Awash In The Cult Of Personality/Celebrity

In my day job, I work for a large (and I mean large) multi-national company with locations throughout the U.S., and headquartered in New York. Why should you care? Actually it doesn’t really matter if you do or not, but the CEO of this company (someone relatively well known, that I’m guessing you’ve heard of) has been visiting the company locations in Texas this week. Today, he visited my office, and the spectacle was surreal – throngs of employees (there are over 1,000 at my location) lining the parking lot with signs, cheering with looks on their faces not unlike a fanboy crush (as an aside, I was at my desk observing this display).

Barack Obama

So it got me thinking; this was just the CEO of a company (albeit a well-known one on the par of say a Jeffrey Immelt), why were all of these people carrying on like star-struck fans? Then I thought about the current unpleasantness between the Obama administration and Bob Woodward over who is responsible for sequestration. The response from the lapdog media has been essentially the same as the employees at my company (not that it hasn’t been this way for the past four years). To some extent I can understand being in awe of a U.S. President, but to do his bidding without a second thought like an adoring fan? Something more is happening.

It seems like each year the Cult of Personality/Celebrity just continues to grow unabated. I mean when more people know who Snooki and Honey Boo Boo are than they do Bob Woodward (I’m looking at you, The Nation), you know something’s wrong with society.

President John F. Kennedy, Jr. in the Oval Office of the White House.

I’ve seen suggestions that this phenomenon becomes more pronounced in difficult times, but it seems to me that it transcends that explanation. The last time there was such a cult surrounding the president, JFK and Jackie lived in the White House. Those days were before my time, but it seems like the cult was even stronger with that president, as it seemed the whole country was enamored of the Kennedys, and the psychological concept of “Groupthink” was borne out of that administration and the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Also, who could forget the images of all those sreaming teenagers going absolutely bananas over the Beatles and Elvis?

beatlescream

Rather, I think it might have to do more the the cultural Zeitgeist. Back in the ’50s and early ’60s, it was a much more (I hesitate to say) innocent time, in that people were not bambarded with television, social media, 24 hour news cycles and the like. There were less distractions, and when something “unique” like the “Beatles” or other British-invasion bands came around, it was an entirely new experience, so it’s no wonder that people would get overly excited for such new experiences.

distract

In the 21st Century, we seem to have the exact opposite problem: as a whole, we are distracted to no end. Add to that years of children being raised to believe that nothing bad is their fault and we have a population that’s forgetten personal responsibility and would rather lose themselves in their little distractions. Basically, people would rather forget how horrible they’ve made their own lives by living vicariously through people who are famous for no reason other than being famous and/or rich and dream about living like them, or we can take the opposite route and check out Snooki and whoever to convince ourselve that at least we’re not as stupid and bad off as them.

Little wonder, then, that when we have a historic president who’s fairly charismatic that people (including the media) would loose themselves in the Cult. It’s especially bad for the media because they’re supposed to be the watchdogs, not the lapdogs; but hey, they get to hob nob with the famous people (and maybe grab a little fame), and when they do what they’re told to do in exchange for some scraps from the hoi poloi, it’s not their fault if something goes wrong – they were just following along.

Somebody, anybody, needs to shake this country out of its stupor…and fast.

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Surprise: Obama Has More Flexibility Under Sequestration Than He’s Letting On

One of the main features of Obama’s sequestration demagoguery is that he does not have the flexibility to decide which funds are cut, and that he is not able to direct funds from one area to another in order to preserve essential government functions and personnel. This is why he’s been going around saying that teachers will have to be laid off, the border will go unprotected and illegal crossers released, planes will fall from the sky; essentially that the world as we know it will end.

Aside from the fact that a 2% cut in future spending should not lead to any of the above outcomes, it appears as though all of this doomsday speech is nothing but rhetoric on Obama’s part (albeit highly-focused political rhetoric). Specifically, it appears that the sequester actually grants Obama the power to prioritize how the cuts are implemented. The Wall Street Journal explains:

According to Mr. Obama and his budget office, the sequester cuts are indiscriminate and spell out specific percentages that will be subtracted from federal “projects, programs and activities,” or PPAs. Except for the exemptions in the 2011 budget deal, the White House says it must now cut across the board regardless of how important a given PPA is. Food inspectors, say, will be treated the same as subsidies for millionaire farmers.

Not so fast. Programs, projects and activities are a technical category of the federal budget, but the sequester actually occurs at the roughly 1,200 broader units known as budget accounts. Some accounts are small, but others contain hundreds of PPAs and the larger accounts run to billions of dollars. For the Pentagon in particular, the distinction between PPAs and accounts is huge. This means in most cases the President has the room to protect his “investments” while managing the fiscal transition over time.

Congress might have intended for the sequester to apply to PPAs, but they also wrote a sloppy law at the 11th hour. The Budget Control Act of 2011 disinterred the lapsed sequester rules of the Gramm-Rudman Deficit Control Act of 1985, though without anyone looking at the details.

Take the normal household budget as an (imperfect) analogy. The entire budget would represent the federal budget, we’ll say each category (groceries, entertainment, etc.) represent a budget account, and each item (vegetables, snack foods, dvd rentals, sporting events and so on) represent projects, programs, and activities (PPAs). In a nutshell, Obama has been exclaiming that the sequester is a hatchet that is forcing him to cut as much spending on vegetables as on snack foods; on DVD rentals as four tickets to an NFL game. However, according to Gramm-Rudman Deficit Control Act of 1985, a sequester applies only at the level of the budget account, therefore Obama should have the authority to direct department heads to shift spending from one PPA to another – in other words, cutting out the junk food so that we can still have our vegetables.

Ironically, these rules only apply when the government is operating under continuing resolutions (CRs). If a budget was actually passed and spending was being so directed, then sequestration would find its way down to individual PPAs – the Democrats’ failure to pass a budget looks to have backfired on them in this instance.

After some wonkishness on PPAs and Gramm-Rudman, the WSJ continues:

In any case, Republicans in Congress are prepared to give Mr. Obama still more spending flexibility than he already has to mitigate any damage, real or imagined. One option is to lock in spending at post-sequester levels and grant department heads so-called transfer authority to shift cash between accounts, after consultation with the committees on the Hill.

Erika Johnsen has more over at Hot Air on the plan offered by Sens. Inhofe (R-OK) and Toomey (R-PA) to grant authority to the five service chiefs to transfer funds among PPAs in the defense budget to mitigate the effect of the “cuts” to the DoD, including an expansion of this authority to the various department heads for the remainder of the programs affected by sequestration.

As the WSJ surmises:

Mr. Obama ought to love that, since it is precisely the administrative state he says he wants—the rule of technocrats who evaluate budget priorities without political interference. But liberals are now howling about more liberal executive power because this plan would also very modestly reduce the size of government.

It would also negate Mr. Obama’s days-of-wrath sequester campaign.

Perhaps that’s why Obama, in addition to demagoging the sequester has now taken up opposition to any such plan:

“Lately, some people have been saying, ‘Well, maybe we’ll just give the president some flexibility. He could make the cuts the way he wants, and that way it won’t be as damaging,’” Obama said.

“The problem is when you’re cutting $85 billion in seven months, which represents over a 10 percent cut in the defense budget in seven months, there’s no smart way to do that,” he said. “You don’t want to have to choose between, let’s see, do I close funding for the disabled kid or the poor kid? Do I close this Navy shipyard or some other one?”

That’s why, as Moe Lane astutely (and humorously) describes, Obama is now flailing away at trying to campaign against sequestration, hitting as many buttons as he can in hopes something hits – it’s the only thing he’s qualified to do. I am convinced that he’s campaigning so hard because he’s frightened that he’s about to become the boy who’s cried wolf one too many times; and in a scenario where unemployment and Q1/Q2 GDP data show the economy as ‘flat’ or growing a few months from now, Americans will realize that cutting government spending isn’t so bad after all, and Obama was just trying to scare people over something that wasn’t a big deal. The community organizer might just find himself without much of a community for organizing. The money line comes from the WSJ:

The real revelation is that if the world does end, it will be Mr. Obama’s choice.

Amen

Overboard Obamaquester Obfuscations

By now, anyone who’s been paying attention, even casually, knows what sequestration is (even if he or she can’t pronounce it). We also know that the “cuts” included in the sequester amount to a staggering 2% of federal spending (is actually a reduction of future baseline spending – more will still be spent next year). We’re all also painfully aware that Obama is once again demagoguing the issue and trying to shift blame to the GOP.

Let’s not forget that the media has been a willing accomplice in this blame game. In fact, we’ve been so conditioned that this is an issue between Obama and Rupublicans in Congress that when a recent Washington Post/Pew survey left off a crucial choice in their question of who to blame if the Obamaquester “cuts” go into effect:

wapo-pew-question

I couldn’t even recognize the ommission (Democrats in the Senate – h/t Ed Morrissey). For more information on the sequestration timeline, there is an informative infographic at the bottom of the post (due to its size).

As the sequester approaches, Obama has fully implemented the “Washington Monument Strategy” and ratched-up his doomsday speech, suggesting that thousands of teachers will have to be laid off, and sending out his surrogates to describe the catastrophic effects of this 2% budget cut such as decreased border security and travel delays:

In my mind, such a display suggests Obama is the worst executive imaginable if a 2% reduction in future spending necessitates the above-described purge of essential services and personnel. Amy Payne at Heritage give a more graphic description:

If you had to cut your family’s budget, where would you cut?

Would you immediately start starving your children and stop wearing shoes? Of course not. You would look at the extras in your life—whether they were coffee shop lattes, movie tickets, or restaurant meals.

It’s a good thing the President wouldn’t be handling your budget. As Dan Holler of our sister organization, Heritage Action for America, has said: “If President Obama were making the decision for your family… he’d tell you to stop buying gas for your car and explain how you could only eat five days a week.”

However, it also brings up a very relevant question. Namely, is sequestration a good way to go about cutting federal spending? I think that I’m in the majority when I say no, because the sequester only targets non-mandatory, discretionary spending and leaves the prime driver of our debt (entitlement spending) untouched.

In his article this morning, David Brooks (in addition to creating a Twitter hashtag bonanza with his “My Dream Obama”) echoes this, but predictable blames Republicans:

Moreover, I think Republicans could be persuaded that it’s crazy to harp on discretionary spending, which is a deficit sideshow. They should focus their energies on entitlements.

Might I remind the purveyor of perfectly creased pants that under the guidance of Republicans, the House has passed two bills to replace the sequester cuts with common sense, responsible cuts and spending reforms: 1. H.R. 5652, Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act; and 2. H.R. 6684, Spending Reduction Act of 2012. Notably (in light of the poll question above) the Democrat controlled Senate refused to consider either.

One thing is clear, though. There is no need to cut essential services and personnel over a 2% reduction in future spending. Amy Payne further observes:

It makes no sense to hit defense the hardest with these cuts, while sequestration leaves major entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid untouched. Congress should reprogram these spending cuts to target the waste and inefficiencies it has already identified in federal agencies—like those listed above. Heritage’s Patrick Louis Knudsen, the Grover M. Hermann Senior Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs, even helpfully outlined places to find $150 billion in spending cuts that would make a lot more sense.

So no, we don’t have to fire firefighters and teachers and airport screeners. What Congress should be doing is what every American family does—tightening its budget by cutting things that are unnecessary.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) noticed one specific area that could be cut back to help “save” some of the essential personnel on Obama’s chopping block:

Coburn, in a letter to Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeff Zients, wrote Monday that there are 10 “non-essential” job advertisements running on the government’s hiring website, http://www.usajobs.com. Coburn said freezing hiring for these positions alone would save $1.4 million.

On the list are ads for 10 State Department drivers, a Labor Department receptionist earning up to $81,204 a year, a human resources position at the Department of Agriculture paying up to $179,000 a year and an Air Force museum official making up to $165,300 per year.

“Are any of these positions more important than an air traffic controller, a border patrol officer, a food inspector, a TSA screener, or a civilian supporting our men and women in combat in Afghanistan?” Coburn wrote.

“Instituting such a hiring freeze and re-assigning any of the necessary duties associated with each to current employees will allow federal agencies to adapt to the current fiscal realities without laying off or furloughing civil servants who are performing truly critical or absolutely necessary functions,” he added.

Just another example of the thoughtless, wasteful spending by this administration. Looks like sequestration can’t come soon enough. After all, as you can hear right from the lips of the man himself (Senator Coburn, that is), the fear and panic over the Obamaquester (like most everything to do with this president) is way overblown:

Parting thought: I am convinced that the amount of fear mongering coming from Obama and his minions of sequestrations is the direct result of their fear that the “cuts” will happen, then life will go on as normal, it won’t be the end of the world. People will then begin to realize that cutting government spending isn’t so bad after all, and that Obama was doing nothing but trying to scare everyone over nothing. Essentially, Obama will become the “boy who cried wolf” one too many times, and he will start losing his bully pulpit (especially after the Obamacare taxes and fees start to hit). What do you think?

sequester_timeline

Guess Who’s Cashing In On Workers’ Comp?

If you said wealthy professional athletes, you are correct.

This story from the LA Times about pro athletes receiving workers’ compensation settlements caught my eye over the weekend. As stated in the article, “Over the last three decades, California’s workers’ compensation system has awarded millions of dollars in benefits for job-related injuries to thousands of professional athletes.” A case in point:

Davis_Terrell_150-188_02

In his seven-year career with the Denver Broncos, running back Terrell Davis, a former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, dazzled fans with his speed and elusiveness.

At the end of his rookie year in 1995, he signed a $6.8-million, five-year contract. Off the field he endorsed Campbell’s soup. And when he hung up his cleats, he reported for the National Football League Network and appeared in movies and TV shows.

So it may surprise Californians to find out that in 2011, Davis got a $199,000 injury settlement from a California workers’ compensation court for injuries related to football. This came despite the fact Davis was employed by a Colorado team and played just nine times in California during an 88-game career, according to the NFL.

Davis was compensated for the lifelong effects of multiple injuries to the head, arms, trunk, legs and general body, according to California workers’ compensation records.

A few other high profile pro athletes who were awarded large settlements include Moses Malone (3-time NBA MVP): $155,000; and Michael Irvin (Hall of Fame NFL wide receiver): $249,000.

To be sure, the plight of athletes who suffer multiple injuries (especially head trauma) over the course of their careers is a serious issue (the case of John Mackey, for example) and should not be dismissed. However, these are not your average employees who are called in to do inventory on their job and have a heavy box fall on them, or who slip and break a bone because another careless employee spilled something in the break room. Rather, these are professional athletes who enter their profession in full knowledsge of all the risks, including the potential for serious injury, in their pursuit of the reward of a multi-million dollar payday.

To be clear workers’ compensation is funded by employers, so the taxpayers are not actually on the hook for these payments, but state workers’ compensation systems are not the place for such settlements. Not only do they bog down the system with additional claims and burdern their monetary resources, someone should not be able to shop his or her case from state to state in order to obtain the most favorable ruling. Rather, since the majority of professional athletes are unionized, these settlements (or some other injury-related compensation) should be part of the collective bargaining agreement between the respective professional leagues and players associations.

Unfortunately, this is just another example of how inefficient, costly and dysfunctional things become when the government iss involved.

Micro Air Vehicles (And You Thought The Drone Issue Was Bad Now)

You know those things that make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up? After reading this story from the Mail Online, this is now one of those things for me. The current situation with unmanned drones is bad enough, with some municipalities looking to get authorization to use them (ostensibly for surveillance), while law makers are scrambling to introduce legislation to ban or limit their use. Now the Air Force has released a promotional video for their Micro Air Vehicle or MAV program.

At first glance, one might think it is cool, James Bond stuff: swarms of insect-like drones sneaking up on the bad guys, pigeon-like drones sitting on power lines (and charging up) while transmitting images of another bad guy. Heck, these things can even carry explosive or chemical payloads for disabling a target – the video shows a bug-sized drone flying up behind a sniper, hovering at the back of his neck and Boom! goes the bad guy.

However (and I’m not generally prone to conspiracy theories), given the way military technology finds its way into civilian circles, it’s not hard to see how these things could be used on American citizens. Given Obama’s affinity for drones, and his comfort with killing American citizens without due process, it becomes downright frightening. However, according to the Mail article:

The military has already produced a drone  patterned after a hawk moth that can flap its wings 30 times a second. However,  the activity exhausts the drone’s tiny battery in just a few minutes, according  to National Geographic.

Apparently, it will take 3-4 more years for battery technology to advance enough for these flapping-wing drones to have enough power to make it useful. Hopefully, that will buy us enough time to get someone who actually cares about the US and the rights of its citizens in the White House.

Take a look at the video below and let me know what you think:

Much Needed Humor: Sequestration Cartoons

Every once in a while, we need to just sit back, take a break and enjoy a good laugh. In that spirit, I present some of my favorite political cartoons dealing with sequestration. While they are all funny, they all reveal the underlying truth about the “cuts.” Namely the whole issue is an occasion for political brinksmanship, and that the $45-$88 Billion represented by the sequester is only 2-3% of federal spending.

So, without further ado, and without any additional commentary, I present for your enjoyment:

Sequester_fear_spreading

sequester_mirror

sequester_spending

sequester_die

sequester-cartoon-benson

sequester-cartoon-holbert

RamirezObamaSequesterBoomerang2-23-13_600_jpg

I hope you all enjoyed them as much as I have. It’s times like these where we really need to keep our senses of humor.

UPDATE

As sequestration gets closer and more cartoons are being published, I’ll add more of my favorites:

sequester_falling

sequester-pie

sequester_blame

sequester_snake

sequester-red