It’s Friday, October 28th, 2011….but before we begin, here’s a bit of political satire that definitively delineates Mitt Romney’s only real doctrinal dilemma:
Now, here’s The Gouge!
First up, Gregg Easterbrook refuses to let feelings trump facts, as he sagely suggests….
Politicians should stop crying “fire!”
The Senate just rejected President Barack Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on millionaires in order to “create or protect 400,000 jobs for teachers, firefighters, police officers and other first responders.” Whether the country needs more teachers and police is a fair question for debate. But firefighters? Firefighting is already featherbedded.
With stricter building codes, built-in sprinkler systems and the near-universal use of smoke detectors, incidence of structure fire in the United States has declined dramatically in the past generation. In 1985, there were about 2.5 million reported fires in the U.S. Since then, fires have declined steadily, down to 1.3 million last year. The report also shows that fire deaths are down from 6,000 in 1986 to 3,100 in 2010. That’s a 48 percent decline in both fires and deaths caused by fires.
Over that same period, the number of career (not volunteer) firefighters has risen from 238,000 in 1986 to 336,000 in 2010. That’s a 41 percent increase in publicly paid firefighters during the same period that safety technology has been able to decrease the occurrence of fire.
Yet national politicians keep advocating for more firefighters. During the 2004 presidential campaign, a standard aspect of John Kerry’s stump speech was a call for federal funding for 75,000 more firefighters. Now Obama has joined this fray despite the fact that pay and retirement benefits for firefighters are high on the list of what’s causing local-government financial trouble.
What’s going on here: where’s the fire?
We all fear fire, as we should. Having more firefighters sounds like a good precaution. One factor at work is that the public does not know about the decline in fire incidence. National leaders may not know it, either. That many fire departments are overstaffed is rarely mentioned, especially by firefighters’ unions. Local politicians who bring this up — most firefighting employment is by city or county government — may be perceived as attacking motherhood and apple pie.
There’s no doubt that firefighters are heroic – this was true long before the noble sacrifice of New York City firefighters on September 11. Firefighters risk life and limb to serve the public. There is the lore of firefighting — shiny trucks and impressive uniforms — which is, in some ways, a similar calling to the military. At campaign appearances in 2004, Kerry often stood with uniformed firefighters behind him. After Osama bin-Laden was killed, Obama went to New York City to visit a firehouse and be photographed with those who lost comrades at Ground Zero. In politics, it is good to associate yourself with firefighters.
Career firefighters are mainly public-sector union members who may lend their support to whichever candidates advocate more money for them. In media symbolism, firefighters are said to represent the travails of government. A New York Times front-page article headlined “Struggling Cities Shut Firehouses in Budget Crisis,” presented the notion that fewer firefighters will mean a calamity. The 23-paragraph article never mentions that incidences of fires are declining. Nor does the article mention that the number of firefighters is up significantly, even post-recession.
Many cities have begun to use fire crews as all-around responders: taking medical calls and filling other roles. Recently there was a scandal in my county when it was revealed that union firefighters were collecting for charity while on duty – that is, billing taxpayers for wages while holding out boots to ask taxpayers for more. Firefighters were able to collect money while on the clock because they had nothing else to do.
Firefighters command the respect of the public, so there may be occasions when it makes sense to send them on smaller emergency calls. But is an enormous fire engine with a three- or four-person crew really needed to evaluate a sick senior citizen.
Beyond the fact that the number of firefighters has risen even as fires have declined, the economics of career firefighting have changed. A generation or two ago, firefighting was very dangerous and physically draining: the offer of a comfortable early retirement seemed a fair bargain for a firefighters’ peril. But deaths of firefighters have declined along with the numbers of fires. Seventy-two firefighters died on duty in 2010 — “the lowest annual total” since record keeping began, according to the National Fire Protection Association. With about 1.1 million total career and volunteer firefighters in the nation, a firefighter’s risk of death on duty last year was about one in 15,000.
Yet pay and pension structures continue to reflect the old assumption that firefighting is extremely dangerous and taxing. In New York City and Boston, firefighting jobs are keenly sought-after. California firefighters can retire at age 50 with up to 90 percent of their final year’s pay. In the November Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis details how pay and pensions for police and firefighters are a leading reason for the insolvency of many California cities. In San Jose’s budget, he writes, “the police and firefighters now eat 75 percent of all discretionary spending.”
There’s no doubt government budgets must shrink. A necessary first step is a forthright assessment of what the government really needs – and it does not need more firefighters.
In the interests of full disclosure, our eldest son is a career firefighter in Frederick County, MD. And from what he tells us, we need, if anything, LESS firefighters….or at least, less unqualified ones.
Next up, Jonah Goldberg’s thoughts on The Obamao’s precipitous retreat from Iraq in Townhall.com:
American Imperialism… Please
And so it ends. The United States is leaving Iraq.
I’m solidly in the camp that sees this as a strategic blunder. Iraqi democracy is fragile and Iran’s desire to undermine it is strong. Also, announcing our withdrawal is a weird way to respond to a foiled Iranian plot to commit an act of war in the U.S. capital. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong and President Obama’s not frittering away our enormous sacrifices in Iraq out of domestic political concerns and diplomatic ineptitude.
Still, there’s an upside. Obama’s decision to leave Iraq should deal a staggering blow to America’s critics at home and abroad. After all, what kind of empire does this sort of thing?
Critics of U.S. foreign policy have long caterwauled about American “empire.” The term is used as an epithet by both the isolationist left and right, as a more coldly descriptive term by such mainstream thinkers as Niall Ferguson and Lawrence Kaplan, and with celebratory enthusiasm by some foreign policy neoconservatives like Max Boot.
The charge in recent times has centered on the Middle East, specifically Iraq.
The problem is, contemporary America isn’t an empire, at least not in any conventional or traditional sense.
Your typical empire invades countries to seize their resources, impose political control and levy taxes. That was true of every empire from the ancient Romans to the Brits and the Soviets.
That was never the case with Iraq. For all the blood-for-oil nonsense, if America wanted Iraq’s oil it could have saved a lot of blood and simply bought it. Saddam Hussein would have been happy to cut a deal if we only lifted our sanctions. Indeed, the U.S. oil industry never lobbied for an invasion, but it did lobby for an end to sanctions. We never levied taxes in Iraq either. Indeed, we’re left holding the tab for the liberation.
And we most certainly are not in political control of Iraq. If we were, we wouldn’t have acquiesced to the Iraqi government’s desire for us to leave. Did Caesar ever cave to the popular will of Gaul?
Some partisans will undoubtedly say that the key difference is that Barack H. Obama, and not George W. Bush, is president. But this lame objection leaves out the fact that Obama acceded to a timeline drafted by the Bush administration. Moreover, Obama has moved closer to Bush than anybody could have predicted.
Consider Libya. Obama pursued exactly the same policy goal — forcible regime change — that critics of the Iraq war routinely denounced as the heart of American imperialism. There are significant differences between the two adventures, to be sure, but at the conceptual level there’s little difference at all, and neither has much to do with imperialism.
More important, for the imperialism charge to mean anything it needs to describe something larger than mere partisan policy difference. If our imperialism can be turned off and on like a light switch with the mere change of parties, then how imperialistic could we have been in the first place?
The word “regime” has been defined down in recent years to mean nothing more than presidential administrations. “What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States,” Sen. John Kerry said in 2003.
Regime actually describes an entire system of government. And if the American regime is imperial only when Republicans are in power, then it’s not a serious claim, it’s just a convenient and partisan slander.
In many quarters of the Middle East, the war on terror is cast as a religiously inspired front for crusader-imperialism. This nonsense overlooks the fact that America has gone to war to save Muslim lives more often than any modern Muslim country has. Under Democrats and Republicans we’ve fought to help Muslims in Somalia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. We’ve sought the conversion of no one and — with the exception of Kuwait — we’ve never presented a bill. When asked to leave, we’ve done so.
To say we did these things simply for plunder and power is an insult to all Americans, particularly those who gave their lives in the process.
Speaking of insults, in the “MSM Bias….WHAT Bias?!?” segment, we learn what’s currently playing in Peoria, courtesy of the folks that insult our intelligence on an increasingly frequent basis:
Teen Mobs Harass Motorists
Two motorists were accosted by groups of teenagers within a few days of each other in an area near the site of a similar incident over the summer that drew national attention. A group of about 50 young people on West Thrush Avenue near North Sheridan Road in June caused a disturbance by blocking the roadway and, according to one resident but not others, shouting race-related remarks.
Comments related to race also were part of one of the incidents last week.
A Meals on Wheels delivery driver was making his way to a home in the 800 block of West Nowland Avenue about 12:45pm Wednesday when he encountered a group of 15 teens – 13 males and two females – walking down the middle of the road. The group would not yield to the motorist, who followed him until reaching the house where he had to make the meal delivery. As he exited to take the food to the door, he was verbally attacked, according to a report on the incident.
One teen called him “honky,” while another threatened to “kick his white (expletive).” As the volunteer driver returned to his car to leave, the teens surrounded his car and pounded on it. The vehicle was not damaged, but police noted disturbances to dust on the vehicle, backing up the driver’s story.
A woman driving in the 800 block of West Brons Avenue on Saturday night was the subject of a similar, but much more aggressive confrontation. She encountered a group of more than 40 teens about 10:25 p.m. The group surrounded the 21-year-old woman’s car and began beating on it with an object that shattered her driver’s side window. One of the boys involved in the attack also pointed a handgun in the direction of a passenger in the car, but didn’t make any threats or attempt to open the door. When police responded, the group scattered in different directions. No arrests were made.
Both incidents remain under investigation by police. Public information officer Doug Burgess said Monday the incidents do not appear to be organized efforts, but rather the byproduct of unruly circumstances.
Three thoughts; from the headline and article in the Peoria Journal Star, one:
(1). Would never know the mobs were exclusively composed of young Blacks.
(2). Must therefore assume, at least in Peoria, a certain ethnicity now constitutes “unruly circumstances”.
(3). One would never know similar racially-motivated violence has been occurring on a regular basis in Peoria since June. http://www.whitecivilrights.com/?p=5655
MSM bias….WHAT bias?!?
Since we’re on the subject of angry mobs, we turn to today’s Muslim Minute, where we learn the adherents of the Religion of Pieces claim….
Muslims say crosses at Catholic University Violate “Human Rights”
Sooo….why not just attend a Islamic college or university. Oh….that’s right….there AREN’T any. How could there be? After all, Islam no longer creates; it only destroys.
And on the ObamaScare front, as Conn Carroll informs us in the Morning Examiner, Dims have deemed…
Using the Word ‘Obamacare’ for Political Gain
In the latest battle in the Congressional franking wars, Democrats have been vetoing use of the word “Obamacare” in taxpayer-financed mass mailings, saying it violates rules against using the franking privilege for “personal, partisan or political reasons.”
Their objections are irking Republicans as the calendar advances toward the 2012 elections. “It’s telling that Democrats are fearful of taking ownership of the president’s signature piece of legislation,” a GOP House aide said. “The White House and Congressional Democrats exhausted all of their political capital and a Congressional majority to move the bill across the finish line and into law. You would think given how much it cost them, that they would embrace the end result and proudly attach the president’s name to it at every opportunity.”
“You know, if it was popular they’d be all about calling it Obamacare,” another Republican source added.
Next up, today’s Money Quote, which features one E. J. Graff, writing in The American Prospect, who succinctly summarizes the Left’s regard for human life:
“If it’s okay to abstain from sex, or to use contraception, then it’s okay to clean out a uterus of those gathering storm cells as well.”
Then there’s the Environmental Moment, courtesy of Victor Davis Hanson, who declares:
Global Warming — RIP
Not long ago, candidate Obama promised to cool the planet and lower the rising seas. Indeed, he campaigned on passing “cap-and-trade” legislation, a radical, costly effort to reduce America’s traditional carbon energy use.
The theory was that new taxes and greater regulations would make Americans pay more for fossil-fuel energy — a good thing if it reduced our burning of coal, oil and gas. Obama was not shy in admitting that under his green plans, electricity prices would “necessarily skyrocket.” His energy secretary, Steven Chu, at one point had even said, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe” — that is, about $8-$10 per gallon. Fairly or not, the warming movement seemed to cast a tiny elite imposing costs on a poorer and supposedly less informed middle class.
But despite a Democrat-controlled House and Senate in 2009-2010, President Obama never passed into law any global warming legislation. Now the issue is deader than a doornail — despite the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency to enact new regulations that would never pass Congress.
So what happened to the global warming craze?
Corruption within the climate-change industry explains some of the sudden turnoff. “Climategate” — the unauthorized 2009 release of private emails from the Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom — revealed that many of the world’s top climate scientists were knee-deep in manipulating scientific evidence to support preconceived conclusions and personal agendas. Shrill warnings about everything from melting Himalayan glaciers to shrinking polar bear populations turned out not always to be supported by scientific facts.
Unfortunately, “green” during the last three years has also become synonymous with Solyndra-style crony capitalism. Common-sense ideas like more windmills, solar panels, retrofitted houses and electric cars have all been in the news lately. But the common themes were depressingly similar: few jobs created and little competitively priced energy produced, but plenty of political donors who landed hundreds of millions of dollars in low-interest loans from the government.
Of course, it didn’t help that the world’s most prominent green spokesman, Nobel laureate Al Gore, made tens of millions of dollars from his own advocacy. And he adopted a lifestyle of jet travel and energy-hungry homes at odds with his pleas for everyone else to cut back.
But even without the corruption and hypocrisy, sincere advocates of man-made global warming themselves overreached. At news that the planet had not heated up at all during the last 10 years, “global warming” gave way to “climate change” — as if to warn the public that unseasonable cold or wet weather was just as man-caused as were the old specters of drought and scorching temperatures.
Then, when “climate change” was not still enough to frighten the public into action, yet a third term followed: “climate chaos.” Suddenly some “green experts” claimed that even more terrifying disasters — from periodic hurricanes and tornadoes to volcanoes and earthquakes — could for the first time be attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. At that point, serially changing the name of the problem suggested to many that there might not be such a problem after all.
Current hard times also explain the demise of global warming advocacy. With high unemployment and near nonexistent economic growth, Americans do not want to shut down generating plants or pay new surcharges on their power bills. Most people worry first about having any car that runs — not whether it’s a more expensive green hybrid model.
Over the last half-century, Americans have agreed that smoky plants and polluting industries needed to be cleaned up. But when the green movement began to classify clean-burning heat as a pollutant, it began to lose the cash-strapped public.
While the Obama administration was subsidizing failed or inefficient green industries, radical breakthroughs in domestic fossil-fuel exploration and recovery — especially horizontal drilling and fracking — have vastly increased the known American reserves of gas and oil. Modern efficient engines have meant that both can be consumed with little, if any, pollution — at a time when a struggling U.S. economy is paying nearly half a trillion dollars for imported fossil fuels. The public apparently would prefer developing more of our own gas, oil, shale, tar sands and coal as an alternative to going broke by either importing more fuels from abroad or subsidizing more inefficient windmills and solar panels at home.
We simply don’t know positively whether recent human activity has caused the planet to warm up to dangerous levels. But we do know that those who insist it does are sometimes disingenuous, often profit-minded, and nearly always impractical.
On the Lighter Side….
And in the “That’s Appropriate” segment, courtesy of Bill Meisen….
Maryland Considering Flush Fee Hike
Yeah….that about sums it up!
Finally, we’ll call it a week with the Culture Section, and another sign the Apocalypse is upon us:
Colorado Girl Scouts Say Boy Welcome to Join
Girl Scouts of Colorado says it made a mistake when it rejected a 7-year-old boy’s application to join. Bobby Montoya says he wanted to join his sister in the group and the rejection hurt. His mother says Bobby behaves like a girl.
When Montoya learned he was unable to join, he told WTSP.com, “It’s hurting my heart. It hurts me and my mom both. “It was like somebody told me I can’t like girl stuff, and I have to change my name to something else,” Montoya told the station.
According to KUSA-TV, the Girl Scouts issued a statement saying a worker unfamiliar with the group’s policies gave the family wrong information. The group says requests for support of transgender kids have grown, and Girl Scouts of Colorado is working to support the children, their families and the volunteers who serve them.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality,….said that age 7 is not too young for Bobby to decide whether he’s a girl or a boy. “Who is to decide who is a boy and who is a girl?” she asked. “We see this all the time.” (Ms. Keisling’s non-sequitur notwithstanding, a penis and testicles are generally dead giveaways!)
“I don’t think it’s such a big deal,” said Archuleta. “We don’t need therapy. Bobby doesn’t need therapy. If Bobby wants to be a girl, that’s what we’ll do.”
Ms. Archuleta is right about one thing; she doesn’t need therapy. What she needs is a good swift kick in the ass, along with everyone else involved in this politically-correct farce. All the kid needs is to be told “NO!” The Rolling Stones had it right; you can’t always get what you want. And the sooner this kid, along with all the other spoiled brats in America, learn this very important lesson, the better them AND us.
Enjoy the weekend….and be sure to check out www.thedailygouge.com for our other stories and video features.