Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dealing With the Illegals Already Here

It is commonly believed that there are about 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. today.  Dealing with that in a rational manner is worth discussing, and I'm glad that Newt Gingrich brought up the subject.  I would like to caveat all discussions with my belief that securing the border is the down payment necessary by the Congress and the President to allow any other discussion to occur.  Depending on whom you believe, the number of border crossers may have already significantly decreased.  From the LA Times.
Arrests of illegal crossers along the Southwest border dropped more than two-thirds from 2000 to 2010, from 1.6 million to 448,000.
The article goes on to describe bored border patrol agents falling asleep on the job because there's "no action." The hyperbole leads me to believe that the article might be propaganda, and fellow tea partyers have anecdotal evidence that the border is not so secure. It seems likely that the increase in border patrol agents and the fewer border crossers are verifiable, but even at 448,000 apprehensions, and who knows how many get away, we can't really say the border is secure. Thomas Sowell takes exception to Newt Gingrich's ideas, and doesn't so much rebut them as make the case for securing the border. His key points.
When you import people, you import cultures, including cultures that have been far less successful in providing decent lives and decent livelihoods. The American people have a right to decide for themselves whether they want unlimited imports of cultures from other countries.
. . .
Moreover, in an age of terrorism, everyone who comes across the border from Mexico is not Mexican. It is the height of irresponsibility to leave that border open and the people who cross it a protected group.
Fair enough, and even true.  But Sowell doesn't really address the issue of what to do with the illegals already in the country, which is what Gingrich was addressing.  
Pushing back against the charge that he supports “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, Newt Gingrich outlined another immigration reform proposal that would have “citizen juries” to decide whether illegal immigrants are fit to be granted legal status—but not citizenship.
On the trail in Florida on Friday, Gingrich explained that he would grant “path to legality” to upstanding illegal immigrants with deep family ties who could prove they could support themselves without federal welfare or other benefit programs.
I like two things about Gingrich's plan.  First, there will be no citizenship for those who have come here illegally.  Second, those here illegally will have to show their ability to support themselves and their families.  Gingrich's full immigration plan is here, like me, he starts with "secure the border."  He has sensible ideas that are worthy of examination by those in the tea party movement.

I'm not sure what those who oppose Gingrich's plan would do with the current illegals.  They need a legal status and deporting 11 million people is frankly impracticable.  Do conservatives really want a government powerful enough to round up 11 million people for deportation?  Do we really want the federal government getting practice at interning that many people?  If not, then we better deal with the situation at hand.  We need these people out of the shadows and paying taxes and drawn into a law abiding culture.  Isn't that a worthwhile conservative or libertarian goal?

Finally, from a political perspective, getting this issue fixed is in the long term interests of the Republican party.  When Hispanics see that we are willing to allow legal immigration, with proper controls, for workers from Latin America, the belief that Republicans are racists will disappear.  Peter Skerry has this to say in yesterday's WSJ.
Liberals may advocate the maximalist position of full citizenship rights for illegals, but they're content with the status quo. They know that keeping illegals in limbo works to the political advantage of liberals and Democrats. Republicans ignore this at their own peril. 
. . .
Whatever the plight of individual illegal immigrants, the problem of 11 million of them constitutes a blemish on the body politic that taints us all—and one that certainly won't be healed by the draconian policies most Republican candidates seem to advocate. Mr. Gingrich's proposal, or something like it, could actually address this genuine dilemma while acknowledging the legitimate anxieties that many Americans have about illegal immigration.

From Gingrich's web site.

1. No “comprehensive” plan can work. President Bush could not pass one during six years with a Republican Congress.  President Obama could not pass one with a Democratic Congress. Immigration reform can be outlined as a complete proposal but has to be passed in a series of steps, with each one understood and passed on its own merits.
2. Under no circumstance can a path to citizenship be created which would allow those who have broken the law to receive precedence over those who patiently waited to become residents and citizens via the legal process. Those who adhered to our immigration law cannot be usurped by those who violated it.
3. We must reconcile the goal of legality with the reality that there are millions of immigrants currently here outside the law, some with a long set of family and community ties, and some with no ties. A system has to be established that establishes legality but no citizenship for those with deep ties, repatriates those with no family or community ties in a dignified way, and quickly sends home those who have committed criminal and other destructive acts.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Internet Takeover at Behest of Big Entertainment

After writing that I would be glad to work with the left in fighting corporate welfare, an email from DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas arrived in my inbox about the effort by big entertainment industry to destroy internet freedom to protect their intellectual property.  I am in favor of protecting copyright and intellectual property, but the so called SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) goes way, way too far in allowing bad acting to shut down web sites.  Sadly, tea party favorite Marco Rubio is a cosponsor.  The idea is too force internet search engines and internet service providers to prevent their customers from reaching sites that promote online piracy.  However, the proposed law makes it far too easy to abuse the system.  Just an accusation, without proof, could trigger the death penalty for a blog or web site.  Obviously, the opportunities for abuse are wide open.  Don't like the politics of your opponent's web site?  Find where they quoted some copyrighted material, even if legal under fair use doctrines, and make a complaint. Voila, they are shut down.

The Economist had this to say about the dangers of this bill.
The loose definition of infringement in SOPA could include sites that unwittingly carry comments linking to pirated material. That would make it too easy to launch spurious claims and too onerous for intermediaries to deal with them, and could discourage entrepreneurs from setting up new sites allowing users to post things (which, in the era of social media, is almost all websites). Large firms can cope with the extra hassle, but the fear of lawsuits could stifle smaller companies and start-ups.
A second big drawback is that SOPA obliges ISPs to put filters in place to prevent their customers reaching pirate websites easily. That risks damaging the internet’s vital internal addressing system, which lets people use words instead of numbers to access websites. It also clashes with DNSSEC (don’t ask), a protocol that America has long championed to increase internet security. Messing with DNSSEC could create loopholes for hackers by allowing rogue websites to pose as legitimate ones.
The email from DailyKos said this.
In short, this proposed law would allow corporate copyright holders the ability to cut off funding and compel the government to shut down websites they deem infringing, without the need of a court order
 And Neil Stevens, at the Daily Caller, opposes the bill as well, saying this:
This portion of the bill has little to do with protecting American interests abroad or with punishing lawbreakers. Instead, this portion of SOPA regulates the Internet at home. It is a framework for domestic censorship only tangentially related to intellectual property rights.
Giving government the power to censor the internet seems like a bad idea, to me.  Its bad enough that Google sees fit to use software to shut down blogs in a seemingly random manner.  You can bet that the government won't do so randomly. 

Recommend that you contact your Congresscritter to oppose this legislation.

Note: Since you did ask, DNSSEC stands for Domain Name System Security Extensions, a protocol designed to protect the integrity of the routing of internet traffic against attacks against the servers that translate and authenticate packet routing requests.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Housing Prices Continue to Decline

As predicted here and here, housing prices continue to fall, because the administration has not allowed this bubble to burst and housing is still overvalued when compared to rental values. Zero hedge has the news.

I need to find the update to this chart, which shows that the correction isn't quite complete.

2012 Presidential Election: Electoral Map

2012 Presidential Election: Electoral Map: This map displays my guess of the final make up of the 2012 Presidential election. It's a fun little game to play. But it shows how difficult a Republican victory might be, when one considers entrenched electoral votes in big deep blue states like New York and California.

H/T Left Coast Rebel.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bracing for Stormy Economic Weather - UPDATE

Update at bottom.

The leader in the most recent issue of the Economist questions Europe's collective will to defend the euro.  The result of failure would be catastrophic, in that august publication's opinion.  I am not so sure, but it would be bad in the short term.  They recommend a number of steps in the unsigned editorial, most notably, printing more euros, although that's not how it is phrased of course.
That is because much looser monetary policy is necessary to stave off recession and deflation in the euro zone. If the ECB is to fulfil its mandate of price stability, it must prevent prices falling. That means cutting short-term rates and embarking on “quantitative easing” (buying government bonds) on a large scale. And since conditions are tightest in the peripheral economies, the ECB will have to buy their bonds disproportionately.
It is an open question whether the euro will survive in its present form, but regardless of the outcome, we can expect turbulence ahead.  Even if the euro is saved by the aforementioned actions, it will set in motion long term inflationary pressures as the euro loses value against the dollar.  This will have a negative impact on U.S. exports, putting more pressure on our tepid recovery.  However, if the euro zone can't be saved, and widespread defaults on government bonds outside of Greece get started, then a real liquidity crisis could trigger a second global recession.  America would not be immune to this outcome either.

Either way, we are going to see real pressure on our own government's deficit situation, as economic headwinds deprive governments at all levels of revenue.  At the same time another recession increases outlays due to unemployment payments and increased use of food stamps, medicaid and other parts of the social safety net. 

The silver lining is that Obama is unlikely to be re-elected in such a climate.  But many Americans and people all over the world are going to suffer.  The root cause of our troubles is clear; all over the western world, politicians have made promises that were going to be impossible to fulfill.  This is the central appeal of Chris Christie; he is the politician who has best articulated this truth.  The end result is that those dependent on the government, whether retired employees, social security recipients, or others, will not have the standard of living they thought.  Governments will not keep their promises, either through bankruptcy, inflation or abrogation, because the collective promises can't be met. This will lead to lowered consumption as the reality of reduced lifetime income sets in and long term re-adjustment in the economy.  We are not going to have a full recovery for a decade, in my humble opinion.  But the tea party movement is correct in focusing on getting the spending under control now, because the sooner we come to grips with the spending problem, the sooner the economy will recover.


Over at Zero Hedge, Phoenix Capital Research has this to say:
Indeed, with Europe’s entire banking system insolvent (even German banks need to be recapitalized to the tune of over $171 billion) the outcome for Europe is only one of two options:
1) Massive debt restructuring.
2) Monetization of everything/ hyperinflation These are the realities facing Europe today (and eventually Japan and the US).
Either way we are talking about the destruction of tens of trillions of Euros in wealth. The issue is which poison the European powers that be choose.
Personally, I believe we are going to see a combination of the two with deflation hitting all EU countries first and then serious inflation or hyperinflation hitting peripheral players and the PIIGS.

Programming Alert

For reasons unknown, brother Dean's blog had disappeared from blogger, Google's blog product, but is now back up. His blog address is

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Outreach to Occupy - A Fool's Errand? UPDATE

I probably should have come to this conclusion before, but yesterday's tomfoolery at WalMart is really the last straw for any thoughts that the tea party could make common cause with #ows.  From Free Republic via Gateway Pundit.
Meanwhile, the San Diego occupiers stormed into a Wal-Mart, filled 75 carts with merchandise, disrupted shoppers by chanting their nonsense for several minutes at the cash registers, then fled the store leaving behind 75 full carts for the employees to put away.
The occupiers have been compared by the President to the tea party, but there is really no comparison.  Some friends pointed out that the fundamental difference accrues to respect for every individual and their rights that forms the basis of tea party principle, but is absent from the occupy movement.  In this occupy action against Walmart, no such respect is present.
  • The occupiers presume to speak for the employees, as if they can't speak for themselves.  I know that Walmart employees can't speak out at work, but they have other avenues of protest available.
  • By leaving the shopping carts filled with junk, they just create more work for those same employees, with whom they profess solidarity.
  • They presume to inconvenience the shoppers at the store, infringing their opportunity to shop.
  • They try to make the point that corporations aren't people, so they feel free to trespass on Walmart property.  But Walmart's stockholders are real people who own stock in the company, and as owners, they have rights too.
Besides the lack of respect for individuals, this stunt is just childish.  Chanting slogans and interfering with the workings of a business and leaving a mess?  Certainly you can do better.

That said, I will continue to make common cause with those on the left who want to oppose corporate welfare and crony capitalism, nationally or locally.  The purchase of the Union-Tribune by Doug Manchester, with the selection of John Lynch as new President and CEO, brought to light a case in point.  As has been reported here and here, the U-T will now shill for a new Charger stadium, presumably with taxpayer funding.  I will certainly make common cause with the left of center VOSD  for example, to prevent a taxpayer fleecing in support of the big business known, currently, as the San Diego Chargers.  But as for the occupiers themselves, their movement seems to have gone off the rails.


 SarahB at Lipstick Underground offers an assessment of the disrespect shown to the mothers shopping at Walmart.
And, as a mother, what horrifies me most, is how they boxed in families during the stunt. One mother with a stroller, a small boy and a baby in her arms, has no where to go. If that was me, I would have been angry and terrified. One wrong move by anyone in that crowd and things would have turned dangerous in a flash.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 - Beers With Demo re-post

Beers With Demo re-post. As an experiment while Dean's blog is down, I am re-posting his Thanksgiving day post from Google reader. Here is Dean's post from November 24.


Consider it done. Thanksgiving has surpassed our former favorite holiday, Christmas. No gifts, no lame office parties, no tacky sweaters.

Just food, football, family and friends... Box that superfecta in any order you prefer.

We hope everyone is enjoying a safe and blessed Thanksgiving with their loved ones today.

We'll see you all tomorrow.

Programming Alert - Beers With Demo "Off the Air"

Brother Dean's blog is back up.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers; and to for my readers in other countries, I hope you find in America a country that the world should be thankful for.

A few things that I am thankful for personally.
  • That God, through Jesus, asked me to follow Him, and it changed my life and its trajectory.
  • For a wife who loves me fiercely and keeps my attention.
  • For two sons with whom I am closer than I ever thought possible.
  • For my parents who loved me and held me to high expectations.
  • For my brothers, sister and my in-laws, that I have the love of so many.
  • That I live in a country blessed by freedom.
  • That I have meaningful work. That my federal job is not at risk every election.
  • That I have met fellow patriots who are now my friends.
  • That I have the opportunity to make a difference in this world, and leave my little part of it better than I found it.

Happy Thanksgiving, may God bless your day. Now we are off to put together the traditional celebration spread, so I hope to write something relevant and worthwhile tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

No Wonder People Hate Big Pharma

Eli Lilly is shilling for Medicare Part D, the better to receive government dollars in the form of medicare reimbursements. Their scare campaign is shameless hucksterism and favor-currying with a corrupt Democrat White House and members of Congress. This is the evil of too much government; your tax dollars go to government programs that fuel profits that get recycled into expanding these same programs to take more of your tax dollars. Boycott Eli Lilly. They can have their freedom of speech, I can avoid their products.

Patriot Act Debate - Gingrich vs Paul

Well this is unfortunate. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich debate the Patriot Act in tonight's debate. I agree with Paul's position, but Gingrich gets the best of him, in my opinion. The use of Timothy McVeigh undermines Paul's argument, but the Patriot Act would not have prevented the Oklahoma City bombing. If we are serious about the War on Terror, we will pay for the judicial oversight to issue warrants and supervise the executive branch's prosecution. This doesn't have to be an either/or proposition. My objection to the Patriot Act is the unsupervised powers given to the executive branch. Some of the powers granted were already available, they just required warrants, so the Act seemed like a sneaky way to expand government power.

Occupy the Mall?

The Drudge Report alerted me to the latest "occupy" plan, to Occupy Black Friday. I cruised over to their Facebook page to find this unhelpful rant:
This Black Friday, we will boycott all of the corporations that corrupt our government, and put profits before people.

Any holiday shopping we do this day will be at independent shops to support local economies and the 99% as a whole!
How do I figure this out? I guess I'm supposed to look up which of my shopping destinations are publicly traded corporations. Guess I'll have to buy that copy of today's Wall Street Journal after all.

So who do I notice has "liked" their Facebook page? Usual suspects, Al Jazeera English, and Noam Chomsky, Bernie Sanders, . For real? This is mainstream? Obama wants to hook up with such a movement? At a time when his only real chance of re-election is a miracle in the economy, he's down with interfering with shopping? Not that it will make much difference. My money is on the following outcome, 99% of the stores in America don't even notice the campaign, while the media focuses on and glorifies some minor impact at the 1% of stores who get a few protesters.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Super Difficult Draconian Security-Threatening Cuts to Start. . . in 2013

Well, no wonder they failed. In political terms, 2013 is a lifetime away. Obama will probably not be President by then. There is no immediate impact other than to credit ratings. It gives the new President and a new Congress time to deal with the problem. It even gives the current President and Congress time to deal with the problem. If pork barrel spending in their districts was going to end next month, maybe some compromise would have been reached. For all of the press and attention given to the so called Supercommittee, the actual immediate impact will be nil.

Billy House of The National Journal got the important fact correct.
But the nation’s debt crisis will continue – with the deficit now at about $15 trillion. It also is likely no coincidence that the committee waited until the financial markets closed for the day to make the announcement. The Dow Jones industrial average had already tumbled by more than 300 points earlier in the day partly in anticipation of the acknowledgement of failure.
In case you thought that the Supercommittee meeting its goal would be a significant victory for deficit reduction, consider this.

By law, 18 percent of the automatic savings are assumed to come from interest costs the government would save from reducing the debt. If the Super Committee fails completely, out of the $1.2 trillion in automatic savings, $216 billion would be assumed interest savings.

That would leave $984 billion in automatic spending cuts over 10 years. That works out to around $55 billion annually each from defense and domestic programs though a CBO analysis shows that comes out to 10 percent of the Pentagon budget in 2013 alone, a huge hit.
$55 billion annually? Really? The national debt is increasing at a pace of close to $2 trillion per year, with an official budget deficit of $1.5 trillion per year. (I never figured out that discrepancy, the official deficit is always less than the annual increase in debt, go figure.) To put this into household terms, its as if you were borrowing close to $200,000 against your house, year after year, and an adviser came up with bold plan to reduce your expenditures by $5,500 $11,000* per year. Not even a really credible first step. What a game politicians, with the connivance of the press, are playing on us all.

Only serious decreases in spending and increased revenue from a recovering economy are going to fix this. So every job killing, economy destroying decision by this administration starting with Obmacare, the Boeing plant in SC, ending most recently with killing the Keystone XL pipeline, has hurtled the country towards increased and unsustainable debt.

The Democrats were their usual retarded selves in this deal, but I thought the Republicans could have smarter about offering some revenue increases that would accrue to eliminating loopholes/deductions as a step towards comprehensive tax reform, earlier in the process. It appears that Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) offered such a plan at the last minute, but it didn't raise enough revenue to satisfy the Democrats.

Toomey’s plan would raise $300 billion in new tax revenues while overhauling the federal tax code. Republican officials say it would drop the top tax rate on personal income to 28 percent from the current 35 percent. It would reduce or eliminate some well-known itemized deductions and reduce the corporate tax rate.
If Republicans had offered the plan earlier, and got agreement to score it with dynamic, not static analysis, it would raise far more revenue than the $300 billion advertised, and we might have been much closer to a deal. The Republicans are right to keep trying to push down marginal rates, but they should be coupled to eliminating deductions to move towards more of a flat tax, because this will also be a reform that reduces corporate influence on Capitol Hill.

Just in case there was any doubt about my discussion on the fact that spending and revenue are both problems, but spending is more of the problem, I offer this chart from the Heritage Foundation.

*Post publication correction. I failed to account for the fact that there are two categories of spending reduction, so the total per year needed to be doubled. However, $11K per year against a household deficit of $200K per year is still pathetic.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tea Party Health Care Reform

Calivancouver, a liberal commenter on this blog, has published his own health care plan, based on the idea that Obamacare was pretty much a sop to various special interests that included lobbyist insertion of provisions favoring industry. The end result was an unintelligible hash that undermines its own goals. I am paraphrasing here, so he can correct me in the comments. Suffice to say that liberals weren't terribly pleased with PPACA.

People are starting to think again about health care insurance reform because there is a good chance that the individual mandate will be struck down and found non-severable. I think we have the opportunity to propose reform that is truly market based, both on the insurance side of the equation and on the medical delivery side of the equation. My point of departure is the "Freedom Coalition Agenda," that I periodically update (which predates my tea party involvement). However, the debate over Obamacare has brought more detail into focus. Here is the plan that John Mackey of Whole Foods proposed, my comments in italics.

  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.
To expand on these points.

  1. The government could help lead this effort by reforming first Medicaid, by turning it into an insurance subsidy program for the poor. But the program would require those in the program to pay a high copay until a low catastrophic cap was reached. Such a system would create a market for a system where people have more incentive to shop for best value in medical care. This system could then be applied to Medicare.

  2. The next big issue is that health care is tied to employment. My first impulse is to forbid the offering of insurance through employment, but that would make a conservative social engineer, instead of a liberal one. Removing the tax advantage would at least set a level playing field. To date, the portion of employee compensation that comes in the form of employer health insurance isn't taxed as compensation. This ties employees to their companies and needlessly. You would think that liberals would be opposed to a scheme where tax policy gives corporations leverage over employees. However, I dislike schemes whereby the government imposes on employee relations, so I will settle for leveling the playing field.

  3. Interstate competition is not the norm in insurance. Surely the federal government has the right to "regulate" as in "make regular" this portion of interstate commerce, by insuring that any insurance offered for sale in a state would be available in the fifty states. Increasing competition will probably be opposed by the insurance industry, but freer markets benefit consumers.

  4. One size never fits all. So mandating coverage should be banned. Insurance is always tricky business, even homeowner's insurance, as Road Dawg can attest to. Along with no mandates will be the need to enforce clear language in policies and communications with policy holders. I am a libertarian, but not so naive as to believe that some insurance companies won't try to wriggle out of agreements to save money. Court is expensive for individual consumers, so regulation that enforces good practices of transparency and clarity will be necessary. But regulation should always aim for simplicity and this also needs to be part of a reform package.

  5. With regards to tort reform, we have seen positive results in Texas, where access to care increased after passage of reform.

  6. Cost transparency is important to enable process improvement and allow patient choice. Most people don't know the true cost of a medical visit, even after the visit is over. Here again, Medicaid reform could lead the way, by insisting that patients receive better notice and understanding of their bill.

  7. Medicare policies with regards to reimbursement are arcane and lead to huge misunderstandings on what is covered and unexpected bills. Transforming Medicare to save it for those who truly need it, into an insurance subsidy scheme, will get the government out of the rule writing business and free up insurance plans to compete.

  8. Allowing Americans to donate to those who need health care insurance might make little difference, but maybe not. I see lots of do-gooder millionaires wanting to pay more taxes. Maybe they could pay for poor people's insurance in the interim.

Some issues that are not really settled, but requiring discussion. The popular reasons for the health care law could be boiled down to two issues. First, there are many uninsured Americans. Second, many people with pre-existing conditions can't get health insurance. Dissatisfaction with one's own insurance was not an issue. My proposal:

  1. The uninsured. It turns out that this group is not as big of a problem as one might think. The widely quoted number of uninsured of 46 million people vastly overstates the problem. Previous posts on the subject here and here. The actual number of poor uninsured citizens is closer to 8 million people. The simplest and least intrusive answer is to provide them a subsidy to buy health insurance. Further, this should be done at the state level. Even if done at the federal level it is a far better answer than the bill passed.

  2. Pre-existing conditions. The best answer is to guarantee health care portability, in the same manner that we guarantee phone number portability when we change carriers. This would eliminate the tying employees with difficult health problems to their jobs. Ditto for their dependents. As we move to a system in which individuals pay for their own insurance, because it is not tied to their job, then this problem becomes moot. Children who are on their parents plans should be given the opportunity to convert that plan to their own personal plan as well. This would solve most but not all of the issues with pre-existing conditions. There are already programs such as SSDI to cover those with incapacitating disabilities, although that system also needs reform.

There are a few ancillary issues to deal with. First, Calivancouver likes emergency rooms, as an example, not as a place to visit. We do not refuse treatment at emergency rooms, but not everyone pays, driving up the price for the rest of us. If the reforms I suggest work out, only those with enough money to afford insurance but who don't carry it would become a problem, along with illegal aliens. For those who can pay, we might modify financial regulation to make sure that hospitals have the ability to collect from those who chose not to carry insurance, including head of the line in bankruptcy proceedings. Illegal aliens will have to be the subject of another discussion, as I have previously discussed the need for a comprehensive plan that includes enforcing the border.

The other issue is end of life care. This is where insurance transparency becomes paramount. People are going to have to make tough trade offs between paying higher fees that will cover expensive life extending treatments and thinking through what they leave to their heirs. This is a tough subject, but there is no free lunch. Someone is going to pay for expensive end of life care, we must as well budget for it now.

Sorry this ran long, but I think it necessary to put together real solutions that sustain liberty and keep government size to a minimum. The left's solutions usually fail, but often we have not put together our own policies, so we just get the next leftist solution after the last one fails. After Obamacare is rescinded, whether through the courts or elections, getting to work on real health insurance reform will become necessary. Best get thinking about it now.

SDUSD Mess Update

Erica Holloway, blogging at, has an update on the fiscal mess of our local San Diego school district. I posted on November 2 on the same subject. A few quotes from Erica's article:
School district officials and board members say that without a serious, life-saving infusion of state revenue or drastic cuts, such as closing schools, the state could take over the district due to fiscal insolvency, or bankruptcy.
After the utter failure of the school closure plan, Sheila Jackson, schoolboard member, takes full responsibility for the board's failure to put together a reasonable process.
It’s not appropriate for people to come to us and be upset. We didn’t even know what the criteria was, we didn’t even tell the staff which direction we wanted.
Good going there Sheila. In any other kind of electoral situation, she would be a shoo in for recall or at least wouldn't get re-elected. But in an electoral system plagued by general voter apathy towards the schools, the teachers unions are able to hand pick the board. VOSD had this to say about her statement.
But the board was highly involved in setting those criteria. The trustees had discussed and voted on the criteria at least three times in the previous two years

Last July, Jackson and her colleagues voted unanimously to approve a 37-page document that precisely lays out the process by which schools would be chosen for closure. The document includes a four-page board policy detailing all the criteria by which schools should be selected.

They also labeled Jackson's statement "huckster propaganda" with a picture of Pinocchio sporting a very long nose.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Business As Usual - FHA Mortgage Limit Raised

What the hell? At a time when we should be getting the federal government out of the housing market, this little gem appears.
President Obama on Friday signed into law a bill that will reinstate higher limits for Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgages in high-cost areas. In expensive housing areas such as Los Angeles and Orange counties, the limit for these FHA-backed loans had dropped to $625,500 from $729,750 on Oct. 1. The change became effective Friday.
Hey occupiers, how do you like that? Loan guarantees for 1%er home loans. How did this excrement make it out of the House? Well, many Republicans must have voted for it, and Democrats provided the margin of victory. Nice to see bipartisan folly in support of the wealthy. In fact only 101 Republicans voted against it out of 242. This comes at a time when we already know that the FHA is going to need more tax dollars to prop up its loan portfolio. From Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) Chair of the subcommittee on GSEs:
". . .an independent audit of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) revealed that the housing agency’s cash reserves are down 45% from last year and the “chance that future net losses on the current, outstanding portfolio could exceed current capital resources is close to 50 percent,” which could necessitate a taxpayer bailout next year."
Garrett issued this statement in response to the bill.
“This is what happens when the federal government meddles in economic affairs best left to the private market. Because the federal government has played an outsized role in our country’s housing system, the American taxpayers are now at risk of another costly bailout that will put future generations even deeper into debt. Today’s report shows that FHA is overleveraged at a shockingly high rate of 400 to 1, making Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, the poster children of the 2008 financial collapse, look like financially solvent institutions. The FHA audit proves once again that, if left unchanged, the reckless policies currently guiding our nation’s housing finance system will threaten the financial solvency of the United States of America."
Amen, brother.

However, I have to admit that this legislation isn't all bad. It is part of a continuing resolution (or CR, as we call it at work) that was also called a minibus bill, as opposed to omnibus. What was good about the minibus? High speed rail is dead. From FireDogLake (please keep the schadenfreude in check.)
The House passed a spending bill today that kills high-speed rail funding for the current fiscal year. The Senate is expected to follow suit, which means California should not expect the billions of dollars in federal aid on which its futuristic plan for bullet trains depends.
We need to alert Dean.

Weekend Music Chill

No back story today, just a style of music I enjoy. My question, does anyone else think that Scott Stapp of Creed sounds like Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lie of the Day

Secretary of Energy Steve Chu on his actions in the Solyndra scandal.
"As the secretary of energy, the final decisions on Solyndra were mine, and I made them with the best interests of the taxpayer in mind," Chu told members of the House Energy and Commerce.

"And I want to be clear. Over the course of Solyndra's loan guarantee, I did not make any decision based on political considerations. My decision to guarantee a loan to Solyndra was based on the analysis of professional -- experienced professionals and on the strength of the information they had available to them at the time."

I look forward to the day when this perjury is proved, as anyone who has followed the story knows the Secretary of Energy is lying.

Quote of the Day

Given the dicey future that Obamacare faces before the Supreme Court, it's interesting to note that it accrues entirely to the fear of calling the mandate a tax and the fact that Democrats miscalculated the constitutional question with arched eyebrows and an "Are you serious?" reply.

Quote of the Day in The American Interest by Walter Russell Mead.

If the Supreme Court decision goes against the individual mandate, the
progressive imagination will be haunted for decades by what historians will
consider one of the great legislative and political blunders of all time.
A rare perfect storm of political forces brought liberals the most power they
have had since 1934 and 1964. If history records that this generation’s
progressive leaders threw that moment of power away by an easily correctable
mistake in legislative draftmanship, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will be forever
remembered as the greatest legislative bunglers in American history.
College students in generations yet unborn will rub their eyes in disbelief when
they get to this part of the story.
. . .
I am less worried about the bitter mockery of future generations, however,
than I am about what is in the rest of the bill. Even if the Court upholds
it, it is clear that sheer arrogance and legislative incompetence led the
architects of this massive reform to endanger their own handiwork by clumsy

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Free Markets and Health Care

In the debate over health insurance solutions, there seems to be a belief on the left that healthcare is somehow fundamentally different from other goods and services that we might purchase. Calivancouver had this to say in response to my suggestion that prices are dropping and quality rising for cosmetic surgery and vision correction.
Might I point out that those are not government-provided, nor should they be, because they are elective. You can shop around for boobjobs and lasik surgery, plan them in advance, and weight the costs and benefits like any other good.

You don't shop around for emergency surgery. You might not even be conscious.
WC points out that the insurance you purchase before the emergency room visit would be better off under free market conditions. But I would go further. All sorts of medical procedures are expensive but not unaffordably so and aren't performed under emergency conditions. In my own personal experience, I have had physical therapy and a steroid injection for neck pain that were definitely non-emergencies. If I was paying out of pocket, I would have had a wider choice of providers and would have shopped around on both price and quality. Why wouldn't free market pressure for those medical services produce improvements as well.

Frankly, I was appalled by the massive bureaucracy associated with the injection, for which I did not receive anesthesia. I literally came into contact with a dozen people besides the doctor who performed the procedure. It seemed that at least two of them were solely concerned with insurance and payment issues and another three were all about legal release forms and triple checking what I disclosed in terms of medical history, presumably so that the doctor wouldn't get sued.

Post of the Week

DooDooEcon goes behind the scenes at OccupySD and finds some surprises. One thing that doesn't surprise is that the media has not accurately portrayed the occupiers. A few quotes.

Several occupiers were dismissive of Councilman DeMaio as a political opponent. Upon hearing these sentiments I mentioned some of the reasons he is supported by both fiscal conservatives and more libertarian Tea Party members. The change in attitude in the occupiers toward Councilman DeMaio was abrupt and surprising.
. . .
One item that struck me was the claim that many occupiers are fiscal conservatives. First, it was good to see that they are educated enough to understand the term fiscal conservative. It was an appeal to common ground which is as dangerous a political position for the Tea Party as it is for the Democrat Party.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tough Times for the tea party

We should admit that the present political situation is a difficult one for the tea party movement. Achievement of some measure of power does that to any popular movement. We are now in a difficult situation where mere protest and indignation against the train of abuses is an insufficient rallying cry to our cause. We expected to propose real solutions, since we are perceived as having some power in the seat of government and, inevitably, concrete solutions will have elements that are objectionable to some constituencies. This also saps popularity.

Some additional elements have made our situation even more difficult. First, the occupy movement, despite its problems, has captured significant attention. It has focused on some of our issues, like crony capitalism, but overall has had such a diffuse focus that a discussion of actual issues has been avoided. Its narrative is filled with stories of the suffering of art history majors who are only qualified to wait tables, but have huge student loans.

Second, despite our fondest hopes, no natural Presidential candidate has emerged who embodies tea party hopes. We seem to be waiting for Reagan's heir, and so far she has not emerged. It would be good to remember that Reagan's first brush with fame came in 1964 with his nominating speech for Barry Goldwater, followed by two terms as governor of California, where he did some liberal things, a failed bid for the Presidency in 1976 before becoming President. We are reduced to arguing which candidate is least objectionable and writing attack pieces about the various Republican potential successors to Barack Obama. (I am guilty as well.)

Third, there are the dangers of the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare*, which I discussed yesterday.

Finally, our insistence on changing the direction of the federal government has made us vulnerable to charges of obstructionism. The super-committee will likely fail and the tea party might get some of the fall out.

My answer to all of this is, tough. To quote some famous Americans whom we hope to emulate:
"These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Who said that reversing a century of effort by progressives was going to be easy or accomplished in two years. Keeping a focus on our principles is the only path to long term success. We know what works. We see the blue states sputtering with high taxes and business exiting. We see quasi-socialist stimulus policies failing to end the recession. We see Obamacare failing to deliver on any of its promises of lower insurance rates, keeping your insurance, or helping the economy.

We will make tactical changes to respond to circumstances. The occupiers have focused the attention of the nation on crony capitalism, to some extent. The tea party should be reminding the whole public that we were protesting the wall street bailouts and corporate welfare from the beginning. This is an example of a tactical shift that stays true to one's principles.

Further, we should be developing a strong bench. Keeping an eye on local races to develop a new generation of office holders who genuinely believe in limited government is important, but not exciting work. Finally, we must continue to change the climate so that even bad men are persuaded to do the right thing, because it is politically profitable.

Reagan wasn't elected to the Presidency until 1980, but he made this speech in 1964. Think about the difference between him and Barack Obama, who made a well received speech at the Democratic convention in 2004 and was then elected in 2008, with little of the experience that Reagan developed. Which man will have the more lasting positive legacy for the nation and his party?

*In yesterday's comments, liberal friend Calivancouver thinks the next round of health care reform will result in single payer. I disagree and liberated my comment here.
Too much to debate why I think single payer will bankrupt those countries who are trying it. Consider this. The best parts of the medical industry from both reports and personal experience are vision correction and cosmetic surgery. There are no waits, prices keep declining, and quality keeps improving. They also have in common that most consumers pay their own way with no insurance or government involvement. The free market is achieving the purported goals of government health care, declining price and increasing quality. Yet we seem loathe to try for more free market solutions with any other part of health care.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Obamacare Before the Court

I am a little nervous about Obamacare being decided by the courts before the election. The individual mandate is unconstitutional, there are some learned lawyers on my side. But I am troubled that this may be decided by the court for a number of reasons.

  1. It might go the wrong way, establishing a horrible precedent for decades. It would expand Congress' power under the interstate commerce clause beyond all recognition. Even breathing could be regulated.
  2. It might go the right way, but energize the Democratic base to push for a changed majority on the Court, giving Obama just enough support to get re-elected.
  3. It might go the right way, but only the individual mandate gets struck down and the Supremes give a pass on the whole severability issue. This would leave a very poorly written law mostly intact with its attendant drag on the economy, but take some of the air out of attempts to repeal.
  4. It takes the issue out of play for the November election. The eventual nominee will be able to hammer the President over the sausage making involved in this legislation.
  5. It takes the issue out of play for the November election. I believe issues of such national importance are best decided by the voters.

There is a possibility that the justices could put off a final ruling until after the election, but that seems unlikely.

Best outcome? From David Kopel.

The Court should re-affirm Gibbons v. Ogden, which followed the original understanding of the interstate commerce clause: “commerce” means mercantile exchange, plus some closely-related subjects, such as navigation. Among the subjects which are not interstate commerce, according to Gibbons, are “health laws of every description.” The Court should then over-rule South-Eastern Underwriters (1944), which broke from long-established precedent, and declared that even purely intrastate insurance was interstate commerce. Because South-Eastern claimed to be following original meaning, the modern Court should simply point out that none of the original sources cited by the South-Eastern opinion remotely support the contention that all forms of insurance are “commerce.”

Finally, Congress should explain that the Necessary and Proper clause underscores the unconstitutionality of the mandate. As McCulloch v. Maryland demonstrated, the original meaning of the clause affirms the Congress may exercise powers which are incidental to an enumerated power. The power to compel a private person to engage in commerce with a private company is not an incident of, or lesser than, the power to regulate voluntary interstate commerce. Further, government-created monopolies were, in the Founding Era, a paradigmatic example of improper government action. Therefore, it is not constitutionally “proper” to force citizens to spend their money on a government-favored Big Insurance oligopoly.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stolen Valor and Free Speech on Obamacare and Abortion

The Supremes have agreed to hear the case of Xavier Alvarez, (right) who introduced himself after election to the Three Valleys Municipal Water District in Claremont, CA with the lie that he had served in the Marine Corps for 25 years and received the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was convicted under the "Stolen Valor Act" and if you think I am going to defend his despicable behavior, you would have guessed wrong. However, the law itself is a vast usurpation of government power, and we should be mindful of the consequences. Do we really want a government so powerful that it can prevent lying?

More importantly, doesn't the first amendment protect lying? That may sound absurd, but let's consider the road we are traveling. If we grant to Congress the power to criminalize lying, who decides? Will there be an Orwellian Ministry of Truth? Ultimately, there are remedies for false speech other than government regulation. In the case of Alvarez, voters could use the recall process to remove him from office. If we allow the government to decide what is truth, it will effectively end free speech as we know it.

Right now there is a case working its way through the courts in Ohio, in which lying in a political campaign has become the subject of government regulation. Steve Driehaus, (left) now a one-term former Congressman from Ohio claimed to be both pro-life and a supporter of Obamacare. The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, ran ads portraying the vote as support for federal funding of abortion. Whether that it is true or not is irrelevant to this discussion but consider that it is at least a matter of opinion.

Until the eve of the House vote on the health-care legislation, Driehaus and about a dozen other antiabortion Democrats vowed to oppose the health care bill unless abortion language was changed. It was not, so the president, trying to provide cover for those Democrats, agreed to issue an executive order purportedly limiting the funding of abortions under the legislation.

But the president of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, contentedly dismissed the order as merely “a symbolic gesture.” The National Right to Life Committee, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other pro-life forces grimly agreed.

In Ohio, SB-9 makes it illegal to knowingly "Make a false statement concerning the voting record of a candidate or public official." Driehaus used the law to complain to the Ohio Elections Commission, after which the the Susan B. Anthony List was unable to put up its billboard ads. Of course the members of the election commission are appointed by sitting politicians, but no conflict of interest there.

After the election, where Driehaus went down to much deserved defeat, he dropped the complaint, but then sued the List for defamation in Federal court. Here is where we are at:
The case was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Black, who ruled on August 1 on procedural grounds (standing, ripeness, 11th amendment, among others) that the List’s lawsuit against the law should be dismissed. Given that the law was therefore still intact, he said the Driehaus defamation lawsuit against the List could proceed, and permitted discovery on whether the List had an animus against Driehaus.

The List has now asked the 11th circuit to reverse the U.S. District Court’s decision that said the List’s lawsuit against the Ohio law should be dismissed. The lawsuit is getting a great deal of publicity, especially on television public affairs programs with hosts who are angry with Driehaus. Driehaus is now working overseas in the Peace Corps. Judge Black has been criticized for not recusing himself, since between 1986 and 1989 he was President and Director of Planned Parenthood Association of Cincinnati. Thanks to Eric Garris for this news.

(Bold added by the editor.) So the List's officers will now be subject to the inconvenience and misery that accrues to discovery, for merely making political speech. Even the ACLU is appalled.
. . .the ACLU of Ohio, in an amicus brief filed last October, came to the group’s defense. The pro-abortion legal group wrote, “The people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, the government should not be the arbiter of true or false speech, and the best answer for bad speech is more speech.”
Exactly. It has been the habit of established and powerful politicians to use every speech regulating law to suppress citizen activist groups. Consider the case in Parker North, CO:
A federal appellate court today [Nov 9, 2010] held that six neighbors in the tiny subdivision of Parker North, Colo., should not have been forced to register with the government and comply with burdensome campaign finance laws simply for opposing a ballot issue involving the annexation of their neighborhood.
Regardless of the argument that unfettered free speech allows corporations undue influence, the real effect is to suppress the less powerful citizen movements. Corporations and the wealthy will always hire the lawyers necessary to get around restrictions, the average citizen ends up in front of truth tribunals.

H/T to George Will.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Iranian Nukes - There Is No Deterrence

I didn't see tonight's GOP Presidential foreign policy debate, but a couple of quotes caught my attention. First, I have to applaud Perry for his position that we should reset foreign aid to zero, and not give any to uncooperative nations. Second, I was disturbed about the zeal of some of the candidates for going to war to prevent Iranian possession of nukes. To be clear, this was discussed as a last resort, but is still a bad idea, regardless. The threat of war is normally considered a deterrent, but, to paraphrase Israel Kasnett, deterrence only works when one's opponents have rational self-interest. However, Iranians leaders desire war with the west as a way to hasten the return of the 12th Madi.
The basic tenet of deterrence is built on a foundation of rational decision making by both sides – a capacity which Iran lacks.
So what is to be done? I think a policy of deliberate de-escalation on the part of the United States, coupled with a publicity campaign that makes it clear to the Iranian people that their leaders are endangering the safety of their people. Ultimately, we are going to have to play a subtle game, because public breast beating and escalation of tensions plays into Iranian desires. Newt, who thinks himself very clever, has apparently not thought this through. My opinion is that the Iranians are counting on the Israelis being the ones who will take action. However, the Saudis are probably the nation most threatened by Iranian nuclear ambitions. This is because the Saudis control Muslim's holiest cities and are the chief expositors of Sunni theology, which relegates the Shiite Persians to second class status. As this threat becomes more real the potential to pick up allies in the Middle East increases. However, early unilateral action allows the Saudis and others to sit on their hands and blame us for being Islamophobic.

If the Iranians only have a few nukes initially, they aren't going to target a nation with BMD defenses and potentially wasted their one invaluable resource, getting all of the downside associated with a strike, but none of the upside.

Let's be clear, the Iranians may end up launching a nuke, where it might land and whether it would detonate are open questions. As regrettable as that might be, we may have to wait and use that opportunity to reshape the world. I don't think the Iranian people are going to be too happy with a regime that puts them at risk.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gibson Guitars and Out of Control Government

This story is a little old, but deserves to be kept alive because it is so illustrative of the sweeping overreach and potential for tyranny as we allow the federal government to become involved in every aspect of our lives.

On August 24th, Federal SWAT teams working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided Gibson guitar plants, looking for illegally imported wood from India. Supposedly, Gibson was damaging the environment by importing wood that is environmentally protected. But is that really the case? The federal government has yet to return an indictment, so here is what Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of Gibson, said about the behavior of the federal government.

The recent raid of Gibson, however, did not come about because the wood was illegally harvested. Rather, the U.S. government alleges that the wood was imported in violation of an Indian export restriction designed to keep wood finishing work in India. To make matters worse, although the Indian government certified that the wood was properly and legally exported under this law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service substituted its own opinion and reinterpreted Indian law. Its analysis suggested that if Gibson would just finish its fingerboards using Indian labor rather than Tennessee craftsman, there would be no issue.

Let me get this straight, this wood would have been harvested no matter what; the Indian government certified it for export and the only beef is that Obama and Holder want Indian workers to finish the wood, not Americans? Well, Obama sure is consistent on his desire to destroy American jobs. I'm thinking about Keystone XL pipeline and Boeing plant.

Think that this is just a problem for a big manufacturer? Thinking about traveling with a musical instrument? This could happen to you.
Recent revisions to 1900's Lacey Act require that anyone crossing the U.S. border declare every bit of flora or fauna being brought into the country. One is under "strict liability" to fill out the paperwork—and without any mistakes.

It's not enough to know that the body of your old guitar is made of spruce and maple: What's the bridge made of? If it's ebony, do you have the paperwork to show when and where that wood was harvested and when and where it was made into a bridge? Is the nut holding the strings at the guitar's headstock bone, or could it be ivory? "Even if you have no knowledge—despite Herculean efforts to obtain it—that some piece of your guitar, no matter how small, was obtained illegally, you lose your guitar forever," Prof. Thomas has written. "Oh, and you'll be fined $250 for that false (or missing) information in your Lacey Act Import Declaration.

This is the result of an out of control government that seeks to criminalize everything under the sun. For example, a father and son who were arrested and threatened with felony charges because they dug up Indian arrowheads. The Right Thinking blog has a more full exposition.

A nice side benefit of cutting the size of government will be to reduce tyranny such as this.

Weekend Music Chill - Veteran's Weekend Edition

Welcome to Veteran's Day 11/11/11. Since I am a veteran, I thought I would play some tunes that reminded me of my time in the military.

First up is the unofficial theme song of the second submarine on which I served. We wanted to make this our "breakaway song" but the skipper wasn't down with that. A breakaway on a sub meant something a little different than the article at the link would suggest.

When we were "on station" a significant part of one's life was consumed by post-watch reconstruction. This was often a tedious effort that occasionally yielded some surprises that were occasionally embarrassing. To keep myself serene during this work, I really liked to listen to Sting, especially this tune:

Finally the worst first impression I ever made was discussing my visit to the Equestrian, Bovine Sanctuary and Memorial Ballroom the previous evening with my new Commanding Officer, on my first day reporting aboard, where I had participated in a sing along of this classic country ballad.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Obama Sides with Enviro Extremists over Jobs

Wait, that's dog bites man stuff. H/T W.C. Varones. The State Department has put off approval of a pipeline from the "tar sands" of Canada to the United States until 2013, despite the pressure it would put on Mideast dictators. Of course the decision was portrayed as a result of the administration's purported concern over the Sand Hills environment, but we know this is about global warming. Obama is just too big of a pusillanimous vacillator to say so. From a previous discussion on the real reason this is being opposed:

Opposition to the Keystone pipeline, designed to bring so called "tar sands" oil from Canada to the United States is usually couched in language about the potential impact to water supplies and the like. However, famous global warmist James Hansen, also director of the Goddard Space Flight Center, explicitly links opposition to the pipeline to preventing global warming.
Phase out of emissions from coal is itself an enormous challenge. However, if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over. There is no practical way to capture the CO2 emitted while burning oil, which is used principally in vehicles.
Note that this is a tacit admission that there is plenty of oil in the ground, by a leading warmist. It is interesting to note that the enviros try to have it both ways, arguing simultaneously that our dependency on oil will come a cropper as we run out of oil, and also saying that if we keep burning oil we will wreck the environment. If we were really running out, then they wouldn't have to worry, would they?
Meanwhile, no mention of the whole AGW thing in the presser associated with the another job killing Obama administration decision.

The Weakness of the Occupy Protest Model

Temple of Mut has the details here, but suffice to say that living in unhygienic conditions is well, unhygienic. I have felt all along that the whole sleep-over motif of the movement was self-defeating, because the tent cities lent themselves to criminality and filth. Tea party protests have been famously well ordered and litter free which enhanced the credibility of the protesters. I might have been more impressed by the occupy movement if they were able to come back day after day, but leave their environment in, well, a green condition.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What if its Mittens? Part II

I missed tonight's debate but saw a Youtube video, promoted by Drudge, of Perry fumbling around with figuring out the third agency of government he would shut down, and taking a full and embarrassing 53 seconds to do so. Additionally, I think the steady drumbeat of harassment allegations are going to eventually take down Herman Cain. That doesn't mean the accusations are true or fair, this is just my frank assessment, as his campaign isn't handling them well, falsely tying one accuser to Politico, for example.

Which leaves us Mittens, and whoever the next not-Mittens is. Mittens is up again on intrade to over 70% Funny thing about the whole not-the-front-runner thing, is that he usually loses. I am old enough to remember ABC, "Anybody But Carter" in the 1976 Democrat primaries, and "Anybody but Clinton" in the 1992 primaries. Mitt Romney is clearly not the right man we would want as the Republican nominee. Which brings me to this Milton Friedman quote.

“I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.” (I believe this quote is slightly different than what Milton Friedman says on youtube above.)
What Friedman says about Congress is true for the Presidency as well. It is time to crank up the tea party energy again and re-establish the political climate that allowed such a sea change in 2010. Clear focus that every embarrassing example of crony capitalism and corporate welfare will be exposed and ridiculed and every effort to increase the size of the government will be unalterably opposed are the necessary ingredients to making an historic change in this next election cycle. At a time when government's ties to corporate cronyism are anathema to vast majorities, tying Obama to Solyndra and Wall Street seems like the clear path to victory.

I also heard on the news that the audience in today's debates gave a hearty boo to Maria Bartiromo when she asked about alleged sexual harassment and cheered when the debate returned to economic issues. I think that was a healthy expression of priorities. (BTW, I was not one of those Republicans who thought Clinton should be impeached, so I don't want to be hit up for hypocrisy here.) Time to change the terms of the debate, maybe even the venue.

Today's intrade graph for Romney to win the nomination:

This is an update to "What if its Mittens?"

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Follow Up on Susan Davis' Town Hall

Last Thursday I live-blogged a telephone town hall with Congresswoman Susan Davis. I never got a response about my question, so today I emailed her the following:

Congresswoman Davis,
In last Thursday's telephone town hall, you heard complaints about college loan repayment problems. But when is Congress going to do something about the tuition gouging at colleges. Every time the government increases aid to students, the colleges raise tuition, at three time the rate of inflation. Why aren't you supporting controlling tuition if a student receives federal aid?
Regards, B
We'll see what she says. I am of course not being serious, just attempting to provoke some cognitive dissonance. A fool's errand, no doubt.

Obama's Christmas Tree Tax - Hilarity from The Onion UPDATE

UPDATE below.

In today's news:

In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board. The purpose of the Board is to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry” (7 CFR 1214.46(n)).
Those guys at The Onion, always lampooning the government, what a bunch of chuckleheads. But wait, is it really The Onion. An internet search of federal government websites reveals this announcement (excerpted here):

The proponent, the Christmas Tree Checkoff Task Force is an industry wide group of producers and importers that support this proposed program. They have conducted meetings throughout the United States with several State and multi-State Christmas tree organizations. The proposed program is not intended to duplicate any State program. The proponents have determined that they need a mechanism that would be sustainable over time. A national Christmas tree research and promotion program would accomplish this goal.
. . .
This rule establishes an industry-funded promotion, research, and information program for fresh cut Christmas trees. The Christmas Tree Promotion, Research, and Information Order (Order), was submitted to the Department of Agriculture (Department) by the Christmas Tree Checkoff Task Force (Task Force), an industry wide group of producers and importers that support this program. Under the Order, producers and importers of fresh cut Christmas trees will pay an initial assessment of $0.15 cents per tree, which would be paid to the Christmas Tree Promotion Board (Board). This Board will be responsible for administration and operation of the Order. Producers and importers that produce or import less than 500 Christmas trees annually will be exempt from the assessment. The program is authorized under the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 (1996 Act).
. . .
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patricia A. Petrella, Marketing Specialist, Research and Promotion Division, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 1406, Stop 0244, Washington, DC 20250-0244; telephone: (301) 334-2891; or facsimile: (301) 334-2896; or email:

Yes, I urge you to contact the Marketing Specialist. Your government is on the job, promoting Christmas trees. And dang, if crony capitalism isn't alive at the very lowest levels of government. The very innocuousness of the program belies its evil. One group of producers gets to tax other members of the industry to put together an ad campaign for their product. It is unbelievable that we tolerate this in our government. And as you can see by the relatively small beer program, this kind of thing permeates state and federal government. Not to pick on Patricia Petrella, but why in the world do our tax dollars pay for a marketing professional that the Christmas tree industry could fund themselves? And really, why do Christmas trees need marketing anyway?


Apparently, someone in the administration got a clue as to what a public relations disaster this was and is going to delay implementation. Delay implementation? That's a relief. The real issue is why does the federal government believe it is constitutionally enabled to perform this function anyway? The administration likened it to the 'Got Milk?' campaign, but that's outside the legitimate bounds of government action as well.

I am sick to death of apologies for corporate welfare and crony capitalism. This crap costs the taxpayers, because employees of the federal government are paid to administer the programs and the public pays higher costs for milk and Christmas trees for the ad campaigns. In the comments, I was taken to task for the headline, the commenter thought that Obama should be held blameless because an industry group requested the fee. By that measure, we should hold Washington blameless for spending taxpayer money on bailing out GM, banks, etc, since industry requested the bailouts. Without unchecked government power, taxpayers are going to continue to pay for benefits that flow to corporations. This must end. That's my tea party stance. Waiting for the occupiers to make this their major focus.