The latest C-Poll is closed. You can read all about it here!

July 29, 2009

Let’s play “Spot the Logical Fallacy”!

This July 29 letter to the editors of the Ventura County (California) Star contains a significant logical fallacy. Do you see it?

Bumper-sticker rage

Knowing the hazards of “road rage,” I recently experienced “parking-lot rage” when confronted by a bumper sticker that read: “I’m a Republican. Not everybody can be on welfare!”

For the person on whose vehicle that appeared: I’m a socially liberal Democrat who’s not spent a single second on welfare.

For those of you on the right whose arch-conservative stance has been allowed to dictate county and city government, nestled as they are in the bosom of the Ronald Reagan Library, who think that bumper stickers are cute and funny and want to know where you can get yours, I proudly pay my taxes, something your respected tea-party people pout about and demonstrate against. How dare you portray me a deadbeat!

I proudly served in the U.S. military, something your recent president and vice president disdained. How dare you question my commitment to this country with your absolutely ignorant bumper stickers! How dare you!

— Bob Jackson, Simi Valley

July 25, 2009

Barack Obama takes a holiday

Lynn Sweet reports that Barack Obama, champion of the common man, will be vacationing with his family next month on Martha’s Vineyard, where the nation’s elites go to get away from the common man. 

Well, the elites can’t get away from them completely – who would clean the house, then?

July 22, 2009

Vegan activists turn to courts in bid to scare people away from meat consumption

Following the time-honored strategy of trying to accomplish through litigation that which they could not accomplish through legislation, vegan radicals at The Cancer Project are trying to get the New Jersey Supreme Court to force hot dog manufacturers to put scary warning labels on hot dog packages.

Los Angeles Times, July 22:

"Warning: Consuming hot dogs and other processed meats increases the risk of cancer."

That's the label that a vegan advocacy group wants a New Jersey court to order Oscar Mayer, Hebrew National and other food companies to slap on hot dog packages.

The nonprofit Cancer Project filed a lawsuit today on behalf of three New Jersey plaintiffs asking the Essex County superior court to compel the companies to place cancer-risk warning labels on hot dog packages sold in New Jersey.

"Just as tobacco causes lung cancer, processed meats are linked to colon cancer," says Neal Barnard, president of the Cancer Project and an adjunct professor at the George Washington University medical school in Washington, D.C. "Companies that sell hot dogs are well aware of the danger, and their customers deserve the same information."

The defendants in the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, include Nathan's Famous Inc., Oscar Mayer-owner Kraft Foods Inc., Sara Lee Corp., Marathon Enterprises Inc. and ConAgra Foods Inc., which owns Hebrew National.

The Cancer Project is an offshoot of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a vegan group that has engaged in, according to PhysicianScam.com, “20 years of animal rights propaganda disguised as medical advice”. 

The purpose of The Cancer Project seems to be to go down the list of foods the vegans think we shouldn’t eat, and allege a cancer link for each one.

Well, what about the cancer claim made in the lawsuit?  The L.A. Times article linked above says this:

In the lawsuit, the Cancer Project cites the role of nitrites, a preservative used in cured and processed meats such as hot dogs in the development of cancer-forming agents. During digestion, it breaks down into nitrosamines and other N-nitroso compounds that are considered carcinogens.

Although some medical studies link red and processed meats to cancer risk, it's not clear whether it is because of the nitrites or other factors such as the high fat content. "There is speculation that nitrosamines can increase cancer risk when consumed in large amounts and frequently. Occasionally should cause no worry. The stuff people typically have with a hot dog may be a more immediate concern: too many calories from all the fat-laden potato and macaroni salads, sugary drinks and sweet desserts," said Keith-Thomas Ayoob, a nutritionist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

An American Institute for Cancer Research report cited in the lawsuit notes that one 50-gram serving of processed meat -- about the amount in one hot dog -- consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer, on average, by 21%. Colorectal cancer kills about 50,000 Americans annually.

But a 2004 analysis by Harvard University researchers of pooled data from 14 studies in North America and Europe could not find a similar link between various red and processed meats and cancer. But they did find that higher consumption of poultry and fish may be associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.

If they can persuade the NJ Supremes that the science is settled on this issue – despite significant evidence to the contrary – Al Gore might want to enlist their help.

A glimpse into the mind of a Sarah Palin hater

An open letter to “Paul”, an individual who left a comment on this post yesterday:
Paul, you're a real piece of work.

This morning as I got ready for the day, I was pondering the fact that your comment seemed to be written as if you hadn't even read what I wrote.

I knew you had arrived at my site via a "Palin resigns" Google search from your computer at Palomar Community College in California.

Your lengthy response -- only FIVE MINUTES after my post -- impressed me. How quickly I had struck a nerve, and now someone was giving me a piece of his mind!

Something still bothered me, though. As my response to your comment indicated, your rejoinder seemed to ignore the points I was making.

This morning I thought: That was a drive-by cut-and-paste comment. He didn't even read what I wrote. He just found sites talking about Sarah, fired his shot, and sped off.

It took mere moments to confirm my suspicion. Comparing the visitor log to the comment, I saw that your outraged response was posted within seconds of your arrival.

Then I did a Google search on the first sentence of your post. Oops, found it here and here.


You are a glittering example of how many on the Left* engage in debate. You're happy to participate, as long as you don't have to actually hear the other person’s side of the issue.
Paul, if you wish to read what I actually wrote, and post a response based on what I actually wrote, I’ll be happy to interact with you on the issue itself – even if you disagree with me.

I’m not optimistic that you’ll be back, though. That doesn’t appear to be your style.

You’re more likely part of the defamation machine that has been rolled out against Sarah Palin… in which case your comment does fit in with the topic of my post after all.

Thanks for illustrating my point for me.
End of rant.

* Of course, you could be a Romney supporter or an embittered McCain campaign aide. Odds, however, favor your being a bit further to the left.

July 21, 2009

Democrat operatives continue their campaign to destroy Sarah Palin

Just a few days remain before Sarah Palin leaves the Alaska governor’s office, and yet her political enemies (mostly, but not all, Democrats*) are still waging a campaign of frivolous harassment at the expense of the taxpayers of that state.

As this Facebook announcement from Palin’s attorney Thomas van Flein shows, not a single substantial ethics accusation made against her has held up to scrutiny.

To underscore the fact that these complaints are political warfare, van Flein notes that complainants are routinely violating the ethics laws themselves by publicizing the complaints.

Enjoy it while you can, Dems.  In a few days, Sarah will be free to return fire.
Another Ethics Complaint Filed Against the Governor
July 20, 2009, Anchorage, Alaska – Once again, an ethics complaint has been filed and publicly released in violation of state law. This is the sixth complaint filed by Ms. McLeod. In addition, she has filed a lawsuit against the Governor's office and multiple public records act requests. All of her prior complaints that have been ruled on have been dismissed. The Ethics Act serves important state interests in ensuring ethical state government and was intended to prevent the various forms of corrupt misconduct that had plagued the Legislature in prior years and which resulted in the prosecution of legislators and others. It is unfortunate that the law has been abused and trivialized in the current manner.

Today’s complaint, filed just six days before the Governor leaves office, alleges that Governor Palin violated the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act by failing to submit complete gift disclosure forms in a timely manner, and obtained “free” services. The apparent primary goal of this complaint has been achieved, namely, an effort to keep the complainant’s name in the paper. We anticipate another dismissal of this complaint as with the complainant’s other complaints. This is the fourth ethics complaint filed against the Governor since the announcement of her resignation on July 3. In every case, the complainers violated the confidentiality provision of the Ethics Act in making their  complaints public knowledge.

THOMAS VAN FLEIN—Personal Attorney for Governor Palin
* Sarah’s anticorruption crusade in Alaska stepped on quite a few Republican toes as well, so it’s not surprising that some of the snipers are from her own party.

July 20, 2009

Visualizing the cost of the government’s economic “rescue” plan

The inspector general for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) is preparing to submit a report to Congress tomorrow estimating the ultimate cost of all of the financial bailouts currently underway and in the works. Fox News reports IG Neil Barofsky’s stunning prediction in a July 20 article (emphasis added):
The total price tag for federal support stemming from the financial crisis could reach $23.7 trillion in the long run, the government's top bailout watchdog says in a new report to Congress.
Neil Barofsky, the inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, plans to deliver his report Tuesday to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The $23.7 trillion figure is admittedly a high-ball number and reflects the total potential gross exposure, but Barofsky in his prepared testimony notes that the TARP -- which started as a $700 billion bailout -- has expanded well beyond that.
[…] In supporting documentation obtained by FOXNews.com, the inspector general's office explains that the $23.7 trillion spans about 50 "initiatives or programs" created by federal agencies in the wake of the economic crisis.
The estimate covers commitments that could come from programs at the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Federal Housing Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies.
Almost 24 trillion dollars!
Chances are that few of us have had reason to try to get our minds around a number that big, so let’s go through a little visualization exercise.
A stack of 3000 newly-printed one-dollar bills stands about a foot tall*. To get the height of 23.7 trillion one-dollar bills, the math looks like this:
23,700,000,000,000 ÷ 3,000 = 7,900,000,000 feet
7.9 billion feet is about 1,496,212 miles. The moon is about 238,857 miles from earth; this stack of money is 6.26 times that distance.
Viewed another way, a dollar bill is about six inches long*. 23.7 trillion one-dollar bills laid end-to-end would stretch 11.85 trillion feet, or about 2.24 million miles, almost 9400 times the distance from the earth to the moon.
Where is this money coming from, folks? Of course, a lot of it will be created out of thin air, but the rest of it will be sucked out of the economy in the name of saving it.
* Dollar bill length and stack height estimates are from 87billion.com, a site established a few years ago to help us visualize the amount of money spent in the War on Terror. The site, however, is woefully inadequate for helping us visualize the cost of the bailout, since the money spent on the war to date is just under $900 billion, a number that used to be impressive.

UPDATE: Here's another visualization of what one trillion dollars looks like. Just multiply the final image by 23.7. (Thanks to jellybean for the link)

Reuters contradicts its own shoddy reporting on Honduran crisis

It’s almost like a reflex.  Reuters leads off a July 20 dispatch on the Honduran constitutional crisis in this way (emphasis added):
Honduras' political foes are on a collision course after negotiations collapsed and deposed President Manuel Zelaya vowed to return home despite warnings from a defiant de facto government.
Zelaya says resistance is being organized in Honduras to pave the way for his return this weekend and that nobody can stop him. The interim government installed after the June 28 military coup has threatened to arrest Zelaya if he returns and crack down on any protesters who stir trouble.
People who read only the opening paragraphs of news articles will come away with a reinforcement of the oft-repeated – but false – claim that Zelaya was deposed by a military coup.
Read a little further, and one will see that Reuters itself can’t decide whether or not the events of June 28 constituted a military coup.
In a section entitled “Unusual Coup”, we see laid out many of the facts demonstrating that the military, far from instigating Zelaya’s removal from power, was actually carrying out the constitutionally lawful order for his arrest:
Zelaya was expelled from the textile and coffee exporting country in his pajamas in the middle of the night. He had upset his political rivals by seeking to lift presidential term limits, and the army moved against him after the Supreme [Court] ordered his arrest.
[…] The Honduran coup is an unusual case. Unlike those that battered Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, Zelaya's ouster was approved by the Supreme Court and Congress as well as Catholic Church leaders in the country. There is also no military strongman in the picture this time.
So, get this straight: The Honduran Supreme Court lawfully ordered Zelaya’s arrest, and the military lawfully carried out the arrest order.  Honduras’ Congress (including Zelaya’s own political party) endorsed this lawful order. 
The only way that the military exceeded its authority was by exiling the president rather than merely taking him into custody.  Even so, once the operation was completed, the military stood down.  They have no influence over the interim president – from Zelaya’s political party, by the way – that Congress lawfully selected to take Zelaya’s place.
Despite the cognitive dissonance abundantly evident in this article, Reuters seems incapable of admitting that no coup – military or otherwise – took place in Honduras on June 28.
The article ends on an encouraging note:
The interim government, which has been denied around $200 million in multilateral aid and $16.5 million in U.S. military aid and is at risk of regional trade sanctions, insists it can and will stand up to the international pressure.
Honduras knows that it has few if any friends in this crisis.  For some reason, it seems like the whole world – governments and media alike – is determined to snuff out the liberty of this tiny republic.  Good on the people and government of Honduras for refusing to refusing to buckle under  the unbelievable pressure.

July 15, 2009

Government-run health care, v 1.0

Here’s the version the Democrats in the House of Representatives passed, as interpreted by the Republican staff on the Joint Economic Committee.

I call it version 1.0, because this version still includes private insurers.  Later versions may do away with that component.

Click image to enlarge (or click the link above to view the original, which is even larger), not that it will aid comprehension very much.

July 13, 2009

The essence of the case for confirming Sonia Sotomayor

  1. Sonia Sotomayor has a compelling life story.
  2. [insert heartwarming details here]
  3. Therefore, give her a lifetime appointment to the most powerful court in the land.
  4. If you don’t vote for her, you’re a racist misogynist.
Did I miss any details?

(Thanks to Dysart at FR for inspiring #4)

Senator Al Franken channels Humpty Dumpty at Sotomayor hearing

RealClearPolitics has posted a video of today’s USSC confirmation hearing where newbie senator Al Franken praised Sonia Sotomayor as “the most experienced Supreme Court nominee in 100 years”.

Seriously? More experienced than any other nominee to come before the Senate in the past 100 years?

 “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Franken’s superlative abuse reminds me of an exchange between Humpty Dumpty and Alice  in Lewis Carroll’s classic story Through the Looking Glass (with the word “glory” replaced with “experience”):
‘There's experience for you!’

‘I don't know what you mean by "experience",’ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"’

‘But "experience" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",’ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master -- that's all.’
Thank you, Minnesota.

Did Senator Leahy say this with a straight face?

Leahy, in his opening remarks at today’s confirmation hearing for USSC nominee Sonia Sotomayor, as reported by Politico (emphasis added):
“Unfortunately, some have sought to twist her words and her record and to engage in partisan political attacks,” Leahy complained. “That’s not the American way. That’s not the Senate way.
Anyone old enough to remember the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings would know that Leahy is not telling the truth here.

This excerpt from a 2001 (republished in 2004) National Review article shows how sincere Leahy is regarding his pious proclamation today:
Leahy furthered distinguished himself in 1991 as the first senator to come out against Clarence Thomas (this was even before the allegations of Anita Hill). He hammered Thomas relentlessly. At one point, in a typical Leahy flourish, he said, "You describe yourself as a conservative. Well, most Vermonters are conservative, too" — but Thomas, in Leahy's eyes, wasn't the right kind of conservative. Later, in a floor statement, Leahy said, "I cannot promise the people of Vermont that I'm sure this nominee will protect their rights." And he avowed, most richly, "The last thing I seek in a Supreme Court justice is ideology."

Leahy became a major player on the Judiciary Committee in 1987, when Democrats wrested control of the Senate from Republicans. Biden was chairman, but Leahy was named head of a task force to scrutinize (or harass or delay or upend) Republican nominees. At last, he vowed, Democrats would "play hardball" (and this was years before Chris Matthews became a national celebrity). "No iffy nominees are going to get through now," Leahy crowed. The result was that nominees, many of them, were pecked at and left twisting in the wind. Interesting, in light of a later event, is that Leahy, back in '87, faulted the American Bar Association for its recommendations on judicial nominees. He said, "I have often found the ABA process to be perfunctory at best. I've often found it inadequate." According to the Washington Post, "Leahy said his task force would interview more lawyers, litigants, and local citizens instead of relying on the ABA." Leahy's entire approach in this period was: go slow, put the screws on, block.

Fred Thompson: ‘Absurd’ for Senators to base judicial confirmation vote on nominee’s testimony at hearing

FredPac e-mail alert posted the text at Free Republic.  Emphasis added.

It is expected that Senators will say that they want to wait and see what Judge Sotomayor will say at her confirmation hearing before they decide how they will vote.

This is understandable, I suppose, but from my experience, what a nominee says during his or her hearing, while certainly not irrelevant, is one of the least important considerations upon which they should base their vote. Nominee’s judicial and professional record, along with their public statements and reputation for integrity, are much more reliable indicators as to the kind of judge they will be. Our Founding Father recognized this early on, and it is the main reason confirmation hearings were not held on a regular basis until the 1950s.

There are two things that work against any substantive new information being revealed in a confirmation hearing.    
First a nominee can and should refuse to go very far in giving their opinion regarding any legal issue that might come before the Supreme Court in the future. That, of course, covers most any legal issue.

Second, in 1990 the distinguished jurist, Robert Bork, refused to subject himself to the usual dog and pony Q and A, “how to handle the senators” sessions now given to nominees in preparation for their hearings, the so-called "murder board."  During the hearings he engaged in an open and candid dialogue with regard to his judicial philosophy. We know how that turned out. The odds are great that never again will a nominee make the mistake of committing candor.     

For some time now everyone has understood the name of the game: Take as much off the table as possible as inappropriate for discussion. Then, dance around the rest. When you get a question that you're expected to answer, try to sound as knowledgeable as possible, but play for time and never say anything committee members would find objectionable.         

So the process is basically for the purpose of giving the nominee the opportunity to commit a gaffe of other unforced error. Then the nominee may be denied confirmation, not so much for their lack of qualifications or even their judicial philosophy, but for their not being clever of artful enough to win the game.

I would suggest that for a person to be judged on the basis of a few days of practiced, self-serving comments and obfuscation, instead  of their entire life and record is absurd. And to think that their service on the Supreme Court would be consistent with their statements before a committee they will likely never sit before again, instead of their record is inconsistent with both logic and experience.     

In other words, it’s foolish in the extreme to rush into marriage thinking you know a girl, when everything you think you know about her is based on what she told you while you were out on a date.

Regarding the curious tendency of modern people to willingly air their dirty laundry for all to see

The Wall Street Journal has an article July 13 about how the collapsing economy has thrown a monkey wrench into many divorce proceedings:

Rhonda Brewster and her husband have decided they don't want to be married to each other anymore. But while they're ready to move on, they still can't move out.

They don't want to sell their home, in Huntsville, Ala., in a down market. They can't afford two households until Ms. Brewster finds steady work. So for now, they are living under the same roof but on separate floors.

The "kids are OK with it." says Ms. Brewster, a 39-year-old freelance writer and stay-at-home mother. "They just know that mommy lives upstairs and daddy lives in the basement."

Unwinding the ties of matrimony is rarely simple or inexpensive, but for many couples, the sour economy is complicating the process further.

Divorce lawyers say many couples are delaying the decision to dissolve marriages and are staying in unpleasant situations for fear of being on their own at a time of economic uncertainty. Others are being forced to live together after the divorce is final for financial convenience. That can strain the emotions and result in awkward negotiations about subjects like dating.

The article goes on to give several more examples of the phenomenon.

I don’t know if I’m just naïve, but I don’t understand how so many of these cases became public knowledge, to the point that a Wall Street Journal reporter got wind of them and was able to compile an article about them.

What would make these people willing to broadcast their marriage failures to the entire world? (Future spouses of these folks, take note.)

I could understand the greed motive of those who act out on the reality shows, who are willing to degrade themselves in front of millions in exchange for a chance at some cash – although even on reality shows, some are willing to degrade themselves for free. It’s still horrifying and repulsive, but (when there’s a possibility of winning money) still understandable.

But what’s in it for these folks in the WSJ article?

July 12, 2009

Mark Steyn: Environmentalism and health care are perfect instruments of despotic rule

Excerpt from a July 11 Mark Steyn essay (emphasis added):
Beginning with FDR, wily statists justified the massive expansion of federal power under ever more elastic definitions of the commerce clause. For Obama-era control freaks, the environment and health care are the commerce clause supersized. They establish the pretext for the regulation of everything: If the government is obligated to cure you of illness, it has an interest in preventing you from getting ill in the first place — by regulating what you eat, how you live, the choices you make from the moment you get up in the morning. Likewise, if everything you do impacts “the environment,” then the environment is an all-purpose umbrella for regulating everything you do. It’s the most convenient and romantic justification for what the title of Paul Rahe’s new book rightly identifies as “soft despotism.”

July 10, 2009

Obama receives an unwelcome endorsement of his economic plan

At least I assume it’s unwelcome.  From Foreign Policy’s “Passport” blog, July 9:

Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov says he enjoyed getting to meet Barack Obama along with other members of the Russian opposition this week and even saw eye-to-eye with the U.S. president on a few things. Interfax reports via Johnson's Russia List:

"I said that I had thoroughly studied the U.S. president's anti-crisis program, that I liked it, as well as that it is socially oriented and primarily aimed at supporting poor people and enhancing the state's role. I said all this to President Obama," he said.

Ziegler: The truth about Sarah Palin’s resignation

Excerpt from an outstanding essay by John Ziegler at Big Hollywood.  The entire essay is well worth the read.
This will evidently come as a complete shock to nearly every member of the media elite, but not everyone in public life is a manipulative and cynical liar, and not every person who has a shot at being President must live their lives to pursue that end no matter the costs to the public good, their family and their personal sanity. The Sarah Palin I know is at least one person in that position who is sufficiently well-grounded and secure enough in themselves and their values to not succumb to this illness of hyper-ambition. She is more than capable of putting something else above her own selfish, short-term political self-interest. You would think that a just society might reward that kind of person and not crucify them, but it has been long since clear that we don’t live in that kind of place. 
The bottom line is that Sarah Palin resigned simply because she was no longer allowed to do her job in a way that benefited her state and family. She saw that if she stayed on as Governor it would cost the state millions of dollars in wasted time and resources and doom it to gridlock. She knew that it would also continue to cost her family hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend against false and maliciously filed ethics complaints. And she had simply had enough of her children being fodder for inappropriate public attacks.
That’s it. Those are the facts and I’m positive there’s nothing else. There is ABSOLUTELY no hidden scandal (or as CNN’s hack Rick Sanchez “reported,” an unplanned pregnancy) and this was NOT a poorly executed ploy to ignite a 2012 Presidential run. Sarah Palin simply came to the “remarkable” conclusion that stepping down was the right thing to do for the greater good. How sad is it that so many in media (including a whole lot of “conservatives”) can’t even begin to see this obvious reality.

July 9, 2009

Thanks to the Dems, even Canada is looking like a corporate tax haven

Financial Post, June 29:

In a clear indication that Canada is starting to be considered a low-tax place to do business, Tim Hortons Inc. announced Monday plans to shift its base of operations from Delaware to Canada for tax purposes.

Further, analysts indicate this is also a sign of unease among corporations regarding the U.S. business environment, where taxes are likely heading upward to deal with trillion-dollar deficits and proposed health-care reforms; and the White House is looking to crack down on companies that invest abroad.


In Canada, the federal corporate tax rate is headed to 15% in 2012, and the federal Conservative government has called on the provinces to get to a 10% business levy by the same timeframe – for a combined 25% rate on corporate income. Alberta is already at 10%, British Columbia will be there in 2011, Ontario by 2013, and New Brunswick will go down further, to 8%, in 2012.

In the United States, the top corporate tax rate is in the mid-30% range. As a result, the U.S. now has about the highest combined corporate tax rate, second only to Japan among industrialized countries.

Of course, the left will continue to demonize companies that decide not to take this abuse any more.

Another reason why Mitt Romney should not be allowed anywhere near the 2012 GOP nomination

I’m not sure who Mitt Romney is trying to impress.  The man behind Massachusetts’ coercive state-run universal health care system is proud of his creation, and he thinks you should be forced to join it too.

WCBV (Boston), July 9:

Three years after the inception of Massachusetts’ landmark health reform legislation, which required every citizen to buy insurance, NewsCenter 5’s Ed Harding wondered what former Gov. Mitt Romney, a key political architect of the plan, thought of its progress.

Call it protecting his legacy, well-earned pride, or seeing the glass as half-full, but Romney says Massachusetts deserves an ‘A.’

“It’s working like we had hoped it would work,” the one-time republic presidential candidate said. “We got nearly everybody in Massachusetts health insurance, which really, something people didn't think was possible.”

Romney said the same can be done nationwide, though he concedes what many in the Bay State are grappling with now, that the hardest part of the reform debate is controlling costs.


Romney points to a recent analysis by the pro-reform Massachusetts Taxpayers’ Association, showing that since near-universal coverage was implemented in 2006, state taxpayers have had to shell out an additional $88 million per year to insure an additional 430,000 citizens.

“Some people say. ‘Oh, it's expensive,’ but actually, it cost less than two percent of the state budget.”

So, something that shouldn’t be government’s responsibility in the first place is okay because it costs no more than 2% of the annual budget.  Oh. Well.  What was I complaining about?

Romney appears to have only one substantial objection to Obama’s national healthcare vision.  As I mentioned before, Romney is all for coercing people into getting health insurance, but he doesn’t see any need for a public plan option. 

It also appears that he’s okay with putting productive Americans on the hook for tens of billions of dollars (up to 2% of the federal budget) to cover premiums for those who can’t afford them.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Anybody who is acceptable to the majority of Massachusetts voters cannot possibly be good for America. 

As far as Democrats are concerned, how sweet it is to have a prominent Republican who eagerly champions a significant part of their agenda.

This is almost certainly why Romney has already been declared  the 2012 GOP nominee by the media.

Quick Quote: Thomas Jefferson on what makes good government

And now, a word from the founder of the Democratic Party:

[A] wise and frugal government...shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.

– First inaugural address, 1801

Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America (494)

Yes, the blue counties got most of the stimulus money, but…

Did the Obama administration intentionally steer the bulk of the stimulus money to counties that voted for him?

A story in the July 8 USA Today shows that Obama-backing counties did in fact win the stimulus lottery by a 2-to-1 margin.
Counties that supported Obama last year have reaped twice as much money per person from the administration's $787 billion economic stimulus package as those that voted for his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, a USA TODAY analysis of government disclosure and accounting records shows. That money includes aid to repair military bases, improve public housing and help students pay for college.

The reports show the 872 counties that supported Obama received about $69 per person, on average. The 2,234 that supported McCain received about $34.
But is this compelling evidence of administration skullduggery?

Unless more evidence comes forward, I’d say that based on the types of projects being funded – especially public works projects – the money was fated to end up in urban areas, which for the most part are Democrat strongholds.

In other words, no real story there.

There is, however, some red meat in another story published by USAT the day before:
Under pressure to spend stimulus money quickly, many states are using the federal funds for short-term projects and to fill budget gaps rather than spending on long-term improvements, according to a report by congressional investigators.

The report, scheduled to be released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) at a House oversight hearing, also says many states aren't meeting some goals and requirements of the economic recovery program. Some states, for example, are not sending transportation funding to the most economically distressed areas, and they are using education funds to prevent layoffs rather than fund innovative new programs, the report says.
So, states aren’t having much luck resisting the urge to divert stimulus funds to other uses.  The money isn’t even reaching many of the Obama-backing counties.

Is it any wonder that some Democrats in Congress are talking about throwing even more money into another stimulus? 

The federal government may not have engineered the stimulus funds to go mostly to Obama country, but Democrat officials could not possibly have failed to notice that existing rules worked to their political benefit.

Federal minimum wage increase is a kick in the gut to businesses that are already hurting

Later this month the third of three increases in the federal minimum wage will go into effect.

Businesses that depend on minimum-wage employees are already feeling the effects of the economic slowdown.  They’re already skating on the edge of profitability, and it seems that a sudden spike in labor costs may sink many businesses, or at least make it very difficult for them to hire new employees. 

To retain existing workers, employers may have no choice but to balance the increased labor costs by cutting back on hours, resulting in an empty victory for employees. 

In the current economic climate, it would be bad business to pass the increased costs to customers whose budgets are growing ever tighter.

This month’s minimum wage increase was scheduled in 2007, long before the current crisis was apparent.  How hard would it be for Congress to admit that the timing is bad, and postpone the increase until a time when the retail sector isn’t so fragile?

N.B. I’ve long been on record as opposing the very idea of a mandated minimum wage.  I haven’t wavered on that issue.  This essay is dealing with reality as it is, not reality as I wish it would be.

July 7, 2009

Americans deserve to know how much protectionism and subsidies are costing them

I agree with Sallie James at Cato – this idea is pretty good.  The Atlantic’s James Gibney thinks we could use a little education about why the products we buy cost what they do [emphasis added]:

Before you start spooning up your next bowl of Frosted Flakes, ponder this: driven partly by the demand for ethanol, the price of the corn in your flakes is about 40 percent higher than it was a few years ago; the sugar easily cost you more than double the world price; and your milk is at least 15 percent more expensive than it would be in many other countries.

Americans pay much more than they should for their food. Thanks to a thicket of subsidies and tariffs that support American farmers and tilt the growing field against cheaper foreign producers, we get ripped off twice: first as taxpayers who ante up for roughly $25 billion in agricultural subsidies each year ($4 billion for milk alone in 2006); then as consumers who pay higher prices at the checkout counter because we can't take advantage of low-price imports.


So, how can we get more Americans to look up from their feedbags and demand that Congress restore some sense to the marketplace? I recommend a little truth-in-packaging. Just as food manufacturers now list their products' ingredients and nutritional value, they should also disclose their "free-market" value.

To wit, every product whose ingredients benefit from a subsidy should include the following language on the label:

"This product has been subsidized by the U.S. government at taxpayer expense. For more information, please visit usda.gov."

And every product that benefits from tariff protection should have the following language on the label:

"This product is protected from foreign competition by U.S. import tariffs. Its price is higher as a result. For more information, please visit usitc.gov."

July 6, 2009

The truth about Honduras (SPREAD THE WORD)

The following is written by a longtime Christian missionary in Honduras (known personally to members of a sister church there). Please do your part to counter the 'coup' nonsense that we're being fed by the media and our government!

(Map credit: geology.com)

Date: Sunday, July 5, 2009, 4:40 PM
Dear Friends,
This has been a very difficult and yet productive trip. At this point we need your prayers more than ever. Tensions are very high here in the capital of Tegucigalpa. Thankfully, we met some people here with military and police connections that offered to get us to a safe house if need be. Praying that will not be needed, but grateful God gave us that option. Many here think we will need it...
There have been unidentified planes and helicopters in Honduran airspace. The military was able to chase some away, but one helicopter is lost. The airspace over Honduras is closed because Zelaya threatened to come back today. Apparently he is in El Salvador now.
Who knows how long it will take for this drama to play out. We are praying hard to get out by Tuesday and head to Washington with our findings for the congressman who asked us to do a report. On this end we have been asked to assist a group of Honduran government officials get their information into the right hands when and if they leave for DC this week.
We are so incredibly sad that the American people know little about this situation and what they do know are mostly lies. We beg you to pass this email to anyone on your email list and to any government officials you know.
See link below for some more interesting background information:
In the last few weeks before the President was arrested for treason hundreds and hundreds (I have heard everything from 800 to 2000) Venezuelans were granted entrance to this country. We were told that they were given Honduran passports. These are counter-intelligence and military people whose prime job is to organize mobs and create chaos. They have much experience in these things. What Zelaya, Chavez, and the Castro brothers want more than anything is a bloodbath here to intimidate the population into allowing Zelaya back in the country as President.
Chaos is what this President has specialized in the past few months. He has tried to destabilize the country in every way he can. Class struggle is something that this regime really poked and stoked. It is true that Honduras needs to do more for its poor, but at the government level everything was a pinata. Not much assistance ever got to the poor.
This former President is a known narco-trafficker, allowing planes to land at the capital's airport loaded with drugs and cash. Our own government has documentation on this - it has not been released to Congress. Our government is advocating this thug be placed back in power. He broke 18 laws of the country - and by the Honduran constitution some of these laws he broke called for him to cease immediately to be the President of the country.
This was in no way a military coup. The military is not in power. They acted on the orders of their Supreme Court!
The grave mistake the government made here was not arresting the President, but letting him go free! Had they jailed him, the International community could not find fault with the current government. The only reason the government did what they did in whisking him off to freedom was because they had no idea who was in place in Honduras to create chaos. Many of the police and had been paid off by the President and they did not want bloodshed.
The thugs supporting Zelaya, many of them paid rioters brought in from every corner of the poorest of the poor areas are bombing, shooting, throwing grenades, burning things, and trying to scare the people here into giving in and letting Zelaya back.
We have talked to the poor and many of them tell us they prefer to eat only tortillas and salt rather than live under a Chavez puppet. The poor that Zelaya promised to help have received nothing in three and a half years of his presidency. He has bankrupted the country, most of the money that came in for aid is unaccounted for - presumably stolen by Zelaya. He provided NO BUDGET for the country for 2009 nor funding for the upcoming elections. He refused to release the funds putting their November elections in jeopardy.
He did manage to hand over 100 Venezuelan or Chinese tractors to the poor that cannot be maintained or fixed. Magnificent! Even the poor are laughing their heads off over that one.
I saw many poor people at the marches here carrying signs that said THE PEOPLE ARE NOT STUPID. They have somehow managed to inform themselves of the issues. That alone amazes me. The masses are waking up. The poor we know here have called Zelaya a crook for the last two years or more. In the beginning I think a lot of them had hope for change. No more.
CNN has been propagating the most ridiculous lies about what is going on here. One of their chief correspondists is married to some high ranking Sandanista - so much for objectivity.
Yesterday a friend in the states sent me an article about how the Honduran Military is a bunch of thugs and torturers. So really, why if the military are such thugs did they not torture Zelaya and take over the country? They were acting on orders of their Supreme Court who ordered them to arrest the treasonous President, a President who in a matter of a few hours was prepared to dissolve the contstitution and throw out the Congress!
All evidence we have says the US government was begging the Honduran Congress to let the President go ahead with his illegal referendum and then when the chaos began the US would back the Hondurans. Really? Like we did with the Iranians when their election was stolen and blood ran in their streets? I understand the Iranian situation is complicated, but it took forever to even condemn their actions of shooting innocent protesters. The Hondurans had zero confidence in the US to back them if bloodshed resulted. All they sought was peace and the legitimate removal of this man from power.
The Honduran people are devastated that the United States has not only abandoned them but actually insists they return a traitor, liar, and theif to power. Justice does not prevail here. Reason does not prevail here. Politics do, and innocent people may die.
In our villages, fifty years ago, the Nicaraguans came in and fought one very evil guerilla battle. Some of our friends there told us of their family members' heads being chopped off and placed on fence posts. Pregnant women's bellies were slashed open so that they and their children died. It is very much feared in our villages that these demonic deeds will happen again.
An army colonel we spoke with yesterday told us that the guerillas are already in place to intimidate the people not to fight. And armies are mobilizing according to the President.
Americans have always stood on the side of the underdog. Honduras has been our ally and friend helping us stand against communism for decades. Now is not the time to abandon them. Stop the politics! Do what is right!
Please help us by passing this information to anyone you know. I am sorry I do not have time to answer each of you individually. But your notes of encouragement have meant the world to us. This is a very scary time. We are holed up in a hotel that is only a block from the Presidential Palace and a place where it is feared will be a lot of violence.
Our mission here is nearly accomplished. One or two more meetings tomorrow with the very highest level officials and then we need to get out of here and head to Washington.
On a positive note we have been introduced to a slew of people that can help us advance the work with the children in Honduras if we survive this mess. We are very encouraged about that. This country will be a whole new nation once this is over and our ideas about working with the youth are being well received. Many are asking to learn more, come and see our work, and help mentor the youth!!!
Please pray for Honduras. Please send this to all your friends. Please bombard Washington with a plea for justice.
Love to all,
[Name withheld for safety's sake]

UPDATE: July 3 photo from LA Times:

Zelaya supporters are not ashamed to make known who their hero is. Make no mistake – left-wing leaders throughout the Americas are upset because the people and government of Honduras refuse to go quietly into the Marxist abyss.
This is a significant challenge to the ambitions of Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, Raul Castro & co. Don’t think for a moment that they’ll back down from the challenge.
Honduras is in for a rough ride, and it looks to be a lonely one.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. An independent Palestinian state would be a model of “tolerance, co-existence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions”.

And if Palestinian PM Fayyad says it’s so, then doggone it, that’s good enough for this tough crowd at the Aspen Institute.  IMRA reports July 5:

Palestinian National Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Saturday that Jews would enjoy freedom and civil rights in a future Palestinian state.

Fayyad addressed the subject in response to a question from former CIA director James Woolsey at the Aspen Institute's Aspen Ideas Festival, which included a day of panels on different aspects of the current state of the Middle East.

Woolsey said there are a million Arabs in Israel, accounting for one-sixth of the Israeli population, and that "generally they enjoy the guarantees that Americans look for in the Bill of Rights."

"Now, if there is to be the rule of law in a Palestinian state, and if Jews want to live in someplace like Hebron, or anyplace else in a Palestinian state, for whatever reasons or historical attachments, why should they not be treated the same way Israeli Arabs are?" Woolsey asked. "That would be, there could be a sixth of the population consisting of them. They could vote for real representatives in a real Palestinian legislature, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and most importantly, be able to go to the sleep at night without worrying someone is going to kick down the door and kill them."

Fayyad responded by saying, "I'm not going to disagree with you. And I'm not someone who will say that they would or should be treated differently than Israeli Arabs are treated in Israel.

"In fact the kind of state that we want to have, that we aspire to have, is one that would definitely espouse high values of tolerance, co-existence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions. No discrimination
whatsoever, on any basis whatsoever.

"Jews to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the state of Israel," Fayyad said.

The crowd at the Greenwald Pavilion applauded enthusiastically.

Of course, these are likely some of the same folks who swooned at every word spoken by Obama on the campaign trail.

Ideology on, brain off.

When government controls your healthcare

Is this America, ten years after the imposition of ObamaCare? UK Daily Mail, July 6:
An active pensioner admitted to hospital for routine treatment for a stomach bug died six weeks later following a series of 'blunders' by overworked staff.
Betty Dunn, 79, was taken to Tameside General Hospital in Ashton-under-Lyme, Greater Manchester, to be rehydrated with saline.
But her horrified family watched helplessly as the widow's condition deteriorated over six weeks before she died after contracting the superbug C-diff.
At one point her relatives, who battled to communicate with staff who apparently didn't speak English, were so concerned for the former Land Girl's welfare they called in police.
Doctors then transferred the great-grandmother to another hospital for 'rehabilitation'.
But when Mrs Dunn was unable to sit up she was sent straight back to Tameside. She died three days later.
Mrs Dunn's family, who call the hospital a 'zoo', compiled a log of her treatment and claim that a catalogue of errors made by staff included:
  • Giving her penicillin when she was allergic to the drug
  • Mistakenly denying her antibiotics
  • Failing to advise relatives to wear protective gloves or aprons to guard against superbugs
  • Giving her a designated food substitute three times a day - against the advice of doctors
  • Breaking the news of her increasingly grave condition to relatives in a busy corridor in front of other visitors.
(Image found here)

July 3, 2009

Americans still embrace the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. Or do they?

Just in time for America’s Independence Day holiday, Rasmussen has released its analysis of a poll examining the attitudes of Americans regarding the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence is one of the two crucial founding documents of the US – the other, of course, being the Constitution. The Constitution is the technical document outlining the structure and powers of the national government. The Declaration establishes the rational foundation for the very existence of this country.

Rasmussen’s strategy – and I’m not sure that this was the best idea – was to take various famous phrases from the document, and ask: “Do you agree with this?” The answers were recorded without any sure knowledge of what the respondent thought the phrase meant.

The response that jumped out to me was the one asking respondents’ opinion of this part of the Declaration:

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

The pollsters shortened this to “Governments derive their only just powers from the consent of the governed”. This paraphrase actually skirts around Jefferson’s profound assertion that the purpose of government is to secure the God-given rights of the people. But that’s the subject of another post, another time. The paraphrase was fair enough, because it adequately portrayed the other profound assertion in this statement.

So, what did the respondents think of the paraphrase?

56% Agree

25% Disagree

19% Not sure

Modern America has a shallow understanding of the phrase “consent of the governed”. Does it mean that, as long as most of the people are okay with it, the government can do whatever it pleases?

I would argue that this is what most people believe. In fact, this is the very essence of democracy: the will of the people legitimizes the actions of the government.

But America was not established as a democracy. It was established as a constitutional republic. In a constitutional republic, there are boundaries to the “consent of the governed”.

Under our Constitution, the government is supposed to be constrained, regardless of the will of the people. Just because a majority of the people consent to (or even demand) some action of the government, such consent does not necessarily legitimize the action.

The many unconstitutional actions of the Obama administration, done to wide acclaim, should serve to abundantly illustrate the problem. President Obama does not recognize any meaningful boundaries on his powers to transform America in his image.

What about the 25% who disagree? I wish that Rasmussen could have asked some followup questions to find out what these respondents were thinking. For example, some might have been thinking of the biblical notion (found, for example, in Romans 13:1) that governments derive their just powers from God Himself. We’ll never know for sure if this is why they disagreed.

As for the 19%… who are these people? 1 in 5 people have no idea what makes a government legitimate? Are these the fabled “moderate” voters, who refuse to be pinned down on the important issues of the day?

Whatever. I wish more people would put more thought into what constitutes legitimate government, and that they would follow their reasoning through to its logical conclusion.

Despite the responses to this and other questions in the poll, I disagree with Rasmussen’s conclusion that Americans “still embrace ideals from the Declaration of Independence”.

How can they embrace what they do not comprehend?