Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Failure of the Boomer Generation

...of which I am one. Walter Russell Mead details our sins - and castigates both Left and Right for being selfish narcissists:

My generation has some real accomplishments under its belt, especially in the worlds of science and technology. And we made important progress in making American society a more open place for people and groups who were once excluded. In every field of American life, there are Boomers who have made and are making important, selfless contributions: in hospitals, in classrooms, in government, in business, in the military. You name it and we are there.

But at the level of public policy and moral leadership, as a generation we have largely failed. The Boomer Progressive Establishment in particular has been a huge disappointment to itself and to the country. The political class slumbered as the entitlement and pension crisis grew to ominous dimensions. Boomer financial leadership was selfish and shortsighted, by and large. Boomer CEOs accelerated the trend toward unlimited greed among corporate elites, and Boomer members of corporate boards sit by and let it happen. Boomer academics created a profoundly dysfunctional system that systemically shovels resources upward from students and adjuncts to overpaid administrators and professors who by and large have not, to say the least, done an outstanding job of transmitting the cultural heritage of the past to future generations. Boomer Hollywood execs created an amoral morass of sludge — and maybe I’m missing something, but nobody spends a lot of time talking about the towering cultural accomplishments of the world historical art geniuses of the Boomer years. Boomer greens enthusiastically bet their movement on the truly idiotic drive for a global carbon treaty; they are now grieving over their failure to make any measurable progress after decades spent and hundreds of millions of dollars thrown away. On the Boomer watch the American family and the American middle class entered major crises; by the time the Boomers have finished with it the health system will be an unaffordable and dysfunctional tangle — perhaps the most complicated, expensive and poorly designed such system in the history of the world.

All of this was done by a generation that never lost its confidence that it was smarter, better educated and more idealistic than its Depression-surviving, World War-winning, segregation-ending, prosperity-building parents. We didn’t need their stinking faith, their stinking morals, or their pathetically conformist codes of moral behavior.

Mead goes on to point out that the culture of narcissism and entitlement can be found on the left and the right. And since I always thought Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich are basically twins of different mothers (Mead only cites Clinton, which is an oversight) ..... well, those two politicians - brilliant, wonky, undisciplined, and whiny - basically sum up the Boomer generation.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jennifer Rubin nails it

...about Herman Cain and the sexual assault allegations that have been revealed.

She goes on to talk about the upcoming CNBC debate, to be moderated by Maria Bartimoro. Here's the money graph:

The next debate, hosted by Maria Bartiromo of CNBC, is Wednesday. I’m sure she’ll ask about the candidates’ tax plans. She should grill Perry on his crony capitalism and views on property rights. She should ask Newt Gingrich about his leadership failures as speaker of the House. She needs to delve into Mitt Romney’s claims about job creation both as governor and at Bain Capital. And, yes, she should explore Cain’s liabilities as well, including lack of familiarity with China’s nuclear capability, his inability to answer questions about his own tax plan and, yes, a pattern (three is a pattern) of alleged sexual harassment and failure to be straightforward with the American people.

If Cain can’t hack it, he should go back to the book tour. If he wants to be the nominee, he needs to show voters he can take the heat. Otherwise, he’s got no business being in a presidential race.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ross Douthat is ON today...

...when he talks about the mistakes of the so-called meritocracy, using Jon Corzine's meltdown as an example. He could also be talking about Hank Paulson or Ben Bernanke or....Barack Obama.

The lesson is simple:

What you see in today’s Republican primary campaign is a reaction to exactly these kinds of follies — a revolt against the ruling class that our meritocracy has forged, and a search for outsiders with thinner résumés but better instincts.

But from Michele Bachmann to Herman Cain, the outsiders haven’t risen to the challenge. It will do America no good to replace the arrogant with the ignorant, the overconfident with the incompetent.

In place of reckless meritocrats, we don’t need feckless know-nothings. We need intelligent leaders with a sense of their own limits, experienced people whose lives have taught them caution. We still need the best and brightest, but we need them to have somehow learned humility along the way.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Link of the Day

From Investor's Daily:

The gap between rich and poor was most wide during the CLINTON Administration. Rich people got poorer during the Bush II Administration, and so far during the Obama Administration, the gap between rich and poor has widened, not shrunk.

Just goes to show that Mark Twain was right when he said: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

Quote of the Day

From Victor Davis Hanson at NRO: "a confident, successful society neither idolizes nor demonizes its rich, but instead believes that wealth can be created rather than taken from others. And it simply judges the better-off by the content of their characters, not the size of their wallets."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Link of the Day: from Noemie Emery at the Washington Examiner, about the mediocre candidates the Republicans have put up. The real talent is on the sidelines, and that's a pity.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Link of the Day

Ross Douthat ponders whether a Republican patrician - Mitt Romney - can do for the middle class.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why Herman Cain is surging

It's not because of 9-9-9, which has some problems - the chief of which is, it's regressive. Michele Bachmann, with whom I am not impressed, highlighted those problems in the recent debate. But Cain brings to the table something that no one else does:

1. He is a man who rose from segregation and discrimination to become a CEO (unlike our current president, who grew up in middle class, culturally diverse Hawaii and experienced minimal discrimination). In short - and I hate to put it this way, but it's true - but Cain's a more authentic African-American than our President. There are very few African-Americans like President Obama, but millions of African-Americans who grew up the way Herman Cain did.

2. Cain's 9-9-9 plan at least acknowledges something that no other candidate does: that the tax system is broken in this country and needs to be torn down and re-constituted. Again, 9-9-9 is not necessarily the answer - but it's PART of the answer, and he's the only candidate who is willing to do something bold to reform a an inefficient tax system with perverse incentives that penalize strivers and reward the well-connected.

If he and Mitt Romney can get together on this one issue - and I'm not optimistic that they can - the Romney-Cain ticket could be pretty formidable.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Quote of the Day

From Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online's The Corner - you'll find the whole post by scrolling down:
Seriously, in 2008 we elected a community organizer, state senator, college instructor first term senator over a guy who spent five years in a Vietnamese prison. And now he’s lecturing us about how America’s gone “soft”? Really?
Jay Cost at the Weekly Standard looks at Herman Cain's candidacy and what it means for the Republican Party. He's hard on Republicans, especially those party leaders who figured out that they could win elections on the white vote alone, and thus made even conservative African-Americans continue to vote Democratic - which, in many cases, resulted in voting against their own principles and interests. As Glenn Reynolds likes to say, READ THE WHOLE THING.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Confidence Men, Part Two: Winning

When we last left our hero, Barack Obama, he was dazzling Wall Street with his ability to not only dazzle audiences in public, but also demonstrate mastery of the variety of securitizations (read: bets) that were being made between investment firms, with the helpful guidance of Robert Wolf, CEO of UBS-America. Wolf, you will recall, was the first person to alert Barack Obama in Agust, 2007 that a “market-driven disaster” was on the way. That’s because the big banks, who mostly traded with each other, were dealing in securitized products that were basically……bovine excrement. This allowed him to get in front of an issue that was getting little-to-no attention by the media at large, and certainly not the other candidates, Republican or Democrat, and thus look like a prophet. His speech to NASDAQ in 2007 got little attention because he still seemed like a long shot, but it got the attention of the bankers on Wall Street, who flocked to him.

Suskind’s book goes into detail about the meltdown during the 2008 campaign, and while he does a good job, you can read about it elsewhere. Let’s turn our attention to the campaign – and the President’s victory.

Suskind quotes President Obama as saying, “my presidency began in September.” While technically untrue, he was correct.” His leadership in the big meeting TARP meeting – you know, the one that John McCain suspended his campaign for showed leadership and mastery of the issues. Even though voters didn’t see it, afterwards Republicans were demoralized….and the election was basically decided. Poor John McCain. It was a stunt that backfired. But that’s usually what happens when one decides to pull a stunt.

Transition planning began early in the campaign – as it always should, regardless of the polling numbers. And here’s where it started to break down.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chris Christie's Announcement speech

Jen Rubin at the Washington Post challenged her readers to write the opening paragraph of Chris Christie's presidential announcement - if, of course, he decides to run, and I'm not sure he will. But I couldn't resist entering my offering, and here it is:

"Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today. Two years and 10 months ago, we elected as president a man whose prodigious oratorical gifts inspired millions of voters, particularly those who had reason to believe that they had little influence in the election of an American president.

Unfortunately, the President’s oratory skills did not translate into good public policy. More Americans are unemployed today than they were three years ago. Our debt, which was high when he took office, is even higher – so much that it threatens not just our financial security, but also our national security. Our foreign policy is incoherent, and our energy policy is designed to enrich governments who do not – to say the least – have our interests at heart. It is true that the President inherited a mess. Unfortunately, he made it worse. And while I admire and respect the men and women who are running for the Republican nomination, I am concerned that they are not addressing the full range of issues that we confront.

I have watched the impact of the President’s political and governing philosophy in my own state with dismay, but as a first-term governor, I have felt that it was too soon to offer myself as a solution. I even threatened to commit suicide! But as Edward de Bono said, “if you can’t change your mind, why have one?” So I want you fine folks to be the first to know: I now offer myself as a candidate for President of the United States. And with your help, I will win."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Confidence Men, Part One: I'm reading Ron Suskind's book so you don't have to

...unless you just want to, of course. Far be it from me to diss anyone's reading preferences.

And...I'm working on it, but I will tell you this as a teaser: The President was WAY tight with Wall Street long before he became President, and the friends he made helped him understand how derivatives worked, how the mortgage market functioned, what a CDO is (Collaterialized Debt Obligation), and how they mitigated the risk of the CDOs via CDS (Credit Default Swap - basically, insurance to cover the risk of the mortgage securities going belly-up). I've read three of the books about the 2008 financial meltdown: Too Big To Fail by Andrew Sorkin, All the Devils are Here by Bethany McClean and Joe Nocera, and Gretchen Morgenstern's Reckless Endangerment, which focuses exclusively on Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac and the housing subprime market.

Suskind does an excellent job summarizing what actually happened. And he also quotes Barney Frank admiringly. Of course he chose not to point out that Barney Frank, who is a smart guy, was a long-time defender of the GSEs (Government-Sponsored Entities, which is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) even BEFORE he got his partner a job there. And he takes no responsibility for pushing back on efforts to regulate the GSEs more closely....and Suskind doesn't force the issue. This is a huge blind spot.

But, back to the President: As a candidate, Barack Obama had some very good "jungle guides" to help him understand where the risk was on Wall Street - the head of UBS, Richard Wolf, who introduced him to other executives who saw this coming. Mr. Obama, as candidate, was very good (and probably still is) at synthesizing information from a multitude of sources. But once he is elected....it's clear he doesn't know what to DO with it.

More tomorrow.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Whoah! Maybe I DO want this job

Well, after last night's debate, apparently New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (see how fast I learned how to do links on this blog?) may be changing his mind. The source is Newsmax, which is not exactly a "major" news service, although that doesn't mean they're wrong. But if the rumor is true.....why break it on Newsmax? Why not the Weekly Standard, whose editor Bill Kristol has been pushing for Christie to enter the race for some time?

And I like Chris Christie - he's a straight shooter who. But remember: a lot of people thought Rick Perry was that kind of guy, but after last night the number of people who still think that way has decreased. And then there's Fred Thompson in 2008. He's selling insurance. I can't remember what kind it is, but I don't need it. At least, not yet.

Is there anyone here who can play this game?

Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post is one of my favorite writers. She outdid herself with this:


..when she imagines what Chris Christie is thinking while he watches the debates, and then has to bar the door to keep Bill Kristol from breaking in. I'm not a particular Kristol fan....but right now I'm rooting for him to succeed.

Last Night's Republican Debate

Rick Perry: his collar doesn't fit him. It's too tight, or maybe it's too high. But it looks like it's choking him, and that's why he smiles nervously - he's afraid he might have to clear his throat, at which point all hell will break loose. It's distracting, which is a good thing, because once he starts talking, he does so poorly that all I can think is "you really thought everyone would step aside for you, didn't you."

Ron Paul: Cranky and (to quote my late step-grandfather,) "NUTS AS HELL."

Gary Johnson: It's about time you showed up. Why didn't you put more effort into getting to the 1 percent threshold earlier? It might have saved us from....

...Jon Huntsman: I think he doesn't really like us. Any of us. And he called his wife "an incredible human being" as though she'd created by some Cyborg company instead of, you know, the usual process.

Michele Bachmann: She looks like she's thinking of 50 ways to kill Rick Perry and get away with it.

Herman Cain: Please, please, if the Republicans win this election, give this man Secretary of Commerce. I don't think he will win the nomination, but this guy's a keeper, and hopefully will be with us a long time.

Newt Gingrich: You do understand, don't you, that you can make all the great debate points you want, you have no chance. The only thing we know for sure is that you will make multiple unforced errors that will overwhelm any intellect you have - and you do have it. But you can't be president.

Rick Santorum: I really like this guy. If he had just been governor of his state - even for one term - he'd be the front runner.

Which leaves us to:

Mitt Romney. A former boss used to say "slow and steady wins the race" and I think that's the phrase that sums up Mitt Romney and this campaign. I'm not a big fan, but as a proponent of the Buckley Rule.....he may end up being the guy. But he needs to deep-six the technocratic, 59 point, Power Point presentation way of speaking.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Thought of the day, from Dean Barham, my minister, as taken from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Three temptations to a false self:
  • I am what I do (performance)
  • I am what I have (possessions)
  • I am what others think of me (popularity)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I sure will be glad when the WKU Hilltoppers win a football game in Bowling Green. But at least I got to eat at Mariah's.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Welcome to my World

The term "unblocked" was chosen for a specific reason - it's a term of art in contract bridge (which I play whenever I can) that means playing a card whose rank interferes with the use of cards in the opposite hand.

But of course "unblocked" has a lot of potential meanings -- highway traffic, problem solving, sunscreen. In the case of sunscreen, being blocked is probably a good thing (although a little bit of sun is good for you). In this blog, I'm unblocked. I may want to talk about Contract Bridge. I may want to talk about politics, movies, books - anything to do with the culture.

About me: I'm a middle-aged old maid (well, I am! Didn't plan it that way, but may as well own it) who observes (it's about all we MAOMs can do) and comments. You're welcome to do the same.