Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1979-1980/2010-2012. . . History Repeating?

Ronald Reagan became President at a low point for the United States. Our economy was failing, our military was neglected, our politics were poisonous, and our nation was demoralized. Over the next few years, Ronald Reagan turned all of that around. But even before Reagan brought us Reaganomics, Margaret Thatcher was beating Reagan to the punch, with similar stunning results. Well, our two countries feel a lot like 1979 again, and once again the British are showing us the way out of this mess.

In two short years, the Democrats have made a royal mess of our country. They’ve wasted trillions of dollars we could not afford, they’ve created what appears to be a permanent structural deficit, they’ve demoralized our foreign policy, they’ve disgraced our political system, and they’ve put the public on the verge of revolt. Labor did the same thing to Britain. But Britain is now turning this around.

When the British replaced their Labor government with a Conservative/Liberal coalition, few expected much in the way of reform. The Conservatives were led by David Cameron, who seems more like an effete elitist than a reputable leader. Indeed, his claim to fame before being elected was to rid the Conservatives of most of their ideology and to turn them into Tony Blair impersonators. His coalition partners, the Liberals, are a confused jumble of socialists and civil libertarians. That’s hardly the recipe for daring achievements. Yet, that is exactly what they are doing. Consider this:

1. Facing a $245 billion deficit (11.4% of GNP), the government issued a dramatic budget containing previously unthinkable cuts. Government agencies will be cut by 19% on average, 500,000 government jobs will be eliminated, welfare benefits will be cut, a middle class child credit will disappear, the retirement age will rise from 65 to 66, college tuition and train fares will rise, and so on. The only two errors were to exempt the National Health Service from cuts and to increase spending on foreign aid.

This is an incredible budget for a coalition that can hardly be called fiscal hawks and whose members range from both fringes to the squishy middle. So when our media is throwing up their hands trying to explain why not one penny of federal spending can be cut, keep Britain's example in mind. This is a blue print for the United States.

2. The government plans to cut overall immigration from 196,000 a year to below 100,000 by 2015. To achieve that, they’ve just imposed a 20% cut in the number of non-Europeans allowed to work in the U.K., cut the number of visas granted to foreign students, and will impose a minimum standard for English proficiency on marriage visas.

The focus on student visa (which account for 60% of immigration) is the result of many “students” coming to England but not actually working on degree programs, and of concerns that some “schools” are simply schemes to exploit student visas to get immigrants into the country -- and which may provide a gateway for terrorists to enter the U.K. Thus, the new government also will begin stringent background checks into the credentials of schools that offer visas to overseas students, and will give a preference to students in degree programs.

3. The government is completely reforming British schools. For example, they are dismantling the system put in place by Labor where students could get non-academic qualifications (like certificates in “sports leadership”) as a substitute for traditional subjects. They will grade schools on the performance of their students in English, math, science, history or geography, and a modern or ancient language. Moreover, teachers will need to pass math and English aptitude tests. Principals will be given more powers to restrain violent pupils, put students in detention, and search them for mobile phones. Also, about 400 schools will be taken over. Further, they have introduced a program to train soldiers to become teachers with the idea that they have the experience to teach students and to improve classroom discipline. Finally, they are planning reforms to “drive out ‘trendy’ learning methods” brought in under Labor.

That’s not a bad start for a coalition that wasn’t supposed to do much of anything, and it is a lesson for our country. Right now, people are ready for a radical remake of the current system. They don’t want to hear, “we don’t know how to cut the budget.” They don’t want fake 10 year plans where the cuts never come. They don’t want public sector employees to keep getting raises and untouchable jobs when their own jobs are hanging by a thread. They don’t want unchecked immigration. And they don’t want to double down on the liberal stupidity that has ruined the public schools.

If a coalition of quasi-Euro-socialists, actual socialists, and libertarians can do this, then so can the Republicans. It won’t happen until Obama is gone in 2012, but it’s time to start now and to fully implement what we start when the new Republican president takes office in 2012. Anyone promising less than that, need not apply.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Portland: It's For Terrorists

One of the bigger stories this weekend, at least until Wikileaks decided to add a little chaos to the world, was brought to us by Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19 year old Somali-born U.S. citizen. On Friday, Mohamud tried to blow up a packed public Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. No thanks to Portland, he did not succeed.

First, let’s look at the bomber. This will shock liberals, but he’s a monster. He didn’t turn to bombing as a last resort or to free his people and he wasn’t forced into this by economic duress. He comes from an upper-middle class home and he simply likes killing. Said Mohamud of what he was trying to achieve: “I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured.” Why? What motivated him? Well, said Mohamud:
“You know what I like to see? Is when I see the enemy of allah then, you know, their bodies are torn everywhere. It’s gonna be a fireworks show. . . New York Times will give it two thumbs up. . . do you remember when 9/11 happened when those people were jumping from skyscrapers? I thought that was awesome.”
What does this tell us? This tells us he has no regard for human life. Indeed, he gets a kick out of seeing people die. It also tells us that he sees anyone who is not a Muslim as an enemy of allah and he believes that entitles him to kill them -- so much for the “religion of peace” and so much for the standard liberal trope: “they’re just like us, they’ve just been forced to become violent.”

Secondly, let’s look at Portland. One of the most interest facets of this was the non-involvement of Portland in this arrest. Prior to this event, Portland voted 4-1 to refuse to let its police officers work with the FBI’s counter-terrorism task force because the FBI would not guarantee that it would comply with Portland’s anti-discrimination measures. And while Portland claimed this was a matter of principle, it more likely than not was the result of the Portland city council assuming they were safe from terrorism and that they could therefore put asinine political statements above the safety of their people.

And it was exactly this appeasement that attracted Mohamud to Portland. Indeed, when he was asked why he chose Portland as a target, he told the FBI that Portland has lax law enforcement because people do not “see it as a place where anything will happen. People say, you know, why anybody wants to do something in Portland, you know. It's on the west coast, it's in Oregon; and Oregon's like, you know, nobody ever thinks about it.”

Clearly, liberals cannot escape the wrath of Islam by being cowards and pretending they aren’t part of America’s war on terrorism. But then, the rest of us knew that. Just ask the Spanish. FYI, Portland is now reconsidering helping the FBI, but to save face they are claiming the decision is being made because they trust the FBI under Obama, which they did not do under Bush.

Finally, let’s look at how he was caught. The FBI began investigating Mohamud when they received a tip from his parents that they were concerned about him. Beginning around the age of 15, Mohamud began speaking of becoming a martyr. At that point, they became concerned. Said one member of the 8,000 strong Somali community in Portland, “Before this happened, the father informed Homeland Security and the FBI that something was going on with his son. This a good family. The father is an engineer at Intel. This is not somebody who is on public assistance. He is a family man, a businessman, a religious man, a soccer player.” (Insert soccer violence joke here.)

After receiving court permission, the FBI monitored his e-mail and found that he was communicating with someone in Pakistan, with whom Mohamud was talking about “preparing for violent jihad.” In June 2010, the FBI put him on a no-fly list, which kept Mohamud from flying to Alaska. The FBI then moved in with agents and befriended him. They provided him with a fake bomb. He drove the vehicle with the bomb to the Portland ceremony. They watched him punch in the cell phone code that would have set the bomb off, and they arrested him. That’s an excellent investigation.

There are several interesting points to this. First, it’s becoming clear that the only way to catch terrorists is to get the assistance of people in the community and then to infiltrate terrorist cells and befriend terrorists. All the rest, is just window dressing. . . “security theater.” In fact, this has always been true historically, but people never learn from history.

Secondly, it’s clear that what is causing this wave of terrorism has nothing to do with US policy or US excesses. These idiots are being swept up in a mania that is being pushed by a violent religion that chooses to separate humanity into two classes -- believers, who deserve goodwill, and infidels, to whom you can do anything. Until that changes and Islam comes out of the dark ages and renounces this two-tier world, people like Mohamud will continue to justify their hate with Islam.

Third, Portland got very lucky here. And if he had succeeded, the blame should rightly have fallen on their city council and every other city like Portland that seeks to coddle terrorists and interfere with efforts to fight terrorism. Appeasing the Hitlers of the world only gets people killed.

So let’s congratulate the FBI and the parents, let’s condemn Portland, and let’s hang the monster.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Abuse Of Power: Feds Seize Websites

I am a long-time critic of the use of government criminal power to do the bidding of private interest groups. This weekend showed again exactly why. The Department of Homeland Security. . . which can’t seem to keep terrorists from boarding airplanes with bombs, can’t secure our ports, can’t secure our borders, and can’t catch or convict a single terrorist except by pure luck. . . spent its weekend doing the bidding of the Recording Industry Artists of America (RIAA) and undermining our judicial system.

I’ve spoken about the RIAA and my disgust for their tactics before. They are an organization that tried to create a monopoly on music, tried to stand in the way of innovation, and when that failed, they lobbied (successfully) to upturn a thousand years of jurisprudence, by eliminating ideas like “innocent until proven guilty” and “the right to face your accuser,” and used the power they obtained to extort money out of average people in the hopes of terrorizing people into stopping file sharing. Their targets have ranged from individual users, to parents, to colleges, to employers, to ISPs. . . guilt or innocent hasn’t mattered to them.

Well, now they’ve got Homeland Security doing their dirty work for them. This weekend, Homeland Security shut down at least 72 websites and seized their domain names because they have been accused of file sharing. There has been no conviction, no hearing, no warning. . . just the accusation.

What’s more, not all of the websites shutdown were even accused of file sharing. One website, Torrentfreak was essentially a search engine. It neither hosted copyright material nor did it directly link to copyrighted material. Instead, it linked to sites that linked to file-sharing material. In other words, this would be like shutting down Google because you can use it to find sites that offer illegal material.

Three things are worrying about this.

First, this is not something Homeland Security should be wasting their time on. Their primary mission is to protect us, i.e. to keep the homeland secure. Working on side issues like this is a distraction from the mission that they are already not doing very well.

Secondly, it troubles me greatly that they have converted what is a private matter between two parties, i.e. copyright infringement, into a criminal offense with the full power of the federal government coming down on the side of the politically connected. There are thousands of claims of infringement of varying degrees and with various levels of merit each year, is Homeland Security to start shutting down tens of thousands of websites each year?

Moreover, what happened to proving guilt? There was no trial in this instance. Even worse, there was no right to face the accuser and no right to appear in court to challenge the ruling or present counter-evidence. This was essentially a raid done on the basis of probably cause. Anyone who knows anything about the criminal justice system knows that “probably cause” is synonymous with “the accuser’s suspicion.” This is the most easily abused legal standard imaginable.

Letting the authorities seize websites and shut them down without a conviction is deeply troubling. Our court system is the only thing protecting us from an overreaching government. And the fundamental cornerstone of our court system is that you have the right to appear and to challenge the evidence against you. The system Homeland Security and RIAA are exploiting, however, is a system based on the principle of “guilty until you can get a trial date to prove yourself innocent.” That’s unAmerican.

Finally, it is very disturbing that all of this is being done to please a highly-connected political lobby. This was not done to protect the public from harm or to maintain law and order. This was done because the RIAA has been unable to stop file sharing by extorting money from the public (a process proven to be much abused by RIAA), so it wanted to step up the firepower. If we allow this, what’s next?

It is the slipperiest of all slopes when we sell the power to have the federal government’s brutal police power at your beck and call, and when all you need to do to get the government hopping is to swear that you have a suspicion of wrongdoing. Should we let Homeland Security shut down your website because a debt collector claims you haven’t paid a bill? Should we let Homeland Security shut down your website because you failed to pay spousal support? What if you’re giving out advice that might be considered criminal? Bomb making? Sure. But what about a website listing speed traps? What about a website listing how to avoid ObamaCare’s requirements? Do we really want the government doing this?

This is very bad for our country.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Rise And Continuing Fall Of Al Gore

It’s been a bad year for environmentalists. The Earth cooled. Climategate exposed them. And now their Prophet Al Gore has admitted that his push for corn-based ethanol was nothing but pandering to Iowa farmers. In fact, Al Gore seems to keep imploding.

There is little doubt that Al Gore has become a prophet for the environmental movement. In fact, Penn and Teller did an interesting piece where they asked people to describe Al Gore, and to a liberal they all used religious terminology. He was Kool-Aid Obama before Obama.

But the right spotted Al Gore as a charlatan immediately. For one thing, he was known for telling whoppers, like how he invented the internet. But he also showed that he had no qualms with changing his positions to whatever profited him personally. For example, back when he was a mere Senator from Tennessee, sitting in the Senate seat he inherited from his father, Al Gore used to talk about being a tobacco farmer. In fact, he would go around describing how he lovingly planted tobacco plants. This made him sound like a real man of the Earth, which played well in Tennessee. But then he learned that there was more political cache to be earned by being anti-tobacco. So he became the world’s biggest opponent of cigarette companies. . . a position he suddenly claimed to always hold.

At the end of the 1980s, Al Gore adopted environmentalism when he wrote "Earth In The Balance." This was in stark contrast to his ownership interest in Occidental Petroleum or when his family entered the zinc mining business. But he saw environmentalism as his future ticket. So when the opportunity came up, in 1994, he cast the tie vote in the Senate to authorize a subsidized ethanol program in the U.S. This program would eventually spend about $7.7 billion a year to subsidize the production of corn-based ethanol in the U.S.

From the start, everyone knew this program was a bad idea. The environmental value of corn-based ethanol was dubious because the amount of energy required to make this ethanol was only slightly less (or possibly even more) than using oil. A much better alternative was Brazilian sugar-based ethanol, but that would not help US farmers. But since Al Gore wanted to be known as the environmentalist, he wasn't going to let this opportunity pass him by, and he attacked the program's critics as oil-industry stooges. The environmentalists fell in love.

Then Al Gore set about becoming a full-on environmental profit... er, prophet. No, actually, profit is right. For while Al Gore jetted all over the Earth lecturing people about saving the environment, it was soon discovered that he owned a home with the carbon footprint of a small city. And when Al Gore started pushing the idea that people could offset their carbon footprints by buying indulgences, it was discovered that he owned the company that was selling them. Even the offsets he claimed to have purchased himself, were bought from. . . himself. Then Al Gore and Goldman Sachs got into the carbon permit game, trying to buy up carbon permits and using our government to force through a cap and trade scheme that would make these valuable. With the election of the Republicans these things lost more than 90% of their value.

Then a Canadian mathematician (Steven McIntyre) proved that the science behind Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth (specifically his famous hockey stick graph) was fraudulent, and it would produce a hockey stick no matter what data you entered. This was followed by a British judge ruling that Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth contained enough errors that it could not be used as a learning tool in schools. Then the Earth entered a cooling trend that should never have happened according to Al Gore's teachings. This was followed by Climategate, which showed that the whole global warming industry was based on faked data.

Things were not looking good for Al Gore. (Not to mention he was suddenly facing personal problems, like the investigation into possible sex crimes and his surprise divorce.)

And now, Al Gore has admitted that the corn-based ethanol policy that got him started wasn’t a good idea. It has little environmental merit and it created a $7.7 billion a year subsidy that just won’t go away to make room for better environmental programs. . . just as the critics warned. That’s bad. Not to mention that, by diverting all this corn to ethanol, the price of food has been skyrocketing the world over.

But it gets worse because Al also admitted that the only reason he supported this program (which he knew was not a good idea) was that he wanted the votes of farmers in Iowa for his presidential run. In other words, he pushed a policy he knew was bad, while telling us it had benefits it didn’t and unfairly attacking the program's critics, because he knew it would get him votes. Some prophet!

Well, don't worry about poor Al Gore. He's not out of schemes just yet. In fact, he has a new plan for saving the planet that we should all trust: Al wants us to subsidize "second generation ethanol." What do you think are the odds that he already owns stock?

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Gropegate: TSA Bending To Not Break Their Union

In case you’ve been asleep for the past couple weeks, there’s been a wave of anger building in the public over the new security measures put into place by TSA to screen for terrorists. All signs now point to a policy shift. Why? I’d say it has everything to do with saving the unions. Seriously.

Gropegate began quickly when TSA introduced a new pat-down policy that requires TSA employees to do a police-style pat-down of airplane travelers. No sooner was this policy put into place than people began complaining about being groped by unfriendly TSA staff. As the number of complaints grew, so did the nature of the complaints. Soon we heard reports of TSA staff laughing at people’s genitalia as they went through the full body scan, of children being groped inappropriately, of a woman with a mastectomy being forced to show her prosthetic breasts, of passengers with false limbs being told to remove them, of a bladder cancer survivor ending up covered in their own urine as TSA messed with their medical equipment, etc. etc. Congressional offices were flooded with complaints.

By Sunday morning, pressure was building to the political breaking point, and by Sunday afternoon it had broken. Indeed, Sunday morning, TSA chief John Pistole struck a defiant tone when asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley if he would be willing to change TSA’s pat-down policy to make it less intrusive. He said he would not: “No, not going to change.”

But then Hillary Clinton was asked about the policy on “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation.” She said that she understands “how offensive it must be” for some people to undergo such searches, and she said there is a need to “strike the right balance. . . to get it better and less intrusive and more precise,” a tacit admission that this policy needs to change.

Obama was asked too, and he said he “understand[s] people’s frustrations.” He then added that, “I'm constantly asking them whether is what we're doing absolutely necessary, have we thought it through, are there other ways of accomplishing it that meet the same objectives.” In other words, Obama is ready to make TSA a fall guy and his resolve to stand firm on this issue is withering under the pressure.

Thus, Sunday afternoon, when Politico asked John Pistole again if TSA might alter the policy, Pistole gave a very different answer: he said, the screening procedures “will be adapted as conditions warrant,” in an effort to make them “as minimally invasive as possible, while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve.” In other words, it’s time for a retreat.

So what brought about this change? More than anything, I would argue it was Obama’s fear that TSA was handing the Republicans an opportunity to crush their employee union.

When TSA was created to handle airport screenings, the Democrats won a substantial victory for government employee unions by ensuring that TSA employees would be unionized. This was supposed to guarantee that TSA got good employees. But of course, that’s not how unionization works. What TSA got instead was an insular culture lacking any oversight by the public. Indeed, its own Inspector General criticized TSA in 2004 for wasting half a million dollars in “unnecessary” award ceremonies at lavish hotels and for giving “lifetime achievement awards” to employees of an agency that had only existed two years. It also gave huge bonuses to its executives, averaging $16,000 more than other federal agencies, and it failed to justify those awards in more than 1/3 of the cases examined by the IG.

Enter Republican John Mica, the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He criticized the new policy thusly: “I don’t think the roll-out was good and the application is even worse. This does need to be refined.”

What does Mica propose to do about this? He is proposing that airports nationwide drop TSA agents entirely and replace them with private contractors. Under a screening partnership program, 16 of the nation’s 460 commercial airports already have replaced TSA staff with private contractors. Reports are that the private sector staff are more courteous and more professional. They are also cheaper.

Right now, TSA employs 67,000 personnel. A shift to non-unionized private sector personnel would reduce the power of public sector unions by the loss of those members. That’s a huge hit that Team Obama cannot accept politically. But Obama can’t stop privatization because airports have the right to opt out of the TSA program. Thus, he needs to stop gropegate, which is handing the Republicans the perfect reason to push privatization. Consequently, I suspect Obama has decided that to save the TSA employee union, he must change the grope policy, even though he has repeatedly claimed that this policy is essential to protecting the American people.

But before you think I’m accusing him of undermining your safety, I’m not. I’m accusing him of fear mongering and hypocrisy, but not endangerment. The truth is that these gropes do nothing to improve airline safety. If you wanted to smuggle a bomb onto a plane, you could do it as an airport employee, without being groped. Or you could manufacture bombs out of everyday items that pass screenings, or mail them in a package that is likely to be put onto a plane. Or just drive near a runway and hit the plane with a missile. Any of these are just as effective. The point is that if a terrorist really wants to blow up a plane, groping the public won’t stop them. These searches are designed to give the public a false sense of security, to make people think that something is being done to protect them when very little really can be done to stop an intelligent and determined bomber. Thus, backing off on the grope-a-thon won’t lower our security at all.

I guess we should wait and see what excuse Obama gives for backing off?

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Obama Fails His First Test Already

Obama has now faced his first test since the election. He failed spectacularly. Not only did he show that he learned nothing from the election and that he would continue to put rigid ideology ahead of results, but he roused the suspicions of his base in the process. Indeed, George Soros is talking about progressives needing to “go around” Obama. That’s a lot of failure to achieve in one week.

The issue in question is whether or not to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Last week, Obama puppeteer David Axelrod suggested to the Huffington Post that Obama would agree to a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts for “the rich” in exchange for making the cuts permanent for families with incomes below $250,000 a year.

This set off a firestorm of progressive anger. Not only do progressives not want any tax cuts for the filthy rich, but they can barely stomach the idea of tax cuts for anyone. When they heard that Obama was going to sell them out, they were not amused.

Congressional Democrats were angry too. They thought Axelrod’s statement undermined their bargaining position with the Republicans before the talks even began. After all, if Obama announces that he is willing to meet the Republicans half way, then surely the Republicans now would demand more?

Obama responded, a couple days later, by holding a telephone conference with his left flank, in which he told them that he is “open to ideas, but fundamentally the middle-class tax cuts have to be made permanent.” Then he repeated his “opposition to making the high income tax cuts permanent.” That seemed pretty clear. Only it wasn’t.

The following day, a White House spokeswoman issued a statement saying: “His position has been clear for weeks and he reiterated his interest in a compromise to ensure middle class families have the certainty their taxes will not go up.” In other words, forget all that stuff Obama assured the Democrats about, he will happily trade a tax cut for the rich for an extension of the middle class portion of the tax cut. This is the Axelrod position which upset the Democrats so much.

Thus, Obama angered Congressional Democrats by undercutting them, and he angered his base by calling into question what he really believes by issuing ambiguous contradictory statements. Could he really be willing to cut taxes on the stinking rich (forget for the moment that these aren’t tax cuts, they are instead a halt on tax increases). Grrrrrr. What’s next, a bank bailout?

At the same time, Obama’s vocal opposition to “tax cuts for the rich” showed the public that he didn’t listen to the election. Love the rich or loathe them, it is beyond dispute (unless you’re a liar like Paul Krugman) that raising taxes on the rich will depress the economy, something which would be very stupid to do at a time when the economy is teetering on the edge of a possible double-dip recession. Thus, by seeming to take a hard line against these tax cuts, Obama signaled the public that he intends to put his ideology ahead of intelligent economics. And if the election truly was about the economy as the Democrats claim, then this signal was aimed straight at the very heart of what has upset the public.

Ironically, for once, Obama actually has his finger on good politics. If he agrees to the whole tax cut package right now, then he may stave off a double dip recession and he can avoid an obvious spot of potential blame, i.e. “he caused this by letting the Bush tax cuts expire.” And if he can get a temporary extension for the rich but a permanent extension for the middle class, then Obama has actually managed to lay a bit of a trap for Republicans, who will need to come back in the future to seek an extension for the rich only. But his base won’t accept this because his dithering and ambiguity have made them suspicious about his true beliefs.

Thus, he’s turned what could be a win for him into a stunning defeat with all sides now angry at him. Not smart.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Great (Non-Existent) Republican Civil War

Ladies and gentlemen, the end is near for the Republican Party. That’s right. The noble elephant has split asunder, cleaved in two. Conservative brother is fighting conservative brother in the streets. Wait a minute, that’s not true. So why do I keep reading about Republican “civil wars”? Oh yeah, media bias.

The media has two modes for the Republicans. When things are going poorly for the Republicans, we are treated to a slew of stories telling us that the Republicans are an extremist bunch (with only the occasional brave dissenter) whose ideology has turned off the public, and that they need to move to the left to regain the public's trust. But when things go right for the Republicans, the media switches over to the other mode: the Republicans are in the middle of a civil war that will tear the party apart.

Right now, we've re-entered civil war mode. Indeed, in the past week, we’ve had stories on the “civil war” in the RNC over Michael Steele, the “civil war” between the Tea Party Republicans and the establishment Republicans, the “civil war” in the Senate between DeMint and the country clubbers, the “civil war” over presidential candidates in 2012, the “civil war” over Palin, the “civil war” over leadership positions, and now the “civil war” over committee chairmanships. The use of the term “civil war” has almost become pathological.

Yet, none of these are civil wars. There is no threat to shatter the party. There are no two equal and opposing forces ready to wipe each other out no matter what the consequences. Instead, you have normal election issues. You’ve got a handful of incumbents who lost their seats. You’ve got newbies who are slightly to the right of existing members, and they want to shift the party back to the foundations the party itself claims. You’ve got committee people scrambling for power, as they always do. And you will have a competitive presidential primary coming up, just like every other primary that doesn’t include an incumbent President.

What’s more, you have a leadership that at least verbally has embraced a shift to the right; they haven’t drawn a line in the sand or threatened to stop the newcomers. To the contrary, they’ve gone out of their way to promote some of these newcomers. You’ve also got a rank and file that are largely unified behind a return to a stronger brand of conservatism -- a more unified rank and file than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime.

This simply does not a civil war make.

A real political civil war looks like the Democrats in 1968, when old-school Democrats were surrounded at their convention by the lunatic fringe and the police had to be called out. A real political civil war was when Reagan took on the establishment in 1980, and the Rockefeller wing of the party actually ran a Republican as an independent just to deprive the conservatives of a victory. There is nothing similar today.

So why does the media keep calling every disagreement among Republicans a civil war? Ideological bias.

The media is composed almost entirely of far-left leftists, and they want the Republicans to fail. Thus, they report on Republican “scandals” as if they are systemic and as if they are the end of the world, while giving Democrats a free pass on identical conduct. They look for the wackiest, tackiest Republicans to provide them with a steady stream of bizarre and outrageous sound bites, which they sell as commonly held beliefs among the party faithful. . . something they never do to Democrats.

And when it comes to any sort of competition for ideas or people within the party, they frame the issue as the beginning of the end for the Republicans. . . an intractable civil war. Why? Because they are hoping this demoralizes the party. They hope the rank and file will distrust the leadership because of the constant barrage of stories about infighting. They hope independents will see the Republicans as a party in turmoil, where nasty extremists keep fighting to purge noble moderates. They hope to muddy the message of the party, by pretending there are two equal sides fighting, when the truth is that the “moderate” side in the “civil war” is only a handful of corrupt insiders or people who are well outside the mainstream of Republican thinking. And they hope it's true.

Moreover, to the extent there has been a civil war within either party over the past decade, it was within the Democrats, as the “progressive” left all but wiped out the center-left that Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council put into place. But somehow this never rates the descriptor “civil war” among a sympathetic media. Instead, you hear about the occasional “insurgent” within Democratic ranks. . . a term used again today to describe the few Democrats trying to unseat Pelosi. The difference between a civil war and an insurgent is the difference between the image of a party split in two and set against itself, versus a few sneaks who are trying to overthrow a settled regime.

So if you see more talk about another Republican “civil war,” don’t believe it. This is simply leftist bias and a little wishful thinking. The party is undergoing a very calm and widely approved of shift to the right. And the replacement of a few establishment types who don’t fit that new approach does not constitute a civil war.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Here They Go Again. . .

Is the Presidency too big for one man? Hardly. The Presidency works fine, just as Reagan proved with his stunning successes at the very moment the left was asking this same exact question in response to brainiac Jimmy Carter’s utter failure. So why do leftists keep asking this? Two reasons: first, this is a defense mechanism, and secondly, they don’t like or understand our system of government.

Whenever a liberal super-genius fails, the left needs to find a reason. They won’t blame their ideology, no matter how much history there is showing its total failure. But they will blame almost everything else. For example, we’ve heard them blame their opponents for frustrating their efforts. We’ve heard them spin conspiracy theories about special interest groups or corporate cabals intentionally trying to ruin things (Pelosi is the latest to claim that she’s being attacked because she’s dangerous to “special interests”. . . yeah, Boogieman Inc.). And we’ve heard them blame the ignorant masses -- an Obama specialty.

But that’s often not enough.

Eventually, leftists will get around to burning down their latest Messiahs. To keep themselves from having to reassess whether or not their own beliefs make sense, they will instead attack the person they relied upon to implement those beliefs. This is where the common liberal lunatic refrain “we just need the right leader to put these policies in place” comes from. This is why they can continue to believe in socialism despite its track record of 100% failure and its body count in the hundreds of millions. . . "it wasn’t the ideas, it was the jerks who put those ideas into practice the wrong way."

But sometimes, leftists aren’t ready yet to turn on their Messiahs. So they seek a middle ground: “there is something just wrong with the system.” This lets them continue in their delusions that their policies are not to blame for the current disasters and also that they didn’t choose the wrong Messiah. Hence, every time some liberal Messiah fails, you hear a round of “is the Presidency too big for one man?” (You may recall we told you this was coming in September.) Newsweek is the latest to ask this question.

The truth is that the Presidency is not too big. Reagan proved it. Clinton proved it. Others will continue to prove it. Obama’s failure, just like Carter’s failure, does not mean the job is too big. Obama’s failure was not the result of anything inherently wrong with the job, it was what he tried to do with the job.

And this brings us to the other reason the left repeatedly raises this question. They don’t really grasp what the Presidency is, i.e. the job is not designed to reach the kinds of results the left wants. The President is a check and balance on the power of the legislature. The President’s job is to approve or disapprove laws, and then to enforce those laws strictly. But the left doesn’t get that. They see the Presidency as some sort of enlightened despot position, where an all powerful President delves into every minute detail of everything happening in the country. They want a President who can remake the economy, remake society, and remake the human soul with the swipe of a pen.

But the President can’t do any of that. Thus, when they finally get someone into office, they are disappointed that the despot they elected never seems to get around to making them thinner, happier or richer, making their kids smarter, or crushing the people they hold grudges against. . . "why have you forsaken me Mr. President?"

What’s worse, things always go wrong when their guy gets into office: incomes drop, unemployment soars, foreign countries laugh at us and take advantage of us, and the public gets angrier and angrier. And to them, this seems like a strange coincidence because they will never accept that their policies of raising taxes, imposing strangling regulation, and showing cowardice to our enemies are responsible for these problems. . . "no, must be something wrong with the job itself?"

This is why liberals wonder if the Presidency isn’t too big of a job for one person. They elect the smartest man on earth, he gets his policies into place, and suddenly everything turns sour. And no matter what the President tries to fix this, no matter how many magic beads he shakes, things just keep getting worse. Since there’s nothing wrong with their policies. . . and they didn’t choose the wrong despot to be their leader. . . there must be something wrong with the job itself, right?

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Monday, November 15, 2010

New Boss Same As The Old Boss

“We didn’t lose the election because of me. Our members do not accept that.”
-- Nancy Pelosi

“That is why you failed.”
-- Yoda

As predicted, the House Democrats will re-elected Nancy Pelosi as their leader. Clearly they learned nothing from the election. Nevertheless, there are a couple of interesting aspects to this whole affair, including the possible future of Heath Shuler. Who?

1. The Democrats lost because of Pelosi.

The Democrats got into power and ran wild. During the election, Obama tried to sell himself as a break with the crazy tribal politics of the Democratic Party. Pelosi and her crew tried to sound like moderates too, attacking the Republicans as big spenders and as the party that wants to tax the middle class. And Rham Emanuel ran around the country trying to find conservatives to run as Democrats in Republican districts.

So you can imagine the public was somewhat surprised when the House, under Pelosi’s leadership, tried to tax the economy to death, spend the budget to death, strangle our health care system to death, and breathe life back into the most malicious zombie of them all. . . the unions. What’s more, they did this even though they knew the Senate would stop almost all of it, and even though they knew Obama had no stomach to offer them political cover.

The public was not amused and they took it out on the Democrats in November. Indeed, the public inflicted an historic defeat on Pelosi and her crew. Pelosi wants to blame the economy, but if it was just the economy, then the Senate also would have experienced an historic change. . . it didn’t. Moreover, Pelosi doesn’t seem to understand that she bears the responsibility for the economy. Having two years under Obama and four years under Pelosi to impose economic policy tends to give one that responsibility.

2. The Democrats are heading in the wrong direction.

With almost all the moderate Democrats losing their seats, the Democrats were always going to have a hard time realizing what went wrong and correcting themselves. Those that remain are blinded by ideology The re-election of Pelosi to their leadership (indeed the reelection of the entire leadership without change) and the disclaiming of any responsibility for their defeat indicate that they have not heard a word of the message the voters sent them. Thus, expect them to move further left and continue to scare the public.

And for those who point to the Republicans’ rebound in 2010 as evidence that Pelosi could rebound, let me point out a problem with the analogy. The Republicans were weighed down by a deeply unpopular President in 2008 and a horrible candidate. But by 2010, both of those factors had disappeared and the Republicans actually caught a tailwind from an unpopular Democratic President. Pelosi et al., on the other hand, will still be weighed down by Obama in 2012 and possibly 2016.

3. The Very Strange Case of Heath Shuler.

Finally, we come to the strange move by Heath Shuler. Shuler, for those who don’t know, is a Democratic Representative from North Carolina. Before that, he was famous for being the Washington Redskins’ draft bust who head butted a wall on national television and injured himself. Shuler is running against Pelosi for the leadership even though he has no chance to win. Why do this?

Several thoughts come to mind. First, North Carolina will be redistricting and he may find himself with more Republicans in his new district. It will help him to have stood up to Pelosi. But here’s some speculation for you. . .

When Shuler first ran for the House, the media asked a couple of his ex-teammates what they thought of his run. One teammate, his former roommate for road games, said that he were surprised Schuler ran as a Democrat because Shuler was ultra conservative. It is true that Shuler has not fully lived up to that in the House, but he is one of the more conservative Democrats. And in a state that is slowly trending Republican, and with the Republicans controlling redistricting, Shuler may be the first House member to jump parties. Indeed, little about him fits in the current Democratic Party, except that being a Democrat was the only way he was going to get elected in 2008. So what better springboard than to make a run at the leadership on behalf of returning the party to the center, and then jumping ship when he “reluctantly” concludes that the party has left him and will never return?

It’s just a thought, but it makes sense. And here’s a further thought. . . if he pulls it off, look for Shuler to run for President as a Republican at some point.

[+]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oh No, Caught Again... Drilling For Lies

The Democrats like to call themselves the party of science. Yeah, right. Anyone remember Climategate? Do you remember how the global warmists were caught manipulating data time and again to support their political views? Perhaps you remember Obama confirming his support for their data even after they were caught? Well, now he's been caught lying about the scientific support for his moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf. So much for science.

According to the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General, the White House (Mr. Obama and friends) edited a drilling safety report to make it appear that scientists and other experts supported the administration’s six-month ban on new drilling. Said the IG, the editing resulted “in the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed” when it hadn’t.

In fact, eight of the fifteen experts who supposedly signed off on the report issued a statement when Obama released the report, in which they state that they did not support the moratorium:
“We believe the report does not justify the moratorium as written and that the moratorium as changed will not contribute measurably to increased safety and will have immediate and long-term economic effects.”
They also noted that the report issued by Obama, which he claimed they supported, differed in important ways from the draft they had been asked to review. The IG now confirms this.

So much for Obama's claim that he would “restore science to its rightful place” and his memo promising to “restor[e] scientific integrity to government decision-making.” I guess he just meant "the veneer of science"?

And this isn’t even the first time Obama has been caught playing around with the facts in the Gulf. First, he lied about the government’s involvement, claiming that the government had been directing the clean up when it actually did nothing for weeks. Then he misled the public in his first speech by trying to claim this leak resulted in less oil being spilled than the Exxon Valdez disaster, even though the Gulf spill dwarfed the Exxon Valdez spill. Then Obama repeatedly lied about the amount of oil being released into the Gulf. In fact, his lies were so over the top that even the New York Times finally concluded:
“The government repeatedly underestimated how much oil was flowing into the Gulf of Mexico and how much was left after the well was capped in July, leading to a loss of faith in the government’s ability to handle the spill and a continuing breach between the federal authorities and state and local officials.”
This opinion was backed up by four separate reports. In fact, while Team Obama told the public that 5,000 barrels a day were seeping into the Gulf, they knew the real number could be more than twenty times higher. Ultimately, it was determined to be around 60,000 barrels a day. . . twelve times the Obama estimate.

Isn’t it funny that the man who would be Messiah can’t tell the truth about a simple oil spill that technically wasn’t even his fault? And if he would lie about something like that, what else would he lie about? He clearly has no qualms about using other people’s names to support his views, even if he needs to lie, mislead, and distort what they really said.

One of the truism of politics is that it’s not the mistake that undoes a politician, it’s the attempt to cover up the mistake. And telling stupid small lies and pretending that scientists support you, when they don’t, is about as stupid as it gets. Like the President he follows most closely, Richard Nixon, Obama is well on his way to imploding.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Treehouse Improvement Wars

By the Boiler Room Elves

As Commentarama readers may remember, the Boiler Room Elves took advantage of the dear leader's little-known Treehouse Tax Credit last year. (Yes, the Elf lobby is surprisingly strong. . .) Well, having settled into our new Keebler Oak, we've discovered a game that seemingly plays out around the world - Treehouse Improvement Wars.

In the large elm to the left live a nice older couple. Let's call them the Winky's. In the poplar on the right live the Bobbin's.

When we first moved in, everyone seemed nice, without a hint of competitiveness. That’s how things stayed, until we undertook re-landscaping the front yard - new plants, a path to the side gate, and an additional tree in the back for a guest house.

As we worked, we noticed the Bobbin's outside, going up and down ladders, painting the trim. Suddenly, our trim didn’t look so good. Soon, we were painting too. Then we saw workmen going in and out of the Winky’s, carrying rolls of linoleum. Something was up.

The Bobbin’s noticed this too and soon began sprucing up their lawn. Well, we couldn’t let this go unchallenged. No no no, we Boiler Room elves were not about to rest on our considerable laurels, so we painted the wooden picket fence in the front yard. Yet, no sooner had we put brush to picket than Mrs. Bobbin came out and said, in her ever-cheery, high-pitched way, "Don't be getting too spiffy over there!" Of course, we couldn’t help but notice the Home Depot card in her hand, and unlike Joe Biden we were pretty sure she knew where it was located. . . and here we thought she was a nice, cookie-baking grandma! Now we see the truth.

The next morning, the Winky’s tried to sneak in a paintjob before anyone woke up, but we caught them. Darn your cookies, we will not be outdone! It was time to up the fight: where’s that number from the patio guy with the water feature and statue of St. Elfmo?

But try as we might, no matter what we spent, we couldn’t shake the Winky’s or the Bobbin’s. Soon things were being done left and right. We Elves weren't planning on painting the outside, nor were we planning on redoing the kitchen (it's mostly industrial-grade ovens anyway), but we will not be defeated!

Finally, we learned a truism: there truly is no winner in war. . . except Home Depot.

Wait, that’s not what we learned, of course there are winners in war, and we plan to be that winner. No, we learned that you can never be too rich, too over-cookied, too well armed, or too familiar with Home Depot!

Oh, and we need a raise.

So, Bossmen, what are you guys doing to improve your houses?"

[+]

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's Not Me.... It's You... You're Too Stupid

Sometimes relationships hit bumpy spots. One side or the other gets a little wee wee’d up and soon you find yourself having to issue some form of apology to calm things down. Fortunately, I am the master of the seemingly-real apology! Let me run this by you and see what you make of it:

I figure I'll start by showing that I understand what the real problem is, that I know why she's upset:
I understand you’re upset Honey Bunny, and I know why. You thought we’d have more money by now, but that didn’t happen and now you’re cranky. . .
What? You don't like that? Ok, I'll change it to this:
“Yesterday's vote confirmed what I've heard from folks all across America. People are frustrated, they're deeply frustrated with the pace of our economic recovery. . . .”

“I think first and foremost, it was a referendum on the economy. And the party in power was held responsible for an economy that is still underperforming and where a lot of folks are still hurting. . . . .”
Now I want to make it clear that I sympathize with her concerns, even if it isn't my fault:
Look, I’m frustrated too, but this was not my fault. The whole money thing is beyond anyone’s control. . .
What? Again? Fine, I'll go with the altenative:
“I do get discouraged, I mean, there are times where I thought the economy would [have] gotten better by now. As president… you’re held responsible for everything. But you don't always have control of everything. Especially an economy this big— there are limited tools to encourage— the kind of job growth that we need.”
Now I think I should probably mention the other things she's upset about:
And as for the other things, well. . . look, I did the right things, even though I knew you wouldn’t get that. I even knew you might be unhappy about it, but I did it all for you. Still, wow, did you take this a lot worse than I expected. . .
Oh come on, that was gold! Fine. I'll change it:
“At the time, we knew that it probably wasn’t great politics. I made the decision to go ahead and do it and it proved as costly politically, as we expected. Probably actually a little more costly than we expected, politically.”
You people are too picky. You know, I only did what she wanted... and I should tell her that!
Heck, I only did what you said you liked before. . .
Alright, alright:
“We thought that if we shaped a bill that wasn’t that different from bills that had previously been introduced by Republicans, including a Republican Governor in Massachusetts who’s now running for president, we would be able to find some common ground there. And we just couldn’t.”
And it's not like I didn't take heat from my friends for trying to be nice about this. She should know that:
My friends said you were an idiot and you wouldn’t understand, but I stood up for you. I told them you just have a different way of thinking. . . and that’s ok, we can’t all be perfect. . .
Yeah, yeah... I know. "Try and say it nicer." blah blah blah. Here:
“I will say that when it comes to some of-- my supporters— part of it, I think, is-- the belief that if I just communicated things better, that I’d be able to persuade-- that half of the country that voted for John McCain that we were right and they were wrong.”
“One of the things that I think is important for people to remember is that-- you know, this country-- doesn’t just agree with the New York Times editorial page. And, I can make some really good arguments-- defending the Democratic position. And there are going to be some people who just don’t agree with me. And that’s okay."
Ok, time to get to the point, I do share some of the blame:
Still, I freely admit that I am partly to blame here. I thought all I had to do was do the right things and you’d get it. I didn’t realize I had to dumb it down for you. . .
What?! Man you people are high maintenance! Oh, ok. I'll rephrase it to soften the blow:
“I think that, over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that, yeah, leadership isn’t just legislation, that it’s a matter of persuading people and giving them confidence and bringing them together, and setting a tone. We haven’t always been successful at that, and I take personal responsibility for that. And it’s something that I have to examine carefully as I go forward.”
Happy now? Let's finish strong with a couple of classics, first the old shared blame -- "we both said things we regret":
“Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified. Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don't exempt myself.”
Nice! Notice how it sounds like I'm admitting fault, but I never actually say those words! Then we finish with a promise for the future, the old "we can work this out, if you just start listening to the facts."
“We’re going to have a negotiation. I am open to-- you know, finding a way in which, you know, they can meet their principles and I can meet mine. But in order to do that, I think we do have to answer the question of how we pay for it…. Hopefully, we can agree on a set of facts that leads to a compromise.”
Fantastic! Guaranteed relationship saver! I worked all night on that baby. Hmm... I’m sensing resistance. Well, if you don't like this, then you aren’t going to like what Obama just said.

Of course, none of us should be surprised that Obama would take this approach with us. This is the man who sees us as bitter clingers: "It's not surprising, then, that they get bitter and they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them." He also thought it was “stupid” to arrest a belligerent black man who appeared to be breaking into a residence. He called those of us who disagreed with him “enemies,” his minister damned our country, and his wife was proud of America for the first time only after it promoted her husband beyond his level of competence. Those aren’t coincidences.

One of liberalism’s many problems has been the perception by the public that liberals are arrogant and condescend to us hopelessly stupid and backward people. Indeed, one of the things Bill Clinton was notable for was his ability to relate to the public, something none of the pointy-headed wunderkinds and self-certified geniuses from the 1960s until 1992 could ever do. I guess Obama proves that Clinton was indeed an anomaly.

And as for Obama’s apology or statement that he understands us or whatever. . . forget it, non-apology not accepted.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Why Drug Legalization Does Not Equate To Freedom

Drug legalization is all the rage these days. Advocates of drug legalization say it would stop crime, give us smaller government, increase personal freedom, and increase tax revenues. But these arguments are seriously flawed. Moreover, the focus on the drug users’ personal freedom misses the point. Here’s why drug legalization is a bad thing.
The Case For Regulation
The case for regulating drugs (i.e. criminalizing their use outside of a controlled environment) is quite simple: societal harm.

When it comes to regulation, the government should not be in the business of protecting us from ourselves, nor should we accept semantic arguments that make self-destruction into a societal issue. But the government should be concerned about dangers that are posed to others. Indeed, when a person engages in activities that can hurt other members of the public, then some form of regulation is usually proper. For example, we regulate who can drive because a many-thousand pound vehicle can kill if it’s driven wrong. We regulate poisonous emissions from factories, so the plant won’t drop a poison gas cloud on a town. We regulate explosives, we regulate hazardous chemicals, and we regulate alcohol, all because these are dangerous to other members of the public, and there is little or no way for the public to protect themselves from those dangers if they are misused.

The same is true with drugs. When people take drugs, their mental state becomes impaired and they lack the restraint/ability to take the kinds of cautions that human beings normal undertake in their actions, and they lack the hand-eye coordination needed to safely engage in certain dangerous activities. This turns even ordinary activities into dangerous ones. Indeed, consider the bus driver who gets high and hits pedestrians, or the gas plant operator who gets high and explodes the plant.... there is simply no way for the public at large to be aware of these dangers or to protect themselves. Thus, regulation of some form is proper to prevent these people from injuring others.

So maybe you just criminalize the injury rather than the usage, right? Well, there are two problems with that. First, it’s small comfort for the victims when their injury could have been prevented. But more importantly, this will lead to massive economic waste. . . the other instance where regulation is proper.

Think again, about our discussion of privatizing all roads and the problems that would create. A similar problem exists with regard to drugs. If the government did not prohibit recreational drug use, the public would be forced to spend an inordinate amount of time and money protecting itself from the negative effects of drug use. Employers, for example, would face liability if their employees got high and crashed a train or a company car or erroneously prepared someone’s taxes. Thus, not prohibiting drug use would result in widespread drug testing of employees. Insurers would surely follow as no car insurer will want to insure a drug user. As will doctors, police, heavy equipment operators, anyone in a position of trust, and so on. Therefore, to allow a few people the freedom of getting high, the rest of society will have their privacy invaded by constant drug testing.

Moreover, the link between drugs and crime has been proven (DOJ estimates that 80% of crime is drug related, and around 40% of criminals report being high at the time of the crime). Combating the vandalism, the theft, the assaults, and other crimes that accompany drug use will require a massive increase in police forces and prisons, or the employment of private security, which means your taxes go up and your safety goes down.

Thus, regulation is proper in this instance.
The Problems With The Legalization Arguments
Now lets look at the arguments for legalization. The legalization arguments are essentially that legalizing drugs will reduce crime, will shrink the government, will increase tax revenues, and will increase personal freedom. None of these are true.

As an aside, to make these arguments more palatable, legalization advocates have focused solely on marijuana, which is not as dangerous on a personal level as “hard” drugs -- though a large number of legalization advocates will eventually admit under questioning that they believe all drugs should be legalized. Admittedly, there are obvious differences in the negative effects of marijuana and something like methamphetamines on the users, e.g. meth tends to destroy the body and the mind in short order, whereas the negative effects of marijuana are long term and not as severe. But in any event, this argument is a red herring because both drugs cause the mind-altering effects that I’ve identified as the basis for allowing regulation. In other words, marijuana may not be as bad as other drugs for the user, but the risks to third parties are the same, and it is only the effects on third parties that should matter when it comes to regulation.

1. Reduction In Crime: Advocates of legalization argue that legalization will decrease crime in two ways. Neither argument has merit.

First, they point to prohibition as an analogy, and they claim that we created the cartels by making drugs illegal (just as we arguably created the mafia by making alcohol illegal) and we could make them powerless again by making drugs legal. But the end of prohibition did not end the power of the mafia. Nor would legalization end the market for illegal drugs. Indeed, unless you accept total legalization, including allowing children to buy drugs, then there will continue to be a market for illegal drugs as there will continue to be people who cannot obtain them legally. Even then, high taxes encourage smuggling, as is the case with cigarettes today. Thus, just like the end of prohibition did not end the mafia, there is no reason to believe that legalization will end these cartels, especially as the drug market would become significantly larger (and therefore more profitable) if drugs became legal.

Further, just legalizing marijuana, as legalizers currently suggest, would achieve nothing. California legalizers argued that this alone would end the grip of the Mexican cartels. But a study by the Rand Corporation found that only 3% of Mexican drug cartel profits came from importing marijuana to California and that legalizing marijuana would have little effect on their profits. Indeed, if one examines this issue, you will find rather quickly that drugs are only one part of the cartels’ business -- the rest involves protection rackets, extortion, kidnapping, theft, counterfeiting legal drugs, and even exporting stolen oil to the United States. Legalizing drugs affects none of that.

Legalizers also claim that if drugs were cheaper, drug users would be less inclined to steal to support their habits. But as anyone involved with criminal law can tell you, these people do not steal to supplement their income, they steal because they have no income. . . they don’t work.

2. Shrink The Government: Legalization advocates say that legalization will lead to smaller government because there will be no need for drug interdiction. However, this argument is one-sided and simplistic. First, the end of prohibition didn’t result in an end to the FBI or the ATF. Secondly, to the extent you only legalize marijuana, nothing will change as interdiction will still be needed to stop other drugs. Third, unless the plan is total legalization (i.e. anyone can buy), other government agencies will need to be created to monitor the sale and distribution of drugs. There will also be increased policing required to deal with the increased crime. And there will be drug tests for all accidents and crimes to see if there should be a “while high” charge added -- unless you intend to simply ignore the drugs entirely. . . which would increase the risks to the public by letting drug users claim the accident was beyond their control.

Basically, legalization will not eliminate a single government agency or agent, while simultaneously increasing the scope and reach and intrusiveness of government into other areas of our lives.

3. Increased Tax Revenues: This argument too looks only at one side of the equation. Yes, if you tax drugs, you will get more revenues from that source. But at the same time, you will incur the costs of dealing with the increased drug use. That means lost worker productivity, increased crimes, increased hospitalization, long term health problems, etc. Moreover, this argument is intellectually dubious as this argument could just as easily justify legalizing murder, because we could tax each killing.

4. Increased Personal Freedom: Finally, many argue that legalization will increase personal freedom. But as explained above, it depends on whose freedom you are looking at. Yes, it increases the freedom of drug users, but it hurts everyone else’s freedom. It’s highly likely that the entire public will face invasive and expensive drug testing at every turn. It’s likely that we will be less safe as more addicts commit more crimes. It’s likely that we will be surrounded by more cops and more prisons to deal with those crimes. It’s likely that to regulate the distribution of these drugs, we will find ourselves facing more regimes like we have today, where you can’t even buy cold medicine without being put into a computer. That’s not an increase in personal freedom, that’s an increase in some people’s personal freedom while destroying the freedom of everyone else. It is akin to letting me build a radioactive sludge pit in the center of town. Yes, it increases my freedom, but it hurts everyone else around me.
The problem with the legalization arguments are that they look only at one side of the equation, i.e. what are the benefits to the drug user and what could happen if drugs weren’t a problem. But they are a problem, and there is another side of that equation.

This is a debate that gets lost in feelings. I feel drugs are bad. I feel drugs are not bad. You shouldn’t be able to tell me what I can do with my body. We shouldn’t let people hurt themselves. All of those arguments miss the point. The real issue here is that innocent people will be hurt and their freedoms destroyed if we go for legalization.

And that’s why Californians did the right thing.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Senate: A Republican Victory In Defeat?

It’s time for a small confession: I was hoping we would not capture the Senate. I wanted to see us get really close, like 49 to 51, but I did not want to cross that magic threshold to 50 votes in 2010. I wanted that to happen in 2012, when we could have made it closer to 60 to 40. Why you ask?

First of all, let me explain that this is not sour grapes. I have held this view from the beginning of the election season, though I haven't shared it here. Secondly, let me add that I rarely believe in winning through losing. There are some instances in our history where this has worked (cough cough John McCain cough cough), but it’s almost always best to win. Yet, this is one of those. Here’s why:

The Rational Public: The American public can be rather poor at understanding the things that don’t make sense. Or, said different, the American public is very practical and has little sympathy for excuses that are based on legalese or technicalities or things that don’t make common sense, i.e. the filibuster.

The filibuster is not something that makes sense in America-proper. For Americans, if you want something done, you do it; you don’t first seek the permission of a small minority who can hold you up at every turn. If a CEO wants to sell a plant, they do it. They don’t have to overcome a filibuster by their other officers. If parents want to move, they do it. They don’t have to overcome a filibuster by their kids. And so on.

But the Senate doesn’t work that way. With only a small majority in the Senate, the Republicans would have struggled to pass anything. The public would not have understood this, and would have turned on the Republicans for achieving nothing.

Moreover, the Democrats would have been insulated from the charge of being obstructionists because on bill after bill, eight or nine Democrats would have joined the Republicans, secure in the knowledge that their votes wouldn’t actually help the bill pass. This would have allowed the Democrats to continue to claim that they are an ideologically-broad party, i.e. a big tent, and that it’s the Republicans who are the extremists. Not to mention that those 8 or 9 would have been people like Ben Nelson who badly need to improve their conservative/independent “street cred” before their re-election campaigns in 2012.

At the same time, we would have been treated to the spectacle of RINOs fighting to create bills that might attract Democrats. Thus, as far as the public would have been concerned, the Republicans would have been to blame for doing nothing even though they held the majority, and they would have been accused of compromising their principles and having learned nothing from the election. At the same time, key Democrats could claim to be conservative/independents, even though it was all a smokescreen.

By not winning the Senate, all of that goes away. Now it will be up to the Democrats to create legislation, and they will be stuck with the obstructionist label from both sides as Obama demands they move left, which they cannot do because of the House and the filibuster, and the House demands they move right, which they cannot do because of Obama and their base. That is the worst of both worlds.

Obama’s Dilemma: With the Senate remaining in Democratic hands, Obama also faces a huge problem. Everyone is asking if he can now become like Bill Clinton and revive his dead presidency. He can’t.

Whereas Clinton lacked principles and only wanted to be loved, Obama thinks he is entitled to being seen as a genius and he has shown no flexibility in his personality or in his political career. Thus, barring something we haven’t seen, he lacks the personality traits that will let him make this kind of shift. The Democrats winning the Senate only makes this worse. Clinton had no choice but to move to the right after 1994 because Republicans held the legislature and the Democrats were demoralized. Attempting to stand in the Republicans’ way would have been pointless, so he let them have their way and he claimed credit for the most popular parts of the Republican agenda. Obama faces a different landscape: he still has power through the Senate and his people will expect him to use it. That means Obama cannot move to the right like Clinton did.

Nor can he talk to the right, but stay to the left to satisfy his base. If he talks to the right, the House will call his bluff and send a bill to the Senate that includes everything he says he wants. The Senate could kill it, but that would mean standing in the way of the things Obama claims he wants. That risks alienating both sides and the public at large.

Thus, Obama must continue to talk to the left and act to the left, and that means the Senate must grind everything to a halt for the next two years. But that is really bad politics. At a time when the public wants “something” done about the bad economy, grinding everything to a halt will be a really hard sell with the public. Moreover, this won’t inspire his base because they will still wonder why the President and the Senate can’t deliver on their pet peeves. . . . “can’t you just jam gay rights into the budget bill?”

Had the Republicans won the Senate, this math would be very different. Obama could have jumped far left to please his base and vetoed everything, or he could have moved to the right to please the public. Either choice would have been better than where he is right now -- stuck in no man’s land clinging to rhetoric no one believes and policies no one likes.

That’s why I think we won by losing in this instance. What do you think?

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election 2010: Winner and Losers

I am disappointed, I admit it. I am disappointed in several things. I’m disappointed in the Republicans. I’m disappointed in certain segments of the public. But, despite my disappointment, I am also excited. Yesterday’s election was historic. And while it showed us the problems we will continue to face, it also gave us a hint of the future. Let’s look at the winners and losers.


The Republicans: The Republicans won an historic victory. Consider this:
● The Republicans gained 60+ House seats, with 11 undecided. This is the largest repudiation of a sitting party since 1932 and is bigger than 1994.

● The Republicans gained 6 Senate seats (including Obama's seat), with 3 undecided. And this election was fought in mainly deep blue states; 2012 will be different.

● The Republicans now hold 29 governorships, with 1 more leaning toward the Republican column. These governorships control around 70% of the House seats that will be redistricted in the next year -- they also hold most of the key states that are gaining or losing seats.

● The Republicans flipped at least 17 legislative chambers and now control both chambers in at least 31 states, including large states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina (the first time since 1889). They even won veto proof majorities in New Hampshire.

● See the map above, the Democrats have been pushed back to the coasts and the big cities -- and it’s even worse on a county by county basis. They are again a special interest party rather than a party of general popular appeal.
The United States: We have stopped Obama’s agenda.

The Tea Party: Sure, they chose some bad candidates (O’Donnell) and they couldn’t win some elections they probably should have won (Alaska/Nevada/Colorado), but the scale of what they achieved is still monumental. They defeated several RINOs, they won some seats, and they changed the way the Republican Party thinks. I actually believe John Boehner when he talks about integrating their ideas into the party. They might even have a future President in their ranks in Rubio. And I’ve seen evidence that Tea Party people learn quickly from their mistakes. Look for more genuine Tea Party people in the future, like the new governor of Michigan, and fewer celebrity-wanna-bes riding the Tea Party label like O’Donnell.

Sanity: California, which is synonymous with drugs and stupidity, shot down the marijuana petition. It didn’t just lose, it got blasted. This is a huge blow to the pot industry and a great moment for sanity and small government in America (I’ll explain this in an article Monday morning).

The Republicans II: By not winning the Senate, the Republicans escaped a trap. The public wants results and the public has shown over and over that they will not excuse failure just because of the filibuster. Thus, had the Republicans won a majority, they would have been blamed for not achieving anything, even if they couldn't have achieved anything.


Obama: This election was a total repudiation of everything Obama. That was the singular message last night. If he campaigned for you, you lost. If you voted for his agenda, you lost. His entire agenda is now D.O.A., and the Republicans are likely to kill off the parts that escaped the asylum.

The Republicans: The Republicans left a lot on the table. For a long time, I have been pounding the drum that the Republicans need to offer the public something to vote for. They could have won 100+ seats if they had offered an inspiring vision rather than just “we’re not them.” This also would have helped them in the Senate where they fell apart when they let the Democrats make these into races about individual candidates. . . because there was no unifying vision to override the personalities.

Sarah Palin: Palin’s endorsement turned out to be death for many candidates, particularly the “Mama Grizzlies” and Joe Miller in Alaska.

The Democrats: The Democrats got just enough aid and comfort from the Senate results that they will see this as an affirmation they should move further left. And since there are no more moderates (25 of 29 House moderates are gone), they are likely to chart that course. That’s very bad for them.

Obama II: By the Republicans not taking the Senate, Obama is denied the one thing that could have saved him without changing his agenda -- the chance to blame the Republicans for stopping him. With Republicans controlling the House schedule entirely, they can control what goes to the Senate, where the Democrats will try to stop everything. That puts the Democrats in the role of obstructionists, and puts Obama in the awkward position of having to attack as “obstructionists” the very people (the Senate) who are stopping the Republicans from undoing his agenda. He also can't talk to the right (by saying he favors right-leaning things) while acting to the left, because the House will call his bluff and the Senate would be forced to follow his lead. He would have been better off with a clear enemy.

Our Electoral System: There is a strong whiff of electoral fraud in this country, and it all leans toward Democratic districts and states. Until this gets cleaned up, our election system will continue to be suspect.

MSNBC: MSNBC faces a huge cleaning bill today as they try to clean up all the exploded heads.

Women: Apparently, liberal states don’t like women. . . Whitman, Fiorina, O’Donnell, Angle, McMahon, Lincoln, and possibly Murray.

The United States: It is obvious that we have certain states that are a problem. These states do not vote according to national interest, or ideology, or even rationality: they vote for the person they think will give them the most benefits from the federal treasury. And this isn’t just blue states. Alaska is largely a ward of the federal government and they kept right on voting for the candidate who can bring home the most goodies, as did West Virginia and Nevada and New York.

Colorado: F#$%# you, Colorado.

California: LOL! Next stop Evencrazierville. . . population: you.

In the end, I think this election protends an end of the Obama agenda and the end of business as usual. The nation is about to get a lot more partisan, with the center all but disappearing. But that's a good thing because elections should be about choices, not about picking between two brands of the same oatmeal. Redistricting will be huge for the Republicans and could result in a significant advantage for years to come in the House. Also, the shift in the electoral map will hurt Democrats a lot in Presidential elections. The problem, however, remains getting the Republicans to offer an inspiring agenda that can translate into state-wide wins in welfare states. That's the key: break the cycle of dependency and reintroduce these states to conservative values like self-reliance, living within your means, and capitalism. Letting California go broke and cutting the spigot in places like West Virginia and Alaska would be a good start; go cold-turkey on these fools. Nevada and Colorado also showed that Republicans need to start making gains with Hispanics and they need to finally break the unions.

The next few years will be ugly, but 2012 could be a lot brighter. That could be the year we finish what started last night.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Your Election Playbook

Tomorrow nears, and with it comes the beginning of the end for the Pelosi/Obama/Reid nightmare. We will be covering the election at Commentarama and you should check in all day. Our plan is to provide you with updates on the significant races as they come in and keep a running total on who will control Congress. While we do that, we hope that each of you will post anything you hear locally (or just post your thoughts. . . but keep it clean). In the meantime, here is your playbook for tomorrow.

Let’s start with some numbers:
• The Democrats hold 59 Senate seats (including two fellow travelers); the Republicans hold the other 41. Of those, 19 Democratic seats and 18 Republican seats are up for grabs. The Republicans need 10 seats to win the majority. Most polling projections have them picking up between 9 and 11 seats.

• The Democrats hold 255 House seats, the Republicans hold 218, and two are vacant. All 435 seats are up for grabs. The Republicans need 40 seats to get the majority. Most polling projections have them gaining 60 seats.

• The Democrats hold 26 governorships and the Republicans hold 24. Thirty-seven governorships are up for grabs, 19 of those belong to Democrats and 18 belong to the Republicans. Projections have the Republicans picking up 11, but losing 5, for a net gain of 6 seats.

• Forty-six states are holding legislative elections (currently, 27 are controlled by Democrats, 14 by Republicans, 8 are divided and 1 is nonpartisan). And there are 167 ballot initiatives in 37 states, including legalizing pot in California, "medical" pot in Arizona and South Dakota, and defining life in Colorado as the beginning of “biological development.” Several states are also looking to ban ObamaCare (Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma). And there are attempts in California and Florida to rig the election system.
Aside from the polls themselves, a good deal of evidence suggests that things are going the Republican way. For example, consider these:
• Democrats who’ve never had to defend themselves before (like Barney Frank) are having to put up defenses. And money is pouring into races that seemed safe for the Democrats at the beginning of the year.

• The Democrats are blaming “secret money” for their "loss." Their use of the past tense to describe an election that hasn't happened yet tells us that their internal data show a disaster pending.

• The media also believe it’s over, as evidenced by their running stories telling us that the public wants bipartisanship and is sick of partisan rancor. This is the same media that until last week was writing articles chastising the Democrats for not murdering Republicans in their sleep. They’ve also started running fantasy articles speculating that maybe. . . just maybe. . . the military might vote Democratic for the first time since World War II because they are “tired of war” (you figure that one out), that blacks are more energized than they were in 2008, and that the same college kids who no longer turn out for an Obama rally will suddenly turn out and “make the difference.”

• Democrats are stating off-the-record that Nancy Pelosi plans to quit when they lose. Apparently, another 27 Democrats are making similar noises. Could you imagine a 90 seat sweep, followed by the retirement of another 27 prominent old-time Democrats?

• The recent surge in momentum for the Democrats in the polls has stopped and is now going the other way. The Republicans lead the generic ballot by 9% among voters, 14% among unaffiliated voters, and 18% among those most likely to vote. These numbers indicate that more than 100 seats could swing Republican.

• Early voting in most states (except Nevada) has shown a heavy Republican bias. For example, in Florida, with 1/3 of the total vote already cast, 50% of the ballots have been cast by registered Republicans, and only 35% have been cast by registered Democrats. This is more than the reverse of the prior two elections, when Democrats led early turn out by 46% to 37% (2008) and 44% to 41% (2006). Experts think this translates into a 5%-10% enthusiasm boost for the Republicans, which would devastate the Florida Democratic Party.

• "Crazy", "extremist" Sharon Angle (who has been more than a match for professional politician Harry Reid) now leads Reid by 4% and growing. And Chuck Schumer is talking about getting Reid's job.
Finally, let me finish by telling you that we are ready to call a race....... with 0% reporting, we are calling North Dakota for Republican Governor John Hoeven over Democrat Tracy Potter for a Republican pick up!

Tune in tomorrow!

(P.S. Make any last minute predictions below....)

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