I am bored with politics, refuse to pay attention to the news and am watching only True Crime TV shows and Turner Classic Movies these days. With the Democrats controlling the Senate and presidency, nothing good can possibly come out of Washington for at least another two years. So I thought I'd start the new year with something useful, like a short list of bad inventions.
(1) SILENT DISHWASHERS
Are people installing dishwashers next to their beds? I've checked my "Top 500 Daily Irritations" list and dishwasher noise is not on it.
What possible benefit derives from having a dishwasher that makes absolutely no noise? Was that gentle whooshing sound driving some homeowners bonkers? Is this a product designed by the same people who gave us the electric car, a vehicle so silent that the first sign of its approach is the sound of your pelvis breaking as the car hits you?
Everything that everyone loathes about Washington was present in the "fiscal cliff" bill just passed by Congress. It is 153 pages long; most members probably hadn't read all of it before voting on it; it was delivered in the middle of the night; it was loaded with pork -- the mother's milk (to mix a metaphor) of politicians -- and while the country is already swamped with massive debt, it contains massive giveaways to satisfy interest groups and campaign contributors. Did I mention the bill raises taxes on top of the coming Obamacare taxes, but does nothing -- nothing -- to address the debt problem?
As with previous congresses, this one (again) delayed the debt issue for two months and will have to face it again, along with what to do about the debt ceiling. Only expletives that can't be printed in a family newspaper accurately characterize this bunch, so I'll have to settle for pathetic, unprincipled and irresponsible.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, said: "The British are not coming. ... We don't need all these guns to kill people." Lewis' vision, shared by many, represents a gross ignorance of why the framers of the Constitution gave us the Second Amendment. How about a few quotes from the period and you decide whether our Founding Fathers harbored a fear of foreign tyrants.
Alexander Hamilton: "The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed," adding later, "If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government." By the way, Hamilton is referring to what institution when he says "the representatives of the people"?
When President Barack Obama was re-elected, the winds waned behind many patriots' ships' sails. My wife, Gena, and I felt that sock in the gut for our country and posterity, too. But instead of cowering in defeat, I believe we need to discard conventional (unsuccessful) strategies and advance in new directions.
The future of our country is going to hinge not upon the Republican Party's reinvention (as so many think) but upon each of us patriots asking what isn't working about our approach and modifying our attacks for greater impact in the culture and political wars. You don't fight and win unconventional wars with conventional weapons; that's why we lost in November.
The year 2012 is about to expire. It was a blank in my judgment — poof and it is gone. We have the same sorry vacuity in the White House, bereft of knowing how to run the government. Just now he is off to Hawaii to loll in the sun, having left behind questions as to how to avoid our "fiscal cliff." Yes, he wants to raise taxes on the top two percent, but how do we reduce the deficit and finish off the tax bill? He has headed for the beach — and practically no one remarks on the amateurism of it. The president is a poseur.
Not much more can be said for the rest of the leadership in Washington, in Congress, in the media, strutting down the halls of government. As year chases year, I have come to the conclusion that this whole town is abundant with poseurs or worse. The blandness of the Washington and New York City scenes is maddening to anyone familiar with American history, a history filled with great figures.
Here's the first paragraph of my last year's column "Democracy Is Impossible":
"After Moammar Gadhafi's downfall as Libya's tyrannical ruler, politicians and 'experts' in the U.S. and elsewhere, including French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, are saying that his death marked the end of 42 years of tyranny and the beginning of democracy in Libya. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Gadhafi's death represented an opportunity for Libya to make a peaceful and responsible transition to democracy. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, 'Now it is time for Libya's Transitional National Council to show the world that it will respect the rights of all Libyans (and) guide the nation to democracy.' German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that 'Libya must now quickly make further determined steps in the direction of democracy.'"
HANOI, Vietnam -- It has been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy ordered U.S. "advisers" to South Vietnam to help battle the communist North and 37 years since the end of that divisive war and the country's unification under Communism.
These simple common-sense steps are adapted from a post I published on my blog after the horrific Newtown, Conn., massacre. Our hearts ache, but we are not completely helpless or hopeless in the face of evil and the unknown. And we are not alone. This Christmas, cherish life, keep faith and practice self-empowerment.
7. Teach our kids about the acts of heroes in times of crisis.
Most people who haven't finished their shopping are starting to worry about what gifts to give a friend, relative or spouse. Quick, what did you give or receive last year? How about two years ago? Most of us can't remember, unless it was a big-ticket item.
What if you could give a gift that mattered; one that literally kept on giving and improved the life of another person? Would you buy that gift?
President Obama and congressional Democrats are still winning the messaging battle in the debate over the impending "fiscal cliff."
Republican House Speaker John Boehner tried to change that with a fallback position extending tax cuts for everyone except those making more than a million dollars a year and letting the scheduled spending cuts go through. As I write this, the vote on Boehner's "Plan B" has not been taken, but it doesn't really matter. Either way, Republicans will end up as losers in the court of public opinion.
Trying to explain an evil act like the one that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is on a par with explaining how the universe was formed.
The natural human reaction after extending sympathy and prayers for the victims and their families is to ask what actions might have been taken to prevent the massacre. More gun laws? Connecticut already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Those laws did not prevent a man with evil intent from carrying out his heinous act.
Suppose you saw a building on fire. Would you seek counsel from the arsonist who set it ablaze for advice on how to put it out? You say, "Williams, you'd have to be a lunatic to do that!" But that's precisely what we've done: turned to the people who created our fiscal crisis to fix it. I have never read a better account of our doing just that than in John A. Allison's new book, "The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure."
Allison is the former CEO of Branch Banking and Trust, the nation's 10th largest bank. He assembles evidence that shows that our financial crisis, followed by the Great Recession, was caused by Congress, the Federal Reserve, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and was helped along by the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama White Houses.
Having survived the Supreme Court and the November elections, President Obama's health care law now faces an even bigger hurdle: the reality of making it work.
Implementation of any massive new program requires cooperation, something the health care law can't count on. Overall, just 46 percent of voters nationwide have a favorable opinion of the law, while 49 percent offer a negative view. The reasons are pretty much the same as they've been all along. Just 22 percent believe the law will reduce the cost of health care. Forty-eight percent believe costs will go up. By similar margins, voters expect the law to hurt the quality of care and drive up the federal budget deficit.
SINGAPORE -- While the U.S. unemployment rate "dropped" to 7.7 percent last month -- a figure even The Washington Post acknowledged was due "...in large part because the labor force fell by 350,000..." -- here in this modern and prosperous city-state of slightly more than 5 million people, unemployment is practically nonexistent.
A taxi driver tells me, "Everyone here works." With unemployment at an astonishingly low 1.9 percent, he is nearly right.
Republicans have been forced into a Hobson's choice of either letting the Bush tax cuts expire for everyone or agreeing to a tax hike on the top 2 percent of income earners (not to be confused with "the rich," who have already made, inherited or married their money).
If Republicans object to the Democrats' hitting job creators with a tax hike, three things will happen: Taxes will go up for everyone; Republicans will be seen as the "party of the rich"; and the inevitable economic collapse will be blamed on Republicans.
"You gotta have hope; mustn't sit around and mope." -- "Damn Yankees"
Sitting in the room at the Jack Kemp Leadership Award dinner last week, listening to Senator Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, and Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and of late the GOP vice presidential candidate, I sensed more than a generational shift in party leadership.
The art of jiujitsu is to use an opponent's weight and strength to your advantage. I believe we can further choke the life out of Obamacare by using this martial art technique. Let me explain.
Last week, I shared with you that while Republicans' power to repeal Obamacare has been thwarted by the president's re-election, all is not lost. Conservatives can still suffocate the federal monstrosity by supporting individual-to-state efforts to impede its funding and implementation.
It is really getting old to hear liberal politicians and pundits complaining about conservative media as being destructive, as if the country would be better off returning to the halcyon days of the monolithic liberal media.
That seems to be the view of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who complained about "the right-wing control of the American media, particularly starting with Fox News." During a discussion on HuffPost Live, Kennedy said, "Ninety-five percent of talk radio in our country is right-wing ... so a whole section of our country that's what they're hearing."
Jeffrey Hillman is a man who shambles the streets of New York City looking quite unkempt, drab, and hopeless. He panhandles sometimes and mutters to himself. Frankly, he looks a wreck and apparently is often in need of a pair of shoes. On cold winter nights he gets them.
One cold November night, Officer Lawrence DePrimo spotted Hillman seated shoeless on the pavement of Times Square, and the young policeman left his post, went into a store nearby, and bought Hillman a pair of shoes costing $100. He even helped Hillman put them on. A tourist snapped a picture of DePrimo doing this, and the picture appeared on Facebook. It went viral, and was seen around the world — a young New York City cop, putting shoes on a beggar.
President Obama is winning the messaging wars in the "fiscal cliff" debate largely because Republicans aren't even in the game. The GOP leadership in Washington keeps talking as if the issue is deficit reduction, while the president is talking about fairness.
Consider the numbers. Sixty-one percent of voters want to see a deal reached to avoid the big Jan. 1 tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts, and 68 percent want the deal to include a combination of both tax hikes and spending cuts. By a 2-to-1 margin, voters would like to see more spending cuts than tax hikes.
An Internet search is inconclusive as to where the phrase "no skin in the game" originated. Some ascribe it to the late columnist William Safire; others to investor Warren Buffett. Politicians often use the phrase to justify policies to their liking. It can also be applied to the latest in a long list of their outrageous behaviors, as well as to those of President Obama.
Like an increasing number of politicians, the president has never served in the military, nor has he ever run a business. He has never headed a company that needed to make a profit (and thus employ people who create things people wish to purchase). He has likely never had to produce a balance sheet. His entire career -- and that of too many other politicians -- appears to have been about redistributing other people's money and organizing "communities" to receive government benefits.
Now that Obama has been re-elected and Democrats still control the Senate, Republicans no longer have the chance to repeal Obamacare.
But all is not lost. There's still an opportunity for America to stop this disaster by choking the life out of the federal monstrosity. Obama's signature legislative achievement is likely headed back to the Supreme Court.
The opening scene-setter for the 1996 film "Independence Day" might serve as a metaphor for what Egyptians could face if a draft constitution written by a panel dominated by Islamists and based on Sharia law wins approval in a referendum: "A loud rumble is heard. Suddenly, we are covered in darkness as the shadow engulfs us. Only the image of our Earth hangs in the air, until a huge silhouetted object suddenly blocks our view."
Egypt could well embrace the dark side (to mix movie metaphors) and become the region's biggest force for extremism, just ahead of the Wahaabists in Saudi Arabia, though Iran with its race toward nuclear weapons poses the most immediate danger.
If you thought President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder had given up on closing Guantanamo Bay and bringing jihadists to American soil, think again. Two troubling developments on the Gitmo front should have every American on edge.
The first White House maneuver took place in October, while much of the public and the media were preoccupied with election news. On Oct. 2, Obama's cash-strapped Illinois pals announced that the federal government bought out the Thomson Correctional Center in western Illinois for $165 million. According to Watchdog.org, a recent appraisal put the value of the facility at $220 million.
One little noticed and quite remarkable aspect of Election 2012 is that Barack Obama won a majority of the popular vote for the second consecutive time. With the exception of Franklin D. Roosevelt's four-term run in the 1930s and '40s, it's the first time the Democrats have won a majority of the presidential vote in back-to-back elections since 1836.
This suggests that the president has a unique opportunity to reshape American politics in a major way. To accomplish that, however, his second term will have to be deemed a success in the court of public opinion. Mandates and lasting change are won by governing, not by campaigning.
For decades, it has been obvious that there are irreconcilable differences between Americans who want to control the lives of others and those who wish to be left alone. Which is the more peaceful solution: Americans using the brute force of government to beat liberty-minded people into submission or simply parting company? In a marriage, where vows are ignored and broken, divorce is the most peaceful solution. Similarly, our constitutional and human rights have been increasingly violated by a government instituted to protect them. Americans who support constitutional abrogation have no intention of mending their ways.
Since Barack Obama's re-election, hundreds of thousands of petitions for secession have reached the White House. Some people have argued that secession is unconstitutional, but there's absolutely nothing in the Constitution that prohibits it. What stops secession is the prospect of brute force by a mighty federal government, as witnessed by the costly War of 1861. Let's look at the secession issue.
One bright spot of Barack Obama's re-election was knowing that unemployment rates were about to soar for the precise groups that voted for him -- young people, unskilled workers and single women with degrees in gender studies. But now the Democrats are sullying my silver lining by forcing Republicans to block an utterly pointless tax-raising scheme in order to blame the coming economic Armageddon on them.
Democrats are proposing to reinstate the Bush tax cuts for everyone ... except "the rich." (Why do only tax cuts come with an expiration date? Why not tax increases? Why not Obamacare? How about New York City's "temporary" rent control measures intended for veterans returning from World War II?)