Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

So Close to Understanding

30.07.2008 (4:11 pm) – Filed under: Conservatism,Liberalism,Politics ::

As in the conservative camp, there are smart liberals and dumb ones.  When I encounter one of the former, my usual reaction is horror at the enormity of what such an intelligent person might do with his/her unfortunate ideals.  Yet sometimes they give me hope.  Christy Hardin-Smith shows signs of being such a person.  Today she wrote:

This nation of ours is in trouble. Divisions run rampant, and economic strain pushes far too many of us to the brink of disaster.  What we need in this moment is real leadership — someone who will stand up and be honest, inspire unity of purpose across all the fractured battle lines and levels of power.  

But the reality is that we get the leaders we demand in this country. 

And, for the last few years, we haven’t been standing up and demanding much beyond "keep me safe" and "I’d like some for me," which, unfortunately, has been far too much of the norm for far too many in America.

We need to stop and think. 

By reaching out to help raise someone else out of the darkness, we enlighten ourselves as well.  By reaching out to help educate a fellow American about the disparities and needs of the less fortunate, and planting that seed of empathy and understanding, we all benefit from more connections.  By realizing that no matter our more petty differences or our arguments over political differences that have been amplified through years and years of fostered fractures to benefit a few — that most of us stand in the same shoes of wanting better for our families, working hard to make progress and being desperate for hope for the future that things will be better if we all work toward a greater good together.

Our children deserve better than they are getting.

Strong stuff and pretty accurate, though I question the "fostered fractures" phrasing as it denies voters’ intelligence and ability to discern their interests for themselves.  I generally vote Republican because I believe it’s in my best interests to do so, not because of some political conspiracy, real or imagined.

Cut to the chase: I’m on board with everything Christy says in her warm-up prose.  The problem comes in with the assumption she makes about how to attack the problems she identifies:

This is not an age for caution.  There is far too much work desperately needed on far too many fronts that have been deliberately neglected, shoved down, and utterly dismantled by the Republican anti-government success brigades.  What we need is leadership that pushes all of this work forward.

In this view, the government is the primary actor responsible for moving things forward, for making progress, and anyone who disagrees with that postulation is anti-success, anti-American.  While this undoubtedly plays well on the left fringe, it’s anything but a panacea.

Still, hers is an interesting article because it serves to point out how much Americans have in common, whether on the left or right.  At the same time it’s also discouraging because, for all of Christi’s insight, she can’t seem to get past the false idol of government as surrogate parent to the unfortunate.  This is true even as she proves that she knows better:

But we cannot wait for that leadership to come from anyone else.  If we do, we’ll be waiting an awfully long time, because most folks would rather sit back and keep their head down and hope that someone else will do the work for them.  Let’s not be those people.  We must be the leaders we wish to see, to work for the change we know we need…to push for the reform that must come.  The American dream is not simply that you accumulate things through increased wealth, and we need a big reminder of that.  The America I love gives all of us a chance to work toward the best for us all — because it is we, the people, for whom the government ought to be working.

So true.  Americans do need to stand up and take personal responsibility for the success of our nation back into our own hands. 

How to do that is the question.  Christi’s response, which seems like one typical of a liberal, is to use the government in new ways to provide more benefits to American citizens.  Increasing budgets, programs, and entitlements.  But that approach ignores the history of government’s failure to deliver on its promises efficiently and raises the most pertinent question of all:  Where will the money to do this come from?

In reality, what’s really needed is a big dose of Ron Paul-style "anti-government" policies and the re-opening of free markets in the medical and financial spaces.  Health care and social security have been two of government’s biggest failures and are at the top of most Americans’ honey-do lists of items they’d like the new president to fix.  Neither is likely to happen, however, in an environment that regards enlarging government as a given.

Christi’s diagnosis is a good one.  Unfortunately the cure she prescribes for what ails America is a poison pill.  She got close and yet is so far away.

Church Shootings Sad, Indicative

29.07.2008 (6:54 am) – Filed under: Crime,Religion,Society ::

Sunday’s shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was an event that proves even the places that are most sacred to us are not inviolable, that we must be ever-vigilant if we’re to keep evil at bay.  If only that were possible in this world.

Jim David Adkisson was by several accounts an unstable individual who matches the profile of a man who would do exactly what he did in that church.  As a former attendee, he presumedly was disaffected because the church began to embrace more and more liberal views of morality.  In that respect it’s difficult to blame him for his anger – there are clearly aspects of our society that should not be part of church life.

Yet instead of dealing with the world as it exists, Jim Adkisson went off the deep end.  Again.  Previously he’d put a gun to his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s head and threatened to kill her.  Even his friends acknowledge he had a dark, dark side that threatened to engulf him at times.  It’s actions that define a man, not his attitudes, and Jim Adkisson’s actions were those of a murderous fiend, all the more hideous for having been taken in a church. 

After singing the praises of Universalism, RJ Eskow says that it is conservative leaders and media who are to blame for the shooting.

Who really killed those Unitarians? Was it the preachers who spread hatred and intolerance? The politicians who court and flatter them instead of condemning their hate speech? The media machine that attacks liberals, calls them "traitors" and suggests you speak to them "with a baseball bat"? The economic system that batters people like Jim Adkisson until they snap, then tells them their real enemies are gays and liberals and secular humanists?

If you ask me, it was all of the above.

You killed them, Pat Robertson. You killed them, Pastor Hagee. You killed them, Ann Coulter. You killed them, Dick Morris and Sean Hannity and the rest of you at Fox News.

Sadly, there seems to be some agreement among those commenting that RJ’s view is valid.  I’d dismiss his article with a sneer and call it liberal opportunism, which it plainly is, except it’s worse than that.

Over time society changes as a result of a constant agitation by the people in it.  Now freeze society for an instant and examine who the change agents are.  There are many, of course, and all with different views of what "improvements" should be made to America.  These views are aggregated and dulled during a vetting process before implementation – such is the nature of a republican state.  Few are made happy and the process continues, with one group standing out as an agent of change.

Liberalism its name by actively seeking to expand the definition of acceptability on two fronts:  increasing the role of government and expanding the range of acceptable peoples and behaviors in society.  Both of these expansionary agendas have deservedly met with opposition and only a fool would expect otherwise.

It’s ironic when a RJ Eskow pens a rant against the destructive forces of capitalism or such rot but never acknowledges that liberalism is the champion of change and the disruption that change brings with it.  This fundamental fact can never be discussed by liberals, however, because it decries the myth of infallibility that is at the core of the movement.

This failure of integrity is unfortunate because it puts at risk the positive changes that liberalism has made in western societies:  unfettered education, women’s rights, the end of segregation, to name a few.  Liberalism once did great things for America.  But by failing to ask the question, "Is what we’re doing still right?", it’s a movement that has gone too far and gotten off-course. 

A little government intervention in the right areas is a good thing.  Too much and it becomes a morass of corruption and self-perpetuating bureaucracy.  Tolerance of people with different, even perverse views and lifestyles or a good thing.  Improperly defining them as equivalent and equal to standard moral behavior is not because doing so tells a lie and diminishes the basic values on which society is built.  But these truths can never be told.  Indeed, these questions can never asked.

Jim Adkisson snapped and murdered the very people who he should have gone to for help.  But whether it was because of his personal failure to deal with the competition of capitalism, the influence of an abrasive neo-conservative media business, or because liberalism jammed a false world view of moral equivalency down his throat is highly debatable.

It’s also irrelevant.  A man is responsible for his own actions.  Jim Adkisson’s failure to control himself is both sad and indicative of the conflict at work in the hearts of many Americans, people who are unable reconcile the disconnect between politically correct liberal values, what they see in the popular media, and what they know in their heart to be right.

Referring specifically to Adkisson’s anger over acceptance of gays in the Unitarian church it should be noted that the Bible does clearly call homosexuality a sin.  For a Christian church this fact should not be ignored.  Yet homosexuality is rarely mentioned in the Good Book.  Perhaps that’s because it’s so obviously wrong that no further mention was deemed necessary.  Or perhaps because it’s a relatively unimportant sin. 

I’m inclined to believe both are true.  We all fall short of perfection, whether gay, straight, black, or white.  Somehow Jim Adkisson forgot that, quite possibly because of all of the lies he was forced to witness, act out, and subjugate himself to simply by being part of modern America. 

He became, as Eskow says, a monster.  But while blaming Ann Coulter, et al, RJ shouldn’t forget his own movement’s integral contribution to the making of a madman.

Birth Control Rules

22.07.2008 (5:19 pm) – Filed under: Parenting,Women's Rights ::

Following on to yesterday’s piece about birth (and death) control, here’s more from ABC News:

The Department of Health and Human Services draft proposal, which began circulating around Capitol Hill last week, would require hospitals receiving federal funds to certify that, in their hiring, they do not discriminate against people who refuse to provide forms of contraception, such as birth control pills, due to personal religious beliefs.

Hillary Clinton started the revolt and now 104 members of the House have written a letter to President Bush, saying:

"The regulation’s definitions are so broad as to go far beyond abortion politics and threaten virtually any law or policy designed to protect women’s access to safe and effective birth control. The department does this primarily by defining ‘abortion’ in a way that could sweep in many common forms of birth control," the lawmakers write in the letter.

"It would allow any provider, who wants to deny a woman emergency contraception or even birth control pills, to claim protection based on a personal belief that such pills fit the regulatory definition."

This last bit is interesting.  From the vantage point the pols are taking, the rule may deny patients access to contraception.  As they say, this is neither right nor desirable.  Yet that is not the end of the discussion, for it’s also not right to force a doctor to provide a service he/she finds morally repugnant.

The obvious solution is for the patient to simply find a doctor whose moral values are harmonious.  That’s perfect!  Free choice and everyone is happy, right?  Or they would be, if patients had unrestricted access to medical providers.

Unfortunately this is not the case.  Low-income patients are often unable to choose physicians freely because of transportation and cost issues.  Even privately insured patients are often denied the ability to choose a compatible doctor due to insurance plan restrictions.  In other words, the problem is with the American health care system itself, not the rules that would guarantee physicians’ rights to practice medicine as their conscience guides them to.

Be that as it may it’s undoubtedly the administration’s attempt to enforce the law that will draw heat from the letter’s writers and their supporters while the defective system will muddle onward and downward, particularly if a Democratic universal coverage plan is enacted.  No point in dealing with the root of the problem, is there?

Meanwhile, the self-appointed advocates for female emancipation are out for blood.  Echidne says that, "The Best Contraceptive Pill…According to the abstinence folks is probably an aspirin firmly held between the woman’s knees."

Holding onto such a magic pill would certainly be good advice for teenage girls, particularly those in socio-economic brackets in which their rapacious beaus have an extraordinary propensity to fail to provide fatherhood to their unfortunate progeny.

Despite the many virtues of childhood chastity – teen pregnancy being only the most obvious – both Echidne and Digby have new posts up raking Christian purity balls over the coals. 

From Time’s level treatment of the father/daughter events:

GIRLS RECITING PLEDGE:…to remain sexually pure…until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. … I know that God requires this of me.. that he loves me…and that he will reward me for my faithfulness.

Purity is certainly a loaded word–but is there anyone who thinks it’s a good idea for 12-year-olds to have sex? Or a bad idea for fathers to be engaged in the lives of their daughters and promise to practice what they preach? Parents won’t necessarily say this out loud, but isn’t it better to set the bar high and miss than not even try?

In response, Digby says:

Some of these little girls are only six years old. They don’t even know what their "purity" means until daddy tells them that it belongs to him, the "high priest" in his home. And no, it’s not a good idea for dads to be this involved in their daughter’s nascent sex lives. In fact, it’s completely inappropriate and weird for a daughter to pledge her virginity into her father’s keeping for him to "give" to her husband. Are we really going to pretend that the "memories" they are making with this sick shit is something to celebrate?

Whether Digby agrees or not, it’s certainly true that two of the best things young men and women can bring into a new marriage are a pure heart and a pure body.  It’s deceit of the highest order to pretend that promiscuity doesn’t hurt young people and girls more so than boys, whether the sex results in an unwanted pregnancy or not.  Couching the lie in the guise of women’s rights does not make it more true. 

That said, there is something in her post, despite its liberal use of repellent anti-Christian dogma, that strikes a chord with me.  Specifically, the near obsession that some men have with the romantic activities of their teenage daughters. 

The dictation of rules such as no boyfriends, no holding hands, no phone calls, etc., are common policies in the homes of some Christian families.  Not the majority, to be sure, but still common.  While usually well-intentioned, I don’t agree that "no tolerance" rules for boy-girl contact are best for a young lady’s emotional growth.

Perhaps this opinion stems from a bad relationship I had with a teenage girl’s father, but there’s something fundamentalist about fathers who exercise too much direct control over a girl’s body, something faintly disturbing, even if it never manifests itself in a Muslim-style honor killing, say.

Some parents disagree, saying that anything that keeps a girl from coming home from the high school dance knocked up is justifiable.  Parenting is, after all, a question of priorities and it’s up to individual families to set their own, with or without Digby’s approval.

I lead a Christian book study group and my back of the envelope numbers tell me that a vast majority of the people who have been through my class have had to carry the burden of a "pre-marriage" pregnancy.  Frankly, after what some of these guys (and gals) have been through because they made bad sexual choices when they were young, I find it hard to condemn any father or mother for clamping down on their daughters’ choices.  That’s true even though I don’t always agree with their approaches.

Digby is right that purity pledges should wait until a girl or boy understands the meaning of what they are promising.  It’s only then that a meaningful promise can be made.  There we part company because children would be both godly and wise to refrain from sexual activity at least until they are independent adults.  Why?  Because they are neither emotionally or fiscally capable of assuming the consequences of their actions.

If it takes a girl making a purity pledge to her father to reach that end, so be it.

Birth and Death Control

21.07.2008 (9:39 pm) – Filed under: Medicine,Privacy,Right to Die,Women's Rights ::

Hillary Clinton writes that the Bush Administration’s impending clampdown on access to birth control and "morning after" pills is outrageous interference in the lives of women.  She’s right, of course, although the decision also impacts men only a little less directly.

These rules pose a serious threat to providers and uninsured and low-income Americans seeking care. They could prevent providers of federally-funded family planning services, like Medicaid and Title X, from guaranteeing their patients access to the full range of comprehensive family planning services. They’ll also build significant barriers to counseling, education, contraception and preventive health services for those who need it most: low-income and uninsured women and men.

The regulations could even invalidate state laws that currently ensure access to contraception for many Americans.

It should be understood that contraception is not a right guaranteed by either the Constitution or any holy writ of which I am presently aware.  It is, however, a basic aspect of life that should fall under the control of citizens of a modern nation.  If the Bush administration persists in butting its peeping Tom head into the bedrooms of Americans it deserves a punch in the nose.

A significant majority of Americans say that morning after pills should be readily available and I agree with them.  Indeed, the people have spoken repeatedly on this issue.  President Bush’s steadfastness, so admirable when it comes to fighting terrorism abroad, is foolish and invasive as relates to personal birth control choices.  None of the mechanisms HRC describes could reasonably be categorized as abortions; the comparison is absurd, as is the notion that governments should be involved in the issue at all.

Government control is equally prevalent at the opposite end of life.  Because of ready access to certain deadly concoctions, Mexico is a favorite destination for the terminally ill – as well as friends/family of the same – who are ready for a peaceful end to life or simply want insurance against the pain of disease.

…aging and ailing people seeking a quick and painless way to end their lives say there is no easier place on earth than Mexico to obtain pentobarbital, a barbiturate commonly known as Nembutal.

Once widely available as a sleep aid, it is now used mostly to anesthetize animals during surgery and to euthanize them. Small bottles of its concentrated liquid form, enough to kill, can be found not on the shelves of the many discount pharmacies in Tijuana but in its pet shops, which sell a wide variety of animals, as well as medications and other supplies for them.

As the availability of such medicines has become more widely known, steps have been taken to keep the drugs from being sold and from being taken back to countries where they are sought after, Australia and the U.S., to name two.

The Catholic church calls suicide a mortal sin and many western governments have outlawed assisting a person in ending their life.  People on both sides of the debate have strong feelings.

“It’s awful to me,” Mr. Velazquez, the Tijuana veterinarian and pharmacy owner, said of euthanasia. “I think people should live as long as God decides.”

That’s a point of view that I’m sympathetic to.  However, ultimate responsibility for one’s conduct during life lies with the individual, not with the state.  State-mandated prosecution of individuals who help grant the wishes of terminally ill people who wish to end their lives is, on the face of it, just as foolish as attempting to dictate birth control methods.  It is certainly not the place of the state to judge God’s laws for Him.

It is true, I think, that condoning assisted suicide would lead to abuses of the practice.  That’s the sole redeeming aspect of the current ban – it’s unequivocal, even if it’s wrong.  Then again, the purpose of courts is to decide the legality of cases that fall into moral and ethical gray areas.  Must every aspect of life and death be scripted by the law?

Not in my opinion.  In its attempt to legislate and adjudicate perfect justice, western societies have entangled themselves in a mass of legalistic nonsense that is both ever-present and inescapable.  One can neither live nor die without getting permission, it seems, from the state, something that’s particularly troubling at a time when the American government is increasing its surveillance of our communications and monitoring of our travel.

Enough is enough.  Have we not even the right to manage our own bodies without Uncle Sam poking his head around the corner to say, "Don’t touch that!"?  The law should only be used to define basic morality.  The rest is between us and God.  Governments would do well to remember that.

Nuclear Power, Waste, and Theft

21.07.2008 (1:19 pm) – Filed under: Energy,France,Middle East ::

William Tucker, author of the forthcoming book "Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Can Lead the Green Revolution and End America’s Long Energy Odyssey", says that nuclear power is both safe and required if we are to ensure that the electrical demands of Americans are met.

I’ve written about this before, often enough to bore, frankly, and sometimes it’s quite a chore to go over the point once more.  Yet it’s inescapable that France, the geniuses behind the quick surrender to fascism and rioting "discontented youths", now gets 3/4 of its electricity from nukes.  Oui, the French!

Rather than re-hash matters here, go read Tucker’s article.  Here’s the salient point:

Finally, the problem of radioactive waste has been absurdly exaggerated. More than 95% of the material in a spent fuel rod can be recycled for energy and medical isotopes.

We have a nuclear waste problem in this country because we gave up reprocessing in the 1970s. The fear was that terrorists or foreign nationals would steal plutonium from American reactors to build bombs. This is a bit like worrying that terrorists will steal all the gold from Fort Knox. Other countries have built bombs in the intervening years. They didn’t need American plutonium to do it.

Exactly. 

It’s not an exaggeration to say, however, that Fort Knox has been looted by oil-producing countries in the decades since our national cowardice in regard to nuclear power manifested itself as energy policy.  We guarded against the wrong disaster and now we’re paying the price, literally, to our enemies.

Given a choice between dealing with a Arabian sheik offering oil in one hand while holding a gun behind his back in the other and a white-coated American nuclear scientist, there ought to be no hesitation whatever on the part of American leadership.

Global Warming Science

18.07.2008 (10:56 am) – Filed under: Energy,Environment ::

Dr. David Evans, a pioneer in the modeling of climate change, now says that there’s no definitive evidence that man-made carbon emissions are contributing to global warming.  Moreover, he seems to question whether the phenomenon of rising temperatures even exists.

…since 1999 new evidence has seriously weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming, and by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming.

The satellites that measure the world’s temperature all say that the warming trend ended in 2001, and that the temperature has dropped about 0.6C in the past year (to the temperature of 1980).

Knowledge of this data is why the environmental movement now shies away from the term "global warming", preferring instead to talk about "climate change".

Read Dr. Evan’s editorial – it’s quite contrary to what Al Gore and the other climate change gurus are saying and, I think, more believable.

Finally, consider the question, "If man is changing the climate of Earth, what should be done about it?".

The only reasonable answer is through redoubled efforts to develop new technologies that provide the power that modern civilization demands.  No response that relies on utopian visions of our peaceful, non-industrial past is relevant.  Nor is such a retreat even possible without a de facto genocide.  Instead we must move forward by performing the hard work of developing new, clean sources of energy rather than retreating to the false, Luddite comfort of a bygone era.

The Value of Media Neutrality

14.07.2008 (8:46 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Media,Terrorism ::

The news that an AP reporter traveled in company with Taliban terrorists and filmed the execution of two Afghan women indicates that it can.  Many people are pretty upset about the AP reporter’s role in the murderous event and not without some justification.

Journalists are supposed to tell the story without bias or agenda.  Or that’s what they tell cub reporters in Journalism 101.  As we all know, reality is far different.  Whether from fear, as in most non-western nations, or out of voluntary allegiance to an ideology, as is too often the case in the U.S., many reporters put their opinions into the story, despite their profession’s ideals.

At times it’s hard to blame them.  Reporters see things that most of us don’t.  Citizens usually consume only the sanitized version of the news after the military, police, and media clean it up for us.  It must be difficult for them to maintain their objectivity at times.

But can being a neutral observer be taken too far?

The truth is that there’s a time when even the most reasoned objectivity has to be cast aside and sides chosen.  Wondering if the AP hasn’t in fact done so, Rusty Shackleford says:

In the context of this blog it is clear that the photos are meant to show what horrible evil we are fighting. But when the the AP chooses to use value neutral terms to provide context for the photos they cross a line into a moral relativism which is more than just unpatriotic, it’s downright disgusting!

Instead of calling the Taliban what they are–primae faciea war criminals & illegal combatants–they simply label them militants. Worse, they allow the Taliban to choose the words to describe the horrible murders of two women calling it an execution.

And, the more I think about it, this suggests the AP is worse than al Jazeera. Remember when we all were outraged about al Jazeera showing snuff videos produced by terrorists? This terrorist snuff video was filmed by the AP.

Confession:  I’ve not seen the video.  I don’t need those images rattling about in my head. 

Given what little that’s known about the killings, from the reporter’s perspective I can understand keeping the tape rolling, if for no other reason than we don’t know anything about his motivations.  Did Rahmatullah Naikzad know what was going to happen?  Did his hosts set up the event for him?  Was he an unwitting dupe, an ambitious fool, or an active participant in the murders?  Don’t know.  We may never know.  But we do know that he was one man, probably unarmed, in the company of killers.  It’s hard to blame him for his inaction.

As Rusty says, it may be a greater offense that the AP doggedly refuses to use the words that would identify the Talibani thugs for what they are:  cold-blooded murderers without redeeming qualities.  Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have that truth told, if only once?

Small wonder the AP wants to control bloggers’ use of their material in articles such as thing one.  What organization would want to have its own work used to damn it?

Bush Allows More Drilling

14.07.2008 (4:39 pm) – Filed under: General News ::

In a long overdue move, President Bush has lifted the ban on offshore oil and gas drilling that his father implemented more than 15 years ago.  The move gives oil and gas companies the freedom to explore for resources in areas they’ve long coveted, to the dismay of environmentalists.

Is this the answer to the nation’s energy woes?  Hardly.  But it’s a step that should have been taken long since.  Let’s have a cheer for the president’s belated action.  Perhaps 5-10 years down the line this action will benefit American energy consumers.

Mortgage Co. Bailout

13.07.2008 (10:31 pm) – Filed under: Finance ::

Two actions by the feds in D.C. are aimed at bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two large mortgage finance companies that are being dragged down by the domino effect of the mortgage mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. 

The NY Times says:

Alarmed by the sharply eroding confidence in the nation’s two largest mortgage finance companies, the Bush administration on Sunday asked Congress to approve a sweeping rescue package that would give officials the power to inject billions of federal dollars into the beleaguered companies through investments and loans.

In a separate announcement, the Federal Reserve said it would make one of its short-term lending programs available to the two companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Fed said that it had made its decision “to promote the availability of home mortgage credit during a period of stress in financial markets.”

What makes these companies special? 

The companies, known as government-sponsored enterprises, or G.S.E.’s, touch nearly half of the nation’s mortgages by either owning or guaranteeing them, and the debt securities they issue to finance their operations are widely owned by foreign governments, pension funds, mutual funds, big companies and other large institutional investors.

“G.S.E. debt is held by financial institutions around the world,” Mr. Paulson said in his statement. “Its continued strength is important to maintaining confidence and stability in our financial system and our financial markets. Therefore we must take steps to address the current situation as we move to a stronger regulatory structure.”

In other words, the U.S. can’t afford to default on payments owed to investors in the two companies lest an international run on U.S. debt begin in earnest.  The slide in the dollar’s value is indicative of a lack of confidence in our country’s future, of course, and evidence that foreign investment in America is being made with at least some skepticism these days. 

Needless to say, this financial weakness is a potential vulnerability for a nation with enemies.  It’s the last thing that we need to have happen in this country, yet we did it to ourselves by failing to exercise even the rudiments of fiscal discipline in managing our personal debt loads.

Phil Gramm, a man I admire in many respects, says that Americans are whining while enjoying a fundamentally sound economic situation.  Yet we save virtually nothing – hence the term "negative savings rate" – while we indulge in consumption well beyond our means.

At a micro level, two major failures in judgment lead to this sorry state of affairs:

  1. a simple unwillingness to accept mathematical limitations on our ability to pay for new homes, cars, and electronics
  2. a seeming inability to acknowledge the cause-and-effect relationship between our inability to meet our obligations and the consequences that follow

Some have blamed the mess on predatory lenders, some of whom undoubtedly played a part, and others the politicians who updated financial regulations making markets more fluid.  But the truth is that Americans created this nightmare by being greedy and the situation isn’t going to resolve itself until there’s a fundamental shift in values, the first of which is to recognize that economic realities cannot be denied indefinitely.

No stimulus plan, tax cut, or social program, regardless of which political party’s muscle is behind it, can change the fact that Americans of all stripes must take stock of their financial limits and live within them.  Period.

John McCain says he’ll balance the federal budget if he’s elected president.  While I’m not sure that I believe in the senator’s new-found conservatism, this is a message that Americans need to receive loud and clear.  Moreover, we need to do the same in our homes and families.

Recessionary Whining

13.07.2008 (7:12 pm) – Filed under: Energy,Finance ::

Phil Gramm says that Americans whine too much about the problems in their lives and that the recession that many economists and pundits say we’re in is largely a product of their bruised psyches.

Gramm:

"You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession…"

"We may have a recession; we haven’t had one yet."

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners…"

"You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline…"

"We’ve never been more dominant; we’ve never had more natural advantages than we have today"

If only that were true.  Gramm’s quite right that we’re a nation of self-centered, self-entitled whiners.  One need look no further than the literary indulgences of the political blogosphere to be shown that in no uncertain terms.

Yet there are real causes to our current economic troubles, exorbitant energy prices, incompetent debt management, and confused national leadership foremost among them.  Our dominance, to the extent it exists, is in too large a part based on borrowed money and time.

While a positive mental outlook might ameliorate some of the effects of the economic slowdown, I’d say that a purposeful energy policy that accepts the realities of the marketplace and the need for domestic production – even at some risk to the environment – would do a damn sight more to improve Americans outlook about the future.

Instead, voters are about to empower a Democratic Congress and president to implement the exact opposite strategy.  Is it still whining when we’re injuring ourselves?  Or just desserts?

John at Powerline discusses one example for domestic oil production that has been shamefully neglected by the powers that be.  Can we really afford the luxury of ideological prevarication for the next 4 years while we send billions of value-diminished dollars into the bank accounts of people and countries of dubious reliability?

No.  Giving Democrats control over both houses of Congress and the presidency would be bad for the country’s energy policy and is one more reason why electing Barack Obama is a bad idea.