Not What the World Was Promised.

I seem to remember in the months leading up to the recent presidential election and for some time since, being told that things would be different once Obama was elected.  He promised to use diplomacy(apparently a word that he thought GWB had never heard before) to force the World to, once again, fall in love with America.  He specifically told us that he would employ this diplomacy to improve our relationship with Iran.

Well, last week, instead of working out the nuclear issue with the sensible Iranians as he had promised, he went to the Russians (Watch that Putin, he’s a nut too.) and negotiated with them to discontinue providing the Iranians with support for their nuclear programs.  That ought to get those Iranians to love us.  I’ll bet they invited Obama over for tea after that brilliant piece of maneuvering.

Today, we are told that Hillary has threated North Korea.  She is now insisting that they end their nuclear programs.  Or, what?  What sort of threat is any nation going to buy from “Mr. Scale Back Our Military Options and Negotiate?”  Good luck with all that.  And, how is this policy any different than that of GWB?  Oh yeah, these policies have no teeth.

We should be threatening Cuba and Venezuela any day now, and then Obamawill threaten Pakistan some more.  Now that’s diplomacy.  Isn’t it interesting to see that the same irrational people that Bush had problems with are the same irrational people that are lining up to cause Obama problems?

America’s enemies are our enemies because they choose to be so.  They want to be our enemies.  In fact, people like Castro and Chavez make their ‘political hay’ out of hating America and pumping others up to do the same.  They have absolutely no incentive to negotiate or work with us, and they never will.  We may buy them off for a time, but they will always return to the America-hating trough because it is their bread and butter.

Our job is to separate the truly dangerous ones from the ones who are simply annoying.  We must ignore the ones that are simply annoying no matter how they buzz about our faces.  The dangerous ones have to be crushed.  It’s just that simple.  Obama needs to take a page out of Teddy Roosevelt’s playbook.  He said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  Obama will have no stick at all, and will keep increasing the rhetoric until all our enemies hear is an annoying screech…which they will continue to ignore.

Hold on,…Back the Lincoln Up!

Obama has been President for ony two weeks, and today we are being told that ‘historians’ are comparing his presidency to that of Lincoln.  Really?  I don’t for a minute believe that any serious historian would lower himself to such a comparison.  Historians deal with history, and two weeks doth not a history make.  I hope the guy is great, but let him be great first.  Please stop this hack job love affair.  And, give Lincoln a little more respect.  He deserves it.

I don’t know if I can take four years of this.

Hatin’ on PETA

So far, I have somehow avoided writing anything about PETA. It surprises even me to say so. One reason is that I have a friend who has effectively blogged about them in the past, and I have supported his views by commenting on those posts. However, today when I saw that Sarah Palin was having to defend herself against attack by of all people, Ashley Judd, it was all too much for me. Judd, supporting the Defenders of Wildlife campaign, attacked Palin and Alaska’s policy which allows people to kill wolves in rural areas. Mind you, wolves are not an endangered species in Alaska, but that does not matter. These people follow the logic that every wolf killed only brings the species closer to extinction. If you do the math, it’s hard to fault their logic. But, doesn’t it assume that Alaska would ever allow wolves to become endangered in the first place? Can’t this policy be used as a form of wildlife management in which the state monitors the status of the species and allows a certain amount to be taken without having to foot the bill for doing it themselves? Of course, PETA would rather allow thousands of animals to starve to death or become nuisances to humans and our livestock rather than have one killed by hunting (Do the math?). PETA hates hunting and hunters. They would propose we take our tax dollars and sterilize the animals (no joke). Here we run into another one of their inconsistencies. They are against breeding dogs and cropping or docking ears and tails because this is cruel and violates the animal’s rights. On the other had, they support spaying and neutering animals to help control their populations regardless of their rights in this situation. I’m sure if you could ask a dog if he wanted to be neutered or hit the bitch next door, I guarantee you he would not choose neutering. This gets to my point. We neuter them because it is the right thing to do. We do it because we feel that we have a responsibility to manage the welfare of animals for their sake and for ours. This is no different morally that what is happening in Alaska. The only difference is that it is with wild animals. If you argue that we have the responsibility to manage animals, I argue that this also gives us the right to do it, and in the manner the best benefits us. If you need any more proof of PETA’s irrationality, check out the video here. And remember ‘Fight Breedism!”

Obama’s Short Honeymoon

Today’s inauguration went off with pomp and circumstance which has not been seen in the world since the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.  Just as when these two were married, the sky seems to be the limit.  How could anything ever go wrong?  Everyone, it seems, is smashing themselves together with the sole aim of showing their support for a new messiah…, I mean president.

I, as most good Americans that voted for someone other then Obama (I am not saying you are a bad American I you voted for Obama), will support him as the elected leader of our country, and hope that he leads us well as a nation.  I am struck with the fear that he will appoint several young, liberal Supreme Court justices in his first year, and then follow in Clinton’s footsteps and expand the use of executive orders, thus legislating from the desk (oval office).

As far as the honeymoon goes, I hope Obama is ready.  Of course, the Republicans in Congress will be looking for anything and everything to criticize.  I look back on Clinton’s presidency and remember how ashamed I was when Republicans refused to support the use of force to stop the genocide that was happening in Bosnia.  If Obama looks to the right for support, he will get none.  This, I think, is expected.

What will be unexpected will be that the first shots will come from his own supporters.  In a few months, as he begins to face the reality of what withdrawal from an instable Iraq means to international peace, he will stall the withdrawal, and former supporters like Cindy Sheehan will draw first blood.  This, however, will only be the beginning.

Guantanamo will be another place where former supporters will turn on him.  It cannot be shut down.  Even if we decide to put all the detainees on trial, it will take years perhaps even a decade to hear them all.

The environmental movement will be even worse.  These people have lived their lives blaming the U.S. and lack of government intervention for every problem that they can conceive (and I do mean conceive).  The point is that in these economic times, it will not benefit Obama to hop on board with a bunch of wealth sapping green ideas, and he won’t.  Their expectations will be through the roof, and he will be able to deliver even less than he probably wants to.

Eventually, all of these and other special interest groups will realize that they are getting little more with Obama than they had with Bush, and then they will re-arm themselves with the only real weapon that they have, blame.  Unfortunately, for Obama, the there will be no one else to blame but him.

Top 5 Worst Presidents in U.S. History

1. Jimmy Carter– He is hands-down, the greatest embarrassment to the office in the history of the Presidency.  He was an abysmal failure while in office, who could not even pass legislation with a sympathetic Congress.  His economic policies led the U.S. into one of the greatest recessions in its history, and his foreign policies led to events such as the storming of the U.S. embassy in Teheran.  At least, he did his constituency the service of hiding out in the rose garden during most of his presidency and refusing to be the leader that he was elected to be.

Today, he spends much of his time violating two centuries of Presidential decorum by decrying the work of the men who have succeeded him, and sticking his nose into affairs in which it does not belong, such as working with terrorist organizations like Hamas.  Giving him the Nobel Peace Prize cheapened it, and it has become the sad political tool that it is today.  No amount of house building can make up for the awful way he has dragged the most prestigious office on Earth through the mud.

2. Warren Harding– I tried not to hold the fact that a president died in office against him.  Presidents like William Henry Harrison or James Garfield get an incomplete from me.  They are obviously near the bottom, but as a result of their untimely deaths, did not have the opportunity to do anything truly bad to the office.  However, the Harding administration, though only two years in length was simply packed with Presidential embarrassments.  His administration is generally viewed as the single most corrupt in the history of the U.S., and that includes the Grant administration.  Harding was barely by his own party.  He did poorly in the primaries, was part of a split vote at the RNC, and after a deal was struck for his candidacy in the predawn of a hotel room, it still took ten ballots for him to receive the nomination. 

He won the general election by a landslide, and then had to pay back those to whom promises were made.  This led to the appointment of several corrupt individuals to his administration.  Many of his appointees were personal friends who were completely unqualified for the posts to which they were named.  His nominee to head the Veteran’s Bureau robbed its coffers of $200,000,000 and fled the country.  The Justice Department was accused of taking bribes.  The Attorney General was proven to have illegally profited from allowing alcohol to be taken from government supplies during the middle of prohibition, and corruption was discovered in the office of the Alien Property Custodian.

The most egregious example of corruption in his administration was the Teapot Dome Scandal in which the Secretary of the Interior received $400,000 in bribe from oil companies after leasing oil-rich land to them without any competitive bidding.

This was all bad enough, but Harding’s personal problems were also prominent.  He was married, but he carried on several affairs while he was president.  These eventually came to light adding to the cloud that surrounded his presidency.  Today, there are some theories that he was actually poisoned by his own wife.  In any case, he was dead after serving only two years.

3. Andrew Johnson– He was impeached but not convicted on two occasions.  Most historians agree that he did not deserve to be convicted, but his track record in office showed that he did not agree with his party or Lincoln in regards to the position of former slaves in post-Civil War America.  He repeatedly vetoed legislation that was meant to protect the former slaves and allow them to be absorbed into normal American society.  His appointments and policies promoted the establishment of so called ‘black codes’ that allowed southern blacks to be kept in some sort of servitude as second-class persons.  He was instrumental in defeating the 14th Amendment which eventually made the former slaves actual citizens.  Lincoln was a practical man who would do what it took to eventually get the outcome that he wanted, but his appointment of Johnson was easily his biggest mistake, and one, that with his death, could not be undone.  Johnson’s apparent racism which undermined many of the victories that so much blood was shed for during the Civil War put him high on the list.

4. Ulysses S. Grant– Grant’s two terms as president of the U.S. were notable for their corruption and failed domestic policies.  Waffling on the issue of ‘greenbacks’ and allowing unrestrained speculation in the gold market by Jay Gould and James Fisk led to Black Friday in which the Stock Market shut down.  The Grant administration failed to react by releasing gold early.  This caused the ruin of many investors, and when the administration finally did release its gold reserves, it caused a crash in the gold market that led to more ruin.

Though he was never personally accused of corruption, his administration was involved in several famous instances of corruption.  The most famous of these were the Credit Mobilier swindle and the Whiskey Ring.

Grant may have been a great general, but he was not a great president.  His two terms and his military legacy keep him off the bottom of the list.

5. Richard Nixon– Nixon is an anomaly.  His foreign policy achievements could easily have put him into the top 20 presidents of all time.  The problem was that his own paranoia and character flaws led him to use abuse his power as president and to eventually sanction crimes committed at the expense of his political opposition.  Of all the people on the list, his actions as president were probably the worst, but his extremely effective foreign policy keep him off the bottom of the list.

6. James Buchanan– I added a sixth because he is really the only other bad president.  For the most part, America’s presidents have been good and able men who led the country to the best of their ability.  Some may have been less effective than others, and some served short terms, but the true bottom-dwellers are a short list.  Buchanan’s lack of any attempt to keep the U.S. from devolving into Civil War puts him near the bottom of the list.  He and Nero could have played a duet.

Top 20 United States Presidents

A few years ago I ranked the top 20 presidents in the history of the U.S.  I went back recently, and looked at the list again.  I decided that it just did not look right, so I opened a spreadsheet, and began to rank the presidents on several criteria.  These included: Popularity, Character, Number of Terms, the Issues that they had to deal with, their Legacy, the Legislation that they pushed through, their Effectiveness, and their Leadership, and their Negatives.  I gave more weight to: Issues, Legacy, Legislation and Effectiveness.

In the end, my list looked mostly as it had before, but some things looked much better.  Enjoy.

  1. Abraham Lincoln– He had it all: the biggest issue (the Civil War), the best rhetoric, an impeccable character, and was unafraid to take the wheel if it was needed.   He died in office before making any large mistakes.  He tried to choose Lee.  He fired incompetent generals at will, and chose Grant in the end.  He delivered the Gettysburg Address.  He signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  He preferred an easy peace with the South at the end of the war.  On the downside, he did suspend habeas corpus during the war.
  2. George Washington– The first.  He was extremely popular.  He was very careful to set proper precedents for the office.  He had been General of the armies during revolution.  He showed his character by refusing to be king.
  3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt– He had the big events: WWII, the Great Depression.  He is and will be the only four “termer.”  He overcame Polio, and he was an excellent orator.
  4. Thomas Jefferson– He was the author of Declaration of Independence.  He was a Founding Father, and he made the Louisiana Purchase.  However, he did disband the National Bank, and was a somewhat divisive figure.
  5. Theodore Roosevelt II– TR, a true man’s man.  He was a sportsman, and one of the first true American naturalists.  He established many of the National Parks that we have today.  He led the charge up San Juan Hill.  He is a symbol of American Imperialism (“Speak softly and carry a big stick).
  6. Ronald Wilson Reagan– He brought America out of a recession.  He proved the greatness of conservative fiscal and social ideals.  He proved the greatness of capitalism using its principals to economically bring down the greatest threat to America in its history.  He is still known as the Great Communicator.  He won 49 0f 50 states.
  7. James Monroe– Probably the most popular President ever while in office.  His presidency is still known as “the Era of Good Feelings.”  He instituted the Monroe Doctrine which established the attitude that the U.S. did not support European involvement in the Americas.
  8. James Madison– He was president during the war of 1812.  He was a Founding Father, and he was the designer and author of the Constitution.
  9. Harry S. Truman– Two termer.  He had the big event (WWII).  He made what may have been the hardest decision ever made by a president, and it was the right one (the atomic bomb).
  10. Andrew Jackson– He is a two termer.  He was a war hero.  He stood up to the Supreme Court.  He was very popular.
  11. Thomas Woodrow Wilson– He was a two termer who led the U.S. during WWI and started the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.
  12. William Jefferson Clinton– He was very popular.  He was a two termer.  He served during a time of economic growth.  He was fiscally conservative, and was able to get his economic policies passed even though he did not have a sympathetic Congress.  His positives will probably outweigh the negatives caused by his personal problems and impeachment.
  13. George Walker Bush   He has the big events: 911 and the war.  His 911 speech will go down as one of the greatest of any president.  He had a sympathetic congress, and pretty much passes any legislation that he liked during his first two years.  He effectively prosecuted a war against an enemy that could not be easily seen.  He did hot do enough to get his message out there, and as a result, his second term was a failure highlighted by the loss of the Congress, and eventually the Presidency for his party.
  14. Dwight David Eisenhower– He was general of the allied armies during WWII.  He was a two termer who served during a very happy time for America, the 50s.
  15. James Knox Polk  He expanded America more than any president except Jefferson.  Took in the Oregon Territory, and the California Territory.  He annexed Texas (this should get him a couple of more points).  He signed The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  He ran on the slogan of 54-40 or Fight.  His policies stalled the Civil War for a few years.  He did not want to be President, and only served because he was asked to.
  16. John Adams– One of the most important of the Founding Fathers, he stood on his principles and kept America out of an unnecessary war even though it hurt him politically and probably cost him reelection.  He was disliked politically and arrogant.  Also, he signed the Alien and Sedition Acts which were alter declared unconstitutional.  These things pushed him down the list.
  17. John Fitzgerald Kennedy– He was extremely popular.  He faced down the Soviets.  He pushed the Space Program.  He was a good orator.  He was a war hero.  On the downside, there was the Bay of Pigs, the War in Vietnam, and his social life.  Also, his Presidency was cut short. 
  18. William McKinley– He was President during the Spanish American War.  He acquired, Guam, The Philippines and Puerto Rico from Spain.  He also advocated annexation of Hawaii.
  19. George Herbert Walker Bush– He presided over the fall of Communism and Desert Storm.  He was a war hero.  He was the former head of the CIA and former Ambassador to the UN.  On the downside, “No new Taxes” and only one term.
  20. Lyndon B. Johnson– His social policies were largely responsible for the success of the American Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  However, his welfare state was a big issue.  He got America further involved in Vietnam, and he bowed-out after only one term.

Big Oil Blues 2008

I have had a running argument with a friend regarding the oil industry.  It first needs to be stated that we are both conservatives that believe that economies operate well, for the most part, in a free market system.  I, however, also believing in the ‘depravity of man,’ know that anything involving humans without any regulation will eventually be abused by man often to his own detriment.

In the last year, as the price of oil was rising out of control, I chose to place the blame on several groups that I felt were not playing fairly.  Each had its own interests in mind at the time.  First, there were the speculators.  These included retirement account investors who had decided to drive up the price of oil in order to increase the return on these accounts.  The problem with this type of move is that in the end, it amounts to a tax on the entire country, and as a percentage of income it results in a much larger burden for the poor.  Rampant speculation is always bad for the economy.  There is always a ceiling, and when it is reached, a big fall will always occur.  You can look back through history as it has happened again and again.  And, you do not have to look far.  The stock market is still suffering the effects of recent speculation.  In the housing industry, over the past few years, America was treated to stories ad nauseum about housing prices that were skyrocketing out of control on the east and west coasts.  It was referred to as a ‘bubble,’ and the ramifications of the burst are still being experienced throughout the industry (however, in Dallas, Denver and Houston, cities that for the most part did not did take part in the rampant speculation, housing prices have continued to rise at a reasonable rate).   Before that, we had the S&L scandal in the 1980s.  In all of these instances the economy was negatively impacted by rampant speculation in a particular industry.

The second group that obvious benefitted from the aberrant rise in the price of oil last year was the oil companies themselves.  They cried crocodile tears about how awful it was that ‘demand’ had driven oil to such high prices.  At the same time, because their profit on a barrel of oil was based on a percentage of the price, their actual profits went through the roof.  During this time, my friend and I had argument after argument.  I could not get over the percentage of profit built into the oil companies’ prices.  To me this showed that the oil companies were not attempting to exist in a competitive market.  As the price of a barrel of oil was driven up, and the oil companies’ profit went along for the ride, they simply got filthy rich.  I used the Wal-Mart as an example.  If the cost of a particular item went up for Wal-Mart, they would do their best to keep their costs low, and the affect on the consumer end would only be seen up to the amount of the increase in the cost to Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart does not have a percentage of profit built in to its system.  It works on the concept of economies of scale.  No industry could employ the idea of economies of scale better than the oil industry, but there is simply no incentive to do so.  They exist in a perpetual state of mute collusion in which everyone benefits when the price goes up because people are still going to buy gas, and the entire oil industry can reap the profits.

They claim the price was demand driven, but that is a lie that has been proven at this point.  The price was driven by speculation, and as an industry, big oil had no incentive to keep this from happening, quite the opposite.

Until recently they were still blaming demand for the rise in oil prices.  I called B.S. on this.  The price of oil was about a quarter of what it had been six months ago.  So, if the price of oil were actually driven by demand, this would mean that America (and the world) would be using about 25% of the oil that it was 6 months ago.  This idea is just ridiculous.  This was all underscored even more today as news that OPEC’s largest cuts in production in its history were met with…, the price of oil going down again.  This proves that the price was not being driven by demand, but rather by speculation.  Demand and price have a positive correlation (when demand goes up, prices goes up), and supply and price have an inverse correlation (when supply goes down, prices go up).  Today’s announcement simply underscores how much out-of-whack the oil industry was this summer, because now, prices are continuing to fall regardless of the restriction of the supply.

Finally, the suppliers in the Middle East benefitted from the unrestrained speculation in the oil market.  Again, as with the oil companies, they had only to gain.  The negative impact to the economy here was huge.  It is never good to send large amounts of your wealth to another country, but as the price of oil went up, that is exactly what we did, and the dollar took a pounding as a result.  Today, the dollar is actually stronger than it was six months ago.  Interesting.

Check out this story.  I found the graph especially interesting.