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Willisms

« February 2008 | WILLisms.com | April 2008 »

Quotational Therapy: Part 144 -- Obama & Words.

BHO, Circa 1995-

obamacollectivism.gif

We still don't know a lot about Barack Obama. He remains a blank slate-- a Rorschach inkblot test onto which people tend to project their own ideas. That being said, the Barack Obama narrative that has emerged in recent weeks does not inspire a lot of confidence. Sure, we've known that he is the most left-wing Senator in America (more left-wing that socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont). We knew he was out of the American mainstream with regard to policy-- that his radical roots would eventually catch up to him.

Still, the real Obama remains fairly unknown, especially compared to Hillary Clinton and John McCain (we know everything about these two), so any new piece of evidence expanding on what we know about Obama is important.

Enter a piece from 1995 in The Chicago Reader (that Ace of Spades and others are talking about) explaining Obama's worldview in the wake of the Million Man March:

It Takes A Village:

"In America," Obama says, "we have this strong bias toward individual action. You know, we idolize the John Wayne hero who comes in to correct things with both guns blazing. But individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations."

Obama & Reverend Wright:

"We have no shortage of moral fervor," said Obama. "We have some wonderful preachers in town--preachers who continue to inspire me--preachers who are magnificent at articulating a vision of the world as it should be. In every church on Sunday in the African-American community we have this moral fervor; we have energy to burn.

"But as soon as church lets out, the energy dissipates. We must find ways to channel all this energy into community building. The biggest failure of the civil rights movement was in failing to translate this energy, this moral fervor, into creating lasting institutions and organizational structures."

Bringing America Together:

"The right wing, the Christian right, has done a good job of building these organizations of accountability, much better than the left or progressive forces have. But it's always easier to organize around intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and false nostalgia. And they also have hijacked the higher moral ground with this language of family values and moral responsibility.

Channeling John Edwards:

We must deal with the forces that are depressing wages, lopping off people's benefits right and left, and creating an earnings gap between CEOs and the lowest-paid worker that has risen in the last 20 years from a ratio of 10 to 1 to one of better than 100 to 1.

Working Across The Aisle:

"These are mean, cruel times, exemplified by a 'lock 'em up, take no prisoners' mentality that dominates the Republican-led Congress.

Yikes. Yikes. And more yikes.

This guy is not only shockingly unqualified to lead the greatest nation on the planet, he also has these troubling collectivist impulses, an apparent enmity toward Republicans, poor judgment, and he surrounds himself with corrupt and venomous individuals. As John McCain's newest ad vaguely alludes to, Obama seems to play both sides of the "American exceptionalism" debate. Obama is a terrible choice for president on just about every level.

Words matter. Obama has a troubling pattern of using words to elevate collectivism and diminish the role of the individual.

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Ezra Levant.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on most Mondays and Fridays.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 March 2008 06:48 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 481 - Energy Intensity.

America Is Actually Pretty Energy Efficient-

People tend to complain about America's environmental record, but few of those same people are willing to acknowledge that America is actually quite a bit more energy efficient than it was many years ago. Instead, we hear that the environment is constantly getting worse in every way, that we are consuming perpetually more energy with no end in sight, and that we ought to be ashamed for civilization itself.

Relative to 1910, though, the picture gives us reason for optimism:

economyoutpacesco2levels.gif

America produces more energy with less carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, our economy has far outpaced both energy production and carbon dioxide production. America is not some terrible laggard:

...the United States is currently outperforming Europe in reducing energy intensity (the amount of energy used per unit of economic output) and greenhouse gases. According to the Department of Energy's latest annual report on the subject, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell by 1.5 percent in 2006, the first time they have fallen in a nonrecessionary year. It is likely that the United States is the only industrialized nation whose greenhouse gas emissions fell in 2006.

This also helps to explain why, despite truly record oil and gas prices (even adjusted for inflation), our economy has hung in there as well as it has. We're simply less energy intensive than we used to be, and most of these improvements can be chalked up to consumer and business preferences and behavior, not government mandates. In this era, strong economies no longer mean environmental distress; today, strong economies are closely associated with environmental protection.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 March 2008 07:23 PM · Comments (1)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 137.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

bushnewvp.gif

The actual caption:

President Bush stands with a bunny character as they watch the start of the White House Easter Egg Roll, Monday, March 24, 2008, on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

What is happening in the final year of the Bush administration?

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, April 1. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email via WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last Week's Photo:
hillaryrodhamsatan.gif

And... The Winners:

1. Michael:

Hillary has picked her running mate.

2. The Whistler:

The Prince of Darkness disavowed any remembrance of meeting Ms. Clinton. He claims that he poses for pictures with thousands of people and his staff does not take the time to fully vet each and every one of them.

He apologizes for distress this may have caused his followers.

3. Bigfoot:

♫Please allow me to introduce myself♫....

Captioning is almost as good as March Madness.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 March 2008 10:58 AM · Comments (16)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 480 -- Zimbabwe Proves Property Rights Matter.

Mugabe Is Disgraceful-

Zimbabwe today has few peers when it comes to destroying a thriving economy with bad policy. The Mugabe government there has dismantled what was just a decade ago a shining light of that part of Africa.

Zimbabweans will go to the polls this weekend and are expected to vote yet again for Robert Mugabe and his political party. In Zimbabwe, there is no free press, but this would be the perfect election for a "change" candidate who could ask the people whether they are better off than they were just a few years ago. Indeed, the anti-market high-handedness of the Mugabe government has undermined property rights, subverted the rule of law, chased away Zimbabwe's best and brightest, and driven Zimbabwe's economy into the tank:

zimbabwelandreform.gif

The costs are more than economic. They are human:

Mugabe and his cronies are chiefly responsible for an economic meltdown that has turned one of Africa's most prosperous countries into a country with one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. Since 1994, the average life expectancy in Zimbabwe has fallen from 57 years to 34 years for women and from 54 years to 37 years for men. Some 3,500 Zimbabweans die every week from the combined effects of HIV/AIDS, poverty, and malnutrition. Half a million Zimbabweans may have died already. There is no freedom of speech or assembly in Zimbabwe, and the state has used violence to intimidate and murder its opponents.

Meanwhile, inflation is somewhere around 24,000 percent.

It is a sad, sad story, and it is an extreme example of why property rights and free markets are so important to a functioning society.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Media Coverage On Iraq.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 March 2008 03:12 PM · Comments (0)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 136.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

hillaryrodhamsatan.gif

The actual caption:

US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) smiles during a campaign rally in St. Clairsville, Ohio February 27, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)

Way more happening in this photo. I am sure of it.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, March 25. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email via WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last Week's Photo:
splitzer.gif

And... The Winners:

1. Hoodlumman:

Eliot's encounter with his next "call girl" (right) would cost him 50% of his estate and $300 per billable hour.

2. rodney dill:

Eliot was embarrassed to find his wife and not Larry Craig in the next stall.

3. (submitted via email) Bruce F. Webster:

A long, awkward silence follows as Eliot and Silda Spitzer unexpectedly bump into one another just outside the Mayflower Hotel on Valentine's Day, 2008.

Captioning is good in the battle of good versus evil. Choose good.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 March 2008 07:53 PM · Comments (13)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Seventy-Four -- Barack Obama Has A Plan.

reformthursdayblue.gif

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph, every Thursday or so, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

Obama's Plan For Social Security.

Barack Obama has a plan for the future of Social Security. That's potentially good news, since it means it will inevitably pop up as an issue in debates this year. When people actually discuss and think about Social Security, it drives them toward reform. When looking at reform options, personal accounts are the best option out there.

Unfortunately, Obama's plan is just potentially good news. In reality, it's dreadfully awful. His plan is to raise the Social Security payroll cap. That's pretty much it. A tax hike. On Social Security.

The gist of the plan:

obamasocialsecurity.gif

Fascinatingly, Hillary Clinton has hardly made a peep about Barack Obama's plan to raise Social Security taxes. This is a huge issue. People don't like their Social Security being messed with, and Barack Obama's plan fundamentally changes the nature of the system. Right now, it's at least a faux-retirement plan. Obama's changes shatter any pretense of that, whatsoever. Obama's plan turns Social Security into a full-fledged collectivist wealth confiscation/redistribution program, both in practice and in perception.

This is what Obama says regarding Social Security, in his Blueprint For Change:

Protect Social Security

Obama will preserve Social Security by stopping any efforts to privatize it and working in a bipartisan way to preserve it for future generations.

....

Protect Social Security
Obama is committed to ensuring Social Security is solvent and viable for the American people, now and in the future. Obama will be honest with the American people about the long-term solvency of Social Security and the ways we can address the shortfall. Obama will protect Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries alike. And he does not believe it is necessary or fair to hardworking seniors to raise the retirement age. Obama is strongly opposed to privatizing Social Security.
Obama believes that the first place to look for ways to strengthen Social Security is the payroll tax system. Currently, the Social Security payroll tax applies to only the first $97,500 a worker makes. Obama supports increasing the maximum amount of earnings covered by Social Security and he will work with Congress and the American people to choose a payroll tax reform package that will keep Social Security solvent for at least the next half century.

....

Social Security and Pensions
In the midst of the 2005 debate over Social Security privatization, Obama gave a major speech at the National Press Club forcefully arguing against privatization. He also repeatedly voted against Republican amendments that aimed to privatize Social Security or cut benefits.

So, on the one hand, he'll be bipartisan and honest about the long-term challenges to the solvency of Social Security. On the other hand, he'll repeatedly work against Republicans and not do anything that actually addresses the solvency of Social Security.

Message to Obama and people who have bought into the notion of change: On Social Security, you are not the candidate of change. You are the candidate of 1930s-era status quo. You can't solve this thing in a bipartisan way if you're taking personal accounts off the table.

Some key elements of the Obama plan:

Mr. Obama's proposal is to make a significant change to the payroll tax system. Currently, all wages below about $100,000 are subject to a 12.4% Social Security payroll tax. But all wages above that amount are not subject to the tax. Mr. Obama wants to eliminate the cap, but, in a concession to taxpayers, exempt wages between $100,000 and $200,000. He wants to create a "donut hole" in the taxing mechanism that pays for the nation's largest retirement program.

The problem is two-fold: His proposal would be a very large tax hike, yet it won't be enough.

Mr. Obama's plan fixes less than half of Social Security's long-term deficit, making further tax increases inevitable. The Policy Simulation Group's Gemini model estimates that Mr. Obama's proposal, if phased as Mr. Obama suggests, would solve only part of the problem. A 10 year phase-in, for example, would address only 43% of Social Security's 75-year shortfall. And this is assuming that Congress would save the surplus from the tax increases -- almost $600 billion over 10 years -- rather than spending it, as Congress does now.

What's more, Mr. Obama's plan would keep Social Security in the black for only three additional years. Under his proposal, annual deficits would hit in 2020, instead of 2017. By the 2030s the system would still run an annual deficit exceeding $150 billion.

Mr. Obama's modest improvements to Social Security's financing come at a steep cost. The top marginal federal tax rates would effectively increase to 50.3% from 37.9%, equivalent to repealing the Bush income tax cuts almost three times over.

If one accounts for behavioral responses, even the modest budgetary improvements from Mr. Obama's plan are likely to be overstated. If employers reduce wages to cover their increased payroll-tax liabilities, these wages would no longer be subject to state or federal income taxes, or Medicare taxes. A 2006 study by Harvard economist and Obama adviser Jeffrey Liebman concluded that roughly 20% of revenue increases from raising the tax cap would be offset by declining non-Social Security taxes. Assuming modest negative behavioral responses, Mr. Liebman projected an additional 30% reduction in net revenues, leaving barely half the intended revenue intact.

Mr. Obama's plan would also dramatically raise incentives for tax evasion, further degrading revenue gains. Many high-earning individuals evade the Medicare payroll tax by setting up "S Corporations," paying themselves in untaxed dividends rather than taxable wages. John Edwards avoided $590,000 in Medicare taxes this way in the 1990s. Under Mr. Obama's plan, Mr. Edwards's savings would have exceeded $3 million. With that much at stake, the incentive to follow Mr. Edwards lead will be that much greater.

Mr. Obama's plan shows the limits to taxing the rich as a solution to Social Security's problems. Top earners would effectively be tapped out, with taxes as high as economically and politically feasible, yet most of Social Security's deficit, and the much larger shortfalls in Medicare, would remain.

The U.S. already collects far more Social Security taxes from high earners than other countries do. Social Security taxes here are currently capped at about three times the national average wage -- far above other developed countries. In Canada and France payroll taxes are levied only up to the average wage. In the United Kingdom, taxes stop at 1.15 times the average wage; in Germany and Japan at 1.5 times. Social Security is already more progressive than these countries' pension programs, and Mr. Obama's plan would make it more so.

The payroll tax rate has climbed substantially over the years:

payrolltaxratesup.gif

And yet, the system still careens toward insolvency. Obama's tax cap removal just amplifies the pain without even fixing the problem; Obama, on this one, seems to value process over results. As long as taxes are higher, it doesn't matter that the plan doesn't actually fix Social Security or make it a better, more fair program. Barack Obama would also deprive people of compound interest-bearing personal accounts.

The one intriguing thing about Obama's plan is that-- because it raises taxes so drastically on certain people-- it fundamentally weakens broad political support for Social Security, something "adults" in the Democratic Party would probably never let happen.

The clock is still ticking:


Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday or so for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform.

Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 13 March 2008 11:58 PM · Comments (2)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 135.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

splitzer.gif

The actual caption:

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer exits his Fifth Avenue residence with his wife, Silda, Wednesday, March 12, 2008, in New York. Spitzer announced at a news conference Wednesday that he would resign, following intense pressure to step down because of a prostitution scandal, effective Monday, March 17. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)

Hmm, yeah, there's a better caption available, I am sure.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, March 18. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email via WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last Week's Photo:
onemanonevote.gif

And... The Winners:

1. Wyatt Earp:

Kamaruzaman never understood the Malaysian rules for tipping strippers.

2. Nathan Hale:

The Sultan of Brunei (center) observes his country's new electoral system--One Man, One Vote--in action. In this system, the one man with the one vote, Speaker of the Legislative Counsel Kemaludin, is allowed to cast his secret ballot. In her last known public appearance, beauty pageant winner Aizalyasni holds the ballot box.

3. Deathlok:

With McCain locking up the Republican vote, the turnout at the Pennsylvanian primary was disappointing.

Captioning is pure schadenfreude. Pile on today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 March 2008 12:01 PM · Comments (12)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 134.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

onemanonevote.gif

The actual caption:

Election Commission secretary Kamaruzaman Mohamad Noor (L) drops a ballot sheet into a new transparent ballot box to be used for the upcoming 12th general elections at the Election Commission offices in Putrajaya, on February 14. According to Noor, Malaysian women will have to remove their nail polish on election day March 8 or face having it stripped off by election officials. (AFP/File/Tengku Bahar)

Seems like they're missing something.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, March 11. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email via WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last Week's Photo:
sandyo.gif

And... The Winners:

1. Hoodlumman:

Oops, Sandra... You've got a little tapioca pudding on your cheek.

2. rodney dill:

Its good to see that President Bush finally gets a Day job.

3. DANEgerus:

No tongue George...

Captioning is the comeback kid. Add your two cents today to keep up the momentum.

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 March 2008 09:25 PM · Comments (12)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 479 -- Media Coverage On Iraq.

Good News Equals No News-

If it bleeds, it leads. Stability and progress doesn't get eyes watching the television, according to network TV news producers, at least.

mediaandcasualtiesiniraq.gif
Attacks in Baghdad have fallen up to 80 percent in the past twelve months, Reuters reported February 16. Deaths among Iraqi military forces and civilians have dropped by more than two-thirds, from more than 2,000 per month in early 2007 to fewer than 600 per month since November.

And U.S. military deaths have also declined, falling from 126 in May 2007 to 40 in January 2008 and just 29 so far in February, with two days left in the month. Yet this good news seems to have diminished the media elite’s interest in broadcasting any news from Iraq.

Sensationalism sells. Liberal bias is just a completely unintended side-effect of this doctrine, I am sure.

Incidentally, Fred Kagan has a fantastic read on the surge:

Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno took command of Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) on December 14, 2006. Iraq was in flames. Insurgents and death squads were killing 3,000 civilians a month. Coalition forces were sustaining more than 1,200 attacks per week. Operation Together Forward II, the 2006 campaign to clear Baghdad's most violent neighborhoods and hold them with Iraqi Security Forces, had been suspended because violence elsewhere in the capital was rising steeply. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) owned safe havens within and around Baghdad, throughout Anbar, and in Diyala, Salah-ad-Din, and Ninewa provinces. The Iraqi government was completely paralyzed.

When General Odierno relinquished command of MNC-I on February 14, 2008, the civil war was over. Civilian casualties were down 60 percent, as were weekly attacks. AQI had been driven from its safe havens in and around Baghdad and throughout Anbar and Diyala and was attempting to reconstitute for a "last stand" in Mosul--with Coalition and Iraqi forces in pursuit. The Council of Representatives passed laws addressing de-Baathification, amnesty, provincial powers, and setting a date for provincial elections. The situation in Iraq had been utterly transformed.

Let's hope that we can seal the deal in Iraq before the American domestic political process undermines all the good work there over the past year or so.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Voting By Moving.

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 March 2008 09:10 PM · Comments (0)