meet the new bureaucratic insurance standard will see an 8% tax increase. Oh, and there's that whole abortion thing...

What else strikes you as interesting about this bill?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Executive Pay

Political Cartoon by Gary Varvel

Patrick Henry: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

Patrick Henry
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them?

Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free -- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained -- we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable -- and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace -- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Broken Common Bond

Thomas Paine argues for a restoration of the American common bond:

Peace Accomplished

Peace Accomplished - CartoonPolitical Cartoon by Nate Beeler

The Left's Hypocritical Outrage, Flat Lies, Mischaracterizations and Blatant Libel

Remember when Rush Limbaugh had the unmitigated gall to suggest that Donovan McNabb was being over-hyped because America too desperately wanted to see a successful black quarterback? Remember the liberal outrage over what was, in actuality, simply a man's opinion about an athletic figure?

Remember when Congressman Joe Wilson had the audacity to shout "You lie!" after Obama... well... lied about health care coverage for illegals during a congressional address? Keep in mind, this was after Obama had just finished calling his critics liars in about a dozen different ways... What a "bigot" that Joe Wilson must be!

Remember when
Travis the Chimp went bananas, mauled his owner's friend and had to be shot down in the street? You know, that was a day before the infamous, "hateful," "racist" NY Post cartoon:

NY Post - Travis the Chimp Cartoon
Which, apparently, had nothing to do with the fact that a chimp had actually been shot dead in the streets days earlier. No, no. The chimp was clearly a Klansman's caricature of Obama... though, Obama didn't write the stimulus plan, and he is in no way mentioned or referenced anywhere in the cartoon...

If you don't remember these things, maybe you at least remember the resulting outrage feigned by liberals? From a virgin perspective, one might assume from these instances that the Left merely has a low threshold for intolerance. Right?


Remember when a gay judge went behind the scenes of a beauty pageant to call Miss California, a "dumb bitch" because she didn't agree with his definition of marriage? Perhaps you remember the hit teams put out to spread lies and smear Miss Prejean?

Maybe you remember when liberal blogs were abuzz with lies that Sarah Palin's youngest child was actually here daughter's?

More recently, leftist media outlets decided to fabricate racist quotes and attribute them to Rush Limbaugh so as to ruin his bid for the St. Louis Rams.

There are many, many more examples of blatant liberal lies - but the Left recently added another notch to their fib belt. Did you know that 30 GOP senators "voted to defend gang rape?"

If the bastion of unbiased honesty, AlterNet spins it that way - it must be true! And, naturally, the most trusted name in liberal news, comedian Jon Stewart was in lock step with the AlterNet line of thinking.

Let me speak plainly for a moment:

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was reportedly gang-raped by her co-workers while working for KBR in Iraq. She reports that she was then detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours and "warned that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job." Apparently, Jones has been prevented from bringing charges against KBR in court because her employment contract explicitly stipulates that sexual assault allegations can only be heard in private arbitration.

So, Senator Al Franken filed an amendment that would deny defense contracts to any organization "if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court."

Sounds reasonable enough, right? Until you realize that 1) in order for this legislation to be enforced, the government will have to comb through every employee contract of any organization it wishes to employ - painfully mugging down the deployment process in red tape 2) we'll be putting the government in charge of telling us which private employment contracts we can and cannot sign 3) if individuals would just read their own contracts before signing, they'd be aware of these types of abuses ahead of time. That's not to say, if Miss Jones' story is true, that she's in any way to blame. Assuming she's telling the truth (and I assume she is), the bastards who violated her deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, as do those who have manipulated the law to keep the alleged rapists out of jail.

That said, the Franken amendment may not be the best solution to this problem. Instead of actively trying to punish those who directly assaulted Miss Jones, Franken's amendment would set a precedent preventing private organizations from setting their own standards for contracted employment - once again positioning the government as the sole authority above all things - as if that will fix anything at all. Even in an employee/employer agreement, the statists want to muscle in.

Perhaps, if Franken had instead proposed an amendment that would give employees the right to void their contracts with their employers in the event that one of their constitutional rights were violated, the GOP senators would have been on board. But, as it is, Franken's amendment is just more needless, unproductive bureaucracy.

Agree with them or not, these senators who opposed the Franken amendment, in absolutely no way, were "defending gang rape." It's absurd, libelous and flatly ridiculous to suggest otherwise. This was nothing more than a feel-good, fluff addendum aimed at retroactively hitting an entire organization well-known to spur the ire of the Left. It won't actively punish those who actually committed the alleged atrocities against Jamie Leigh Jones, which is what people should be preoccupying themselves with.

And then there's the bigger point:

It's unbelievable how the Left works itself into a lather if you dare call liberal policies "socialist" or *gasp* mention someone's ethnicity. But now it's ok to say GOP senators defend gang rape? Really? Is this what liberal discourse has come to, hypocritical outrage, flat lies, mischaracterizations and blatant libel?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ayn Rand - In Defense of Capitalism

The famous wit of Ayn Rand at work explaining the necessity of capitalism to a truly free society:

But if you think she sounds like a libertarian, think again:

(From The Ayn Rand Institute):
Q: What do you think of the Libertarian movement? [FHF: “The Moratorium on Brains,” 1971]

AR: All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies, except that they’re anarchists instead of collectivists. But of course, anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet they want to combine capitalism and anarchism. That is worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but don’t want to preach collectivism, because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect. The anarchist is the scum of the intellectual world of the left, which has given them up. So the right picks up another leftist discard. That’s the Libertarian movement.

Q: What do you think of the Libertarian Party? [FHF: “A Nation’s Unity,” 1972]

AR: I’d rather vote for Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, or Jerry Lewis. I don’t think they’re as funny as Professor Hospers and the Libertarian Party. If, at a time like this, John Hospers takes ten votes away from Nixon (which I doubt he’ll do), it would be a moral crime. I don’t care about Nixon, and I care even less about Hospers. But this is no time to engage in publicity seeking, which all these crank political parties are doing. If you want to spread your ideas, do it through education. But don’t run for President—or even dogcatcher—if you’re going to help McGovern.

Q: What is your position on the Libertarian Party? [FHF: “Censorship: Local and Express,” 1973]

AR: I don’t want to waste too much time on it. It’s a cheap attempt at publicity, which Libertarians won’t get. Today’s events, particularly Watergate, should teach anyone with amateur political notions that they cannot rush into politics in order to get publicity. The issue is so serious today, that to form a new party based in part on half-baked ideas, and in part on borrowed ideas—I won’t say from whom—is irresponsible, and in today’s context, nearly immoral.

Q: Libertarians advocate the politics you advocate. So why are you opposed to the Libertarian Party? [FHF: “Egalitarianism and Inflation,” 1974]

AR:They are not defenders of capitalism. They’re a group of publicity seekers who rush into politics prematurely, because they allegedly want to educate people through a political campaign, which can’t be done. Further, their leadership consists of men of every of persuasion, from religious conservatives to anarchists. Moreover, most of them are my enemies: they spend their time denouncing me, while plagiarizing my ideas. Now, I think it’s a bad beginning for an allegedly pro-capitalist party to start by stealing ideas.

Q: Have you ever heard of [Libertarian presidential candidate] Roger MacBride? [FHF: “?” 1976]

AR: My answer should be, “I haven’t.” There’s nothing to hear. I have been maintaining in everything I have said and written, that the trouble in the world today is philosophical; that only the right philosophy can save us. Now here is a party that plagiarizes some of my ideas, mixes it with the exact opposite—with religionists, anarchists, and just about every intellectual misfit and scum they can find—and they call themselves Libertarians, and run for office. I dislike Reagan and Carter; I’m not too enthusiastic about the other candidates. But the worst of them are giants compared to anybody who would attempt something as un-philosophical, low, and pragmatic as the Libertarian Party. It is the last insult to ideas and philosophical consistency.

Q: Do you think Libertarians communicate the ideas of freedom and capitalism effectively? [Q&A following LP’s “Objective Communication,” Lecture 1, 1980]

AR: I don’t think plagiarists are effective. I’ve read nothing by a Libertarian (when I read them, in the early years) that wasn’t my ideas badly mishandled—i.e., had the teeth pulled out of them—with no credit given. I didn’t know whether I should be glad that no credit was given, or disgusted. I felt both. They are perhaps the worst political group today, because they can do the most harm to capitalism, by making it disreputable.

Q: Why don’t you approve of the Libertarians, thousands of whom are loyal readers of your works? [FHF: “The Age of Mediocrity,” 1981]

AR: Because Libertarians are a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people: they plagiarize my ideas when that fits their purpose, and they denounce me in a more vicious manner than any communist publication, when that fits their purpose. They are lower than any pragmatists, and what they hold against Objectivism is morality. They’d like to have an amoral political program.

Q: The Libertarians are providing intermediate steps toward your goals. Why don’t you support them? [Ibid., 1981]

AR: Please don’t tell me they’re pursuing my goals. I have not asked for, nor do I accept, the help of intellectual cranks. I want philosophically educated people: those who understand ideas, care about ideas, and spread the right ideas. That’s how my philosophy will spread, just as philosophy has throughout all history: by means of people who understand and teach it to others. Further, it should be clear that I do not endorse the filthy slogan, “The end justifies the means.” That was originated by the Jesuits, and accepted enthusiastically by Communists and Nazis. The end does not justify the means; you cannot achieve anything good by evil means. Finally, the Libertarians aren’t worthy of being the means to any end, let alone the end of spreading Objectivism.
To be fair, Rand didn't label herself as a conservative either. Though, it's hard to reconcile why when you compare her view of capitalism with the definition of Conservatism. History suggests that her disdain for religion as a whole is the source of her denouncement of conservatism... but we've shown on several occasions that the intellectual account of conservatism needn't be exclusively tied to religion in anyway. I doubt it's the case that Rand lacked the intellectual fortitude to reconcile conservatism with secularism. Rather, it's likely the case that Rand sought to lay her own ideological path with "objectivism" and so sought to keep her philosophy distinct from both libertarianism and conservatism.

I post this video of Rand's thoughts not as an endorsement of her "objectivism," but merely as a means for looking into the past at one of history's greatest capitalist intellectuals. By whatever classification we give her, Rand was, above all else, an advocate for capitalism... perhaps one of capitalism's fiercest advocates ever. In a time when capitalism faces extinction at the hands of the statist, it cannot hurt to look back upon the words of those who helped champion capitalism to it's prior (and current) successes.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Medicare and Health Care Reform

There has been much contention regarding what effects, if any, health reform would have on medicare beneficiaries. This is a summary of the salient points made by both sides of the debate. The conclusion being: those relying on medicare Advantage will have benefits cut, yet Democrats cannot fund their government-run insurance option without first pushing out the private sector-run Medicare Advantage.

Heritage Foundation - Obamacare Does Cut Your Medicare Benefits

Over one in five Medicare patients are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plans that President Obama wants to completely cut. The benefits that over 10.5 million seniors would probably lose as a result of President Obama’s $200 billion in Medicare Advantage cuts include:
  • Prescription drug coverage
  • Preventive-care services
  • Coor¬dinated care for chronic conditions
  • Routine physical examinations
  • Additional hospitalization
  • Skilled nursing facility stays
  • Routine eye and hearing examinations
  • Glasses and hearing aids
Congress has been down this road before. After con­gressional cuts in Medicare Plus Choice in 1997, millions of seniors lost access to private health coverage. Heritage fellow Bob Moffit explains:

‘Traditional Medicare routinely covers only 54 percent of the total spending for beneficia­ries’ health care.[10] Without access to Medicare Advantage plans, seniors would have two choices: either settle for the inferior level of coverage of tra­ditional Medicare and go without the additional benefits or buy additional coverage through Medi­gap or some other supplemental coverage option. Meanwhile, the rollback of Medicare Advantage plans would impose a disproportionate burden on the low-income and minority seniors who enroll in them, as well as reduce seniors’ access to Medicare Advantage plans in rural areas.’”

USA Today - Seniors defend Medicare plan Obama calls 'wasteful'

“Medicare Advantage, which has 10.2 million enrollees, comprises about one-fifth of all Medicare participants. Medicare Advantage has its roots in the 1970s but was bolstered in 2003 in hopes that private companies could manage Medicare patients more efficiently. Partly because it often has lower out-of-pocket costs than traditional Medicare, enrollment has nearly doubled over six years, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.

Critics, including Obama, say the plans offer lower premiums because insurance companies are subsidized by taxpayers at a rate 14% higher per patient than regular Medicare. Lawmakers initially set a higher reimbursement rate to draw private insurers into the program. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says eliminating the disparity would save $150 billion over 10 years… Congress is considering changing the reimbursement formula.”

Wall Street Journal - Medicare For All Isn't The Answer

“Medicare reimbursements to hospitals fail to cover the actual cost of providing services. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), an independent congressional advisory agency, says hospitals received only 94.1 cents for every dollar they spent treating Medicare patients in 2007. MedPAC projects that number to decline to 93.1 cents per dollar spent in 2009, for an operating shortfall of 7%. Medicare works because hospitals subsidize the care they provide with revenue received from patients who have commercial insurance. Without that revenue, hospitals could not afford to care for those covered by Medicare. In effect, everyone with insurance is subsidizing the Medicare shortfall, which is growing larger every year.

If hospitals had to rely solely on Medicare reimbursements for operating revenue, as would occur under a single-payer system, many hospitals would be forced to eliminate services, cut investments in advanced medical technology, reduce the number of nurses and other employees, and provide less care for the patients they serve. And with the government in control, Americans eventually will see rationing, the denial of high-priced drugs and sophisticated procedures, and long waits for care.”

Wall Street Journal - Obama Targets Medicare Advantage

“… According to a White House fact sheet titled "Paying for Health Care Reform," (White House Senior Adviser David) Axelrod… notes the administration would cut $622 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, with a big chunk coming from Medicare Advantage, to pay for overhauling health care. Mr. Obama heralded these cuts as "common sense" in his June 13 radio address… Mr. Obama is proposing to cut the program by nearly 20% and thus reduce the amount of money each will have to buy insurance. This will likely force most of them to lose the insurance they have now… There are roughly 23,400 seniors on average in a congressional district who have Medicare Advantage.”

Wall Street Journal - Medicare for Dummies

“Medicare's unfunded liability—the gap between revenues and promised benefits—is currently some $37 trillion over the next 75 years. Yet the President uses this insolvency as an argument to justify the creation of another health-care entitlement, this time for most everyone under age 65… Mr. Obama claimed he can finance universal health care without adding "one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period," in large part by pumping money out of Medicare. The $880 billion Senate plan he all but blessed this week would cut Medicare by as much as $500 billion, mainly by cutting what Mr. Obama called ‘waste and abuse’…

So no cuts, for anyone—except, that is, for the 24% of senior beneficiaries who are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage program, which Democrats want to slash by $177 billion or more because it is run by private companies. Mr. Obama called that money "unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies—subsidies that do everything to pad their profits but don't improve the care of seniors. In fact, Advantage does provide better care, which is one reason that enrollment has doubled since 2003."

AP - CBO Chief: Medicare Benefits Could Be Cut

“Congress' chief budget officer is contradicting President Barack Obama's oft-stated claim that seniors wouldn't see their Medicare benefits cut under a health care overhaul. The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, told senators Tuesday that seniors in Medicare's managed care plans would see reduced benefits under a bill in the Finance Committee. The bill would cut payments to the Medicare Advantage plans by more than $100 billion over 10 years. Elmendorf said the changes would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries. Critics say the plans are overpaid, while supporters say they work well. Obama says cuts to Medicare providers won't reduce seniors' benefits.”

Boston Globe - Democrats seek cuts in Medicare Advantage

More than 10 million seniors enrolled in an enhanced, private version of Medicare known as Medicare Advantage - including 175,000 in Massachusetts - could see their plans shrink or be replaced with traditional coverage under the health care overhaul plans proposed by Democrats in Congress. Democrats want to cut Medicare Advantage by more than $120 billion over 10 years. It could leave seniors with fewer boutique Medicare options offered through private insurance companies or with private plans that offer fewer of the extra benefits such plans provide…

Private insurers can afford to offer extras under Medicare Advantage - such as lower premiums and coverage for eyeglasses and gym memberships - because the federal government pays them about 14 percent more per patient than Medicare typically spends. Many health policy specialists say that, with Medicare nearing bankruptcy and millions of Americans going without any insurance at all, the United States can hardly afford to offer a pricier Medicare version that is growing more popular…

The $120 billion cut to Medicare Advantage is part of spending reductions in Medicare totaling $460 billion to $540 billion over 10 years that have been proposed by Democrats. The cuts would fall on the government reimbursement rates for a broad variety of providers such as hospitals and home health agencies, which could probably absorb them without affecting the services elderly Americans receive, many specialists said in interviews… Most of the rest of the Democrats’ Medicare spending reductions involve asking providers to accept a slower-than-expected rate of growth in payments over the next decade… Some, such as payments to home health care agencies, were previously recommended by the Medicare Payment Assessment Commission…

Some specialists worry seniors could be harmed indirectly. Gail Wilensky, who ran Medicare under President George H.W. Bush, notes that many nursing homes depend on getting overpaid by Medicare to offset the stingy payments states provide for Medicaid patients. Curtailing those overpayments could strain those fragile institutions, she said.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Power & Danger of Iconography

Barack Obama ran an unprecedented Presidential campaign - utilizing the power of design to help secure the seat of the President of the United States of America. However, his iconic emblem, the ever present "O", holds more power than even Obama knows. Bill Whittle points out the dangers of branding an ideology with an icon and how, perhaps, the powerful symbol will be used against the very man it built up.

See more a PJTV...

Arguing with Idiots - Franklin vs. Marx, Episode I: Taxes

Glenn Beck's new book, Arguing with Idiots, is available in stores nationwide. Learn more...

Jack Webb Schools Barack Obama

"Don't try to build a new country. Make the old one work, it has for over 400 years."

That Which Requires Urgent Action

Political Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Earn Big $$$ the NEA Way!

(Via Iowahawk)

It's true -- U.S. government demand for art and art-like products has never been higher! Uncle Sam and the good folks at the National Endowment for the Arts are on the lookout for go-getting, obedient artists like you for a fast-paced career in state propaganda. With the quick and easy Federal Art Instruction Institute course, now you too can get a first class ticket on the federal art gravy train!

Tell Me More!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Arguing @ Berkeley

Take a glimpse into my every day at college... this is by no means a characterization unique to Berkeley.

Glenn Beck's Arguing with Idiots - Available September 22, 2009.

White House Cry Babies

Chris Wallace provides some insight as to how the White House has interacted with journalists who dare do anything less than fawn over the president.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Indoctrination Season is Upon Us

Well, it's that time of year again. College students are back in their university indoctrination programs and professors are busy at work undercutting the gains of the summer's conservative populous uprising.
Color me thrilled.

As I walked through Boston University's campus the other day, I happened to look up at some dorm windows of the Warren Towers to see a message stenciled out in post-it notes: "Sarah Palin is a man." How quaint.

I couldn't help but wonder what kind of foaming-at-the-mouth outrage would have ensued had the note said, "Michelle Obama is a man." No doubt, the student would have been labeled a racist in BU's Daily Free Press, and found himself shunned by the whole of BU's student body. But, instead, this attack was on Sarah Palin, so it's ok.

In my very first class of the semester, one of my professors (whom I happen to like by the way) made a verbal blunder and issued the gratuitous, "I sounded like Bush there for a second" punchline, which was of course received by uproarious laughter.

Funny... I was unaware that George W. Bush was the only president in history to make rhetorical errors. Someone should inform President Obama that America now has 57 states and, while you're at it, get Joe Biden that White House "website number," stat!

When talking about the history of journalism and communication in another class, a professor fretted, "Can you imagine what today's media would have said about Lincoln? 'He's not an American citizen!'" Again, the potshot was received with mindless guffawing.

Apparently, the MSM have succeeded in convincing everyone that the "Birther" issue is an illogical, racist movement claiming that Obama is not a citizen. I've debunked this spin of the eligibility issue before. Who knew that wanting your president to prove his Constitutional eligibility was racist? I'm sure everyone who petitioned John McCain on his natural born status as a Panama Canal Zone-born American will be relieved to know their white cloaks are in the mail.

There must be a teacher's handbook somewhere that says, "When in need of a cheap laugh, attack Republicans." I suppose the professors assume it's a safe environment for their bias. Afterall, Republicans are all uneducated, so there couldn't possibly be any in the classroom to get offended. Right?

I even had a professor "out" me as a Republican in class the other day, noting that it made me "special." Of course this is the same professor who, last semester, clapped when a Chinese student proclaimed herself to be a "proud communist" yet scorned when I said I had recently registered for the GOP.

With Obama on the ropes in almost every regard, I expect New York Times and MSNBC talking points to work their way into class lectures, as they did during the election last year. Did you know that Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her house? What an idiot! Never mind the fact that it was Tina Fey who coined that phrase, and not Palin. Oh the things I've learned in college...

The very worst part about being a Conservative in college is the expectation that I have to somehow detach myself from what liberals perceive to be the standard-bearing, racist, ignorant, ill-informed conservative stereotype - as if it's up to them to decide whether or not I am worthy of warming a seat in "their" classroom. If I don't want to make waves and be ostracized, I must prove I'm a "good" conservative by denouncing liberal misconceptions of what a conservative really is... it's like I go to class every day to battle whits with Casper the friendly ghost. It's like people are shocked that I don't want to burn gays and minorities at the stake. Who knew?!

These college liberals are so immersed in their left-of-center culture that it's unfathomable to them that any logical, educated person could possibly disagree with them. If they see a poll which says the majority of the country disagrees with them, the poll must be illegitimate or Americans are just too "stupid" for their own good.

If a Democrat gets wrapped up in a scandal, you'll likely never hear a word about it in class unless it's an attempt to undercut the severity of the issue. If a Republican gets caught up in a scandal, it's presented in class as proof that Republicans are corrupt and falling apart.

If a study or report gets issued and its findings conflict with liberal dogma (like, oh... the multiple CBO reports which say Obamacare will bankrupt the nation), the conductors of the study are either attacked or ignored. After all, without ad hominem attacks, liberals might have to deal with those pesky statistics from all the major polling agencies which say that Americans disagree with Obama on almost every major issue and that Conservatives actually comprise the largest ideological group in America, two-times the size of self-identified liberals.

To step into a college classroom, particularly one in Boston, is to stumble down the rabbit hole into a world where Che Guevara was a humanitarian and Communism "looks good on paper." I cannot wait for my graduate studies to conclude so that I may rejoin the majority of Americans in the real world. For the time being, however, I guess I'll just have to continue kicking the crap out of Casper.

Market place of ideas my ass...

What the MSM Will Teach You

Political Cartoon by Eric Allie

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

If the CBO Held a Town Hall...

Political Cartoon by Chip Bok

What First Amendment?

Oh ACORN... please learn to read:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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