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

December 14, 2010

How else will our distinguished senators know what’s in the $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill?

History gives abundant evidence that they can’t be troubled to read it on their own.  Politico, December 14:

As Democrats try to push through a nearly 2,000-page omnibus spending bill, Republican senators are threatening to bog down the floor by forcing Senate clerks to read the full text aloud, a process that could take more than one full day to complete.

“Democrats haven’t given Republicans or the American people time to read the bill, but I’ll join with other Republican colleagues to force them to read it on the Senate floor,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Such a tactic is rarely employed, but any senator can force a full reading of legislation, which is usually skipped by unanimous consent.

Three cheers for Sen. DeMint and other GOP obstructionists.  Stop the runaway train!

December 9, 2010

Quick Quote: James Madison on the federal leviathan

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”

— James Madison, The Federalist #62

November 19, 2010

What's wrong with the new "enhanced pat-down" procedure at airports?

Let's begin by stipulating that, in the vast majority of cases, Transportation Safety Agency (TSA) employees are going out of their way to carry out this new mandate in as professional a manner as they can, given what they've been told to do.

That said, there's still something terribly wrong with enhanced pat-downs, from a legal and constitutional perspective. 

Behavior that would get any other law enforcement officer fired (and possibly jailed) is considered routine at these security checkpoints.  Search without probable cause or reasonable suspicion of any kind is illegal (and unconstitutional) in any other context.  What's the legal difference between this and a traffic cop randomly pulling your car over and, without a word, starting to rummage through your belongings, looking for evidence of wrongdoing?

In any other context, these pat-downs would be considered sexual harassment or even sexual assault, regardless of the intent of the one doing it, if the receiver did not consent.  I suppose that buying a plane ticket is supposed to imply consent.

November 16, 2010

EU implosion, update #7: Demographic collapse in Germany, cont'd.

Germany's population plunge proceeds apace, despite a financial incentive program.  Reuters, November 12:
The number of births in Germany fell to a record post-war low last year despite government investment of billions of euros on incentives to counter the country's shrinking population.

Germany has a population of 82 million but the low birth rates mean average ages are rising, hampering the development of Europe's largest economy. The tide of immigration that fed the post world war two economic expansion has also now been reversed with new immigration controls.

The Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden reported that there were 665,126 children born in 2009, down from 682,514 in 2008. The annual birth rate has fallen by more than 100,000 a year in the last decade from 770,774 births registered in 1999.

An official at the statistics office said the 2009 figure was the lowest number of births in Germany since 1945, when 520,000 children were born.

Germany has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe.

All "EU implosion update" posts

Curing what ails us: How can we dethrone the ruling class? (A modest proposal)

A good place to start might be a voter boycott of the Ivy League.

For two or three election cycles (if not longer), simply refuse to vote for anybody, regardless of party, who graduated from Ivy League universities.

That seems to be the primary breeding ground of every -ism that is using the levers of power to drag our country and culture into the abyss.


November 13, 2010

How this election was like the Battle of Midway

In a November 13 American Thinker essay, Greg Richards provides what I think is an excellent metaphor for what was accomplished in this election (emphasis added):

After Jimmy Doolittle bombed Tokyo in April 1942, the Japanese decided to eliminate the U.S. Navy in a final battle. They sent a very strong force to occupy Midway Island, about 1,500 miles from Hawaii, figuring that this would be a challenge the Navy could not refuse and which would result in a decisive battle of annihilation of what was left of the American fleet. 

The Japanese did not realize that we had broken their naval code, and instead of being surprised at Midway, we bushwhacked them, sinking their entire striking force of four heavy carriers. The Battle of Midway, June 4, 1942, is regarded as one of the most decisive naval engagements in history. It was characterized by Admiral Ernest King, the Chief of Naval Operations, as having "restored the balance of power in the Pacific."

We have to remember, of course, that in June 1942, most of the war in the Pacific was in front of us. The battles of New Guinea, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and countless others had yet to be fought. So the Battle of Midway was a turning point only because it was followed by the will of the country to "win through to absolute victory," in the words of FDR.

If conservatives and constitutionalists are satisfied with the election outcome to the point that they demobilize, then we’ve already lost.

We haven’t won the victory – not even close.  We don’t have the political power to get the government back under constitutional control – not even close.  If we lack the commitment to “win through to absolute victory”, what was the point of this election?

A window of opportunity like this may not open again in our lifetimes.

November 10, 2010

What happens when a taxpayer-funded Cold War relic outlives its original reason for existence

In the case of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, it becomes a tool of leftist propaganda, and we get opinion pieces like this review of former president George W. Bush's new book.

This is just like the situation with National Public Radio.  RFE/RL is welcome to express or republish whatever opinions it likes, but let it do so without a dime of my money.

(It's probably just a coincidence that Hillary Clinton serves on the Board of Governors overseeing RFE/RL)

November 9, 2010

Dear GOP: We're watching. Yours truly, The Voters.

Michael Ramirez, via IBD:

Lisa Benson, via TownHall:

One way ObamaCare will make your food more expensive

CNSNews, November 8:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that it will take the food service industry 14 million additional hours each year to comply with a new regulation that mandates chain restaurants and vending machine operators label the products they sell with a calorie count in a place visible to the consumer.

Most of the burden of the regulation, which is buried in President Obama’s 2,000 page health-care reform bill, will fall on the vending industry.

In the Nov. 5 edition of the Federal Register, the FDA estimates “a total of 14,068,808 recurring hours, with nearly all of these for vending machine operators, including 31,408 recurring hours for recordkeeping and 14,037,400 recurring hours for third party disclosure” in conjunction with the regulation.

November 5, 2010

What the GOP’s #1 priority in Congress should be for the next two years: STOP THE RUNAWAY TRAIN!

 “You shall not pass!”

Rasmussen released a poll the day after the election indicating that 59% expected the incoming GOP House majority to disappoint them over the next two years.

In my opinion, it all comes down to what we expect the Republicans to be able to do.  The fact is, the GOP has a governing majority in the House, but they don’t control the Senate or the White House.  So, what are their options if they wish to honor the sentiments of those who swept them into office?

I suggest a two part strategy.

First, OBSTRUCT!  In the House, the GOP can prevent any more of the left’s agenda from even coming up for a vote.  In the Senate, the Dems no longer have a filibuster-proof majority – take advantage of this.

Second, GET ON RECORD!  The House should hold roll-call votes on the repeal of the odious things (like ObamaCare) that have already passed.  Then, hold roll-call votes on new legislation that reflects conservative values (WITHIN actual constitutional boundaries, thank you very much).  So what if the Senate doesn’t join in?  When 2012 comes along, you DO want to still be able to draw a distinction between yourselves and the Dems, don’t you?

So, GOP – do you have the guts to do this?  Or will you go back to your old ways of trying your best to be liked by the Dems in Congress and in the media? 

Free hint: The latter option is how you lost in 2006 and 2008.  Your base is in NO mood to see you go back to that.  Just sayin’.


WaPo, November 5 reports that Nancy Pelosi considers herself to be the one who can best lead the minority she helped to create:

Rejecting demands from some that she relinquish power, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Friday that she will run for minority leader, setting up what could be an ideological battle inside the Democratic caucus.

"I am running for Dem leader," Pelosi (Calif.) said on her Twitter account. She said her decision was in part "driven by the urgency of creating jobs" and protecting this year's health-care and Wall Street overhauls.


Nov 13 UPDATE: Then again, she apparently knows her fellow Democrats quite well.

November 4, 2010

San Francisco food nannies know what’s best for the city’s remaining children

San Francisco has long been the gathering place for people who aren’t interested in having children.  Thus, it was with some surprise that I read this week about an action taken by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to manage the restaurant food choices of families with young children.
Los Angeles Times, November 2:
San Francisco's board of supervisors has voted, by a veto-proof margin, to ban most of McDonald's Happy Meals as they are now served in the restaurants.
The measure will make San Francisco the first major city in the country to forbid restaurants from offering a free toy with meals that contain more than set levels of calories, sugar and fat.
The ordinance would also require restaurants to provide fruits and vegetables with all meals for children that come with toys.
Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure, described it in magnificently Orwellian fashion:
“We're part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice.”
Well, if this is all about “food justice”, we can’t let ourselves be sidetracked by petty issues like the right of parents to make  informed choices about their children’s diet.
Given that SF officials don’t appear to have much experience raising real-life kids, allow me to clue them in: The availability of toys in a kids meal affects the choice of restaurant much more than it affects the choice of food.
The Center for Consumer Freedom adds that this is more about the parents’ choices than it is about the kids’ choices:
But there’s nothing wrong with the occasional fast food dinner. And that much has always been up to parental discretion: It’s not very often you see a child hop in the car, drive to McDonald’s, and charge a Happy Meal to his own credit card. Yet San Francisco seems to think parents are no match for the “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle.
The supervisors seem well aware of the ridicule their nannying efforts are provoking around the country.  Nevertheless, they hope their action will end up starting a cascade that ends up undermining parental rights everywhere.  From the L.A. Times article linked above:
Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose swing vote provided the veto-proof majority, said critics should not dismiss the legislation as a nutty effort by San Franciscans. "I do believe the industry is going to take note of this. I don't care how much they say, 'It's San Francisco, they're wacked out there.' "
It’s San Francisco—they’re wacked out there.  We’re not buying into their nutty efforts.

November 2, 2010

Choose you this day – November 2, 2010

It’s hard to imagine the stakes being higher in the US than they are right now.  We can’t legally get Obama out of office yet, but we can bring his destructive agenda to a screeching halt.

I’m not one given to political hyperbole, but I firmly believe that if Congress remains in the hands of the Democrats after this election, the “shining city on a hill” will continue its plunge into darkness.

If you love your country…. if you hold to the once commonplace but now exotic notion that government should submit itself to the explicit boundaries set for it in its founding charter…. if you understand that those currently in power are seeking to remake America in their image…. GET OUT THERE AND VOTE!
Bring your like-minded friends with you.

UPDATE: P.J. O'Rourke said it well in The Weekly Standard yesterday (emphasis added):
This is not an election on November 2. This is a restraining order. Power has been trapped, abused and exploited by Democrats. Go to the ballot box and put an end to this abusive relationship. And let’s not hear any nonsense about letting the Democrats off if they promise to get counseling.

October 28, 2010

Rasmussen's useless throw-the-bums-out poll

I usually find Rasmussen's political polls to be useful, but the one released today really provides no helpful information regarding the mood of the electorate.  One of the poll questions asked:
Suppose you could vote this fall on whether to get rid of the entire Congress and start over again. Would you vote to keep the entire Congress or get rid of the entire Congress?
No middle ground -- throw them all out or keep all of them?  If these were our only choices, I suppose I'd have to say throw them all out and start over.  Unsurprisingly, 65% of the pitchfork-wielding voters went this way as well, because few in their right mind think that keeping the entire Congress is a good idea.

Here in the real world, it's clear that there are some good guys in Congress who should be returned to office.

What was Rasmussen's point in asking this question?

Far more useful were these questions from the same poll:
Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party?
Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party?
Do you consider yourself part of the Tea Party Movement? [those who answered "no" or "Not sure" were asked] Do you have any close friends or family members who are part of the Tea Party movement?

It's definitely newsworthy to note that (despite what the Democrat and media elite have said repeatedly) only 56% of people who identify with the TEA Party movement (and only 61% of self-identified Republicans) have a favorable view of the Republican Party.

This fact should have been the headline, because the GOP leadership really, really needs to understand this.

October 15, 2010

Memo to GOP: The national debt wouldn't be where it is now without your active participation

I sure do hope the GOP bigwigs understand the sentiment that appears to be set to thrust their party back into power.  If they think this is just a matter of letting a different party preside over the sinking of our country, their base will withdraw its support with extreme prejudice.
CNSNews, October 14:
The national debt increased for the 53rd straight fiscal year, jumping $1.65 trillion in fiscal 2010, according to data posted online by the Bureau of the Public Debt and confirmed by a spokesperson for the agency.

Fiscal Year 1958, the first year of the run, saw a debt increase of $5.8 billion, a paltry sum these days.  Since then, the cumulative debt increase has been $13.3 trillion.
Although the GOP has been complicit in this drunken-sailor spending binge, the events of the past two years have shown that the Democrats are ideologically devoted to spending without restraint. 
The GOP needs to understand that many of the people who will be voting for them this time will be doing so as the most efficient means of stopping the runaway Democrat train, and not necessarily because they trust the Republicans.
GOP, you'll have two years to earn the trust of these folks.  That's not long, so you'd better not dawdle.

October 11, 2010

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!

Today is a U.S. holiday officially known as Columbus Day, in commemoration of Christopher Columbus' (or whatever his real name was) voyage westward in search of a shorter (and thus more profitable) trade route to India and China.

Instead of reaching his goal, he unexpectedly blundered into some islands which were off the coast of a continent that was heretofore unknown to the major powers of Europe. 

Once word of his discovery made it back to Europe, the race to carve up the New World was on.  Spain and Portugal were out of the gate more quickly than the others, and in short order they had staked their claims to most of the western hemisphere.  Not to be left out, France and Britain claimed what they could as well.

Of course, the nomadic peoples who had arrived hundreds or thousands of years before for the most part weren't too keen on welcoming the newcomers, but one by one these people groups were conquered or displaced.

In the minds of many on the left, Everything That Is Wrong With The World today can be traced back to Columbus' arrival at Hispaniola in 1492.  Because of this, Columbus' voyage is not to be celebrated, but rather reviled.  Many have lobbied for the second Monday of October to be renamed Indigenous Peoples Day.  America's very existence is considered to be an affront to human decency.

But is it fair to single out the US for moral culpability in something that is pretty much the natural state of humanity?

How many countries can you name that do not have within their boundary territories in which people groups were at some point in history conquered or displaced?

How many people groups can you name that today occupy territory that has never at any point in history belonged to some other people group?

I am not for a moment excusing any atrocities that may have been committed (and there were many) during the course of colonization, but the simple act of establishing a colony does not ipso facto constitute an atrocity, as some would have us believe.

Personally, I don't see much to celebrate in the character of Columbus the man.  But neither do I see any cause to lay the sufferings of the "indigenous peoples" (a term of art in itself) at his feet.

August 25, 2010

Fences: A parable.

"Don't ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up."
-- Robert Frost

July 28, 2010

Update on the “most open and transparent” administration in history

Here’s the promise, published January 20, 2009:

Transparency -- President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and WhiteHouse.gov will play a major role in delivering on that promise. The President's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government.

Here’s the directive to the Executive Branch, published January 21, 2009:

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

SUBJECT:      Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent.  Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.  Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

[…and so on…]

Here’s the reality (FoxBusiness, July 28):

Under a little-noticed provision of the recently passed financial-reform legislation, the Securities and Exchange Commission no longer has to comply with virtually all requests for information releases from the public, including those filed under the Freedom of Information Act.

The law, signed last week by President Obama, exempts the SEC from disclosing records or information derived from "surveillance, risk assessments, or other regulatory and oversight activities." Given that the SEC is a regulatory body, the provision covers almost every action by the agency, lawyers say. Congress and federal agencies can request information, but the public cannot.

That argument comes despite the President saying that one of the cornerstones of the sweeping new legislation was more transparent financial markets. Indeed, in touting the new law, Obama specifically said it would “increase transparency in financial dealings."

The SEC cited the new law Tuesday in a FOIA action brought by FOX Business Network.

Go to the FoxBusiness link above to read the relevant section of the law.

[Emphasis added throughout]

Who in the world is David H. Comins?

Does David H. Comins actually exist?

The “Thought For The Day” Listserv had this quote today:
People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.
-- David H. Comins
I loved the quote, and wanted to pass it along to my friends, but I was curious about the author, because I had never heard of him.

I’m usually pretty good at digging information out of Google, but so far I’ve come up empty.  Searching on his name, I found countless sites that reproduce this quote, but have no information about who Comins is.

So… Is Comins a one-hit wonder, famous precisely for saying the above quote, but otherwise obscure?  That’s not very easy to pull off, it seems to me.

I did find a Facebook page for a David Comins, but I’d have to get on his Friends list to see any detailed information on him.  There’s a David Comins on LinkedIn, but how would an Information Manager at TimeWarner become famous for a quote on Benjamin Franklin?

C’mon, somebody do my homework for me and point me to a site that tells me who Comins is.

There is a lesson in all of this.  How often to we uncritically pass on things we find on the Internet or receive in our email?  Do any of the people who posted the Comins quote on their websites know anything about Comins, assuming he exists?  I’m willing to bet they don’t.

You’re welcome to prove me wrong.

11 July 2011 UPDATE:
The hunt for David H. Comins still rages on, given the number of visits to this post through search engines.  I decided to have another look to see if anything else had turned up on him.  I think we've got him!  It seems that the possibility that I dismissed above as the least likely has ended up being the reality about our mystery man.

All of those sites referring to him as an author may want to reconsider that description, given that pretty much the only thing he ever got published was... that quote.  It was a reader submission for a magazine article.  In real life, it looks like he was a real estate broker in Manchester, Connecticut for quite a while, but he's well past retirement now.  I wouldn't be surprised if he’s spending his golden years marveling about how famous—yet obscure—he is.

18 December 2015 UPDATE: The links in the previous update no longer work, so I thought I'd update my search.  A recent book called The Official Rules has this entry for "Comins's Law":

There's no way to know where the authors got their information, but the citation supports my 2011 findings: that Comins lived in Manchester, Connecticut, and that the quotation originally appeared in a magazine article (HW = Harper's Weekly).  He may still be there, if Pipl's data is accurate.

Conclusion, reiterated: David H. Comins is famous for this quotation, and nothing else.  If it weren't for his submission to Harper's, he wouldn't exist at all, as far as the internet is concerned.

July 27, 2010

The Case of the Vanishing Oil Spill: A Parable

ABC News reported July 26 that the oil cleanup brigades are having trouble finding oil to clean up (emphasis added):

For 86 days, oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's damaged well, dumping some 200 million gallons of crude into sensitive ecosystems. BP and the federal government have amassed an army to clean the oil up, but there's one problem -- they're having trouble finding it.

At its peak last month, the oil slick was the size of Kansas, but it has been rapidly shrinking, now down to the size of New Hampshire.

[…] The numbers don't lie: two weeks ago, skimmers picked up about 25,000 barrels of oily water. Last Thursday, they gathered just 200 barrels.

Still, it doesn't mean that all the oil that gushed for weeks is gone. Thousands of small oil patches remain below the surface, but experts say an astonishing amount has disappeared, reabsorbed into the environment.

"[It's] mother nature doing her job," said Ed Overton, a professor of environmental studies at Louisiana State University.

The well has been capped for only two weeks, and already nature has done an “astonishing” amount of the work that the cleanup folks had expected to do.

This says a lot about our planet’s ability to accommodate shocks to the ecosystem.

Think about it.  Experts have been taken completely by surprise by the way the Gulf of Mexico is cleaning itself up. 

And yet, we’re told by many that the science is settled concerning climate change, and that there remains no credible opposition to the notion that we’re nearing a tipping point of irreversible damage to our planet.  What’s really astonishing is the hubris of “experts” who think their knowledge of climate is anywhere near the level needed to make predictions like that.

Pause and reflect.


(Image found here)

Liking Sarah Palin and… Mitt Romney??

Facebook fan page recommendations appear to be based on one of two main criteria: (1) a certain number of people on your Friends list are fans of the  page; or (2) a certain number of people who are not on your Friends list, but are fans of some page you’re a fan of, are also fans of some other page you’re not a fan of (got that?).

Recently I’ve been seeing the following recommendation on my Facebook sidebar:

Facebook is making this statement based on statistics, not on philosophy.  “Like” has a different meaning in the Real World.

It just seems difficult to believe that thinking conservatives would truly like both Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney… especially when we’re talking about the difference between (1) a woman who refuses to back away from her conservative values, even in the face of an all-out attempt to destroy her and her family, and (2) a man who was acceptable to the majority of the voters in one of the most liberal states in the country.

July 23, 2010

MSM starting to report on the “unintended consequences” of Obamacare

“Unintended consequences” – a phrase almost certain to become clichéd in the coming months and years as people and businesses start digging into (and reacting to) the deepest, darkest parts of the new health care law.

AP reports July 23 that the law is already starting to have a negative impact on one class of people:

Some major health insurance companies have stopped issuing certain types of policies for children, an unintended consequence of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, state officials said Friday.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said in his state UnitedHealthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield have stopped issuing new policies that cover children individually. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland said a couple of local insurers in her state have done likewise.

[…] Starting later this year, the health care overhaul law requires insurers to accept children regardless of medical problems — a major early benefit of the complex legislation. Insurers are worried that parents will wait until kids get sick to sign them up, saddling the companies with unpredictable costs.

[…] "Our plans are very concerned about this," said Alissa Fox, a top Washington lobbyist for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. "If the law says that insurers have to take you any time, any place, some people will see that as an opportunity to wait until their children get sick to buy coverage."

There is nothing in the law that would stop a hospital from buying a policy for a uninsured child who came into the emergency room, she added.

The law is almost certainly riddled with landmines like this.  The average congressperson can neither confirm nor deny this, primarily because the average congressperson hasn’t actually read the law he or she voted to enact.

If the GOP wants to win in November, it needs to be more than simply not-Obama

Does the national GOP hoping to passively surf the growing wave of anti-Obama sentiment all the way to control of Congress?

In NRO on July 21, Victor Davis Hanson argues that the GOP – as a party and as individual candidates – needs to be specific about how it would govern differently than Obama and the current Congress are governing:

Republican politicos will quite accurately lecture that presenting such detailed alternative plans would be foolhardy: The key now is simply to be against what an unpopular Obama is for. I accept that offering detailed solutions might well turn the public as much against the proposed medicine as against the original malignant disease.

Yet at some point, blanket Obama-bashing without a comprehensive alternative will turn stale. Critics of Obama — if they are to be taken seriously — will have to be about more than not being Obama. Instead, conservatives must identify exactly how to undo the Obama agenda — and do so in a way that does not earn them the disdain that the Republican Congress earned between 2001 and 2006, and the Republican administration between 2005 and 2009.

We need some notion of a contracted agenda, so that conservative voters can hold conservative politicians to account in this age of anti-incumbency. Voters wanted closed borders, balanced budgets, ethical members of Congress, and less government between 2001 and 2006. They believed that all of that had been promised — and then were sorely disappointed.

In short, conservative voters want to see something specific — as much to keep their own honest as to defeat the other.

The Tea Party movement’s very existence shows that the conservative base is restless.  Conservatives are in no mood to be used by the GOP elites to effect a return to We May Be Bad But We’re Not As Bad As The Democrats.  The elites will ignore this at their peril.

June 23, 2010

“Cash for Clunkers”, revisited: New home sales plunge to lowest level on record

The Associated Press reports that another major chunk of the façade known as the “economic recovery” has crumbled:

Sales of new homes collapsed in May, sinking 33 percent to the lowest level on record as potential buyers stopped shopping for homes once they could no longer receive government tax credits.

The bleak report from the Commerce Department is the first sign of how the expiration of federal tax credits could affect the nation's housing market.

The credits expired April 30. That's when a new-home buyer would have had to sign a contract to qualify.

"We fear that the appetite to buy a home has disappeared alongside the tax credit," Paul Dales, U.S. economist with Capital Economics," wrote in a note. "After all, unemployment remains high, job security is low and credit conditions are tight."

Sound familiar?  Last summer, the “Cash for Clunkers” program created an artificially high demand for automobiles, almost certainly spurring purchases by people who otherwise wouldn’t have (or shouldn’t have) done so.  Once the C4C program ended, auto sales dropped through the floor.

Here we go again.  The federal tax credits for new home purchases is gone, and sales have dropped to a level never before seen in the 47 years that the government has been tracking this statistic. 

Just like we saw with C4C, it is likely that many who bought a home in recent months should not have done so.  How many of them will be in foreclosure in just a few short years?

Remember these examples each time you are told that we’re in the midst of an economic recovery.

Given the fresh storm clouds gathering on the horizon, now may not be the best time to buy a home, with or without a tax credit incentive.

If corporate earnings appear to be improving right now…

…it may very well be that businesses are shifting as much income and production as possible to this year.  Arthur Laffer writes in the Wall Street Journal June 6:

On or about Jan. 1, 2011, federal, state and local tax rates are scheduled to rise quite sharply. President George W. Bush's tax cuts expire on that date, meaning that the highest federal personal income tax rate will go 39.6% from 35%, the highest federal dividend tax rate pops up to 39.6% from 15%, the capital gains tax rate to 20% from 15%, and the estate tax rate to 55% from zero. Lots and lots of other changes will also occur as a result of the sunset provision in the Bush tax cuts.

Tax rates have been and will be raised on income earned from off-shore investments. Payroll taxes are already scheduled to rise in 2013 and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) will be digging deeper and deeper into middle-income taxpayers. And there's always the celebrated tax increase on Cadillac health care plans. State and local tax rates are also going up in 2011 as they did in 2010. Tax rate increases next year are everywhere.

Now, if people know tax rates will be higher next year than they are this year, what will those people do this year? They will shift production and income out of next year into this year to the extent possible. As a result, income this year has already been inflated above where it otherwise should be and next year, 2011, income will be lower than it otherwise should be.

Laffer believes that allowing the tax cuts to expire will result in an economic collapse next year that will dwarf what we’ve seen so far.  To be sure, a sudden, massive tax increase in the middle of a weak economy will not end well.

June 7, 2010

The Global Debt Crisis Explained, sort of

I had not heard of Clarke and Dawe before, but I love the way they “explain” the impossibly tangled web of debt that may bring down one economy after another.

Various countries in Europe are the first to falter, but the US appears to be heading for the precipice as well.  Bloomberg, June 4:

U.S.’s $13 Trillion Debt Poised to Overtake GDP

President Barack Obama is poised to increase the U.S. debt to a level that exceeds the value of the nation’s annual economic output, a step toward what Bill Gross called a “debt super cycle.”

The CHART OF THE DAY tracks U.S. gross domestic product and the government’s total debt, which rose past $13 trillion for the first time this month. The amount owed will surpass GDP in 2012, based on forecasts by the International Monetary Fund. The lower panel shows U.S. annual GDP growth as tracked by the IMF, which projects the world’s largest economy to expand at a slower pace than the 3.2 percent average during the past five decades.

“Over the long term, interest rates on government debt will likely have to rise to attract investors,” said Hiroki Shimazu, a market economist in Tokyo at Nikko Cordial Securities Inc., a unit of Japan’s third-largest publicly traded bank. “That will be a big burden on the government and the people.”

Click on the “Graphic” tab at the above link to view the chart.

June 2, 2010

Do boycotters secretly hate Arizona hispanics?

With the announcement of each new boycott of Arizona companies (such as the one just approved by L.A. County), I wonder if the Legion of the Outraged has thought this through completely.

If, somehow, these boycotts manage to have an actual economic impact on Arizona businesses, just who do they think will lose their jobs first?  Wouldn't it be the lower-income employees?

Even if the middle- and upper-class somehow got hit first, their ensuing decrease in economic activity would affect... who?

I cannot escape the conclusion that those who purport to champion the cause of Hispanics in Arizona secretly hate them.

April 17, 2010

Government-authored spyware – what a great idea!

No, it’s not happening yet (that I know of), but the RIAA and MPAA are pushing hard to establish the legal precedent of government surveillance of average citizens’ private in-home activities.

Tom’s Guide reports:

Big Brother is watching you. Actually, it's the RIAA and the MPAA, especially if you're parked on a BitTorrent client. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that both organizations--along with a few others--want to take the file-monitoring process a huge step further by infiltrating consumer PCs and deleting the infringing content off their hard drives. How? Through "anti-infringement" spyware developed and enforced by the government.

This is no joke.

"There are several technologies and methods that can be used by network administrators and providers...these include [consumer] tools for managing copyright infringement from the home (based on tools used to protect consumers from viruses and malware)," reads a caption in a joint comment (pdf) filed by the MPAA and RIAA.

The joint comment goes on to suggest other means of copyright enforcement including a mandatory scan on all internet connections to interdict transfers of illegal content, physical searches at all borders of personal media players, laptops, and USB sticks. There's even an indication that the parties want to enforce international bullying to force other countries to put similar policies in place.

A couple of observations are in order.

First, the only reason  the RIAA and MPAA could even dream of getting the federal government to do something like this is that they know the fedgov recognizes no meaningful limits on its power.  Industries take advantage of this fact all of the time – using the government as a bludgeon against one’s competitors has become a time-honored tradition in this country – but the RIAA/MPAA proposal goes beyond what we normally see. 

Many people who will complain that this is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy and a denial of due process will, the next day, demand that the government provide health care, jobless benefits, welfare, etc.  We can’t have it both ways.  Either the federal government is bound by the U.S. Constitution, or it isn’t.

Second, is there any real difference between government-authored spyware on our computers and government-installed surveillance cameras in our homes?  Both would have the same official purpose – crime prevention.  I wonder if RIAA and MPAA executives would consent to government video surveillance of their mansions, “just in case” they decided to do something illegal.

April 14, 2010

Way to court the conservative base, Mitt

Mitt Romney’s opposition to ObamaCare appears to be based on technical objections – in other words, Romney thinks he would have done a better job of expanding his Mass-Care miracle to the national level.  NY Times, April 9:

The Democratic National Committee has posted a video compilation of Mr. Romney’s comments praising the Massachusetts health insurance mandate. Twice last week, Mr. Obama pointedly observed that Mr. Romney seemed to be lambasting a federal plan that was derivative of his own Massachusetts model.

“I keep on scratching my head,” Mr. Obama said at a fund-raising reception in Boston. “I say, ‘Boy, this Massachusetts thing, who designed that?’ ”

In response, Mr. Romney is reminding audiences that Mr. Obama has cast the Republicans as the “party of no,” devoid of ideas. “And yet,” Mr. Romney said in Bedford, “he’s saying that I was the guy that came up with the idea for what he did. He can’t have it both ways.”

He added, “If ever again somewhere down the road I would be debating him, I would be happy to take credit for his accomplishment.”

Yes, he’s bragging about the fact that ObamaCare got its inspiration from Romney’s Mass-Care, which some insist will end up bankrupting the state of Massachusetts.

Remember, Mitt: the GOP’s conservative base dominates the primary voting.  If you want to trick enough of them into thinking you’re a conservative, you need to stop showing your true colors.

(Source: Creators)

Via: Rich Lowry, NRO

Vanity, thy name is Barack Obama

What rankles, though, is Obama's habit of putting down America while praising himself. The laughable assertion that Obama has taken 'historic steps to improve our own democracy' shows not humility but an extreme vanity. A truly humble president would occasionally evince some doubt as to whether he is worthy to lead America. Obama seems to doubt whether America is worthy of being led by him.

-- James Taranto, Best of the Web (WSJ), April 12

April 13, 2010

Two Americas: Tax consumers close to outnumbering tax payers for the first time

AP reported last week that nearly half of US households will have no income tax liability whatsoever this year:
About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009. Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability. That's according to projections by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research organization.
The untaxed 47%, once they realize the power of their position, will gladly vote for politicians who promise to raise taxes on someone else, while the remaining 53% can be divided and conquered on other issues.
“A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” – George Bernard Shaw

(Source: Chip Bok)

April 9, 2010

Timing of Stevens retirement announcement belies Obama administration concerns about November elections

US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens had already telegraphed his intention to retire while Obama is president, so it was only a matter of when.

The WaPo reports today that he has now informed the president that he will retire at the end of the Court’s current term.  Why now?  On the surface, the timing seems pretty routine:

Stevens said he was announcing now so that the president would have time to make a nomination and the Senate to confirm in time for the start of the court's new term next October.

But why this year?  Stevens has been quite clear that he didn’t want a Republican to name his successor, so in theory his retirement could have, for example, waited until next year.

Then again, the Obama White House senses an ill wind blowing among the electorate, a wind that might sweep some or all of the Democrat majority out of the Senate in November. 

Even if the Dems retain their majority,  the loss of just a few seats would force Obama to choose a nominee that is far less radical than he would like.   Hence, given the uncertainties of November, there is no better time than now for Obama to get a justice more to his liking.

Is there any serious doubt that Stevens is deferring to the political calculations of the administration? 

Yes, yes, I know, it happens with Republican presidents too. 

The notion of an independent judiciary is long dead – yet another symptom of the twilight years of the American republic.

April 2, 2010

Conservatives shouldn’t play the identity politics game either

Phylllis Schlafly makes her case for the type of person who should be nominated to replace John Paul Stevens, should he be the next to retire:

For as long as we can remember, the U.S. Supreme Court has included at least one military veteran. Recent examples include Republican-appointed Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who died in 2005, and Justice John Paul Stevens, who is expected to resign this year.

The Democrats have not placed a veteran on the Supreme Court in nearly half a century. When President Obama fills Stevens' seat, will the High Court be left without anyone who has military experience?

Veterans in the U.S. Senate should make sure that such an embarrassment does not occur. Cases concerning the military appear every year before the Supreme Court, and our nation will not be well-served by a court lacking in military experience.

With all due respect, Mrs. Schlafly, we shouldn’t be concerning ourselves with whether or not this group or that group is respresented among The Nine.

For my part, the only special interest I want to see represented in the Supreme Court is The Constitution of the United States.

Yeah, I know, I know. But I can dream, can’t I?

Conservatives shouldn’t play the identity politics game either

Phylllis Schlafly makes her case for the type of person who should be nominated to replace John Paul Stevens, should he be the next to retire:

For as long as we can remember, the U.S. Supreme Court has included at least one military veteran. Recent examples include Republican-appointed Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who died in 2005, and Justice John Paul Stevens, who is expected to resign this year.

The Democrats have not placed a veteran on the Supreme Court in nearly half a century. When President Obama fills Stevens' seat, will the High Court be left without anyone who has military experience?

Veterans in the U.S. Senate should make sure that such an embarrassment does not occur. Cases concerning the military appear every year before the Supreme Court, and our nation will not be well-served by a court lacking in military experience.

With all due respect, Mrs. Schlafly, we shouldn’t be concerning ourselves with whether or not this group or that group is respresented among The Nine.

For my part, the only special interest I want to see represented in the Supreme Court is The Constitution of the United States.

Yeah, I know, I know.  But I can dream, can’t I?

March 26, 2010

Quick Quote: Milton Friedman on why business is none of the government’s business

“The economic miracle that has been the United States was not produced by socialized enterprises, by government-union-industry cartels or by centralized economic planning. It was produced by private enterprises in a profit-and-loss system. And losses were at least as important in weeding out failures as profits in fostering successes. Let government succor failures, and we shall be headed for stagnation and decline.”

-- Milton Friedman

March 24, 2010

Is the GOP already losing its will to fight ObamaCare?

Jeffrey Anderson at National Review Online (emphasis added):
Less than three days after the passage of Obamacare, many Republicans are already losing their stomach for the fight. As Ezra Klein gleefully — but aptly — observes over at the Washington Post, “In about 12 hours, the GOP's position has gone from ‘repeal this socialist monstrosity that will destroy our final freedoms’ to ‘there are some things we don't like about this legislation and would like to repeal, and there are some things we support and would like to keep.’ . . . At this rate, they'll be running on expanding the bill come November.

Sen. Jon Kyl said, “I would guess probably more realistically would be a potential repeal of pieces of the bill.” It lights the fire in the belly, doesn’t it? Sens. Mike Enzi and John Cornyn followed suit.

On MSNBC, Rudy Giuliani, said, “You just laid out how the Republicans should run the campaign, when we get a month, two months out of this — not repeal health care.” With all due respect to Mayor Giuliani, this is the sort of thinking that led to his Florida Strategy.

Sometimes, one has to wonder at Republicans’ tin ear. If they were writing Patrick Henry’s famous 1775 address, would they have advised, “Well, full liberty might be a bit much to ask for. And I’m not sure if we really want death. How about, 'Give me a little more liberty, or make me ill'?”

“Repeal, and then real reform” — that’s the right message, and the one that reflects the American people’s views. “Partial repeal” actually legitimizes Obamacare and helps to sell it by suggesting that the GOP doesn’t really think it’s all that bad.
You can read the WaPo article here.

Be sure to vote in our C-Poll some time in the next 7 days!

C-Poll: Have the Republicans grown a spine, and for the right reason?

A new poll has been posted at the top of the page:

The united House Republican stand against the just-passed health care 'reform' bill can best be attributed to…

If you wish to comment, feel free to do so here.

UPDATE:  Is the GOP already losing its will to fight ObamaCare?

UPDATE, April 2: Here are the poll results (click for larger image):

Unsurprisingly, constitutional concerns (i.e. “A newfound respect for the constitutional limits on federal power”) did not score well, although an amazing 10% thought that the bulk of the GOP congressfolks were thus motivated.  Sorry, dear reader, but that’s crazy talk.

The winner at 37% was the second choice: “A sense that the changes this law would bring about would be bad for our country.”  Well, okay, this happened to coincide with the constitutionally correct vote, but it won’t always.

Political calculation came in second, as embodied in the fourth and ninth choices (combining for 35%): “Unalloyed political opportunism” and “Two words: Election Year”.

For the record, I inclined toward one of the political calculation choices, given that many of the same folks expressing outrage at Obamacare voted for the Medicare prescription drug entitlement a few years ago.

This is what fawning media coverage looks like

I still laugh when I hear Democrats complain that Fox News is the only biased news channel out there.  Thanks to NewsBusters, we have a sampling of how CBS and ABC waxed rhapsodic as they covered Obama’s signing of the health care “reform” law.

CBS Evening News’ Harry Smith, as a graphic of Obama’s signature was displayed:
This is what history looks like, as it came from the hand of President Obama today with 22 different pen strokes comprising his signature.
ABC World News’ Diane Sawyer lost no time insinuating that the Republicans are against Americans having health insurance:
Good evening. As of today, it is the law of the land that every man, woman and child in America will have health care coverage. And at the White House, the President signed the bill and marked this day in history, while Republican opponents marshaled forces, hoping to undo the law...
ABC also reported seriously on a bit of political theater at Ted Kennedy’s grave.  Said Sawyer:
You heard the President pay tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy, who devoted his career to health care reform. But there was another quiet tribute at the Senator's grave. A note left by his son, Congressman Patrick Kennedy. It said simply: 'Dad -- the unfinished business is done.'
Inexplicably, the graphic also showed that the gravestone was also covered with dead insects.  Not sure of the symbolism there.

So…. tell me again about Fox News?

March 23, 2010

Big Nanny stands ready to criticize your food choices

AP (via Yahoo) reports on one of the mandates buried in the health care “reform” signed today by the president:
A requirement tucked into the massive U.S health care bill will make calorie counts impossible for thousands of restaurants to hide and difficult for consumers to ignore. More than 200,000 fast food and other chain restaurants will have to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards and even drive-throughs.
The new law, which applies to any restaurant with 20 or more locations, directs the Food and Drug Administration to create a new national standard for menu labeling, superseding a growing number of state and city laws. President Barack Obama signed the health care legislation Tuesday.
The idea is to make sure that customers process the calorie information as they are ordering. Many restaurants currently post nutritional information in a hallway, on a hamburger wrapper or on their Web site. The new law will make calories immediately available for most items.
"The nutrition information is right on the menu or menu board next to the name of the menu item, rather than in a pamphlet or in tiny print on a poster, so that consumers can see it when they are making ordering decisions," says Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, who wrote the provision.
“The idea is to make sure that customers process the calorie information as they are ordering.” But what if, despite the new labeling, the customer still ignores the calorie information?  The administration (led by Gen. Michelle Obama) has declared war on obesity, so I can’t imagine it standing by idly as customers continue to order the foods they like.
So, what’s the next phase of the campaign?  How about “informed consent”?  Customers will not receive their food until they sign a form affirming that they are aware of the calorie impact of their meal.

But what if customers STILL won’t make good food choices? Is it really outlandish to predict that the government will eventually start regulating the maximum calorie content of restaurant meals?
One last thought: as the above excerpt shows, only restaurant chains with 20 or more locations are subject to the labeling requirements. This means that obese people can continue to patronize local non-chain restaurants in blissful (and deadly, if you believe the nannies) ignorance, regardless of the gastronomical atrocities on said restaurants’ menus.
This is an implicit acknowledgment of the fact that compliance with these regulations is awfully expensive.  But, if we accept the notion of the federal government as our food-choice nanny, we cannot protest when the regulations are eventually made universal, even at the expense of the financial stability of our favorite local eatery.  As Hillary Clinton famously said in 1994 regarding the financial impact of the Clinton administration’s attempt to nationalize the health care industry: “I can't be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America.”

The two legitimate, constitutional purposes of the federal government

A plain, non-mystical reading of the U.S. Constitution shows that the purpose and function of the federal government can be boiled down to just two principles:

  1. The federal government exists to  exercise the collective will of the states in our country’s dealings with other countries (diplomatically and militarily).
  2. The federal government exists to ensure that the various states comprising our country play nicely with each other.

That’s it.

The text of the Constitution gives the details that support these principles.  The first ten amendments were intended to make double sure that the federal government knew its place (they are, every one of them, constraints on federal power, not on state or local power)*.

Agree or disagree?  Are there any other fundamental principles in the U.S. Constitution that are clearly distinct from the above two? 

Please be so kind as to support your position in any civil way that you see fit.

* Some of the later amendments did violence to the constitutional relationship between the states and the federal government—but that’s a subject for another post.

Two cheers for the congressional GOP

Kudos to the house Republicans for standing united in an ultimately futile attempt to stop the unconstitutional atrocity that just oozed its way to passage on Sunday.


Do you really want to get the “tea party” rebellion back on your side? Show the depth of the convictions you claim to have on government interference in the health care industry.

You can start by publicly renouncing your support for the Medicare drug entitlement that would not have passed without you.  Honestly, this is log-in-the-eye material here.

Quick Quote: Frédéric Bastiat on wealth redistribution

There’s an abundance of data supporting this from the experience of Communist societies, but certain western academics and politicians remain convinced that the problem resides in the execution of the philosophy, not in the philosophy itself.
If it were to be asserted on principle, admitted in practice, sanctioned by law, that every man has a right to the property of another, the gift would have no merit—charity and gratitude would be no longer virtues. Besides, such a doctrine would suddenly and universally arrest labor and production, as severe cold congeals water and suspends animation; for who would work if there was no longer to be any connection between labor and the satisfying of our wants?

-- Frédéric Bastiat, Essays on Political Economy
Feel free to draw your own applications to the financially destructive, liberty-smothering health care boondoggle that just passed.

March 17, 2010

Is Facebook planning to start charging for access?

There are a lot of Facebook groups out there claiming that on some date certain, such as July 9, 2010, FB will either start charging all users for access, or will divide its services into free and premium access levels.

(click to enlarge)

Think, people, think!

Do any of these groups point to a Facebook news release or an article on a major news website supporting this claim?  No?  Then why do you support them by joining?

Whoever started these rumors may not be trying to scam you out of your money like the “free gift card” folks are, but they are scamming you nonetheless, and they’re having a good laugh at your expense.

On the plus side, your experience may be fodder for some psychology PhD dissertation on social engineering.

March 16, 2010

House Deemocrats come under withering online mockery of their unconstitutional proposal

Even the Washington Post can’t ignore the absurdity of simply deeming a bill to be passed without an up-or-down vote:
The proposed House "deem and pass" vote strategy is already facing one of the most insidious enemies of contemporary political discourse: online mockery.

Perhaps because of the resemblance of the phrase to #demonsheep, a hashtag given to a recent bewildering California U.S. Senate race ad, the deem and pass legislative procedure has been given one of its own by opponents on Twitter, where wits and wags have decided that they can play this game at home and #deem things done just by declaring them so.
Keep up with the Twitter feed here.

March 11, 2010

Facebook is a goldmine for scammers

In recent days I noticed that several of my Facebook friends had become fans of a page called “First 10,000 Fans Get a $1000 Wal-Mart Gift Card!
Just the name of the page raised a red flag in my mind. Walmart (not “Wal-Mart”) was planning to invest ten million dollars in a Facebook promotion?
So we start with an improbable typo and an unlikely premise. Out of curiosity, I clicked through to the fan page. Here is what I saw (click for larger image):

Well, there’s the “Wal-Mart” typo again. Maybe it’s just an incompetent web programmer that doesn’t know the correct spelling of his employer’s name. Like I said: improbable.
I looked through the various tabs of the fan page, looking for evidence that the page was actually sponsored by Walmart. All I found was a link to their online store website. The corporate website, by the way, makes no mention of this promotion, but that might be because Walmart was testing a viral marketing strategy (a ten million dollar test?), so I didn’t give this fact a lot of weight.
I also went to Walmart’s official Facebook page. Again, no hint of the promotion.
On the official page’s Discussions tab, there’s a thread about this “Free Gift Card” page. There, someone posted a link to an article on Walmart’s corporate website. The article warns about bait-and-switch scams that use free Walmart gift cards as the bait. After luring you in, they get down to their real business: trying to sell you magazines, or whatever.
Well, how about that?
I didn’t really have to do all of this additional research. The name of the fan page should have been the dead giveaway.
But wait! The fan page has testimonials of happy Facebook users! And it has a place where I can submit my own testimonial. Doesn’t that lend credibility to the page?
Sure, this comment panel can easily be faked, and sure, the links don’t go anywhere, but let’s set that aside for a moment and just try to submit a comment. If you enlarge the above screenshot, you can see the comment I tried to submit. After clicking the button, I got this:

Sure, whatever.
Did you hear that the latest edition of the Random House dictionary accidentally left out the word “gullible”?
Sometimes being a cynic can save you a lot of headaches.
12 March UPDATE: Here are some more instances of the “First 10,000” scam on Facebook. (If a link no longer works, it probably means that Facebook has removed the page in response to complaints)
24 March UPDATE:
28 March UPDATE:
7 April UPDATE: Great news – PC World reports that FB is aggressively taking these pages down as soon as they hear about them.  FB also has a warning on its security page.

March 10, 2010

That giant sucking sound you hear…

…is your hard-earned money going into the coffers of the federal government and into the pockets of those who do business (directly or indirectly, through contracts or lobbying) with the federal government.

Washington Examiner, March 10:

6 of the 10 richest counties in U.S. are in DC area

Loudoun ranks as the richest county in the United States, immediately followed by Fairfax and Howard counties, while Montgomery, traditionally one of the wealthiest, is now 10th.

Forbes magazine ranked eight other Washington-area counties in its list of the nation's 25 wealthiest counties, far more than any other area in the country. The rankings are based on 2008 median household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Loudoun's median household income was $110,643, while Fairfax's was $106,785 and Howard's came in at $101,710.

Here are the rankings, according to Forbes.

In my youth my family lived in four of the top ten counties, but we certainly dragged the median down in each case.

February 24, 2010

And now, for a completely trivial pet peeve: “Guardrail Damage Ahead”

Here in Texas, whenever someone puts a serious dent in a guardrail, the highway department will send out someone to put up signs alerting us to this fact.

The Texas Department of Transportation’s Maintenance Operations Manual explains when the warning signs should go up:
"Guardrail Damage Ahead" signs should be installed only when substantial damage occurs to guardrail barriers or attenuators which causes them to not function properly.
What the manual doesn’t explain, however, is why this warning to drivers is necessary.

Unless the damage is so severe that the guardrail is sticking out into a lane of traffic, no hazard is posed, so what’s the point?

Whenever I see one of these signs, I say to myself, “Wow, thanks for the warning!  If I lose control of my car here, it might not be safe for me to hit that guardrail.  I must aim for something else.”

How the MSM read Joe Stack’s manifesto

Via RedState, February 22:

For what it’s worth, read it yourself and decide.

February 22, 2010

McCain: It’s not my fault! They made me vote for it!

Senator John McCain, just now realizing that conservatives consider his vote for the TARP financial industry bailout to be a political liability, offers this defense (Arizona Republic, February 22):

Under growing pressure from conservatives and "tea party" activists, Sen. John McCain of Arizona is having to defend his record of supporting the government's massive bailout of the financial system.

In response to criticism from opponents seeking to defeat him in the Aug. 24 Republican primary, the four-term senator says he was misled by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. McCain said the pair assured him that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program would focus on what was seen as the cause of the financial crisis, the housing meltdown.

So.  Bush administration officials assured you that the money would be used in a particular way.  Then, you and your staff combed through the proposed legislation and found that yes, safeguards were in place to ensure that the money would indeed be used in the way specified by the officials.  Thus, with confidence you cast your vote in favor of the TARP legislation.

Wait.  What’s that?  You didn’t read the legislation before voting on it?  You simply relied on administration assurances that the the money would be spent to combat the housing crisis?

And now it’s their fault that you cast your vote for a bill that had no such restrictions on the money?

You think this defense is going to mollify your critics?

Again and again, you remind us that if Sarah Palin hadn’t been on the ticket, your loss to Barack Obama in 2008 would have been epic.

February 17, 2010

Did the Civil War truly settle the secession question?

Prior to the American Civil War, it was popularly assumed that states which had freely chosen to enter the Union could just as freely withdraw from said union at their own discretion.  Indeed, from time to time individual states or groups of states had threatened to do just that, but until 1860 no state had actually followed through on the threat.

Since then, it has been considered axiomatic that the War “settled the question” of whether or not states had the right to secede.  The central government, backed by force of arms, says the answer is No.  As long as no state or group of states tests the central government’s resolve, we can consider the question to be “settled” from a practical viewpoint.

This assertion has long troubled me from a philosophical and moral viewpoint.  We are supposedly a nation of laws, and the central government is supposedly subservient to the laws that established and empower it.

In a nation of laws, when someone asks, “Do states have a right to secede from the Union?”, a proper answer would have one of two forms:

  • “Yes, because x.”
  • “No, because x.”

Here, x would be an explanation of the laws that supported the Yes or No answer. 

With the secession issue, though, we are given the following as a complete and sufficient answer:

“No, because if any state tries to secede, the central government will use force of arms to keep it from succeeding.”

There is no appeal to law in this answer – just brute force.

Based on this premise, the central government can amass to itself whatever right or power it chooses, simply by asserting it.  After all, who has the power to say otherwise?

Come to think of it, that’s exactly how the central government has behaved more often than not since the Civil War.

This issue came to mind today because of an item posted today on a trial lawyer’s blog (found via Politico).  The lawyer’s brother had written to each of the Supreme Court justices, asking for their input on a screenplay he was writing.  In the screenplay, Maine decides to secede from the US and join Canada.  The writer asked for comments regarding how such an issue would play out if it ever reached the Supreme Court.

Justice Antonin Scalia actually replied to the screenwriter’s query.  I have a lot of respect for Scalia regarding constitutional issues, but his answer here is beyond absurd.

I am afraid I cannot be of much help with your problem, principally because I cannot imagine that such a question could ever reach the Supreme Court. To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, "one Nation, indivisible.")

He actually said that a constitutional issue was settled by military action.  Oh, and by including the word “indivisible” in the Pledge of Allegiance, the issue became even more settled.

What if the president were to send out the troops to prevent the news media from publishing or broadcasting anything critical of his administration?  This is clearly an unconstitutional action, but by Scalia’s logic, if the president succeeds, we must then say that the military action “settled the question” of free speech.

If these scenarios are not comparable, I’d like to hear why.

February 5, 2010

We truly get the government we deserve

This would be outrageously funny if the implications for our republic weren’t so deadly serious.

Over the past few months, a reporter for CNSNews.com has been cornering various members of Congress and asking a simple question: Which part of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to mandate that every American buy health insurance?

Back in October I highlighted the answers given by three of them, but CNSNews has now done us the service of compiling all of the responses into a video. 

The answers vary, but here’s a rough sampling of what you’ll hear in the video embedded below:

  • You’re kidding, right?  How can you ask such a question?
  • I don’t know (said in a way that does not indicate embarrassment)
  • You’ll need to ask the lawyers on our staff
  • In the “commerce” clause
  • In the “general welfare” clause
  • In the same place that gives Congress the power to pass Medicare.  You’re not saying that Medicare is a bad thing, are you?  Some extremists actually say that we should get rid of Medicare.

The correct answer, of course, is that the Constitution does not empower Congress to pass laws like this.  Try to point this out to our congressfolks, though, and we’re called extremists. 

Decades of public schooling have resulted in generations of constitutionally-illiterate voters who happily keep returning these people to Washington.

February 4, 2010

Too late for Terri, but still encouraging news

The Wall Street Journal reports today on a medical study that, if its findings are true, suggests the possibility that Terri Schiavo was aware of her husband’s unrelenting quest to have her put to death by starvation and dehydration five years ago.
In a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, four of 23 patients diagnosed as being in a vegetative state showed signs of consciousness on brain-imaging tests.

Even more significantly, one patient was able to answer yes and no questions using the researchers' technique—indicating the potential for communication with people previously considered unresponsive.

Researchers at two centers, in England and Belgium, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests on 54 patients with severe brain injury. Of these patients, 31 were diagnosed as being in a minimally conscious state, meaning they showed intermittent signs of awareness such as laughing or crying. The other 23 were diagnosed as being in a vegetative state, meaning they were considered unresponsive and unaware of their surroundings.

The study is part of a growing body of work changing how people think about the vegetative state. "There has been a kind of nihilism towards these patients. This represents a cultural shift," says Joseph J. Fins, chief of the medical-ethics division at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York.

Modern liberals probably wouldn’t give the time of day to a classical liberal

I tend to call myself a constitutionalist conservative, but my views on government and liberty align quite nicely with what was once known as liberalism.

"A [classical] liberal is fundamentally fearful of concentrated power. His objective is to preserve the maximum degree of freedom for each individual separately that is compatible with one man's freedom not interfering with other men's freedom. He believes that this objective requires that power be dispersed. He is suspicious of assigning to government any functions that can be performed through the market, both because this substitutes coercion for voluntary cooperation in the area in question and because, by giving government an increased role, it threatens freedom in other areas."

— Milton Friedman

Reference: Capitalism and Freedom (U. of Chicago Press, 1962), p. 39

January 26, 2010

Barack Bingo

Patriot Post has provided a handy “bingo” card that will allow you to keep track of President Obama’s favorite buzz phrases during Wednesday night’s State of the Union speech (click image to view it full-sized).

January 21, 2010

EU implosion, update #6: Demographic collapse in Germany

In 2005 I did a series of posts outlining various political and demographic forces working against the attempted creation of the european superstate. 

How are they doing now? Even if political integration succeeds at first, it’s only a matter of time before the demographic time bomb alters the region beyond the recognition of anybody now living.

A January 21 article in German news website “The Local” outlines the challenge now facing that country:

Official figures on Thursday showed Germany's population shrank for the seventh year in a row in 2009, defying Chancellor Angela Merkel's bid to boost the country's birth rate.

The population was "81.8 to 81.7 million at the end of 2009," the Federal Statistics Office said, compared to 82.0 million in 2008. The number of births also dropped.

Germany has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe - 1.4 children per woman - and data released in November suggested that at current rates, the country's population could shrink by up to 17 million in the next 50 years.

The article goes on to note the two major solutions that have been proposed.  Chancellor Merkel has introduced various incentives to encourage Germans to have more kids, but they don’t appear to be accepting the challenge.

That leaves massive immigration as the only real alternative.

Prof. Ralf E. Ulrich, a demographics specialist at the University of Bielefeld, said the figures were a wake up call for Germany to start a societal and political discussion about making the country more attractive to immigrants. He said the alternative would be forcing people to work much longer than they do now and slashing Germany's pension benefits.

Despite the fact that Germany would eventually be transformed into a country that is no longer German, natives are most likely to accept this solution, since it involves the least amount of personal inconvenience and allows the country’s welfare state to stagger along for a few more years… at least until the future majority population changes the laws more to their liking.