Friday, August 20, 2010

Thoughts on the Target Campaign

It seems that some time ago the Target Corporation donated some money to a group that supports a Republican candidate (Tom Emmer) for Governor. Emmer is opposed to gay marriage, just like a majority of Americans. But since this has come to light, Target is now facing a huge outcry from the usual suspects. The main bone of contention seems to be that the corporation donated to a conservative cause.

Both the original CBS News story and today's Yahoo News story are fairly representative of the media reaction. CBS wrote,
Here's something Target Corp. isn't advertising in its Sunday circular: The discount retailer is now a major donor to a group backing the Republican candidate for Minnesota governor.

And that's not sitting well with every Target shopper.

CBS begins their story with a very negative tone, implying that this donation is a Bad Bad Thing. And as shown by their later comments, they appear to have no problem with the fact that the opponents of Target are trying to censor the corporation's freedom of speech. CBS continues,
In Minnesota, where Target has its headquarters and opened its first store 48 years ago, Democrats are grumbling about the large donation, and some are talking about striking back at the popular brand.

A few voices are even calling for a boycott in the state, one of Target's top three for sales. One Democratic-backed group is reaching out to Target employees through Facebook ads urging them to sign a petition opposing the donations.

"I think Target is making a huge mistake," said Laura Hedlund, a former Democratic campaign worker who picketed outside a suburban Minneapolis Target store on Saturday, urging shoppers to spend their money elsewhere.

At least CBS (for once) mostly identified the opposition as Democratic Party and left-wing activists. This is stark contrast to the usual media pattern of refusing to identify left-leaners and Democrats - they are suually presented as 'civic-minded people' or some such.

But the real problem is that left-wing contributions by business are treated by the media as both desirable and of no particular news-worthiness at all. How many stories have been run about George Soros' contributions to the plethora of left-wing groups he bankrolls? How many media stories are run about the left-wing contributions of say, Apple? But when Target makes a donation to a Republican, the media suddenly thinks this is a terrible idea.

The Associated Press (via Yahoo News) continues this meme, writing,
Target and its corporate retail cousin Best Buy are continuing to suffer fallout from donations to a Minnesota group that backed a gay-marriage opponent for governor. On top of organized consumer boycotts and public pressure campaigns, some of the retail giant's investors are up in arms, according to the Associated Press.

Notice how the meme is that opposition is rising? And notice how they can only come up with three very minor stockholders? Funny how these three minor stockholders are placed front and center by the AP. If it were a liberal company donation and three minor conservative-leaning stockholders protested, would they be given such positive press? I think we all know the answer to that one.

What all this really comes down to is that the media-Democratic complex wants free speech for me but not for thee. Like so many other closet totalitarians, they want the power to speak to be reserved to themselves so they are attempting to bully anyone of opposing views into silence. This is why whistleblowers during Republican Administrations are treated like gods even when they lie (Joe Wilson) but whistleblowers during Democratic Administrations cannot get the time of day from the media (see J. Christian Adams). I find both their views and their tactics repugnant. If they can win the argument, then let's have a real debate. but trying to bludgeon one's opponent into silence via threats only shows the hollow nature of one's argument. And by this standard, so have those who are so unhappy with Target shown the clay feet of their own golden idols.

The TSA Strikes Again

The TSA is supposed to be the first line of defense for threats crossing into our country via the airlines. They are also supposedly created to ensure that our flying experience is safe. According to the TSA website, their mission is,
The Transportation Security Administration protects the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.

The TSA website continues with their core values:
To enhance mission performance and achieve our shared goals, we are committed to promoting a culture founded on these values:

* Integrity:
o We are a people of integrity who respect and care for others and protect the information we handle.
o We are a people who conduct ourselves in an honest, trustworthy and ethical manner at all times.
o We are a people who gain strength from the diversity in our cultures.
* Innovation:
o We are a people who embrace and stand ready for change.
o We are a people who are courageous and willing to take on new challenges.
o We are a people with an enterprising spirit, striving for innovations who accept the risk-taking that comes with it.
* Team Spirit:
o We are a people who are open, respectful and dedicated to making others better.
o We are a people who have a passion for challenge, success and being on a winning team.
o We are a people who will build teams around our strengths.

Not a single one of these core values applies to the TSA's performance, as any traveler can testify. And as for their 'mission, the simple fact is that the TSA is utterly incompetent at every job is purports to perform. The TSA has stopped not a single terrorist attack since its institution - every single major attempt has been thwarted either by passengers or by the terrorists' own incompetence. Examples of the TSA failures can be found in the Shoe Bomber, the Crotch Bomber and the fact that TSA screeners fail the vast majority of tests every time they are tested.

But they are certainly vigilant about trying to take passengers' personal possessions - especially if they are valuable. According to a story today by Daniel Rubin in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the TSA once again has ignored a citizen's Constitutional rights (they are VERY good at ignoring citizens' rights, though they are signally bad at actually doing their jobs) and treating an innocent passenger as a criminal. Writes Rubin,
At what point does an airport search step over the line?

How about when they start going through your checks, and the police call your husband, suspicious you were clearing out the bank account?
Two Philadelphia police officers joined at least four TSA officers who had gathered around her. After conferring with the TSA screeners, one of the Philadelphia officers told her he was there because her checks were numbered sequentially, which she says they were not.

"It's an indication you've embezzled these checks," she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn't before that moment, she says.

She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. "That's my money," she remembers saying. The officer's reply? "It's not your money."

This is absolutely infuriating. Citizens are under no compulsion to tell government officials anything and police and TSA personnel have absolutely no right whatsoever to behave with this kind of contempt. Congress needs to make the individual TSA screeners liable for their actions and the police officers in question need to be sued for civil rights violations and hopefully fired. Have any of these people ever heard of the United States Constitution and its prohibitions on unreasonable searches? How about search warrants? How about the presumption of innocence?

i hope this poor woman sues and gets a massive payout from those who utterly ignored her rights. I hope the TSA screeners in questions are fired (oh, wait, they are government workers. You could kill someone and not lose your job - see Ted Kennedy. At the very least the ignorant police officers who showed an equal disregard for the law need to be brought into court and at the very least have their badges stripped.

The TSA is looked about with justifiable contempt by anyone who has ever had to deal with their low-grade, ignorant and incompetent employees - which is just about everyone who has ever flown. Incidents like this simply reinforce the case for the immediate disbandment of the TSA. They are not in any way an improvement on the private firms that formerly did airport security. And like most government workers, they have an inflated sense of their own importance. I hope that the first thing a new Congress does is strip the TSA of their law enforcement status. These people are not law enforcement as they clearly do not know the most basic law of the United States. And the second thing they should do is get rid of the TSA and return its duties to the private firms - at least they have no illusions as to their status!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reagan vs Obama?

Kevin Williamson writes in today's National Review Online edition,
News flash: This is not 1982, and Obama is not Reagan.

The important difference is this: There was a good reason for the Volcker-Reagan recession: defeating inflation. American voters may not be terribly economically sophisticated, but they sure as heck did notice when inflation went from 13.5 percent to 3.2 percent — in two years.

This is a salient point - Ronald Reagan was trying to reduce the damage done by the previous Administration's ham=handed and inept economic policies. And it worked - as Williamson notes, inflation dropped drastically in only two years. Mission accomplished!

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be clear to our friends on the Left side of the political spectrum. One of the commenters writes,
Reagan was an incredible deficit spender, I don't think you can distinguish between Obama and Reagan on that factor.

Unless this is a joke, this comment displays a distressing lack of understanding both of history and of international relations. Yes, Reagan did do some large defiicit spending. But, as was the case with the economic policies, there was a reason. A good one. Reagan believed that the Cold War needed to end and he did not think (correctly, as it turned out) that the Soviet Union could keep pace with the US if the Cold War turned into a competition between economic methodology. By spending freely on the US military, he forced the Soviets into an arms race they simply could not win. And his full-throated defense of liberty and freedom gave heart to the millions of enslaved Eastern Europeans. Essentially, Ronald Reagan put his money where his mouth was and bet that the US could win an economic showdown with the Soviet Union. And he was right.

In 1980, when Reagan came into office, the world was resigned to the grim menace of Soviet tanks and proxy wars. Reagan ended that, at least as far as the Soviets were concerned. Proxy wars will go on forever, but the specter of Russian tanks crossing into Western Europe is gone. Ronald Reagan performed two vital actions during his eaight years in office - he won the Cold War (though the Soviet Union did not finally collapse until his successor was in office) and he crushed the inflation caused by Jimmy Carter and his de-regulation put the US on a solid economic course that has lasted by and large until the current Administration.

I don't see how you can compare Reagan and Obama either, but not for the reasons our commenter friend listed. I don't see how you can compare actions taken with a firm goal in mind - a goal that was achieved in both cases largely by the time Reagan left office - to Obama's destructive spending. If Obama's goal is to make the entire country dependent on government and to make the political class into feudal masters, then I guess he is succeeding. But to me there is a fundamental difference between spending to defeat an enemy and spending to make government more powerful. Reagan was all about smaller government. Obama? Not so much.