Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Immigration Debate

Ever since Arizona passed its immigration enforcement law, the left has gone crazy trying to stop this. They are terrified that this thing might actually work and will, in the process, expose the lie that immigration reform is such a complex, impossible issue that only an amnesty can work. Sadly for them, they have no idea how to persuade the public. Observe.

The first thing they tried was to tell us that this law was written by angry white extremists who hate Hispanics. But that didn’t fly because polls showed that 70% of the public supported it -- even blacks and many Hispanics. Moreover, the governor’s approval ratings surged 20% after she signed it. So much for the white racists.

So they switched to “this is anti-immigrant.” Polls show that the public supports immigration and we all know that a great many of us are immigrants or children of immigrants, hence, this should upset the public, right? But something went wrong on the way to the victory parade. The public laughed this off. That’s because the left missed the part of the polls that said that while Americans like immigration and love immigrants, they despise rule breakers and illegal aliens.

So the left switched to ridicule, as all sour-grapes types do when they can’t win. Don’t you stupid Arizonans know this is unconstitutional? Well, that’s probably true, at least in part. States can’t conduct their own foreign policy, and deciding who can or cannot be in the country is foreign policy. But, the public says, so what? We like the fact that they’re trying to do something. . . when the Federal government won’t.

So they tried the racial angle again: “This will lead to racial profiling of legal Hispanic residents.” Uh huh, except the public doesn’t see “racial profiling” the way the left does. We find it ridiculous that little old ladies get searched when they board airplanes when the only people who blow up plains are Muslims. We also don’t see any problem with anyone asking you to prove that you live in this country legally. I had to give more information to my cable company than the Arizona cops are going to demand. And how come the left isn’t upset when the IRS pulls out the rubber gloves and flashlights on average taxpayers?

As the left continued to strike out, they switched to another of their favorite tactics: the boycott. But leftist boycotts are a joke. No one cares if places like San Francisco are upset at Arizona, in fact, that’s a badge of honor. Arizona Iced Tea? That stuff’s made in New York idiots, so boycott away! Now they’re going to boycott the Arizona Diamondbacks, as if anyone still watches baseball, and the Arizona Cardinals, who won’t play a game until August -- and who don’t play in the NFL as far as I know.

For obvious reasons, none of this worked. So now it’s time to call out the big guns: the “unintended” consequences. Suddenly we are being treated to articles that tell us how people are no longer willing to hire illegal day laborers in Arizona for fear of arrest and that illegal aliens are leaving Arizona in droves. Take that Arizona!

And if that isn't enough, they're promising massive rallies in liberal cities all across America. . . rallies with lots of Mexican flags and anti-American speeches and posters. . . just the thing to swing the public to their side.

Frankly, the left should have stopped while they were behind. But they didn't. The more they whine, the more this law spreads. Texas will be next. Even people in California are looking at this too. And when California is considering something rational, you know the left has lost.

So keep whining lefties, you're doing fine. . .

[+]

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

“I Can Only Promise You Defeat”

Believe it or not, I’m on Obama’s e-mailing list. Yep. I’m one of the millions of people he’s counting on to save his sorry rear end. Boy are they in trouble. Two days ago, Obama operative David Plouffe (left) sent me some words that were supposed to inspire me to get out there and support Team Donkey in 2010. The Plouffer’s main (read: only) talking point seems to be “expect a disaster but maybe it won’t be as bad as we expect.” Woo hoo! I’m sold!

Now, I must say that I found the Plouffer’s e-mail less than inspiring. Actually, I take that back -- it was inspiring, but then I’m on the other side. Seriously, who goes into the big game telling their team:
“Team, we’re gonna get our butts handed to us. But if we work really, really hard, maybe it won’t hurt so much when they rip those suckers off! Now get out there and make this less than a total debacle!!!”
Let’s look at what the Plouffer says. First, he starts by pointing out that a total debacle is to be expected:
“Historical trends aren’t in our favor -- the president’s party generally loses seats in the first midterm election.”
Translation: We’re fighting the inevitable.
“And even though President Obama has taken bold steps like the Recovery Act to put us back on the path to prosperity, escaping from a financial crisis like this one takes time.”
Translation: What we did. . . um, it didn’t work. Yeah, that’s right: we’ve got nothing to show for our efforts. But at least we avoided that financial crisis. Of course, you’re probably wondering why we handed over the Treasury to Wall Street if we actually “escaped” the melt down, but I’m betting you’re too stupid to put that together so just keep reading. . . nothing to think about here. Of course, I’m also betting you’re too stupid to know that the Recovery Act is “the stimulus,” or I wouldn’t have mentioned it.
“The prognosticators and pundits are predicting steep losses for the Democrats.”
Translation: You know those right wing witches and fortune tellers on Fox, well, they’re all against us. Of course, I’m making the same prediction, but, once again, I thank God you people are too stupid to figure that out.
“The Republicans are already measuring the drapes for their new offices, saying that anything short of an electoral landslide that gives them back control of Congress won’t be a victory.”
Translation: This is key, put down the bong and listen up idiots. Anything short of the Republicans taking back the Congress would be a great victory for our side. Got it?!! A great victory! A Waterloo or Stalingrad class victory. Epic baby!
“But these are the same folks who said Barack Obama could never become president. . .”
Translation: Ok, this sounded much better on paper than it does reading it now. I was trying to point out how wrong and stupid these “doubters” are, but that kind of wipes out the sense of danger I’m trying to project. Crud. Not to mention that I doubt any of you can think of anyone who thought Obama couldn’t become President. . . except for maybe Hillary.
“. . . the same ones who said we were trying to do too much, too fast -- and that we’d never pass historic health reform.”
Translation: Now those people you remember right? The people who made vague comments about us not doing things right. Dirty traitors. By the way, whatever you do, don’t check out our record of abject failure.

Oh, and I "get" that everyone hates ObamaCare now, especially since none of you got your free medical cards, but it’s the only accomplishment we have. So deal with it. Seriously, what else did you want me to mention? Copenhagen went to crap. Crap and Trade went down in carbon flames. The stimulus only stimulated anger. Gays, no they’re pissed. Immigration? Nada. Financial reform? Yeah, we reformed the line so we could all stand in it and beg for cash again, that’s about all we did there. So thank your lucky stars for ObamaCare. Oh, and somebody tell Boxer “ichtsna on the riticismca of bamaCareOa!”
“They were wrong then, and they’re wrong now.”
Translation: Yeah, that must mean we’re right! Go team!
“I believe we can avoid the nightmare electoral scenario that Republicans in Washington have already convinced themselves will happen.”
Translation: I'm trying to be positive, but it's just not coming. We're doomed, and the best we can hope for is that we can ultimately avoid a total disaster.

I don’t know, call me crazy, but this is less than inspiring. And if this is what the Plouffer thinks will excite his base, well. . . let’s just say I like the team Obama has assembled.

[+]

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Obama Sells Out Supporters. . . Again

Perhaps the most corrupt agency in the United States is the Department of Agriculture (“USDA”). From the decades spent pimping an upside down food pyramid for the meat industry, to its attempts to reclassify ketchup as a vegetable to save money on school lunches, to the decades-long fight against food labeling, to Team Bush trying to prevent you from knowing if your food was genetically altered or if your milk contains hormones, to the trillions of taxpayer dollars handed out as subsidies to huge agribusinesses, the whole agency has been a blight on America. Fortunately, Obama changed this disgrace. Oh wait, no. . . no, he didn’t.

Over the last 100 years of incompetence and whoring itself to agribusiness, the USDA has done many disgraceful things. One of the worst things it’s done has been to utterly disregard its obligation to inspect our food supply, an obligation assigned to it by statute in 1909. The consequences of that have been an ever increasing number of recalls, though these recalls rarely happen until after enough members of the public are poisoned that other agencies get involved. . . and even then USDA resists the recall for a few more days.

But never fear, because Obama is here and he’ll save us all, right? Obama’s different, right? In fact, the left assumed that Obama would finally clean up the corrupt mess that is USDA. They assumed the days of the USDA doing the bidding of huge agribusiness was over. They were wrong.

Team Obama has just introduced a new rule that will require new inspection procedures for meat (13 samples before processing, 13 sample after processing, for each batch). Sounds good right? Not so fast. These rules will cost producers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, and their value is dubious. More importantly, the cost is high enough that it will likely wipe out many small producers. One small producer estimates it will add $500,000 a year to their expenses, which they can’t afford.

But safe is safe right? Actually no. It turns out that the safety risks have been disproportionately linked to large-scale producers. The likely explanation for this is that customers of small producers pay closer attention to the producers, and because small producers have much more to lose from any failure, unlike large-scale producers who have little to fear. Notes Greg Higgins, the founding member of the sustainability-focused Chefs Collaborative:
“[The health scares] are all related to large-scale food production, whether it’s spinach from a massive grower in California or ground beef out of the Midwest, they’re all gigantic, they’re never these little plants.”
Dustin VandeHoer of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship also thinks that applying these regulations to small producers makes no sense. He also worries that this will put small plants out of business.

Over the past few years, small producers have made significant in-roads into the market for specialty foods, locally grown foods, and organic foods. This regulation could be all it takes to wipe those small producers out. If the small producers shut their doors, then the small farms from which they purchase will no longer have an outlet for their products. In effect, these regulations could leave nothing but big players in agriculture.

So why would Obama do this? The suspicion being voiced by many is that Team Obama is doing a favor for the large producers who give generously when it comes to political contributions. When regulations makes little sense except to shut down influence-less competitors, that’s usually the reason.

It is also probably no coincidence that the current Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, has been in the back pocket of the biotech industry for years. He actually earned an award from a biotech industry lobbying group for passing a law in Iowa in 2005 that prevented local communities from regulating where genetically engineered crops could be grown. His nomination was opposed by the Organic Consumers Association because “Vilsack has repeatedly demonstrated a preference for large industrial farms and genetically modified crops.”

So much for Obama changing things. In fact, it looks suspiciously like Obama’s as big a tool for agribusiness as every other President before him. Surprise, surprise.

Personally, I’d like to see the USDA gutted. This agency has been corrupt since its birth and has only gotten worse. They need to be returned to an inspection agency that conducts its own on-site inspections. They need to stop protecting producers at the expense of consumers and stop issuing regulations that do little more than throw up barriers to entry. The inspection of our food supply should not be a political game with the booty going to the highest bidder.

[+]

Monday, April 26, 2010

“Nobody Wins on Immigration” Means Democratic Debacle

I can’t help but laugh. The media loves to talk about problems the Republicans are facing. Whatever the issue, it’s the Republicans who are in trouble. Even Democratic scandals always seem to have a “this could hurt the Republicans” silver lining. But every once in awhile we get an issue where the MSM tells us, this time “nobody wins.” To translate that from MSM speak, that means total debacle for Democrats. The latest example is immigration reform.

Right now, the MSM is awash in articles warning us that “nobody wins on immigration.” The Democrats will have a hard time with this issue, we are told, because they are trapped between a rock and a hard place. But rest assured, the Republicans are in just as much trouble because. . . well. . . because.

The rock the Democrats are facing is the wave of Hispanic activists who are threatening to stay home if nothing is done to grant amnesty to all illegal aliens. And no, that’s not an overstatement. Some of these activists speak in the media about protecting “the rights” of illegals or they try to focus just on Hispanic Americans who they claim will be threatened by “xenophobia” and “racial profiling.” But most activists aren’t as careful. Most talk openly of amnesty -- as anyone who has seen any of their rallies or heard any of their speeches or seen any of their interviews can attest. They want total, immediate amnesty. And like all other Democratic interest groups, they won’t be satisfied with any substitute promises. They want it all and they want it now. Which is why they began issuing public threats a couple weeks back that they would stay at home if the Democrats didn’t act now.

The hard place the Democrats face is the American public. No matter which poll you look at, around 70% of the public opposes amnesty. In fact, they don’t just oppose it, they hate it. And that figure typically includes around 40% of Hispanics.

Interestingly, blacks are even more upset about illegal immigration than the rest of America. A full 66% of blacks support building a wall between the US and Mexico, 60% want to impose stiff penalties on employers who hire illegals, and 56% view this as a major issue. (They see Hispanics as a direct economic threat.)

Thus, the Democrats face this Homerian dilemma of Scylla and Charybdis. If they don’t pass an amnesty, they will lose their Hispanic support, which translates into roughly 9% of the population -- which would doom them in many districts, even in liberal leaning states. But if they do act, they risk alienating 60% of the public, even many liberals, which will doom them everywhere.

What’s more, their usual tricks won’t work. They will be inclined to split the baby, by passing “tough immigration reform” that provides meaningless gestures to both sides. But neither side is in the mood to accept meaningless gestures. Moreover, even if the Democrats include a “stealth amnesty,” Democratic activists have shown that they aren’t smart enough to see what they’ve been given and shut the hell up. They will instead protest that they got what they wanted, just not openly enough for their tastes.

Thus, the Democrats not only can’t satisfy both sides at once, they can’t avoid angering somebody no matter what they do. . . even if they do nothing. Sounds like a total loser for the Democrats.

But what about those poor Republicans. This is a “nobody wins” scenario after all, right? Well, to believe that, you need to pretend that you didn’t read what you just read, i.e. you need to forget that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to illegal immigration. Because the case for the Republicans being hurt is that “the public” will see them as “extremists and xenophobes” and will be turned off by their anti-immigrant stance.

Of course, this stupid argument flies in the face of the one before it. If the public is so overwhelming opposed to illegal immigration that the Democrats are in trouble, then the public isn’t going to be turned off by the Republicans opposing illegal immigration. In fact, the only people this will offend are the Democratic activists (and journalists) who already despise the Republicans. Oh no! Moreover, looking at the numbers for blacks, this issue isn’t even going to resonate with them because majorities of them actually agree with the Republicans on this issue.

Further, the public has shown in poll after poll that they clearly distinguish between the issues of immigration and illegal immigration. Unless the Republicans start bashing all immigrants, which they won’t, there is little danger that anyone outside of liberal news rooms will see the Republicans as xenophobes.

Basically, there is no way this issue hurts Republicans. So when you see the next article that talks about this being a no winner or which tries to find the silver lining for Democrats, just chuckle at the mental contortions the journalist had to go through to reach the conclusion they wanted.

[+]

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Financial Regulation Shell Game

Nothing demonstrates the sad state of Washington politics more than the financial regulation going on in Washington at the moment. Over the last couple of elections, the American people, both left and right, have said “enough” to special interest influence and government handouts. But like addicts, Washington can’t stop itself.

Everyone agrees that America’s financial regulations are a mess. There are dozens of different, overlapping regulatory schemes, many created during the Great Depression and supplemented ad hoc as problems arose. These piecemeal regulations overlap and conflict, but also, strangely, leave glaring gaps. This has allowed savvy financial institutions to slip between cracks by cherry picking the regulators they wanted and then sliding through those gaps. This was a disaster waiting to happen, and the financial meltdown was that disaster.

The problem, however, with fixing this is fully on display at the moment. Rather than approaching these regulations rationally, as the public demands, or vindictively, as the left demands, Washington has turned this into an orgy of interest group politics. Money is pouring into both parties in record numbers. Obama took in $40 million dollars from the financial sector during the 2008 presidential campaign -- McCain took in $29 million. This year, the DNC has taken in $9.9 million from the sector. The RNC has taken in $5.2 million. Individual Senators and Representatives have taken in even more.

And, of course, you get what you pay for. Republicans and Democrats both have bent over backwards to hand out favors. The Republican Congress and Bill Clinton removed Depression-era safeguards that kept commercial banking and investment banking separate -- this allowed the creation of these mega financial institutions (“too big to fail”). The Democrats, particularly Barney Frank, kept expanding the scope of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the cause of the financial meltdown. Moreover, in 2003, the Democrats, led by Frank and his many connections at Fannie and Freddie, resisted Bush administration efforts to strengthen the regulation of those institutions. And in 2008, Bush and the Democrats passed the biggest bailout in human history.

So now they try again. But once again, the interest groups are running the show. The Democrats talk big about punishing Wall Street to placate their followers, but they have managed to produce regulations that are truly staggering in how interest group friendly they are. When the Democrats introduced the original bill it contained dozens of new provisions that were intended to clean up these regulations. Many of these regulations were quite good. Some were horrible.

Slowly but surely, the good regulations were snuffed out after the “Wall Street bashing” Democrats met secretly with the likes of Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and their friends at JP Morgan. Soon, all that was left in the bill were massive bailouts and some “restrictions” that favored large industry players. It should thus come as no surprise that Goldman Sachs lobbied in favor of these regulations. . . at least until the SEC came after them recently. JP Morgan still lobbies in favor of these regulations, except for the part that would hurt them.

Right now, the regulations create a massive pool of taxpayer money and taxpayer guarantees that are ostensibly intended to allow the government to wind down “too big to fail” institutions that fail. What this really means is that (1) there will be no attempt to break up or limit these huge institutions, i.e. too big to fail can continue, and (2) the government is guaranteeing that taxpayers will pick up the tab if one of these institutions fails. In other words, investors and business partners of these institutions don’t need to worry about getting hurt if they take risky bets that don’t pay off, because the taxpayers will protect them -- all in the name of “protecting the system from the failure of an institution that is too big to fail.”

These regulations also will force small players to sell their derivatives through an exchange, the same kind of exchange that sells favors to the big boys. And they will create a “consumer protection” agency, which will be run by industry friendly regulators that are dominated by the big players. This will effectively put the big banks in a position of controlling regulators who have the power to tell smaller banks what they can and can’t do. Must be nice.

Interestingly, the one group that escapes regulation is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both of whom give heavily to Democrats. Moreover, Fannie and Freddie have become a dumping ground for former Democratic lawmakers and their friends who want to earn large amounts of money. Fannie and Freddie, by the way, were at fault for the financial meltdown. . . the rest of Wall Street just profited like mad off of it.

What makes this so disturbing is that this financial regulation is a clear indication that Washington doesn’t get it. The Democrats were elected on a platform of putting the boot to Wall Street in favor of the “little guy” -- a standard socialist trope. But once they were in power, they did nothing more than open the government vaults and let their Wall Street friends plunder away. The Republicans, for their part, mindlessly defend every indefensible practice Wall Street can come up with.

What they should be doing is what the public wants: the public wants an end to influence peddling. They want Washington to do the right things, not the things the people with the biggest checkbooks want. They want rational regulations that allow the free market to work, but protect people from predatory practices. They don’t want the government propping up institutions, guaranteeing their risk taking, or letting these hazard grow to the point that an institutional failure can wipe out our country.

It’s time for someone to take a stand. The Democrats won’t do it, maybe the Republicans should.

Update: The Republicans have blocked the first round of this "reform," after they were joined by Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska).

[+]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

(Un)Exempting Churches From Gay Rights Laws

One of the concerns religious groups raise whenever they are confronted with gay rights laws is that they will be forced to condone something they consider immoral. “Nonsense!” say the proponents of these laws, “we’ll exempt religious organizations from the law.” Well, England has now shown exactly what those exemptions are worth, and churches are right to be concerned -- especially since British leftism eventually infests our left as well.

Some time ago, England passed laws forbidding discrimination against homosexuals in hiring. At the time, those laws included an exemption for religious groups that consider homosexuality immoral. In the past month, the British Labour Party has tried to pass a law “clarifying” those exemptions. What they tried should send up huge red flags to anyone who thinks that people have the right to maintain their own beliefs.

Specifically, Labour tried to pass a law that expanded the anti-hiring-discrimination laws to all aspects of religious organizations, except for the hiring of clerical personnel. That's right, everyone except the actual priests, ministers, rabbis, shamans or imams.

Calling this a “cautious aim” and “fairly modest,” The Economist said:
“[The government] was not questioning the right of religious bodies to follow their own beliefs when hiring priests or imams; it merely wanted to clarify that, in recruiting for non-religious jobs (accountants, for example), churches must obey the law and refrain from discrimination against gays.”
Oh, is that all? So churches have the right to their beliefs, but they can only exercise those rights in rare occasions -- when it comes to choosing actual priests. For all other jobs, they need to follow the beliefs established by the government, instead of their own?

Does anyone see a problem with this? The Economist surely doesn't because they don't really believe churches should be doing this. But I wonder how they would feel if we looked at this principle more broadly. Indeed, while we’re busy defining when you can and can’t exercise your beliefs, why stop with sexual orientation? Why do we allow religious discrimination for example? Shouldn't we force churches to hire atheists? So long as we don’t require them to hire atheistic priests, then we aren’t really questioning their right to follow their own beliefs, are we?

No doubt The Economist would approve of that because they have over the years shown a pretty clear dislike for Christianity. But Christianity isn't the only religion. Maybe we should force Mosques to employ Jews and Synagogues to hire Muslims? I can't see why this would be a problem so long as they were free to pick their own imams and rabbis?

By the way, if you think this can't be a problem, let me point out part of an argument before the Supreme Court this week. In a case where the court is deciding whether universities can ban Christian groups who refuse to admit gay members, one of the justices asked the representative for the gay group: if we don't let the Christian group control its own membership, what keeps others who disagree with their views from flooding into the group and voting themselves into the leadership and, basically, taking over the group? The answer: well, they could go form a new group if that happened. Seriously? Ok, let's run with that...

With that in mind, let's not forget that these laws apply well beyond religious institutions as well. So shouldn't gay groups be forced to hire devout Catholics and Muslims. . . except for their most senior positions of course. Though, now that I think about it, I'm not even sure why we should exempt their senior positions as those aren't "religious" positions, are they? And while we're on a roll, why shouldn't pro-abortion groups be required to hire devout Roman Catholics? Shouldn't feminist groups be required to hire devout Muslims? And if not, why not. . . as The Economist says, it’s not like this will interfere with their beliefs. And if they don't like it, they can just go form another group, right?

Seriously, this shows the left’s promises for what they are: lies. They promise an exemption and then quickly redefine the exemption into absurdity and then eliminate it all together.

It also show the danger of letting the government decide what you can believe and when you can act on those beliefs. If we take this law seriously, then no group can be safe from a determined opposition seeking to infiltrate the group and destroy its message. . . all sanctioned with the force of law.

If you believe, as I do, that people have the right to their own beliefs, be they right, wrong, stupid, offensive or otherwise, then this is the sort of thing that should scare you: the government telling you when you can and cannot exercise your beliefs.

And if these things do happen, then activists on the right should get their resumes ready. It's open season on leftist interest groups!

[+]

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

DC Statehood Dies. . . Again (Yay!)

It looks like the issue of statehood for the District of Columbia has died for the year. Good. This thing needs to die finally and stay dead. Unfortunately, it keeps coming back and some Republicans mistakenly support this policy because they think this will somehow endear them to blacks. This is a horrible idea. Let me tell you what we should do instead.
Why The Democrats Want Statehood
Every year, the Democrats try to push through statehood for the District of Columbia. Why would they want this? Try this, it’s 80% Democratic. Moreover, they’re loony Democrats. Nancy Pelosi would be considered a moderate in DC. It’s the kind of place where nepotism runs deep, the police force hires criminals, criminals walk away from jail and no one cares, potholes thrive, snow only gets removed from privileged streets, the politicians are drug addicts and thieves, and the residents fight about whether particular candidates are “black enough”. . . all of the common characteristics of the worst banana republics. And if the District gets statehood, they would get two guaranteed Senate seats and probably three guaranteed House seats.

Why in the world would any Republican agree with that? Because they’re misguided.

Some Republicans see this as a way to show blacks that they aren’t racists. Talk about a stupid idea. I’ve talked about minority outreach before. If you want to reach out to minorities, you need to actually do it -- empty gestures, no matter how destructive to the nation and the party, simply are not enough. It’s time to stop viewing blacks as a group. Treat them like everyone else. Reach out to the ones who share our values and forget the rest. Stop trying to placate the ones you’ll never get. And holy cow, don’t give the Democrats two permanent Senate seats just to prove something that no one reputable believes anyway!

Even talk about giving Utah an additional House seat in exchange does nothing to offset this disaster.

Fortunately, the primary Republican offender on this point, Tom Davis of Northern Virginia has resigned. Davis got swept into the House in 1994 and he’s a turd. Since he’s been in the House, he has been the biggest proponent of increasing government pay and DC statehood in the Republican Party. Good riddance jerk off.
Why The “Moral” Argument For Statehood Is Crap
Proponents of statehood love to whine that there are all these poor people in the District who aren’t represented. They don’t get the vote, just like every other American. Boo hoo hoo. Well. . . move.

It’s not like we conquered the District and took away their votes. There’s no fence to keep them in. Everyone who lives there lives there by choice. They knew they would not have the vote when they got there and they know they won't get it if they stay. And if they want to vote, they can move a couple miles away to Maryland.
What Republicans Should Do
And that brings me to the solution. Rather than letting this issue drag on year after year with the danger that the Democrats some day might actually get statehood for DC (like they could have done this year if their leaders weren’t morons), let’s put an end to this charade once and for all:

Take the part of the District that includes the monuments and the neighboring government offices. No one lives there. Carve that out as the District of Columbia. Take the rest and hand it back to Maryland, from whence it came. Maryland, like the District is hopelessly corrupt and Democratic, so the former residents of the District will feel quite at home. Moreover, the District would fit in well with Maryland. In fact, when you are in it, you have no idea where DC stops and Maryland begins. They are identical twins separated at birth. Let’s reunite them. . . think of the children!

So I say, spin them off to Maryland and put this issue to bed before some Democrat actually gets this monster pushed through.

And while we’re at it. . . Hawaiian independence is looking pretty good. It’s the right thing to do. Sure, the Senate would lose two Democrats, but that's a small price to pay for undoing our evil colonial past! Heck, breaking California into two parts sounds pretty good too -- west coast and everything else. Maybe we need a new state right between Texas and Oklahoma?

Come on Republicans, think globally act locally.

[+]

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mischaracterizing The Tea Party

For those who don’t know, the Politico is an interesting site that gets a lot of good political stories. It also leans left, often very much so. In fact, a couple of their writers are little more than Democratic spokesmen (at least one has Soros ties). Now they’ve written a very deceptive article about the Tea Party. Basically, they’ve mischaracterized it as a gathering of Palin-lovers or Ron Pauliacs, even though the poll they are relying says the opposite.

Here’s what the article says. Let’s start with the headline: “Tea partiers in two camps: Sarah Palin vs. Ron Paul.”

Based on this, you would assume two things about the Tea Party. First, that it is split. Secondly, that its supporters by and large follow one of these two figures, both of whom happen to be the most controversial figures in the Republican Party. This, to the left, is like saying: “Tea Partiers split between Hitler and Satan.”

The article then says the following, which confirms the assumptions we just made:
“The results, however, suggest a distinct fault line that runs through the tea party activist base. . .”
Note that a fault line, like a rift, is a split and implies a great deal of anger when used in describing human relationships. Do you see the Tea Party splitting in two? The quote continues:
“. . . characterized by two wings led by the politicians who ranked highest when respondents were asked who ‘best exemplifies the goals of the tea party movement’ -- former Alaska Gov. Sarah Plain and Rep. Ron Paul.”
There it is, the Tea Party is split into two diametrically opposed wings, one that follows the teachings of Sarah Palin and one that follows svengali Ron Paul. Note the particular use of the words "led by." What does that tell you about the relationship between Paul/Palin and the Tea Party? Clearly, the Tea Party is nothing more than a vehicle for Paul/Palin supporters.

To back up this claim of leadership, the article points to a poll. Read this closely:
“Palin, who topped the list with 15 percent, speaks for the 43 percent of those polled expressing the distinctly conservative view that government does too much, while also saying that it needs to promote traditional values.

Paul’s thinking is reflected by an almost identical 42 percent who said government does too much but should not try to promote any particular set of values.”
There you go, proof that they are indeed the leaders of the movement because Palin gets 43% support and Paul gets 42% support, right?

Actually no, not even close. This misleading quote is the writer trying to create facts that don’t exist. He gives you the truth, but he hides it under the spin. Palin’s support is 15%, not 43%. Paul’s support is 14%, not 42%. That’s 29% support for both combined, not the 85% that is implied by the quote. How can 29% support fairly be turned into the quotes above which suggest that the Tea Party is hopelessly split 43/42 between these two? The answer is that it can’t, but it’s what the left wants to hear.

The idea of painting the Tea Party as beholden to either Palin or Paul or both is ridiculous. In fact, when asked if they would support Palin if she ran for President, a full 53% of Tea Party people said they wouldn’t even consider voting for her. Paul does even worse, with 59% saying they wouldn’t even consider voting for him. That means that 15% support Palin, 53% don’t, and 32% would consider it. That’s hardly the makings of a Tea Party leader. Ditto for Paul.

So why describe the Tea Party as split between these two? Because it makes the party sound like two fringe groups battling for the soul of the right. Moreover, it makes them sound like they are worshipping the cult of personality, rather than presenting rational ideas. But nothing is further from the truth.

Consider that split on values. Seventy three percent of Tea Partiers are “angry” that the government intrudes too much into personal lives. That doesn’t sound like much of a split. In fact, anything above 60% is phenomenally uniform in a poll.

So where does this crap about a split come from? It comes from this. When asked whether the government should promote a particular set of values, 51% said no and 46% said the government should promote traditional family values. Oh my! Clearly, them’s fighting words. . . except that the writer doesn’t factor in one big detail. The biggest issues people identified (those about which they were “most angry”) were: the national debt, bailouts, earmarks and frivolous lawsuits. The least important were the social issues.

What that tells us is that the Tea Party is a happy gathering of people with a common purpose -- to oppose the government's continued interference in economic and regulatory matters. To the extent they disagree on social issues, they have apparently decided to agree to disagree. And that’s no big deal. It’s the same thing when Catholics and Protestants and Jews come together on common issues. They have agreed to put aside their differences to work toward their common goals. To spin such a gathering as a deeply divided group ready to split apart as they each fight for their theology is dishonest, stupid and wishful thinking.

The reason the left can’t understand this is because the Tea Party people have done something the little tribes on the left never could: they’ve put aside their individual issues in favor of working on the things about which they agree. The left can’t see this because they can’t imagine putting aside their issues. When you are an environmentalist, all other issues come second. Ditto gays, abortion, unionization, blacks, women, etc. To the left, the other guys are there to help you, you aren’t part of a team. That's why they don't understand the Tea Party. The Tea Party people are different. They are working for a common goal.

That must be terrifying to the left.

[+]

Monday, April 19, 2010

It’s Time To Ban Class Action Suits

One of the plagues of our time is the class action suit. I understand the reason for them, but they don’t work. At this point, they are nothing more than enrichment vehicles for a small group of attorneys. We should ban them to protect our economy, to protect injured people, and to protect the integrity of our legal system.

Under our legal system, legal rights are inherently personal. That means that only the person who has been injured can sue, and they can only seek compensation for the injury they themselves suffered. But class action suits are different. They let one person sue on behalf of millions of others, and that’s the problem.

History of Class Action Suits
Class action suits first arose in the United States in 1833. They were created out of a doctrine called “virtual representation,” which was created to allow judges to settle all of the property interests of a deceased person’s estate. Without that doctrine, anyone trying to settle an estate would need to obtain jurisdiction over every person potentially interested in the estate before the matter could be resolved. This would be potentially impossible (as many could not be found and some wouldn't even be born yet). By using the virtual representation doctrine, this requirement could be skipped.

Between 1833 and 1966, this remained essentially an “equitable doctrine,” which was used mainly to prevent injustices that might otherwise arise because of legal procedures. The example of settling the estate is a classic example where such a doctrine could be used to prevent injustices.

But in 1966, the rule was amended dramatically. This change created the problematic modern version of the class action suit. In 1966, Congress created what was called the “opt-out class action.” What this means is that once the suit is classified as a class action, anyone who wants to bring their own suit needs to “opt out” of the suit or their interests will be decided as part of the class.

The Theory of Class Action Suits
In theory class action suits make sense. If a million people are injured or might still be injured, rather than having a million suits filed and clogging the courts, each needlessly duplicating the efforts of the others, you could have one suit filed that represents all million people. This dramatically cuts down on the burden to the person/company being sued, it cuts down on the burden to the courts, and it makes it easier for injured persons to obtain justice, because they don’t need to go through the trouble of bringing their own suits. Moreover, this theoretically prevents any one plaintiff from draining all of the assets of the company before others can bring suit (often, others don’t even know yet that they’ve been injured when these suits are settled). So far so good. But like all things lawyers touch, this has become corrupted.

Why Class Action Suits Don’t Work
Modern class action suits are dominated by a small group of predatory firms -- you’ve seen their ads on television. They spend their time frantically searching for the next big hit: be it a drug with side effects, harmful chemicals in products, or obvious dangers that hillbillies ignore when they go off-roading on ATFs at high rates of speed through the woods. When they find one of these, they scramble to find the most horrifically injured plaintiff they can, who also must live in a jurisdiction with favorable laws. Then they rush out and bring suit. Once the suit is filed, they move for class certification. To get this, they need to show that it will be impossible to identify everyone who was (or will be) injured and that their plaintiff will be fairly representative of the others.

Only one class can be certified and it's first come first serve. So once the class is certified, that suit becomes THE class action and that plaintiff becomes THE plaintiff -- everyone else becomes part of the class. At that point, the battle is over. The lawyers sit back and negotiate a settlement. One huge fee later, they leave the crumbs in a pool for each of the injured people to fight over.

The reason this is so attractive to these lawyers is that while they might have gotten a few hundred thousand dollars from suing on behalf of one client, they can get BILLIONS from a class action suit. They also rarely need to take these to trial, whereas individual defendants usually need to go trial if they want full compensation.

The problems are this. First, there’s an incredible incentive to bring these suits, far out of proportion to what the incentive should be for lawyers. In a normal suit, a litigator is likely to get 40% of the proceeds. That means $400,000 if their client gets a million dollars. But for the same amount of effort, a class action lawyer can walk away with a hundred times or a thousand times that because now they are technically representing thousands of plaintiffs. . . even though no additional effort is required. Thus, lawyers push these things like drug dealers pushing crack.

Further, because the potential damages are so high -- most class action suits will kill companies -- the companies have a major incentive to enter into settlements just to survive, even if they did nothing wrong. It’s the same principle as extortion. Give us 80% of what you have or we’ll take 100%.

Third, and most importantly, these suits are intensely unfair to anyone except the lawyers. In a regular suit, there is no need to fight about how to split up the verdict or settlement. In this case there is. That means that each plaintiff needs their own attorney just to get their share out of the fund that gets created. That means a 40% fee on what they recover, which is already reduced by the 40% taken by the attorneys who brought the suit in the first place. Thus, whereas a regular plaintiff would be assured of collecting 60% of whatever is recovered, most class action plaintiffs are, at best, looking at 36% -- even if we assume the split if fair. . . which it isn't.

When a class action arises, many more people are added to the class than would otherwise have sued. Indeed, many people whose claims are very minor or even frivolous suddenly are added to the class, as are people who are "expected" to become plaintiffs -- even if they never do. This means that more people split the pot than would have if each suit had to be examined on its own merits. That means that the legitimately injured receive a smaller share than they should have.

As the system currently sits, it’s bad for companies, bad for the victims, and bad for the integrity of the system. The only people who benefit are the lawyers. While it might be worth it to reform the system by dramatically cutting the attorneys fees, that still won’t solve all the problems. . . especially as lawyers will be doing the reforming. Thus, I think the time has come to simply ban these suits.

[+]

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tea Party Update. . .

Yesterday, once again, the American people took to the streets in peaceful protest to take a stand against the abuses of our current government. Nothing makes me prouder of my country than seeing decent, average people standing up to a corrupt and tyrannical government. Indeed, yesterday was a great day for the Tea Party, and the country all around.

Not only did thousands of people gather to protest all over the country (here are some examples: Denver (2,000), Colorado Springs (2,000), Hartford (1,200), Boise Idaho (1,000), Oklahoma City (1,000), Tucson (2,000) and Washington, D.C. (“thousands”)), but they also finally released their Contract From America. This is a great document that was compiled by the votes of millions of Americans, and it outlines what the public wants Washington to do.

Said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), this document “captures the American people’s frustration with a government that has grown too big, too costly, and too arrogant.” Mike Pence (R-Indiana) said it’s a “good start toward the essential goals of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom. I hope that many conservative leaders will join with this bold initiative that’s marked by powerful ideas to get our government’s fiscal house in order.” Good words gentlemen.

Meanwhile, the media was still worried about the false racism allegations from way back when. Sure, whatever, like anyone's listening. In fact, let's ignore the media entirely because we have something better than an AP report -- we have actual witnesses to the Tea Party events of yesterday who have given us their reports.

First, we have Tam from Tucson:
I just got back from the Tea Party in Tucson. I had to leave early because I had to get my kid from school, but there were about 2,000 people there. All happy, positive, energetic, fired up patriots. There were even some *gasp* people of wasn't all old, wealthy, white men. I wandered all around, talking to the people in the crowds. There was no sign of infiltrators while I was there, no angry mob, just very passionate people ready to reclaim our freedom. The thing I liked best about the people and the message was that it wasn't just about "Nobama" or repealing the health care, or stopping the was all about what we want to DO to move forward! So much for the party of no! It was fantastic...everybody was discussing action, organizing meetings at schools, city councils, churches...supporting actions that will take back the incremental freedoms and choices we have lost over the last several years of complacency. I am attaching some pictures just in case you are interested in the experience in this neck of the nation.
Secondly, we have a report from my sister from Colorado Springs:
We hit the local gathering in Colorado Springs. We had beautiful weather and a great crowd. A local radio host, Richard Randall, did the emcee-ing and we were treated to a series of conservative, freedom-loving speakers, as well as candidates for the upcoming elections. Swamped in handouts, we can now turn to the internet to examine all the candidates more closely and make an informed decision. We did make sure to sign a petition to get a measure on the ballot that will preserve Coloradoans' rights not to be forced to buy healthcare and to be allowed to pay cash for medical treatment if we choose. There were a few protesters to the protest, but they were easily discouraged and gave up quickly when the 2,000-strong gathering chanted "USA" right over them. All in all, another great day, and another step closer to November. Thank goodness!
Now you know more about yesterday’s protests than you would have learned from watching CNN all day long.

Thanks for the reports. And thanks to everyone who went. Thanks for representing us all. Thanks for keeping the pressure on those jerks in Washington. And thanks for keeping the momentum going. . . right into November!

[+]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Generic Trouble

We keep saying the Democrats are in trouble. Duh, right? Well, it could be much worse than anyone has thought. Indeed, there was an interesting article the other day at RealClearPolitics, along with some other recent poll results, which suggest huge losses for the Democrats in November. . . much bigger than previously expected. Let’s consider the evidence.
1. The Generic Ballot.
The generic ballot is a highly unreliable way to determine how the parties will fare come election time because it measures the national mood, rather than the mood locally in each district. But it can be very telling, especially when combined with other evidence. Consider this.

For starters, we need to realize that the generic ballot is biased toward the Democrats. By “biased” I mean that it overstates the Democrats’ electoral chances. The reason is that Democrats are concentrated in relatively few districts. Indeed, the median Congressional district is slightly pro-Republican -- meaning the districts are not evenly balanced and the Democrats tend to be grouped into fewer districts. Consequently, the generic ballot over-sells the Democrats’ chances because much of their support is wasted in these concentrated districts.

Thus, any lead by the Republicans in the generic ballot must be considered significant. And this year, the Republicans are leading the generic ballot. Gallup gives them a 4% lead -- only the third time they’ve ever led the generic ballot according to Gallup (1994 and 2002). Rasmussen, who polls likely voters, gives the Republicans a 9% lead. An NBC/WSJ poll found that Republicans lead by 13% among “energized” voters.

What does this translate into? The RCP average of polls gives the Republicans a 2.8% lead. This translates into a roughly a 225 seat majority for the Republicans, i.e. a 50 seat pick up. The Rasmussen numbers would translate into a 70 seat pick up! A 13% difference would be unprecedented and could exceed 100 seats.

Historically, such swings are not uncommon. Since 1874, there have been 34 mid-term elections. Thirteen of those involved losses of 44 seats or more. Five were above 70 seats, and the high was 129 seats. Moreover, these larger swings happened when there was a convergence of factors similar to today -- bad economic conditions, controversial President, and prior elections leading to large majority for the President's party.

The Democrats counter that there hasn’t been a 60 seat swing in 60 years. But these three factors haven't converged in 60 years either. And more importantly, there is one more huge fact that needs to be considered: the Republicans can pick up 70 seats without winning a single Democratic-leaning district.

What this tells me is that you should look for Republican gains in the 70 seat range.
2. Additional Evidence.
If we only had the generic ballot to work with, I would be much more cautious about suggesting a 70 seat gain. But that’s not the only evidence.
• The Democrats are in trouble like never before. Almost every Democrat except those in the deepest blue areas has been polling below 50% in the polls. That is extremely significant. Incumbents who poll below 50% are very likely to lose. Add in that 70 of those Democrats are sitting in red districts, and that spells serious trouble for the Democrats.

• Moreover, for their chances to improve, Obama’s poll numbers need to rise. But he’s only getting worse. Each of the major polling organizations is reporting Obama at record lows, and week after week he seems to keep on sinking. Even groups like the AP and Gallup, both of which are heavily weighted to favor Democrats, show Obama below 50% support now. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that Obama only beats Ron Paul by 1% (42% to 41%) in a national match up. . . Ron Paul. Good grief!

• And, as predicted, ObamaCare is becoming a lead albatross. Polls show that the public is getting more and more angry about it now that it’s passed. Even the Associated Press now admits that its own polls show 50% of the public opposes it. More reliable polls show much higher opposition numbers (Rasmussen has it at 58%). And try as they might to sell this thing, between now and November is too short of a time to change minds.

• They are losing (or have lost) everyone they’ve gained in recent elections. They poll worse with whites and males than at any time ever. They have lost suburbanites and what used to be called Reagan Democrats. Indeed, there’s little left in their support except blacks, young single women, and socialists.

• The Democrats are relying on an “excite the base” strategy. But they keep selling their base out -- look for the next sell out to come with the Supreme Court nominee. And even if they could excite their base, their base already supports them at the 95% level, i.e. there is no more base to excite, and still it's not enough to avoid a crushing defeat.

• Finally, Democrats are praying for an improved economy. But the people aren’t responding to improved consumer and producer numbers because of unemployment and fears about policy. Indeed 76% rate the economy as “poor”. Moreover, if you want a real indication of how people are feeling, watch where they put their money. “Retail investors” -- that’s fancy speak for “average people” -- are withdrawing money from the market, not adding. That’s a true vote of no confidence.
So putting all of this together, I am starting to suspect a 70+ seat swing in the House is likely, with a possibly much higher swing possible if the Democrats don’t start learning some lessons very quickly. But based on the course they are charting, it's rather obvious they’ve learned nothing. And that’s going to make November very, very interesting.

Indeed, it looks like Obama and Pelosi finally really might make history.

[+]

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Do You Mean My Premiums Are Going Up?

As I’ve pointed out before, the Democrats are going to have a hard time selling ObamaCare to the masses. Nothing about ObamaCare makes any sense, and each of the promises they made to entice people was false. Our vaunted media is now figuring this out. As usual, they are fifty days late and two trillion dollars short.

I previously discussed (HERE) how almost immediately after Obama signed the ObamaCare bill, companies began recording losses on their balance sheets, laying off their workers, and cutting their benefits, despite Obama’s assurances this would never happen.

A few days later, the first articles appeared talking about the shock received by ObamaCare supporters when they called private insurance companies and asked how to sign up for their free ObamaCare. According to various insurers, they’ve been fielding thousands of these calls, and none of Obama’s supporters are hearing what they expected. Indeed, rather than being enrolled in their new free care, they are finding out that there is no such thing, and that there won’t be. And they are learning that no matter what David Axelrod may be telling people in interviews, none of the benefits kick in until 2014 or later. People with pre-existing conditions also are finding themselves dismayed to learn that they don’t get covered until 2014, and even then, there are no price controls on what they can be charged.

But then, how could anyone have know this. . . it's not like it was in a bill for the world to see. Interestingly, these articles actually blame the Republicans for this problem because evil Republicans apparently lied. . . spreading lies like ObamaCare providing “universal coverage” and that the benefits kick in immediately. That’s right, the evil Republicans unfairly raised expectations by trying to make the bill sound better than it really is. Yeah, you read that right.

Now the L.A. Times has learned, much to its chagrin, that there are no mechanisms in ObamaCare that allow the government to set the rates that insurers can charge! Sacre bleu! Dianne Feinstein even calls this: “a very big loophole in health reform” and she wants to pass new legislation to give the government such powers. Good luck.

Seriously, how stupid do you have to be not to have noticed that the bill doesn’t allow the government to impose price controls? The bill was right there, ready to be read. And on this issue in particular, Obama himself proposed adding it to the bill, but the Democrats couldn’t do it without having to get the Senate to vote on it again, so they didn't. This was big news. There is no way Feinstein and the Times missed it.

In reality, I don’t think Feinstein is that stupid. She knew full well that there was nothing in the bill that allowed the government to control premiums, she’s just playing along now that the cat is out of the bag. To borrow from Casablanca, she’s “shocked! Shocked! That this isn’t in the bill.”

The L.A. Times, though, is being stupid. They genuinely didn’t have a clue that ObamaCare didn’t give the government this power. They took the word of the Democrats at face value and never assigned anyone to read the bill. Heck, it’s likely they don’t even have anyone on staff would could read the bill. And now they’re weeping into their printers ink that evil health insurance providers could impose massive premium hikes. They’re particularly terrified that such hikes could drive people to oppose ObamaCare. . . . hmmm, maybe they aren’t so stupid after all?

[+]

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How Not To Win Over The Electorate

The Democrats are in trouble and they know it. Systematic corruption, legislative failures and dirty-tricks, overspending, misplaced spending, and now the health care bill have doomed them. They hoped the stimulus package or ObamaCare would have saved their sorry rear ends, but it’s only made things worse. Now they have a new plan. Unfortunately for them, they picked two things the public just doesn’t care about: financial regulation and nuclear weapons.
1. Financial Regulation (yawn)
The Democrats actually think that “regulation” of Wall Street will resonate with the voters. Talk about delusional.

The first, most obvious, problem with using this as a sales pitch is that the public just doesn’t care about the issue. The reality is that most voters assume that whatever regulations are needed for things like banks are already in place. If a change needs to be made, then make it and shut the heck up about it. . . stop bothering us. Does it matter to you if hedge funds must obey “the tick rule” when engaging in trades or that banks need to account for mortgages as tier two or tier three assets? I didn’t think so. No one cares about this. Even the people who know what Basil Two means don’t really care. These are arcane rules that voters don't want to know about -- one mention of derivatives and securitization and people’s eyes begin to glaze over.

For the Democrats to think that they will be rewarded for passing such regulations is laughable. When Congressman Dirtbag walks into a townhall meeting in his district in flyover country and says, “we regulated those evil financial institutions!” all he’s going to hear is a big yawn, followed by angry questions about why everyone in the room is losing their health care -- no one's going to rush to shake his hand for slaying the evil banks.

Moreover, the Democrats have a credibility problem on this issue. Despite their talk about being the anti-Wall Street party, it’s now well known that the Democrats get most of their money from Wall Street and that they are nothing more than Wall Street’s crack whores, ready to do anything for another hit. Consider. . .

Everyone knows that the TARP, the TALP, the bailouts, and everything else were nothing more than an orgy of bankers sucking down public money and unloading failed bets on overburdened taxpayers. And all of that was made possible by Pelosi and Frank and Dodd and the Democratic Party.

Everyone knows the Democrats could have passed financial regulation at any time during the past two years, but didn’t because the money kept pouring in from Wall Street.

Everyone knows that the Democrats have stripped everything that should be in “financial regulation” out of their bill, and that they’ve left only the promise of future taxpayer bailouts. . . “too big to fail” means “taxpayer protected.”

And everyone knows that taxpayers are going to get screwed again by these regulations.

So when the Democrats rail against Wall Street, no one cares except to the extent that we all know we’re about to be bent over by the Democrats to help their rich, banker friends. That’s not going to bring anyone to the polls on their behalf.

So let’s sum up this policy. The Democrats will trumpet an issue that should have been fixed a long time ago and that people don't want to hear about. Moreover, in so doing, they are raising suspicions that all they are doing is lining up taxpayers to be raped by bankers again in the near future. Yeah, run on that.
2. Nuclear Weapons
The second issue the Democrats intend to trumpet is Obama’s treaty to cut nuclear weapons. Really? Let’s do a simple test. Before Obama raised this issue, were you afraid of a Russian nuclear strike? Didn’t think so. No one else was either. What about now that he’s worked his magic, do you suddenly feel safer? No huh? So they’re relying on an issue that no one cared about before they raised it, and they’re selling a plan that hasn’t made anyone feel any safer? I can’t wait to see the ads on this one.

Moreover, this issue will backfire in several ways. First, raising this issue when no one is thinking about it only upsets people -- never a good idea for the party in power. Secondly, real or imagined, this plan raises fears that the Democrats are weakening our country. That will bring people out to oppose this plan, not support it. Third, this plan sounds like a smoke and mirrors diversion from the real nuclear issue, which is Iran. That will make people feel like they’re being tricked, which is again not a great message to send to voters.

So let’s sum up this policy. The Democrats have poked an issue that wasn’t an issue and in the process, they’ve raised suspicions that they’ve weakened our defense and they are causing people to wonder if this isn’t a smoke screen for their pending failure in Iran. Yeah, run on that too. Idiots.

[+]

Monday, April 12, 2010

Regulating Animal Cruelty

Animal rights people are crazy. Not only do they value animals more than people, but they seem to truly disdain human beings. Moreover, they are ignorant and foolish, they know little about the things they advocate, and the rules they propose typically make little sense and are usually more destructive than they are helpful. But before we dismiss them entirely, let’s recognize that sometimes they have a point. And if we dismiss those points out of hand, it will hurt our side. What I’m thinking of today, in particular, are puppy mills.

I think we can all agree that there is simply no justification for cruelty or allowing cruelty. Where the problem arises in this debate is defining what constitutes cruelty. Indeed, that is where the animal rights people lose most everyone. Many of them argue that eating meat is cruelty, or that pet ownership is cruelty. Do I buy that? No, not in the least, and few others do either.

But we make a mistake if we dismiss this entire cause just because of the extreme position taken by the few. In fact, most people care a great deal about animals, and I'm seeing more and more people who want to stop "animal cruelty." But can we define cruelty? I think so, but only if we talk about it rationally and we ignore the people on either extreme of this issue.

I would say, for example, the needless infliction of pain is cruel. Torture and maiming are cruel as well. But does this actually happen? Well, that's a trick question. If it doesn't, then there's no reason not to ban it. If it does, then it should be stopped. So does it actually happen or am I just talking about theory here? It does. Let's talk about puppy mills.

What is a puppy mill? A puppy mill is a place where dogs are bred en masse. There are about 4000 puppy mills in the US, turning out half a million dogs a year. Here are some common features of these puppy mills:
• The dogs tend to live their entire lives in cages that are not much larger than the dog. They literally stand, sit and sleep on wire their entire lives.

• They receive no medical care or any sort.

• They are forcibly bred to have as many litters as possible, beginning from puppihood until they simply can’t produce any more pups. Usually, they are impregnated every time they go into heat.

• When they can no longer breed, they are killed, usually by shooting or downing.

• What’s more, many of these dogs are tortured or abused in the extreme. Some have their vocal chords cut. Some lose eyes. Their teeth rot out of their mouths. They are beaten. Most are malnourished, as they are fed sawdust along with their dog food. Some are found with metal collars that have grown into their necks because they were put on as puppies and were never removed as the dog grew.
And these are common occurrences, not random occurrences that are being exploited for political reasons. In fact, I have seen dozens of these dogs, many missing eyes or with other untreated wounds. Our family recently bought a dog from a puppy mill rescue. The dog we got has yet to make a noise, we think she can’t. Her rear legs were broken at some point and no treatment was provided. She will not take food from a human, indeed most won’t, as that is how they were tricked out of their cages originally. She fears humans more than any creature I have ever seen in the wild.

But these puppy mills continue in numerous states. Our dog came from Arkansas, which is one of the big five states where these mills are concentrated. The others are Pennsylvania, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, though they are in other states as well. The Amish, apparently, are heavily into this.

Since 2008, thirteen states have passed laws limiting some of the worst abuses.

This is the sort of thing that requires regulation; there is no free market solution to this. From a producer perspective, there is no reason for them not to be cruel, i.e. it doesn't hurt the value they get out of the dog. To the producers, the only value these dogs have is turning out puppies, anything they do for the dogs beyond simple ownership merely reduces their profit. The "employees" can't change this industry either. Most of these operations are family run, and the dogs can't strike. Nor can better competitors drive the bad guys out of business because no one can produce dogs cheaper. Consumers are no help either. People don’t like these practices once they learn about them, but there are too many consumers who know nothing about this. Indeed, every year, millions of people buy their first dogs, completely unaware of what is going on. And while reputable pet stores will no longer sell such animals, some stores will, and most of these dogs get sold through the newspaper or the internet -- where they are indistinguishable from private sellers.

Unfortunately, too many on the right dismiss the idea of regulation because they don’t like what the animal rights people are saying. But this is a huge mistake.

If our side can’t see that regulation is needed in this instance, then why should anyone trust us when it’s a closer call? And if we don’t gain the public’s trust on these issues, then the public will turn to the only people who are fighting these problems -- the whackos. That’s what’s happening in placed like California and Colorado, where the right refuses to talk about regulating animal sellers and the livestock industry and has, thereby, abandoned the field to the left. . . which has gone way overboard.

This is one of those issue where we should think about taking the lead, because regulation is coming and it should be done right.

[+]

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Repeal and Replace, Not Just Repeal

By and large, the Republicans and conservatives are being smart about ObamaCare. ObamaCare is a disaster that needs to be undone. The public remains angry and, if anything, likes ObamaCare even less now than when it passed. This is because companies are already announcing benefits cuts and layoffs, premiums are going up, and ObamaCare supporters keep calling insurance carriers trying to get their free coverage, only to discover that they were lied to. But in the middle of this perfect storm, are a handful of conservatives who are advocating a huge mistake. I am speaking of the “repeal only” crowd.

1. Going From Angry To Unhappy.

The people hate ObamaCare. There is no doubt about that. But the public wasn’t too thrilled with the health care system either before ObamaCare was passed. So what does simple repeal get us? It takes us from a system that everyone fears to a system that no one really liked. How smart is that? Do we really want to be the side that is responsible for imposing a health care system that costs too much, delivers too little, covers too few, and is slowly collapsing under its own weight?

No, we don’t. And that bring us to point two: a blown opportunity.

2. A Blown Opportunity.

Right now, we have a golden opportunity. People are terrified of ObamaCare and they appear willing to accept a repeal. . . but they would be even happier if it was replaced with something that solves the problems of the pre-ObamaCare system.

Rather than just return to a system that no one likes, the Republicans should put together a plan that lifts senseless regulations, uses free market solutions, and provides the limited protections that most everyone agrees should exist. For example, we should:
• Allow national medical licenses to let physicians to move around the country to satisfy consumer demands.

• Allow doctors the freedom to organize in new business arrangements.

• Allow insurers to issue policies across state lines.

• Open the insurance market to new players.

• Prohibit denials based on pre-existing conditions and prohibit cancellation of policies after medical conditions arise.

• Divorce coverage from employment. The link between employment and health care is truly distorting to our economy. ObamaCare is unintentionally breaking that link. We should let Obama take the blame for that, but simultaneously encourage it by cutting all deductions for employer plans. In place of this system, we should (1) allow people to deduct the costs of catastrophic health insurance plans that they buy themselves, (2) expand HSA’s so that people can use pretax money for all of their health care costs, and (3) let consumers group together into buying clubs. Wouldn’t it make sense, for example, to let Wal-Mart start selling insurance policies? They have 300 million consumers. Your current “buyers club,” i.e. your employer, has how many consumers? Who has more power to get good deals?

• To encourage people to get catastrophic coverage, we should make medical debts non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. To encourage them to save for medical expenses, we should let HSA grow tax free like an IRA.
Each of these steps goes a long way toward letting free market mechanisms do their thing, which they can’t right now because of the web of regulations that strangle the industry. And right now, the public would accept this because the alternative is ObamaCare’s corporatist/socialist nightmare.

Repealing only misses this chance.

3. No Risk For The Left.

Repealing only also plays right into the hands of the left. For years, the left has pushed us further and further left. In response, “intellectuals” on the right argued that we need to undo what the left does whenever we get the chance. . . and that’s it. Do you see a problem with this? Well, let me provide an analogy.

You are standing on a football field. The other team keeps pushing the ball toward your endzone. You get the ball back. Suddenly, your brainiac coach tells you, “we’re only going to push the ball back to where the other team started their drive. Then we stop.” Is the problem getting clearer?

The left has nothing to lose under this strategy. They can push all they want in any area they want, and they know that the worst that will happen to them is some dumbass conservative will advocate “undoing” what they did. If we manage to achieve that goal entirely, then the left is right back where it started from -- no harm, no foul, and they get to try again. If we don’t succeed, then the left wins and soon starts pushing again. Either way, we lose.

If there isn’t a chance that the left will actually lose ground when they try these things, they will keep doing them because they have nothing to lose. And we will slowly find ourselves drifting left over time. That is a stupid strategy.

What we need to do is push back and impose free market reforms in place of this socialist crap. Push the ball toward their end of the field. Not only will this raise the risk for the left, but it actually pushes the ball in the right direction. The areas of our economy where the free market has the most influence are the areas that work the best -- and health care isn't one of those free areas.

Conservatives should take this opportunity Obama has given them to push health care into the free market category, not just to return it to its over-regulated, distorted pre-ObamaCare status.

Repeal and replace, not just repeal.

[+]

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The FCC Must Let Thee Be...

Yesterday, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (one of the twelve circuit courts beneath the Supreme Court), ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not have the legal authority to impose “net neutrality rules” on internet providers. This is a good thing. Here’s what this means.
What Is Net Neutrality
Net neutrality is the idea that internet providers should not be allowed to regulate how their customers use the internet. Specifically, proponents argue that net providers should not be allowed to deny access to specific internet sites or to slow down service when their customers attempt to visit those sites. This was the idea of internet companies like Google and Amazon, who advocated that the federal government should pass regulations preventing internet providers from restricting content or prioritizing one type of traffic over another.

Opponents of net neutrality, basically internet providers and cable companies, counter that these rules would choke off new innovation and prevent them from conducting necessary regulation to prevent harm to their systems and to stop nuisances like spam and piracy. It also prevents them from slowing service to websites that place excessively high demands on the system.
What Caused The Present Case?
In 2005, the FCC adopted a set of principles that said “consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice.” However, these principles also allowed providers to conduct “reasonable network management.” Thus, they appear contradictory on their face. More importantly, the FCC acknowledged at the time that these principles were merely recommendations and were not legally enforceable. In other words, legally, they were meaningless.

Attempts by Google and Amazon and others to back five separate bills in 2006 that would have made net neutrality the law were all defeated. The Democrats, despite being proponents of net neutrality legislation, have been unwilling to advance any such bills since that time.

In August 2008, citing these principles, the FCC issued a cease and desist order to Comcast, after Comcast slowed transfers to and from BitTorrent, a site that allows users to upload and download all manner of songs, movies and software. The FCC decision, a 3-2 decision, was criticized at the time by Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who noted that the agency lacked the legal authority to issue such a ruling and claimed that its efforts were “doomed. . . on appeal.”

Comcast appealed.

Tuesday, the DC Circuit struck down the FCC’s cease and desist order, noting that the FCC was unable to identify any law enacted by Congress which gives the agency the power to regulate the internet. In other words, Congress has never given the FCC the power to regulate the internet. Thus, it had no authority to issue the cease and desist letter.

While this decision technically only overturns the FCC’s cease and desist order, and thereby prevents the FCC from using the 2005 principles against providers, it has a larger effect as well. The decision at the least suggests that the FCC has no power at all to regulate the internet. It also suggests that the court will strike down any attempt by the FCC to issue such regulations (in October 2008, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that he would issue net neutrality rules). However, at this point, those are only suggestions.
What Happens Next?
If the FCC thinks that it has a good case, it may try to appeal the panel’s decision to the full DC Circuit. This is called a “rehearing” and would involve the entire Circuit Court presiding over the decision rather than a randomly selected three judge panel. This will most likely happen if the FCC feels that the three judge panel was somehow unique, and that it would have a better shot before the entire court. But I doubt this will happen.

Right now, the FCC retains a certain amount of wiggle room. Indeed, right now the decision only strikes down the cease and desist order, it doesn’t prohibit all regulation of the internet generally. If the FCC appeals, it runs the risk that it will lose that wiggle room if the Circuit Court makes the ruling more broad based. (The same sort of calculus would apply with any appeal to the Supreme Court.)

A more likely next step for the FCC would be to exploit that wiggle room. For example, net neutrality proponents now want the FCC to declare internet providers to be “common carriers,” like phone companies, and then impose regulations that include price controls, service quality requirements and technological mandates.

Could the FCC get away with this? It’s not decided, but probably not. The Circuit Court noted fairly clearly that the FCC has been unable to show where it gets the authority to regulate the internet. That means it can't issue such regulations. However, we must remember that this was only suggested by the decision, which was in fact much narrower -- holding only that the FCC had no power to issue the cease and desist order.

Would the FCC try this? It might. Indeed, the FCC indicated it is considering this. In a Tuesday statement, it noted that the DC Circuit’s ruling did not “close the door to other methods for achieving this important end.” However, the former chief counsel for the FCC has noted that this is unlikely to lead to the types of regulations the net neutrality proponents want. So it’s unclear if they will try this, or if they will focus instead on forcing a neutrality law through Congress.

The Democrats want the FCC to try again, probably because they are afraid to try again to pass a net neutrality law. The Republicans oppose any such attempts by the FCC. Said Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX): “It would be wrong to double down on excessive and burdensome regulations, and I hope the FCC chairman will now reconsider his decision to pursue expanded commission authority over broadband services.”

All in all, net neutrality was significantly wounded yesterday, but it’s not dead. I guess we’ll see.

By the way, bonus points if you can tell me what the title of this article is alluding to. It’s someone who has had his own problems with the FCC.

[+]

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Over-Promiser In Chief

One of the first things you learn in dealing with other people is that over-promising is a horrible idea. Humans judge value based on expectation versus reality. If you are promised five dollars and you get five dollars, then you see yourself as having been treated fairly and you are satisfied. If you get ten dollars, then you are very happy. If you get less than five dollars, then you’ve been cheated. Obama hasn’t learned this lesson. Indeed, he has a history of promising way more than he can deliver, and he never seems to learn from his mistakes.

Obama has a history of over-promising. You might recall such laughers as “95% of Americans will see their taxes cut.” Uh huh. That didn’t happen. Indeed, sixty percent are seeing their taxes go up. He would close Gitmo by the end of his first year, change our relationship with China, stop Iran’s nuclear program, stop global warming, bring us together racially, and part the seas. Remember how none of that happened?

What made each of these instances all the stranger was that he could have promised something lesser and arguably kept his promises. But he felt the need to make the BIG PROMISE each time. He wouldn’t just “fix” something, he would “fix for all time.” This almost makes him a pathological over-promiser.

But these were campaign promises and people don’t really expect those to be kept right? Actually, they do. But let’s leave that aside for today, because his pattern continued after he took office.

Do you recall the stimulus? The majority of Americans were prepared to accept the need for a stimulus package, so selling it should have been easy. But Obama strangely felt that he needed to way over-sell it. So he promised that it would create millions of jobs. It didn’t. Indeed, it couldn’t. But he didn’t admit that, even after it became obvious that his promise had been false. Instead, he reformulated his promise as “save or create” and then he doubled down on his overpromises. Hang tight, millions of jobs coming up any moment. Of course, they didn’t come. So he scrambled to come up with jobs, which became a national joke when people started playing “spot the fake job in the fake district.” Even the media ultimately admitted that this turned into a disaster for the administration.

The recession ended in March. . . no May. . . no July. . . no November. We would have positive job growth in August. . . no November. . . no December. . . no March. . . no April.

So what did he learn? Nothing. When it became obvious that Copenhagen would produce nothing but hot air, Obama sprang into action and promised to rescue the conference and save the world from global warming. That didn’t happen. Instead, he ended up cutting some non-deal deal. When his environmentalist supporters turned on him because of his broken promises, he tried to deflect that by promising that he would soon push through cap and trade and thereby save the world. That didn’t happen either. So once again, his way-over-the-top promises came crashing down.

He had a deal to get sanctions on Iran, even China agreed!. . . would agree. . . might agree. . . is considering. . . might not stand in the way of. Oh, and now Brazil is backing out as well. At least the Russians agreed not to keep building Iran a nuclear reactor.

But he's learning to be more careful with his promises, right? No. Instead, he set about creating a series of elaborate over-promises with health care. He didn’t promise that he would extend coverage to some poor Americans, that he would cut a few costs, or that he would improve the quality of care. No. That wouldn’t be grandiose enough. Instead, he promised “universal care.” He promised he would cut costs so much that it would save the country, the treasury, the budget, etc. etc. He promised that medicine would be cheaper and better and we could all keep our current plans. He promised doctors more money under Medicare. And he promised that all of this would happen the minute they passed the bill.

So they passed the bill. And nothing happened, and soon people started questioning his promises. So he doubled down. He even sent Axelrod out to lie about the start date of all the benefits, assuring us that it was just a Republican “myth” that most of the benefits wouldn’t kick in for years.

But these lies are easily disproved. And within a week, after his “bounce” had faded and with public anger growing, the media began to question the bill. Indeed, in the past week, the media has discovered that: (1) Medical costs will go up for all Americans. (2) The doctor’s fix is stalled in Congress -- and it will blow Obama’s deficit promise out of the water when it finally does pass. (3) Most of the benefits don’t take effect until 2014 or later, no matter what Axelrod promised. (4) Companies are dropping their plans, despite Obama’s assurances. (5) Doctors are dropping out of Medicare at a record rate. (6) This “universal coverage” is neither universal, nor coverage, as 22 million Americans are expected to pay fines rather than buy coverage.

So how does Obama respond? “Hey, it’s only been a week, some of this stuff won’t happen for years.” Funny, that’s not what he promised.

What’s interesting to me about all of this is that Obama has expended virtually no effort to do the things he wants to do the right way in the first place. Instead, he just takes whatever is available and he sells it with a series of grandiose and obviously false promises. He is the car salesman trying to pass off the 1984 Yugo as the 2010 Rolls Royce.

In all honesty, this makes little sense. The public was willing to buy much of what he wanted to sell. But somehow that wasn’t good enough for him: he wanted to dazzle them. You could call it inexperience, except that he never seems to learn from his mistakes. So it seems more to be a personality defect than an experience gap. Indeed, I suspect it's ego, he wants to be the savior that everyone told him he was.

In any event, by trying to be a rock star and dazzle the public rather than dealing with the public fairly, Obama has discredited himself. He's converted himself from the principled politician who was going to do some unpleasant things that he felt had to be done into President False-Promise whose programs can’t be trusted.

Not smart.

[+]