Monday, August 10, 2009

Guns in the Sun

A local blogger notes that a man, William Kostnic, in New Hampshire carried a holstered pistol at an event where Obama was set to visit. Subsequent to the event, he appeared on Hardball with Chris Mathews on MSNBC. I admire Kostnic's chutzpah. Mathews was only able to score a point on the "blood" issue, but otherwise Mathews's usual agression was impotent. Kostnic had some serious verbal jui-jitsu going and handled himself well.

Should there be a gun-free zone around the president? Clearly, such a law would not make the president any more or less safe. However, the reality is a significant group of Americans are made uncomfortable, and are perhaps intimidated by the sight of a gun. Kostnic would argue that's not his problem, its theirs. Here in South Florida, it would have been perfectly legal for a person to attend an Obama rally with his pants around his ankles and underwear on display. Freedom of expression is freedom of expression, right? But we all need to get along, so what to do?

Fortunately, Florida has the perfect compromise: a liberal concealed weapons permit statute. The local Riptide blog notes that concealed weapons permit applications are up in Florida, by a large percentage. Riptide does a fair job of giving the reasons: (1) concerns that a Democrat-controlled congress and a Democrat president will seek stricter gun controls, and (2) fear of crime caused by the economy. This trend is not unique to Florida, this year's boom in nationwide gun sales is well documented.

According to the Division of Licensing, there are 601,625 concealed weapons permit holders in Florida. There are far more actual gun owners, because in Florida no permit is required to have a gun in your home or car. In other words, many Floridians own guns but don't apply for a concealed weapons permit allowing them to carry in public. But the state also reports licenses by county, with over 100,000 between Broward and Dade. Consider that there are 1.7 million people in Broward, 2.3 million in Dade, and about 18 million in Florida. That means 3% of Floridians have a concealed carry permit, and 2.5% of South Floridians (defined as Broward-Dade).

While I support the right to bear arms, and Florida's concealed weapons laws, I have some reservations about open carry around the president. Even if the carrier harbors no ill intent, a visible weapon would be available for someone who did intend harm. The secret service would probably have to assign an agent to the sole duty of keeping an eye on that firearm, unnecessarily tying up a resource. If a large group of people intended to follow Kostnic's example, the president would likely have to skip that venue.

I support Kostnic, but once was probably enough to prove the point. Future statements to the same effect can be made by openly carrying an obviously toy or paper replica gun in a real holster. I don't think Mathews's point about "history" is valid, as due to concealed carry, Obama and former presidents have probably been around armed citizens thousands of times without incident. But Mathews may have a point that when the president is in public, open carry is an unecessary nuisance.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Reverse Projection

This post responds to a post made by "Mustang Bobby" over at his blog. I should note that Bobby's post is essentially a quote from a Salon magazine article; for purposes here I'll assume Bobby adopts the quote in whole.

Bobby is disturbed by the right's accusatory rhetoric directed at Obama, particularly the charges of fascism. To me, suspicion of power is healthy. The office of the President has become far more powerful than the Framers intended, and far more powerful than is healthy for a democracy. I was glad that Bush was accused of fascism, and I'm glad to see public vigilance continue under Obama. The power of the Chief Executive must be carefully guarded and watched.

Bush and Obama have both been charged with fascism, each for different reasons. They are both valid accusations. Nowadays, it is unnecessary to explain Bush's charges--one need only visit any progressive blog. Bush bashing is still a popular sport, particularly among the intellectually dishonest who blame Bush for every present malady of the world.

The charges against Obama do require some explanation, particularly to those on the left who, as is often the case, have a poor grasp of the history of fascist regimes. Conservatives love freedom. We therefore have a tendency to study the history of fascism in some detail, both to appreciate our own freedoms in America, but also to know the enemy. The left, sadly, tends to have little interest. Perhaps because the leftist principle of pacifism is historically inconsistent with freedom? Who knows.

Bobby does not see, or does not want to see, that Obama's short time in office has been marked with unprecedented trappings of fascism. Each increment alone seems harmless, but cumulatively the result transforms a public office into a cult of personality. Before continuing, the meaning of "public office" should be elaborated. Even the President of the United States is a servant of the public. It is an office held by someone who volunteers, for relatively little compensation, to steer only the executive branch of government for four years. The people set the course of the ship, not the President. You, yes you, Joe Citizen, can look the president in the eye, wag your finger and say, "You work for me, buddy."

In a fascist state, the role of El Presidente, Der Fuhrer, etc. is quite different. He tells you what to think, and knows what is best for you. His modus operandi is to appeal to the masses as a benevolent father, a philosopher king, or as divinely chosen to the task. Instead of allowing the people to naturally resolve their political differences, the fascist meddles. He uses the power of his office to empower his minions, encouraging and supporting their proxy attacks against his opponents. The fascist uses his supporters as an extension of his will, encouraging the demonizing of all who oppose him. He appeals to primitive tribalism by propagating symbols, logos and standards. He seeks control of the media.

Obama's short time has been accompanied with all the trappings of fascism, at an alarming rate:

1. The disturbing use of government resources to compile and and deride political opposition. The latest "snitch line" is un-American. Consider the following sentence from the page, "These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation." Yes, if a co-worker mouths off against Obamacare at the water cooler, you are encouraged to report it. Interestingly, the left seems unconcerned by the government doing this. Even though the left was deeply distrubed by Bush's use of wiretaps to fight terrorism. Although there are technical differences between the two programs, the essence remains the same: Big Brother is listening. Conservatives might defend Bush's use of wiretaps as a matter of national security. Obama's snitch program is unjustified. What is the government doing with the names of those reported? (Here is the response--comforting?)

2. The massive branding and symbolism spewed by the Obama presidency is unprecedented in US history. But it is prevalent in nearly all fascist regimes. The US has historically had only one primary symbol, the Stars and Stripes, and to a lesser extent, the eagle. We are now bombarded with variations on the "O" everywhere, including at taxpayer expense: click here to see's logo. This "O" was affixed to public works signs at taxpayer expense. Why? Why, why, why? Harmless in and of itself (except for the wasted taxpayer $ on paint), but a symptom of the larger problem. Beyond the public sector, Obama's "O" symbol is everywhere, as is his portrait. It becomes a two-way street. Citizens under fascism develop a form of cognitive dissonance where they justify their compliance with the leader's will by attributing it to love, instead of fear, much like a battered wife. Like heart-throb posters on a teenage girl's bedroom walls, they plaster their cars and homes and streets with His images.

3. Disturbingly close ties between the media and the White House. This is of course, nothing new. But Obama has taken it above and beyond. The media worships him, dotes on his wife's outfits, and continue to promote him as a false messiah. Again, typical hallmarks of fascism.

4. Indoctrinating youth. Look here, here, and here. Here's Obama's version. And his chief of staff's version.

The left is myopic (as was the right under Bush) because they are still drunk with satisfaction that Obama is not Bush. And, of course, they agree with some of Obama's policies. Nonetheless, a true liberal ought to recognize the danger. The office of the President of the United States is becoming a throne.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Idol Worship

Bob Norman is the best journalist in town. Nobody else comes close. He's the kind of old-school journalist every town should have. Why? Because he's irreverent of power. Power corrupts. When a local politician gets too big for their britches, Bob Norman puts them in their place.

A great example is his post about a certain high-and-mighty Deerfield Beach mayor. It seems that certain mayor forgot that she serves the public, not the other way around. I hope that Mr. Norman's piece contributed to the resolution. Henceforth, (hopefully) the Deerfield Beach employees won't be required to worship her majesty the mayor.

Norman also does great work dismantling and exposing Stacy Ritter. I tuned into her radio show once, it was around the time of the 2008 election. Ritter is/was literally fanatic about Obama. She simply could not engage in civil conversation with any call-in to the show that challenged her view. She flat-out worshiped him. Little did I know, she was actually vying for a Washington job in his administration. I hope it was Norman's journalism that caused Obama to think twice.

But then I hopped over to another local blog, and politician-worship reared its ugly head again. "Classy" is, like "beauty", all in the eye of the beholder. In this case, the beholder found it "classy" that Obama shared birthday cake with a reporter. How odd. That blogger is also a law professor, which first struck me as strange--that a law professor even bothered to notice such irrelevant news. I just assumed law professors occupied themselves with deep thoughts about, well, the law.

To me, there were several aspects of Cake-gate that defied my definition of "classy." For one, it was Obama's birthday. I guess that there are 50,000 kids in the Washington DC school system, meaning that about 140 share his birthday. He couldn't find one of them to go drop in on, or invite to the White House for cake? I know, its just a corny idea, but I'm sure a much "classier" co-celebrant could have been found by the White House p.r. machine. My point is that "classy" would have been sharing the day with the regular folk Obama supposedly serves, as opposed to an elite press correspondent.

And then there is the matter of that correspondent. It was a poor choice, as her reputation is clouded with accusations of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias. But even if one dismisses that cloud, in the end it was, simply, a shared piece of cake. It hardly demonstrated "class".

Idol-worship magnifies trivialities like a piece of cake. Obama has done some very un-classy things that his worshipers simply won't acknowledge. The worst such incident was Special Olympics-gate. It was an unscripted moment, and shed light on who Obama really is. What is it about his character that allowed him to say it? Or to think, even for a moment, that a joke at the expense of the handicapped was okay? Unanimously unclassy.

Is it possible this kind of thinking, if even on a subconscious level, might creep into a health care system that will very likely have to ration care? Are we going to have a health care system that marginalizes the handicapped, elderly and infirm? What does our president really think about weaker members of society? Well, after all, we're not a Christian nation, and from a scientific standpoint, it would make utilitarian sense to serve young, able-bodied citizens first.

So enough with Obama-worship. If you really feel passionate about some of his proposed policies on a substantive level, good for you. But if you give a rat's ass about who he eats cake with, what kind of dog he has, or where he and Michelle go on a date--then you have a problem. Go read Bob Norman, and remind yourself never to fawn at power. Be suspicious, critical, skeptical, and vigilant.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Obamanomics of Education

A local blogger published a brief post on the current state of America's education system. I find the post is particularly timely, and the comments diverse and insightful.

Jewel raises an interesting point. Given the massive and unprecedented levels of federal spending embarked on by the Obama/Bush administrations, what percent of stimulus spending is targeted towards education? Does the Obama administration recognize that education is a long term engine of economic growth? In terms of potential for economic stimulus, where does education rank with respect to other areas, such as green technology, the automotive industry, and others?

Consider that Broward has seen hundreds of teachers laid off this year. Has any serious consideration given to the long term economic effects of teacher layoffs versus Detroit auto workers? Do we really need to spend billions of dollars to retire otherwise roadworthy private vehicles? Exactly how does the "cash for clunkers" program solve the long term problem, which is the simple fact that the Japanese build better cars then we do? Would we not receive a similar, if not superior, short and long term economic benefit by investing in education? Why is an employed Detroit auto worker better for society than an employed teacher?

Back to school spending is expected to drop close to 10% this year. Unlike other slumps, this one has a two-fold impact. For one, all the jobs associated with school supply production and distribution are at risk. But secondly, and arguably more important, children will have fewer of the tools they need to learn. In the long run, that economic impact is much worse for us. So why are we bailing out failing automakers instead of at-risk education-related industries?

Is it just a simple fact that the auto-worker's union does a better lobbying job than the teacher's union? Didn't Obama promise that lobbyists weren't going to run Washington anymore? So I don't get it. Where is all the money to buy new computers, high-speed internet, remodeled classrooms, and (where needed) increased security for public (and/or private) schools?

I agree wholeheartedly with one of Jewel's commentators that money can't solve all our country's education problems. Parental attitudes need some serious shaping up, as education begins at home. But money does play a role in the quality of education that any system, private or public, is capable of delivering, particularly with respect to children with special needs.

Very likely, the fact that education was overlooked as a priority in the recent round of stimulous spending means there's going to be less money for it down the road. After all, someone has to pay for our new government health care programs. The "rich" can only be milked for so much, its unlikely Obama can tap them as a source to overhaul the US education system as well. The problem is, if we don't start educating America's young minds, there won't be anybody "rich" enough in the future to tax.