Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Obama is "cool" but has no class

The Late Show with David Letterman.

The View.

Paul McCartney plays the White House.

Barack Obama's affinity for pop culture is emblematic of his administration's greater disconnect on programs, policy, and ideology from the mainstream of American society. Much of this has to do with the dichotomy between the terms "class" and "cool."

Though difficult to precisely define, personal class is one of those things of which it may be said (to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart) that "you know it when you see it." Its attributes include maturity, rational self-possession, a sense of the appropriate, generosity of spirit, and the humility that begets both charm and wit. Though frequently associated with childhood training and education, class knows no boundaries when it comes to gender, economic status, or even political persuasion. William F. Buckley, Jr. and Daniel Patrick Moynihan held opposing views, but both were possessed of great personal grace and were sincerely liked by even their opponents.

The American people have always valued class in their presidents and other leaders, and for good reason. Its highly personal characteristics are the prime means by which presidents are first observed and measured by foreign leaders, friend and foe alike.

This does not mean that individuals possessing "class" are immune from mistakes, miscalculations, or even personal misconduct. The way in which they handle adversity is perhaps what defines them most.

Despite multiple personal and political failings that we have become aware of in recent years, John and Jacqueline Kennedy possessed such respect for their country and themselves that they worked diligently at projecting the proper image to their fellow citizens and the rest of the world. The pride in American history reflected in his speeches and her restoration of the White House, their support of the fine arts, and their ongoing interaction with younger Americans presented an image that, though some might call it hypocritical, at least preserved us from the tabloid presidency that is the Clinton legacy, and increasingly Obama's.

It is impossible to conceive of John Kennedy presenting the British Prime Minister with a set of DVDs (even ones that worked) or the Queen of England with an iPod of his speeches. Contrast the Kennedy administration's approach to physical fitness for the nation's youth which stressed personal responsibility (the fifty-mile hike) with today's big-government solution (micromanaging the school cafeteria and excluding certain soft drinks).

From the inception of his campaign, Barack Obama was described by his younger supporters as "cool," and, as with an American Idol contestant, that was what caused many of them to vote for him. It likewise explains why he persists in trying to maintain the rock star/pop star image long past its useful life.

As it applies to culture, "cool" is largely associated with the personal journey we call "adolescence." A large part of that process involves a search for self and for independence and is characterized by the adoption and rejection of multiple role models, as well as rebellion against parental and other authority. "Cool" figures have always combined traits that not only typify but idealize this. James Dean's agonized "Rebel Without a Cause" was the spiritual ancestor of Peter Fonda in "Easy Rider." From Elvis' sideburns and hip movements to the Beatles' new sound, clothes, and haircuts to the grotesqueries of Madonna and Lady GaGa, the elements of novelty, non-conformism and rebellion are readily apparent. Frequently, the cool people try to project a "serious" side by involving themselves in causes that, therefore, appeal to their fans: No matter how egregious, if the star is for it, it's got to be cool.

Right from the start, the Obama campaign was designed and produced as a pop culture phenomenon. From the screaming, fainting fans to the walk-on endorsement of pop icons to the world tour replete with Las Vegas production values, the cult of celebrity was everywhere prevalent. Like many rock songs, the lyrics "Hope and Change" and "We are the ones we've been waiting for" were long on sentiment and short on substance. All of this was greatly magnified by the candidate's youth as opposed to John McCain's age. Barack was cool.

In the relatively short time since the election, reality has intruded.

In the world of pop, nothing breeds contempt like overexposure and, except for the most fanatical fans, it takes only a couple of bad albums or films to consign even the once-brightest star to the dismal world of Golden Oldies and Trivial Pursuit. The failed Stimulus Bill, the toxic Obamacare initiative, and so-called financial reform are a lot less sexy than Hope and Change and never even made the charts. It hasn't helped that the star's lead act, Reid and Pelosi, is on the far side of the generation gap.

Obama's juvenile behavior has not helped, either. Lecturing the Supreme Court at the State of the Union address -- publicly, and in their presence; insulting those who disagree with him; and looking for an "ass to kick" are more indicative of immaturity than rebelliousness. The perpetually cold, aloof persona, the self-indulgence, the incompetence and vacillation have made his ascendancy a distant memory.

Even in the world of pop culture, the best can sometimes reinvent themselves. After careers defined by "Top 40" hit songs, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart, and Carly Simon all turned to the classics of the Great American Song Book to interpret music written when their grandparents were young. Unfortunately, politics isn't showbusiness, and, as opposed to reinvention, we are left with the protracted adolescence of Barack Obama.


Note: I was originally going to lead off today's posts with an article from "Slate" about the Tea Partiers that was surprisingly fair by their standards. It was biased but still conceded a lot. I have however thought better of that idea (I think the article deserves a brief mention only) so offer the article above about Obama instead. The link is there for those who want to read the "Slate" article, however.


Why I'm Not Hiring

When you add it all up, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in Sally's pocket and to give her $12,000 in benefits


With unemployment just under 10% and companies sitting on their cash, you would think that sooner or later job growth would take off. I think it's going to be later—much later. Here's why.

Meet Sally (not her real name; details changed to preserve privacy). She makes $59,000 a year—on paper. In reality, she makes only $44,000 a year because $15,000 is taken from her thanks to various deductions and taxes, all of which form the steep, sad slope between gross and net pay....

Employing Sally costs plenty too. My company has to write checks for $74,000 so Sally can receive her nominal $59,000 in base pay. Health insurance is a big, added cost: While Sally pays nearly $2,400 for coverage, my company pays the rest—$9,561 for employee/spouse medical and dental. We also provide company-paid life and other insurance premiums amounting to $153. Altogether, company-paid benefits add $9,714 to the cost of employing Sally.

Then the federal and state governments want a little something extra. They take $56 for federal unemployment coverage, $149 for disability insurance, $300 for workers' comp and $505 for state unemployment insurance. Finally, the feds make me pay $856 for Sally's Medicare and $3,661 for her Social Security.

When you add it all up, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in Sally's pocket and to give her $12,000 in benefits. Bottom line: Governments impose a 33% surtax on Sally's job each year....

Every year, we negotiate a renewal to our health coverage. This year, our provider demanded a 28% increase in premiums—for a lesser plan. This is in part a tax increase that the federal government has co-opted insurance providers to collect. We had never faced an increase anywhere near this large; in each of the last two years, the increase was under 10%....

A life in business is filled with uncertainties, but I can be quite sure that every time I hire someone my obligations to the government go up. From where I sit, the government's message is unmistakable: Creating a new job carries a punishing price.




Tea Party infiltrator caught: "It's rarely convincing when Tea Party activists brush off attacks on the movement by claiming that the bad apples at their rallies are really agents provocateurs. That's just too convenient. Sometimes, the people who make you look bad actually are part of your movement. But a videographer at this weekend's Fancy Farm political celebration in Kentucky hounded a man wearing Rand Paul swag and holding up a racist anti-immigrant sign, badgering him to reveal who he was. The cameraman caught back up with him when, later, the man walked with supporters of Paul's opponent, [Democrat] Jack Conway." [Comment is from the Left-leaning "Slate", trying to make the best of a bad job]

Another engine problem on the A380 superjumbo: "German airline Lufthansa said pilots on an Airbus A380 flying from Tokyo to Frankfurt shut down one of the superjumbo's four engines as it neared its destination. Flight crew detected a change in oil pressure which was probably the result of dirt particles clogging a filter in the hydraulic circulation system, Lufthansa said. An A380 operated by Singapore Airlines last year returned to Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport 2 1/2 hours into an Asian flight following an unspecified engine malfunction. Air France, Qantas and Dubai-based Emirates have also delayed, cancelled or turned around A380 flights because of glitches with the fuel system." [I wouldn't go on one of those things if you paid me]

House Ethics Committe report accuses Waters of three violations: "As Rep. Maxine Waters was warned against interceding on behalf of a bank with ties to her husband, her chief of staff, who is also her grandson, was ‘actively involved’ in working to help the institution, according to a House Ethics Committee report released Monday that accuses the longtime Los Angeles political figure of three ethics violations. Waters was accused of violating three rules — one that requires its members to ‘behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House,’ a second that prohibits lawmakers from using their influence for personal benefit and a third forbidding the dispensing of favors.”

US military aid to Lebanon put on hold: "The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Monday he has suspended U.S. military aid to Lebanon’s army amid growing concern in Congress that American-supplied weapons could threaten Israel. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., said he placed a hold on $100 million in assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces on Aug. 2, because he was concerned about influence the militant group Hezbollah may have in the army.” [About time]

Indian engineer convicted of selling secrets to China: "A federal jury convicted a former B-2 stealth bomber engineer Monday of selling military secrets and helping China design a stealth cruise missile. Noshir Gowadia was accused of pocketing at least $110,000 from China, which he allegedly used to pay the mortgage on a multimillion-dollar oceanview home he built on Maui’s north shore.”

Jobless tap Social Security early: "Paul Skidmore’s office is shuttered, his job gone, his 18-month job search fruitless, and his unemployment benefits exhausted. So at 63, he plans to file this week for Social Security benefits, three years earlier than planned. ‘All I want to do is work,’ said Skidmore, of Finksburg, Md., who was an insurance claims adjuster for 37 years before his company downsized and closed his office last year. ‘And nobody will hire me.’ It is one of the most striking fallouts from the bad economy: Social Security is facing a rare shortfall this year as a wave of people like Skidmore opt to collect payments before their full retirement age.”

Obama JD uses Americans with Disabilities Act to harm the disabled: " … tried to sell a talking Kindle reader, but’ the Justice Department ’said it couldn’t because the button to make the Kindle talk didn’t have braille. Never mind that books neither talk nor have Braille buttons telling them to talk.’ Obama’s radical appointees at the Justice Department, like Tom Perez, think that it’s better to have NO accommodation for the disabled, than an imperfect accommodation.”

Markets in action: "Make no mistake — the spike in wheat prices will have a huge impact on everything from the cost of bread to pasta to cakes to beef. Faced with those unmistakable signals, the world’s billions of producers and consumers in their daily decision-making will adjust accordingly, sending yet more signals back into the marketplace. Potatoes and rice will offer an alternative source for carbohydrates while beans and pulses do the same for protein. Don’t ask how it will happen; you just know it will as a result of the market forces unleashed.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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