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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.