Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: December 2010

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Ezra Klein wonders what good a Constitutional cite will do on future legislation

Ezra Klein got himself in a bit of hot water by saying some things about the Constitution that appear to have been misinterpreted.  He originally commented on the subject while talking about the new GOP rule that requires a Constitutional reference be put on every bit of legislation offered to, one assumes, prove it’s Constitutional viability.  Unfortunately, it isn’t Congress which gets to decide what is or isn’t Constitutional.

The old saying, “the Constitution says what the Supreme Court says it says” is never more true than it is today.  In fact, “interpreting” the Constitution is the SCOTUS’s primary job.

Klein actually uses an example in ObamacCare to make his point about the GOP’s new requirement:

"The individual responsibility requirement provided for in this section (in this subsection referred to as the requirement) is commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce," reads the opening paragraph. Shortly thereafter, the legislation makes itself more explicit: "In United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Association (322 U.S. 533 (1944)), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that insurance is interstate commerce subject to Federal regulation."

Now you may disagree with the argument, but you can’t disagree with the point.  And you should note that while it cites the constitutional provision generally (commerce clause), it specifically cites a Supreme Court case as another cite.

Klein goes on to say that both sides have a tendency to interpret the Constitution to their benefit – which I would say is, for the most part true.  However, I’d also suggest that the difference between the two sides is the right has a tendency to interpret the Constitution as a limit on government – something the founders wrote it to be.  In my opinion then, the right therefore tends to be more in line with the original intent of the Constitution with its interpretations than is the left.  The left, in many cases, sees the Constitution as an impediment to broadening the powers of government far outside the seemingly clear powers granted the government by the Constitution.  I’d say they’ve been very successful in achieving their aim to this point.

Anyway, to make his point about both sides and their interpretations, Klein uses the 2nd Amendment as an example of the right’s interpretation of the Constitution to their benefit (i.e. unrestricted possession of firearms).  His claim that this is probably an incorrect interpretation since it relegates membership in a “well regulated militia” to meaninglessness.  Of course, a simple bit of research would have pointed out that the militia was defined quite specifically by any number of founders.  For instance, George Mason: “"Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers."  Mason’s definition was widely agreed to by the vast majority of the founders as anyone who has read them knows.  And, of course, Article 1, Section 8, speaks to the training of the militia (‘well regulated’) and leaves that to the states, not the federal government.

So it was obviously the intent of the drafters of the Constitution that all be given the right to bear arms and that all who did formed the “militia”.  And that conforms well with how militias have been viewed throughout our history.  That takes a bit of steam out of Klein’s argument that the right is just as bad as the left (I challenge him to come up with quotes by the founders that would support the broad interpretation of the commerce clause the left prefers).

However, given the SCOTUS’s role, his main point remains pretty much in tact – putting a Constitutional reference on a bill isn’t going to mean anything much, since the Congress doesn’t get to decide what is or isn’t Constitutional. 

That said, I certainly don’t see any harm in such a cite because lawmakers will at least have to address the Constitution and their interpretation of its meaning by providing a cite and defending it.  If nothing else it will spark needed debate as each member introducing legislation must defend that legislation Constitutionally.  Certainly, as the government is structured, they won’t have the last word if the law is challenged later in court, but it may at least be a mechanism that keeps what most members, left and right, would consider overtly unConstitional bills off the floor and provide a basis for bi-partisan rejection of those that do reach the floor.

So all in all, I see some advantage to the measure.  That advantage is limited to be sure, but it is a step in the right direction to return the focus of the national legislature toward the founding legal document of the land.  And while the SCOTUS will continue to be the final word on Constitutional legitimacy, perhaps fewer “ObamaCare” type bills will be a result of such internal discussion and debate.  I don’t know about you, but I would see that as a very welcome change.

~McQ


WaPo–keep ROTC out of our precious Ivies

Because, you know, its all about war and stuff.

The Washington Post rolled out  what I consider an inevitable op/ed today about keeping ROTC off the campuses of Ivy League schools who banned it when DADT was in effect.  Colman McCarthy, a former Post columnist who directs the Center for Teaching Peace claims that ROTC is essentially an anti-intellectual endeavor which can be opposed on moral grounds:

It should not be forgotten that schools have legitimate and moral reasons for keeping the military at bay, regardless of the repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell." They can stand with those who for reasons of conscience reject military solutions to conflicts.

Another on the left wanting to limit your choices.

Of course those who reject military solutions to conflicts for reasons of conscience don’t mind being protected by those who graduate from other ROTC programs, one supposes.  And so they are.  It is always fun and easy to be against war if others are willing to fight them for you.   And you won’t find the military against peace either – they’re the ones who have to fight a war and suffer the losses.  However, they’re also some hard-bitten realists who recognize that there are evil people in the world who want to do us harm.  They also recognize that you can be for peace all you want to, but if the other guy chooses war, you either fight or capitulate and live by his dictates for your life.   I assume McCarthy rejects “just war” as a challenge to his “peace for reasons of conscience” as well. 

But if you look closely at the words above, you get an inkling of the depth of ignorance Mr. McCarthy displays in his piece.  In this country, “military solutions” are dictated by civilian authorities.  That may have slipped past him when he was studying “Peacenik 101”.  It isn’t the military that decides when to enter a conflict, it is, for the most part, civilian graduates of Ivy league schools who’ve made those decisions.  I know – irony.

Anyway, I thought that was a bit humorous. 

McCarthy, if you haven’t guessed, is a product of the ‘60s.  And it shows in the smug shallowness of his presentation and the bits of stereotypical nonsense with which his piece is studded.  It’s also a pitch for more “peace studies”, because, you know, we have women’s studies, and black studies, and LGBT studies.  I assume he believes ROTC to be war studies and filled with Neanderthals and knuckle-draggers who want to be indoctrinated, given a weapon and pointed in the right direction with orders to kill everything in sight.

As a proud ROTC grad (and Distinguished Military Graduate) I owe a debt to the course of study.  Like most who graduated from the program, I learned the basics of something our present CiC hasn’t yet learned – leadership.  And the Army took it from there to the point that when I retired, I was both a pretty fair leader and darn sure a good evaluator of leadership.  Other than perhaps a few on-campus organizations, it was the only opportunity to learn about leadership and to apply it in a real world environment.  I don’t know about you, but watching Obama founder on the leadership rocks, I think it is a pretty critical skill.

But McCarthy’s objection doesn’t even consider that.  He’s stuck in the ‘60s Vietnam time warp by which he evaluates everything now.  And he’s really concerned about the Ivies becoming tainted now that DADT has been repealed:

However, being the good PC creature he is, he knows he’s got to be careful.  Read this and shake your head in wonder:

To oppose ROTC, as I have since my college days in the 1960s, when my school enticed too many of my classmates into joining, is not to be anti-soldier. I admire those who join armies, whether America’s or the Taliban’s: for their discipline, for their loyalty to their buddies and to their principles, for their sacrifices to be away from home. In recent years, I’ve had several Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans in my college classes. If only the peace movement were as populated by people of such resolve and daring.

It isn’t “anti-soldier”?  Well of course not – check out the moral equivalency in the next line.  Your young son who joined the Army is now the equivalent of a Taliban terrorist who blinds young girls with acid, executes village leaders for cooperation with the Afghan government and uses the sports arena in Kabul to execute women who’ve offended its bizarre codes.

His reasons for “admiring” soldiers are just as tatty – for their discipline, loyalty, principles and sacrifices.  Most of us assume these to be good traits.  Admirable traits as McCarthy says.  Where in the world does he think such things are taught? Certainly not in his peace studies apparently.  Uh, Mr. McCarthy, try “ROTC”.  Yup – it’s stock and trade.

Finally he panders a bit: combat veterans have lots of resolve and daring.  Daring?  Is there perhaps a bit of a yellow-streak peeking out from behind the word salad?  And aren’t “resolve and daring” what has made this nation great?  Wow – more admirable traits.

ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace. If a school such as Harvard does sell out to the military, let it at least be honest and add a sign at its Cambridge front portal: Harvard, a Pentagon Annex.

Yeah, that warrior ethic thing is a real “taint” on intellectual purity, isn’t it – if you define intellectual purity as “what I deem important and nothing else”.   Let’s review – loyalty, daring, resolve, discipline, principle and sacrifice.  I have to agree those traits contained in the warrior ethic would be a real drag on “intellectual purity” wouldn’t they?

McCarthy calls the classes taught in ROTC “softie classes” that don’t require much intellectually.  Well they’re certainly not advanced nuclear physics, but then they’re not designed to be.   They are classes which lay the ground work for what is to come in the military.  They are an introduction to the schooling the military will incrementally give its officers as they go on active duty and progress through the ranks.  When I entered the Army I went to the Infantry Officer Basic Course which picked up right where ROTC left off.  Given a few years of experience I went to my branch’s Advanced course, then the Command and General Staff College, etc.  – all part of a planned military schooling cycle that turns out the leaders that we have commanding our military today – most of whom could easily pit their intellect against that of McCarthy and come out miles ahead.

As for the intellectual purity of a school being compromised by ROTC, if this demonstrably misinformed op/ed is an example of what such intellectual purity produces, ROTC would most likely raise the intellectual level of the school this guy attended.   It just makes you wonder what he’s so afraid of.

~McQ


Atheists whine about not being included in religious event

I get tired of this sort of nonsense:

Atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other nontheistic Washington, D.C. residents will have no representation at Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray’s first official inaugural event—an ecumenical prayer service entitled “One City … Praying Together” at 8 a.m. Sunday, January 2, 2011.

“We would prefer that a government function such as an inauguration not be entwined with religion,” said Amanda Knief, a Humanist Celebrant and government relations manager for the Secular Coalition for America (SCA). “However, we find it overtly discriminatory when we request to be part of an ecumenical prayer service that is supposed to unite the entire city and are told there is no place for nontheists.”

How can a prayer service unite an entire city if atheists don’t believe in prayer or a deity?  Obviously, the word “prayer” is key to the phrase as it refers to those who both believe in prayer and a deity. Just as obviously, the prayer service is aimed a those in the city who do.  And why would an atheist want to go to a prayer service in the first place?

Oh, I know – “inclusion”.

Well, in reality,  they wouldn’t want to attend – “inclusion” is a false flag.  And they’re not “left out” of anything – atheism is their choice.  With that choice comes consequences – like not being invited to attend prayer meetings.

Instead this is really about banishing such services altogether.  And their assumed leverage here is it is a government event – a city government holding an “ecumenical” service, i.e. not touting a single religion and in perfect conformance with the 1st Amendment (which, btw, doesn’t apply below federal level, but I thought I’d point it out anyway).  But it isn’t “inclusive”.

Love the line, “we would prefer that a government function such a an inauguration not be entwined with religion.”

Cool.  Go out and win an election and then you can run the inauguration any way you wish.   That’s the basic message here.  Freedom is choice – and you can choose to not have such an inauguration if you win.  But if you won’t make the attempt or lose, tough nuts – the winner gets to “choose”, note the word,  how he or she will run the inauguration within the confines of the law.

A prayer meeting isn’t about anything in particular which will effect an atheist that I know of.  It’s a meeting of like minded people to ask for help and guidance of their deity of choice.   How that is “overtly discriminatory” against those who don’t believe in prayer or a deity is beyond me.

Oh, and in case you were wondering:

A Humanist Celebrant is the nonreligious equivalent of a clergyperson. He or she may receive national certification from several organizations, including The Humanist Society, the American Ethical Union, and the Society for Humanistic Judaism; and may conduct marriages, civil unions, memorial services, funerals, and other life ceremonies.

So they were supposed to invite a “nonreligious equivalent” of a “clergyperson” to a religious event?  What is a “nonreligious equivalent” to a clergyperson?   There is no equivalency in terms of belief.  The fact that the Humanist Celebrant can conduct marriages, civil unions, (so can a justice of the peace) etc.  doesn’t make them equivalent where it counts (and no one would argue a JP is the “equivalent” of a priest).

Look whether you believe in a deity or not, this is just nonsense on a stick.  Religion is a personal choice.  And nothing that I know of precludes government officials from conducting “ecumenical” prayer meetings if it is their desire. 

My guess is had the atheists – or Humanist Celebrant – shown up at the meeting he or she would have been graciously included.   Then what?

This is just more whining by the militant atheists of the country.  If you don’t want to participate in religion, don’t.  Don’t demand your “equivalency” be accepted by the religious or that they must include you in something, that in reality, you have no real desire to be included in at all.  The religious are not welcome in your camp and it shouldn’t surprise or upset you that you’re not particularly welcome in theirs. 

Such is life.  Grow up, drop the false “inclusion” argument and quit whining, for goodness sake.

~McQ


Health insurance mandate’s Constitutionality and the "necessary and proper" clause

It appears that the main question, or at least one of the main questions, about the health care mandate in Obamacare that requires Americans buy health insurance may revolve around the "necessary and proper" clause and not just the badly abused Commerce clause.

From the New York Times:

The necessary-and-proper clause sits at the end of Article I, Section 8, after 17 paragraphs that enumerate the powers delegated to Congress, ranging from the establishment of post offices to the declaration of war. It conveys authority “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.”

The reason that is a key is because the latest decision that went against the administration involved Judge Henry Hudson rejecting the “necessary and proper” defense.  As the Times mentions, the court has struggled over the years to define the necessary and proper clause.  Here’s the case as it stands now:

The [DoJ] , which represents the Obama administration, argues that the insurance requirement is constitutional under the commerce clause and allowed under the necessary-and-proper clause as a rational means to an appropriate end. It points to a series of Supreme Court precedents that interpret those provisions as allowing the regulation of “activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.”

The act of not obtaining health insurance, the federal government’s lawyers contend, is effectively a decision to pay later rather than up front in a market that consumers cannot avoid. Such decisions, they say, have a substantial impact on the market because many of the uninsured cannot afford their care and shift costs to governments, hospitals and the privately insured.

Furthermore, the lawyers argue, the insurance mandate is essential — both necessary and proper — to making other changes work, particularly prohibitions on discrimination by insurers against those with pre-existing medical conditions [emphasis mine].

Obviously, at least in my estimation, the argument fails for a number of reasons.  Obviously, I’m not a lawyer, so I’m simply giving my arguments based on the stated particulars of the case as outlined above. 

First the wording “rational means to an appropriate end.”  I’d argue the end is not at all appropriate – i.e government dictating that someone must have insurance certainly smacks of what government had denied and called a “myth”.  That is government is now in charge of health care for everyone.  Unless you accept that premise, the argument is invalid.  Acceptance of that premise and the “appropriate end” argument means government can pretty well do whatever it wants and the Constitution as a guiding document has been mostly rendered moot.

The argument goes on to say that not having health insurance is “effectively a decision to pay later rather than up front in a market that consumers cannot avoid.”  Obviously, in the strictest sense that’s not true.  “Consumers” can avoid that market.  And do.  That’s not to say they will – but the fact is no one is forced to use it and no one has to use it if they so choose.   Arguing that consumers must be required to buy insurance because they will use the market seems a claim that is unfounded in fact.  People of means, for instance, may decide they’d rather pay as they use the service, vs. obtaining insurance.  That should be their decision, not governments if we’re really a free country.  And while they may be a small set of those who will seek health care, they still give lie to the necessity of insurance to cover the costs of their care – the “pay later than up front” mentioned in the emphasized argument.

Finally there’s the argument which says the mandate is necessary “to making other changes work, particularly prohibitions on discrimination by insurers against those with pre-existing medical conditions

No.  It’s not. Consider the fact that much of the problem we face with health insurance  today revolves around the structure of the market as one in which employers provide the coverage.  Then there’s a problem of  government’s making.  The restrictions on selling  health insurance across state lines.  This has essentially segmented the huge pool we see in other insurance markets to 50 segmented markets.  It has made the ability to buy an insurance product at the best price and outside the traditional employer furnished insurance all but impossible.  Removal of that restriction would go a long way in solving some of the toughest problems – pre-existing conditions and portability. While government may feel compelled to place “prohibitions on discrimination by insurers against those with pre-existing medical conditions”, there would probably be less of a need to discriminate in larger pools of insured.  Anyway, that solution is found nowhere in the existing law.

There is no “right” to health care.  As far as my opinion goes, I find nothing in the Constitution that gives government the power or authority to require I pre-pay for health care.  And that is precisely what it is claiming – that health care is something I will use and since I will use it, I must pre-pay for that use.  No matter what my health, age, etc.   It argues that it can remove my choice in the matter by law.

One more time – freedom is choice.   When it is removed, so is freedom.  This is just another step toward a more oppressive government presence in our lives.  One can only hope that the SCOTUS will rule against the administration on this travesty of a law and cripple it to the point that repeal is the only valid choice for Congress.  Otherwise, the door will be opened to all sorts of mandates we haven’t even imagined.   And with each mandate more choice is eliminated.

If anyone can argue that was the vision of the founders of the country or the writers of the Constitution, and do so with a straight face, I’ll be glad to nominate them for an Oscar next year.

~McQ


TPM’s manufactured “right-wing freak out”

Must be a slow day at TPM.  They’ve decided the “latest right-wing freakout” has to do with Obama’s plan to give Manhattan back to the indians.

Seriously.

Apparently this was all spawned by a World Net Daily article which one has to assume TPM feels represents all of the right-wing.  Yes, according to TPM:

The outrage began after the President announced on December 16 that the U.S. would reverse course and support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The Declaration was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2007, but the U.S., under President Bush, opposed it.

Really?  Outrage?  Hell, I never even heard of it until TPM brought it up.  And WND is not exactly a site I read or feel represents the views of most that consider themselves to “right-wingers”.  It is sort of the National Enquirer of the right side of the political spectrum.

But hey, what’s a 1,000 words or so in an effort to falsely paint the right as “freaking out” over something that most thinking people know is never going to happen.  Give always?  Sure – government, especially under a liberal like Obama, is going to try to take from one side (the successful side) and “spread it around”.  But come on – give Manhattan back to the indians.  Only a liberal would consider that even remotely possible.

And, of course, it is the liberal side of the blogosphere that are commenting on (and running with) the story: Alan Colmes (Liberaland), Dennis G. (Balloon Juice), Ron Chusid (Liberal Values), Alex Parnee (Salon), Zandar (No More Mister Nice Blog) and Joan McCarter (Daily Kos).

Oh, wait, there was one more person, supposedly on the right, who commented.  Bryan Fischer.  Yeah, you remember him – the fellow who said the Medal of Honor was being “feminized”.  Right – he belongs in the same place as WND.

Two mentions by a marginal right publication and personality and somehow the left weaves it into a right-wing freakout and conspiracy theory.

Except it is 7 liberal blogs pushing the nonsense.

Who exactly is “freaking out” here?

~McQ


Why theater tickets cost so much

The answer, partially, is unions. While the talent of a Broadway show may cost a pretty penny, many of the "aspiring" among them most likely aren’t making as much as the stagehands.

At Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the average stagehand salary and benefits package is $290,000 a year.

To repeat, that is the average compensation of all the workers who move musicians’ chairs into place and hang lights, not the pay of the top five.

Across the plaza at the Metropolitan Opera, a spokesman said stagehands rarely broke into the top-five category. But a couple of years ago, one did. The props master, James Blumenfeld, got $334,000 at that time, including some vacation back pay.

Now I’m not one to begrudge high salaries, if they’ve been earned. And I’ll be the first to tell you that any CEO who earns a bonus when his or her company has a down year shouldn’t get one. However, that’s really not the point here. These are wages (the top paid stagehand at Carnegie Hall makes $422,599 a year in salary and $107,445 in benefits and deferred compensation) driven by unions. The first figure mentioned is the average salary at Lincoln Center. If I were a lefty, this would probably fall under the "corporate greed" category. The jobs are neither highly skilled nor technical.  But they’re locked down and belong to only one entity – the union. The pay is at that level for one simple reason – power and the willingness to use it, even when it really isn’t necessary.  And that power engenders fear:

How to account for all this munificence? The power of a union, Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. "Power," as in the capacity and willingness to close most Broadway theaters for 19 days two years ago when agreement on a new contract could not be reached.

Wakin reported that this power was palpable in the nervousness of theater administrators and performers who were asked to comment on the salary figures.

Kelly Hall-Tompkins, for one, said, "The last thing I want to do is upset the people at Carnegie Hall. I’d like to have a lifelong relationship with them." She is a violinist who recently presented a recital in Weill Hall, one of the smaller performance spaces in the building.

She said she begrudged the stagehands nothing: "Musicians should be so lucky to have a strong union like that."

Right – and musicians would be playing to empty venues if they did since the cost of their entertainment would be beyond what most wage earners can afford.  Instead musicians exist in a much more competitive world where their earnings are tied to their talent.  Ms. Hall-Tomkins, for one, would prefer the IATSE model, I’m sure.

But you’ll also notice that she, and apparently others, were afraid to comment on the story for fear of ruffling union feathers.

Unions had a place once – and I’ll even say that their existence today can be a good thing if they represent their members properly, that is make sure they’re paid a competitive wage and benefits as well as being treated fairly.  However, in many cases, like that above, they end up demanding exorbitant salaries and benefits only because they can. 

Where are the Bernie Sanders of the world yelling “when is enough enough”?   As long as the theater owners, administrators and artists refuse to speak out about those sorts of salaries and benefits that drive up ticket prices, the union will continue to push.  And some stagehands will earn more than the President of the United States (although I think our current President is more suited for the roll of stagehand than his present job).

In the world of leftist “fairness”, this would seem a prime target for those who like to go after CEOs and “greedy corporations”.  But expect not a peep about this union, public sector unions or any union for that matter.  After all, while they may be as “greedy” as any corporation the left could name, they’re “family” and thus exempt from such criticism.

~McQ


Is Gitmo really a jihadist recruiting tool?

That’s certainly been one of the major reasons that candidate and then President Obama has cited for closing the facility. But the Weekly Standard did an analysis of some 34 al Qaeda messages and found that Guantanamo was barely mentioned, and when it was, it was at worst a neutral topic.

So why is this important enough to talk about. Because of the emphasis Obama places on that excuse to close the facility in the face of facts that just don’t support the premise. Here’s what he recently said [emphasis added]:

Obviously, we haven’t gotten it closed. And let me just step back and explain that the reason for wanting to close Guantanamo was because my number one priority is keeping the American people safe.

One of the most powerful tools we have to keep the American people safe is not providing al Qaeda and jihadists recruiting tools for fledgling terrorists. And Guantanamo is probably the number one recruitment tool that is used by these jihadist organizations. And we see it in the websites that they put up. We see it in the messages that they’re delivering.

But when we turn to the actual 34 messages that discuss recruiting, that isn’t at all the case.  Here are the results of key word searches in those messages:

Guantanamo is mentioned a mere 7 times in the 34 messages we reviewed. (Again, all 7 of those references appear in just 3 of the 34 messages.)

By way of comparison, all of the following keywords are mentioned far more frequently: Israel/Israeli/Israelis (98 mentions), Jew/Jews (129), Zionist(s) (94), Palestine/Palestinian (200), Gaza (131), and Crusader(s) (322). (Note: Zionist is often paired with Crusader in al Qaeda’s rhetoric.)

Naturally, al Qaeda’s leaders also focus on the wars in Afghanistan (333 mentions) and Iraq (157). Pakistan (331), which is home to the jihadist hydra, is featured prominently, too. Al Qaeda has designs on each of these three nations and implores willing recruits to fight America and her allies there. Keywords related to other jihadist hotspots also feature more prominently than Gitmo, including Somalia (67 mentions), Yemen (18) and Chechnya (15).  

In fact the Weekly Standard states uncategorically that there is no evidence in those 34 messages that Gitmo is a recruiting tool, much less “probably the number one recruitment tool” used by al Qaeda.

So, what are they about?  The usual stuff:

Instead, al Qaeda’s leaders repeatedly focus on a narrative that has dominated their propaganda for the better part of two decades. According to bin Laden, Zawahiri, and other al Qaeda chieftains, there is a Zionist-Crusader conspiracy against Muslims. Relying on this deeply paranoid and conspiratorial worldview, al Qaeda routinely calls upon Muslims to take up arms against Jews and Christians, as well as any Muslims rulers who refuse to fight this imaginary coalition.

This theme forms the backbone of al Qaeda’s messaging – not Guantanamo.

So what’s going on with Gitmo?  The usual spin designed to make the place seem much worse than it is with an eye on closing it for some less than pragmatic reason (I mention that because Obama is supposed to be such a pragmatist).  The messages reviewed by the WS are all of those which are known to have been delivered since January 2009.  Obviously, Gitmo has a small and barely noticeable effect on anything al Qaeda does.  Touting it as “probably the number one recruitment tool” of al Qaeda is false and misleading.   It implies closing Guantanamo will hurt such recruiting.  Obviously that’s just not the case. 

Nope, this is about a silly campaign promise made with little knowledge or information about the enemy we’re fighting or what is being used to recruit jihadists into the organization.  It would be one thing coming from some blogger out in North Dakota.  It’s another to hear it said by the man who is charged with our national security.  It doesn’t give one much of a warm fuzzy.

~McQ


The major “accomplishment” of the 111th Congress

While Democrats hail this Congressional session as a huge success (again, it really depends on how you define “success” doesn’t it?), there’s one “accomplishment” they’ll be trying to ignore.  Doug Mataconis gives us the numbers:

According to the United States Treasury, the National Debt on that day was $8,670,596,242,973.04. As of December 24th, it was $13,866,145,290,604.69. That’s $5,195,549,047,631.65 in new deficit spending in over just under four years.

Nice, huh?

Over 5 trillion dollars.  Roll that around on your tongue – 5 trillion in new debt in 4 years.  That’s more debt added than any other Congress in the history of our country and more than all of the first 100 combined.

The previous record holding Congress?  The 110th at $1.92 trillion, also a Democratic Congress presided over by Pelosi.  Oh and remember Ms. Pelosi’s pledge (the other one, not the “most ethical” Congress in history pledge) as she took the office of Speaker of the House?

“After years of historic deficits, this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: Pay as you go, no new deficit spending,” she said in an address from the speaker’s podium. “Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.”

Another in a long line of political lies.  And yes, I consider this a lie since Pelosi and gang had absolutely no intention of following that pledge – none.  It was a pure and unadulterated falsehood.  Two Congressional sessions and 5 trillion dollars later, it’s clear how much of a falsehood it really was.

The cost?  Now will cost every man, woman and child in America is on the hook for $44,886.57 each. 

Meanwhile Obama, et. al, are touting this as the “Season of Progress”.

Progress toward the poor house maybe.

The GOP better get to work on day one, because we can’t afford the Democrats.  They’ve had their run and look at the mountain of debt they’ve accumulated.

Thanks a trillion, Madam Speaker.

~McQ


Voters flee to states with less government intrusion

Daniel Mitchell provides a bit of ground truth that we’ve recently seen demonstrated via the census numbers:

The world is a laboratory and different nations are public policy experiments. Not surprisingly, the evidence from these experiments is that nations with more freedom tend to grow faster and enjoy more prosperity. Nations with big governments, by contrast, are more likely to suffer from stagnation. The same thing happens inside the United States. The 50 states are experiments, and they generate considerable data showing that small government states enjoy better economic performance. But because migration between states is so easy (whereas migration between nations is more complicated), we also get very good evidence based on people “voting with their feet.” Taxation and jobs are two big factors that drive this process.

Seats were gained by two types of states – those with "right to work" laws and states without income tax. The states with relatively low income taxes also gained.

Says Michael Barone:

…growth tends to be stronger where taxes are lower. Seven of the nine states that do not levy an income tax grew faster than the national average. The other two, South Dakota and New Hampshire, had the fastest growth in their regions, the Midwest and New England. Altogether, 35 percent of the nation’s total population growth occurred in these nine non-taxing states, which accounted for just 19 percent of total population at the beginning of the decade.

For the “we have the lowest taxes in the world” bunch that continue to claim our taxes should be even higher, these numbers should drive the point home.  Americans are indeed voting with their feet and they’re fleeing to states that encourage vs. discourage businesses (and thus the creation of jobs) and states which don’t tax the income of job holders.  Unsurprisingly those states are mostly found in the South where free markets and free people are concepts that aren’t esoteric thought exercises, but something which those that live there both desire and demand.

Certainly that doesn’t mean the South is perfect by any means.  It’s just much better than the rest of the country when it comes to those two things that people hold to be important – enough so that they’re moving there in record numbers to take advantage of the business climate.  Texas, for instance, picked up 4 House seats.  Florida 2.  The rest of the South, except Louisiana (the Katrina effect), picked up one each.

This is another indicator of why I see Democrats and their agenda having problems in 2012.  That message hasn’t yet sunk in.  Whether it will or not, remains to be seen.  But to this point, they’re still a “big government” party.  Republicans seem, at least on the surface, to understand what the voters said the last election.  Spine, however, is an ever fleeting commodity in Washington, and if they – as they usually do – buy into this “need” for “bipartisanship”, then they’re fools and they’ll fail.  Bipartisanship is vastly oversold.  If ever the GOP played hardball, now is the time.

Of course, the other side of that is if the GOP succeeds in some small way and convince President Obama to sign those victories into law, Obama will obviously try to claim he’s the reason it became a law.  A little reflective glory.  Spin cycles will be on overdrive and the GOP must be as transparent as possible during this next Congressional period so any such occurrence will reflect favorably on them and not the President.

Let’s be upfront here – we need Obama playing golf permanently in 2013.

Anyway, the demographics of the new census and the why and wherefores of the population shift were just too interesting to pass off.  Daniel Mitchell then asks the most salient of questions in conclusion:

This leaves us with one perplexing question. If we know that pro-market policies work for states, why does the crowd in Washington push for more statism?

The one word we all know and loath, of course – power.

~McQ


Back at it – so let’s talk politics

Well after a couple day hiatus, I’m ready to go back at it. Sometimes you just have to take a couple of days off to clear the mind, enjoy the peace and joy of the Christmas season and reflect on the 2 inches of snow in you yard on Christmas day (first in at least many decades) and curse global warming. Heh.

Drove to Memphis and back yesterday – no not just to do it – dropped the wife off with her sisters. Snow flurries all the way through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Roads closed due to ice near B’ham. Had to reroute which cost some time. When I came back through they’d cleared it all out.

Cold as hell. It only got above freezing by a couple of degrees all day, but the wind – brrr.

Anyway, let’s sit back and contemplate the upcoming year politically, shall we? As it turns out, this one hasn’t been the best one for Democrats (although they’re now trying to claim it was outstanding due to the lame duck Congress). "Shellacked" in November the Democrats yield their majority in the House. That means that Republicans there will be writing next year’s budget (due around March) and Rep. Paul Ryan will be the man to watch since he now heads the House’s budget committee.

Question: will Republicans put forward a budget heavy on spending cuts or will they skirt the issue? My sense is that Ryan is going to put out an aggressive budget with significant cuts and the GOP is going to ask everyone to "make sacrifices" as they attempt to wean us from some of our dependency on government and other people’s money.

Of course I could be wrong and the Old Bulls could decide that controversy isn’t the way they want to go with 2012 looming – but that would be a mistake in my estimation.

Meanwhile it is reported that Obama is set to "shuffle his staff". Well, given the present one, it’s hard to imagine he could do worse with the shuffle. In many cases he’s been ill served by the present staff. That’s not to say he hasn’t made plenty of unforced errors himself, but these first two years have been marked by an aura of amateurism and a weaker president.

The first personnel change inside the White House is the arrival of David Plouffe, who managed Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign. For the last two years, Mr. Plouffe has been one of the president’s closest outside confidants, but he is set to replace Mr. Axelrod as his chief political adviser, with a broad portfolio.

Frankly, I think Axlerod has been out of his depth in the White House. He was most at home campaigning/running a campaign, but never seemed to understand that the campaigning stops on Jan. 20th of the following year if you candidate wins. I’m not sure Plouffe will be much of an improvement.

At the final cabinet meeting of the year, on Dec. 8, the president renewed his request that if any members intended to step down, they needed to signal their intentions. White House officials said they believed that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is the only cabinet member who definitely plans to leave next year, although one other departure is possible.

This is one I have no idea about who the replacement will be.  Many names have been bandied about, but this is a very critical position.  My guess is Joe Biden is going to try to exert some influence here and we most likely are not going to be happy with the choice – nor is the military.

One departure that many will welcome – if it happens – is Bagdad Bob Gibson:

But at the midpoint of his term, several aides are considering new opportunities, including the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs. Mr. Gibbs will probably either become a senior adviser to the president or work outside the White House, defending Mr. Obama on television and beginning to define the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates. The leading contenders for his job are Jay Carney, a spokesman for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and Bill Burton, a deputy press secretary.

Now Gibson has been no worse than some of the worst press secretaries I’ve witnessed over the year, but there’s something about his manner that just irritates beyond the usual irritation level.  Certainly I wouldn’t want to have that job in any circumstance, but if it is your job, you should at least bring some level of integrity to it, and I’ve not seen that at all during Gibson’s tenure.  I have no idea if the 2 possible contenders would be better than Gibson in that area (maybe the job preclude integrity) but it would be nice to see if they would.,

Something as predictable as the dawn is going on within the administration as well:

Two months before the midterm elections, even before it became clear that Democrats would lose their Congressional majority, the president ordered a review of how the White House operated and how it could be modernized. The mission of the Reorganization Plan, as it is called at the White House, expanded after the sweeping Republican victory.

Pete Rouse, now the interim White House chief of staff, was already working on the plan in October when Rahm Emanuel stepped down as chief of staff to run for mayor of Chicago. The process has been a highly guarded secret even inside the White House, with Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser; Robert F. Bauer, the general counsel; and Mr. Axelrod also providing guidance.

The president was frustrated by the bureaucracy of the administration, aides said, and asked Mr. Rouse to recommend ways to improve internal communication and efficiency.

Yes, it must have been the organization of the administration that contributed to the “Republican victory” or, at least, the inability to ameliorate the losses.  In fact, of course, it had little to do with the organization or the message.  Instead it had to do with pushing an unpopular agenda at a time with the focus should have been on other things – jobs and the economy.  It is one of the reasons that even while Democrats celebrate the number of “accomplishments” rendered by the 111th Congress their approval rate remains low.  It isn’t about the “number” but the desirability of the accomplishments that count.  Voters signaled most emphatically they were dissatisfied with that Congress’ “accomplishments” in a most damning way in November.

Of course a true bureaucrats answer to such a defeat is to tinker with the bureaucracy looking for ways to “improve internal communication and efficiency” even while improvements in both would be irrelevant to the real reason for they administration’s perceived failures the previous two years.

And, a new strategy is emerging which smacks of what?  In a word, campaigning:

Mr. Obama intends not only to extend a hand to Republicans but also to begin detaching himself more from Congress and spending more time making his case directly to the American people.

He may find it harder to “detach” himself from Congress than he thinks, although if successful he might gain a few approval points.  But if history is any teacher, the “detachment” will be an acrimonious one with the usual attempt at blame shifting common to the Obama presidency to this point.  And the people have pointedly said any number of times that they’re tired of the president trying to blame everyone else for his problems.

And how about an imperial presidency?  I have to wonder if the rabid left, who got so exercised about George Bush’s use of executive orders will find it within themselves to level the same criticism at Obama?

“In a world of divided government, getting things done requires a mix of compromise and confrontation,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “What are the things you can do without Congress? In some cases, that involves executive orders, but it also involves using the bully pulpit of the presidency to make a political argument about the direction of the country.”

Interestingly the man who was touted as the 2nd “great communicator” has been singularly ineffective in his first two years of effectively using the bully pulpit the presidency provides.  Will he rally his supporters in the next 2 years with its use?  Or will he remain the same ineffective communicator he’s been these past two years?  Have the American people finally seen through this guy and his penchant for high sounding rhetoric?  Can they again be seduced into voting for a guy who many (among those who voted for him) have come to consider an empty suit?

Stay tuned for 2011.  It will indeed be an interesting year.

~McQ

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