Free Markets, Free People


I'm a husband, father, and attorney living in Northern Virginia trying to make my way through this world like everyone else. Stay outta my way, and you can bet I'll stay out of yours ... and I'll even help keep others from bothering you as well.
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Don’t Fire Brian Williams!

I’ll assume that, if you made it to this website, you are at least somewhat familiar with the Brian Williams (growing?) fiasco, so I’m not going to provide a link. It’s all over the internet. Use your Google-fu. You have the power.

As this story continues to metastasize, more and more people will call for Williams’ head. Reportedly, Tom Brokaw is even doing so. But I say, let him stay.

Why? Well, it’s basically the same reasoning as the Basterds:

Lt. Aldo Raine: [to Wicki] Ask him what he is gonna do with his uniform when he gets home.
Pvt. Butz: [through an interperter] Not only do I intend to take off my uniform, I intend to burn it.
Lt. Aldo Raine: Nah, see, we don’t like that. We like our Nazis in uniform. That way we can spot ’em just like that. We’re gonna give you a little something you cant take off.

Right now, Williams is tarred with the truth. That is, he’s a lying fabulist who represents legacy media and, apparently felt not a twinge of guilt about telling his tale for twelve years. Judging by his actions, Williams believed that his media buddies would back him up, even though at least some in his own organization had to know he was completely full of horse puckey. He wasn’t the only one on that helicopter after all. His crew that day new damned well they didn’t take any fire. And the NBC upper brass had to know it too. They’re all in this together.

So, I say, let him stay. Let him sit there in that chair, night after night, pretending to be the very embodiment of sober truth and empirical justice. Everyone knows who he really is. He can’t scrub that off now. After a dozen years of not just telling the same lie, but embellishing it further, the stain of that prevarication is indelible. Let him wear it, and be a true representative of the legacy media. I can’t think of a better or more apt standard bearer.

Twitter: @mjwadeesq

Media Manufacturing Controversy … Again

What else is new, right? In the last presidential election, it was the “War on Women”, with George Snuffleupagus firing the first volley with an oddball question about contraception. This time around, it’s a report from Chis Christie’s tour of the UK:

As he toured the United Kingdom on Monday, Chris Christie seemed to leave his tough guy persona back in the United States. The potential Republican 2016 presidential contender punted on questions about whether Americans should vaccinate their kids amid a 14-state outbreak of a disease which is staging a comeback after being largely eradicated by science.

“All I can say is we vaccinated ours,” Christie said, while touring a biomedical research facility in Cambridge, England, which makes vaccines.

The New Jersey governor added that “parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

Not exactly controversial unless you spin it the right way (which CNN does in the above article by accusing the New Jersey Governor of being uncharacteristically mealy-mouthed). And it would really help if you could get another potential candidate on the record saying something similar. Enter Rand Paul:

In a contentious interview today, Sen. Rand Paul said he’s heard of cases where vaccines lead to “mental disorders” and argued that parents should be the ones to choose whether they vaccinate their children, not the government. Paul is a former ophthalmologist.

“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul, R-Ky., said in an interview with CNBC anchor Kelly Evans.

“I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing, but I think the parents should have some input,” he added. “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom.”

Again, not terribly controversial except for the “mental disorders” part. Which is what the media are now running with to paint all conservatives as “anti-vaxxers”:

NBC News – “Rand Paul: Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
CNN – “Paul: Vaccines can cause ‘profound mental disorders'”
ABC News – “Rand Paul Says Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
HuffPo – “Rand Paul: Children Got ‘Profound Mental Disorders’ After Receiving Vaccines”
Vox – “Rand Paul says he’s heard of vaccines leading to ‘profound mental disorders’ in children” – “Paul Repeats Baseless Vaccine Claims”

So on, and so on. The New York Times tackles it this way:

The politics of medicine, morality and free will have collided in an emotional debate over vaccines and the government’s place in requiring them, posing a challenge for Republicans who find themselves in the familiar but uncomfortable position of reconciling modern science with the skepticism of their core conservative voters.


The vaccination controversy is a twist on an old problem for the Republican Party: how to approach matters that have largely been settled among scientists but are not widely accepted by conservatives.

Suddenly, we’re all talking about vaccines and how those nasty, anti-science Republican weirdos are dangerous to society. Funny how that works. And of course, never let facts get in the way, such as Paul being correct about the mental disorders thing. Here’s his statement again:

I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.

Guess what? The CDC agrees with him (my emphasis):

MMR vaccine side-effects
(Measles, Mumps, and Rubella)
What are the risks from MMR vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.
The risk of MMR vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps or rubella.
Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any serious problems with it.
Mild Problems
Fever (up to 1 person out of 6)
Mild rash (about 1 person out of 20)
Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck (about 1 person out of 75)
If these problems occur, it is usually within 7-12 days after the shot. They occur less often after the second dose.
Moderate Problems
Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (about 1 out of 3,000 doses)
Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women (up to 1 out of 4)
Temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses)
Severe Problems (Very Rare)
Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)
Several other severe problems have been reported after a child gets MMR vaccine, including:
Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
Permanent brain damage

These are so rare that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine.

While extremely rare, do long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, or permanent brain damage count as “profound mental disorders”? I guess you make an argument that not all such cases do, but I would think permanent brain damage fits the bill.

Ironically enough, the article actually highlights that Paul and the CDC are on the same page:

There have been some reports of “lowered consciousness” or permanent brain damage after a vaccine is given for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) or measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), but the CDC says that these are so rare that a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be determined.

Note that the CDC does not posit a causal connection, but then again neither does Paul. Indeed, he further clarified:

“I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related — I did not allege causation. I support vaccines, I receive them myself and I had all of my children vaccinated,” Paul said in a statement. “In fact today, I received the booster shot for the vaccines I got when I went to Guatemala last year.”

Too late, since the media has its juicy soundbites already.

None of this is to say that GOP politicians don’t do this to themselves. Paul certainly didn’t have to even raise the specter of a potential causal link between vaccines and mental disorders. He should have known that, regardless of what the CDC and science says, most everyone was going to associate his comments with the debunked autism link. Even if there was a proven causal link, it’s so incredibly rare as to not be deserving of a mention. I get his thinking from a liberty perspective, but message delivery is vital and Paul failed at that.

The Chris Christie statements, on the other hand, don’t strike me as even slightly off, but clearly there was a theme building here amongst the media hivemind. The idea that the guy who insisted on quarantining the Ebola nurse is super interested in liberty does sound a sour note, and Christie probably should have led with the idea that routine vaccinations are safe and effective which is why everyone should get them. Seems like a rookie mistake for someone who’s been in the limelight for quite some time.

Not that it matters. The theme has been set, and the narrative will now run its course. Inconvenient facts such as who the anti-vaxxers really are, or what Democrats have had to say on the issue, will be glossed over or simply dismissed. And all vaccines will be treated the same so that if a GOP candidate balks at mandating, say, a flu vaccine, he or she will then be tarred as an anti-science, ant-vaxxer. Democrats and the Left will be fine with this since they have zero problems with government mandates. And thus the media has neatly cleaved the country it two wholly separate and unequal parts in order to drive the political wedge deeper.

Check The Sky For Flying Pigs

Because this actually happened:

In response to Uber ride-sharing drivers now working in the city, the [Portsmouth, NH] Taxi Commission on Wednesday recommended the elimination of taxi medallions, regulation of taxi fares, city taxi inspections and the Taxi Commission itself.
The commission voted unanimously to send a memo to the City Council outlining its recommendations to lift many regulations currently imposed on drivers-for-hire. The council will be asked to instruct City Attorney Robert Sullivan to rewrite the city’s taxi ordinance to reflect the following changes:
* Recognize so-called ride-sharing services offered by platforms including Uber.
* Replace the current taxi medallion system with a registration process that would require all drivers to register with the city clerk’s office and provide proof of commercial insurance.
* Require the Police Department to conduct criminal background checks on all registered drivers, who would be charged a fee for the background checks.
* Require all drivers-for-hire to sign and adhere to a code of conduct.

That’s right. The Taxi Commission voted, unanimously, to end its own existence. I honestly don’t know if that has ever happened before. And if it has has, it was a very long time ago.

[Taxi Commissioner Larry] Cataldo said if drivers are smoking, or offering rides in unkempt vehicles, consumers will decide if they want to hire them. Under the proposal, police would continue to conduct background checks of registered drivers who would also have to provide proof that their passengers are insured for a minimum of $300,000 under a commercial policy.

Several commissioners compared the proposed deregulation of taxi fares to the fact that someone can buy a glass of beer for $4 at a downtown pub and pay $8 for a glass of the same beer at a nearby restaurant.

“I guess it’s going to come down to what consumers want to do,” said Lt. Chris Cummings, the Police Department’s liaison to the Taxi Commission.

Novel concept, huh?

Just to put this in perspective, local officials, who are often the source of particularly pernicious intrusions into our personal lives, have agreed to give up power in favor of consumer choice. Power that can be lucrative in the form of kickbacks, favoritism, and political brokering. Yet, this body of politicians decided that what was best for their constituents was to put in place simple rules and disband itself. That’s just … amazing.

Of course, don’t go hunkering down in your pig blind any time too soon. The ordinary state of affairs looks like this:

After being a promised a blizzard of historic and catastrophic proportions on Monday, New York City residents woke up today to rather meager snow totals and a lot of questions for their public officials.


The focus, in particular, seems to be about the decision to shut down New York City at 11:00 p.m. Tuesday night. All roads in the region (not just in the city, but in Connecticut and New Jersey, as well) were closed to non-emergency traffic, but Governor Andrew Cuomo also made the unprecedented decision to preemptively shut down the entire NYC subway system. That’s never happened in the 100-plus years of the subways due to snow.

Yet, by 11:00 p.m., it was already becoming clear that such a move was likely going to be unnecessary. That confusion quickly turned to outrage after a report by The Brooklyn Paper that the subway was actually still running. In order to keep the power on and the tracks clear, the MTA continued to shuttle empty trains all throughout the system and was planning to all along. It was apparently Cuomo’s decision to shut the system to passengers, a move that caught MTA off guard and appeared to be unnecessary.

Naturally, some people are upset about the overreaction. It’s one thing to clear the streets of cars, but the subway is the lifeline of the city, particularly for those people who work third-shift jobs or have family and friends in other boroughs. Cries of “nanny state”-ism, political posturing, or just plain cowardice are ringing out today.

Ace describes it this way:

So, now it’s accepted that government officials will essentially declare Martial Law on a whim. Martial Law has become mainstreamed, thanks to our viciously incompetent media.


These high-handed, alarmist, panicky, lawless actions are being defended on grounds of “safety.”

This is not an overblown statement: All forms of fascism and totalitarianism proceed under the guise of securing the public’s “safety and security.” I don’t think you can cite a single time where fascism did not ride upon twin horses named Public Safety and Public Security.

We seem to becoming jaded by frequent assertions of dictatorial power for this claimed emergency or that imagined crisis.

And let us be clear about things: Cuomo did not do this to “protect the public safety.” He did this to protect his own political safety.

Let us stop pretending to believe the most ridiculous lies of politicians. Let us start dealing forthrightly with one another.

Hearkening back to the Boston Bomber manhunt, he’s not that far off. The question, as always, is how much will the citizenry put up with, and at what point do they stop acting like sheep in the face of “do as we command; it’s for your own good!”

At least in Portsmouth, NH, they’re getting a chance to decide for themselves what’s in their own interests. Let’s hope that catches on.

(h/t: Instapundit)

Twitter: @mjwadeesq

Political Correctness and the “War on Women”: NHL Edition

If you know anything about hockey, you’re aware that for the spectators it’s a testosterone filled affair that satisfies our base urges for battle. Much like football. What better to accompany a manly-men game than pretty girls in skimpy outfits? So, sometime in the early 2000’s, NHL teams starting employing Ice Girls to skate around the rink during TV timeouts, etc, in order to clear the playing surface of built up snow. Predictably, it was a big hit. At least, until Mother Jones decided to stick its buzz-killing nose into things: “The Freezing, Hungry Lives of NHL “Ice Girls“:

I co-wrote an article last month about the working conditions of NFL cheerleaders: Five cheer squads had recently sued their football teams alleging sub-minimum-wage pay and mandatory “jiggle tests,” among other indignities. Not long after the story ran, I received an email from a woman who had worked as one of the Philadelphia Flyers’ “ice girls.” “Speaking from personal experience,” she wrote, “ice girls are treated very similarly.”


When a player walks in, it’s time to go: Both the Kings and the Flyers, like a number of other NHL teams, have adopted policies that strongly discourage relationships between ice girls and hockey players: There was to be no fraternization of any kind, the women told me. To prevent rumors from starting, the ice girls were instructed to make sure they weren’t in the same place as the players outside of work. But the burden of responsibility was placed on the women: If a Kings ice girl was at a restaurant or bar and a player walked in, she was expected to get up and leave, even in the middle of a meal.


Short shorts in frigid weather: Some teams, including the Flyers, have co-ed ice crews, but the men aren’t wearing booty-shorts and crop tops. And while most games are held indoors, teams and their cheer squads sometimes participate in outdoor games and events. In early 2012, the Flyers took part in a three-day outdoor festival and game called the Winter Classic. “It was 20 degrees and we were in shorts, with two pairs of stockings,” a former ice girl told me. Depending on the day, they spent six to nine hours outdoors: “It really felt like we were in some kind of torture camp.” Said another: “I’ve never been so cold in my life.”

Blah, blah, blah. There’s more, but you get the picture.

For the most part, political correctness nonsense results in silly annoyances. In this case, however, it cost a bunch of women their jobs. That’s right, in the aftermath of this article, the Flyers decided to get rid of the Ice Girls … and only the Ice Girls. If you know anything about Philly fans, you know that didn’t go over well:

Flyers fans booed the guys on the ice Monday night … because they weren’t women.

We’re not talking hockey. We’re talking the crew scraping the ice during breaks in the action.


Apparently, the team and other NHL clubs succumbed to complaints about sexism and working conditions, including duties like manning doors in frigid temperatures. A June article in Mother Jones article may have played a key role.

Actually, by Philly standards, the reaction was pretty positive.

But the really strange thing here is that, while some of these women had complaints (and, seriously, how unusual is that?), for the most part, they loved the job. But because of the disdain invited by the MJ article, they now have none. But the guys all kept theirs. It’s almost like another confirmed kill in the left’s War on Women (I say almost because, as far as I know, Ted Kennedy still has the only confirmed kill (h/t: Dave Burge)).

I suppose the Flyers organization could have just dressed the girls up in warmer, less skimpy clothing (that’s basically how they are in Carolina and DC, for example), but that wouldn’t address all of the complaints. The team would have to give the girls (but apparently not the guys) raises, and alter team rules re fraternization, among other things. But what would be the unintended consequences of that? I guess they just figured it wasn’t worth the hassle because, it probably isn’t.

It really is comical, though, how the left can so consistently promote policies and behaviors that hurt the very people they purport to protect. It’s as if they are completely incapable of learning from, well, anything. They simply try to wish a world into existence and then are completely flummoxed when things don’t turn out the way they planned.

Oh well, at least these poor girls won’t be so exploited anymore working in a position that they had to beat out 100’s of other girls just to get. Way to go, lefties!

David Brooks: “Let’s Increase The Power Of The President, You Guys!”

It’s hard to describe this blinding stupidity as anything other than … well, blindingly stupid. I think this one sentence encapsulates the #Fail quite nicely:

This is a good moment to advocate greater executive branch power because we’ve just seen a monumental example of executive branch incompetence: the botched Obamacare rollout.

If you think Brooks is trying to get all counter-intuitive on you (a la Thomas Friedman’s wistful longing for Chinese authoritarianism), think again. It’s just full on stupidity.

Brooks’ argument is that Congress is too beholden to the “rentier groups” (i.e. moneyed interest groups and lobbyists) and that the judiciary is too involved in the process:

In the current issue of The American Interest, Francis Fukuyama analyzes this institutional decay. His point is that the original system of checks and balances has morphed into a “vetocracy,” an unworkable machine where many interests can veto reform.

First, there is the profusion of interest groups. In 1971, there were 175 registered lobbying firms. By 2009, there were 13,700 lobbyists spending more than $3.5 billion annually, and this doesn’t even count the much larger cloud of activist groups and ideological enforcers.

Then there is the judicial usurpation of power. Fukuyama writes, “conflicts that in Sweden or Japan would be solved through quiet consultations between interested parties through the bureaucracy are fought out through formal litigation in the American court system.” This leads to uncertainty, complexity and perverse behavior.

After a law is passed, there are always adjustments to be made. These could be done flexibly. But, instead, Congress throws implementation and enforcement into the court system by giving more groups the standing to sue. What could be a flexible process is turned into “adversarial legalism” that makes government more intrusive and more rigid.

In other words, because the power to form laws is relatively disbursed amongst constituents, elected officials and the court system, gridlock happens sometimes and that’s just totally unacceptable. Because, heaven knows that if Congress isn’t cranking out new laws at a fast enough pace, the world will end. (That seems to be the meme going around anyway.)

So what would be the benefits of more powerful Executive branch?

Here are the advantages. First, it is possible to mobilize the executive branch to come to policy conclusion on something like immigration reform. It’s nearly impossible for Congress to lead us to a conclusion about anything. Second, executive branch officials are more sheltered from the interest groups than Congressional officials. Third, executive branch officials usually have more specialized knowledge than staffers on Capitol Hill and longer historical memories. Fourth, Congressional deliberations, to the extent they exist at all, are rooted in rigid political frameworks. Some agencies, especially places like the Office of Management and Budget, are reasonably removed from excessive partisanship. Fifth, executive branch officials, if they were liberated from rigid Congressional strictures, would have more discretion to respond to their screw-ups, like the Obamacare implementation. Finally, the nation can take it out on a president’s party when a president’s laws don’t work. That doesn’t happen in Congressional elections, where most have safe seats.

Note the two “advantages” I’ve bolded. It’s as if things like Solyndra fiasco and the IRS targeting of conservatives never happened.

Lest there be any confusion about Brooks’ prescription, he sums it up as thus:

So how do you energize the executive? It’s a good idea to be tolerant of executive branch power grabs and to give agencies flexibility. We voters also need to change our voting criteria. It’s not enough to vote for somebody who agrees with your policy preferences. Presidential candidates need to answer two questions. How are you going to build a governing 60 percent majority that will enable you to drive the Washington policy process? What is your experience implementing policies through big organizations?

We don’t need bigger government. We need more unified authority. Take power away from the rentier groups who dominate the process. Allow people in those authorities to exercise discretion. Find a president who can both rally a majority, and execute a policy process.

At least he’s being honest about what the political and chattering classes truly want. As an added bonus, Brooks has inspired a better description of his cant than “blindingly stupid”: contemptible.

Why the GOP Shouldn’t Get Too Excited About The Polls

There’s been much discussion amongst the punditry about the precipitous decline in Pres. Obama’s poll numbers. The fact that his RCP average has dropped below 40% for the first time, or that Hispanics and white women have seemingly soured on Obama and the Democrats, is causing much buzz. Most alarming, are the numbers on millenials:

Young Americans are turning against Barack Obama and Obamacare, according to a new survey of millennials, people between the ages of 18 and 29 who are vital to the fortunes of the president and his signature health care law.

The most startling finding of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics: A majority of Americans under age 25–the youngest millennials–would favor throwing Obama out of office.


Obama’s approval rating among young Americans is just 41 percent, down 11 points from a year ago, and now tracking with all adults. While 55 percent said they voted for Obama in 2012, only 46 percent said they would do so again.

When asked if they would want to recall various elected officials, 45 percent of millennials said they would oust their member of Congress; 52 percent replied “all members of Congress” should go; and 47 percent said they would recall Obama. The recall-Obama figure was even higher among the youngest millennials, ages 18 to 24, at 52 percent.

To be sure, these numbers don’t bode well for the survival of Obamacare, or for the Democrats chances in 2014. But I don’t think they necessarily mean that the GOP will reap the benefits.

For example, with respect to younger voters, Kristen Soltis Anderson makes some interesting points over at The Daily Beast:

The way young voters feel about Obama doesn’t just matter in 2014 or even 2016. Despite the conventional wisdom that young voters don’t matter in politics, the way a voter first looks at politics when they come of age resonates throughout their voting behavior through their lifetimes. Just last month, Pew Research Center released a study showing that if you came of age under Nixon, you’re more likely to vote Democratic, even to this day. Came of age during the Reagan years? You’re still more likely to lean Republican.


Harvard rolled out a chart of party identification by age, which showed that in November 2009, some 43 percent of those aged 18-24 called themselves Democrats. Four years later, that has fallen to 31 percent. A huge drop to be sure, but that doesn’t mean people were necessarily changing their minds; it mostly means last election cycle’s bright-eyed kiddo has had a few birthdays. Our gender and race don’t change much year to year, but each of us is constantly moving up in our age bracket. And sure enough, when you look at the Harvard survey’s 25-29 year olds, they’re as Democratic as ever.

That doesn’t mean that this block of voters won’t ever change their minds and views, but it does suggest that, however low their opinion of the Democrats and their leader is now, they are more likely to remain loyal to that party and change it from within.

Another way to look at this is, those who voted for Obama because they wanted to see the ACA enacted and implemented, among other changes he promised, are going to suddenly change their minds about state vs. market solutions just because of a failed implementation. If anything, they are likely to seek out more capable technocrats as their political leaders, and to express greater interest in single-payer health care.

Even so, Anderson makes another great point, i.e. that not all millenials are the same:

To better understand what’s happening with today’s “youth vote,” first consider this fact: someone who turned eighteen on election day last year would have been just six years old on September 11, 2001. They would have been eighth graders during Obama’s first election.

I’ll violate some rules of decorum here by revealing my age: I am 29 years old. I’m a few short months away from aging out of “the youth vote” entirely. And I have about as much in common with today’s high school seniors as I do with my own parents. We researchers and pundits lump 18-year-olds and 29-year-olds into the same bucket when we talk about the “youth vote,” but the truth is that the back end of the “Millennial” generation has little memory of “hope and change” at all.

In short, provided that the GOP can deliver a compelling alternative to the Democrats, it’s possible that they can pick up some of those young voters. Of course, they aren’t called the stupid party for nothing, so don’t expect much on this front.

Lawless and Unbound

A primary reason for structuring our government with the checks and balances it has was to prevent a concentration of power. The POTUS was specifically limited because of the position’s duties, and the danger exercising them could mean to the freedom of the people. America didn’t want a king. Well, we may gotten one anyway.

The House of Representatives held a hearing yesterday on the Obama Administration’s exercise (or non-exercise) of it powers, and asked whether or not the Executive branch was properly following the “take care” clause of the Constitution. AllahPundit provides some commentary on the hearing, focusing Prof. Jonathan Turley’s testimony:

If you have time for only one snippet, though, skip to 2:33:00 for his list of Obama’s five most egregious violations of separation of powers. Some are familiar to you — declaring that he wouldn’t deport illegals who might qualify for DREAM, refusing to enforce the employer mandate, etc — but the ones about him shifting money around without regard to how Congress has appropriated it might not be. Turley makes two valuable points here. One: Courts tend to give the executive a wide berth in separation-of-powers challenges on the theory that Congress has the power of the purse and can defund any executive agency it likes. But that’s not true anymore, he says. Obama, by defying appropriations, has claimed some of that power for himself. What check does Congress have left? That brings us to point two: Even if Congress can’t stop Obama, the courts can. The problem there, though, says Turley, is that O and the DOJ have argued successfully in many cases that no one has standing to sue him because no one can show an injury from his power grabs that’s concrete enough to justify a federal lawsuit. So the courts can’t check him either.

The only check left, it would seem, is through elections. Which isn’t a check at all on a term-limited President. Of course, there’s always the impeachment route, but that doesn’t seem likely (despite what some in the media think). Turley thinks it’s not even being considered:

Now, I was the lead witness but I was testifying in through the haze of a raging flu. So I went back and checked. Impeachment was mentioned in passing but it was quickly discounted. Indeed, I specifically testified that, as someone who testified at the Clinton impeachment, I did not view such a measure as warranted given the ambiguity of past decisions. Indeed, the references to impeachment were made in the context of the loss of meaningful options for Congress to respond to such encroachments when the President reserved the right to suspend portions of laws and fought access to the courts in challenging such decisions. Yet, the Post simply reported that the word impeachment came up (not surprisingly) in a discussion of the options given by Framers to Congress in dealing with unlawful presidential conduct.

During the hearing, not only did I discount impeachment as an option, but a Democratic member specifically asked the panel about the references to impeachment. No one could remember how it came up but it was clear that no one thought it was a substantial issue — or significant part of the hearing.


In a discussion of checks on the presidency, impeachment is one of the enumerated options given to Congress. Notably, past judicial opinions involving such separation of powers controversies have also discussed impeachment with the power of the purse as devices given to the Congress. In discussing impeachment with these other powers, courts were not advocating impeachment or suggesting that it was a viable solution in that given case.

In the end, since the Senate is held by the same party as the President, impeachment isn’t a serious option. But the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress remains a serious issue. At this point, the only options left would seem to be either shutting the government down, or refusing to pass any new laws since the POTUS won’t execute them anyway. And whither goes the Republic.

Governing By Expert

On last night’s podcast, Dale and I discussed the rise of a soft tyranny and expansion of the regulatory state in this country. Pres. Obama has, on more than one occasion, unilaterally declared the power to pick and choose what laws to enforce, or to simply change the way they are enforced, without any consequences (i.e. checks and/or balances). He’s not the first POTUS to act that way (albeit the most brazen about it), and probably won’t be the last.

The primary reason he, or any other POTUS, is even able to act this way is because of the massive regulatory apparatus at the disposal of the Executive branch. An apparatus created by Congress; one it seems strangely reluctant to rein in. As Kevin Williamson notes, “Barack Obama did not invent managerial liberalism,” and while his agenda is painfully horrendous, it’s “a good deal less ambitious than was Woodrow Wilson’s or Richard Nixon’s.” However, Obama has used the leeway provided by Congresses past and present to further expand the regulatory state. Williamson characterizes this as Obama’s “utterly predictable approach to domestic politics: appoint a panel of credentialed experts.”

His faith in the powers of pedigreed professionals is apparently absolute. Consider his hallmark achievement, the Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of which is the appointment of a committee, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the mission of which is to achieve targeted savings in Medicare without reducing the scope or quality of care. How that is to be achieved was contemplated in detail neither by the lawmakers who wrote the health-care bill nor by the president himself. But they did pay a great deal of attention to the processes touching IPAB: For example, if that committee of experts fails to achieve the demanded savings, then the ball is passed to . . . a new committee of experts, this one under the guidance of the secretary of health and human services. IPAB’s powers are nearly plenipotentiary: Its proposals, like a presidential veto, require a supermajority of Congress to be overridden.

IPAB is the most dramatic example of President Obama’s approach to government by expert decree, but much of the rest of his domestic program, from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law to his economic agenda, is substantially similar. In total, it amounts to that fundamental transformation of American society that President Obama promised as a candidate: but instead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state. The real import of Barack Obama’s political career will be felt long after he leaves office, in the form of a permanently expanded state that is more assertive of its own interests and more ruthless in punishing its enemies. At times, he has advanced this project abetted by congressional Democrats, as with the health-care law’s investiture of extraordinary powers in the executive bureaucracy, but he also has advanced it without legislative assistance — and, more troubling still, in plain violation of the law. President Obama and his admirers choose to call this “pragmatism,” but what it is is a mild expression of totalitarianism, under which the interests of the country are conflated with those of the president’s administration and his party.

(emphasis added)

I likened the expansion and independence of the regulatory state to 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Terminator in that these things that were created to ostensibly serve in the aid of their users developed a life, mind and interests of their own, and eventually turned on the users. A perfect example would be if the IRS scandal of targeting conservatives turns out to be completely divorced of any political direction, and instead was completely self-initiated from within the department. As James Taranto often points out, that is the far scarier scenario than the one where the White House directed the agency to target its political enemies. Corrupt politicians are bad, but they are expected and can be dealt with in a summary manner. An unelected, unaccountable and extremely powerful organization exercising its own political agenda is orders of magnitude worse.

Williamson continues:

Democracy never lasts long,” [John] Adams famously said. “It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” For liberal regimes, a very common starting point on the road to serfdom is the over-delegation of legislative powers to the executive. France very nearly ended up in a permanent dictatorship as a result of that error, and was spared that fate mostly by good luck and Charles de Gaulle’s patriotism. Long before she declared her infamous state of emergency, Indira Gandhi had been centralizing power in the prime minister’s office, and India was spared a permanent dictatorship only by her political miscalculation and her dynasty-minded son’s having gotten himself killed in a plane wreck. Salazar in Portugal, Austria under Dollfuss, similar stories. But the United States is not going to fall for a strongman government. Instead of delegating power to a would-be president-for-life, we delegate it to a bureaucracy-without-death. You do not need to install a dictator when you’ve already had a politically supercharged permanent bureaucracy in place for 40 years or more. As is made clear by everything from campaign donations to the IRS jihad, the bureaucracy is the Left, and the Left is the bureaucracy. Elections will be held, politicians will come and go, but if you expand the power of the bureaucracy, you expand the power of the Left, of the managers and minions who share Barack Obama’s view of the world. Barack Obama isn’t the leader of the free world; he’s the front man for the permanent bureaucracy, the smiley-face mask hiding the pitiless yawning maw of total politics.

(emphasis added)

I would add that, if the politics were reversed (i.e. “the bureaucracy is Right, and the Right is bureaucracy”) we would still have the same issue: an unaccountable power structure that invades every aspect of our lives. Coupled with a President who exercises that power based on political whims, and we have a serious issue:

The job of the president is to execute the law — that is what the executive branch is there to do. If Barack Obama had wanted to keep pursuing his career as a lawmaker, then the people of Illinois probably would have been content to preserve him in the Senate for half a century or so. As president, he has no more power to decide not to enforce the provisions of a duly enacted federal law than does John Boehner, Anthony Weiner, or Whoopi Goldberg. And unlike them, he has a constitutional duty to enforce the law.

So, one might ask (as Dale did last night), why isn’t the President being impeached for dereliction of duty? Partisan politics is one answer (see, e.g., the failure of the Clinton impeachment). A lack of will is another. Perhaps the simplest answer, however, is that Congress is quite complicit in this expansion and abuse of the regulatory state:

Congress’s supine ceding of its powers, and the Obama administration’s usurpation of both legal and extralegal powers, is worrisome. But what is particularly disturbing is the quiet, polite, workaday manner with which the administration goes about its business — and with which the American public accepts it. As Christopher Hitchens once put it, “The essence of tyranny is not iron law; it is capricious law.”


Barack Obama’s administration is unmoored from the institutions that have long kept the imperial tendencies of the American presidency in check. That is partly the fault of Congress, which has punted too many of its legislative responsibilities to the president’s army of faceless regulators, but it is in no small part the result of an intentional strategy on the part of the administration. He has spent the past five years methodically testing the limits of what he can get away with, like one of those crafty velociraptors testing the electric fence in Jurassic Park. Barack Obama is a Harvard Law graduate, and he knows that he cannot make recess appointments when Congress is not in recess. He knows that his HHS is promulgating regulations that conflict with federal statutes. He knows that he is not constitutionally empowered to pick and choose which laws will be enforced. This is a might-makes-right presidency, and if Barack Obama has been from time to time muddled and contradictory, he has been clear on the point that he has no intention of being limited by something so trivial as the law.

I agree with Williamson that Obama has pushed the limits, but I think he lets Congress off the hook too easily. Every POTUS presses the limits. Indeed, Williamson provides the example of Nixon’s abuses, and even compares Obama favorably: “… it is impossible to imagine President Obama making the announcement that President Richard Nixon did on August 15, 1971: ‘I am today ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States.'” Williamson notes that Nixon was able to make that announcement because of power invested in him by Congress. Just as Obama has been entrusted with incredible power via such instruments as the IPAB which requires a super-majority of Congress to override its decisions. While Obama is bad, clearly the issue here is that Congress isn’t doing its job either.

Recall that in Federalist #51, James Madison explained that the way the Constitution controls the new federal government, such that “the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights”, was to divide the different departments in a way that each had interests sufficiently distinct from one another so as to provide an incentive for each to jealously guard those interests and maintain their power. This system of checks and balances was meant to prevent consolidation of power in any one part of the government.

The problem we seem to have run into since then is when the two most powerful departments combine their interests and secret away their combined powers in an unaccountable regulatory apparatus, safe from the will of the electorate. That the office of POTUS would be willing to do this is to be expected, and indeed is a large part of why there was much resistance to its creation. However, that Congress has done so much to aid and abet the effort is contemptible. Unless and until Congress rights the balance, and vigorously pursues its checking role, the problem will only worsen.

Liberals Don’t Understand How Agricultural Subsidies Work

To be fair, they don’t understand how most things work, especially when there’s math involved, but this particular quirk is quite annoying.

I remember the first time I came across this general ignorance (see the comments), in a West Wing episode:

Actual dialog from a recent West Wing rerun:

Josh: What do I say to people who ask why we subsidize farmers when we don’t subsidize plumbers?
Farmer’s daughter 1: Tell ’em they can pay seven dollars for a potato.

Yes, I know it’s a TV show, but do people actually think like this? I always assumed that the reason we couldn’t get rid of farm subsidies was rent seeking by the farmers, but if people actually believe this, that could be part of the problem.

Yes, people actually do believe this. Indeed, here is David Sirota spouting the same ignorance:

GOP meat eaters aren’t free market – they want everyone to subsidize their eating via taxes that fund meat subsidies.

Among best ways to reduce meat consumption is to end ag subsidies so that the cost of meat is a true free market price – think: $9 burgers

David also makes the correct point that some GOP congressmen vote to keep these subsidies in place (particularly those in states with farms that benefit the most from them), but that doesn’t alleviate the complete misunderstanding of what these subsidies do.

In short: agricultural subsidies don’t reduce consumer prices, but instead raise them.

In fact, the entire point of these subsidies is to set minimum price levels (often called “price supports”) or trade barriers that create an artificial monopoly. The entire milk industry, as an example, is propped up with such subsidies. Why else do you think it costs about as much for a gallon of milk as does for a gallon of gas?

Although there had been several different forms of subsidies in the U.S. prior to the 1930’s, most were simple tariffs. When the Great Depression began, the Roosevelt Administration sought to prop up the nation’s farmers by raising their incomes. How did they propose to do that? Mainly by setting minimum prices and production quotas (remember Wickard v. Filburn?):

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated president in 1933, he called Congress into special session to introduce a record number of legislative proposals under what he dubbed the New Deal. One of the first to be introduced and enacted was the Agricultural Adjustment Act. The intent of the AAA was to restore the purchasing power of American farmers to pre-World War I levels. The money to pay the farmers for cutting back production by about 30 percent was raised by a tax on companies that bought farm products and processed them into food and clothing.

The AAA evened the balance of supply and demand for farm commodities so that prices would support a decent purchasing power for farmers. This concept was known as “parity.”

AAA controlled the supply of seven “basic crops” — corn, wheat, cotton, rice, peanuts, tobacco, and milk — by offering payments to farmers in return for farmers not planting those crops.

The AAA also became involved in assisting farmers ruined by the advent of the Dust Bowl in 1934.

In 1936 the Supreme Court, ruling in United States v. Butler, declared the AAA unconstitutional. Writing for the majority, Justice Owen Roberts stated that by regulating agriculture, the federal government was invading areas of jurisdiction reserved by the constitution to the states, and thus violated the Tenth Amendment. Judge Harlan Stone responded for the minority that, “Courts are not the only agency of government that must be assumed to have capacity to govern.”

Further legislation by Congress restored some of the act`s provisions, encouraging conservation, maintaining balanced prices, and establishing food reserves for periods of shortages.

Congress also adopted the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act, which encouraged conservation by paying benefits for planting soil-building crops instead of staple crops. The rewritten statutes were declared constitutional by the Supreme Court in Mulford v. Smith (1939) and Wickard v. Filburn (1942).

During World War II, the AAA turned its attention to increasing food production to meet war needs. The AAA did not end the Great Depression and drought, but the legislation remained the basis for all farm programs in the following 70 years.

The entire point of these subsidies is to increase the incomes of farmers. It has never had anything to do with making the price of a potato or a hamburger cheaper for consumers. By design, these programs intend to raise the price for agricultural products, as well as to transfer dollars from taxpayers to farmers.

How liberals like David Sirota and Aaron Sorkin came to think the exact opposite is puzzling. As Ronald Reagan said: “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”

Dorner and the Wallets (plural)

Deranged serial killer, Christopher Dorner, may be blossoming into a cause celebre of the moronic and ill-informed, but the official manhunt leading up to his alleged death is spawning plenty of conspiracy. There’s plenty of overlap to be sure. However, one aspect of this case that spurs skepticism is that Dorner’s wallet was found in three different places: San Diego’s Lindbergh Field; the San Ysidro Point of Entry near the US-Mexico border; and in the rubble of the cabin he apparently burned to death in.

So how could this be? Cord Jefferson at the Gawker hazards a guess:

Though he botched a number of things in the course of his warpath—a bungled boat robbery, wrecking his truck and smashing its axle, etc.—Dorner seemed better prepared than most spree killers, which might explain why he had multiple wallets and multiple IDs (perhaps he was trying to throw authorities off his track). Another possibility is that press outlets made mistakes during their reporting, thus leading the public to wrongly believe that Dorner’s wallet was in three places at once.

That sort of seems plausible, except if you’re going to go through the trouble of manufacturing several ID’s and carrying several wallets, why would you have all of them bear the same name, much less your own name? Carrying an ID for “Christopher Dorner” during this manhunt would not be much of an advantage, would it?

No, the more simple explanation (also suggested by Jefferson) is that the media screwed up.

First of all, the only official mention of Dorner’s ID and wallet being found is in the criminal complaint and affidavit filed by the US Marshal Service (see paragraph 7(b)):

“Detective Anschick later found DORNER’s personal belongings, including his wallet and identification cards, near the U.S./Mexico border at the San Ysidro Point of Entry.”

Yet, according to the most recent reports from the scene of the final conflagration, after being cornered in a cabin near Big Bear Lake, California:

He never emerged from the ruins and hours later a charred body was found in the basement of the burned cabin along with a wallet and personal items, including a California driver’s license with the name Christopher Dorner, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

Did you notice that this info was from an anonymous source? Again, the only official report about a wallet and/or ID being found is the one cited in the federal complaint.

How about the claim that his wallet was found at Lindbergh Field? Well, that seems to come from this NBC San Diego report:

An LAPD badge and a wallet with the suspect’s personal identification were discovered Thursday by an airport shuttle driver near San Diego’s Lindbergh Field.

This particular nugget of info is unsourced, and doesn’t really make much sense. Would a cop who was fired in 2008 still have a badge in 2013?

Even if he did, there is still only one official report of Dorner’s ID/wallet being found, and that’s contained in the federal complaint filed on February 7th.

Ergo, the flowering conspiracy theories are almost entirely fed with media fertilizer. Once again, our intrepid press, with its professional journalists and layers upon layers of fact checkers, have proven themselves the modern equivalent of a sewing circle.

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