Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Biden - A Living Legend?

The good folks of Brandywine Hundred voted last month not to name their new elementary school after Delaware's long-serving senior-senator and now vice-president, Joseph R. Biden Jr; instead, the voters opted for the more parochial-sounding --  Hanby Elementary School.

Likewise, it's unusual to name anything after a politician or local hero until, well, they've passed.

For example, former Senator William V. Roth's name was bestowed upon the new Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Bridge (Route 1), a few years after his passing. Mr. Roth was instrumental in securing federal and state funds for this much-needed bridge and project.

So too, did the good people of Delaware celebrate a great trailblazer and civil rights litigator with the naming of the City/County Building on French Street in Wilmington after the late Louis L. Redding (btw, he also has a middle school named after him in Middletown - Redding Middle School).

Thus, we now have Mr. Amtrak himself conferred upon with the naming of the Wilmington Train Station in his honor.

Call me old-fashioned, but I find it a bit puzzling when politicians have buildings, schools and other things named after them while they are still living.

Monday, March 14, 2011

'Recall' Reality

Recalls in American politics are a rarity. In fact, just getting an elected officials' name on a recall ballot is as about as unlikely as the Phillies' chances of only winning twenty games for this upcoming 2011 season.

Thus, it must follow then, that if history and logic are juxtaposed, the angry partisan crowds in Wisconsin, hell-bent on recalling their most despised state senators, need to realize that minus divine intervention and odds as bleak as those offered on the back of a PowerBall ticket, must heretofore zero-in on recent political history.

These contemptuous, yet righteous souls, should read the following statistics on successful recalls that occurred throughout U.S. history.

Click here for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal online article.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The 'New Age' of Civility

Call me a skeptic, but somehow I saw this coming.

A litany of death threats and other calls for violence and harm have started to make its way into the environs of Wisconsin amidst the aftershocks of the budget repair bill that passed Wednesday night in the Wisconsin state legislature.

The State Department of Justice is investigating this specific threat (read entire e-mail in the above link). Here's an excerpt from the e-mailed threat:

Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes (sic)

will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain

to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it

will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit

that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for

more information on possible scenarios in which you will die.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that unions nationwide are calling for all union members and supporters to cast this 'anti-union' trend and episode as a national civil rights matter.

I strongly believe that the citizens of Wisconsin, and U.S. citizens alike, are too intelligent and pragmatic and will see through the forthcoming union-civil rights battle cry.

American citizens want jobs, a growing economy and for our national budget and debt crisis to be reckoned with in a serious manner. People do not want to see wholesale demagoguery by union leaders and bosses; people do not want to see people like AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka pandering to the crowd; people do not want to have to endure such sycophants and have to hear their sanctimonious rancor; and finally, people do not want to see our country hijacked by out-of-touch leaders that claim to fight for the middle class, but inexorably end up hurting that very same middle class.

I'm not anti-union, I'm pro-taxpayer.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wisconsin Republicans Out-Maneuver Exiled Dems

Gov. Scott Walker must have consumed a lot of Charlie Sheen's favorite beverage of late - 'Tiger Blood.'

After nearly three tumultuous weeks of protests, 24/7 media coverage and national attention in and around Madison, Wisconsin, state senate Republicans decided Wednesday night to use a procedural maneuver to push through an otherwise unpassable budget repair bill amongst a throng of stunned Democratic leaders, media and onlookers.

The bill's measure effectively eliminates collective bargaining for public-sector employees in Wisconsin, except for wage bargaining.

Gov. Walker and Wisconsin Republicans attempted to negotiate with the missing 14 state senators who had disappeared across state lines to Illinois. The state senators' AWOL antics denied the Republican officials in Madison the necessary quorum it needed to go forward with the budget repair bill.
In the end, the Senate’s 19 Republicans approved the measure, 18 to 1, without any debate on the floor or a single Democrat in the room.
"In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin,” said Mark Miller, the leader of the Senate Democrats who fled to Illinois on Feb. 17 to block just such a vote from occurring. “Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.”
The outrage enveloping the many pro-union and anti-Walker protesters and supporters was palpable.

"I think it's akin to political hara-kiri," said Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar). "I think it's political suicide."

Gov. Walker offered a brief statement,

"The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused," Walker said. "In order to move the state forward, I applaud the Legislature's action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government."
Similarly, Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)summarized his party's committment to the Wisconsin voters with,

"The people of Wisconsin elected us to do a job," his statement said. "They elected us to stand up to the broken status quo, stop the constant expansion of government, balance the budget, create jobs and improve the economy. The longer the Democrats keep up this childish stunt, the longer the majority can't act on our agenda."
To be sure, the main stream media will be abuzz about the turnaround of events in Wisconsin, especially the liberal-leaning media. Boycotts will ensue, walk-outs and other planned protests will also follow.

For example, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore announced on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show last night that all high school students in the nation should boycott the bill's passage by staying home from school Friday.

In the end, however, Gov. Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans were duly elected by the citizens of the Badger state to fulfill a promise to fix the budget and set the state on a course of fiscal sanity.

The Governors of other states will be watching closely how Walker did not back down amidst immense political pressure, especially in a state where collective bargaining for public-sector workers was basically invented.

Ultimately, the newly elected, 44-year-old governor of a historically blue state, Scott Walker, has taught some of the other Republican governors like Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels and John Kasich a thing or two about grit.
And even though his poll and popularity ratings will suffer in the short-term, in the long run, Gov. Walker will be seen as a trailblazer of sorts, fighting for what's right for taxpayer's, not just what's popular.

And he may have even one-upped Mr. "Tiger Blood' himself.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The 'Hidden' Cost of Democracy

While the mostly peaceful throngs of citizens, activists and protesters alike have enveloped Madison Wisconsin's historic Capitol Building over the past two weeks, there's one cost that few Badger State officials would've predicted -- a $7.5 million dollar 'repair' bill.

It's kinda ironic, huh?

As it turns out, the thousands of pro-union and anti-Walker crowds have capriciously and without respect for public property, damaged an enormous amount of expensive marble, among other things, throughout Madison's Statehouse.

Although this price tag, on its face, seems ridiculously high, the fact is, the building was not designed as a crash pad and rallying spot for an angry mob.

There's a rule in the Capitol Building that 'no tape or other adhesive' may be used to affix items to any part of the building. In fact, when signs or communications are necessary, easel boards are displayed. The specific oils and chemicals in different types of tapes and adhesives tend to seep into the porous stone surface of marble and granite, if left too long. It creates a 'stain' that, left alone, causes discoloration.

Take a look at this local Fox News affiliate video that explains the damage.

It's also surprising that the State Fire Marshall did not intervene at some point. Surely a crowd of this size, holed-up in a building not designed to mimic Lambeau Field in Green Bay, would certainly violate the 'persons-allowed' occupancy laws that exist?

The only question left to ask is: which labor union will get the contract to repair the Capitol Building?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hucked Up!

I have always liked former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. He's easy on the ears and has the calming effect of a erudite psychologist; his Southern Baptist charm and sensibilities reveal Huckabee's small-town cache. Music stars, Hollywood moguls, John Q. Public and of course - politicos of every persuasion - open up to him.

However, the 2008 Republican presidential primary candidate, and presumably 2012 presidential GOP candidate has a new public relations problem. It's actually turning into a nightmare.

Huckabee, while being  interviewed via radio by WOR's Steve Malzberg on March 1, 2011, had this to say regarding president Barack Obama:

After news of Huckabee’s Freudian slip about Barack Obama spread, Huckabee went silent himself. He dispatched a spokesman, J. Hogan Gidley, to assert that Huckabee “merely misspoke” and that Huckabee “meant to say the president grew up in Indonesia.”

Huckabee claimed,

“One thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American … But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British are a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.”

After listening to the WOR radio interview myself, it would be very wise for Mike Huckabee to get out in front of this story. He should have a press conference, and without equivocation, he should denounce what he said in a passionate apology.
Huckabee is a seasoned politician and has wide appeal through his Mike Huckabee show on Fox News. His biggest hurdle will be his "Mau Mau" revolution reference. That suggests that he wasn't talking about Indonesia as his press release states, but of Kenya.

Again, he must get out in front of this story forthwith, or suffer the consequences. I think he will speak publicly on this matter, and like any good Christian, his true character will surface by apologizing and asking for forgiveness.

After all, contrition is sometimes more powerful than rhetoric.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Primer on Government Inefficiency - 'Fed Style'

Remember when $10 million dollars meant something? Nowadays, such denominations are merely rounding errors for many of our Federal Government agencies and their myriad profligate spending programs.

In today's Wall Street Journal, reporter Damian Paletta reminds us in his 'Billions in Bloat Uncovered in Beltway' article of how millions quickly add up to billions.

Thanks to the stalwart fiscal oversight of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla), a report was commissioned on the Fed's cornucopia of redundancy, inconsistency and mismanagement -- also known as -- waste, fraud and abuse.

According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office,

The U.S. government has 15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, more than 20 separate programs to help the homeless and 80 programs for economic development.

This GAO report unfurls some interesting tidbits and is merely a microcosm of a wider problem -- the explosive growth of government. Just think, the savings alone in some of the proposed agency and program consolidations equates to the gross national product of many small countries.

And of course, it's not like president Obama hasn't made infrastructure one of his main tenets for his 'Winning the Future' campaign.

The report adroitly reveals,

The report said five divisions within the Department of Transportation account for 100 different programs that fund things like highways, rail projects and safety programs.

One program that funnels transportation funds to the states "functions as a cash-transfer general-purpose grant program, rather than as a tool for pursuing a cohesive national transportation policy," the report said. Similarly, it chided the government over encouraging federal agencies to purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles while having policies that agencies reduce electricity consumption. It said government agencies have purchased numerous vehicles that run on alternative fuels only to find many gas stations don't sell alternative fuels. This has led government agencies to turn around and request waivers so they didn't have to use alternative fuels.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said the president's budget for fiscal year 2012 "proposes to cut waste, inefficiency and bureaucracy by consolidating over 55 separate highway programs into five core programs, and by merging six transit programs into two programs."

The aforementioned subterfuge reminds me a lot of our very own DelDOT agency. But I digress.

While Congress is mostly to blame, it is incumbent upon any president as executive leader to not-so-subtly remind the legislative branch that the fox can't always be expected to watch the hen-house.

However, I do give president Obama kudos for his Jan 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed where he calls for a federal regulations review so the business community isn't hampered so much.

Obama points out,

Over the past two years, the goal of my administration has been to strike the right balance. And today, I am signing an executive order that makes clear that this is the operating principle of our government.

This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It's a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades.

Let's hope that real and serious reports like the GAO one becomes the rule rather than the exception. And likewise, the president makes good on his promise to streamline anti-business regulations that punish, rather than reward, entrepreneurs.

As hardworking taxpayers, we could use a dose of equilibrium on our nation's fiscal ledger. Currently, our spending promises far outweigh our ability to reconcile with something called reality.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is American Exceptionalism Dead?

Recall then-vice-presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del) pontificating the likeliness of an “international crisis’ that would “test the mettle of this guy” – referring to then-candidate Barack Obama during the campaign of 2008?

Since the time Biden uttered those remarks at a Seattle campaign fundraiser event, he’s mostly been right. Who’d a thunk it?

Yet, the irony of all of this premonitory soothsaying is that president Obama, along with his administration, still does not have a clear and cogent foreign policy strategy that gives meaning to what the U.S. stands for. Our guiding principle, as portrayed by the White House, is to wet one’s finger and see which way the wind blows.

We all sat back in disbelief as a Green Revolution enveloped the streets and plazas of Tehran during the summer of 2009, only to be trounced by a megalomaniac nicknamed A-Jad and supported by the theocratic mullahs. Where was the U.S.?

Now we are faced with a new crisis. After it took a few days or weeks for the White House and State Department to figure out just who the bad guy was in Cairo, another decades-long authoritarian ruler has one-upped Mr. Mubarak.

Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi has gone mad. He’s ordered his own citizens killed, brought in paid mercenaries from other nearby North African nations and believes he will be a martyr in the Bedouin tradition for his actions.

Where’s the official statement from our administration? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made one prosaic statement saying effectively that “this sort of behavior is unacceptable.” Of course it’s 'unacceptable.' He’s killing innocent Libyans, threatening to burn down important oil fields near Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, and has all but caused Israel to soil its collective pants, especially since Egypt’s once-friendly, decades-long policy towards Israel is now in flux.

Meanwhile, news sources report that a radical branch of Al-Qaeda is forming in the eastern portion of Libya and has already made veiled threats against any non-Muslims. Even Iran is breaking with past restrictions and has sent two navy warships through the Suez Canal (something that has not been allowed by Egypt since the 1979 Iranian Revolution). Iranian Defense Ministry officials explain, “It’s only a military training exercise.” It looks more like planned provocation and saber-rattling to me.

Washington Post Op-Ed writer Charles Krauthammer offered this advice a few weeks ago,

We need a foreign policy that not only supports freedom in the abstract but is guided by long-range practical principles to achieve it - a Freedom Doctrine composed of the following elements:

(1) The United States supports democracy throughout the Middle East. It will use its influence to help democrats everywhere throw off dictatorial rule.

(2) Democracy is more than just elections. It requires a free press, the rule of law, the freedom to organize, the establishment of independent political parties and the peaceful transfer of power. Therefore, the transition to democracy and initial elections must allow time for these institutions, most notably political parties, to establish themselves.

(3) The only U.S. interest in the internal governance of these new democracies is to help protect them against totalitarians, foreign and domestic. The recent Hezbollah coup in Lebanon and the Hamas dictatorship in Gaza dramatically demonstrate how anti-democratic elements that achieve power democratically can destroy the very democracy that empowered them.

(4) Therefore, just as during the Cold War the United States helped keep European communist parties out of power (to see them ultimately wither away), it will be U.S. policy to oppose the inclusion of totalitarian parties - the Muslim Brotherhood or, for that matter, communists - in any government, whether provisional or elected, in newly liberated Arab states.

It's been at least 72 hours since Qadaffi ordered his henchmen to kill those in opposition to his rule without nary a remark from our president. Apparently Obama has other more important things to worry about such as ordering U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Aside from Obama’s apologetic rhetoric abroad and his insidious attempt to eschew American Exceptionalism in the name of gentlemanliness, Obama is not leading us. He’s often naïve in world affairs and he’s not proactive in foreign policy. Simply being the anti-Bush president is not a policy.

But he's a heckuva community organizer. And that's what dictators like Ahmadinejad, Mubarak, Kim Jong il and Qadaffi hope for.

To be sure, the federal budget crisis, job creation and social issues like the DOMA law are all important things; however, I'd like to hear at least a peep from Obama on the Libya debacle.

And please hold the platitudes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Transparency 101

I was forwarded this link from a friend. It reveals a potentially troubling attempt by the Obama administration to utilize social networking for propaganda purposes.

It’s one thing to have supporters of any political party or ideology to champion specific messaging via Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube. However, it is quite another thing to create, from whole cloth, a narrative bereft of real persons. And from an administration that purports to be ‘transparent’ where duplicity is the exception rather than the rule, I find this alarming.

It’s no secret that the battle in Wisconsin has created a watershed moment, a battle-royale of sorts, for politicians, public sector unions and the wider public across the nation.

Large unions like the Service Employees International Union and others have called for numerous protests across the U.S. this week and this month. And that is the SEIU’s right; it is afforded by the unambiguous language in our U.S. Constitution.

What is not a right is the use of clandestine political communiqués such as the aforementioned ‘fake’ social media users as a stratagem to influence an unwitting public. I am all for a public debate on this monolithic subject and others; however, for any White House administration (Nixon’s notwithstanding) to attempt to ‘trick’ us under the guise of free speech, is scandalous.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lead and They Will Follow: Gov. Walker Shows Courage and Leadership in Battleground State

Bravo to Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) for standing up for all of the citizens of the Badger State, as a minority of public sector union workers, teachers, correctional officers and other civil servants foment demagoguery and fail to do their jobs.

With a $3.6 billion budget gap as a backdrop, the Wisconsin governor must confront reality and re-tool the state’s fiscal problem before it weighs down future growth and crowds out investment. And, unlike the federal government, states are obligated by law to balance their budget. Thus, Gov. Walker is acting like the grown-up in the room.

Wisconsin’s newly-elected Governor, in a press conference speech given late Friday in the rotunda of the State capitol, explained to the press and the audience that “We are broke.” He went on to say that the majority of workers and citizens alike in the state support his bill. He wants state workers to pay one-half of their pension costs and 12.6 percent of their health benefits. Currently, most state employees pay nothing for their pensions and virtually nothing for their health insurance.

Governor Walker reminded everyone that a lot of untruths are being spun about his plan, and even responded to a reporter’s question about how the president interjected himself into the fray. “I know the president has enough to worry about regarding the federal budget, he should let our state take care of our own issues,” said Walker. Obama told a Milwaukee television reporter,

“Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions."

This interjection reminds me a lot of the Louis ‘Skip’ Gates’ debacle in the summer of 2009 where Obama gave his opinion on an incident where a Massachusetts police lieutenant attempted to arrest a friend and Harvard colleague of the president’s.

Mr. Walker also gave a brief history lesson about unions and the state. He said that Wisconsin civil service laws date back over one-hundred years and are considered to be the best of any state. Thus, any collective bargaining rights that the public sector unions think they’ll lose is moot. Simultaneously as he made the aforementioned remark, and what seemed like a well-orchestrated play, the distinct murmurs and noise from thousands of labor supporters chanting outside the building, could be heard.

Walker even acknowledged the crowd protesting outside while explaining how it’s their right to peacefully assemble. But it is not o.k. for politically-elected state senators to flee their responsibility and hide in places like Rockville, Illinois. Instead, these recalcitrant public officials should do their job.

Another unique twist to this story that has the nation watching is how the Obama administration seems to be colluding with politicians and union leaders in Madison. Former Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine, now the chairman of the DNC, is gathering behind-the-scenes help from the White House’s political operation, Organizing for Obama, who got involved quietly Monday authorizing chapters to try to strategize other pro-union rallies in states like nearby Ohio.

Even former progressive president Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew the implications of public sector union overreach when he wrote at the height of the New Deal:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.

To be sure, public sector workers, whether they are unionized or not, are a very important part of our society. They support all citizens. In municipalities, towns and cities alike, they can be counted on to teach our children, to protect our streets and homes, to ensure families receive the necessary care and help that they need; they even collect our trash.

However, the bare truth is, the inordinate amount of unfunded liabilities associated with public sector unions like in Wisconsin and elswhere, cannot be sustained without necessary reforms.

Larry Kudlow explains:

Nationwide, state and local government unions have a 45 percent total-compensation advantage over their private-sector counterpart. With high-pay compensation and virtually no benefits co-pay, the politically arrogant unions are bankrupting America -- which by some estimates is suffering from $3 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Unions are not unlike a cartel. They eschew competition and subjugate the taxpayer's to unnecessary demands. A vicious circle follows. Public officials who generously compensate workers often receive votes, contributions and campaign assistance from those same employees and their union leaders. The taxpayer does not get such preferential treatment.

See Gov. Walker's FULL 14 Min. Feb. 18, 2011 Press Conference Here