Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: February 2010


Podcast for 21 Feb 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the economy in the US and Europe, as well as gun rights.  The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST) Tonight

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s):

Gun rights: Washington State’s Supreme Court says the 2nd Amendment is incorporated by the 14th Amendment and applies to the state. They also cite Heller deciding the 2nd Amendment is an individual right. I wonder what the “collective rights” folks think of that?

Greece, Europe and the Future: What does the meltdown in Greece mean for Europe? Will they leave the EU? Will they be forced out? And isn’t this similar to, oh, I don’t know, California and the US?

The Mt. Vernon Statement: A reconstructed “Constitutional Conservatism” or the same-old-same-old?


Friedman (And The Left’s) Continuing Delusion

I get a kick out of Thomas Friedman, because for a guy who travels around as he does and sees what he sees,  he can seem so clueless at times.  So here’s how he sets his article up:

A small news item from Tracy, Calif., caught my eye last week. Local station CBS 13 reported: “Tracy residents will now have to pay every time they call 911 for a medical emergency. But there are a couple of options. Residents can pay a $48 voluntary fee for the year, which allows them to call 911 as many times as necessary. Or there’s the option of not signing up for the annual fee. Instead they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help.”

Welcome to the lean years.

Yes, sir, we’ve just had our 70 fat years in America, thanks to the Greatest Generation and the bounty of freedom and prosperity they built for us. And in these past 70 years, leadership — whether of the country, a university, a company, a state, a charity, or a township — has largely been about giving things away, building things from scratch, lowering taxes or making grants.

But now it feels as if we are entering a new era, “where the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people,” said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum.

A “new” era where government is going to be about “taking things away from people”? How in the world do you suppose we were able to have the “fat years”. Because government had been taking things away from those able to pay for years. Decades.

Suddenly those they were taking things away from no longer have a job or the income to support all the fat the government built up for so many years. We’re not in the “lean years” – we’re in the PAYGO years. Now, suddenly, the subsidies are drying up because tax revenues are down – way down. Want the services? Pay for them instead of expecting others to do so. And yes, we’re a compassionate country, we can make exceptions for things like 911 service. Provide it free to the elderly and poor. Just make sure “elderly” doesn’t start at 50 and poor is actually poor – i.e no way they could afford a $300 call.

Note that Friedman naturally makes an attempt to equate charity and government when he talks about “giving things away”. Of course it goes without saying that private charity is given voluntarily while government give always come from coerced tax money. Relativity at its finest.

Anyway, Friedman figures that President Obama is missing the boat. As he says “for a politician who speaks so well” he’s mystified why Obama can’t put together a “compelling narrative” from which to explain his politics and polices. The short answer, of course, is that despite the continued belief by the left that the problem lies with the how the message is delivered, in fact the problem is with the message itself. The “narrative” has been heard and examined by the nation and it’s been found wanting – severely wanting. Obama and Friedman could come up with the best narrative in the world and it would still come down to money we can’t afford and more government control/intrusion into our lives that we don’t want.

But let’s hear from Friedman:

Mr. Obama won the election because he was able to “rent” a significant number of independent voters — including Republican business types who had never voted for a Democrat in their lives — because they knew in their guts that the country was on the wrong track and was desperately in need of nation-building at home and that John McCain was not the man to do it.

They thought that Mr. Obama, despite his liberal credentials, had the unique skills, temperament, voice and values to pull the country together for this new Apollo program — not to take us to the moon, but into the 21st century.

Alas, though, instead of making nation-building in America his overarching narrative and then fitting health care, energy, educational reform, infrastructure, competitiveness and deficit reduction under that rubric, the president has pursued each separately. This made each initiative appear to be just some stand-alone liberal obsession to pay off a Democratic constituency — not an essential ingredient of a nation-building strategy — and, therefore, they have proved to be easily obstructed, picked off or delegitimized by opponents and lobbyists.

So “Obamism” feels at worst like a hodgepodge, at best like a to-do list — one that got way too dominated by health care instead of innovation and jobs — and not the least like a big, aspirational project that can bring out America’s still vast potential for greatness.

Friedman begins with a false assumption – the belief that Obama won to do what he’s trying to do now. Instead Obama won because of a general dissatisfaction with the way things were aggravated by two wars. There was a mood to punish the Republicans. Obama was an attractive candidate when compared to old man John McCain. Friedman interpreted the win as a mandate to do the things Friedman and the left have always wanted done. In fact it wasn’t that at all. It was the right man in the right place at the right time with the right nebulous message that others wrote for themselves. And it comes as no surprise then when their premise is put to the test (“this is why America elected Obama”) it comes up snake-eyes. It is the usual delusion we’ve been talking about for years – it is never, ever the message/premise/narrative. It is always about how it is delivered. It’s just not being properly explained, packaged or marketed. If only the right way to present it could be found, the public would go “ah, of course” and all would be right with the world.

Obamism has, in fact, been presented in every way possible and has been rejected each and every time. It is time that Friedman and the left stop the self-delusion and recognize that it isn’t a problem with delivery or packaging, it is a problem with what what they want to do. It’s not what the majority of Americans want to do and the route to a one-term presidency and minority in Congress is to keep believing it has to do with “narrative” and pushing the present Obamism agenda.

~McQ


Greece? Just Like The US

You have to wonder how far we’ve slipped when the financial wreck that is Greece is assured that its situation isn’t so unique – look at the US.  And the example is made by none other than America’s best friend – Vladimir Putin:

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin played down Greece’s economic woes on Tuesday, telling his visiting Greek counterpart that the United States were no better than Greece in handling its debt and fiscal deficit.

“As we all know, the global economic crisis started neither in Greece, nor in Russia, nor in Europe,” Mr. Putin told a news conference after talks with George Papandreou. “It came to us from across the ocean,” he said in a clear reference to the United States.

“There (in the U.S.) we can see similar problems – massive external debt, budget deficit,” Mr. Putin added, suggesting Russia and Greece should concentrate on the “real economy” to weather the economic crisis.

It’s not clear what the “real economy” means. However it is clear that for Greece and the US, what they are doing isn’t sustainable and at some point the “real economy” or at least the laws of economics are not going to be denied – for both countries.

~McQ


Vote for your favorite metaphor for the healthcare bill (with update)

I saw that the Democrats are attempting yet again to reanimate the stinking corpse known as the healthcare bill. Will another jolt of electricity do the trick? Is Obama playing Dr. Frankenstein in the lab? (“That’s Frahnkensteen.”)

Or is this more like Weekend at Bernie’s, a complex kabuki to avoid facing the reality of the bill’s death?

Or perhaps zombies give us the best metaphorical comparison.
I see two key similarities between the Democrats’ healthcare initiative and a zombie.

1. It refuses to die.

2. It apparently eats people’s brains.

Of course, no zombie comparison would be complete without Bob Hope’s famous take:

But then I’m also reminded of Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch: “This healthcare bill wouldn’t vrooom if you put 12,000 volts through it.”

So what’s your take? Which of the following metaphors best fits the current state of the healthcare bill?

I really don’t know what to think. The Democrats have apparently concluded that they must pass a healthcare bill at any cost, no matter how high. And I’m not just talking about money.

The risks in pursuing this course are enormous. If current public perception trends continue, Democratic candidates will be in a hole Bill Clinton couldn’t dig out of.

They seem intent on pushing an unpopular healthcare strategy closer and closer to elections, without any assurance that they can get it through. The Blue Dogs could easily abandon them in the House, the Republicans may find various ways to throw sand in the works in the Senate, and even if their bill passes, the Republicans will almost certainly campaign on repealing it. That might provide just the issue they need to get back to majority status.

The Democrats’ entire strategy seems predicated on the idea that if they pass government-dominated healthcare, they will eventually seal their own dominance of the federal government by becoming the arbiters of who gets the goodies. Maybe. But FDR’s New Deal didn’t stop Republican strength in the 1950s, and Johnson’s New Deal didn’t keep Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan from winning big. Just because government-dominated healthcare was the irreversible gate to a welfare state in various European nations doesn’t mean it will do the same thing with we cross-grained Americans, especially when the costs kick in long before the goodies.

Can they actually pass a bill and get it to stick? Looks pretty far-fetched to me. But it’s pretty clear that they’re not prepared to give up.

**** Update Sunday, 21 Feb, 8:30 AM CST ****

Zombie Democrats is the clear favorite at this point, getting just over half the votes, though all four seem to have some support. Weekend at Bernie’s is a respectable second.

In the “Other” category, poll respondents made these suggestions:

From Princess Bride, we have an only-mostly-dead Wesley, which is a pretty good one that I wish I’d thought of.

Night of the Living Dead was also a suggestion. I had actually thought about that one, but left it off since it’s another zombie option. Still, I do sometimes feel like we’re trying to hide from zombie-like politicians who claim to be trying to help us, though they really only want brains power.

There was another suggestion for “Highway of Death”, which I presume refers to the slaughter of the Iraqi occupiers of Kuwait on the highway they used to flee. I don’t really get that one. Maybe if Scott Brown, Chris Christie, and a few other Republicans were cast in the role of A-10 Warthog pilots mowing down helpless Democratic politicians trying to flee the wreckage of their party’s over-reaching, you might be able to make it work. But I doubt this is what the poll respondent had in mind.


Mission Accomplished?

Ah, what’s to be found in a name?

ABC News has learned that the Obama administration has decided to give the war in Iraq — currently known as Operation Iraqi Freedom — a new name.

The new name: “Operation New Dawn.”

In a February 17, 2010, memo to the Commander of Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the “requested operation name change is approved to take effect 1 September 2010, coinciding with the change of mission for U.S. forces in Iraq.”

[...]

Gates writes that by changing the name at the same time as the change of mission — the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. combat troops — the US is sending “a strong signal that Operation IRAQI FREEDOM has ended and our forces are operating under a new mission.”

Well actually, a lot. There’s no question the former mission under the umbrella of OIF is considered to have been accomplished if a new name to reflect a “mission change” is being requested. Why? Because orders issued under Operation New Dawn will reflect that basic change of orientation for forces. OIF’s mission guidelines were one thing. New mission guidelines will be issued under the new operational designation.

As Gates notes:

The move, Gates writes, “also presents opportunities to synchronize strategic communication initiatives, reinforce our commitment to honor the Security Agreement, and recognize our evolving relationship with the Government of Iraq.”

Shorter Gates: It’s a new game.

Of course not everyone is happy with the name change:

The move has met with some criticism. In a statement, Brian Wise, executive director of Military Families United said, “You cannot end a war simply by changing its name. Despite the Administration’s efforts to spin realities on the ground, their efforts do not change the situation at hand in Iraq. Operational military decisions should not be made for purposes of public relations, as the Secretary of Defense cites, but should be made in the best interests of our nation, the troops on the ground and their families back home.”

Whatever the reason for the name change, the reality on the ground is we’re leaving per the agreement negotiated by the Bush administration. It makes perfect sense to wrap up the old operation which doesn’t include that mission, and begin the phased withdrawal under a new mission designation.

Frankly I have no problem with it other than this administration, via the VP, trying to claim credit for what was fait accompli when it took office.

~McQ


Washington State Supreme Court Rules 2nd Amendment Applies To State Via 14th Amendment

One of the running battles concerning the 2nd Amendment is whether or not it is an individual right or a collective right – i.e. one for the state to limit/restrict.  I think a fair reading of the amendment and the history of the era and those who penned the Bill of Rights clearly puts it (as with most of the other amendments dealing with our freedoms) in the “individual rights” category.

The Washington State Supreme Court weighed in on the question and while I recognize the fact that this is only valid in that state, it is a precedent that moves the argument a little further along – and not in a way the collective rights crew is going to like.

It occurred in a ruling about a recent case involving a 17 year old in possession of a hand-gun who was arrested by police for having it.

The trial court found Sieyes guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm under RCW 9.41.040(2)(a)(iii),1 which limits circumstances in which children under age 18 can lawfully possess firearms. We must decide whether the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to the states and, if so, determine whether RCW

“A person, whether an adult or juvenile, is guilty of the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree, if the person does not qualify under subsection (1) of this section for the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree and the person owns, has in his or her possession, or has in his or her control any firearm: . . . [i]f the person is under eighteen years of age, except as provided in RCW 9.41.042.” RCW 9.41.042 enumerates nine exceptions which allow children under age 18 to possess firearms.

What the police contend, of course, is these circumstances didn’t involve one of the 9 exceptions. Washington state had claimed it had the legislative right to restrict who may or may not possess a firearm.

The court disagreed:

41.040(2)(a)(iii) unconstitutionally infringes on the right to bear arms protected by either the United States or Washington Constitutions. We hold the Second Amendment applies to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause; however, Sieyes fails to demonstrate on this record that RCW 9.41.040(2)(a)(iii) infringes on his right to bear arms under either constitution.

The courts justification is quite interesting and I encourage you to read it. Essentially they cite the Heller case and note that the Supreme Court “unquestionably recognized an individual right to bear arms and, in the process, rejected a collective right conditioned militia service.” What the SCOTUS didn’t do is determine whether or not that amendment applies to the states via the 14th Amendment and “incorporation”.

Incorporation is “[t]he process of applying the provisions of the Bill of Rights to the states by interpreting the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause as encompassing those provisions.” Black’s Law Dictionary 834 (9th ed. 2009). The Fourteenth Amendment bars “any state [from] depriv[ing] any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. Under the original constitutional architecture the federal Bill of Rights protected only enumerated rights from federal interference.

The 14th Amendment changed that “original constitutional architecture” and establshed that those constitutional rights “incorporated” under the 14th applied to the states as well.

What the Washington State Supreme Court found is that it does as indicated by the highlighted line cited above and in their conclusion:

The Second Amendment right to bear arms applies to the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

An interesting win for those who believe the right to be an individual right. 5 of the 6 justices on the Washington State Supreme Court concurred with the ruling.  The dissenting justice essentially dissented because the court didn’t go far enough in its protection of the right.  I would guess this will eventually wend its way toward SCOTUS which, as this ruling notes, explicitly avoided this question in Heller.

~McQ


The “Constitutional Conservative” Manifesto

Also known as the “Mt. Vernon Statement” is a statement designed to reorient “conservatism”.  I’m not sure it does that at all.

Anyway, the 5 “first principles” which should guide “Constitutional Conservatives” (ConCons?) and which are supposed to “inform” this agenda are:

* It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.

* It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.

* It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.

* It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.

* It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.

Through point 3, it’s indeed mostly a Constitutional approach I could support as a matter of policy.

However, point 4 is the NeoCon point and point 5 justifies the SocialCon agenda.

Since it isn’t politicians saying it, and despite my former criticism, I assume the writers are committed to them, meaning they’d obviously like to see politicians use point 1 through 3 as their basis for judging the merit of any legislation they may consider. What needs to be more closely defined is what “limited government” means. If that’s not done – and I think a Constitutional case can be made for what government should and shouldn’t do – then the term is relatively meaningless.

Point 4 also needs some further defining. I’m not sure I’m in agreement that as a matter of policy it is our job to “advance freedom” and “oppose tyranny” except here at home. That’s not an isolationist stance, it’s a non-interventionist stance. I recognize “prudently considers what can and should be done” is tacked on to the end of the sentence to provide options. And I’m sure by that they mean soft power as well as hard power, i.e. aid and diplomacy among a myriad of “soft power” options as well as the military option if necessary.

I’m one of those who believe that our job as a country is to defend itself against threats to its security. If, in the pursuit of that, we advance freedom or oppose tyranny via military power, then that’s a good thing. However as a policy objective in and of itself (i.e. our foreign policy is designed to “advance freedom and oppose tyranny”), I’d have to say, “no thanks”. Our foreign policy should be designed to protect this country and advance its peaceful interests (like trade, etc) and generally stay out of the business of other states in areas that don’t involve our national security or trade.

Point 5 is obviously designed to make the SocialCons happy – it’s wide ranging, nebulous and pretty much cancels point 1. In my world, individual liberty has a very specific meaning. Primarily it means I don’t impose my beliefs on others. Practicing your beliefs is the best defense in the world. It demonstrates their power. And, as long as they don’t violate another’s rights, you should be able to do that. Imposing them, however, is a form of “tyranny”, something point 4 says Conservatives are against. The desire – on both sides – to use the law to impose beliefs is not what the Constitution was designed to do. And since this is a manifesto about the “Constitutional Conservative”, I can only suppose that the intent of this rather broad statement is to announce an intent to use the document as a basis for such impositions of belief, via law (because that’s what the Constitution is) of their defense of “family, neighborhood, community, and faith.”

Points 4 and 5 mostly serve to underline “why I’m not a Conservative”. Had they stopped at point 3, I’d have happily endorsed their attempt to refocus “conservatives” (and Republicans). With the inclusion of 4 and 5, they again demonstrate they’ve learned nothing from the NeoCon debacle and on the SocialCon side are just as committed as the left to using the Constitution and the law as a means of imposing their beliefs on others.

Those last two points are simply not consistent with the first three – especially when citing the Constitution. And they certainly don’t reflect what the founders of this Republic intended when they wrote the Constitution. Politicians on the right who adopt all 5 points are asking for trouble. If indeed the intent is to have “Constitutional conservatisim” guide policy, 4 and 5 should be dropped.

Of course, doing so would make them mostly libertarian, wouldn’t it?

~McQ


Final Thoughts

Taxation clarified:

When you give your money to someone in need, simply because you want to help, that’s called CHARITY.

When someone in need holds a gun to your head and makes you give them your money, that’s called ROBBERY.

When someone holds a gun to your head, makes you give your money to him for the benefit of someone in need whom he claims to represent, that’s called SPREADING THE WEALTH.

As a corollary, when someone takes out massive loans in your name and the names of your children in order to give that money to someone else, that’s called STIMULUS.

Of course, I don’t mean that all taxation works this way. I want a strong military, competent police and a functioning judiciary to protect our society and individual interests. “All taxation is theft” is fun to ponder, but not reality. Having a civil society will always cost something. It’s when taxation goes beyond what’s necessary to perform those minimal functions that “theft” becomes an appropriate term.


PAYGO Is A No Go

You remember the clip the other day in which President Obama told us that Americans were tired of politicians who “talked the talk” about fiscal responsibility, but didn’t “walk the walk”.

Well PAYGO, recently signed into law – and short for pay-as-you-go – requires revenue (spending cuts elsewhere or tax increases) be identified to pay for whatever Congress passes. That’s the “talk the talk” part.

Heh … there is no “walk the walk” part – on their first chance to actually “walk the walk” the House bailed.

Democratic leaders said extensions of unemployment insurance and COBRA healthcare benefits should be emergency spending that isn’t subject to the pay-as-you-go statute, which requires new non-discretionary spending to be offset with spending cuts or tax increases.

We all know, that in the budget that is now out there, cutting $53.3 billion in spending elsewhere would simply be impossible, right?

Oh, wait – you know, if they put that freeze on non-discretionary spending in place now and didn’t wait a year while they raise that spending a reported 82% (gotta love that bit of smoke and mirrors, don’t you?) this year, I’d bet they would find those cuts that would match that spending.

The more you watch these people do business the more you come to understand why they’re where they are and not running a real business. And House Democrats aren’t the only ones:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is also pushing for emergency extensions of the unemployment and COBRA benefits not subject to pay-go requirements.

The only difference is Reid will most likely do it in a separate bill with the “emergency” disclaimer to bypass PAYGO.

Judd Gregg gets it right:

Republicans voted en masse against the pay-go legislation, criticizing Democrats for including language that would allow exemptions to it. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said Democrats’ move to bypass pay-go using emergency exemptions proves that the pay-go law is just a “political statement, not a substantive event.”

“They continue to claim some sort of fiscal discipline … when in fact they basically keep spending money like drunken sailors,” Gregg said.

Drunken sailors only spend what is theirs and what they have in their pocket, so in reality, it is an insult to sailors, drunken or otherwise, to compare them to the profligate deficit spenders in Congress busily talking the talk, but rarely walking the walk.

~McQ