Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Little Reported News - DHS Withholds FOIA Requests

Darrell Issa, the self-described "cop on the beat" has been holding hearings on Democrat stonewalling at the Department of Homeland Security over Freedom of Information Act requests. It has been previously reported by the AP (via HotAir) that DHS has appeared to take a political stance on FOIA requests. Now Issa's Government Oversight Committee is taking on the challenge.
Republicans in Congress objected Thursday to the Homeland Security Department's now-rescinded practice of requiring secretive reviews by political advisers of hundreds of requests for government files under the Freedom of Information Act. The chairman of a House oversight committee said the process "reeks of a Nixonian enemies list" and was unacceptable.
And this from the AP:
The Homeland Security Department official in charge of submitting sensitive government files to political advisers for secretive reviews before they could be released to citizens, journalists and watchdog groups complained in emails that the unusual scrutiny was "crazy" and hoped someone outside the Obama administration would discover the practice, The Associated Press has learned.
. . .
But at the Homeland Security Department, since July 2009, career employees were ordered to provide political staffers with information about the people who asked for records — such as where they lived and whether they were private citizens or reporters — and about the organizations where they worked. If a member of Congress sought such documents, employees were told to specify Democrat or Republican. No one in government was allowed to discuss the political reviews with anyone whose information request was affected by them.

This is such an egregious abuse of the law that it deserves investigation, even if the shame of public exposure has cause the practice to halt. Further, there appears to be some retaliation as the Deputy Chief FOIA officer at DHS, Catherine Papoi, has been moved out of her office and replaced by her new boss. But rest assured, sports fans, this was not retaliation.
"The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed or because of speculative or abstract fears," Obama said shortly after he took office.
Ya think?

Eliminating Obamacare Slush Funds - Now We're Talking

From Human Events:
Republicans are testing the waters through a series of votes Thursday in the subcommittee on five pieces of legislation that would defund the law and limit power by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to access a $17.5 billion slush fund. Now we're talking.
The discovery of these slush funds has been little reported upon or noted, even in conservative outlets, with some exceptions. It forms one of the biggest impediments to rolling back Obamacare in the current fiscal year. That the Republicans in the House of Representatives are taking aim at this abomination only increases my admiration for His Tanned Magnificence. Keep up the good work. Man-crush? Oh-yeah.

Meanwhile, Henry Waxman apparently didn't get the memo from the 2010 elections that blaming Bush is not a winning strategy:
“The deficit crisis we find ourselves in is a man-made crisis,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, (D.-Calif.). “In fact, it is a Republican-made crisis." Republicans countered that ObamaCare will cost 800,000 jobs, and that 2.4 million Americans are officially excused from participating in the plan, including the Service Employees International Union, because they say they can’t afford it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

U.S. wants other nations to pitch in on Libya

From the Washington Post:
President Obama has touted his emphasis on multilateralism in the U.S. military intervention in Libya, but — for political, operational and legal reasons — his “coalition of the willing” is smaller than any major multilateral operation since the end of the Cold War.
. . .
Although the Libya intervention was endorsed by the Arab League, the endorsement doesn’t require any Arab countries to contribute materially to the effort, said David Bosco, an assistant professor at American University.
The Arab world is not yet equipped to deal with modernity, in so many ways, this is just one more.

Government Shut Down?

If there was any doubt that the tenor of the discussion in Washington regarding the budget and spending has changed, consider this:
The potential difficulty of their job became clear after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., following an evening meeting with Senate Democrats, said negotiators had effectively settled on $33 billion in reductions from current spending, a substantial difference from the $61 billion endorsed by the House in February.
By keeping the pressure on, and not bowing to threats of taking the blame over a potential shut down, Speaker Boehner is making the progress needed. Further, he is positioning himself for next year's budget battle by learning what tactics are working. The negotiations currently in progress only affect the fiscal year that ends on September 30, so a much bigger fight looms over fiscal year 2012 spending.

Meanwhile, you know you are making the right enemies when Chuckie Schumer is conspiring against you.
Speaking to several Democratic colleagues Tuesday, Sen. Charles Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said they should all use the word "extreme" when describing the budget cuts that Tea Party Republicans were seeking in the ongoing budget negotiations.
However, what is actually extreme is the unprecedented peacetime deficit racked up by this administration. Congratulations Tea Party.

Also, is there any better evidence that removing earmarks from the process has made it easier to get budget reductions? Since the House imposed an earmarks ban, the debate has only been about the size of the cuts, not a peep about raising spending. John Hitchcock explains why in the comments on a previous article. I do not recall in my lifetime such spirited debate about how much to cut government spending. I realize that spending has risen out of control in the first place, but the tenor of the discussion is heartening.

With regards to a government shut down, I don't think it will happen, because both sides are too uncertain about the outcome. Its like a game of high stakes poker, where shutting down the government is the equivalent of calling all in on two pair but your opponent is betting like he has a decent hand. You might win, but is it the smart move?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Libyan War Powers - UPDATE

Obama's speech this evening adequately explained the reasons for our involvement in Libya, but failed to answer some key questions and suffers from a defect of logic. But first, we must answer the constitutional questions. Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) summed up eloquently:
“It is astonishing that the administration seems to think a U.N. resolution is required but a declaration from Congress is not required to initiate offensive military strikes. No U.N. resolution and no press release from the Arab League can replace Congress’s authorization,” said Amash. “Major players in the administration used to be forceful and articulate defenders of the Constitution’s constraints on executive war powers. Now that they’re pulling the trigger, they seem to have had a radical change of heart.”
Some have suggested that the President has 60 days before he must go to Congress, but I believe that is only if the action is defensive in nature, protecting the U.S. From the relevant law:
The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.
The President has not answered the question of what statutory authority he has to continue the war in Libya. If he argued that under the treaty establishing the U.N. there was a humanitarian duty, then fine. But he did not so argue. He has run away from the discussion. I believe that the Congress should force the issue. Here is the relevant passage from the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973:
Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council;
Now that these civilians are secure, what is the legal basis for continued military strikes? The enforcement of a no-fly zone? Not really, because if there are no flights, then there should be no action. Even if the U.S. has "a supporting role" we are still involved in war making.

The second issue is a defect in logic. He has stated that Gaddafi must go, but in tonight's speech he states:
Of course, there is no question that Libya – and the world – will be better off with Gaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.
However, the actions on the ground indicate that we are in fact engaging in regime change. Unlike Egypt, where there is a professional military to maintain order and help the transition to democracy, Libya appears headed towards a protracted civil war, with the U.N. and NATO taking the side of the rebels. There is no way to keep those events under control. However, a protracted civil war, in which both sides settle into more fixed areas of control may actually work in our favor, by giving us time to assess the nature of the rebellion.

In fact, the President's actions could all be seen in a more favorable light if he would just ask the Congress for authorization. If the Congress authorized the limited combat role the President outlined, I could even be persuaded to support such a resolution.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Self Congratulations? Among California Republicans?

This is an "inside politics" post that most regular readers may want to ignore, cross posted from sdrostra.

Yesterday, on, Jim Sills congratulated Tony Krvaric on his election to the Vice Chairmanship of the California Republican party. I do not dispute that San Diego will have more influence in the state party as a result, but I take exception to the self-congratulatory description of the 2010 election results in San Diego. Many of the touted successes were officially non-partisan. More importantly, the GOP made absolutely no progress in taking seats in the State Senate or Assembly, including in San Diego districts. This should be seen as a bitter disappointment when compared to GOP results nationwide. As a Republican, if only for three years, I believe we should set our sights higher, much higher. 2010's election returns in California should be seen as a abject failure, which should result in soul searching and prompting a sense of crisis for our party. I hope Mr. Krvaric will bring such a sense of urgency to his new office.

Libya and Obama

I am loathe to comment on foreign policy and the conduct of war on this blog because it has not been central to the themes I wish to espouse. However, we must remember the centrality of war to the state and the fact that war has been used throughout history to expand its power.

Sun Tzu in the "Art of War," in the section titled Laying Plans writes:
  1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State.
  2. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.
  3. The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.
  4. These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline.
  5. The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.

  6. Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.
  7. Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.
  8. The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.
With regards to the situation in Libya, it is now clear that the effort has crossed the line into war. The President is undermining the constitution by failing to make an account of the effort and his failure to invoke the War Powers Act. He has sacrificed a virtue that was important to his election, a pledge to conduct war making in an above board manner consistent with the constitution. Obama has therefore de-legitimized his claim to moral authority. He claimed during the campaign that he showed the good judgment to be against, that was, in his words,
A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
We must ask how the war in Libya differs?

Here is what the War Powers Resolution (I have been calling it the War Powers Act) states:

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

Clearly, our involvement in Libya has proceeded to a level which falls within the meaning of this law. Speaker Boehner should call upon the President to seek the authorization for the actions he is taking. Otherwise, the Republicans should enjoin the Department of Defense from funding the operations in Libya in the next budget bill.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Freedom Coalition Update - 2011 UPDATE

I started this blog in November of 2008 in the hope that it would become part of a broader movement to effect a real change in the Republican Party. At the time, I viewed the election of Barack Obama as a largely preventable mistake that I laid at the doorstep of an unprincipled Republican party dedicated to pork and its own re-election. Despite my dislike of the President-elect, it occurred to me that the public had made a rational choice. Given two parties dedicated to big government, one should vote for the one that seemed less corrupt, less hypocritical about their belief and less likely to favor corporations over average folks. At the time there was no real opposition, leading me to conclude that only a Republican party truly dedicated to limited government and freedom could restore balance. I thought the effort would take years, but the emergence of the Tea Party so soon after I started blogging vastly lifted my spirits. I have a saying about the seemingly spontaneity of many people coming to the same conclusion at the same time, "Circumstances and logic prescribe a narrow set of solutions."

This post is an update, with changes highlighted in blue.

UPDATE: In the comments, John Hitchcock points out that the more insidious reason that earmarks are poison is that they buy votes that go towards ever more massive budgets. I was previously aware of this phenomena, but had forgotten. I am updating the agenda in red. I wish to thank John for his help, so check out his eminently readable Common Sense Political Thought.

In my experience, being right on the issues isn't enough, one's coalition must pick issues that are winners and that capture the public imagination.

The Republican party was founded as the party of freedom, but by 2006 they were identified as the party of big government. I therefor propose this Freedom Coalition agenda to get the party back on track. I hope the Republicans adopt a true freedom agenda, if they don't, they won't get my vote. As with any agenda, this will change with circumstances and I will update it periodically.


  • Defeat Government Take Over of Health Care. This is our signature issue today. We must defeat the current Democrat/Socialist plan, but we also have a plan of our own. We have shamelessly taken much of John Mackey's program and adopted it as our own. (Paul Ryan (R-WI) has also adopted elements of this plan.) We should further make every effort to repeal the so-called Health Care Reform act. That includes outright attempts as well as incremental efforts as well as court challenges when it is clear the act has violated constitutional principles.
  1. "Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts." Patients who have skin in the game and market knowledge will reduce costs faster than any government program.
  2. "Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits."
  3. Allow competition across state lines.
  4. "Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover."
  5. "Enact tort reform."
  6. "Make costs transparent."
  7. "Enact medicare reform." Medicare policies that are mimicked by the private sector are strangling the medical profession.
  8. Revise tax law to make it easier to donate to those without insurance.
  • Smaller Government and Reform. These issues go hand in glove. The public loathes the sight of big business getting handout in the form of bailouts, subsidies and tax code preferences. Removing earmarks, even if they are only part of the problems of bloat, will go a long way to restoring fiscal sanity. This is because earmarks are used to prime the pump of budgeting excess buying off the Congressman and blackmailing them with voting against a little local pork. They see the Congress get loads of campaign contributions and rightly conclude that the money is buying access that tilts the playing field, at best; or is buying Congressman at worst. Smaller government means less goodies to hand out. A reform agenda to end earmarks, end subsidies (even for ethanol) and simplify the tax code removes the incentives for business to try to buy the votes of the Congress. I can't find the original quote, but I remember Steve Forbes saying, "If you have a vermin problem in your kitchen, you can set traps and board up holes, but sooner or later your going to have to remove the cake from under the sink."
  • Reduce Spending to Reduce the Deficit. This is simple economics, with government sucking up all of the present and future resources of the country, it is a beast that sucks the life blood of credit, resources and talent from the businesses, large and small, that are the economic engine of this country. Unfortunately, this means that we have to tackle entitlement reform. Neither party has been serious about this. Looking at the graph below, we see that mandatory spending is about equal to all of the tax receipts of the federal government.
  • Reform State and Local Government Employee Pensions. These pensions are bankrupting governments below the federal level. The total unfunded obligation is $1.5 trillion. The right of contract enshrined in the constitution makes this a tough nut to crack, but every governor, legislator, mayor and city council member should be judged on the seriousness of their approach to this issue.
  • Reform Financial Regulation. The last recession wasn't caused by free market excess, but by too much government. Banks and insurers concluded they were too big to fail (TBTF) and called government's bluff. Many of them should have been allowed to fail. Further, as the big banks increase their market share, we demand that they carry higher percentage reserves, so that they won' fail. We call for an end to taxpayer subsidized speculation in the financial sector. We demand transparency in all things financial, including the pricing of assets. We call for an end to political interference that turned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into political vehicles to turn loans into votes. We call for an end to speculation with taxpayer insured deposits. We call on the Federal Reserve to open its books for inspection by the Congress that created it as well as the American people.
  • Champion Freedom of Speech. We oppose campaign finance reform that protects incumbents and vested interests. Ultimately, these laws abridge free speech. There are so many examples of small groups harassed by monied opponents when they seek to organize to protect their rights. In Colorado, some neighbors who didn't want to be annexed by another city held some bakes sales to raise money for signs and ended being fined thousands of dollars. See Sampson v. Coffman. We also oppose campus speech codes that are intended to silence any point of view except the prevailing leftist orthodoxy. See FIRE article. This issue is a winner because Americans have long rejected the claim that others can tell us how to think and what we can say, especially when it comes to politics. Although they aren't happy about money in politics, it is easy to demonstrate that opposition to free speech isn't the answer. More on the right answer below.
  • Oppose Eminent Domain abuse. Originally, the concept of eminent domain was meant to prevent individual property owners from holding the government hostage when building a road or other public good. Over time, this right of government morphed into the power to seize your land at the behest of the powerful for any reason, however flimsy. This view was challenged in Kelo vs. New London, but our side lost on a 5-4 decision, one of the most unjust outcomes since Dred Scott vs. Sandford. Fortunately, the appalling sight of the powerful and well connected preying on small business owners and individuals is fueling a backlash. But eminent domain abuse continues and this remains a powerful issue for our side. Here is an example of a hard fought victory n Long Branch, NJ, where officials want to replace middle class households with upper class ones. Frequently, the victims of this abuse are poor minorities. In this case a victorious homeowner was also presented an award from the NAACP. This is real outreach on issues that affect minorities that would benefit the GOP.
  • Support School Choice. We could continue this outreach by taking on the school choice issue at full tilt. I previously blogged where the Arizona school teachers union wants to take away the ability of special needs kids to get much needed educational help through a voucher program. I think the Democrats are VERY vulnerable on this issue. School choice is the real civil rights issue of our day. Bad schools are wrecking the chances of poor and predominately minority students of being successful in college. Even the liberal University of California agrees with me that minorities are educationally disadvantaged. Interestingly, even though the academic literature on the benefits of choice are somewhat mixed, it seems to be that the greatest beneficiaries of school choice seem to be the urban poor. Further, as we experiment with choice we will find the combination of programs and incentives that really work. Interestingly, opposition to school choice is one of the stated reasons for the fleebagging in Indiana.
  • Support Freedom Abroad. Newly liberated peoples the world over have shown a propensity to embrace freedom and markets when the yoke of tyranny has been lifted. The policy of America should be to actively work against dictatorship in all its forms (Islamic, Socialist, Fascist and Communist). We should seek to advance the cause of freedom, not through force of arms, but through steady pressure. Every piece of foreign policy should be weighed against this end. Further, we are also ready to use force of arms in this cause when defense of our national interest requires it. Americans resonate with the concepts of helping to liberate peoples from tyranny, this is a winner. We especially decry the pathetic kow-towing to dictatorship in our own hemisphere in the shameful treatment of Honduras by the Obama administration. Recent events prove the wisdom of this approach, I think.
  • Oppose Partial-Birth Abortions. Because the practice is as odious and repugnant as the name suggests. Americans can viscerally understand this issue. How can it be legal to kill a baby 8 months into a pregnancy when that same child if delivered, would be afforded full protection of the law? It is illogical, and even though I am a Christian and hold all human life sacred, I don't have to rest my case on theological arguments. One need only talk to an abortion survivor to understand the horror of this procedure. I blogged about the politics of this issue here.
So that's my proposal. Short, but I hope substantive. I welcome your comments, disagreements, additions and satire.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekend Music Chill

Given our locale this weekend, I wanted to repeat a post of some music that reminded me of this amazing location in California.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More on the Theme of Leadership

Dean reports that Obama is not ready to lead, based on his own recorded words, and is giving new meaning to the word "punt." Social security is the subject.

Meanwhile, Peggy Noonan has the quote of the week regarding Obama's leadership or something, jaunting to Brazil while the nation's armed forces are engaged in "kinetic military action." Which is ok, I guess, since that means were not at war, in a Humpty-Dumpty sort of way. Here is the quote:
I cannot for the life of me see how an American president can launch a serious military action without a full and formal national address in which he explains to the American people why he is doing what he is doing, why it is right, and why it is very much in the national interest.
Kinetic action of the Samba variety, simultaneous to the other kind.

Programming Note

We will be out at Joshua Tree tomorrow and through the weekend, so blogging, if any will be of the "re-heated" variety. No cell phone coverage, at least there wasn't last time, so this will be a blessed break from the on line world.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

San Diego Watchdogging

Dave Maass, at City Beat, gets in on the local watchdog action with his report of how County Supervisor Ron Roberts and Carlsbad City Councilwoman Ann Kulchin treat the San Diego Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies (SAFE) like their own personal slush fund. (My words, not Dave's). The fund was established in the 1990s to build out and maintain the system of freeway call boxes through a $1 vehicle tax. Of course, since the call box system is fully built and maintenance is low, the excess monies should be returned to the taxpayers. Sure it is, not. Here are the money paragraphs, literally.
Kulchin and Roberts control the purse strings as a two-vote majority on a three-person budget committee—a group treated to homemade lasagna at each meeting by Eddie Castoria [pictured above], SD SAFE’s privately contracted executive director.

Castoria used to manage the call-box program as a county employee until SD SAFE privatized the system. Castoria formed his own company, TeleTran Tek, and won the contract. SD SAFE paid his company $405,000 in 2010 and plans to increase his rate 2 percent each year until it reaches $478,000 in 2017. In addition, Castoria also picks up hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting contracts from other county SAFEs.
The lasagna is really my favorite part of the whole article.

To her credit, District 6 Council member, Lorie Zapf has gone public with her objections to the waste of your car tax dollars.

Meanwhile, in an update from Sunday's U-T Watchdog recap, the county pension system was embarrassed into reviewing its investment in Mississippi timber venture.
The county pension system will revisit a $50 million investment in a Mississippi timber venture because board members were not told about two business partnerships their own fund adviser has with the wood-harvesting company.
Brian White (pictured below) had initially stated that no review was needed, but reversed field shortly after the U-T Watchdog published their initial article.

Cross posted to

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The True Story of the Auto Bailouts

As we move towards the 2012 election, Obama will probably say of his Republican opponent that he or she would have opposed or did oppose the auto maker bailout plan. I should hope that this would be true, but we need to educate the public about the truth of how the bailouts of GM and Chrysler have been colossal failures that harmed the economy and the rule of law. Todd Zywicki, writing in National Affairs, has the whole story, here are some excerpts:
The bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler have been held up by President Obama and his supporters as a great success story — proof that, by working together, government and business can save jobs and strengthen the economy. But this popular narrative is dangerously misleading. Far from a success story, the events surrounding the bailouts offer a cautionary tale of executive overreach. And their example clarifies the Obama administration's broader approach to economic policy — an approach that is both harmful to economic growth and dangerous to the rule of law.
. . .

The bailouts of GM and Chrysler at the end of 2008 — and the extension of those bailouts in the beginning of 2009 — were therefore both unnecessary and very likely illegal. But that was hardly the end of the story.

. . .
At first, the fact that the companies' creditors (and especially Chrysler's creditors, who were so badly mistreated) put up with such terms and waived their property rights seems astonishing. But it becomes less so — and sheds more light on how this entire process imperils the rule of law — when one considers the enormous leverage the federal government had over most of these creditors. Many of Chrysler's secured-bond holders were large financial institutions — several of which had previously been saved from failure by TARP.
. . .
Every piece of the "success story" of the auto bailout would thus seem to be in error. The bailout was not absolutely necessary and was pursued by means of dubious legality; the bankruptcies were highly irregular and inefficient; and the companies that have emerged from bankruptcy are far from lean and fit. They are certainly in no position to repay taxpayers for the generous loans they were given.
The whole thing is worth a read. Get educated and get ready.

Libyan War Powers

As operations in Libya drag on, the President's lawyers have taken the position that the action in Libya is "not a war" that would require the consent of Congress under the constitution and the war powers act. There is some historical merit to this claim, in the opinion of writer Ilya Somin. However, I also fully agree that if operations do not end soon, the President will be in violation of the law. The only reasonable justification for the action is humanitarian defense of innocent civilians. Once that aim is achieved, the U.S. must withdraw, or the President go to Congress to obtain war powers.

Exit question: How will and how should Republicans vote if Obama asks for war powers for Libya? Don't answer all at once, because I think this is a tricky political question. I'll put my answer in the comments.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meanwhile in Indiana

Little reported upon or even remarked upon, Indiana's Democrat legislators have fled the state, imitating their Wisconsin brethren (H/T Roger). How can this be good for the brand name of the Democrat party? The Indiana Democrats have enough votes to deny the Republicans a quorum to vote on any legislation. What makes this situation different from Wisconsin is that the Democrats are protesting the entire Republican agenda. Roger Hedgecock pointed out that the Democrats are playing with fire, because the state budget expires on June 30. Without a budget, I'm not sure what government services will be shut down, but no doubt there will be a big impact.

Roger Hedgecock characterized the walk out as hostage taking and I tend to agree. The Republicans need to hold firm. If the Democrats cause the state government to shut down because they denied a quorum, I am certain the voters will blame them.

The key issues have to do with keeping unions coffers full with paycheck deductions and maintaining project labor agreements. There is no issue of principle at work here. Democrats want to make sure that unions get dues funded by deductions required by government. Republicans should be applauded for giving workers more choice and local government more choice to get lower prices on projects.

The other key issue is over private school vouchers. Why do Democrats hate this? It means fewer public school teachers paying dues to fund Democrat candidates. It's about political power, pure and simple.

But how about a little sympathy for the fleebaggers?
The Indiana Democrats say life on the lam hasn't been enjoyable. There is one washing machine at the hotel and there are lines to use it. It has rained for almost a month, keeping them indoors except for an occasional walk past strip malls and chain stores. Three have developed sinus infections. After an initial wave of support and visits across state lines from union members and supporters, they have been largely isolated. "We're busy but we're bored," said Democratic Rep. Linda Lawson.
My heart bleeds. Not.

Exit question, why don't these legislators consider how it will feel eventually they have the majority? Majorities in American politics aren't permanent, after all.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Recommended Reading - U-T Watchdog

The U-T Watchdog continues to impress, publishing news that I'm not finding anywhere else. Today's articles include

Convicted City Workers Keep Pensions

In many parts of the country, such public employees face the loss of part or all of their taxpayer-funded pensions as a result of their misdeeds. Not in San Diego, where no city employee has ever had a pension taken away or reduced because of wrongdoing.
One example detailed is the case of Helen Ferrell, who stole $74,000 from a rec center in South Bay, but who is keeping her $33,000 per year pension.

Issa Protests Whistle Blower Demotion

This one has been cooking for some time in the blogosphere. A senior DHS career employee, Catherine Papoi, complained how political appointees were interfering with freedom of information requests from journalists to the DHS IG. This goes to the heart of our democratic institutions, the Freedom of Information Act was a post-Watergate reform intended to keep the federal government honest through citizen and journalist oversight. If true, all responsible should resign. Government Executive, hardly a radical right outlet, details the widespread criticism of this administration's lack of openness. Glad to see Issa is on the beat.

Dumanis sat out Proposition D Sales Tax Issue

I can think of few greater dis-qualifiers for the office of mayor than her cowardly stance on this issue. I may go all in for Carl.

Pension fund’s timber buy questioned

As if our local pension funds didn't have enough trouble.
The county retirement board has decided to invest $50 million with a Mississippi timber-management firm that has ties to the board’s own investment adviser.
Timber? Really? I guess that could round out a portfolio, certainly better than Treasuries, which are probably headed for a negative real interest rate.

Anyway, the Watchdog is a worthy read if you want to keep your eye on government malfeasance. Unfortunately, that seems to be a target rich environment.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Opposing Tax Increases on the California Ballot - UPDATE 2

Governor Jerry Brown's plan to combine tax increases with some spending reductions appears to be popular:
A Field Poll released this week showed that 61 percent of voters, including 56 percent of Republicans, want the state to have a special election on the budget. Fifty-eight percent of voters say they would favor extending the temporary taxes.
This poses a difficult question of principle for me. Normally, I am in favor of forcing tax increases to have a public vote. However, I don't think that the public understands that public pensions are not part of the package that the governor is offering. In a little reported upon survey, Californians overwhelmingly support pension reform. From Bloomberg:

California voters support limits on public-employee pensions by a 3-to-1 margin, according to the Field Poll.

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed favor a cap on the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits, compared with 20 percent opposed, according to the statewide survey by Field and the University of California, Berkeley, released today. Forty-two percent said the pensions are “too generous,” up from 32 percent two years ago.

Right now, the Democrats need a few Republican votes to extend for five more years the one-cent increase in the state sales tax, the ½ percent increase in vehicle license fees and the ¼ percent increase in personal income taxes that the state enacted in 2009. That's quite a few extra taxes, that cost the average family $1000 per year.

I believe the Republicans should demand concessions on pensions before this goes to a vote of the public. But I would like to know what you think? What is the principled position here? Should Republicans use their limited power to push for pension reform as the price to be paid for putting tax increases on the ballot? Please take my poll.


I forgot to mention that I had cross posted this article In the rostra comments, the ever reliable tax-fighter, Richard Rider, provides some additional facts:

Previously, a family with two children received a state income tax credit of $638. Under the “temporary tax increase” package, that credit is slashed to $196 — an effective annual tax increase of $442. For a middle class family suffering in today’s economy, that $442 is a MAJOR tax increase.

Moreover, this 2009 increase, along with the income tax rate increase, EXPIRED on 1/1/2011. Brown’s proposal is not an EXTENSION of the old income tax increase — it is a NEW “temporary” tax. Hence if voters REIMPOSE this expired tax, all the withholding will have to be done in the last half of the year, which will hammer modest income families the worst.


Also, W.C. Varones let me know that the Income tax hike expired Jan 1, so that is a pure tax increase. The media and the governor continue to portray the measure as a tax extension, but that is obviously not true for the income tax.

Libya - UPDATE

The President has taken a lot of gas for his handling of the Libyan situation, some of it deserved. But I have to agree that we can't put U.S. ground forces into the country. Since the rebels appear to have their own military equipment, using coalition air power to prevent civilian deaths appears to be an appropriate limited objective.


A discussion of the War Powers Act has broken out on Volokh, with most commenters siding with Ilya Somin (and Dennis Kucinich, that strange bedfellow) that Obama's military orders violate the act. My prior training indicated a right of defense of defenseless third parties, so I am surprised by this view. There are more detailed expositions on theories of humanitarian intervention here. I am not persuaded that a limited intervention to prevent the imminent slaughter of civilians is illegal without congressional approval. Existing treaty obligations that established the United Nations appear sufficient to support such an act. However, I would say that anything beyond preventing an attack on civilians, such as taking sides in a civil war, will require congressional approval.

Weekend Music Chill

I'm a little late on posting this weekend's music, due to work and personal commitments. Dean went with Los Straitjackets "Lonely Apache." Which got me thinking about their other music, like "Theme from Magnificent Seven" which for reminded me of Reagan, and how his response to Libya was more forthright and swift than Obama's.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Odds and Ends

Late to the blogging due to working late and catching some March Madness. Missed San Diego State's historic victory, but caught UCLA hanging on against a "furious" Mich St comeback.

Good News:

In Miami-Dade, FL, we have another Tea Partyesque victory, albeit fueled by some welcome funding from a billionaire. From this morning's WSJ:

Anyone who thinks voter anger over tax increases, arrogant government officials and outsized public employee pay has died down should look at what happened in Miami on Tuesday. Mayor Carlos Alvarez, a Republican, was recalled by a vote of 88% to 12%. County commissioner Natacha Seijas was tossed out by a similarly lopsided margin. Hosni Mubarak wouldn't have lost an election by that much.

What incited the voter eruption was Mr. Alvarez's mishandling of a budget crisis and $400 million deficit. Instead of tightening spending, the mayor and city council approved an intensely unpopular 14% property tax increase to raise $178 million—though home values in south Florida have collapsed by as much as half. He supported pay raises for public employees, who already pull in more than the average Miami resident, and at a time when family incomes have been flat or falling. He padded the six-figure salaries of his staff because, he claimed, their work load had increased.

But how are they going to roll back the spending?

Other News:

Too little, too late? The U.N. voted for military action and a no-fly zone over Libya while Gadaffi's forces are moving on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Check out this leadership?

France said it was prepared to launch attacks within hours, and Britain also indicated that it was prepared to act quickly. Initial strikes are likely to target air defense systems and runways; it was unclear whether plans were also in motion to strike at tank columns and other government ground forces headed east.
U.S. officials said that it would probably take several days for a full operation to be undertaken and that President Obama had not yet approved the use of U.S. military assets. Obama has preferred to let other nations publicly lead the response to the Libyan crisis, and White House officials said he would not appear on camera Thursday night to speak about the U.N. vote.
Several days? Are you kidding? This effort has been in the works for over a week. No doubt a plan for such a contingency exists. And France is more prepared than we are? Obama's fecklessness may yet result in thousands dead in Benghazi as Gadaffi promises "no mercy."

Meanhwile, math is dominating the headlines, Dean has the story. Note the lack of leadership theme:
Our President has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be the post-partisan president he campaigned on but has not come close to fulfilling by working with a Republican-controlled Congress on entitlement reform but he too doesn't want to do Math 101 and has instead cravenly abdicated any leadership role in the budget process.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Today's Spending Bill

All the talk today is about the Republican split on spending and how unhappy everyone is with the most recent CRA. (That's continuing resolution authority, for us non-Beltway types, where the government is funded incrementally for a few weeks or even days.) 50 Republicans voted no, on the idea that another $10 billion in cuts to get the bill passed was insufficient. Make no mistake, this is a huge victory for Speaker Boehner. He passes another spending bill with cuts, he is making the Dems play defense, but he is getting enough of their votes so that Obama is in no position to veto. Further, the only debate is how much further do we want to cut? Controlling the debate is important, because it continues to put the left in the bad light of being in favor of earmarks (whose elimination was used to reduce some of the spending) and general cluelessness.

Further, since the measure is only temporary, there is another chance to get more cuts. Even though politicians from both sides are complaining about having to incessantly debate short term spending measures, this is what democracy is about. As Dean frequently opines, Democracy is like, hard.

You know you're doing something right when you annoy Chuckie Schumer and he tweets:
"It's time for @SpeakerBoehner to abandon the Tea Party and work to reach bipartisan consensus on the budget," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. tweeted Wednesday.

Nuclear Situation in Japan

A few people have asked me to comment on the potential for public harm and the reactor situation in Japan, because of my background. I would like to make clear that my experience is with an entirely different type of reactor. Further, I don't think we are getting accurate reports from either the Japanese government nor the power company that runs the reactors, making transoceanic commentary problematic. However, I would urge my friends and readers not to panic. Taking potassium iodide prophylactically is unhealthy and an unnecessarily risky. In the highly unlikely event that a plume of radioactivity could transit over the 5500 miles of ocean between San Diego and Japan, then some precautions might be called for. However, rain and natural particulate fallout would likely drastically reduce the effect of such a plume.

I am neither an opponent nor a proponent of nuclear power. Its use should be a business decision that trades off cost and risk, like any other project. The disaster in Japan points up the added risk of centralization of power production, especially near the coast. Further, centralizing power production puts risk into a fewer number of baskets.

With regards to the safety of nuclear power, I can only say that this earthquake was of magnitude 9, not unprecedented but extremely rare, or so says Robert McCaffrey in Geology magazine.
Given multicentury return times of the greatest earthquakes, ignorance of those return times and our very limited observation span, I suggest that we cannot yet make such determinations. Present evidence cannot rule out that any sub- duction zone may produce a magnitude 9 or larger earthquake. Based on theoretical recur- rence times, I estimate that one to three M9 earthquakes should occur globally per century, and the past half century with five M9 events reflects temporal clustering and not the long-term average.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Meanwhile in Bahrain

With the whole world's attention focused attention on Japan and to a lesser extent Libya, serious events are unfolding in Bahrain that have significant impact on the United States' military posture in the Middle East. The U.S. has had a significant naval presence since a build up that began in 1997. It is now the home of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. As you can see from the map, the location of a naval base on the island in the middle of the Persian Gulf provides a significant strategic outpost.

Recent protests and riots pitting the the predominantly Shia population against the ruling Sunni royalty is complicating and already difficult picture for U.S. interests. Today, King Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa declared martial law and the U.S. has permitted military dependents to voluntarily depart. Further, the King had to call on the assistance of Saudi troops to restore order yesterday. Iran apparently sees this as an opportunity to make trouble for the U.S. by supporting the protesters and criticizing the use of Saudi troops. From RCP:

Further underlining the regional implications of the unrest in Bahrain, Shiite power Iran denounced the intervention of foreign troops as "unacceptable" and predicted it would complicate the kingdom's political crisis.

Iran holds no deep political ties to Bahrain's Shiite groups, but some Iranian hard-liners have hailed their efforts over the years for greater rights for their community, which represents a majority of the nation's population. In the month of protests, the Shiite-led opposition is also pressing for political freedoms.

With all that's going on in the world, I hear Obama has filled out his brackets. Hopefully, that means he is leaving good people in charge.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Betting Against China - Update

But not much available to buy.

Because I think creating bogeymen undermines conservative credibility, especially when there are so many real threats, I have taken exception to Glenn Beck and others characterization of China as a huge competitive threat. In my last post, KT commented on the incredible pollution in China.
Polluting your environment is like taking on debt. You're getting a big rush of income now, but you'll have to pay it back later. In this case, you'll have to pay it back in clean up costs.
The them of taking on debt in China is discussed in today's Bookshelf column by Edward Chancellor where Red Capitalism by Carl E. Walter and Fraser J.T. Howie (what a great name) is reviewed.
In Red Capitalism, Carl Walter and Fraser Howie detail how the Chinese government reformed and modeled its financial system in the 30 years since it began its policy of engagement with the west. Instead of a stable series of policies producing steady growth, China's financial sector has boomed and gone bust with regularity in each decade. The latest decade is little different.
China's financial sleight of hand, in which savers are paid low interest rates and capital controls prevent the outflow of savings, and then this money is recycled into trophy projects is unsustainable. China's banks and Ministry of Finance have been hiding dud loans for a decade. This will not continue indefinitely. Meanwhile, consumers can't buy products because of the capital controls. A few are getting wealthy of course, but the paper wages of the masses can't buy the luxury goods they see pouring in for the chosen few. How long will this last? People are ingenious at evading controls, even in former communist dictatorships. (Take note, Thomas Friedman, you miserable hack.) Think of the capital controls as a dam that can only withstand so much pressure. The more wages rise without corresponding goods for purchase nor a chance for that money to grow to buy goods in the future, the more pressure will build. This isn't really capitalism, it is confiscatory, crony capitalism and it never works in the long run.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Indefinite Detention at Guananamo

Dean points out that Obama's continuation of the Bush policy of indefinite detention at Guantanamo has been met with troubling silence on the left. So allow me to opine from the libertarian/conservative perspective. I am actually troubled by indefinite detention. The opportunity for abuse is vast. Theoretically, any American or citizen of another nation who was residing outside of the United States could be accused of terrorism and detained indefinitely. The weakness of the legal position of the United States accrues to the lack of a formal declaration of war. Now we are engaged in military activity that lacks any coherent limits, so ancillary matters of a legal nature also have no limits. If a declaration of war existed, then under international law, prisoners held at the cessation of hostilities and who have been convicted of no crime would be returned to their home country. We may not much like such an outcome, but our nation is the envy of the world because of our strict attention to due legal process. It is more important to our security and our liberty that we adhere strictly to the limits on power imposed by the constitution, treaty and law than preventing a few terrorists from going free. This seems lost on some conservatives, when it should be a bedrock belief of all who love liberty.

For any on the left, who might be reading, I was critical of Bush's tribunals and wiretapping for this same reason, it constituted the operation of government outside of a legal framework. I find Obamacare to be in the same category, because it gives sweeping and dictatorial powers to the Secretary of Health and Human Services in a manner not constrained by law.

Today's Sermon

In the days before the Israelites had a king, they were ruled by judges who settled disputes and interpreted the law, but otherwise the tribes of Israel were more of a confederacy. Samuel was the last and greatest judge. But the people wanted a central government in the form of a king. 1 Samuel 8:10-18 gives this cautionary word.

Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

Those Israelites had it good, the king only took a tenth of their earnings.

Image from the blog Piety and Humanity, where the same verse is quoted with a broader message.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nuclear Power and Disasters

Let me start this post by saying that I have supervised the operation of nuclear power plants and consider them safe. However, today's events in Japan illustrate a weakness of nuclear power that is lost in the concern over radiation safety. By their nature, nuclear power requires the centralization and concentration of the production of electricity. This is an inherent weakness from a safety and security perspective. Any untoward event, whether an earthquake such as in Japan, or a terrorist attack, takes a large percentage of the electrical generating capacity off line. This further complicates the recovery efforts.

It would seem more prudent to have a much more dispersed generating capability. The electrical grid itself has many of the properties of the internet in terms of its reach and scope, but is much more vulnerable to the centralization of production. Unfortunately, since electric utilities are regulated monopolies, the incentives to innovate are few. As the true cost of solar power drops, it may become a real alternative to the traditional model of production. However, I would like to see businesses who have a need for secure power be allowed to run their own micro-generators and sell back power to the grid. Economic incentives are needed because such a model is not advantageous to the power companies, who are government monopolies.

We had some bad experiences with attempting to bring competition to power generation, mostly because of the perverse incentives built into the legislation, such as prohibiting the transmission companies from buying long term contracts. But the idea of introducing more competition deserves further consideration because it would diversify production and enhance security.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Math Meets Political Power

Math is winning, what a surprise. (This is a recurring theme at The Scratching Post.) Today's U-T headline about the California budget dilemma is a case in point:

Democrats Confronted with the Limits of Power

In last November's election, voters removed the requirement for a two-thirds majority to pass California's budget. Democrats control both legislative houses and the governor's mansion, so their job should be easy, right? Just pass the budget for crying out loud. But wait: Democrats can pass a budget without Republican support. But they cannot pass tax increases.
And the Democrats don’t want to use their newfound clout to push through a budget that gets by only on the revenue projected for the coming fiscal year, especially after the expiration of $11 billion in temporary tax increases.
But shouldn't they be able to close the budget gap without tax increases as has been done in other states? Not if you lack the will to confront the unions.
But Brown and his allies have come under pressure from interest groups, especially the public employee unions, to oppose any spending limits or changes to the pension system. This has led to a recurrence of the same kind of partisan frustration that has marked past budget stalemates.
This is why I want the Republicans to prevent any ballot measure for tax increases to even come to a vote, Governor Brown refuses to deal with the main cause of our budget deficit, union pension promises. Don't believe me? Read Adam Summers' excellent summary at Reason. A snippet:
  • California’s public pension and retiree health and dental care expenditures have quintupled since fiscal year 1998-99, from about $1 billion to $5 billion this year. Retirement spending is expected to triple again - to $15 billion - within the next decade.
  • Since 1998, California’s state workforce has grown by 31 percent and taxpayers now pay for more than 356,000 state workers.
  • Since 2008, California has added over 13,000 employees to the state payroll during this recession.
  • California taxpayers are paying pensions that exceed $100,000 a year to over 12,000 former state and local government workers, including more than 9,000 state and local employees covered by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and over 3,000 former school administrators or teachers covered under the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS).
Without getting employees to contribute more to their retirement and medical plans and getting retirees to contribute to their medical, this will bankrupt the state no matter what cuts and tax increases are imposed. Unless Jerry Brown deals with the union pension mess, our state is doomed. The situation is little changed from the Schwarzenegger administration:

We should be contacting our Republican legislators to demand that they keep tax increases off the ballot until the unions negotiate on pension and medical care reform.

Cross posted to

Weekend Music Chill

Dean pioneered the whole covers idea, but I like it too much to limit myself to once a month. So here is some classic romance music and a cover contemporaneous to its era.

Here is the cover, which I slightly prefer.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Betting Against China

In a previous post, I took Glenn Beck to task for fear mongering on China. The crux of my argument is two-fold. First, China's demographics portend long-term problems for the nation, due to lack of young people to support retirees in a few decades and a lack of young women compared to young men that will have negative social impact. Second, China's growth is driven by the direction of credit at the national level to favored industries. Such a model is unsustainable for two reasons. Inevitably, mistakes will be made and political pressures will cause investment to be redirected.

A couple of articles in today's WSJ reinforce my points.

Beijing Directs More Funds Toward Affordable Housing

Low and behold even the dictators in Beijing aren't immune to political pressure, take note Thomas Friedman, you miserable hack. So China is worried about the political problems caused by a lack of affordable housing including middle class anger. And where is the money coming from?
Only a portion of those sums comes from spending by central and local governments, with the rest coming from bank credit and corporate investment.
That means there is $200 billion less for investment in so called strategic industries.

Inflation in Asia Strikes at Core
It's Not Just Food Prices Anymore; Too-Fast Growth Strains Countries' Capacity, Raises Labor Costs

While China is not the main subject of this article, its labor costs are rising (and common sense tells me that demographics are a factor.)
Recruiters say it is getting harder to lure workers from places like China, where rapid economic growth of recent years has pushed wages higher and created more opportunities at home.
The rising labor costs will inevitably mean that China's global competitive advantage will erode. Since their work force doesn't speak English, the international language of commerce, to the extent that India's does, they are put at a competitive disadvantage.

China Logs Surprise Trade Deficit

This headline speaks for itself. While it only refers to one month's data, the trend of a reduced trade deficit is likely to continue. Why does this matter? The trade deficit allows Beijing to hoard dollars for direct investment, which may now be curtailed.

Like an idiot, I didn't check on Professor Perry's Carpe Diem blog before starting this post. He has evidence that U.S. small businesses are reversing the offshoring trend. It seems like shipping costs and rising labor costs in China, as well as inconsistent quality are making China an unreliable business partner. The comments section is worth the read as well.

Finally a picture sometimes says it all. How much longer will Chinese tolerate growth that results in this?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Quote of the Day

Dennis Miller, on today's O'Reilly, shares Dean's opinion of Eric Holder:
Holder is the first attorney general in the history of the United States who might not make the cut at the public defender's office.

Another Reason to Hate Obamacare

. . . as if we needed one. Obamacare's changed rules on over the counter medicine and flexible spending accounts is causing some patients to seek doctor's prescriptions for remedies such as Nyquil or ibuprofen. If you weren't aware, flexible spending accounts take pre-tax dollars out of your paycheck and allow you to spend them on qualified medical expenses, which avoids taxes on those dollars. The catch is that once you elect an amount to be deducted, any money not spent is lost at the end of the year. This leads people to stock up on over the counter medicine in December if they haven't spent their whole election. I have such an account, because my insurance doesn't cover vision and dental and I didn't like the price of buying supplemental to cover.

Today's WSJ discusses the law's unintended consequences. Patients are seeking prescriptions for over the counter because that makes those medicines eligible for reimbursement. Before the law, I could buy Aleve, for example, and be reimbursed. Because some patients are going to doctors for these prescriptions and because pharmacists must handle the prescriptions and label the bottles, it is significantly increasing the overall cost of health care. Remember how Obama's acolytes said that we couldn't trust the public to make their own decisions on health care? Guess they were right, but you can't trust the bureaucrats either. The obvious solution is to take away all consumer choice, eh comrade? The money quote from the article:
What the law's writers didn't anticipate was the determination of some people to squeeze every last drop of tax savings from their accounts.
Some other gems include this quote from a an economist who formerly advised HHS:
"The entire flexible-spending account thing is a waste of our taxpayer dollars," says Jonathan Gruber, . . .
A waste of taxpayer dollars? That's my f____ing money! Plus, if I buy an over-the-counter drug and don't get a prescription, I've lowered the cost to my insurance.

The over-the-counter provision isn't the only part of the health-care law that has defied expectations.

Health-policy experts predicted that new insurance pools for high-risk patients would attract so many expensive enrollees that funding would be quickly exhausted. In fact, enrollment is running at just 6% of expectations, partly because of high premiums.

A provision preventing insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing health conditions prompted insurers in dozens of states to stop selling child-only policies altogether.

And a piece of the law designed to centralize patient care by encouraging health-care providers to collaborate is running into antitrust concerns from regulators.

The hits just keep coming.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Scott Walker Negotiates

Far from being the intransigent dictator portrayed by the left, Scott Walker, has been negotiating with Democrats. He has been willing to consider restoring some of the collecting bargaining privileges that the unions purport to be the reason for the Democrat fleebagging. However, we know that the real issue is union power and money. Even if all collective bargaining was restored, the Democrats and their union paymasters aren't giving in on the following:
The modifications do not address Walker prohibiting unions from collecting dues, often considered a sticking point in negotiations.
This is actually the one issue that I want Walker to remain firm on. I'm glad that he released the emails on negotiations, because he seems to be losing the public relations battle. This is unfathomable because the facts are on his side. Meanwhile I got the following email from DailyKos:

This past weekend, while Scott Walker was threatening to fire a bunch of people, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin was collecting recall petition signatures, threatening to fire Scott Walker's Senators.

The recall has begun in Wisconsin, and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is the central organizing hub. As such, we've added the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to Orange to Blue.

Can you contribute $8 to the recall effort, $1 for each of the eight targeted Republican Senators?

We are winning this fight. Polls show Scott Walker's approval rating dropping fast, and a clear majority of Wisconsin siding with the unions and the middle class. We are outnumbering the other side at rallies by margins of 5-1, 10-1, and even 35-1.

With numbers like those, we are in a good position to win the recall elections. The first step is gathering enough signatures to make the elections happen. Over 250 Kossacks in Wisconsin have signed up to help canvass--can you back them up by contributing $8 to the Wisconsin Democratic Party on Orange to Blue?

Man, it sure feels good to be winning. It will feel even better when we win.

In solidarity,
Chris Bowers
Campaign Director, Daily Kos

Solidarity? Whatever. I doubt that the recall would pass if all the facts about these negotiations were widely known. (I stripped the links out of the email.)

I believe that public opinion can be swayed, but Walker needs to make a better effort to explain himself. The Weekly Standard explains it best:

But what collective bargaining has meant in reality is that unions have had the final say in choosing layoffs over benefits reductions. As county executive in Milwaukee, Walker saw this happen in practice. So he wants to give school districts and municipalities flexibility in implementing better alternatives to layoffs, such as requiring employees to pay more for health insurance premiums.

Had some internet problems with RoadRunner tonight, so the blogging is light.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Headline of the Week

Yeah, it's pure schadenfreude but I can't help it. From the L.A. Times (screen captured in case they take it down.)

What's with the dorky little furballs in the background? And why does Aol look so much like lol?

Years ago, shortly after the greatest tech merger of all time (not), AOL-TimeWarner, I was a customer of both companies. I had retained my AOL account, not wanting to change emails, but wanted the high speed broadband offered by TimeWarner through Road Runner. After the merge, I asked if I couldn't get a discount, since I was paying for two different accounts and didn't really need them both, but would have retained AOL for the convenience of some of its features. You know the answer, no can do, so I canceled my AOL account and waited for the rest of the country to follow suit, which they did. This is the sad ending.