Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain


When Government Controls [insert appropriate issue]

All you need are people like the UK’s Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the government’s Sustainable Development Commission at the levers of power and you can imagine the liberty killing possibilities.

A report by the commission, to be published next month, will say that governments must reduce population growth through better family planning.

“I am unapologetic about asking people to connect up their own responsibility for their total environmental footprint and how they decide to procreate and how many children they think are appropriate,” Porritt said.

[...]

“I think we will work our way towards a position that says that having more than two children is irresponsible. It is the ghost at the table. We have all these big issues that everybody is looking at and then you don’t really hear anyone say the “p” word.”

Now when people start throwing the word “irresponsible” around, what could possibly be the result if there’s a friendly ear in government? Perhaps legislation to make “irresponsibility” illegal. And before you start with the “they’d never do something like that” nonsense, bring me up to date on how many two child families there are in China.

Yes friends, it’s Population Bomb 2.0. Coming to a shriek-fest, sky-is-falling, we’re-killing-Mother-Earth event near you soon.

As an aside, Porritt represents the most dangerous  type of environmental activists out there. He is what many like to call “watermelon activist”. Green on the outside, red in the middle. Check this out if you doubt the point:

Porritt, a former chairman of the Green party, says the government must improve family planning, even if it means shifting money from curing illness to increasing contraception and abortion.

Because, of course, in Watermelon World, that is the state’s job.

~McQ

[HT: RWN]


Super Steelers

A good Super Bowl (and a good half-time show). No standouts on the commercials.

I had picked the Cardinals by three. That was also the top pick in our Super Bowl poll.

Interestingly, no one picked the Steelers by 3 (the closest pick to the result).


Where’s FEMA

After all the complaints about New Orleans, you’d think the Obama administration would be sensitive to this sort of thing:

In some parts of rural Kentucky, they’re getting water the old-fashioned way — with pails from a creek. There’s not room for one more sleeping bag on the shelter floor. The creative are flushing their toilets with melted snow.

At least 42 people have died, including 11 in Kentucky, and conditions are worsening in many places days after an ice storm knocked out power to 1.3 million customers from the Plains to the East Coast. And with no hope that the lights will come back on soon, small communities are frantically struggling to help their residents.

[...]

Local officials were growing angry with what they said was a lack of help from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In Grayson County, about 80 miles southwest of Louisville, Emergency Management Director Randell Smith said the 25 National Guardsmen who have responded have no chain saws to clear fallen trees.

“We’ve got people out in some areas we haven’t even visited yet,” Smith said. “We don’t even know that they’re alive.”

Smith said FEMA has been a no-show so far.

You’re doing a heck of a job, Barack!

Hope and change.

~McQ


About Those Lobbyists

The promise: Lobbyists would be categorically denied jobs in the Obama administration, no exceptions.

The reality:

It is easy to project yourself as a clean politician after making your debut in South Side Chicago with buddies like Rahm Emanuel. US president Obama has appointed more than 17 lobbyists after talking big on anti-lobbyist Governance and rooting corruption out of the American Government.

Dreams are dreams. Facts are facts.

[...]

Would you believe, Obama had to issue 17 waivers on his own rule in less than two weeks for allowing lobbyist enter his Administration and control Governance of America!

Of course you have to read about it in the foreign press since our MSM appears uninterested in such things.

Hope and change.

~McQ


The Great QandO Super Bowl Poll

OK all you NFL experts out there, tell me how it is going to go today in this oh, so irrelevant of many, many irrelevant Super Bowl polls today:


Who Will Win The Super Bowl And By How Much?
Cardinals by 3
Cardinals by 7
Cardinals by 10
Cardinals by 14
Cardinals by greater than 14
Steelers by 3
Steelers by 7
Steelers by 10
Steelers by 14
Steelers by greater than 14
pollcode.com free polls

For extra credit, put the final score in the comments.


Capitalism Is Not The Problem

Gloom, doom and revolution are in the air:

France paralysed by a wave of strike action, the boulevards of Paris resembling a debris-strewn battlefield. The Hungarian currency sinks to its lowest level ever against the euro, as the unemployment figure rises. Greek farmers block the road into Bulgaria in protest at low prices for their produce. New figures from the biggest bank in the Baltic show that the three post-Soviet states there face the biggest recessions in Europe.

It’s a snapshot of a single day – yesterday – in a Europe sinking into the bleakest of times. But while the outlook may be dark in the big wealthy democracies of western Europe, it is in the young, poor, vulnerable states of central and eastern Europe that the trauma of crash, slump and meltdown looks graver.

Exactly 20 years ago, in serial revolutionary rejoicing, they ditched communism to put their faith in a capitalism now in crisis and by which they feel betrayed. The result has been the biggest protests across the former communist bloc since the days of people power.

Europe’s time of troubles is gathering depth and scale. Governments are trembling. Revolt is in the air.

Capitalism, of course, is the reason, or at least the cause used by European socialists, to lay blame for this crisis. Forgotten, of course, is the standard of living capitalism has brought to these same people over decades despite their every effort to blunt and subvert it’s bounty through government.

Forgotten by those in the east who survived communism 20 short years ago is the marked difference they found between the east and west and how long it took them to recover from the ravages of communism.

I’ve always heard we human beings have very short memories. And I’ve also heard we always believe that the times we live in are the worst. Ever.

How else do you explain this belief that suddenly the world’s problems can be traced to evil capitalism? But it is truly under attack around the world.

In some places the attack on its foundations is blatant. Consider Bolivian President Evo Morales’ recent speech to the UN:

I think that that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity and if we do not change the model, change the system, then our presence, our debate, our exchange, and the proposals that we make in these meetings at the United Nations will be totally in vain.

Capitalism has twins, the market and war. The market converts life into commodities, it converts land into a commodity. And when capitalists cannot sustain this economic model based on looting, on exploitation, on marginalisation, on exclusion and, above all, on the accumulation of capital, they rely on war, the arms race. If we ask ourselves how much money is spent on the arms race — we are never concerned about that.

This is why I feel that it is important to change economic models, development models, and economic systems, particularly those in the western world. And if we do not understand and thoroughly discuss the very survival of our peoples, then we certainly not will not be addressing the problem of climate change, the problem of life, the problem for humanity.

Morales, of course, attempts to blame all the ills of colonialism and its aftermath exclusively on capitalism, while ignoring any benefits accrued. He also manages to ignore the oppressive nature of that colonial period and the simple fact that it really didn’t represent capitalism as much as rule by oligarchs. The oligarchs, in many cases did “loot”, “exploit” and “marginalize”. But not under the auspices of a system called “capitalism”.

A simple and rational examination of what capitalism is versus what his country experienced would help Morales understand that capitalism isn’t the cause of his people’s suffering. And while I can empathize with his concerns for the rights of indigenous people and the environment, the system which provides those rights and the wealth necessary to address both issues isn’t the populist brand of socialism to which he and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez subscribe.

And while Chavez and Morales provide the more obvious attacks on the capitalist system, there are much more subtle ones ongoing in Europe and the United States. The article I cite above is a good example of that trend. The fact that Europe was brought so quickly to the precipice isn’t because of capitalism, but instead because so much of life is dependent on the state. And when finally the state – as we saw with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union – can no longer carry the financial load it has burdened itself with, the whole system eventually collapses.

Funny that the less capitalistic nations of Europe where the state has assumed a more intrusive role in its citizens life seem to be facing a deeper and more immediate financial crises than are others.

But that’s not because the same sort of attempt to subvert capitalism even more isn’t at work here as well. Some time last year, I grabbed a quote from Stephen Bainbridge’s blog (forgive me, I don’t have a link) and it distills well the essence of the evolution of blatant socialism, which is rather unpopular, to a more stealth version of the ideology which we have been seeing for some time. This was written during the recent campaign:

When I think about Obama, I am reminded of Richard Epstein’s observation that in order to remain politically viable modern socialists no longer advocate direct government ownership of production. Instead, modern socialism operates on two different levels: “At a personal level, it speaks to the alienation of the individual, stressing the need for caring and sharing and the politics of meaning. At a regulatory level, it seeks to identify specific sectors in which there is a market failure and then to subject them to various forms of government regulation.” Sounds a lot like Obama’s stump speech to me.

Sounds very much like the government that has formed and is now operating. Isn’t the Obama administration forming a “Middle Class Task Force”? If that doesn’t speak to framing “alienation” I’m not sure what does. And we’re presently hip deep in the ramping up of a new regulatory regime aimed at ensuring we never suffer a new bout of failed markets no matter how many banks they eventually have to nationalize and despite the fact that government was a big part of the problem.

Consider Epstein’s main point above – In order to hide old school socialism enough to make it acceptable today, the populist message had to be tweaked. With the failure of socialism/communism in the USSR and eastern Europe, “direct ownership of the means of production” came to mean two things – gross inefficiency, the mega-state and crushing oppression.

People everywhere came to identify socialism/communism with those damning characteristics. That forever removed it from the pantheon of acceptable ideologies, although (see Chavez in Venezuela who is unapologetic about it) there are still a large cadre of true believers who are sure that the only reason socialism hasn’t worked is it hasn’t been properly done yet. And, of course, they’re the people to do it. For the most part, these people are found on the left side of the political spectrum.

Facing utter rejection, at least in the US if the “S-word” is used, it has become necessary to hide it in a populist message and, then, create a victim class and a villain. It is no longer the proletariat who suffers under the yoke of the oppressive monarchy, but instead, the “bitter and frustrated” voters of rural America. Or the middle class.

As Epstein points out, it is necessary to paint a picture of alienation of the individual from the system in order to attack the system. Establish that narrative and suddenly “hope” and “change” take on a new and easily manipulated meaning.

Once that narrative is established, then the “enemy” has to be identified. The entity or entities which are responsible for the alienation of these individuals have to be identified and called to task in order to establish the framework necessary to make the collectivist premise of bigger and more intrusive government palatable.

Wall Street. Big Oil. Big Pharma.

Ironically, the mega-state remains the answer to the dilemma which it helped create. The narrative necessarily asks how successful, without government intrusion, a small-town voter (aka “the victim”) can be in standing up against the legions of Washington DC lobbyists writing bad law or greedy “big oil” sucking your wallet dry and paying outrageous CEO salaries?

Classic.

Victim class, oppressor, superhero (the government) to the rescue. Never mind that the superhero has been a much a part of the problem as any other entity involved and more so than most. This too is a classic part of the cycle. Government causes a problem, identifies the victims and the transgressors (without government being counted among that group) and it gathers the power necessary – or, more likely, has it ceded to it – to “right the wrong”. Of course, it never gives up the power it gathers.

End result – bigger government, more government power, more government intrusion.

If you can’t see that on the horizon right now, then you are indeed politically blind and will probably do well under the new state regime which is presently being built.

~McQ


Why Should Republicans Cooperate With Obama?

Why Should Republicans Cooperate With Obama?

Take a gander at that chart.  James Joyner put it together to illustrate why the Republicans might not be that concerned with cooperating with Democrats right now.

It’s certainly nothing particularly new in politics.  When Republicans were the majority party in both houses of Congress and had a Republican President, it was much the same for Democrats at the time.  And we watched Tom Daschle and the boys in the Senate act just like one would expect a minority party with the above choices to act.  That is, they mostly said “no” to almost everything the Republican administration wanted.

The difference at the time was there were much closer numbers on both sides in the Senate so that luring Democrats to pass anything was a necessary thing.  Then “bi-partisanship”,  like it or not, was a necessity.  Then flavoring the bill enough to attract Democrats was something which had to be done.

Now that’s not necessary at all.

Now, with the possibility of a 58th Democratic Senator (if Republican Sen. Gregg accepts the Commerce post, the Democratic Governor of NH will surely name a Democrat to that seat) and two “independents” who have and always will caucus with the Senate Democrats, they don’t need Republicans at all.   The Republican minority in this session doesn’t even enjoy the power it had in the last session of Congress or that was enjoyed by the Democrats when they were last in the minority.  It is a completely different game.

That reality actually makes it a little easier for Republicans to vote “no”. They know the inevitable consequences of voting”yes” for anything the administration wants will leave them out in the cold when credit is due or holding the bag when the policy fails.  It’s a lose-lose situation.  Why voluntarily put your party in that position in the name of some nebulous goal of the other party – namely bi-partisanship?

Instead, become the adamant (although mostly powerless), principled opposition, become a shadow government and offer alternatives to what is being rammed through by Democrats in Congress without your wanted or needed participation.   Solidarity of purpose (principled opposition) is now the Republican’s most effective weapon.

Oh, and Republicans – for a change, make sure the public understands your alternatives and why you’re against what you’re against.  Hire a PR firm if you have too, but get the word out – effectively – before the other side paints you as nothing more than petty obstructionists (remember it is hard to be either petty or an obstructionist when you don’t have the power to defeat the vote in either house of Congress if the Democrats stick together).

~McQ


Lard, Transfer Payments and Payoffs Make Up Bulk of Democratic “Stimulus” Bill

Where the "stimulus" money is going, in billions

Where the "stimulus" money is going, in billions

Show me, please, where any of that listed on the left is a ‘stimulus’ that will create jobs, other than government jobs?  We’re talking productive private sector jobs here.

Sure “refundable tax credits” – i.e. sending money from people who pay taxes to people who don’t – unemployment insurance and food stamps will certainly get money into the system.  But it’s not going to stimulate anything in particular.

So when you see over $265 billion of this so-called “stimulus” being spent thusly, you realize that over 30% is going to relief.  While relief may sound good, other than the government bureaucrats it takes to run the programs, it doesn’t provide much stimulus where it is most needed – creating jobs.

Transfer payments, then, consume 1/3 of the stimulus bill.  Great.  What else?

Well, consider these little goodies:

• $8 billion on “renewable energy” projects, which have a low or negative return
• $7 billion for “modernizing federal buildings and facilities”
• $6 billion on urban transit systems, dominated by unions and which, almost universally, lose money
• $2.4 billion for “carbon-capture demonstration projects”
• $2 billion for child-care subsidies
• $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that’s run in the red for 40 years
• $650 million for “digital TV conversion coupons” (on top of billions already spent)
• $600 million on new cars for government (added to the $3 billion already spent each year)
• $400 million for “global-warming research”
• $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts

Anyone – what will $50 million for the NEA do to “stimulate the economy?”  And the last thing we need is more “global warming research”.

Much of the rest of the billions and billions and billions of dollars being taxed, borrowed or printed will go toward projects which won’t spend their first dollar before late 2010 or early 2011.  And corporate income taxes?  Well, can’t cut those because we might actually see jobs created if that was done.

One area these dollars won’t be spent, and in fact is being cut while we’re engaged in 2 wars is Defense spending.

The Obama administration has asked the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to cut the Pentagon’s budget request for the fiscal year 2010 by more than 10 percent — about $55 billion — a senior U.S. defense official tells FOX News.

Last year’s defense budget was $512 billion. Service chiefs and planners will be spending the weekend “burning the midnight oil” looking at ways to cut the budget — looking especially at weapons programs, the defense official said.

Some overall budget figures are expected to be announced Monday.

Obama met Friday at the White House with a small group of military advisers, including Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman, and Gen. Jim Jones, National Security Council chairman.

All those promises about strengthening the military, taking care of our vets, etc. — just words.

Nope, your crisis is the left’s wet dream.  As Rahm Emanuel said, no reason to let a good crisis go to waste.  They’re going to pass things now they could never pass previously under normal circumstances.  That’s why House Democrats only allowed one hour of “debate” before voting.  Hell, you can’t even read the  whole name of the bill and all the sponsors in an hour.  However, had they actually allowed for debate, you might have heard about the pork and transfer payments and special favors (like those tax favors given to Hollywood) which make up such a large part of this bill.  Can’t have that in this most “transparent” of administrations, can we?

Hope and change.

~McQ


Meanwhile In Iraq

Progress continues:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has hailed a largely peaceful vote for new provincial councils across the country as a victory for all Iraqis.

Voting was extended by one hour due to a strong turnout, including among Sunni Muslims who boycotted the last polls.

The first nationwide vote in four years is being seen as a test of Iraq’s stability ahead of a general election due later this year.

Security, while tight, seems to have been effective:

Despite warnings from Iraqi and US military commanders that al-Qaeda posed a threat to the elections, there were relatively few incidents reported.

And the Sunni’s decided to participate this time:

The turnout was reported to be brisk even in Sunni areas.

The head of the Iraqi electoral commission in Anbar province – a centre of the Sunni resistance to the US occupation – said he was expecting a 60% turnout.

Their participation will, of course, change the representation in government, but it looks like the Sunni’s have decided that becoming a part of the solution is a much better strategy than being a part off the problem.

Real hope and change.

~McQ


An “Honest” Mistake

I’ve come to understand that Democrats don’t like tax cuts, but even more importantly, they don’t like paying taxes.  This time its Obama’s HHS nominee, Tom Daschle.  Apparently Mr. Daschle was absolutely clueless that he should have been paying taxes on a car and driver which was provided at taxpayer expense:

After being defeated in his 2004 re-election campaign to the Senate, Daschle in 2005 became a consultant and chairman of the executive advisory board at InterMedia Advisors.

Based in New York City, InterMedia Advisors is a private equity firm founded in part by longtime Daschle friend and Democratic fundraiser Leo Hindery, the former president of the YES network (the New York Yankees’ and New Jersey Devils’ cable television channel).

That same year he began his professional relationship with InterMedia, Daschle began using the services of Hindery’s car and driver.

The Cadillac and driver were never part of Daschle’s official compensation package at InterMedia, but Mr. Daschle — who as Senate majority leader enjoyed the use of a car and driver at taxpayer expense — didn’t declare their services on his income taxes, as tax laws require.

During the vetting process to become HHS secretary, Daschle corrected the tax violation, voluntarily paying $101,943 in back taxes plus interest, working with his accountant to amend his tax returns for 2005 through 2007.

Now I’d expect to be told this is just an “honest” mistake, much like Tim Geithner’s. And of course, the same people who defended the tax cheat who is now Secretary of Treasury, are defending Daschle:

“The president has confidence that Sen. Daschle is the right person to lead the fight for health care reform,” White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. “In preparation for his nomination, Sen. Daschle and his accountant identified some tax issues and fixed them. They filed amended return with the IRS and made payments with interest. Sen. Daschle brought these issues to the Finance Committee’s attention when he submitted his nomination forms and we are confident the committee is going to schedule a hearing for him very soon and he will be confirmed.”

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., added: “Sen. Daschle will be confirmed as secretary of health and human services. He has a long and distinguished career and record in public service and is the best person to help reform health care in this country.”

When did Daschle “identify” these tax problems? It appears only after the distinct probability that Obama would win and that he’d be serving in Obama’s administration. Suddenly he was concerned:

Daschle reimbursed the IRS $31,462 in taxes and interest for tax year 2005; $35,546 for 2006; and $34,935 for 2007, a Daschle spokesperson said, adding that Daschle had asked his accountant to look into the tax implications of the car and driver five months before Obama won the presidency.

It wasn’t important in 2005, 2006 or 2007. It only became important when not paying them stood in the way of a possible job in the administration.

The Daschle spokesperson told ABC News that the senator, facing questions from the committee, has said “he deeply regretted his mistake. When he realized it was a mistake he corrected it rapidly.”

Yup, some real ethical giants are going to be running the ship of state aren’t they?

Hope and change.

~McQ

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