Thursday, July 30, 2009


I’ll spare you the embarrassing details of our financial demise, but against the backdrop of plummeting markets and a shrinking economy, wife and self had virtually no income for all of 2008. Toward the end of the year, her business showed a spark of life and a few dollars started appearing in the old bank account. Not like the old days, of course, but she had turned the corner.

And then there was me.

When you are 58 years old and you have not practiced law since you were 40, you discover there is a certain reluctance on the part of the legal community to welcome you back into the brotherhood. Perfectly understandable, of course---one can hardly blame them. Still, I grew weary of sending the resume and covering letter out into the ether and receiving no response. It’s like sitting in a restaurant for an hour and having no one offer you service. After a while, you begin to think you’re in one of those Twilight Zone episodes where you’re actually dead but you haven’t figured it out yet. It was time to do SOMETHING. Anything.

So it was I found myself in November, filling out an application for a minimum-wage job at the big-box store on the Main Line, one of the richest areas in America. It was close to my home. It was a part of corporate America that was actually making money (and as a capitalist, I respected that). Also, though I had had brushes with the retail world in the past, I had never worked for BIG RETAIL. I thought it would be interesting. I thought I might learn something. I thought there might be some potential for advancement.

The store, which I will call Argus, invited me in a couple of weeks later. My three interviews consisted of questions read to me from a printed pamphlet, with each interviewer making notes of my responses. (“Tell me about a job situation you had where you had to overcome an obstacle.”) They apparently liked me well enough to check my urine, which they also liked. I was in. I would be paid $8.00 for each and every hour I worked.

For the kind of work I’m doing, you don’t get a lot of training. One girl I talked to, who had worked at Wal-Mart for four years, summed it up this way: “In retail, they don’t tell you nothing.” At Argus, twelve of us newbies were summoned in for three hours one evening to fill out our W-4’s and watch some forgettable videos. I do remember that diversity is good and that Argus cherishes its commitment thereto. Sexual harassment, on the other hand, was treated with considerably less enthusiasm.

The longest video, with the most production values and the cutest models, was the one warning us about the dangers of trade unions and the various tactics organizers might use to seduce us. The highlight for me was an animated sequence in which dollars (my pay!) flew into the hands of union bosses who, it seemed clear, did not really care about me once they had tricked me into signing up with them. Glancing around the room during this video, I saw no hint of snickers or cynicism, only nodding heads. Of course, any union sympathizers would have kept their traps shut in that venue, but I have come to believe my buddies in the underclass really do not have much interest in unions. In my seven months at Argus, the subject has never come up in conversation.

Finally, after a brief chat with the undercover asset-protection specialist---“There are twelve of you here; three of you will steal, and I will catch you!”---we were sent off into the night to await a call for our first day of work. I was genuinely excited at the prospect, and curious about what my life would now be like. At least I knew it was a life, and not an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I do not disparage these types of jobs. They are excellent for someone just out of high school (or who maybe didn’t finish high school). A job like this is a way to start building a work history and to learn what adult responsibility is all about. And I need hardly add that honest labor is always worthy of respect.

For me, however, I confess that in addition to the excitement and curiosity about my new position, there was something else.

Maybe you’ve seen the movie “Lost in America,” starring Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty. They play a yuppie couple who decide to sell everything, load up the car and “see America,” only to have Hagerty lose their entire nest egg in a few minutes at a Las Vegas casino. Forced to take menial jobs in a dusty, nondescript town in Arizona, Brooks winds up as a school crossing guard. He had been an executive in L.A., a player, and now, his first day on the job, he is harassed by a group of 12-year-olds on bikes who taunt him with calls of “Hey, retardo!”

My first day at Argus, I couldn’t help but think of that scene in the movie. Eager as I was to start this new phase in my life, to show them what I could do, to make the company a success(!), part of me expected to be taunted by children. I also had a nagging suspicion I would encounter, as shoppers, every person in my life who had ever disliked me and would be schadenfreuded to orgasm at the sight of me pushing a cart full of school supplies. I was 58 years old. I had once made a living as one of a handful of experts in an obscure area of environmental law, and I had run a successful business with Sandi for twenty years. Now I would be making $8.00/hour opening cases of Lean Cuisine products and aligning them neatly in freezers. I was a loser. I was the biggest loser I knew. Maybe this had always been true, but in the past, I had managed to keep it discretely hushed up. Now it was public. Now it was official.

Or as my son put it one day, “Hey, anybody can work at Argus. All you need is a law degree.”


Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The “birthers” are again much in the news, largely because of a recent lawsuit filed by a U.S. Army Reserve major who questions his deployment orders on the ground that Barack Obama is not constitutionally qualified to be president.

I can’t say I’ve followed the ins and outs of this story very closely, but I know there’s a theory he was born in Kenya and another theory he was born in British Columbia, and another theory he was born in Hawaii but then had his citizenship renounced by his parents when he moved to Indonesia. I haven’t paid much attention because I tend not to credit conspiracy theories held by small clots of fervent believers. I think Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I think Elvis died on a toilet. I think 9-11 was the work of jihadists. I think JFK was killed by a communist named Lee Harvey Oswald. And I also think Barack Obama is a natural born citizen within the meaning of Article 2, Section 1 of the US Constitution.

However, there is a reason this one will not go away.

Facing more than a dozen lawsuits, Barack Obama might have decided to pay $5 to the Office of Public Records in Honolulu, obtain a copy of his birth certificate, and give it to Katie Couric. Instead, he has spent several hundred thousand bucks defending these lawsuits, largely on procedural grounds.


The standard explanation from Obama supporters (and conservatives who also want the controversy to disappear) is that producing the birth certificate would only lead to more demands from conspiracy nuts. “They’ll never stop” is the argument. Unfortunately, it’s not an argument that can withstand any scrutiny.

For starters, what could they demand? And what else could Obama possibly produce for them? In fact, the only thing that has ever been asked of him is that he obtain his birth certificate and make it public. If he were to produce it, he could fairly and truthfully say, “Here it is. Here’s everything you asked for. There’s nothing more I can do. Let’s move on.” Assuming (as I do) that it would indicate he was born in Hawaii, the “birther” movement would be over. Yet this one fairly simple request meets a flat refusal and a wall of silence.

The only reasonable conclusion is that his birth certificate would reveal something that would be extremely damaging to his image and his reputation. I have no clue what it might be, but what other reason could there be for spending all this money and letting the issue drag on like this?


Thursday, July 23, 2009


There are two Democratic healthcare bills floating around Congress, and though neither Obama nor any other Democrat have actually read them, we are informed by the president it is essential a bill be passed by the end of July. The American people are demanding action, Obama tells us. We can’t wait.

There are two reasons for this urgency, both related to the steadily-declining support for Obama’s healthcare plans in public opinion polls.

First, Obama wants a bill passed before new numbers on the economy come out. It is becoming increasingly clear, even to Obama-lovers, that the $878 billion stimulus bill has been a colossal failure. Back in February, Obama told us THAT bill had to be enacted immediately in order to keep unemployment from rising above 8%. As of July, unemployment was 9.5%, and no one expects the new number to be lower when it is released in early August. From Obama’s perspective, it is important that the healthcare bill be passed before further evidence appears that his first massive program not only failed to solve the problem it addressed, but actually made matters quite a bit worse.

The second reason is the upcoming August recess for Congress. Obama’s problem is not merely that Congress will not meet for a month. More important is what members of Congress will be doing during that month. They will go home. They will go to town hall meetings. They will give speeches and interviews in their districts.

Within the Washington beltway, the primary source of information for members of Congress is the Obama-friendly mass media, and it is easy to ignore the public’s growing skepticism of the Democratic agenda. Any negative feedback is anecdotal, or it’s a number in a poll that’s reported on page 22. It’s a very different story when you go home and confront your constituents, in person, and they are screaming at you to stop wasting their money.

Copyright 2009MichaelKubacki

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


A couple weeks ago, the EPA published a report (that the Obama administration tried to suppress), confirming there had been no actual warming of our planet since about the time Donovan McNabb was drafted by the Eagles in 1999. Actually, it has been kind of gauche to even mention “global warming” for a while now since, well, there isn’t any. Instead, we must worry about “climate change,” and we have to be really, really worried about that, and even if we aren’t, we should still shut down all the mines and oil wells and build windmills instead because then we’ll all get lots of green jobs. That was Nancy Pelosi’s final speech on the floor of the House in support of the energy tax bill. “There are four reasons we must pass this bill,” she said. “Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Undoubtedly, large government subsidies for windmills and whatnot, along with punitive taxes for the other 95% of the energy-production business, will create jobs in the windmill business. This will occur in the same way that, if the government were buying rabbits, we would all start raising bunnies in our bathtubs. Of course, there is a serious question about whether the jobs created will exceed those jobs lost in coal and oil and natural gas (and businesses that use those forms of energy), but we will assume Pelosi is right and there will be a net gain of jobs---green jobs. What will the overall effect of this be?

Back in 1850, a French economist named Frederic Bastiat wrote the story of a shopkeeper whose window was broken by a boy in the village. At first, his neighbors viewed it as an unfortunate incident for the shopkeeper, but then they noticed that the glazier benefited because he got the job of fixing the window. The glazier took the money he made and spent it at the bakery, and then the baker was able to afford a new pair of shoes, which put money in the cobbler’s pocket and enabled him to buy some new equipment. And so on. Ultimately, the neighbors concluded, the broken window was a great boon to the entire community.

To economists, this gag is known as the “broken windows fallacy,” and it’s a fallacy because it ignores what the shopkeeper might have done with his money if he hadn’t had to spend it on having his window fixed. For all we know, that money might have allowed him to send his son to the university where he would become a brilliant doctor and heal the multitudes. Instead, because of the broken window, the son had to spend his life doing menial labor.

Bastiat’s point was that every act with significant economic consequences has effects that are seen and effects that are unseen, and if we only examine the effects that are seen, we can easily arrive at the wrong conclusions.

Let’s make up some numbers in line with Pelosi’s vision. Let’s say that, as a nation, we spend $5 trillion each year for energy and employ 30 million people fulltime to give it to us. It’s a lot of money and a lot of labor, but we want the lights to go on when we flip that switch. Everything shuts down if we don’t spend that money and use those people.

But now, with Obama’s energy taxes and all the green jobs that are coming, let’s say the $5 trillion becomes $7 trillion and the 30 million people become 35 million people.

What are we getting for those extra expenditures?

Well, nothing. For an additional $2 trillion and an additional five million fulltime employees, we’re getting the same output. The lights will go on just as they did before and the key will still turn in the ignition. In terms of the availability of energy, and how we use it, the only thing that changes is the price we pay. It will be “nice” energy instead of the evil energy we use now---that’s the whole idea---but in the end, we’ll be getting the same thing.

Now, $2 trillion is not nothing. In fact, it used to be considered a lot of money. Instead of using it this way, we could give everybody in America all the free root canals and Viagra they wanted and still have enough left over to sign both Jason Werth and Shane Victorino to long-term contracts. There are a lot of things we could do with $2 trillion rather than spend it on an environmental idea with no effect we can actually see, and which will have no effect on the way we live our lives. In order to evaluate the energy bill, it’s only reasonable to consider what else you might do with the money you’re spending on it.

But more importantly, what about the “jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs?” Five million jobs! That’s a good thing, right? According to the Democrats who don’t really want to talk about global warming anymore, the green jobs are the primary benefit of the energy bill.

Remember the broken window? The green jobs are only the effect that we would see, but let’s think about the effects that are not seen. When you take five million people and put them to work installing solar panels and fixing windmills, what do you lose? Since we get the same amount of energy with 30 million people as we do with 35 million, the labor of those extra five million, in strictly economic terms, is being wasted. What else, as a society, might we use those five million people for?

Pelosi’s unstated assumption is that if we didn’t make these five million people do green jobs, they would do nothing. But that’s absurd, isn’t it? Some of them would be busy, and a few would be very busy and would do some very important things. What are we losing? What inventions won’t be invented, what businesses will never be built, what plays will not be written, how many gifted healers will never find their way to medical school and what diseases won’t they find cures for? Apart from the enormous cost of this program in dollars, the horror of the energy bill is the monumental waste of human resources.

The problem is that, as a society, as a prosperous Western democracy, we don’t want green jobs. They represent a step backward for all of us. Energy must be produced and wheat must be grown and cotton must be turned into clothing, but these are all things we must do, not what we want to do. What we want to do is write poetry and design skyscrapers and play volleyball and make movies and concoct delicious new dishes, but we can only pursue our various wants when the basics of survival (like energy and wheat and cotton) are in place. The measure of our success as a society is that historically, we have been able to devote less and less effort to mere survival. Yet Pelosi would have us spend more time and more resources on the fundamentals of existence, and she would like us to believe this is a good thing.

From the beginning of mankind until about 250 years ago, almost every person on earth had to work fourteen or sixteen hours a day simply to survive the night so he could wake up the next day to do it all over again. Even a hundred years ago, 60% of Americans worked on farms. Today, that number is 2%, but nobody laments the fact 58% of our people no longer have to operate threshing machines, pick cotton and castrate sheep. For some reason, those people (i.e., you) don’t complain about being stockbrokers, aerobics teachers, chemists and caterers.

Today, we live the lives we lead because wheat and cotton and energy are cheap, and we don’t have to spend every waking minute working to obtain them. It’s why we can sit in cafes and redecorate our living rooms and go to the beach---because survival costs us almost nothing.

Green jobs are not a benefit of the energy bill. They are a cost.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Tonight, Barack Obama threw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game, and yet the broadcast never showed where the pitch went. Neither I nor you have ever seen this before. Did he get it over the plate? Did he even get it to the plate? Just as we only watch the Star-Spangled Banner to see if the singer forgets the words, the only reason we watch the ceremonial first pitch is to see whether the honoree can throw a damn baseball.

Can there be any doubt that, as a condition of his appearing on the mound in St. Louis, Obama ordered that the end of the pitch not be televised? There can be only one reason for this bizarre bit of broadcasting---Obama’s demand that he be spared any possible embarrassment if he threw it in the dirt.

This is what happens when the state controls the media. And if you needed any further proof of the fascist bent of this imperial president, you saw it tonight.


Sunday, July 12, 2009


Ricci v. DeStephano is the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the New Haven firefighters who took a test for promotions and had the test thrown out by the city when only white and Hispanic firefighters passed. When the guys who passed the test sued, the federal district court ruled (without a trial on the facts) that the city had acted properly. Judge Sonia Sotomayor, of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, summarily upheld the district court’s decision and adopted its reasoning.

I am writing this to clear up the misconception that, since the Supreme Court ruling was 5 – 4, there were four justices on the Supreme Court who agreed with Sonia Sotomayor. In fact, there were none. The dissent, written by Justice Ginsburg (joined by Stevens, Souter and Breyer), argued simply that a trial of the facts was necessary and that the case should be sent back to the district court for that trial. Thus, Sotomayor’s ruling that the firefighter tests could be rejected by the city as a matter of law (without a trial of the facts) was rejected by all nine members of the Supreme Court.

You can read the decision here.


I spent about an hour today in the area of the 10th green at the Saucon Valley Country Club watching the third round of the 2009 Women’s Open Golf Championship. It’s a short par 4, listed at 332 yards. However, the green is significantly elevated above the fairway and surrounded by very deep sand traps and thick four-inch-high grass. In addition, the green itself is of a sinuous and undulating nature, with large swatches of it dripping with menace. There are places on the green that will not hold a golf ball. If you place a ball by hand in one of these Bermuda-trianglelike areas, it will roll completely off the green and come to rest somewhere in the vicinity of Bethesda, Maryland, though the Saucon Valley Country Club itself is located in Bethelem, Pennsylvania.

For an hour, golfer after golfer approached this challenge in exactly the same fashion. They would attempt to hit a ball in the middle of the fairway about 270 yards, avoiding all the evil bits close to the green and leaving them with a short wedge shot onto a forgiving part of the green. The successful ones managed to do this, make two putts for a par, and slink off to the 11th tee, mopping their troubled brows as they slunk.

But they were not always successful. Paula Creamer, the fourth-ranked female golfer in the world, required seven shots to accomplish her mission. Many others found the suggested four shots an insufficient number.

Then, toward the end of my hour at the 10th, a young lady with the unlikely name of Eun Hee Ji stepped to the tee 332 yards from the flag and knocked her ball 308 yards, depositing it neatly on the front part of the green. The multitudes (self included) were simply stunned. She drove the green! No one else had even attempted it. I think I had assumed it wasn’t possible, and I wasn’t the only one, because when she arrived at the green, the crowd went a bit wacky, cheering and hooting and screaming its welcome, which Ms. Ji acknowledged with such girlish modesty that it made me a bit embarrassed we had cheered so loud. With two putts, she claimed her birdie and walked calmly off to the next hole to another thunderous ovation.

With the sang-froid of a mob assassin, there is much to admire about Ms. Ji (or, as I like to call her, Eun). But she impressed me in another way as well.

On the LPGA tour, there are still a few women who look like refrigerators, but they are all in their late 30’s or 40’s and they don’t win a lot anymore. Virtually all the other players, including most of the stars, are 22 years old with rock-hard muscles in the arms and legs and not an ounce of fat anywhere. Regardless of their country of origin, they wear short, tight skirts (white or pastel), a polo shirt one size too small (with a couple of buttons undone), and color-coordinated caps, hair ribbons and the like. Until you’ve watched them for a while, it’s impossible to tell them apart since they all look like they are on their way to the mall to spend the afternoon hanging with their BFF’s.

Eun, however, doesn’t look like that. First of all, she can’t be bigger than 5’ 2”, and if she weighs 115 pounds, my name is Barack Obama. More importantly, she doesn’t look like much of a shopper. Yesterday, she wore sweat pants and a loose fitting top that provided no suggestion of her shape. A black baseball cap was tilted forward so it was difficult to get a clear look at her face. If you want perky and cute, Eun may not be the girl for you. If you want somebody to hit a golf ball 300 yards, however….

She was in second place after Saturday, and she has won only one tournament in her two years on the tour, so she’s not a lock in the 2009 Open. The wins will come, though, and I’ll be rooting for her.

Copyright 2009 Michael Kubacki

Sunday, July 5, 2009


A couple weeks ago, I was chatting with a Scotsman who now lives in the Philly suburbs. He's politically conservative in many ways, and of course, he has lived under the UK's National Health Service regime, so I asked him his views on Obamacare.

His answer surprised me. "Well," he said, "here in America I can go to see my doctor any time I want, but I wonder if people don't go to the doctor a little too much. America might benefit from a little rationing. If your knee hurts, what's wrong with taking ibuprofen for a few weeks until you get a doctor to see you?"

Later, he surprised me again. We were discussing the Obama administration's plans (a la Europe) to mandate four weeks of paid vacation for all workers, and he said, "That's fine. I could use more vacation, couldn't you?"

One of the issues conservatives puzzle over regarding Obamacare (which is frequently the topic on talk radio) is simply this: "Why? Why are Obama and the Democrats doing this?" After all, they know what the results will be just from what has happened in other countries. They know that mammography has virtually disappeared for Swedish women and they know about the armed guards (to keep order) at the doors of Swedish hospitals. They know that dying Brits can wait hours for an ambulance and they know that National Health Service hospitals in the UK look like nothing so much as Dickensian-era work-houses. They know British cancer patients over the age of seventy each get an allotment for palliative care and hospice, but nothing for treatment. They've seen the clinics in New England with big signs that say "Canadian Checks Accepted" (in Canada, the waiting lists are long and private health care is illegal). Maybe the American people are not all that familiar with what government health care looks like around the world, but Obama knows and Pelosi knows and Reid knows, so why are they doing this? Why are they going down this path?

And I think my Scottish ex-pat pal provides the answer. Though he can be bitterly sardonic about political correctness and though he has no illusions about the jihadists, he nevertheless grew up in the UK. Despite his free-market, conservative political bent, the entitlement mindset is burned into his consciousness. Any conservative raised in the US would instantly realize that federally-mandated vacations would put millions of people out of work, but no one raised in a welfare state as pervasive as that of the UK can ever look at it that way.

And that's the reason Obama and the Democrats are pushing Obamacare, regardless of the consequences. Once there is national health care, a tipping point is reached, and the relationship of the citizen to his government is changed fundamentally. The primary issue in all future political campaigns becomes entitlements, rather than national security or free speech or abortion or anything relating to our values or philosophy. In England, in Belgium, in Canada, the main issue in every election is "how many weeks of vacation will you give me?" or "will I get a free root canal?" Once the individual becomes dependent on the government for health care, for life itself, everything else fades into the background.

When this happens, and the political playing field is altered, Democrats will have a permanent advantage over Republicans, since no one can beat Democrats in the what-will-you-give-me-now sweepstakes. And that is why Democrats are pushing so hard for Obamacare, regardless of its merits.

Ten days ago, the House passed the largest tax increase in American history. If it gets through the Senate and becomes law, every industry that can move to another country will do so, unemployment will soar, and not many of us will be able to afford to turn on the thermostat in January. But though the energy bill would be a nightmare if it passes, it could also be (with great difficulty), repealed. Once Obamacare becomes law, however, it will almost impossible to put the cork back in the bottle. America will be changed forever. At that point, we become just another dying European welfare state.

Copyright 2009 Michael Kubacki

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I’m willing to cut Michael Jackson a lot of slack. He was a talented person, and talented people sometimes have demons that would not be there if they were not so talented.

People who are celebrities as children, and who never have a proper childhood, have an additional burden. Some grow up and become responsible adults, but some don’t. When you look at Lindsay Lohan today, you see the hard face of a 22-year-old who is going on 50, and it’s sad. Maybe she will find herself, but it’s not certain. And Michael Jackson’s childhood was far worse than hers. Apparently, he was never able to have any sort of adult relationship; he was an emotional cripple. And it wasn’t really his fault.

I’ll go further. I was pleased by his acquittal in the child molestation case. I viewed it as just another high-profile case by a prosecutor who wanted some headlines, like those involving Martha Stewart, Rush Limbaugh and the Duke lacrosse team. The payoff to the kid who had some questionable overnights at Neverland was more troubling, but I can’t say I condemned him for that either. For MJ, $20 million at that time was like me paying somebody a buck. He had a reputation to protect. It’s Hollywood. None of us really know what happened.

However, there is a place where sympathy must end. One can have pity for a madman, but the pity ends when he begins to use other people’s lives to slake his personal demons.

I’m talking, of course, about “the children.”

Who are these kids? They were not his biological children, we now learn, and there is a serious question about whether they are the children of his “wife,” Debbie Rowe, who is alleged to have been merely a surrogate. What were they to Michael Jackson? Pets? Human versions of his famous chimp? Perhaps that explains why they have never been educated. In any event, the purpose they served in his twisted psyche is now clear.

First, they were evidence he was “normal,” a heterosexual and a dad. Worse, however, is that he created them and used them to assuage his own self-hatred, his loathing for his black skin. There is no reason to think he could not have had children of his own. Even if the thought of sex with a female was nauseating to him, he could easily have arranged for an in vitro coupling. But that child would have been black, wouldn’t it? And that wouldn’t do at all. That would give the lie to the fantasy he had created for himself in all his skin-lightening procedures and plastic surgeries. And that fantasy had to be served, apparently, at all costs. Even at the cost of others’ lives.

Copyright 2009 Michael Kubacki