Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Glenn Beck - Genius

I have been thinking about Glenn Beck's 8/28 rally for a while. I admit to really enjoying Glenn Beck, but in the same way that one enjoys a guilty pleasure. Even some conservatives don't see him as a tower of intellect, and of course he made all the right enemies with his Restoring Honor event at the Lincoln Memorial. I have to come to see the genius of his approach. I noticed that all of the coverage on the conservative side defended Beck's event as non-political, but the left's criticism harped on the political nature of the event. I happen to agree with the left, the event was in fact political, though not in the traditional sense, and that is Beck's genius.

His calls for piety and invocation of Judeo-Christian values undermine the premises of the left's political argument which goes something like this. "The world is very complicated, and the average person can't understand it all. In order to improve the lives of all citizens only smart and expert people can properly order society; leaving to the free choice of individuals is too messy, unpredictable and ultimately will result in societal failure. Elect us and we will invoke scientific principles to establish an earthly utopia." Sound familiar?

So how does Beck rebut this? His call for a return to faith and a belief in unchanging core principles is a direct affront to this argument. The call to faith, specifically Christian and Jewish faith, is a call to religions where each individual can know the will and principles of The Almighty through the text of his Word, without the need for experts to explain how they should order their lives. That conservatives think this apolitical is a comment on their own world view. In the Babylonian captivity, the Jews came to see the Lord as a God not of a time and place, but of all the universe and eternity who was knowable to every man through a study of his word. Jesus told his followers that the Kingdom of God was at hand, meaning that God's power could work directly in their lives and promised the Holy Spirit as a means of accessing God's will and power. Christianity has undergone continual renewal ever since, with martyrs bringing the Bible into the language of the common man, and rebellions arising when the Church strayed from Biblical principles. The common thread is the presence of God as the most important fact in one's life, who demands obedience, regardless of what governments, politicians, or the culture tell one.

Further, Beck invokes the world view of the Founding Fathers, another bulwark against the arguments of the left. Their view of man as imperfect and indeed not capable of perfection, led them to frame a constitution that set the branches of government against each other, to prevent the kind of meddling that the left so loves. The very idea of limited government is in fact anathema to the left. (You can always smoke out a lefty by asking this question, "What, if any, limits on federal power are inherent in the constitution's commerce clause?" When they start equivocating because their core belief is embarrassing to them, you've found a lefty.) The core beliefs of limited government, rights of individuals, including economic ones, and democratic principles bounded by separation of powers are the core beliefs of our founders. These are fundamental to our conception of a political framework, but they are political nonetheless.

Beck's message strikes at the very heart of the progressive movement, and this is why he is so reviled. They dare not argue his ideas, so they smear him and call his followers racist. It is a strong indication that they cannot win the open debate.

I know that not all my readers are Christians, but I would ask you to consider that there are eternal principles that can not be revoked by the dictate of government or any other human institution. I believe history is on my side in this argument.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Republican Chances in November and Repealing Obamacare

I am a little nervous that Obama will be a two-term President as follows. The Republicans have a serious chance of winning control of the Senate and the House. This will give Obama a useful foil as well as force him to move to the center. By so doing, he may secure his re-election against what looks like a weak Republican field, at this point. Dick Morris made an interesting point today on Bill O'Reilly's show. Even though many Democrat Senators are leading in the polls, they are consistently polling under 50%. This usually bodes ill for the incumbent, because under such circumstances, the voters tend to break for the opposition. Dick Morris puts it like this, the voters already know the incumbent, so its something like a marriage. If you ask a married person if they will still be married in a year, and they are undecided, you have to think the marriage is in trouble. Some Democrats leading in the polls now, but who are under 50% and their RCP averages:

CA 44.8% Boxer
NV 47.3% Reid
WI 45.3% Feingold
WA 47.8% Murray
CO 46.0% Bennett

If you believe that these incumbents will lose and given that Ohio and Florida are trending Republican, with only leaves Illinois as a true toss up, among RCP's "toss up" races, this ends with Republicans with 51 or 52 senators. Not inevitable, maybe not likely, but we should be thinking about what to do.

Under these conditions, the Republicans will lack the votes to force an outright repeal of Obamacare. Both Senate filibuster and Obama veto guarantees that. But significant undermining of its worst aspects could set the stage for full repeal later. Grace-Marie Turner at the WSJ offers some options in Putting the Brakes on Obamacare.

Dismantle it. To focus committee action and floor votes, Republicans can look for provisions in the law that Democrats are on record as opposing.

Disapprove regulations. The Congressional Review Act of 1996 (CRA) gives Congress the authority to overturn regulations issued by federal agencies. . .

Direct oversight and investigation. Other aspects of ObamaCare are ripe for public hearings. For example, rules dictating how much insurance companies must spend on direct medical benefits are already hugely controversial. . .

The real wallop of ObamaCare will come in 2014, when most of the spending begins and businesses and individuals are hit with intrusive and expensive mandates. The main job of Republicans, should they capture Congress, will be to slow down implementation of the law and explain to the American people the damage it will do.
I have some other ideas as well.

De-fund the vast number of committees and bureaucracy needed to implement the bill. Don't fund the IRS to monitor for compliance. Hold oversight hearings to demand that Holder defend the mandate under the commerce clause rather than under the taxing power to shine a spotlight on Obama's perfidy in this area.

I welcome more ideas from readers in the comments

Sunday, August 29, 2010

No On Prop D in San Diego

Do you think they'll figure out we should just start the reforms before we ask for the money?

The U-T got this one right on the editorial page, with the following headline:

Prop D: Does mayor really have a hammer?

The editorial board argues in essence, that Proposition D doesn't give the mayor the hammer to reform spending that Sanders and Frye argue for in the front of the Dialog section. Because this is getting adequate publicity and the No campaign seems to be adequately funded, for now, I may not spend much time on this issue, core as it is to the Tea Party philosophy. A few points from the editorial:

Given that five City Council members were ready to place the sales tax proposal on the ballot without linking it to reforms and that the council has stalled outsourcing of some city services despite a 2006 voter mandate to do so, Sanders’ comments are highly reassuring. They suggest reform savings would be on the high end of the $700,000 to $85 million-plus range of annual savings cited in ballot language.

But does the mayor really have the hammer he says? City Attorney Jan Goldsmith doesn’t think so.
This goes to my basic argument about Proposition D. Structural budget reform, pension reforms and aggressive outsourcing of city services can be performed right now, without the need for a half cent sales tax increase. If the ruling class was serious about reducing spending they would show good faith by taking those actions now, in advance of any vote. That they want the people to pony up first is prima facie evidence that they cannot be trusted. Kevin Faulconer and Carl DiMaio echo my sentiments:

Opponents, such as Councilmen Kevin Faulconer and Carl DeMaio, rightfully pointed out that many of the reforms listed in the ballot measure are those the council has been working on already for years with no success. Further, they argue, no one knows how much money the city might save by implementing all the reforms. They expressed doubt that the package alone could fix the city's mounting obligations forever. It was another example, they said, of city politicians kicking the can down the road on the backs of taxpayers.

It is analogous to the border situation. We all know that aggressively securing the border is not a sufficient condition to solve our immigration woes; but it is a necessary first step. Every day that the Congress and the President fail to perform this basic function, is another day that deepens our distrust of any "comprehensive plan" that any of them may propose. The only way to win back trust is to secure the border. The only way for our city council to win back trust is to deal with out of control spending on employees salaries and pensions. Do a good job and we might not even need to talk about a tax increase; but if it still looks required, we might be willing to listen. Until you get serious, NO DEAL!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Weekend Music Chill

Our nephew is a big Beatles fan, even though he is only 9. He is already fairly decent on both guitar and keyboards. We were at his folks home tonight for a family get together and I wanted to honor his musical talent with some weekend Beatles music.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reforming California's State and Local Pensions

Poster Boy for Pension and Salary Excess. The people of Bell, CA deserve to get their money back.

In a previous post, I thanked the U-T for forthrightly reporting that the root of the city's financial debacle is the granting of excessive pensions over the last decade. However, the most disturbing part of the article was this little paragraph:
For the most part, those changes affect new hires, with minor changes for the bulk of city employees and retirees whose promised benefits have strong legal standing to remain untouched. [emphasis added]
I don't know how the municipal pension law works in California specifically, but it needs to be change. In another post I looked at what was happening in Colorado and Minnesota where the states were being sued over changes in pension formulas. It appears to me that we need to amend the state constitution to allow pensions, even for current retirees to be reduced.

I think we should start work on an initiative that would modify the California constitution to allow cities and counties to reduce pension benefits of current employees as well as pensioners upon a vote of the people through a further initiative. Should a two-thirds protection apply? Perhaps, I wonder what you think. The constitutional amendment should be worded in a manner that invokes the sovereign immunity of the state of California to prevent suit in federal court. Without such a threat to enable city councils to negotiate reductions, we will be faced with the situation San Diego finds itself in:
In large part because of the 1996 and 2002 benefit increases, the city’s annual pension payment has grown.

In 2002, it was $54 million, or 7 percent of the operating budget.

Currently, the payment is $232 million, or 21 percent of the operating budget.

By 2025, it’s projected to be $512 million, or nearly 47 percent of the operating budget, if no changes are made to pensions or budgets.

Would that be legal? As a non-lawyer, it is hard for me to say. The concept of sovereign immunity would apply to California, so suit in federal court would not fly, especially if the changes were to the state constitution and specifically forbade suit in federal court. From wikipedia:

In Hans v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Eleventh Amendment re-affirms that states possess sovereign immunity and are therefore immune from being sued in federal court without their consent. In later cases, the Supreme Court has strengthened state sovereign immunity considerably. In Blatchford v. Native Village of Noatak, the court explained that

we have understood the Eleventh Amendment to stand not so much for what it says, but for the presupposition of our constitutional structure which it confirms: that the States entered the federal system with their sovereignty intact; that the judicial authority in Article III is limited by this sovereignty, and that a State will therefore not be subject to suit in federal court unless it has consented to suit, either expressly or in the "plan of the convention."
But what about the guarantee of a republican form of government and the prohibition against state abridging the privileges and immunities that citizens enjoy under the federal constitution under the fourteenth amendment? Under Article 1, Section 9, Congress is prohibited from passing any ex post facto law. Generally, the fourteenth amendment has only been applied to the bill of rights, but what about other sections of the constitution? And is a reduction of pension payments and ex post facto law, since it is a civil, not a criminal matter? I'm hoping Eugene Volokh can take this up.

I am open to suggestion as to how to get something like this going. I am not the organizing type. Tea party cause célèbre?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Breast Milk, Seat Belts and Obamacare

Yesterday's post on why I oppose the mosque at ground zero but oppose government regulation that would prevent its building got me thinking about the logic of a world in which there are no constitutional limits on government power.

A few facts for your consideration. A University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute paper argues for primary enforcement the use of seat belts (ticketing solely for not wearing a seat belt, not ancillary) thus:

A broad literature supports the effectiveness of seatbelts in reducing motor vehicle injuries and deaths.
. . .
A primary enforcement seatbelt law in Wisconsin could be expected to prevent an estimated 1,950 injuries, save 73 lives and approximately 220 million dollars annually in crash-related costs.
. . .
. . . public policies are often made by weighing the cost in loss of individual freedoms against the potential benefit of the policy to the community as a whole. In this case, a switch to primary enforcement has the potential to benefit the community as a whole by reducing crash-related injuries and deaths and their associated costs.
Arguments such as these have been effective in getting thousands of American's a close encounter of the law enforcement kind for doing nothing more threatening than failing to buckle up.

Here is the American Academy of Pediatrics (you know, guys in white coats) on the benefits of breast feeding:

Human milk is species-specific, and all substitute feeding preparations differ markedly from it, making human milk uniquely superior for infant feeding. Exclusive breastfeeding is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development, and all other short- and long-term outcomes. In addition, human milk-fed premature infants receive significant benefits with respect to host protection and improved developmental outcomes compared with formula-fed premature infants… Pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.
So we have to ask ourselves this, given that Obamacare can mandate that everyone buy health insurance, largely on economic arguments under the rubric of social cost theory, and we have police stopping drivers for not wearing seat belts under the same theory, what's next? The answer is obvious, given the obvious health benefits of breast feeding; a mandatory breast feeding period of one year for mothers is clearly called for. Mom wants to go back to work, get back in shape, whatever? No way, she's drawn a year's sentence as a milk factory. And Dad? Don't even think about it, you pervert, that milk's for the baby.

This is what you get when you elect a Congress and a President who appoints a Supreme Court who don't believe the constitution limits the federal government's power in any meaningful way. Right to privacy, hands off my body? Name any cherished liberal shibboleth that isn't threatened by this lack of limit on the federal power. Think this won't happen? Look at the history of seat belts.

No pictures, it would ruin this otherwise tasteful post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Obligatory Ground Zero Mosque Post

Long time commenter and reader Road Dawg calls me out for not having much to say on the Ground Zero Mosque, aka Islamic Cultural Center. How can I tolerate a monument to their evil victory in an attack that killed thousands of Americans? He doesn't really word it that way, but I believe that is the gist of his argument which I liberate from the comments:

Naming the mosque at Ground Zero the "Cordoba House" is not a coincidence. Ancient Muslims invaded and occupied Spanish city of Cordoba where Muslims built a Mosque over the rubbles of a Catholic church as a symbol of their triumph and victory over Spanish infidels. Citing evidence that the Taiba Mosque is still acting as a jihadist recruitment center, police in the northern German city of Hamburg have shut it down indefinitely.
My position? I oppose the idea of a mosque at that site, but I also oppose action by government to stop it. I will applaud every protest at that site if the center is built. However, it falls into the category of lots of other things that I oppose, but refuse to support state suppression of, because granting the state the power to correct the problem I want solved inevitably leads to a long string of abuses of that very power. I don't like pornography, swearing, fools on motorcycles who don't wear helmets, cigarettes, fools in cars who don't wear seat belts, marijuana, and generally anything inspired by hippies. But in a free society, we put limits on the power of government to correct these ills, because the cure is truly worse than the disease.

If the mosque is used for recruiting jihadis, then we arrest those who do so. (By the way, it might be useful to gather them in one place.) Allowing the building of the mosque serves other ends as well. First, it shows that the Muslims aren't interested in reaching out to the rest of America, because they are slapping us in the face over an issue of great pain, especially to New Yorkers. Second, it provides a useful precedent to allow us to build churches and synagogues any dang place we please. Third, it gives us the opportunity to provoke and ridicule their attitudes.

Certainly proper legal form needs to be followed, the source of funding should be revealed, just like we publicize campaign contributions. That would allow us to call them out. But just as the ultimate answer to campaign lies isn't a ministry of truth, the answer to this provocation is counter-provocation, such as Greg Gutfeld's idea of a Gay Muslim Bar next door.

At the end of the day, I am all for making their lives as miserable as legally possible for poking our eye, but opposed to government picking favorites on the basis of the popularity or lack thereof of their religion. But just to poke fun at those beating their breasts to support this horrible idea, here is Ann Coulter with the last word on the subject:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

San Diego's Fiscal Crisis and... Hooray for Newspapers

Hooray for Newspapers

Three times in two weeks, Southern California newspapers show why they are a necessary part of the political landscape, doing the job that the framers envisioned. Dean has a great post on the L.A. Times pulling data together on teachers and another on how they exposed outrageous salaries and pensions in Bell, CA. Today, the San Diego U-T, in its new styling, lays out the history of the pensions issue and points out the inescapable conclusion in their headline that the current proposal for a sales tax increase is directly traceable to the cowardly actions of former mayors Susan Golding, Dick Murphy, City Manager Jack McGrory and the pension board members. If they worked at Enron, they would all be in jail. I had previously surmised that the U-T was pimping for the tax increase, now I am not so sure. I reiterate Dean's point that only news organizations have the necessary resources and legal clout to pull together the information needed to expose the wrong doing of elected officials and government employees.

The Roots of the Crisis

The U-T article is a must read for all Tea Party types. It lays out in stark detail the shenanigans and the cost to the taxpayer of allowing the ruling class to have its way unsupervised. Some quotes:

The push for a half-cent increase to San Diego’s sales tax has just begun, but it actually goes back to past decisions by city leaders who chose short-term political expediency over the long-term interests of taxpayers. . . . For example, the highest-paid retiree in the city’s pension system, former Assistant City Attorney Eugene Gordon, would have been due an annual benefit of roughly $64,600 after his 34 service years if city leaders hadn’t significantly increased retirement benefits. . . . The design of the city’s pension changed again in 2002, but things only got worse. Golding’s successor, Dick Murphy, and the City Council established a new underfunding plan that called for a second benefit increase for retirees. Their action instantly created a $1 billion-plus pension deficit. The increase helped win the favor of pension board members, many of whom were city workers, to let the city put far less money into the pension fund than was required. . . .

Currently, the payment is $232 million, or 21 percent of the operating budget.

By 2025, it’s projected to be $512 million, or nearly 47 percent of the operating budget, if no changes are made to pensions or budgets.

Exit question: What should we do now, given the strong legal standing that the current pensioners and employees have? B-Daddy is still noodling and researching the question, but I need some input. This may be the battle of the the century.

Scott Rasmussen, Polling and the Ruling Class

This weekend' s WSJ has an excellent piece on Scott Rasmussen, who has been described by the left as a Republican pollster. What I found most interesting was that his polls have some confirming data about the existence of a "ruling class" or "political class" party within America as differentiated from the mainstream or "country party" as Professor Codevillla describes it in his brilliant essay. To tell the mainstream from the political class, Rasmussen asks this:

Whose judgment do you trust more: that of the American people or America's political leaders? Has the federal government become its own special interest group? Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors? Those who identify with the government on two or more questions are defined as the political class.His recent polls show huge gaps between the two groups.
. . .
While 67% of the political class believes the U.S. is moving in the right direction, a full 84% of mainstream voters believe the nation is moving in the wrong one. The political class overwhelmingly supported the bailouts of the financial and auto industries, the health-care bill, and the Justice Department's decision to sue Arizona over its new immigration law. Those in the mainstream public just as intensely opposed those moves.
Rasmussen makes the point that Obama and the Democrats misread the 2008 election results. Most people were expecting more tax cuts, as Obama kept promising, instead they got grudging tax cuts and huge new government spending. My take is that the public has become increasingly sophisticated and understands that spending will have to be paid for. Obamacare was sold on the CBO scoring that it would not increase budget deficits. The public knows better and further believes it will harm the economy. That the Democrats could think that using subterfuge to get a positive CBO score wouldn't be detected by the public is proof of how out of touch they are.

The Republicans look set to capitalize on Democrat hubris, but what will they do with it? I asked this in a different way yesterday. Here is how Rasmussen puts it:
Mr. Rasmussen tells me that understanding the tea party is essential to predicting what the country's political scene will look like. "This will be the third straight election in which people vote against the party in power," he says. "The GOP will benefit from that this year, but 75% of Republicans say their representatives in Congress are out of touch with the party base. Should they win big this November, they will have to move quickly to prove they've learned lessons from the Bush years."
The wedge issues like flag burning, school prayer better not make a come back if we see a Republican victory. I want to see more of the Freedom Coalition agenda and the Tea Party agenda. Only by reversing the growth of government, which is what mainstream America truly desires, will the Republicans maintain majority status.

The article notes that Mr. Rasmussen is the co-founder of ESPN, so it's hard not to like the guy.

But Mr. Rasmussen has an interesting entrepreneurial story. He grew up in Massachusetts and New Jersey, the son of a sports broadcaster. Absorbed with hockey in high school, he joined his father in working for the New England Whalers. They would often bemoan that they couldn't get the team's games on broadcast stations. In 1978, trapped in a traffic jam on the way to the Jersey shore, they came up with the idea of an all-sports network on cable TV.

Using $9,000 charged to a credit card, they created the Entertainment Sports Programming Network, or ESPN. They soon scored a major investor in Getty Oil and launched in 1979. Within a few years, they had millions of viewers. Mr. Rasmussen was 22 years old.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tea Party Protests Meg Whitman in San Diego

A few of us were able to make it to a Tea Party protest supporting Proposition 23 and calling out Meg Whitman for her lack of support. We gathered at the Manchester Hyatt downtown, site of the Republican state convention. Sarah and Rhonda were great on TV explaining our position:

Link here, if the embed doesn't work.

Prior to my arrival, W.C. reports on a little confrontation between a Republican establishment type and our little band of happy-go-lucky Tea Party protesters.

Exit question? When will the Republican party decide to stop being the junior member of the Ruling Class and start being the party of the people that it was founded to be?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weekend Music Chill

I always thought this was a very religious song, and is certainly one of my all time favorites. The song seems somehow appropriate after reading KT's take on the current state of the Greek economy.

Lack of Manly Courage

Charles Krauthammer puts down the hammer on Obama on the whole Muslim Cultural Center, Park51, Ground Zero Mosque controversy.

It takes no courage whatsoever to bask in the applause of a Muslim audience as you promise to stand stoutly for their right to build a mosque, giving the unmistakable impression that you endorse the idea. What takes courage is to then respectfully ask that audience to reflect upon the wisdom of the project and to consider whether the imam's alleged goal of interfaith understanding might not be better achieved by accepting the New York governor's offer to help find another site.

As I opined in my other blog, I am troubled by Obama's lack of leadership and attribute it to his lack of contact with this father. Each new gaffe reveals his insecurity and inability to stand tall. I am sorry we elected a man who with such a thin resume that these traits were not revealed.

Dean has a terrific post about the issue that perfectly captures the left's and Obama's deafness on this subject.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Protest AB 32 - Support Prop 23

With the state of California about to issue IOUs, again, you would think that opposition to AB32, California's version of cap & trade would be an easy call. As noted by Temple of Mut:
This is an important issue. A California State University study estimates that compliance with the regulations derived from AB32 will cost an average family cost about $3,900 per year, a small business about $50,000 per year, and will result in a total loss of business output in the range of $180 billion yearly.

Not such an easy call for Meg Whitman, who has said "she would probably vote against Proposition 23, which would create a moratorium on the state's landmark climate-change law." To let Meg know of her foolishness, join the Tea Party in protesting Meg at the Grand Hyatt next to the San Diego Convention Center, Friday, Aug 20 (tomorrow) at 5:00 p.m. Temple of Mut has the details.

About those IOUs.

From the Financial Times:

John Chiang, California’s controller, told the Financial Times that the state was once again flirting with IOUs because of a budget stalemate between Arnold Schwarzenegger, its governor, and the state government. The budget is two months late.
KT has an interesting comment about the effort to make the IOUs a pseudo-legal tender:

Essentially, this creates a new currency, one only valid within the government. The money is trapped entirely within the State economy since you can't use it to buy things from private parties. The idea of being able to use the IOUs within the State seems like a good idea until you pair it with our growing Justicialism. Consider this.

The government owns GM. Ford is a private company. If you can use IOUs to buy government products, but nothing else, then Ford is at a significant disadvantage. This example is Federal, but it illustrates the entangling nature of fascism. Working with the government becomes the preferred means of doing business when the government grows in all directions. Anyone left outside has all kinds of problems, from regulatory ones to being able to be paid.

Root Causes

Last March, I set out to explain the causes of the seemingly perennial budget madness in California (with pictures) and concluded the state employees pensions are the prime culprit. Until we deal with reducing the current and future pension costs, we are doomed to never have enough money to run the state. (By the way, this is why I was initially excited about Meg Whitman, she seemed to have a tough agenda to take on the unions.) In today's WSJ, R. Eden Martin comes to the same conclusions, and calls out some solutions, the comments I like follow:

Bailing out state pensions would be astronomically expensive. According to a Pew Foundation estimate this year, the total unfunded liabilities of the 50 states' pension funds amounted to about $1 trillion in 2008.
Current defined benefit pension plans would be "frozen," meaning no new benefits would be accrued under those plans.
Participating states could set up new retirement programs for both current and new employees in the form of defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s.
Though state laws vary, many states and cities may be able to take the legal position that they are not liable as guarantors if and when a pension fund goes under. In Illinois, a retiree's contract claim would be against the pension fund, not the state. In any event, practically speaking, it is not likely that retirees would be able to recover tens of billions of dollars in past pension claims against their states.
The ruling class' arrogance and greed has finally become too much for America's economy to handle. This is why I am voting for the candidates best positioned to take on the unions. This is making for some uncomfortable political bed fellows, but remember this single and simple truth:

Government growth threatens our liberty and our prosperity.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Getting outflanked?

Dean here again helping out B-Daddy who is busy with some course work.

For an illustration of just how dire our public education system is in parts of our country, consider this: Democratic mayors from traditional machine-politics cities of the Midwest, Rust Belt and the Northeast are standing up to the teachers' unions in an attempt to implement pragmatic results-oriented solutions to their towns' school districts.

During the last weeks of the term, third graders at School 58-World of Inquiry School created an oil spill in a bowl. Under the guidance of teacher Alyson Ricci, they tried to clean it up. Cotton swabs worked.

The school last year won the national Excellence in Urban Education Award, with all students meeting state proficiency rates in science and social studies. It's an exception, though, in a Rochester system where fewer than half of the 32,000 public-school students graduate on time.

Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy wants to set up more schools that produce results like World of Inquiry's. But he says the superintendent's efforts to close failing schools and open new ones have been hobbled by a school board mired in minutia. He is pushing to dissolve the elected board in favor of one appointed by the mayor and city council for a five-year test period. New York's state legislature is considering the bid.

As cities come under increasing pressure to fix failing schools, more are, like Rochester, trying to take matters into their own hands—or at least those of their mayors.

"People are desperately seeking a model that can be duplicated and used in different communities," said Jim Ardis, the mayor of Peoria, Ill., who is considering such a move. He argues that a Peoria model—yet to be developed—is more likely to fit smaller cities across the Midwest than existing systems in larger urban areas.

The school district of Boston, where mayoral control was first pioneered back in '92 has been joined by New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Cleveland, New Haven, Conn., and Providence, Rhode Island which are now all under mayoral control.

Of course, giving the mayor more autonomy at the expense of school boards is not going unchallenged by the school boards themselves and their allies, lawmakers at the state and municipal levels and, of course, the teachers' unions (it has been declared unconstitutional by the courts here in California, natch).

Unions say mayoral control often ushers in policies counter to teachers' interests. Cities with mayoral control often seek to award pay or decide layoffs based on performance rather than seniority. Mayors have also pushed for the opening of charter schools, which are more difficult for unions to organize than public schools.

Once again, no where do we ever see the union concede that they may not have all the answers and how they might possibly be open to trying something different that just might be in the better interests of the children. Somehow the battle cry of "it's for the children!" is strangely absent in matters that actually effect the children.

Please read the article where they go to extents to explain that there is no cut and dry nor any black and white plan to reforming the district hierarchy but only a willingness to mix it up and try something different apart a culture and mindset that is failing the children of lower and working-class families.

Side note: We have taken the Republican Party to task at every opportunity for not doing enough to get out in front of education reform, particularly in way of vouchers, school choice and charter schools. Here is a situation, though, not of their making whereby the Democrats have a simple structural advantage in that the most significant education reform battles are being waged within the ranks of the Democratic Party itself and thus, the biggest proponents of education reform will be Democrats.

No matter... all the more reason for the Republicans to get off their sorry asses and engage the opposition in the education reform debate. It's doing right by the children, it's electorally-favorable with minorities and it cheezes-off the unions. Tell us again what we're missing here?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Weekend Music Chill

I'm pretty certain I've used this tune before, but I don't care. I've just consumed some Anvil ESB from Alesmith and made a public spectacle of myself singing loudly to Mrs. Daddy at the La Jolla Strip Club Restaurant "Hot Tramp, I love you so!" So without further ado, here is the much heralded David Bowie.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Carbon Hypocrisy

Just a quick thought. If the Democrats in Washington and Sacramento were serious about reducing carbon emissions, they would propose an across the board carbon tax that would bring economic incentives into play to reduce CO2. That they favor cap and trade is proof that, whatever the truth of global warming, they view it as a con game by which to gain further control over the economy to reward their friends and punish their enemies.

Civil Rights and the Proposition 8 Ruling

Dean eloquently opined earlier about the thugish nature of the ruling against Proposition 8. In today's Wall Street Journal there is an article so eloquent regarding the ruling that I am tempted to quote it in its entirety. Here is brave Joyce Show of La Piñata in the WSJ Letters to the Editor:

Proposition 8 is not about gay civil rights. By California law we already have freedom of sexual preference.
What Proposition 8 protects is freedom of choice to not only believe that homosexual unions are morally wrong, but to act on that belief without being accused of and legally liable for discrimination.
On Sept. 15, 2008, a California court ruled against two doctors who refused, because of their religious beliefs, to artificially inseminate a lesbian woman, although they had made an appropriate medical referral to other providers without these conflicts of conscience.
Given the the hateful manner in which radical gays target proponents of Proposition 8, we wish Joyce well. Exit question: Why is tolerance only extended to some groups? Muslims can have their mosque, but a gay muslim bar next door is provocative. We must call homosexuals unions a marriage (but not between husband and wife) but a Christian sense of morality is somehow hateful. Democrats can wish Sarah Palin dead and not be labeled misogynist, but political criticism of Obama is racist. I'm just asking.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

California Governor's Race Conundrum

My poll is closed and a plurality of reader's who voted said that we should vote Libertarian in the California Gubernatorial election this fall. Since the polls aren't permanent here are the results for posterity:

After Viewing Meg's Billboard, Who Do You Support for CA Gov?

3 votes. Jerry Brown, at least he's an honest liberal.
4 votes. It's still Meg, better than Gov Moonbeam.
6 votes. Have to go Libertarian, these two are hopeless.
0 votes. None of the above.
2 votes. Let's find a Tea Party write in.

I was one of the two votes for the Tea Party idea, and given the nature of readership, was surprised that this option was not more popular. Temple of Mut has already covered some of this ground, in Arsenic and Old Lace.

As a former registered Libertarian, I understand the appeal of that route, but I can't ever support that party again, given 30 years of lack of serious purpose. I really like the platform of the Libertarian candidate, Dale Ogden, but if you are seeking to vote for him as a protest to Meg Whitman's immigration waffling, you might be disappointed. Although he makes good points, but his opening statement isn't going to get your vote interpreted as a vote on immigration:

Immigration has become a hot issue, but it is not a simple issue. America is a land of immigrants,...

Meanwhile, Dan Walters has a great piece on the waffling of both Governor Moonbeam and Meg Whitman. Even though I touted Jerry Brown as an honest liberal, Walters points out some of his real inconsistencies.

But is Brown less likely to shift positions? Capitalizing on Whitman's shifts, Brown told Time magazine, "But if I say something, you know I mean it. You know who it's coming from. That much hasn't changed."

Those words came from a man who, as governor, adamantly opposed Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 property tax cut, as a "rip-off "... a legal morass and "... a long-term tax increase," but after it was approved by voters declared himself to be a "born-again tax cutter" and touted a state tax reduction.

Further, we have the unions going all out for the Democrats this year, especially the SEIU and especially for Brown, because Meg Whitman has been so bold in taking them on. No way will I endorse any candidate with that kind of union support.

So has Meg Whitman repented of her flip-floppery on immigration? It seems really hard to tell, and given her recent conversion to Republicanism and her willingness to try to fly under the radar by buying Spanish language ads. She is being attacked in ads by public employees unions. On the theory that the enemy of enemy is my friend, I ultimately come down on the side of voting for Meg Whitman, certainly without enthusiasm, and certainly will not urge others to do so, but on balance, she seems the only candidate willing to take on the state's employees unions.

Temple of Mut's solution is to make sure you pay attention to state assembly and state senate races. While I applaud her for thinking outside the box of this question; I will ultimately be faced with a blank ballot. It's either vote for Meg or leave the box blank, since no Tea Party candidate seems forthcoming.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Surprises in the News Today

Socialist Canada?

Dean has bashed the anti-free speech nature of the human rights commissions in Canada and in particular their harassment of freedom fighter Ezra Levant with good reason. Also, I have visited Canada and followed their travails with their socialist health care system as a good warning for America. Imagine my surprise when the WSJ's Jason Clemens praises the Canadians for their much smaller government, which seems to be helping them weather the current economic crisis better than we are.

Government austerity has been accompanied by prosperity. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), between 1997 and 2007 Canada's economic performance outstripped the OECD average and led the G-7 countries. Growth in total employment in Canada averaged 2.1%, compared to an OECD average of 1.1%.

During the mid-1990s, Canada's commitment to reform allowed it to tackle two formerly untouchable programs: welfare and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), equivalent to Social Security in the U.S. Over three years, federal and provincial governments agreed to changes that included investing surplus contributions in market instruments such as stocks amd bonds, curtailing some benefits, and increasing the contribution rate. The CPP is financially solvent and will be able to weather the retiring baby boomers.


Most strikingly, Canada is emerging more quickly from the recession than almost any industrialized country. It's unemployment rate, which peaked at 9% in August 2009, has already fallen to 7.9%. Americans can learn much by looking north.

The article does allow that health care is still a problem, but it was an interesting read.

Unfilled Jobs?

Image from Carpe Diem.

Also, from the WSJ was an article about unfilled jobs in specialized industries. Although there was no definitive answer, the theories offered indicate that Obama administration policies are making things worse not better. One cause might be the extended unemployment benefits. Another might be the financial losses people would suffer if they move to a new location and sell their homes, lowering mobility. Another issue is the lack of good technical skills to fall back upon when managerial positions are lost. America's high schools and colleges aren't providing very much technical training. In fact, some colleges seem to be a complete waste of time and dollars, where students spend five years in an alcoholic haze, or worse. From the article:
If the job market were working normally—that is, if openings were getting filled as they usually do—the U.S. should have about five million more gainfully employed people than it does, estimates David Altig, research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. That would correspond to an unemployment rate of 6.8%, instead of 9.5%.

Beer Label Bashing Obama, Not from Shiner TX?

Image from sorryigotdrunk.com.

Iowahawk has a great article on Lagunitas WTF brew that seems to take aim at Obama's policies. Lagunitas makes some pretty good beers, so I am not surprised that the reviewer liked this particular concoction. From the 'Hawk:

Now I don’t know about you, but if a brewery in a liberal city, in one of the most liberal counties, in the most liberal state can gather the courage to post that on their locally-sold product, then I think they need to be brought to the attention of good Americans everywhere, who are tired of the bad politics, and bad politicians on both sides of the isle, and would also like a damn fine beer while they wait for one to come along.
I also have to ask the natural question, "Why does B-Daddy scoop Beers With Demo on beer stories?"

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Programming Notes

My thanks go out to Dean for guest blogging while we vacationed in Australia. We had a great family vacation; our Australian relations are great hosts and truly loving and lovely people. Whatever my complaints might be about Australian politics, both Mrs. Daddy's family and others we met in our travels were and are great people.

I intend to return to daily blogging once I get caught up on politics. We had limited internet and little telly, except for some AFL, (go Magpies!) so I have really had a vacation from the U.S. and politics, not just my work.

The first thing I noted was some good news from the states of Virginia and Missouri on the Obamacare front that is showing the deep unpopularity of the bill and its serious constitutional flaws. Maybe the people are waking up to the growth of government as a threat to liberty. Missouri's challenge is especially clever because no matter the court outcome, we have a vote on the record that 70% of one state's electorate is troubled by the bill. My props to W.C. for covering the local doctors' protest against Obamacare.

It was more distressing to read Dean's post about a federal judge overturning Proposition 8, see below. I agree with Dean in its entirety. I would add that the next thing you will see is politically correct speech will seek a ban on the terms husband and wife. (Indeed, this happened briefly in San Diego.) I think that gays should be allowed to enter into personal relationships and contracts on an equal basis with straight couples. But I retain the right to not recognize those relationships as marriages. In a gay marriage, is there a husband or a wife? If not, why do I have to call it marriage. I have free speech rights as well.

If you are reading this, thanks for checking in regularly, I hope to reward you with some quality blogging.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The sadly obligatory California same-sex ruling post

Dean again with my thoughts on what went down here in California a couple of days ago.

A FaceBook friend playfully chided on her wall that we all needed to get over our homophobia now that a federal judge struck down Prop. 8 .

Because supporters of gay marriage wanted so badly for this to be about homophobia, they got exactly what they wanted and as a result this whole ordeal became about intimidation, smearing and undemocratic end- arounds.

Now, before we get into this too deeply, let’s just say that we’re of two minds or more accurately, perhaps, two emotions regarding the issue of gay marriage. Flatly stated, we believe marriage to be that between a man and a woman. Period. Having said that, our passion index for this is relatively low. You won’t ever see us at a Pro Prop. 8 rally (if for no other reason than the fact we might be “outed”. More on this later.) nor will you ever see us in a knock down, drag out argument over the merits or detriments of gay marriage. It’s tough for us to argue against what two consenting adults want to do and how they wish to define it. (The issue of same-sex partners rearing children is another matter altogether that won’t be addressed here.)

However, where our passion index is quite sky-high is when a solitary figure, in this case, U.S. District Judge Vaughan R. Walker, strikes down what the voters of California had clearly stated as to the definition of marriage not just once but twice. It’s a phenomena that is catching, apparently, as just last week, a federal judge struck down a law in Arizona that flanges up with a Justice Department program regarding cooperation between local and federal officers with respect to immigration enforcement – the very same Justice Department that is bringing suit against Arizona for this same law.

Judge Walker ruled that California "has no interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions” Really? So that explains why the issue of defining marriage has shown up on the ballot twice already. And in the absence of any constitutionally- (State or U.S.) defined state of marriage, the voters, both times, defined marriage as that between a man and woman.

The jurist, a Republican appointee who is gay, cited extensive evidence from the trial to support his finding that there was not a rational basis for excluding gays and lesbians from marriage. In particular, he rejected the argument advanced by supporters of Proposition 8 that children of opposite-sex couples fare better than children of same-sex couples, saying that expert testimony in the trial provided no support for that argument.

"The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples," Walker wrote.

That’s nonsense. It’s called cultural tradition. A cultural tradition that has existed for thousands of years and which has informed various people and societies around the world, absent any moral or religious bias, that marriage is between a man and a woman. That Walker implies homophobia as the sole reason for believing in traditional marriage, he displays his own narrow-mindedness in this matter.

The trial appeared to be a lopsided show for the challengers, who called 16 witnesses, including researchers from the nation's top universities, and presented tearful testimony from gays and lesbians about why marriage mattered to them.

The backers of Proposition 8 called only two witnesses, and both made concessions under cross-examination that helped the other side.

The sponsors complained that Walker's pretrial rulings had been unfair and that some of their prospective witnesses decided not to testify out of fear for their safety.
When Walker ruled that he would broadcast portions of the trial on the Internet, Proposition 8 proponents fought him all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won a 5-4 ruling barring cameras in the courtroom.

When we said earlier we would worry about being “outed”, this is exactly what we were talking about. The thug tactics of the left resulted in Prop. 8 maps where the names and addresses of Prop. 8 donors were flagged on Google maps. So, congrats, people – your win was aided by previously behaving like a pack of brown shirt goons thus chilling any hopes of a fair hearing by your opposition.

So, this will be appealed to the Ninth circuit court of appeals and from there to the Supreme Court where all indications point to the fate of same-sex marriage in this country resting in the hands of the swing man, Anthony Kennedy.

Previous to this, we had felt that were we ever invited to a same-sex wedding, we would be honored to attend because it was not about us nor how we felt about same-sex marriage but about the happy couple. However, because of the undemocratic and thuggish nature of how this whole thing played out, the results are completely illegitimate in our mind and we now feel we could not attend such an event in good conscious.

Again, Congrats. Hope it was all worth it.

Previous posts on same-sex marriage, here.

This article has been cross-posted over at Beers with Demo.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Burqa ban?

Hey, it's Dean - just doing some more guest-blogging for B-Daddy.

Lengthy, interesting but odd read in yesterday's National Review Online on banning the burqa where the author goes from against banning the burqa to being in favor of it but ultimately acknowledging that it's nigh impossible now on the grounds of political expediency. Here's the money paragraph towards the end of the article:

Headscarves cannot at this point be banned. It is politically impossible, and it is also too late: The practice is too widespread. But the decision to wear them should be viewed much as the decision to wear Klan robes or Nazi regalia would be in the United States. Yes, you are free to do so, but no, you cannot wear that and expect to be hired by the government to teach schoolchildren, and no, we are not going to pretend collectively that this choice is devoid of a deeply sinister political and cultural meaning. Such a stance would serve the cause of liberty more than it would harm it: While it is true that some women adopt the veil voluntarily, it is also true that most veiling is forced. It is nearly impossible for the state to ascertain who is veiled by choice and who has been coerced. A woman who has been forced to veil is hardly likely to volunteer this information to authorities. Our responsibility to protect these women from coercion is greater than our responsibility to protect the freedom of those who choose to veil. Why? Because this is our culture, and in our culture, we do not veil. We do not veil because we do not believe that God demands this of women or even desires it; nor do we believe that unveiled women are whores, nor do we believe they deserve social censure, harassment, or rape. Our culture’s position on these questions is morally superior. We have every right, indeed an obligation, to ensure that our more enlightened conception of women and their proper role in society prevails in any cultural conflict, particularly one on Western soil.

We think the author pretty much makes the case herself for not banning the burqa beyond merely, it's too late. Is the burqa that, in the author's mind, represents a culture of oppression any more explicitly repulsive than donning white bed sheets or goose-stepping around in an SS uniform which are Constitutionally-protected activities?

Do you know for whom it is too late? The countries of which have passed burqa bans and which are considering them: Europe. Europe, which has insistently refused to address the question of Muslim assimilation and which has acquiesced its culture for fear of Muslim reprisal finds itself in reactionary mode with their burqa bans.

And let's not confuse not wanting to implement targeted laws banning what can and cannot be worn in public with not wanting to engage in a cultural battle. We can sit here and argue the negative merits and implications of the burqa in an attempt to win the battle without passing laws to get our way.

We don't think there are any easy answers for how better to assimilate Muslims into American society nor are there any easy answers for confronting radicalization within the Muslim community but we are extremely confident that banning the burqa is not the way to go about doing it.

This article has been cross-posted at Beers with Demo

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The sadly obligatory Pete Stark video post

What is up? Dean here again filling in for B-Daddy as he is spending time with the family Down Under.

This does qualify for Nancy's Nuances: a journey of discovery (things we're finding out about ObamaCare after ObamaCare has passed (Letting the Mask Slip sub-set)) not only based upon chronology but also on the merits of Stark's justification for passage of ObamaCare: We won.

Great points all, made by this young lady as it's readily apparent that she is talking at a level way above Stark's pay grade as he has no concept nor interest in understanding how the 5th, 10th and 14th amendments would prevent you from being compelled to sign up for health care just as it would prohibit the confiscation of goods and services from others as is the case when you declare particular goods and services a right.

Stark is a thug. There is simply no other way to put it.

Another memo to our goo-goo (good government) liberal friends: Sure, you would like to see the government play an active role for good in society but does Pete Stark's vision of a Thomas Friedman-esque totalitarianism look like your view of liberalism? Does what Pete Stark is saying sound anything remotely like, "Keep your laws off my body?"

The Democratic Party, which has for years been informed by notions of the limitless power of government dared not actually say it, until now. The passage of ObamaCare has proved to be truth serum to its authoritarian acolytes who now attend town hall meetings and impassively tell their constituents:
I think that there are very few constitutional limits that would prevent the federal government from (making) rules that could affect your private life.

Well, shoot-howdy, that doesn't sound like the bra and draft card burning Democratic Party of dear old Mom and Dad, now does it, gang?

If they can do this, what can't they do?

P.S. We have no idea who the young woman in the video is, however, her identity along with other private details of her life will no doubt be exposed by the Wasilla Dumpster Diving Posse.

This has been cross-posted over at Beers with Demo.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Re-learning through the centuries

Dean here. We must apologize as we have been extremely remiss in our guest blogging duties while B-Daddy is vacationing with family down in Australia. We will try to catch up and make up for some lost time this week.

Has socialism finally jumped the shark in Cuba?

President Raul Castro expanded self-employment fields on Sunday, ahead of looming government plans to slash as many as one million jobs -- 20 percent of communist Cuba's work force -- from state payrolls.

The economy, 95 percent of which is currently in state hands, does not have the ability to absorb such vast numbers of jobless. Castro's move aims to try to reduce the socioeconomic fallout, but it will be an uphill battle.

The Council of Ministers "agreed to expand the range of self-employment jobs, and their use as another alternative for workers who lose their jobs," Castro said as he gave a closing address at one of two annual sessions of the National Assembly.

After the crash of the former Soviet bloc, Cuba's cash-strapped government in the 1990s approved a wide range of self-employment. Positions such as beauticians, dog groomers, small restaurant owners and even lighter refillers were legalized as long as workers got licenses and paid taxes.

But social resentment emerged as an issue when some workers, particularly in small private restaurants, achieved dramatic levels of success.

The government began increasing taxation and regulation, and decreasing license-granting, until the self-employed sector was largely rendered paralyzed, like the rest of the economy.

(italics, ours)

Or is it merely jumping it, again?

From the Pilgrims abandoning a collectivist impulse to the collapse of the Soviet Empire, it keeps dawning on us, over and over, that socialism is an unsustainable economic model... yet free market capitalism which generates the inevitable unequal outcomes is viewed as unseemly as the italicized paragraph indicates.

Not because of actual results or empirical data has collectivism survived through the centuries but rather has envy, one of the seven deadly sins, been the life blood of a model and philosophy that never seems to go gently into that good night.

What all this appears to indicate is that as fallible humans, we will probably never completely rid ourselves of collectivism, be it straight-up socialism that we see abroad or the crony capitalism as practiced here in America, currently.

What would be nice, however, is we reach a point where free-market capitalism becomes the coin of the realm, so to speak, rather than the reactionary oh crap, everything else has failed - let's give that capitalism thing a tryM.O..

Being resentful and envious is no way to go through life.

This will be cross-posted over at Beer with Demo later today.