FactsPlusLogic
A Careful Look at Issues

The election was a clear choice, and the people have spoken. The people want free birth control, free abortion, and free just-about-everything from birth to death. They want it paid for by rich people. What they will get is slow death by regulation. It’s inevitable. Legislation is in place to control banking, energy, health care, education, and a myriad of the details of life. The script for the next four years is bureaucracy producing a rising tide of regulations to consolidate control over peoples lives. Congress will provide sideshow distractions, but the main event will be the growth of bureaucratic power.

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What makes a good president? I contend it is honesty, sound principles, and executive competence. Critics of Sarah Palin claim that religious beliefs tell all, and they claim that she would like have something akin to a theocracy. I question Palin’s lack of specific policy positions, but the potential interference of religious doctrine with governing has been tested by history. It tells something, but not as much as many suppose. Historical experience with Roosevelt (who believed he was an agent of God), Nixon (a Quaker), Kennedy (Roman Catholic), Carter (Evangelical Baptist), and Obama (Black liberation theology) shows that whatever one thinks of the relative merits of these Presidents, religious doctrine has not been a dominant factor in their governing.

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One of the Democrats campaign themes is to assert that Republicans will return us to the failed policies of the past. The talking heads on television repeat the theme every day. It’s not unusual for a Party to have a broad generic slogan. What’s odd is that no one seems to ask, “Exactly what failed policies are you talking about?” Not even conservative commentators often ask the question, and Democrats rarely volunteer. It turns out that most of the failed policies were instigated and sustained by Democrats, and others were by the Federal Reserve Board, beyond Bush Administration control. Aside from policies, the mentality of an economic bubble was a product of human nature, not government. The Bush Administration can be faulted for some of it’s weak efforts to clean up the policies they inherited, but they made strong attempts to reform Fannie and Freddie.

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A recent poll showed that about 18% of Americans think that President Obama follows the Muslim faith, and only one in three identifies him as a Christian. During the campaign, his attendance at Reverend Wright’s church, a Christian church, was a significant issue. that might have driven home the point that he was Christian. In his books and interviews Obama declares he is a Christian. If that isn’t enough, Obama drinks alcohol, which Muslims do not. I suppose no one knows with absolute certainty what is in President Obama’s heart-of-hearts, but there is no objective evidence to claim he is a Muslim. So where do people get the idea?

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President Clinton started off with a hard left agenda, but after the resounding Congressional losses in 1994, he moved to a much more centrist position, working with Dole and Gingrich on free trade and welfare reform. With a similar prospect facing Democrats this November, will Obama also move towards the center? While it is possible, —one never knows for sure— it is unlikely. Unlike Clinton, Obama has no basis for governing other than ideological dogma. It’s the only game he knows. Moreover, the executive branch has been given so much power to make its own laws there is no compelling need for Congress to act to advance his agenda.

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Political campaigns generate sound bites as the preferred mode of communication. Few people are motivated to listen to long-winded speeches, so the goal is to simplify messages in the extreme. Politicians have been way ahead of Twitter. Television news is complicit in favoring one-line easily-digestible capsules of semi-information. The news people suppose that viewers have the attention span of gerbils, and so they must continually get on with something else. The news people are probably right, but there are stories that simply cannot be reduced to sound bites. The oil spill disaster is a case in point. The scope and complexity of the problem defies the sound bite treatment either by politicians or the news media.

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The Gulf oil spill is producing two crises. The obvious one is the disaster with coastal fisheries, but it poses an ideological crisis as well. For liberals, government is supposed to be the solution to all problems. The oil spill is a big problem. So if the government is impotent in solving it, what does that say about the possibilities of government? If the oil spill is a problem that government cannot solve, might there be other such problems? That thought is too horrible to contemplate

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I have yet to hear a call for a boycott of Arizona that made an accurate reference to the Arizona law that is at issue. The full text of the law is here The new Arizona law will require that if someone is stopped by police for other legal reasons, and the person also presents other legal reasons for doubting their citizenship status, that the police must then check citizenship status with the Federal Authorities.

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Democrats are fond of reminding us that Obama made no secret of his radical leftist agenda when he ran for President. Conservatives are fond of replying that they saw it coming. What this exchange misses is the role that promises of transparency and bipartisanship played in the election. Independent voters did not react to the leftist agenda because Obama promised that whatever he did would be tempered by a process that exposed all of the political dealings and by the need to get Republicans to agree. He might or might not want to nationalize everything in sight, it was no matter because he would have to get many Republicans to agree. The claims of transparency and bipartisanship effectively moved Obama from the left to near the center of American politics.

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Last night Chris Mathews, the commentator famous for getting a tingle in his leg when Obama speaks, hosted a panel discussion reviewing Obama’s first year in office. The panel cover the spectrum of opinion one would expect on NBC, ranging from overall approval to adoration. I did sense that the obsequiously worshipful category was a bit weak, perhaps due to the bitter realities the past year served up.

One point stumped the panel. All agreed that American are unusually welcoming to foreigners visiting the US. One much-traveled panelist claimed that Americans were clearly the most welcoming in the world. The conundrum, then, it why Americans have not been notably impressed with Obama’s efforts to curry favor with the international community. I’m here to help explain the mystery.

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Obama remains popular because many middle-ground voters have not associated him with the implementation of the policies of his administration. The committed Left and the committed right have no trouble associating Obama with Obama policies, but few in either of those camps have changed their opinions about Obama since he was elected. The middle ground perceives health care as a product of Congress, not the President. The President wants only wonderful things: lower health costs, universal coverage, preserving what you now have, and no increase in deficits. He is firm on all those things, having asserted them in 112 speeches on the subject.

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President Obama made the point in his speech this week that H.R. 3200, the leading health care bill in the House, specifically excludes coverage of non-citizens. That brought the infamous outburst, “You lie!” from South Carolina Republican Jim Wilson. Wilson’s outburst was inexcusable, and he rightly apologized. But what is the planned coverage for illegals, and what should it be?

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There is a difference between a lie and a mistake and also between hypocrisy and just playing the cards you are dealt. These conceptual differences arise regularly in political debate, and now in in the health care debate. Let’s start with hypocrisy.

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The current debate on health care is confusing. I focus on five central issues. The debate would be improved if these specifics were in the forefront. My points are, (1) heath in the US is more a product of lifestyle than the care system, (2) insurance company profits are a trivial part of health care costs, (3) justified changes in insurance regulations do not require the much large health care package, (4) a person will not be able to keep their present health insurance if employers drop the option, and (5) critical details of the new system are not disclosed.

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The first thing to understand about “no bid” contracts is that there is literally no such thing. What is referred to as “no bid” really means “sole sourced.” Sole sourced contracts are not put out to competitive bid, but are rather aimed at one supplier. The single supplier is given a request for a bid on a specified item or service, the supplier responds with a bid, the government accepts or rejects the bid, and if accepted, a contract is then negotiated and signed.

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Today President Obama spoke before the American Medical Association, explaining his plans to “reform” the medical care system in the United States. You can tell I’m skeptical, because I put “reform” in quotes. I hold open the possibility that not all plans to spend huge sums of taxpayer money are actually reforms. If the health care plan actually saves money, then it should be funded entirely from the savings achieved. I’ll grant some startup costs, but after a few years money should be flowing into either the Treasury or into the pockets of taxpayers. That, however, is not a part of the plan.

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President Obama has taught us that the words used to say something are not nearly as important as who says them and how they are said. Unfortunately, Darth Vader is unavailable to do the job, so Vice President Cheney will have to suffice. What Cheney would say is not substantially different from what any other representative would say. The message is in who is saying it. The move would have the greatest potential for resolving the situation peacefully by causing Dear Leader to back off.

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President Obama: I need a calculator, and I’d like to get a good one. Do you have the models that talk and have artificial intelligence?

Clerk: Yes, Mr. President. We feature the Autoconglomerator Ultra Turbo 971B. It’s one of the best. We call it the Aut9 for short.

PO: Very good. I’d like to interview it to see if it meets my needs.

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There was not too much new in the memos. We all knew that waterboarding had been used, and that seems to be more of an issue than the revelation that a caterpillar, pre-certified as harmless, was used to scare a terrorist. The harm is making it abundantly clear that there is negligible downside risk to being a terrorist. Before making it official and pounding the point home through international publicity, terrorists had some reason to worry about being caught.

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Politics has continued to move down the priority list for most people, and candidates have responded with ever-simpler messages. One might suppose that the press would provide a counter influence, demanding more thorough treatment of complex issues. That has not happened. The press lives in the world of sound bites, and they know that if they spend more than thirty seconds on any issue, their audience is likely to change channels to find something fresh.

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