Saturday, August 31, 2013

Weekend Round Up

President To Ask Congress for Authorization for Syria Strike

I am not going to rehash this news.  My take is that Obama doesn't really to want strike Syria, especially without help from the Brits.  There is little upside and all downside for him.  This is classic Obama.  Just as he put the work of passing the ACA on Reid and Pelosi, minimizing his own downside; he can blame the failure to punish Syria for chemical weapons use if the Congress votes against the authorization.  Tough problem solved.  No wonder he immediately went golfing after the announcement.  

Syria: Problem solved. Time to work on my swing.

DeMaio, Faulconer Are the Favorites on the Right for San Diego Mayor

Or so says sdrostra blogger and political analyst Steve Gramm.  His analysis is that DeMaio will receive less support from traditional Republican groups if he backs out of the 52nd Congressional race to run for mayor.  Faulconer could potentially run in the 52nd according to the one of the commenters.  Personally, I hope that DeMaio continues his run for Congress, he already has that campaign momentum going.  In a crowded field on the left, which includes Fletcher and Mike Aguirre, Faulconer would certainly make the run off, if he were the only well-known Republican.  DeMaio is reportedly going to decide and announce what he will do on Tuesday.  Look for a Faulconer announcement shortly after if DeMaio stays in the Congressional race.  I have already endorsed Faulconer, in part because I have liked him as my council member and because I want DeMaio to take back the CA-52 for Republicans. 

Affordable Care Act Heavily Subsidizes the Elderly at the Expense of the Young

But you already knew that.  However, the WSJ performed a public service by closely analyzing the effects of the law on residents of Toledo and concluded that the nature of the law is to so subsidize the elderly, that it will cause them to sign up for coverage disproportionately.  This isn't really news, except for the detailed and fairly irrefutable analysis of the situation.  Meanwhile, your friendly neighborhood federal propagandists are referring to the ACA as "Obamacare."  I don't do that, because it was really Reid's and Pelosi's monster, but also, really?  I expect better from a federal agency.

I was asked about the prize mentioned:

Turns out that winning propaganda can be worth up to $30,000 in cash prizes.  Does this strike anyone else as creepy?  If you follow the link to the HHS tweet, conservatives come out in force to lampoon this blatant effort.  If there were any Justice at HHS, this would be the winning video:

That's a wrap on the slow news weekend.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fast Food Follow-Up

Yesterday, I discussed the futility and stupidity of the fast food strike.  Today, I was able to get to three fast food restaurants today and it was a pretty good experience.  At McDonald's this morning, because I go to work so early, there was no wait.  I had the same order-taker as on other mornings on the drive-through.  She seemed unaware of the strike when I asked her about it.

Subway had the usual lunch line and we moved through with the usual alacrity.  That particular restaurant is near a military base that seems to have only lunch trucks, so they do a brisk business.  I saw much of the same staff that I normally see.  One worker said that they didn't have anyone missing.

As expected, dinner at In-N-Out was the best experience (except for the usual long line, pictured above). (No real names used here, either).  I asked my server Vick why he wasn't on strike.  His response made me smile. "On strike? We're never on strike. Why would we go on strike? This is a great company to work for."  Then he double-checked my order before transmitting it to the kitchen from his tablet.  When I went to pay, Mindy also checked my order. Finally, Tom checked my order a third time and I drove away with fries and a cheeseburger the grilled onions that I love.

The U-T is reporting that 100 people showed up to picket in front of the Wendy's downtown.  I assume only a few of those folks were actual workers, based on past reports of how the SEIU rolls.  That means that 7900+ workers, by the U-T's conservative estimate of 8,000 workers, showed up for work today.  I am certain that more than 99% of the workers made their shift today.

Going back to Vick, I have to ask "what is wrong with the unions?"  Vick was a genuinely happy young man.  I was a happy customer and for only $4.16.  In-N-Out was happy that their employees gave good service today. What's not to like?

To those who think fast food has to be fattening, my calories from fast food came to just over 1500 today (I only ate half the fries at In-N-Out).  None of my meals were veggie, either, sorry W.C.  However, I did top up my dinner with some Rogue Dead Guy ale, which added a little to the mix.

What You Should Be Reading

College Insurrection, because there is just so much stupidity on today's campuses, and sometimes they link to me. Define bubble: An industry that has had great inflation than housing, keeps delivering less value and continually upsets the key constituencies that provide it funding.  This would be our universities and colleges.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Update on Syria

Bashar al-Assad has published an editorial that carefully analyzes Obama's options in Syria.  It's sort of a return favor for Obama basically leaking the entire battle plan to him. Just paying it forward, I guess.  Assad's reasoning is clear and unimpeachable.
I’ve looked at your options, and I’m going to be honest here, I feel for you. Not exactly an embarrassment of riches you’ve got to choose from, strategy-wise. I mean, my God, there are just so many variables to consider, so many possible paths to choose, each fraught with incredible peril, and each leading back to the very real, very likely possibility that no matter what you do it’s going to backfire in a big, big way. It’s a good old-fashioned mess, is what this is! And now, you have to make some sort of decision that you can live with.
It's the Onion of course, and it's not really Assad, but that doesn't make it any less true.

McDonald's, Subway then In-n-Out

The title of the article refers to my dining plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner in light of the "fast-food" strike set for tomorrow.  I will be showing solidarity with the workers of those establishments who choose to show up and provide the generally good service we have come to expect in all American businesses.  I predict that I will have no trouble getting my meals, as the "strike" is an astroturf operation of the SEIU.  If the strike by San Diego's roughly 8,000 fast food employees was otherwise, why would the strikers only gather at a single establishment downtown?  For the publicity and the photo op, of course.  I just feel sorry for the jurors who won't be able to hit the Wendy's on their break from duty.  Other than that, this will be a great big fizzle.  To my astroturf point, the AP is reporting:
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which is providing the fast-food strikes with financial support and training. . .

The strike is stupid for other reasons.  If the strikers were successful, then eventually fast food outlets would employ vastly more automation to make their meals, reducing the number of employees.  Further, it would harm the nation's economy by not providing entry level positions that allow young people to learn the life skills necessary for success at work. How is that fast food workers would get paid $15 an hour when my son only gets minimum wage in his union job at the grocer?  McDonald's spokesperson Ofelia Casillas:
"Our history is full of examples of individuals who worked their first job with McDonald's and went on to successful careers both within and outside of McDonald's," 
Exactly. The call for higher wages not supported by skills hurts job creation.  I think employers should fire workers who miss their shift to strike tomorrow, but I could understand wanting to play it low key.  McDonald's is doing so:
Casillas said in an email that McDonald's did not plan to take any action against employees who participate in the strike.
In trying to explain why the strike is needed the SEIU set up this young man:
Diego Rios, 18, who works at a downtown San Diego McDonald's as a crew trainer, said he struggles to make his monthly rent of $1,150 on his $8-an-hour wage. While he's nervous about leaving his job to participate in the strike, he feels strongly about pressing for higher wages.
"We’re on our feet all day long, eight hours a day," said Rios, who does everything from making fries to operating the drive-through window. He's been working at McDonald's for the last year and a half. "It’s very hard work, and for people like me who have families to take care of and bills to pay, $8 an hour is not enough."
A few questions.  What life choices led Diego to be supporting a family at age 18.  Since he apparently lacks the skills to do much else, how is he gong to make a living when he is unemployed because McDonald's could no longer afford him?  What is Diego doing to get some salable skills that will allow him to earn more?

So join me tomorrow at a fast food joint, this could be a boon for the industry, and it will help reduce youth unemployment.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Syria in Context

The context is the ongoing struggle between Shia and Sunni sects of Islam.  YaLibnan reprinted an article from CNN by Geneive Abdo along with this helpful map at right.  In both Iraq and Syria, the violence between Sunnis and Shia continues as borders drawn by French and British colonialists don't correspond to the tribal and sectarian divisions of the region.

Abdo points out that Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi has attempted to rally the Sunni world into defeating the Shia "heretics." On the Sunni side we have the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda.  Hezbollah, Syria and Iran are Shia.  But Syria is not predominantly Shia, and but Bashar al-Assad and his predecessor/father are Allawites leading to the alliance with Iran.  Like the al-Qaeda-in-Iraq targeting of Shiites during the U.S. occupation there, the Syrian conflict is best understood as part of a long term struggle between Sunnis and Shiites.

However, not all Sunnis are united in common cause.  The Saudis see themselves as the center of Islam and view the Muslim Brotherhood as a rival.  Ottoman Turkey was once the center of the Muslim world and modern Turks are viewed with suspicion by Arab Muslims.

With evidence of a chemical attack by Assad's forces, we are being pushed into a dangerous game.  Supporting the opposition could be chemical weaponry into the hands of al-Qaeda if Assad falls.  But our moral authority is lost if we do nothing, especially after Obama's "red line" speech.  Assad apparently thought that he could get away with this.  Here is a quote from Obama:
"We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized," the president said. "That would change my calculus. That would change my equation."
Maybe 350-400 deaths doesn't qualify as "a whole bunch" in Obama's thinking.  Is that the lamest threat ever issued by a Commander-in-Chief?  If we intervene now, and don't overthrow Assad, there will be pressure to do so.  But if we succeed, we will be faced with a different menace that has taken over the chemical weapons cache.  At least Assad only gassed Syrians, al-Qaeda may not be so restrained.

We probably have to do something to hurt Assad, but which allows him to continue in power.  Better yet, let the Saudis broker a deal.  They hate both sides, but don't want problems spilling over into other areas. We might need the Israeli's help too.  Bad timing to have been pissing off your few friends in the region, eh?

Long term, we need to drive down the price of oil so these nut-jobs don't have the cash to buy so much weaponry, chemical and otherwise.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The NSA, the ACA, Filner and the Rule of Law

Bob Filner resigned yesterday under the weight of a sexual harassment scandal.  I say, one cheer for this outcome.  While Filner's sexual harassment conduct violated the law, it is generally not criminal, except for the potential assault charges, and even those would be unlikely to be felonies.  Filner's blatant disregard for the rule of law, including corruption, as chronicled on this blog should have been the more compelling reason for his removal.  From trying to shake down the hoteliers on the tourism district tax to shaking down developers, Filner displayed an arrogance and disregard that should have no place in American politics.  Sadly, these twin defects are plaguing our political system from city hall to the White House and the federal bureaucracy.

The Affordable Care Act is not delivering on its key promises and it is obvious to all but its most partisan defenders.  Dean has documented the numerous ways in which the act has been subverted by the administration itself with barely a nod to legality.  The President believes he can suspend portions of a law that he signed.  There is little outrage nor coverage.  Individuals will be penalized by the IRS soon if they don't buy approved coverage, big businesses, unions, and Congressional aides, not so much.  HHS Secretary Sebelius has described the ACA as "the law of the land," but what do we call a land in which the law is not applied to the ruling class and the favored classes but only to the "masses." Even socialists call that a tyranny.

Meanwhile, the NSA has acknowledged that its agents have violated the surveillance laws, without much consequence for the agency, because of course, the whole thing is secret.  A judge has concluded that the NSA has exceeded its authority and not been forthcoming.
The federal judge authoring the opinion, FISC Judge John Bates, concluded that there is no way to know with certainty how far the government’s intelligence and surveillance capabilities have actually gone. In his 85-page opinion, Bates noted that his court originally approved the NSA's ability to capture a more limited and targeted amount of data.
“In conducting its review and granting those approvals, the Court did not take into account NSA’s acquisition of Internet transactions, which now materially and fundamentally alters the statutory and constitutional analysis,” the judge wrote.
No accountability, spying on Americans and no way of knowing how far it goes.  How does this differ in any way except volume from any other totalitarian regime.

Peggy Noonan has analyzed the issue well, and although she is discussing the NSA in particular, this analysis applies to the lawlessness in government in general.

"All this scares me to death," the man [a former Senator] wrote. "How many times do we have to watch government, with the best of intentions, I am sure (or almost so), do things 'for us'? Now 'security' and 'terrorism' argue for and justify the case for ever more intrusions—all in the name of protecting us. The truly frightening thing is that we are told we have to depend on government to police itself. Not a comforting thought, for we already have far too much evidence of the lack of such self-supervision. These actions, as Nat Hentoff said, will sooner than later curtail free speech. 
"If so, I am fearful that this will ultimately lead a nation of sullen paranoids, ever more dependent upon government, ever more fearful of it. A free society, it will not be."
Leftists in charge of our government can't think of a better goal, it enhances their power to run everyone's lives.  True Liberals should join those of us in the liberty movement in rising up against this tyranny of lawlessness.  I had hoped that Filner's ouster would be seen as a good first step, but the greater point about rule of law appears to be drowned in a sea of sensationalism.

What You Should Be Reading

Friday, August 23, 2013

Filner Resigns - BDaddy Endorses Faulconer.

As you are all undoubtedly aware, Bob Filner has resigned as mayor of San Diego.  I took down the Recall Filner petition link as a result.

On to the fun and games of the next election.  Fletcher has already declared.  Will other Democrats run?  Will the Republicans rally behind a candidate.

I am endorsing Kevin Faulconer right now, because getting an early start on this is important.  If it turns out he is not running, I will look at the field again.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Manning's Just Deserts

I was enjoying some very fine Belgian ales (La Chouffe and Mischief) with some fine young men yesterday evening, so no blogging yesterday.

In today's news, Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in the "wikileaks" case.  I am not especially troubled by this sentence.  Manning's disclosures, while billed as "whistle-blowing" were essentially a random dump of over 700,000 files, most of whose content he had no way of knowing.  This is not whistle blowing, it is a petulant child seeking revenge.  However, he took an oath of office and federal law on the matter is clear.  He is lucky to be given as a light sentence as he received.  Manning will likely not serve the full 35 years.  He has a chance for life outside of prison, especially if he maintains good behavior.  (Photo from linked NYTimes article.)

There is a place for leaking classified material in order to uncover wrong doing by the government.  Edward Snowden's actions are more in line with the conduct I expect in such cases.  The NSA's actions are clearly unconstitutional.  A release should be selective and limited to evidence of the unconstitutional or illegal behavior on the part of government officials.  If someone were to leak details of the IRS targeting of tea party groups that revealed political motive for the excessive scrutiny, then that too would be proper, even if the leaker had signed a non-disclosure or similar agreement.  We need exposure of government wrong-doing, but not every leaker should be treated as a hero.

What You Should Be Reading.

  • Dean has some profound thoughts on the breakdown of the societal contract due to government malfeasance.  Dean links to an excellent Glenn Reynolds piece that sums up the scandals eating at the public trust. 
  • The NSA has network coverage on 75% of American's internet traffic according to analysis done by the WSJ.  Of course, we trust the President when he says that he isn't spying on you.  This is the story that has been missed in all the hoopla over where Snowden was going to be staying.  (Long term outlook, in my opinion, federal prison.)
  • Venezuela has gone from exporting rice to importing it to feed their population.  This is all you need to know about socialism.
  • I am going to eat fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner on August 29th.  Find out why at RedState.
  • I posted the Filner recall petition at the upper right on the blog.  Feel free to download and start collecting.  Don't bug me, however, as I have already signed.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fearing (for) China

For a while, it was convenient to focus on the "threat from China" in military and economic terms.  These days, not as much, in spite of the occasional Drudge headline.  Consider this:
Every story I cited is both recent and slow moving.  There is almost nothing that Chinese leadership can accomplish in the short run to solve these problems.  China doesn't have long, perhaps a decade, before its demographic curve pushes it towards Japanese levels of growth.  Unfortunately, because of these problems, it will not have the store of wealth that Japan has drawn against to prevent social unrest.  (Hint to opponents of greater legal immigration, population growth drives economic growth.)  I think that it is more realistic and worrisome to consider what a Chinese economic collapse would do to the world, rather than worrying about an economically dominant China.  A collapse would send the consequences around the globe.

I leave you with this admittedly older picture of Chinese pollution heading east.

What You Should Be Reading

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rights More Important than Fealty to the Purity of Democracy - Egypt

I had this interaction on twitter with a UK libertarian whom I admire.  In this case we disagreed.

So @LibertarianView makes the reasonable point that I am not really supporting democracy if I support the overthrow of Morsi by the military, and I agree to an extent.  The tougher question is whether we should support democracy at all costs, even to the loss of freedom.  Morsi had granted himself dictatorial powers.  The Muslim Brotherhood was and is intent on imposing Sharia law, even if that means abrogating rights embedded in the Egyptian constitution.  Even if the rights were not embedded, fundamental human rights such as freedom of worship are never legitimately denied, even in a democracy.

Throughout history, we have seen instances where dictatorship arises out of democracy.  The use of force to resist a denial of rights can be legitimate, even if that government was elected.  One could argue that Lincoln did not have the precise constitutional authority to prevent the southern states from seceding over the issue of slavery.  The state governments that voted for secession were duly elected.  But, as he made clear in his second inaugural speech,  the purpose of secession was to perpetuate the denial of rights to black slaves in perpetuity. This violated the promise of the Declaration.  The response of war to secession was appropriate and moral.

Ultimately, if Morsi had remained in power, there would have been no more elections in Egypt.  Supporting his overthrow does not mean that I am against democracy, only that I support a constitutional form of government that guarantees basic human rights and I value this greater than the purity of the democratic form of government.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Environmental Compliance for Thee, But Not For Me - California's High Speed Choo Choo

If a business project fails to follow environmental regulations and it loses a court case, the project comes to a halt.  When the loser is the State of California, this rule applies not so much.  Superior court judge Michael P. Kenney has ruled that the state has violated the law implementing high speed rail, Proposition 1A, by failing to file required environmental reports.  The response from the state and the high speed rail commission? 
"Today's ruling is that the legislative appropriation for high-speed rail … remains valid, and our work on the project continues," said Dan Richard, the agency's chairman. "We take our commitment to Proposition 1A seriously and continue to work towards developing a high-speed rail project that benefits all Californians."
And where are the environmentalists protesting this abuse of power by the state in ignoring environmental law?  Queue the crickets, of course.  To be fair, in 2012, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council put out press releases criticizing watering down California environmental law in this case, but they have been mute on the latest ruling.

In this case, the judge has delayed ruling on what remedy might be imposed on the state.  He is understandably reluctant to invalidate an appropriation of the state legislature.  Unfortunately, judges do not always seem so reluctant when the legislative purpose has a conservative goal.  Further, the state appears to be taking the legal course that state environmental law doesn't apply to the project.  Judge Kenney will hold another hearing to determine the remedy required.  

Bottom line, the leftists in power continue to flaunt any law they don't want to apply to themselves.  The ACA is only the most notable example.

What You Should Be Reading.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Weekend Music Chill

I took the week off from work and hung around our hometown and mostly relaxed.  Thought I would share some of the favorite chillin' music that Mrs. Daddy and I enjoyed on our "staycation."

Here is Ottmar Liebert with 3 Women Walking.

And here is Herb Alpert with The Lonely Bull (El Toro Solo).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Morton's Fork, Egypt, Syria and False Dilemmas

I have read of the foreign policy choices in Egypt compared to Hobson's Choice, which is to say there is no choice at all.  However, it seems more like Morton's Fork, in which one is confronted with two equally bad options, where Hobson's choice is a "take it or leave it" situation. In the case of Egypt, the military has imposed dictatorship in the name of defending the constitution and is in the process of implementing a bloody crackdown against the Islamists.  For its part, the Muslim Brotherhood, through the office of President Mohamed Morsi, was on its way to imposing an Islamist theocracy in violation of the promise of freedom and the constitution that accompanied the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.  The administration was accused in turn of supporting the Muslim brotherhood and the military, by means of foreign aid.  My personal belief is that the wheels at State turn too slowly for us to respond in any way that is aligned with the foreign policy desires of the President.

Similarly, in Syria, Assad has been accused of using chemical weapons against the opposition. This opposition appears to be an Islamist coalition and sometime front for Al-Qaeda.  A key quote from the NYT: "Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of."  Assad is a brutal dictator in the mold of his father, but the opposition is no friend of democracy either.  The U.S. has vacillated in support of the opposition, and with good reason, there are no obviously good options.

In the case of Egypt, I believe we are faced with a false dilemma.  There is more complexity to the Egyptian political scene than merely Islamist vs military.  There is a large democratic leaning minority.  Right now, the administration is taking a PR beating from that group for our previous support of the Muslim Brotherhood in the name of supporting democracy.  But we don't have to support a democratically elected government that doesn't itself support democracy.  Obama erred in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi.  But we should be clear that we expect fresh elections from the military.  It will be a long time before we have real influence in Egypt, but the only way to achieve that end is to consistently support freedom.

In Syria, our policy is accidentally correct.  We have vacillated in our support of the rebels just enough so that they have not been defeated.  A jihadist victory in Syria, including control of likely caches of chemical weapons, would be a disaster for the west and Israel.  However, Assad's freedom of action is being contained by the civil war.  We can't forget that Bashar Assad and his predecessor/father have made mischief in the Middle East for decades, often in cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah.  If the U.S. were to articulate its policy, it would be to contain Assad and prevent him from using chemical weapons to seek revenge on the rebels.  Until such time as the Syrians come to their senses, this is the best that can be accomplished.  At the end of the day, I find it hard to find great fault in Obama's policy.  There is little to be done in the short term, and we seem to be stumbling towards something resembling the least bad options.

What You Should Be Reading.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It's Not Just the Stoppping, It's the Frisking

Judge Shira Sheindlin has ruled that New York City's stop and frisk policy is unconstitutional because it is conducted in a racially discriminatory manner.  I have always been uncomfortable with the the tactic, but I admit to never having researched the issue before.  First, let me say that I have no interest in looking at the merits of the racial claim.  I am not saying that the racial issue was decided wrongly, just that I think the policy itself needs review on its merits, not just in the context of racism. (Image source The Atlantic Wire.)

The constitutional basis for frisking is Terry v Ohio, in which it was held that the police may search for weapons on a suspect they have stopped for questioning if there is a reasonable suspicion of that person carrying a weapon.  The justification is officer safety.  The ruling does not focus on circumstances under which a person might be stopped in the first place, and the ruling implied that the officers in the case had a reasonable suspicion to make a stop.  I had trouble finding an authoritative list of reasons for stops, but found this on LegalZoom:
A stop is justified if the suspect is exhibiting any combination of the following behaviors:
  1. Appears not to fit the time or place.
  2. Matches the description on a "Wanted" flyer.
  3. Acts strangely, or is emotional, angry, fearful, or intoxicated.
  4. Loitering, or looking for something.
  5. Running away or engaging in furtive movements.
  6. Present in a crime scene area.
  7. Present in a high-crime area (not sufficient by itself or with loitering).
This makes me think that making a stop should be a relatively rare occurrence.  If I am walking down the street and see a police officer, it should be far from my mind that I will be stopped.  Criminals form a small 1% of the population, and even then they are not engaging in crime at all times.  This should mean that the stops would be infrequent.  In New York City, the police are stopping upwards of 6% of the population on an annual basis.  In 2011, in some precincts, they have stopped over 20% of the population in a given year.  That means your odds of being stopped by the police is even money over an 8 year period.  (I ask readers knowledgeable in statistics to check that math.)  The top reasons given for stopping:

These reasons seem amenable to being highly subjective.  It seems obvious to me that the New York City police are stopping people without reasonable suspicion, even though that is the legal standard.  Let me be clear, the police need to be able to stop people for good cause.  Policing would never get done in this country if they couldn't; I just think that this is a systematic overreach that goes beyond the constitutionally permitted standard.

Frisks occur in about one out every two stops, based on the data I had available. For example, in 2011 The 75th precinct had 31,100 stops and 15, 800 frisks (one of the higher rates of stops).  The 94th precinct had only 2,023 stops but 1,050 of those resulted in frisks.  Frisking is governed by the Terry standard.  Since illegal weapons are only recovered in 0.1% of the cases, it seems unlikely that the police are applying a standard of reasonable suspicion when frisking.

Let's apply some common sense.  Constant surveillance by the police that includes a reasonable probability that you will be stopped and your person touched just for being on the streets is incompatible with our concept of a free society.  Walking around in fear of the police, as if they were a criminal gang, does not advance the cause of liberty, nor make us safer in the long run.  This behavior turns the police into the enemies of ordinary citizens and makes policing more difficult.  Typical of Mayor Bloomberg to advocate for less freedom in a way that does little to make actually make us safer.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

OK Doug, You Got This One

I am not going to blog any more about Filner's scandals because Doug Manchester, owner of the U-T, is ensuring that they are exhaustively covered.  He has made it his mission to drive Filner from office, as evidenced by the comprehensive coverage of all the scandals in his paper. That it sells more papers is mere frosting on the cake. Holman Jenkins correctly identified Manchester's economic interest as other than ad revenue in his analysis in the WSJ, specifically noting that the paper makes a great platform to advance Manchester's economic interests, including getting a new stadium built.  While I agree with the result, we shouldn't forget that the business interests of hoteliers and developers don't always coincide with those of the taxpayer.  In my opinion, Filner is living proof that not all change is good, even when things are bad.  Filner has cast a pall over development projects in San Diego, so Manchester is understandably exorcised over the mayor's actions.

Blogger North Pole, writing in sdrostra, gives us fair warning that Filner's exit will come because his continued presence as an outsider is distrusted by those wedded to the status quo.  Some of the status quo includes deals and quid-pro-quos between the unions and the big business interests, in all likelihood.  In the comments section of that article, Pat Flannery calls out Todd Gloria as the ringmaster of the "10th Floor business-union-political Influence Exchange known as the City Council" and opines that this cabal is determined not to let the mayor's office be occupied by an outsider.

These signs point to an eventual Filner ouster. But in a light turnout election, who will carry the standard of taxpayers in general, and not skew city policy to benefit downtown business interests?  In all likelihood, no one.  The only potential candidate that would get my whole-hearted endorsement would be Carl DeMaio, but I don't want him to jump into the mayor's race.  That would look too opportunistic; scraping back House seats from the Democratic party is important to slowing down Obama's tyrannical overreach. I happen to like a little gridlock in Washington and the IRS, Benghazi and EPA overreach all need investigation by a Republican congress.

Right now, I am more worried about the choke-hold the public employee unions have on state and local government. Gloria Romero, former Majority leader in the CA state senate, writes about the power of the unions in today's U-T (H/T @CarlDeMaio).  She details the deleterious effects that accrues to the power of the teachers' and prison guard unions to name two.  If compelled to choose between government friendly to big business or big unions, the risks and costs are weighted against the unions.  But I don't have to like my choices.

We will see how this recall election shapes up, but Republicans would do well to rally behind a candidate that at least makes some effort to put taxpayers first.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What To Do With the Surveillance State

It is obvious that federal surveillance programs have gone beyond what the American people (not a high bar) and what they are comfortable with.  The President's announcement that he would seek reforms of the programs revealed by Snowden is proof of that. Not that I believe him, nor believe that it will solve the problem.  Zerohedge makes excellent has of the President's position:
Obama On NSA Spying: "I Would Be Concerned Too, If I Weren't Inside The Government" 
In what is as close to saying 'trust us, we're from the government,' as it gets; President Obama's traitor-identifying, blame-pointing, cover-your-assing speech on Friday has done nothing to end the supposedly "critical NSA counter-terrorism tool," from being used on American citizens. 
The President's proposals do not really change the fundamental problem with the program; surveillance is being conducted on U.S. citizens without warrants or probable cause.  Further, "incidental collection," data collected on other than the primary target, is being used to launch other investigations.

What should be done?  The issue is that we need to spy on foreigners as part of maintaining national security.  However, because the likes of Al-Qaeda have learned good operational security, the national security apparatus finds it convenient to collect information from American telecomms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  But it is the nature of computer systems that it is harder to delete information than it is to retain it.  Once a private citizen's information is in the system, even if unrelated to terrorism, court order or secret actions by law enforcement can cause it to be retrieved.  Further, given the way the IRS scandal has gone down, how can we be sure that this information won't be used for political repression?  Oh yeah, the President is just so darned smart and dedicated; maybe he should just be President for life, because no one else will protect our rights like he does.

But I digress.  These programs have to be shut down until there is both oversight and technical means to ensure that incidental collections and unauthorized collections are not happening or are deleted when they do.  We will have to fund an independent judiciary that has the technical means to do so and have periodic reviews, to the Supreme Court if necessary.

These programs didn't prevent the Boston Marathon bombing, so their efficacy is in doubt.  Their damage to liberty is not.

What You Should Be Reading:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Weekend Music Chill

This weekend's music is very mellow, from a Pandora station that I started with a single tune, "Abraham's Daughter" by Arcade Fire.  For some reason the station ended up playing a lot of Lana Del Rey, but I have been enjoying Florence + The Machine, a mostly two girl band that has been getting some airplay.

Here is "Never Let Me Go".

From the Same Station, here is Jem with "It's Amazing."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Slow Motion Train Wreck Continues - Congress/Staffers get ACA Exemption

Of course they did.  In apparently his only personal involvement with his signature achievement, Obama promised Dem Senators that "he would personally get involved to sort out the confusion," according to the Daily Caller.  The sudden reason for the exemption?
But it soon became apparent the provision contained no language that allowed federal contributions toward their health plans that cover about 75 percent of the premium costs.
This caused fears that staff would suddenly face sharply higher healthcare costs and leave federal service, causing a "brain drain" on Capitol Hill.
This last sentence was delivered without ironic tone, as far as we can tell.  Exit question. What brains? The brains that designed the law that they needed to pass to find out how badly they had screwed themselves? Yeah, those brains.

House Staffers inspect the results of the ACA.

What You Should Be Reading:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Specter is Haunting San Diego

A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism.
The Communist Manifesto, 1848.

Consider this tale.  You and your spouse buy an older (circa 1920s) home you wish to remodel as your dream home. You hire a lawyer, you go before the historical review board. You go before the community planning commission and the city planning commission.  This is a lot of work and a lot of money.  Maybe you don't like it, but we are a society with rules of law, so you follow the law.  Citizens, through their city council voted that we would protect historical landmarks and ensure proper land use.  So we expect a predictable outcome based on the rule of law with decisions made with due process.  But the mayor gets some emails and his chief of staff intervenes and sends the case back.  Who knows why?  But the mayor is under investigation for a pay to play scheme.

This is the product of leftism and the mayor of San Diego is undeniably a man of the left.  This is the end result of putting politics over process.  This is the road to serfdom.

The leftist playbook seeks to seize upon all the levers of government for the sole purpose of expanding the power of government and the left.  Getting corporations into line by threatening them with regulation, not enforcing the law when politically inconvenient, getting your pet projects delivered on the backs of developers needing your approval, buying votes by intervening against unpopular but lawful projects are all means to the end of unchecked power.  This is no different than leftism's predecessor of socialism and communism.  The reason that such isms result in tyranny is that they seek to so expand the role of the state that abuse and corruption are too powerful of temptations to resist.  The leftists seeks the power and riches that they can not obtain, because they lack the skills and entrepreneurial spirit to compete in a capitalist society.  They denounce society as evil, when their intent is to appropriate riches for themselves.

The U-T has done a public service by chronicling the multiple interventions by the mayor's office in land use decisions since he was sworn in last December.  Just like the Obama administration, which thinks it must enforce the Affordable Care Act only when convenient to its political interests, the mayor has used land use for his own political convenience.  The left has become more open about their goals and more blatant in the grab for power.  Liberals, as opposed to leftists, should be appalled and fight back if they value democracy.

Here is the 10 News video of the lead story.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sifting the News

Like many of you, I don't trust the news as reported by the big outlets like CNN, the New York Times or even Fox News.  They all have agendas, but in a free market information tends to eventually get out.  But you can also learn a lot by reading between the lines, and analyzing the self-interest of the players involved in the news.  More importantly, the media, by trumpeting a particular sensational story diverts the public eye from more important issues.  Here are some things I am watching and my take.

Detroit's bankruptcy. This is one of the most important stories in the country right now, because if the unions can claim constitutional protection for their pension benefits, most big cities will become totally dominated by unions and who will then state taxpayers with the tab for outrageous pensions.  Union pensions getting trimmed might impose a small measure of discipline on out of control spending in some cities.

The Snowden Distraction.  After the leaks about NSA spying the attention shifted to Snowden as a person, not his allegations.  But the allegations were not really denied by the big internet firms, like AT&T and Google.  Government intervention required them to word their denials in a way that makes them unbelievable.  I am not sure if I believe Snowden entirely, but I don't believe Big IT.

Filner's Dance with Destiny. (No she's not an ex-employee.)  Daily and more frequently, revelations about the Filner case are served up by the U-T.  But the whole Sunroad play to pay scandal has disappeared from the news, despite an FBI inquiry.  This is not Sunroad's first dust up with allegations of improper influence.  (See a great timeline on the previous difficulties with zoning and influencing then Mayor Sanders at Community Airfields Assn of SD.) I always assume that the U-T is aligned with the big downtown business interests of this city, often hoteliers and developers.  I don't think they are pushing the Filner sexual harassment story because it takes the spotlight off of a developer; but it seems to fit their self-interest.

IRS Scandal.  This is a real scandal that should have legs. My sense is that it doesn't go to the White House, but to key Democratic politicians.  If we knew the whole truth, the Dems would be reeling, which is why the full court press to keep it covered up.  This is how tyranny starts. Darrell Issa could do the Republic a service if he can blow this open.  Bradley Smith analyzes the self interests of the parties involved.

That's a wrap on that topic.  I have instituted a new part of my daily posting, but neglected it of late:

What You Should Be Reading:

What You Should NOT Be Reading:
  • Some rich dude bought the Washington Post.  I heard he likes to read. It's a trophy purchase and I guarantee that he overpaid.
  • Anything about George Zimmerman as the media should give the man some peace.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Sermon: Government Co-opting Religion

One of the reasons that I am such an advocate of limited government is that as government grows it inevitably crowds out activities that were once the province of religion and disenfranchises the role of religion in public life.  We have seen this with the gay marriage debate.  From a logical perspective, if gay intimate relations are not subject to government regulation any more than heterosexual relations, on what basis can gays be denied equal access to due process?  However, government has not always been the arbiter of marriage, that was the role of the church, synagogue or mosque in times past.  In England, I predict that the Anglican Church will soon be legally forced to perform gay marriages.  I would have preferred that marriage remain the sole province of religion, then the free market, not law would have determined what we deem to be marriage.  

More significantly, in terms of impact, the U. S. federal government has been quietly co-opting religious charities by outsourcing the delivery of social services to them.  George Bush gets much of the blame for this. Where is the liberal outrage over lack of separation between church and state in this area?  James Piereson reports in the WSJ that Catholic Charities in the U.S. gets over half of its funding from the feds.  This entanglement leads to a number of negative outcomes for the country and the church.
  • Whenever the church is co-opted by government it gradually declines and loses its effectiveness.  This is because it becomes identified with the establishment, especially a failing statist establishment.  This is one reason why the European church is dying.
  • The church organizations becomes a lobbying organization for big government, as do all of the other co-opted private organizations.  In the past, the church has served as an effective check on government.  This removes another roadblock against the Road to Serfdom that Obama wants us to travel.  (For those unfamiliar, Hayek shows how the socialist impulse leads to totalitarianism and we end up no better than the serfs of feudal society, both in liberty and wealth.)
  • Men feel unneeded by the church and leave, seriously weakening the institution.  Men generally need to have real work to do in order to feel useful.  The modern church gives them little to do, but the good works of charities has heretofore been such a venue.  Now that the work is done by staff paid from federal funds, there is nothing left for men who want to volunteer. Only so many can go to Haiti or Mexico, where there is real need.  A church that loses its men declines, as there is ample research to prove
  • It undermines the impulse to charitable giving and indeed it undermines the rationale for granting such organizations tax deductible status.  If they are just another government contractor why should we give and why should their donations be tax exempt?  Piereson points this out as well.
Is it too much to ask for some separation of church and state? 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Why Recalling Filner Matters

Some Republicans have privately told me that they are sitting out the effort to recall Mayor Filner, saying it makes little difference to governing San Diego and that the GOP might be better off if Filner drags down Democrats.  I wholeheartedly disagree. Exhibit A is the July 30 ordinance requiring a "prevailing wage" for city contracts for public works and maintenance efforts.

As a taxpayer, I want to get the most out of each dollar that goes out on contract.  Since the "prevailing wage" law increases the cost to the city, how is this in my benefit?  It is not, and no amount of arguing about the "social benefits" of a "prevailing wage" will convince me otherwise.  As long as the unions call the shots, the cost of local government will go up until we can't afford any public services at all, see Detroit.  The left wing web site Media Matters took the U-T editorial board to task for saying the "prevailing wage" will only increase city costs by $13 million not the $26 million claimed.  When even the left acknowledges that costs will increase, you know this is a bad bargain for taxpayers.

Is there any doubt that this bill passed only because Bob Filner is mayor?  Is there any doubt that he will push organized labor's agenda at the expense of the taxpayer as long as he remains in office?  The "prevailing wage" law isn't grounds for recall, but it adds impetus to the effort because the mayor's actions have legitimately opened the door to such a campaign.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Weekend Music Chill

As Filner's support dwindles even among Democrats, I thought I would reprise a song from one of my favorite bands, The Black Keys who perform Lonely Boy in this video.

I had to take a hiatus from blogging while putting together the final paper for my certificate in federal CIO competencies. I turned that in today, if the paper passes then I earn my certificate. I hope to be able to blog daily with more focus on local issues, although I do not intend to neglect national policy issues either.