"Once abolish God and the government becomes the God." -G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Facetwitch Goes to the Oscars

I'm sad to say we don't have any exclusive interviews with celebrities like last year, but we are brave enough to list our annual Oscar picks, as well as the fan favorites according to yahoo.com. This year does seem to lack the buzz of years past. Who would have thought the real news could take away from celebrity news in today's America? Yet that's exactly the case as events in Egypt, Libya, and Wisconsin have taken the spotlight off Hollywood. Will these Oscars stand and deliver or will there be blood? One thing's for certain, there's no film to root against this year like 2010 (when we rooted whole-heartedly against James Cameron's Avatar). We won't be watching the whole thing, of course. We do have lives. But we'll be tweeting the lowlights.

For a unique look at the ten nominees for Best Picture, MTV has a cool feature with 2 second GIFs that provide an idea of the theme and look of each film. As for our picks, The King's Speech could easily be renamed The King's Acceptance Speech after tonight. We are predicting it to come out the winner in several categories, including top honors.

FACETWITCH PICKS (fan favorite in parenthesis)

BEST PICTURE:  The King's Speech (fan favorite: The Social Network)
BEST DIRECTOR: David Fincher for Social Network (Darren Aronofsky)
BEST ACTOR: Colin Firth for The King's Speech (same)
BEST ACTRESS: Natalie Portman for Black Swan (same)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Melissa Leo for The Fighter (Hailee Steinfeld)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale for The Fighter (same)
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Social Network (same)
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: The King's Speech (Inception)
CINEMATOGRAPHY: The King's Speech (Inception)
ART DIRECTION: Alice in Wonderland (Inception)
FILM EDITING: Black Swan (same)
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: The King's Speech (Inception)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3 (same)
BEST FOREIGN FILM: Biutiful (same)


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shepard Smith: "Facts are Troublesome Creatures" - Probably Why He Gets Them All Wrong Discussing Unions

Who says Fox News isn't balanced? Leave it to liberal pundit Juan Williams to have to set the record straight when discussing Wisconsin teachers unions with Fox News' other liberal, Shepard Smith. Shep, who I lost respect for when he freaked out in New Orleans and reported every bit of innuendo and rumor as fact during Hurricane Katrina, gets hysterical and fails to tell the truth again, this time blaming Wisconsin's current battle over public sector unions on the Koch brothers. 
"This is 100% political... This started with the Koch brothers, right? The Koch brothers were organizing... I'm not taking a side on this. I'm just telling you what's going on... The Koch brothers were organizing, among others, to try and bust labor. That's what big business wants to do, this isn't a new thing. So they started getting organized, they gave a bunch of money to the governor's campaign. The governor's campaign is over and away we go! We're going to try and bust this union up... This is political!"
Only one problem. Governor Walker's legislation to limit collective bargaining on health care compensation and pensions - but not on salaries - only addresses public sector unions. How that benefits the business of the Koch brothers is uncertain and Shepard Smith fails to provide any reason it would. As private business owners, the Koch brothers would deal with private unions. The Wisconsin teachers unions work for the taxpayer, not private business. So the effort to paint this bill as payback to big business for a $40,000 campaign contribution to bust unions rings hollow. In fact, it's completely fictitious. Fortunately, Juan Williams, also a Democrat, is there to correct Shep's spin.

Perhaps Shepard's been doing his research at Media Matters or maybe he was just fired up after finishing his diary entry for the Daily Kos, but he also erred in reporting that 7 of the top 10 contributors in America were Republican. That's flat out false as this chart, courtesy of opensecrets.org, details the largest campaign contributors since 1989. You won't find the Koch brothers anywhere on the list and in fact, 8 of the top 10 (and 16 of the top 20) contributed heavily to Democrats. Powerline has more on this.

Ultimately what we have in Wisconsin is the most important union in the nation, that of taxpayers and voters, flexing their collective muscle and telling their elected officials to get control of the runaway public unions. After all, many taxpayers are having trouble saving for their own retirement. Why should they see their taxes go up or have to sacrifice opportunities for their families in order to keep funding the entire pensions of union members? They shouldn't. This is democracy in action and the people, not the union bosses, are winning.

The ugly truth is that over the past two decades the Democrats have abandoned the people for their special interests - public sector unions, trial lawyers, and wall street bankers. It's been a very lucrative racket for them with more millionaires coming out of "public service" than ever before, but as it turns out these parasitic groups feed on successful companies in America without producing any wealth of their own. They require other people's money to enrich themselves and that's devastating the economy, something the people of Wisconsin and Joe Taxpayer are finally waking up to.

Exit Question: Is Shepard channeling Olbermann?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Protesting Democracy in Wisconsin, You Know, For the Kids

"For the kids!" teachers union members chanted in Wisconsin while protesting Governor Scott Walker's modest proposal to make public sector union employees contribute 5% toward their pensions and kick in roughly one-tenth of their health care costs. These are benefits most private sector employees would jump at - assuming they still have jobs in Obama's economy. But the Left is hot for teachers unions so they have declared such measures the stuff of authoritarian regimes, with many protest signs comparing Governor Walker to Mubarak or worse, Hitler.

Leave it to the misplaced priorities of the Left to make a hero out of John Walker Lindh and a villain out of Scott Walker. So much for the new civility.

Lost in all the hubbub is the fact that a protest for more government goodies at the expense of taxpayers is anything but good for the kids. These kids are future taxpayers after all, and nothing could be more liberating than a vote to remove the massive shadow of big government that will be limiting their opportunities and strangling their future paychecks.

No, if anyone is for the kids in this case, it's the voters of Wisconsin who elected Scott Walker just months ago to address the cozy and crippling relationship between union special interests and government. In limiting the damage public sector unions can do to the state budget and bringing government costs in line, Walker is shoring up the state's fiscal health and ensuring future generations won't face an insurmountable tax burden. Scott Walker is creating more opportunities for these kids while the unions, concerned only with enriching themselves, steal from Dick and Jane.

Has anyone seen the unemployment rate for teens recently? It's almost 25%, a record high since they started keeping track of such statistics in 1948. The greedy teachers unions are basically demanding generous benefits (for only nine months of work) at the expense of the kids by insisting budget gaps be closed with tax increases in the middle of a recession on the very companies who give so many teens their first job. Meanwhile, they expect the rest of us to keep working overtime to pay for more than 95% of their retirement.

Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas illustrated the Left's temper tantrum in Wisconsin perfectly when he tweeted, "Sorry Teabaggers, it's our turn now." Our turn? How about the kids turn?

The Tea Party, for those who were paying attention, has been about stopping the massive deficits that so many have rightfully described as generational theft. The union protest in Wisconsin, put together by the president's own Organizing for America, is the rallying cry of government thieves who refuse to be held accountable to the taxpayers who pay their salaries. Big difference.

Meanwhile, 14 Democratic lawmakers fled the battlefield and crossed state lines in order to prevent a vote from taking place. Say what you will about the Republicans being the Party of No when opposing President Obama's radical agenda, but at least they showed up and voted. It appears the Democrat Party of Wisconsin represents far worse, a Party of No Shows for No Democracy.

Nothing like running away from the problem, shirking responsibility, and refusing to participate in the process of democracy when you don't think the vote will go your way. That's a lesson that should serve our kids well.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To Stop the Crippling Debt and Save America, It's Time for an Intervention

What behavior defines a junkie? Needy, erratic, self-destructive, delusional, blind to the harm they are causing others, determined to continue their ways at all costs, unable to listen to reason, lashing out at those who most wish to help. This is the American Left, addicted to government growth and unable to fathom less spending no matter the cost to future generations.

America is being run by junkies and just like a junkie's personality is no longer recognizable to their family and friends, we are unrecognizable to our forefathers. Our addiction is government - big government, more government, government as God, massive spending and entitlements, programs out the wazoo, an agency for every day of the year, a bureaucrat for every minute of our lives and then some. 

We are no longer a nation of self-reliant men and independent women yearning for freedom from an intrusive state. What we are, like all junkies, is myopic and self-centered, more interested in our next fix than the nourishing values we were brought up on and built this country into something great.

Sadly, President Obama's latest budget does nothing to curb our appetite for destruction (with apologies to Guns n Roses). While some on the Left will spin it as a step toward recovery, a "spending freeze" after greatly expanding the size and role of government over the past two years (including an 84% increase in discretionary spending) falls dramatically short of a reliable 12 step program. This is like a heroin addict saying, "I won't cut back on my habit, but how about I promise not to be more strung out than last year?" (again, apologies to Guns n Roses).

Looking down the road, the fiscal path Obama has laid out for America becomes even more disheartening. By 2021, government spending is projected to be a whopping six trillion dollars with deficits still hovering around one trillion. To put that in perspective, the entire fiscal budget was less than two trillion as recently as 2002 and the deficit as low as $200 billion as recently as 2007 (you know, during those irresponsible Bush years).

Obama's threats to veto GOP budget cuts after two years of massively expanding government and super-sizing bureaucracy prove he's the last advocate for restraint. And he's unwilling to even mention entitlement reforms. If the Republican plan can be described as budgetary rehab, what the president proposes is no better than free needles for addicts.

While not all of the debt is President Obama's fault, he has exasperated what was once a manageable crisis, doubling down on bad fiscal policy. What we are left with is a crippling disease in terms of economic growth. Without massive reforms to shore up America's finances, even under the president's rosiest scenario the national debt will increase from $14 trillion to $25 trillion in 10 years. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will swallow up huge chunks of discretionary spending. The economy will flat line, our nation's line of defense will crumble, and all we'll have to show for it are brand new choo choos that go an average speed of 80 mph and make putting a man on the moon look like cost-efficient transportation by comparison.

The last time the federal government actually spent less money than the year before was, well... nevermind, because it hasn't happened in our lifetimes. We have been conditioned to accept the endless march of big government as the norm, something unfathomable to our founding fathers. As John Adams once warned us, "There are two ways to enslave a country. One is by sword, the other is by debt."

Our future does not look promising. In the last four years, the federal budget has doubled and the deficit has quadrupled. These are record low points for our nation's fiscal health. We are obese, at least as far as governments are concerned, and this alone should concern the First Lady if not the president. Let's move! If we are going to fight obesity, shouldn't we start with those unnecessary pounds of bureaucracy? To quote the concerned mom in one of those Lifetime movies (or perhaps my high school guidance counselor), "Can't you see you're ruining your future?!" 

It's hard to convince a junkie. If a sea change election won't cut it, Republicans should hold their ground in the face of a temporary government shutdown. It's time for an intervention.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Skyrocketing Medicaid Costs Will Swallow Up 40% of State Budget in Less Than 30 Years

Medicaid's growth rate is unsustainable and will swallow up 40% of the state's budget by 2040, threatening to bankrupt Texas and force huge cuts to future investments in education and public safety, according to the latest comprehensive report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation

At the current rate of growth, Medicaid costs will double every ten years, reaching a total of $38 billion in 2020 and $144.5 billion by the year 2040. If ObamaCare is allowed to stand, the report shows that the consequences will be even more devastating.

Medicaid has grown faster than any other government program since the 1990s. As Medicaid costs have increased, the rest of the budget has suffered. In 2000 Medicaid accounted for 17 percent of the state's general revenue budget, but by 2007 had grown to 22 percent. At the same time, education spending dropped from 62 to 57 percent and the public safety's portion from 12 percent to 11 percent. Should this trend continue, education and public safety will take the brunt of the cuts, and Texas will find it harder and harder to meet its constitutional obligations.

Without sweeping reforms, the state stands to lose $155 billion for education, $21 billion for public safety, and $26 billion for business and economic development, proving the Medicaid program is too large and comprehensive to tweak here and there.
One alternative is for the 82nd legislature to raise the sales tax by at least three cents. This would cover the $10 billion needed for Medicaid by 2014, without offsetting budget cuts, but fail to solve the problem long-term, essentially punting on it for four years. It would also give Texas the highest sales tax burden in the nation. This, as the TPPF report indicates, is not a viable option.

If the state can find a way to keep Medicaid costs at the same percentage of the budget as they now stand, the taxpayer would actually save money, Texas could shore up its finances, and more funds would be available for other services. If not, by 2040 Medicaid will have become the principal service to voters and taxpayers, but the majority of Texans will not see benefits from this program.

The full report, “The Big Squeeze”, can be viewed at www.TexasPolicy.com

Friday, February 11, 2011

BREAKING: Dog Catches Car: Mubarak Resigns (Updated)

Now what?? Ramifications are huge. The chances of a democracy forming that is recognizable to the West are very slim. Israel certainly has reason to be anxious, and the military is still in control. I would argue once again that a revolution without a foundation that champions individual liberty and limited government is doomed for failure. What failure looks like in this case is anyone's guess, but let's hope the end result is closer to Turkey than Iran.

More details here, but I'm linking to Al Jazeera so take it w/ a grain of salt. Certainly the photo of mass protesters bowing to Mecca raises questions. 

UPDATE: This from Legal Insurrection: "If I were the Israelis, I'd be dusting off the old Sinai tank battle maps and strategies, and calling on the veterans of the prior Sinai battles for wisdom.  Because at 3 a.m. there isn't going to be any help." Read the whole thing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Top Ten Slogans for High Speed Rail

(with inspiration from the twittersphere)

10. Now taking union bribes... er, bids.
9. By the same folks who brought you Amtrak.
8. Yes, we'll still find a way to lose your bags.
7. No caboose left behind.
6. Safer than traveling by that other great 19th century invention, the blimp.
5. Biden loves choo choos!
4. When someone hijacks your train, at least they can't take you to Tehran.
3. Saul Alinsky Presents Rails for Radicals
2. Two Words: Pickaxe Ready
1. When it comes to the economy, we've got tunnel vision!

Friday, February 4, 2011

In Egypt, the Revolution Will Be Televised, but Is it the Right Revolution?

They said the revolution won't be televised, but that was before social networking. Egypt may be the first made for TV revolt, an uprising that has been tweeted, blogged, youtubed, and manufactured to look like a grassroots protest when it is an entirely different animal, a youth riot over unemployment and food inflation hijacked by Islamist groups to overthrow a pro-Israel government.

The production is well orchestrated with media savvy protesters carrying more signs in English than Arabic, trying to convince the news networks this is a pro-democracy movement. It's not, at least not in the western sense, and signs in Arabic are more likely to quote the Koran than any thinkers of the enlightenment. With so much playing to the camera, one half expects to see Rev. Al Sharpton pop into frame and co-opt the whole affair.

No word yet on how many throngs of people are being CGI'd into the picture, but such propagandizing is having the desired effect. Regime change is the word du jour, and President Mubarak, who at first balked like an Egyptian, has at the very least agreed to not run for an umpteenth term. Nevertheless, the protesters continue their push for change now. An orderly transition overseen by the military in September is unacceptable. They are the jihadists they've been waiting for, community organizers every one of them, and ready for their close-up.

The only remaining question is will their close-up lead to democracy, theocracy, or an even worse autocracy? This is where the whole affair gets muddled, and I part ways with a lot of my conservative American brethren. I have no expectation for any type of government to take shape in Egypt that we would recognize in the United States as free and democratic. There's absolutely nothing to suggest that this is a foundation Egyptians are capable of building on, no history of individual liberty or freedom of worship or equality under the law. To most citizens of the Middle East, democracy simply means mob rule and/or tyranny by the majority. That majority, of course, happens to be Islamic. Thus, when rioting protesters have moved beyond the anti-Mubarak rhetoric to express the principles on which they wish to replace their current regime, the most common references are to Sharia Law and "Death to Israel."

While I'm no expert on Egypt, I'm well-practiced in discerning misinformation spread through the media. I know when I'm being played for a fool and when it comes to the uprising in Egypt, we're all being played. Consider how often you have heard the demonstrators called "peaceful protests" by the mainstream media, the same media who described every tea party event as an angry mob. Yet 100 Egyptians were killed during the first three days of "peaceful protesting." Banks were robbed, homes were set on fire, foreigners were attacked, and businesses were looted. These are not the acts of Gandhi. Meanwhile, the villain we are being sold, President Mubarak - and no one is pretending he is a saint  who hasn't violated human rights - didn't open fire or aggressively run over protesters with tanks.

In recent days, the news of a restrained Mubarak has not been as encouraging, although oddly enough most of the reports of plainclothes police officers beating protesters are second hand accounts relayed by the very people who want to violently overthrow Mubarak. We are, in essence, only getting one side of the story. This should give pause to the reporters in the field, but they are so obsessed with selling their ratings-winning, iphone uprising, that all prudence has gone out the window. Facts aren't verified. Grains of salt are offered sparingly. It's certainly interesting that as Mubarak makes his first move to restore order, having promised to hand power over in a matter of months, the body count is suddenly front page news and the violence is all the president's fault.

There are two reasons the coverage by the American media can't be trusted. The first is Hurricane Katrina. Remember all the killing, stabbing, raping, and thuggery that supposedly took place in the SuperDome that had Shepard Smith and other members of the MSM hyperventilating? Turns out it never happened. Mobs feeding misinformation to reporters trying to scoop their competitors in this age of megabytes and milliseconds means globs of misinformation and few retractions until the hysteria is gone and the 24/7 news cycle has moved on to the latest faux Palin family scandal.

The second and more significant reason I don't trust the coverage of Egypt is a lot of it is originating with Reuters and Al-Jazeera, both of which have a long history of making up facts, publishing staged photos, and using events in the Middle East to further the cause of a Palestinian state and turn public sentiment against Israel, the one true democracy in the region where residents are guaranteed an impressive array of human rights and liberties. No wonder Israel thrives while the rest of the Arab world disintegrates.

To want a free and democratic Egypt is noble, I don't blame anyone for their pollyanna tendencies, but it's also dangerously naive. The history of the world if rife with revolutions in which displaced rulers end up looking like wallflowers compared to the newly installed regimes: Russia, Iran, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and the Gaza Strip to name just a few. With the rare exception of Iraq (thanks to us), most of the Middle East is moving further toward Islamic theocracy than secular democracy, with Turkey and Tunisia leading the path into darkness.

America must continue to psychologically nudge repressive societies toward the beacon of freedom, but when it comes to Egypt, we are seeing the devil we know replaced with the devil we don't know. Make no mistake they are both devils.