Saturday, January 30, 2010

Game over, Mr. President. Game over.

It's over for President Obama. Yes, I know he's only just starting the second year of a four year gig and that his fortunes can change; thing is, I don't think they will change. My crystal ball is clouded by depressing headlines and overly verbose pundits, but I can still see for miles, and unless we find Sarah Palin back on the GOP ticket, I predict Obama will be a one-term president.

It's not that I think his policies and/or decisions are the problem, although his first year could have been much better. He ruined a good chance at health care reform by tasking Congress with that responsibility instead of taking the lead himself. Man, that was a mistake. His waffling on Afghanistan showed too careful of a deliberation, bordering on weakness; still, he should get credit for finally doing the right thing and sending in more troops. His trip to Copenhagen was a waste. Guantanamo is still wide open, and his efforts to make government more transparent remain to be seen. I won't even start on Ken Salazar.

The Obama administration is pretty bad at public relations, too. The president had to bail out the banks, but the White House did a piss poor job of explaining why. "To big to fail" is not an answer. It would've been better if they had said that if we didn't bail out the banks many more people would lose their homes and jobs and life would be pretty miserable for a longer time. How come we only hear about how most of the banks have paid back their loans with interest in the Money section? I would think they'd want that all over the news. Obama's PR people are failing him.

It's really the forces massed against Obama that will make his presidency resemble Jimmy Carter's, one of failed promise. The Party of No has the momentum, and despite all the talk about bi-partianship they have no desire or need to work with Obama and the Democrats. They have the upperhand and don't need to budge, so Obama will need to concede more and more to them in order to get anything done, resulting in victories for the GOP. The GOP is far more unified, far more energized, and far nastier then the Democrats. Another prediction: I foresee a second Republican Revolution this November.

Obama also has to contend with an American public that is fickle and short on patience. The economy went sour on Bush's watch but because Obama foolishly promised to make things better in the first year of his presidency, John Doe now blames him for the whole mess. I wasn't a stellar student of the dismal science, faring better in Micro- than I did in Macroeconomics; yet, I learned enough to know that economies don't turn around in one year (and that the second ice cream cone is not as good as the first - point of diminishing returns). Unfortunately for this president, Americans as a rule live in the short-term, with patience for the long-term being un-American. Americans lack the ability to see the big picture. We want quick fixes and immediate results, and you just don't get those in economics. Or soccer. The economy will rebound and jobs will be created and unemployment will drop, but not in time to save Obama (but in time for the GOP to take credit for it).

The Democratic Party isn't helping the president either. They still have a majority in Congress and they can't agree on anything. They should review tapes of the Bush years to learn how to support a leader. Loyalty doesn't have to be blind. Showing a little backbone and relegating Sen. Lieberman to the political backwaters and removing Howard Dean as DNC Chairman might help a bit.

Obama must also contend with an alarming unity of ugly discontent. It's not just the usual FOX News and Limbaugh groupies and the Glenn Beck flunkies that hate Obama simply because; Independents and moderate Democrats are increasingly joining their ranks. Honestly, I don't know what they want, but they're passionate and vocal, and that spells trouble.

We all knew that Obama couldn't bring the political skill and experience Hillary Clinton would have brought to the office. He only got my vote because she was too polarising and wouldn't have been elected president. Nonetheless, I felt warm inside when he took the presidency. Maybe it was hope. Fast-forward a year and his administration is floundering and showing few signs that it has any staying power.

You might say that it's too early to predict an early retirement for Obama, that I'm being pessimistic, only seeing the bad. Perhaps. If my team is losing, I am prone to turning off the TV before the game is over, before the last pitch is thrown, and because of that I've missed a few great comebacks. Only a few. Some will remind me that Bill Clinton's presidency was doomed after his first year and yet he bounced back. To that I simply reply, "Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton."

There is a ray of hope in that my record as a teller of fortunes is spotty (particularly in horse racing), and I actually hope I'm wrong this time.

But I don't think I am.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Facebook is FREE!!

I'll keep this one short and sweet: Facebook is FREE, so quit complaining about it.

You don't like the changes or the ads? Get over it; it's FREE. FB's privacy policies not good enough for you? That's what you get when something is FREE. If you want more assurances that the photos you uploaded to a server you didn't contribute one penny to help purchase and which you pay nothing to maintain won't be used in ads or whatever, then It's that frickin' simple.

FB is FREE. You have no right to demand anything of or ask anything from the FB Powers that Be. Why can't you just be content with the fact the FB is awesome and it's FREE? It doesn't have to be FREE, you know. They could (and probably should) start charging monthly fees, but you wouldn't use it then, would you? If you paid a subscription, then I think you would have a foot to stand on when demanding changes; however, you don't have to subscribe to FB because it's FREE and so you have nothing to stand on when complaining about what FB should or should not do. You're acting like a spoiled child.

Facebook is FREE. Quit complaining.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Moral Outrage

Like most Americans, I am "outraged" by the bonuses that many bank executives will purportedly receive. It sickens me, and if I think about it too much I'm sure I'll get an ulcer. But that's my moral outrage speaking. One aspect of my personality that I've battled with all my life is to not let my moral outrage get the best of me. It gets in the way of reasoning, and though I may not always be reasonable, I tend to let Reason dictate. Which is why I began thinking this morning that if those people excelled at what they were supposed to excel at (presumably increasing profits), then they should be compensated for a job well done. It's only logical.

I bet if the scale of the bonuses wasn't so high, then none of us would care. We get outraged when we hear about people raking in six or seven figure bonuses, but no one seemed outraged when I got a performance bonus several years ago. After taxes it amounted to barely $100 a month, but it was a bonus nonetheless. If we're going to get all high and mighty about bank executives and their bonuses, it only stands to reason that our outrage should be directed towards everyone who gets a bonus. Our moral outrage, however, thinks it wrong for the rich to get richer, even if they earn it. Ironically, our collective moral outrage seems to disappear when unions force companies to pay employees to not work or to not work well.

The fact of the matter is that our society has decided that some professions are more important than others, and as a result the people in those professions generally get paid more. We need doctors and lawyers, for example, and so that's one reason they make the good money. Banks, too, are critical to our society; if we all kept our money tucked away in our mattresses, our economy, our so-called way of life, would die. So there's no logical reason why bank executives shouldn't get bigger bonuses than those in non-critical librarians.

The reason some of the most important jobs in our society - teachers and social workers being among my top 10 - don't get the salaries and bonuses they deserve is that we, the American people, don't value them nearly as much as we value the people who heal us, who interpret the law, and, yes, who manage our money. Oh, we all like to say how important education is but when push comes to shove and we're asked to vote on a tax increase to support our schools, the majority of us suddenly decide our money is more important than our schools and we vote no. In all the cities and liberal college towns I've lived in, I've never known a tax increase to support public schools to pass. Never. Not in Boulder, not in Eugene, not in Austin, not in Chicago, not in Ithaca, not in Atlanta. THAT gets my moral outrage all in a tizzy!

So, my Reason tells me that the bonuses to be doled out to the evil bank execs is fine, and if I listen to my Reason, I'll not get that ulcer and will probably live longer. It's silly to get all bent out of shape over the amount of money someone I don't know makes or doesn't make. Let them make billions and all the power to them if they get bonuses for making those billions. In the end, it means nothing to me. Thanks, Reason.