Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: August 2010


Beware, techno – Leviathan

’m referring, of course, to the growing intrusiveness of government at all levels.  No longer is the sole focus of government the protection of individual liberty by preventing or punishing those violate those liberties by the use force or fraud against others.

Government has become an power unto itself and is engaged in behavior modification intended to make the proles conform to the governmental agenda.  Many times that agenda is increasingly aided by evolving technology.  It’s almost like a bad science fiction movie. 

For instance – if government has decided that recycling is no longer and option, but a requirement, technology enables it to determine that.  Instead of spending tax money on the services necessary to protect your rights, it instead spends that money on monitoring your behavior and punishing you with fines for that which doesn’t conform to its agenda.

It would be a stretch to say that Big Brother will hang out in Clevelanders’ trash cans, but the city plans to sort through curbside trash to make sure residents are recycling — and fine them $100 if they don’t.

The move is part of a high-tech collection system the city will roll out next year with new trash and recycling carts embedded with radio frequency identification chips and bar codes.

The chips will allow city workers to monitor how often residents roll carts to the curb for collection. If a chip show a recyclable cart hasn’t been brought to the curb in weeks, a trash supervisor will sort through the trash for recyclables.

Actually, it isn’t a stretch at all to say “Big Brother” is hanging out in trash cans, because that’s precisely what this is.  It seems such a mundane thing.  It’s not.  Cleveland, apparently, has no other urgent priorities upon which to spend $2.5 million of their tax dollars on than to monitor your trash.

And it’s all about what is good for government:

Recycling is good for the environment and the city’s bottom line, officials said. Cleveland pays $30 a ton to dump garbage in landfills, but earns $26 a ton for recyclables.

So citizens are fined for not doing the government’s bidding and what was once a misdemeanor – for goodness knows what reason – is now a “civil penalty”.  That, one assumes, is simply a new name for Big Brother’s “incentive” to recycle as it demands.

This is what creeping government control over every aspect of your life looks like.  As one might say, it demonstrates the banality of evil.  Something as mundane as trash pickup – a service that should be private anyway – has been assumed by government and is now used as one more event in which the government controls your life. You dance to its agenda, whether you want to or not.

Freedom is choice.  Freedom is the lack of coercion, as Fredrick Hayek once declared.  In Cleveland, one more choice, and one more bit of coercion has taken another bit freedom away.  Call it death by a 1,000 cuts, but freedom and liberty are becoming more and more threatened –a process aided and abetted by today’s technological advances.

~McQ

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Observations: The Qando Podcast for 22 Aug 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss ICE and Illegal immigration, The end of OIF in Iraq, and the upcoming election.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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 – Tonight 8pm (EST)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

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

 Subject(s):

A nation of laws?   ICE is circulating a memo which will essentially direct law enforcement not to apprehend illegal immigrants during traffic stops.  Sine when do law enforcement agencies get to decide what laws they will or won’t enforce?

Is OIF over?  The last US combat unit has left Iraq, but you wouldn’t know it by this administration or the media’s coverage of the event.  What, no “Mission Accomplished” banner?

Health Care law – OK, say the Democrats, we lied about saving money.  But we have a new message and we promise, it’s true.

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BlogTalk Radio – Tonight 8pm (EST)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

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

 Subject(s):

A nation of laws?   ICE is circulating a memo which will essentially direct law enforcement not to apprehend illegal immigrants during traffic stops.  Sine when do law enforcement agencies get to decide what laws they will or won’t enforce?

Is OIF over?  The last US combat unit has left Iraq, but you wouldn’t know it by this administration or the media’s coverage of the event.  What, no “Mission Accomplished” banner?

Health Care law – OK, say the Democrats, we lied about saving money.  But we have a new message and we promise, it’s true.

 

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Administration knew drilling moratorium would cost 23,000 jobs

In the middle of a recession, with joblessness hovering around the 10% mark, the Obama administration made a deliberate decision to impose a drilling moratorium knowing it would cost at least 23,000 jobs. Why?

Senior Obama administration officials concluded the federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling would cost roughly 23,000 jobs, but went ahead with the ban because they didn’t trust the industry’s safety equipment and the government’s own inspection process, according to previously undisclosed documents.

Never mind the fact that an event like this had never happened before in deep water.   Never mind there were hundreds of deepwater wells functioning properly and well.  Never mind that those jobs were well paying jobs  and that through their elimination would cause ripple-effect unemployment down the supply chain.

Instead, deliberately trash the lives of 23,000 workers – and their families – because of unfounded fears.

Yeah, that’s leadership, isn’t it?

Asked to comment, a White House spokesman said the administration "well understood, and understands, the enormous importance of oil and gas to the region’s economy," but the potential economic risks from another spill to other elements of the Gulf economy—such as fishing and tourism—also informed the administration’s deliberations, "especially as spill-response resources were fully engaged to address the BP Deepwater Horizon spill."

What “potential economic risk”?  What was the “potential” for another such freakish accident?  Well the history of deepwater drilling says not very high at all.  And while I have some sympathy with the “our spill-response resources were fully engaged”, there were certainly ways to ensure that other operations were safe and following approved drilling procedures.

You know, like put freakin’ inspectors on the deepwater drilling rigs full time to ensure those procedures were followed to the letter.  Yeah, a bit of an imposition on the inspectors, but it would have saved 23,000 jobs.  So you tell them to suck it up or you’ll find someone who will.

Wondering: do these jobs go in the negative column of the jobs “created and saved” the Obama administration?

~McQ

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Charlie Cook – November wave will sweep Democrats out of House

There are polls and then there is Charlie Cook – probably one of the most respected of Democratic election analysts. And he’s earned that respect by being one of the most accurate Democratic election analysts in the past. As the Wall Street Journal notes, Cook and his staff probably spend more time analyzing individual House and Senate races than anyone in the business.

And Charlie Cook says Nov. 2nd looks bleak for House Democrats.  The GOP needs a minimum of 39 seats to take back the House.  Cook says that the range he predicts is a gain of 35-45 seats with the chances of reaching the high side much greater than reaching just the low side.

He points to 53 seats as key since these were seats held by Republicans just 4 years ago.

In the Senate, the chances of the GOP taking control are much less probable.  They’d have to take 16 of 18 contested seats and that’s probably an electoral “bridge too far”.

So why does he think the first Tuesday in November is shaping up to be a bad day for Democrats?  History is the teacher:

The basis of his analysis is simple: This doesn’t look or feel like a normal midterm election. "There are two kinds of elections," he said. "There’s sort of the Tip O’Neill all-politics-is-local, and then there are wave elections. We’re seeing just every sign in the world that this is going to be a wave, and a pretty good-sized wave."

What Cook is seeing is all the signs pointing too a 1994 wave election where a fed up electorate sweeps the majority party out of power.  I’d add that another way to explain it is whether or not the election is nationalized (voters have an axe to grind with national leadership) or localized (no real national issues over local ones).  In this case, it is all about national issues and the majority party’s agenda.  And that’s not good news for the Democrats since a large majority of those polled consistently point out the country is on the wrong track.

The open question is will the Democrats find a way to convince voters that what they’ve done with their time in Congress is beneficial and something for which they deserve reelection:

On the other hand, Democrats might figure out how to do a better job convincing the nation of the wisdom of their policies. The apparent return of General Motors to health after President Barack Obama’s bailout might help. Mr. Obama, who, despite his problems, remains far more popular than his party’s congressional leaders, stands the best chance of making that case.

And Democrats’ money advantage, which Mr. Obama was working to enhance this week with a fund-raising tour, will help in the stretch run.

Above all, Democrats might finally get their base more excited.

All indications point to a less than excited base – in fact, there’s open warfare between the White House and the “professional left”.  “Exciting the base” also means women, latinos and the young turning out for Democrats as they did for Obama.  I simply don’t see that in the cards.   And every poll I see says the independents, the most sought after demographic in party politics, going increasingly to the GOP side.

As for Obama’s personal popularity, we may all like someone for many often indefinable reasons – but that doesn’t mean we consider him competent or we’d reelect him or those like him again.  I think many times, popularity is very overrated in polling.  And you see that when you compare popularity with job performance numbers.  Obama has very good popularity ratings while also having very high job disapproval ratings.

All in all, I think Cook will be proved right again.  Dems are going to lose the House and we should finally be rid of Nancy Pelosi.  At that point, we can at least quit worrying about Joe Biden’s health since she’d no longer be third in line for presidential succession.

~McQ

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A nation of laws?

That’s pretty hard to believe when you see a law enforcement agency actively attempting to pervert the law they exist to enforce.

I’m talking about ICE of course, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement – the last word in the title being the key point.

A recent draft memo from ICE’s Office of State and Local Cooperation (OSLC) is the focus of the problem.  Apparently it has decided that it just isn’t going to enforce the law as written, i.e. detain and deport illegals which run afoul of law enforcement via traffic stops, thank you very much.

According to a draft policy document now being circulated among a limited group of stakeholders, ICE chief John Morton intends to prohibit not only his officers, but also local officers with 287(g) immigration authority, from busting illegal aliens who are discovered as a result of traffic violations.

Read the document as I have – that’s pretty much what it says.  They will not, except in specifically listed exceptions, issue a detainer and take into custody illegal aliens who only violate traffic laws.

They tell you that in writing.  No attempt to avoid the fact that they’re simply deciding what they will and won’t enforce when it comes to the letter of the law.  They’re just not going to do it.

You know, just like the DoJ decided not to enforce the laws about voter intimidation when it dropped the charges against the Philly Black Panthers caught on video tape in the act.

Apparently, the law is only for the little people and those who aren’t a favored group of the present administration and its political appointees and cronies.

Whatever side you come down on in the immigration debate, ignoring the law is not what federal agencies charged with enforcement should be deciding.   That’s for the people and Congress.  If enough of us don’t like a law, we’ll pressure Congress to change that law. If the law is unconstitutional, the courts will take care of it.  That’s how the system works.

But law enforcement agencies don’t have that option, and the decision to do this, should that be the case and this becomes official ICE policy, is grounds for summary dismissal of the head of ICE and those associated with OSLC.

Period.

~McQ

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Prepare for the new ObamaCare messaging

Ben Smith at POLITICO reports that Democrats are switching their messaging strategy when it comes to the ObamaCare legislation (and I’d guess one of the strategies is not to call it “ObamaCare”).  Seems they’ve conceded the argument that it will lower the deficit and cost less.  Facts are stubborn things and few have bought into the claims given the justification for them given by Democratic leaders.

So now they’ll go more nebulous instead.  Call it the medical care “hope and change” approach.  Now instead of lower deficits and less cost, they’re going to tout the law as a way to “improve” health care.

As one slide in the presentation – available here – says, “Many don’t believe health care reform will help the economy.”  That’s absolutely correct.  And, unlike Washington DC, most in flyover country passed their "Common Sense 101” course years ago while holding a job or running a business, raising a family and managing a household.  Most of them can spot a scam fairly easily and this was always in that category given the machinations necessary to make it “bend the cost curve down”.  Immediate taxes and delayed benefits were the first sign some game was afoot.  “Doc fixes” and half a trillion Medicare cuts that would never happen plus some double counting used to claim deficit reduction were the second.  And a new and extensive bureaucracy promised health care would be much more complicated and expensive.  Of course everyone loved the new individual mandate as well, not to mention the billions of dollars in mandates shifted to the states.

So this is the pig they’re trying to sell as “improved” as in “this law improves health care”.

How?

One slide says, “Tap into individual responsibility to blunt opposition to the mandate to have individual insurance.”  It then says, “Those who choose not to have insurance and use the emergency room for routine care are increasing the cost for the rest of us who have insurance.”

Interesting slide for the group most singularly responsible for attempting to make more and more people dependent on government throughout it’s history.  Suddenly it’s about “individual responsibility” while defending one of the biggest government takeovers of an industry in our history.

Oh, and, as pointed out with MassCare – ObamaCare’s little brother – the use of emergency room facilities went up with their mandated insurance law:

When the Bay State passed its health-reform law in 2006, 9 percent of non-elderly adults lacked insurance; that’s now down to 5 percent. The law didn’t reduce expensive emergency-room use as predicted. Instead, emergency-room visits have climbed by 9 percent, or about 3 million visits, from 2004 to 2008.

And, of course, so have costs with health care now consuming 35% of the state’s budget as compared to 22% before the law’s passage.  All predicted (back to Common Sense 101) and all coming true as expected.

Last, but certainly not least, Democrats will use a little class warfare to "please” voters, one assumes:

image

Obviously anyone with the cognitive ability to open a box of crayons knows that the rich can’t pay for all of this by any stretch.  Another in a long line of lies about “paying for” this monstrosity.  The second part of the slide is just a flat out lie.  Remember, ObamaCare is based on the primary care physician.  And that’s a medical care area that has a shortage now and that shortage is going to get worse:

The number of U.S. medical school students going into primary care has dropped 51.8% since 1997, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

That’s right, dropped 51.8% since 1997.  So tell me again about that “unprecedented number of new healthcare providers” being trained?  Because I don’t know who they are, but they aren’t the supposed foundational specialty on which ObamaCare is based according to the AAFP.

And those doctors who are in primary care are cutting their hours.  Why?

Payment issues may have played more of a role. The overall decrease in hours coincided with a 25% decline in pay for doctors’ services, adjusted for inflation. And when the researchers looked closely at U.S. cities with the lowest and highest doctor fees, they found doctors working shorter hours in the low-fee cities and longer hours in the high-fee cities.

Yup, no pending crisis at all – aided and abetted by a government that has decided it will “lower costs” even though it is no longer going to emphasize that point to the proles.

And what about nurses?

In the July/August 2009 Health Affairs, Dr. Peter Buerhaus and coauthors found that despite the current easing of the nursing shortage due to the recession, the U.S. nursing shortage is projected to grow to 260,000 registered nurses by 2025.  A shortage of this magnitude would be twice as large as any nursing shortage experienced in this country since the mid-1960s.

Amazing what they try to put past you, isn’t it?  Which brings us to the irony of the day:

image

Yup – keep those claims “small and credible” like the lies about more health care providers – and for heaven sake “don’t over promise or ‘spin’ what the law delivers’ – like lower cost, the ability to keep your plan and your doctor and, of course, control over your own health care.

Because we wouldn’t want to see this new and “improved” law repealed or neutered, would we?

~McQ

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Surprised again – Weekly job loss numbers “unexpectedly” rise

I think I need a special category for this.  The “unexpected surprise of the week”.  Of course, it would mostly be filled with posts about unemployment numbers – although there’d also be plenty about “disappointment” concerning other economic numbers as well.

Apparently the “Recovery Summer” sunshine show is showing it’s tattered edges fairly obviously.

New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed to a nine-month high last week, yet another setback to the frail economic recovery.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 500,000 in the week ended August 14, the highest since mid-November, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

And last week’s loss was revised upwards another 4,000 lost jobs.

The economy grew at a 2.4 percent annualized rate in the second quarter, much slower than the 3.7 percent pace in the first three months of the year.

Which, politically, means:

The economy’s poor health has handed President Barack Obama a tough challenge and put at risk the Democratic Party’s majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in November’s mid-term elections.

Obama’s approval ratings have tumbled to the mid- to lower 40 percent range and Congress’ ratings are hovering at about 20 percent.

Hey, when you’re the loudmouths who stand on the side and blame the other guy for the problem and claim you are the only ones who can “fix” it  – elect me – then you by God better fix it when it is handed to you (even if you haven’t a clue of how to do it).

Irony can be a bitch, can’t she?

~McQ

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Government Motors files for IPO

And, as you might imagine, it’s all politically driven:

G.M. said that it would offer both common stock and preferred stock in the offering, which could begin as early as October, when the Obama administration will be seeking to portray its aid to the auto industry as a success before midterm elections in November.

How neat and nice. Claiming a profit from the "turnaround", something which has been debunked since, GM hopes to free itself from being called "Government Motors", which, it says is hurting sales. Additionally GM is still hemorrhaging money with a negative cash flow in the millions per month.

Given all of that though, I loved this:

The Treasury is expected to sell enough stock in the initial offering to bring its overall ownership position in G.M. below 50 percent — freeing the automaker of the stigma of being called “Government Motors,” which executives have said is hurting its reputation in the marketplace. G.M.’s 734-page filing said taxpayers would “continue to own a substantial interest in us following this offering.”

Got that?  Treasury is going to sell enough stock to bring its overall ownership position in GM below 50% – however:

The Treasury, in a statement on Wednesday, said it would “retain the right, at all times, to decide whether and at what level to participate in the offering.”

And:

The statement said the offering would not include the government’s preferred G.M. shares, worth $2.1 billion.

Read that however you wish to read it, but that says BS to the first part of the claim where I come from.  The way I read it is Treasury has assumed “the right” to interfere (by buying more stock, not just selling it) at any time it deems it necessary to do so.

So – given the way the last group of investors was treated when GM went into bankruptcy and the fact that government “retains the right” to interfere – why in the world would I want to invest my money in Government Motors?

~McQ

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