Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: December 2009


Is Janet Napolitano Living In An Alternate Universe?

Or am I?

From Politico:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday that the thwarting of the attempt to blow up an Amsterdam-Detroit airline flight Christmas Day demonstrated that “the system worked.

Asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union” how that could be possible when the young Nigerian who has been charged with trying to set off the bomb was able to smuggle explosive liquid onto the jet, Napolitano responded: “We’re asking the same questions.”

Napolitano added that there was “no suggestion that [the suspect] was improperly screened.”

Apparently he was screened exactly as he should have been according to TSA guidelines. Yet he got on the aircraft with explosive underwear.

The only reason the flight wasn’t blown out of the sky is he had a faulty detonator. And, as with the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, it took other passengers to subdue him.

So what part of the system worked?

Oh yeah, the “let’s overreact and make stupid new rules” part:

Among other steps being imposed, passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. Overseas passengers will be restricted to only one carry-on item aboard the plane, and domestic passengers will probably face longer security lines.

The restrictions will again change the routine of air travel, which has undergone an upheaval since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in September 2001 and three attempts at air terrorism since then.

As James Joyner notes, since 2001 there have been 3 attempts in tens of thousands of flights and our reaction is to make flight even more miserable than it already is for little if any security gain. Radley Balko points out:

In addition to keeping with its usually tradition of making policy on a reactionary basis, this one wouldn’t even have done anything to prevent the attempt over the weekend. The guy was in his seat when he tried to light the explosive device. And the passenger who confronted him got out of his seat to do it.

Ah, but that doesn’t matter. Our new rules will “ensure” that no aircraft inbound to the US will be blown out of the sky in the last hour. No word on what might happen the preceding 2 to 14 hours (depending on the origination of the filght) prior to that.

The last word from Balko:

For all the crap they put us through, this guy still got some sort of explosive material on the plane from Amsterdam. He was stopped by law-abiding passengers. So TSA responds to all of this by . . . announcing plans to hassle law-abiding U.S. passengers even more.

That is all that has “worked” in “the system”.

~McQ


Open Thread – Day After Christmas Edition

I’ll be traveling today so we’ll leave it up to you to discuss the topics of the day.

Like the Nigerian wanna-be bomber – an al Qaeda plot or a self-actualized terrorist?  The FBI is suspicious of the al Qaeda connection.  And if the latter, doesn’t that lend credence to the Ft. Hood shooting incident being a terrorist act?

The “pregnancy ban” has been lifted in Iraq.  Personally, I had no problem with it.  I thought the commander’s points were correct.  And you?

After all the whining about Wall Street, it looks like Fannie and Freddie will be offering similar compensation payments. It’s one thing for private businesses to do it. What do you think about quasi federal institutions offering those sorts of incentives while backed by your tax dollars?

And finally – starting to think about those resolutions yet? Yeah, me too. What’s your top one?

Feel free to discuss or link to any other topic that interests you as well.

~McQ


Chavez: Give Us Your Technology, Build The Right Cars, Or Leave!

Hugo Chavez, incompetent manager of the Venezuelan kleptocracy, er, Bolivarian Revolutionary state, has decided outside car makers just aren’t pulling their weight:

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has told car companies they must share their technology with local businesses or leave the country.

Mr Chavez gave the ultimatum to Toyota, Ford, General Motors and Fiat during a public address.

If the demand isn’t met, he said: “I invite you to pack up your belongings and leave. I’ll bring in the Russians, the Belorusians, the Chinese.”

Chavez’s homegrown auto industry is building cars that remind one of the ’50s (you’d think they’d sell well in Cuba – oh, wait, they have no money either). Obviously, the control freak in charge of Venezuela would love to have the technology Ford, Toyota or even Government Motors could offer his industry. So he’s decided they can just “share” their technology or leave.

And one more thing:

Mr Chavez attacked Toyota in particular, saying it was not producing enough four-wheel drive vehicles, which are used for public transport, and ordered an investigation.

Mr. Command Economy has decided that Toyota just doesn’t understand his market.

Of course his own domestic auto industry, the one he “commands” managed all of 135,000 vehicles last year. Why? Because of the bangup job he’s done running the place:

Currency controls in Venezuela mean the industry is struggling to get enough money to import parts and pay off debts.

So if he can’t actually produce them domestically, he’ll threaten and hector the existing one’s to save his rear-end or invite in a bunch of others to do so. Sounds like a typical socialist paradise to me.

~McQ


QandO TV: Episode 2

In this episode, I address the health care reform bill that passed the Senate.

BTW, in the very near future, I’ll be dumping my old camera, with it’s irritating “helpfulness” in constantly moving the frame around to track your movements.  I’ve got a brand new AG-HMC40 winging its way to me.


“Health Care Reform” Passes The Senate, Lady Liberty Passes Out

As I and others have been saying when this legislative process began, the Democrats are going to pass something and call it “health care reform”. The absolute best that can be said about this abomination of a bill just passed in the Senate is they’ve managed that.

In every measure possible, this became about politics, not the people. It clearly degenerated from a goal some considered worthy (and others considered beyond the scope of government and wasteful) to simply an exercise in raw power with an aim at producing anything they could label as reform.

Well, apparently we have it. The New York Times reports:

The Senate voted Thursday to reinvent the nation’s health care system, passing a bill to guarantee access to health insurance for tens of millions of Americans and to rein in health costs as proposed by President Obama.

Or course the bill doesn’t provide insurance for other tens of millions (but it does provide fines or jail for them if they don’t get it) – the supposed original purpose of the legislation.  And the NYT doesn’t report that President Obama, on the day that he signs the bill, will break yet another vow about refusing to sign anything that bends the health care cost curve up. In a disgraceful gaming of the system, Democrats used the 10 year window within which the CBO is statutorily required to work (and other machinations) to present a false picture to the American people of the cost of this monstrosity. And when President Obama signs it into law, he will know full well that he’s breaking his word and has set the future of American health care on a steeper path to insolvency.

This bill belongs solely to the Democrats as Olympia Snowe, the Republican most likely to be picked off by Democrats in any effort to make the process “bi-partisan” attests:

“I was extremely disappointed,” Ms. Snowe said. After Senate Democrats locked up 60 votes within their caucus, she said, “there was zero opportunity to amend the bill or modify it, and Democrats had no incentive to reach across the aisle.”

It also made an absolute travesty of the legislative process – a bill concocted in secret by the Senate Majority Leader, unavailable to other Senators until very late in the process and, of course, leaving no time to carefully read, consider or debate what was in it. Bribes for votes were blatantly written in to the bill. As one person noted, when you bribe a public official, usually you use your own money. Harry Reid bribed public officials using our money.

It was a pathetic and disgusting performance by the supposed “greatest deliberative body on earth”. There was no deliberation. Raw politics shoved a grossly costly, freedom limiting bureaucratic nightmare which we can’t afford through based on bribes and politics. Even David Broder wondered how you celebrated this mess, asking “how do you applaud while holding your nose?” Everyone who voted “yes” for this, and especially those who engineered its passage in the manner they did, should hang their head in abject shame. They made a mockery of a system set up to serve the people and instead made it a slave to party politics.

And, as Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog notes, even the silver lining isn’t so shiny:

The bad news: The Democrats are going to pass a half-baked mess of health care insurance changes. Several opponents of the bill are saying there is a silver lining — that this will allow Republicans, who did such a bang-up job when they last controlled Congress and the Presidency, to get back in power. Color me less than excited.

We’ve all been badly served by this government and these political parties. This legislation is a culmination of a decades long process, participated in by both Republicans and Democrats alike, which has essentially turned a liberty loving people into serfs who are answerable too and controlled by an ever increasingly powerful and intrusive government.

Richard Fernandez, at Belmont Club, uses the Detroit and California as the inevitable ends of this sort of “governing” and wonders:

Given the scale of the failures of Detroit and perhaps now of California why is repeating the same mistakes not only inevitable but actually described as being desirable public policy? Maybe it is because we cannot help ourselves. Consider that before the year is out the Senate may have voted in health care bill which a majority of voters, if polls are to be believed, actually detest but which they are going to get anyway. Like the residents of Detroit, we take the handout we know will kill us and do it despite everything.

Yes, like good serfs, we’ll knuckle our foreheads and thank the aristocracy which has just taken more of our freedom and money to use as they wish to use it and reward them by giving them additional chances to increase their power and further erode ours. And anyone who stands up in the shadow of this monstrosity and the process that brought it to fruition and says this is exactly what those who founded this country envisioned is a damnable and contemptible liar.

~McQ


California Bailout – Not Only “No”, But “Hell No”

I wondered why Arnie was recently extolling the virtues of all things Obama and telling us what a super  job he’s been doing.  It’s about the only transparent thing I’ve seen out of anything to do with government this entire last year:

Facing a budget deficit of more than $20 billion, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to call for deep reductions in already suffering local mass transit programs, renew his push to expand oil drilling off the Santa Barbara coast and appeal to Washington for billions of dollars in federal help, according to state officials and lobbyists familiar with the plan.

If Washington does not provide roughly $8 billion in new aid for the state, the governor threatens to severely cut back — if not eliminate — CalWORKS, the state’s main welfare program; the In-Home Health Care Services program for the disabled and elderly poor, and two tax breaks for large corporations recently approved by the Legislature, the officials said.

Tough beans. California spent its way into this deficit mess, it can cut spending to work its way out of the mess. Joe Sixpack in New Jersey has no responsibility for the profligate tofu eaters in the California legislature that have gotten the “Golden State” in the fiscal shape in now enjoys. And Joe shouldn’t be stuck with bailing them out. Joe’s state has problems of its own.

It is about time that fiscal reality began to dawn not only at a federal level, but at state levels as well. And that means living within a budget and keeping it balanced, just like millions of Americans are required to do on a daily basis. The fact that California has lived beyond its means doesn’t mean the taxpayer, via the federal government, is there to solve the problem when California can’t afford its profligacy anymore.

Bailing out California would also set a horrible precedent.  49 other states facing cuts in services or getting a hand out are going to be in line demanding theirs.  Whether it is 8 billion, 80 billion or 800 billion, the federal government has no business sending money it doesn’t have to a state that so poorly managed its finances. This was the state that was built on liberal ideas. Now they have to face the reality that those ideas cost real money. Money they don’t have. Let them figure it out and live with the results.

And Democrats, if you do decide to bail them out, you’re just adding a another deeply etched line to your electoral tombstone in 2010.

~McQ


The Obama Administration – A Minor Rant

As I recall, one of the things the left most enjoyed calling George Bush was “liar”. Of course all politicians fall into that category from time to time (some stay in it most of the time), but few are as blatant as this:

In the interview, Obama vigorously defended the legislation, saying he is “not just grudgingly supporting the bill. I am very enthusiastic about what we have achieved.”

“Nowhere has there been a bigger gap between the perceptions of compromise and the realities of compromise than in the health-care bill,” Obama said. “Every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill.”

Really? “Every single criteria?” Like the public option? And though he’ll deny it, it was one of his criteria. So was “no mandates”. You may remember the debate with Hillary Clinton where he rejected her call for them.  Then there was universal coverage.  This bill leaves 18 million uninsured. Wasn’t that, after all, the entire reason for the reform? I’m sure fining or jailing those who don’t get insurance was high on his criteria list as well.

All that to say that this monstrosity isn’t anything like what he touted nor does it meet most of his previous criteria. It’s a 2000 page abomination, and regardless of the shine he or anyone else tries to put on it, it is legislation that is ill formed, poorly thought out (if it is thought out at all), filled with bribes and something we simply can’t afford. The CBO has already halved its estimate of the savings it will bring.

Speaking of the CBO, two things from the Director’s blog:

The estimate includes a projected net cost of $614 billion over 10 years for the proposed expansions in insurance coverage. That net cost itself reflects a gross total of $871 billion in subsidies provided through the exchanges, increased net outlays for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and tax credits for small employers; those costs are partly offset by $149 billion in revenues from the excise tax on high-premium insurance plans and $108 billion in net savings from other sources.

By now anyone but the most blinkered partisan hack should be able to interpret the CBO report properly. It’s a simple formula – 10 years worth of revenue against 6 years worth of spending. In fact, divide 817/6 and take that times 10. What do you get? 1.361 Trillion. That’s the true net cost of this over 10 years. That is what it will cost – plus – from 2020 to 2029. It won’t bend any cost curve down.

And don’t forget, most of the savings are to come from Medicare – 500 billion over 10 years, remember? So, the CBO wonders:

Based on the longer-term extrapolation, CBO expects that inflation-adjusted Medicare spending per beneficiary would increase at an average annual rate of less than 2 percent during the next two decades under the legislation—about half of the roughly 4 percent annual growth rate of the past two decades. It is unclear whether such a reduction in the growth rate could be achieved, and if so, whether it would be accomplished through greater efficiencies in the delivery of health care or would reduce access to care or diminish the quality of care.

The CBO avoids the biggest problem in this “plan” – the political will to do it. And while it gives us a choice of options – “greater efficiencies” or rationing and “diminish[ing] the quality of care”, there are few who’ve objectively observed government operate anything over their lifetime who’d pick “greater efficiencies”. So if those savings are realized – certainly not a given as demonstrated by the lack of political will to make hard decisions on much less controversial items in the past – they’ll most likely be realized by rationing and/or a diminished quality of care.

Or to quote myself and any number of others – I told you so.

So while the country founders economically and real unemployment approaches 18%, Obama and the Democrats are screwing around with something that doesn’t even kick in for 4 years? Is it any wonder that his approval rating has approached all time lows for a new president?

One of the criticisms of the Bush administration is it was “isolated” from the main stream of America.  In the case of the Obama administration, it seems disconnected from that main stream.  “Tone deaf” doesn’t even begin to describe this crew who seem both unaware and unaffected by the real problems facing Americans – polls be damned. For someone who seemed to have his finger on the popular pulse during the campaign, Obama appears to have completely lost it since. He touts the “financial rescue” as his most significant accomplishment during his first year, claiming the 787 billion stimulus as the vehicle of that accomplishment. But as most know, the majority of that money has yet to be spent and that which as been spent has had little or no effect. As mentioned, unemployment remains at record highs. And credit is still difficult to get, businesses have no incentives and plenty of disincentives (health care reform, cap-and-trade/EPA regulations, etc) to not hire or expand, and economy’s only positive quarter (now revised down twice to 2.2% from 3.5%) came from government spending. That is not a “financial rescue”. That’s a bandaid on a sucking chest wound. Meanwhile his administration is in Copenhagen waving more money we can’t afford around in an effort to buy off third world dictatorships who were in search of the payoff from the pseudo-science of “global warming”.

Then, in the Senate, 100 to 300 million bribes were the order of the day to get Senators who claimed to be “standing on principle” off their lofty perches and back to the money-grubbing reality that is politics in the US today.

This is “hope and change”?

As one friend – who was anything but a George Bush fan – said recently it absolutely makes him “pine” for Bush. And trust me, that means he is less than impressed with the man he voted for presently in the White House.

~McQ


Congress: Making A Bad Idea Permanent

You have to hand to Harry Reid. His lack of respect for the Constitution is rather pedestrian by Democrat standards these days, but he is positively the Thomas Alva Edison of inventive ways to flout it:

If ever the people of the United States rise up and fight over passage of Obamacare, Harry Reid must be remembered as the man who sacrificed the dignity of his office for a few pieces of silver. The rules of fair play that have kept the basic integrity of the Republic alive have died with Harry Reid. Reid has slipped in a provision into the health care legislation prohibiting future Congresses from changing any regulations imposed on Americans by the Independent Medicare [note: originally referred to as "medical"] Advisory Boards, which are commonly called the “Death Panels.”

It was Reid leading the Democrats who ignored 200 years of Senate precedents to rule that Senator Sanders could withdraw his amendment while it was being read.

[...]

Section 3403 of Senator Harry Reid’s amendment requires that “it shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection.” The good news is that this only applies to one section of the Obamacare legislation. The bad news is that it applies to regulations imposed on doctors and patients by the Independent Medicare Advisory Boards a/k/a the Death Panels.

Section 3403 of Senator Reid’s legislation also states, “Notwithstanding rule XV of the Standing Rules of the Senate, a committee amendment described in subparagraph (A) may include matter not within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Finance if that matter is relevant to a proposal contained in the bill submitted under subsection (c)(3).” In short, it sets up a rule to ignore another Senate rule.

These provisions were pointed by Sen. Jim DeMint on the Senate floor last night:

Meh. It’s an old Constitution anyways, and it’s not like we’ve really been using it. Heck, I’ll bet most people don’t even know what’s in that old rag, and those are just ones in Congress.


Open Thread

Have we ever done this before? Don’t know, but we’re going go ahead and have one tonight.

So, suggested topics:

(1) ObamaCare: If it passes, can it be repealed once the Republicans take over the legislative duties again? I think not, but maybe there’s a rosier prognostication.

(2) Cap’n-Trade: The EPA is poised to rule by fiat. Would a statutory empowerment be the better choice?

(3) Climategate: Will the leaked emails and failed Copenhagen conference make any difference in the seemingly endless march toward global governance via the canard of AGW?

(4) Afghanistan: Obama has at least done something, but is it enough to accomplish the goal of ending, or at least seriously retarding, global terrorism? Will the current semi-surge result in the same success as Iraq or is it just a political gimmick that costs nothing electorally while wasting American lives?

Let’s see how it goes.

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