Sunday, May 31, 2009

Malkin's - great name and great logo:

Oh, and Malkin's watchdog site, unlike the Biden version, has been up from day one.

Google's Next Wave

TechCrunch says Google wave drips with ambition:

Wave was born out of the idea that email and instant messaging, as successful as they still are, were both created a very long time ago. We now have a much more robust web full of content and brimming with a desire to share stuff. Or as Lars Rasumussen put it, “Wave is what email would look like if it were invented today.”

Having seen a lengthy demonstration, as ridiculous as it may sound, I have to agree. Wave offers a very sleek and easy way to navigate and participate in communication on the web that makes both email and instant messaging look stale.
At first glance, the move to shared accecible information waves reminded me of Gelertner's Streams idea. but like real good ideas, it sounds practical enough to get adopted and just revolutionary enough to be worth the leap. It's not out yet (this was a Google IO show preview), but I look forward to riding the Google wave.

Rebuilding the GOP: the Committeeman Project

This handy checklist for those complaining about RINOs in the GOP led me to the
The Committeeman Project. Building on Ken Blackwell's RNC Resurgence Plan, it's a plan to rebuild the Republican from the grassroots precinct-level up"

The Committeeman Project has two parts;

  1. Recruitment: Some questions need to be answered first.
    How many precincts/county/state? e.g. PA|Knox County (451).
    How many precincts have currently serving precinct committeemen? Which ones are vacant?
    How does one set about becoming a precinct committeeman in a particular county/district?
    … etc.
  2. Applications Development: I must first of all note that Ron Robinson and his GOPguerrillas Ning group are doing yeoman’s work in getting a GOP activist ActionCenter up and running in time for 2010. My thinking is exactly along those lines. As mentioned above, the endpoint of the Committeeman Project is to have every single one of the GOP’s Committeemen, their network of volunteers and activists interconnected at the precinct, township, county, up to the state and national level. To that effect, all Precinct Committeemen would be expected to run websites loaded with locale-conscious (i.e. using ZIP code) “GOPgets” for canvassing, volunteer recruiting, GOTV, events organization, multimedia, etc. For example;
    • Events Calendar
    • Multimedia (i.e. YouTube, LiveLeak) Channels
    • My Representatives
    • Candidates/Issues
    • Donate/Contribute
    • Volunteer
    • … etc.

State Senator Ogden may take on Chet Edwards

Eye on Williamson says Ogden is not running for re-election for State Senate, and it further states: "We’re also hearing that state Rep. Dan Gattis, Jr. (R-Georgetown) is the hand-picked successor for the Republican nomination to replace him in 2010."

Where will Senator Ogden go? An article in early May on challengers to Chet Edwards gives a hint:

Some Republicans speculate that state Sen. Steve Ogden has higher office aspirations, while his colleague, Sen. Kip Averitt, denied that he will join the fray.

Liberal Chet Edwards will run from his record, but sooner or later it will catch up to him.

TxDOT bill HB300 strips local-gas tax, but ...

The TxDOT sunset measure stripped the local-option gas tax, but ... State Senator Corona will now filibuster HB300!

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, ran into opposition for his local-option gas tax and it got stripped in conference committee from House Bill 300, the Texas Department of Transportation Sunset measure.

In response, Carona has announced he'll filibuster the bill and sink it altogether.

Kristi Thibaut, ACORN Activist

A factoid via Texas observer and Rep Thibaut, freshman state rep from Houston area:

After she lost her first campaign for a House seat from Houston in 2006, Kristi Thibaut showed up in Austin anyway. What she encountered, as she lobbied unsuccessfully for lower utility rates with fellow ACORN activists, was almost enough to make her wonder why she'd wanted that seat in the first place.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

2012 will be the Big Enchilada Election

Looking to 2012 for the GOP comeback. 23 Senate Dems, the Presidency and new Congressional districts. 2012 is looking to be the big enchilada, the Mother of All Election Battles.

Fox Austin Proves It Doesn’t Understand News about Guns

A couple of weeks ago Fox Austin TV reporter Keri Bellacosa and her producer colleagues slapped together a rambling four minute ‘news’ story on guns sales, legislative iniatives and the viewpoints of the central Texas chapter of the “Brady Bill Campaign,” advocates for tougher gun purchase laws. You can see the story here.

Describing the story as “rambling” is generous. Describing it as "news" is outright charity.

There’s really no focus on any one news issue here, other than rehash of the anti-gun lobby’s ongoing propaganda platform that guns are too easy to get and are dangerous in the hands of the unwashed masses.

The reporter goes to gun stores and gun shows and asks people about their appetites for gun purchases. The reporter interviews gun store owners and gun show operators about how easy it is to get guns. Yes, it’s ‘easy’ if you consider ‘easy’ being going through a 30-45 minute process of filling out forms in order to undergo background checks with the ATF at the time of purchase.

To balance the story, Bellacosa interviews one so-called expert, the Brady Campaign president, who obligingly opines, without being asked for proof, that big gun manufacturers are the one’s to blame as they buy off the legislators who would otherwise enact more sensible – to liberals – gun control legislation. He also pulls out a number of gun-caused deaths that doesn’t jive with crime stats, but there’s no challenge to his stats. His are the only stats presented, even though they may be wrong. There’s no balancing expert to the Brady campaign president’s viewpoint. Does the NRA have a chapter here? Probably. (NRA = National Rifle Association. That's for Keri and her producers, in case they ever do a vanity search and pull up this blog, if they know how to use Google. I don't think they do, as evidenced in following paragraphs.)

Back to the point. The story seems to throw about five issues together in a headline “Rules Allow Many to Buy Guns.” No kidding. Most people qualify to buy guns. They are not felons. They are exercising their 2nd amendment right. Where’s the news? What’s the issue?

In fact, there is no news. Guns are reasonably easy to get and the news should be that that has been good for Texas and every day Texans.

Stay with me here. Let’s step out of the fear mode that airheaded reporters and their Nation-reading producers like to engender and identify some facts. Now, I realize that TV news isn’t really serious news and there’s no way that Keri Bellacosa could be expected to delve into any hard fact statistics and seek to present those facts in a responsible way to the general public. I’m not that unrealistic. But maybe TV news in Austin should come with a Surgeon's General warning that what you're about to see doesn't really reflect much of reality.

Generous person that I am, let me help the Austin Fox News folks with some topics for real news coverage they could engage in regarding guns and gun sales:

  • Gun and ammunition sales have been going gangbusters since late last year when Barack Obama and his bunch of ‘we never met a bad gun control law” Democrat buddies came to power in Washington. The Wall Street Journal made this a front page story a few weeks back. People fear a big government that’s hostile to their 2nd amendment rights and they are stockpiling weapons and ammo while they can. Maybe reporters can ask people about why they fear big government’s likely gun grab and why they’re stockpiling. The reporters might actually serve a wide audience of people a little bit and tell us when more ammo is going to get back on the shelves at reasonable prices. Wait. That would come with hell freezing over. Never mind.
  • The Texas legislature, run by Republicans (ostensibly), is seeking to continue a 14-year trend of empowering law abiding Texas citizens with Castle and concealed carry laws. Currently, legislators are concerned about innocent university students and their vulnerability to wacked out mental cases (like Columbine and Virginia Tech), and they are considering expanding right to carry laws on college campuses. Will Republicans succeed in giving their constituencies the rights allowed them with the 2nd amendment, particularly their fundamental human right to protect themselves from bodily assault in an educational setting?
  • A quick Google search for “crime statistics for Texas” pulled up the 2007 Crime in Texas report compiled by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Guess what? Violent crime offenses have maintained a mostly steady rate for the years 2003-2007, and decreased from a high point in 2002. The 2007 stats showed a 1.2 percent decrease from 2006 (see page 4). The stats don’t define the role of guns in those violent crimes, but maybe a good reporter could ask what role concealed handguns have played in persuading bad guys from wreaking more havoc on innocent law abiding citizens? Will Texas see even fewer gun related murders as Texas expands Castle and carry laws? And even more importantly, will TV news reporters and their producers ever learn that there is this nifty ‘search engine’ thing called “” where they can quickly get information on issues they’re reporting on? As mentioned previously, I'd guess Google is used more for vanity searches than expanding their insular view of issues.
  • A chart on page 7 of the 2007 Crime in Texas report shows that murders have decreased from 2,149 in 1993 to 1,415 in 2007, despite the state’s adding 5.87 million people or 20 percent in that same span. If gun sales are on the rise, and legislators are enabling more 2nd amendment rights, and guns are bad, shouldn’t the opposite occur? Shouldn't the news be that gun-related murders and accidental gun killing are on the rise? The reporter lets the Brady campaign people insinuate that in their comments, but even the stats spewed by that activist seem skewed. Again, news reporters should review the last sentence in the previous bullet point about this nifty thing called where they could check facts.
  • In addition, the chart on page 7 of the Crime in Texas report shows reductions of volume and rate of every category of crime as well since 1993, when the population exploded 20 percent. What role did the increase of a legally armed citizenry play in that decline since 1993? Maybe the reporter would look at the growing numbers of people who pass training courses to acquire their concealed handgun licenses? Again, probably too much to ask.
  • An intrepid reporter might also note from page 7 of the report that murder rates continue to fall in Texas, from 11.9 rate to 5.9 rate in 2007. That’s half. Hmmm… would it be too much to infer from these stats that more good citizen-friendly gun laws contribute to a higher rate of safety, lower rates of murder? The notes on page 15 of the report indicate that "Firearms were used in 68 percent of all murders reported [in 2007]. All other weapons made up the remaining 32 percent." So of the 1,415 murders in 2007, 962 were gun-related. A more complete report might examine previous year's gun-related stats and see whether they are on the rise or fall. I guess the key word is "intrepid", a characteristic in short supply at Fox Austin.

To think that I pulled up all that data in about 10 seconds and came up with six decent stories that align with reality – instead of the Brady campaign president’s skewed views of guns’ role in society – demonstrates a certain fear-mongering depravity with little basis in fact in the reporting we’re seeing from the folks at Fox.

I’m available – for a price – to advise the local Fox folks whenever they really want to get fair and balanced.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sotomayor Sotto Voce

A roundup of links on the Sotomayor nomination:
No Patty-cake please says Quin Hillyer. Good advice.
Antler: Running on Empathy
"Terror on the bench"
Redstate: A line in the sand
Sotomayor would let felons vote

Wendy Long sums the nub of the issue - judicial activist Obama nominated a judicial activist clone in Sotomayor:

But what needs deeper examination, because it is very troubling, is her overarching judicial philosophy – one that, judging from her public remarks and law review articles, she has thought about seriously and embraced only after much reflection. It’s the judicial philosophy shared by President Obama – a philosophy with which most Americans, who support judicial restraint, vehemently disagree.
Buchanan calls her "lightweight" and says: Abjure the vicious tactics Democrats used on Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito. Lay out the lady's record. And let America get a close look at the kind of justice Barack Obama believes in.

Cornyn gets chumped by DCCC, and loses the freepers. As Quin Hillyer puts it: "man up" Republicans. If you get flak, it means you are over the target.

Worth Reading: Who IS Spengler?

Who is Spengler? A Cassandra at the vortex of our global civilizational challenges who asserts a number scandalous theses ; a brilliant and incisive read; an anonymous columnist at Asia Times Online ... and now an editor at First Things. I've enjoyed "Spengler" and now can appreciate all the more Mr Goldman's insights.

Worth Reading: R S McCain

R S McCain: What DealerGate Says About the Conservative 'Message' Problem is not just another "fire the marketing Dept" lament, but a another gobsmackingly brilliant R S McCain salvo. Fire the GOP marketing department ... and give the contract to him.
Just in time for another suspicously corrupt-seeming Obama administration decision that the MSM won't cover ... " “You are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker."

Selfish Reason the Democrats Killed the Session

Why on earth would the Democrats kill hundreds of bills all to kill one bill, that merely required reliable ID from voters when they came to vote? Why such an absurd and over-the-top hyper-over-reaction?

The selfish reason comes from Texas Insider:

And then, over the weekend, a little noticed comment from Texas Monthly’s own Paul Burka, who commented on why Texas Democrats undertook their 5-day filibuster to kill the Republican-backed Voter ID measure:

“In a phone interview earlier today (Saturday), Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) told me that the Carter-Baker commission testified that the Voter I.D. Bill would result in 150,000 voters being disenfranchised statewide. That is an average of 1,000 per legislative district. If this average held true, based on the electoral numbers, Democrats would lose 7 seats in the House.”

No interest is stronger than self-interest. At least for Democrats. Why haven't the Republicans pushed harder and held together better on this? A commenter on TexasInsider makes a brilliant point:
As is the case with national issues and campaigns, the media control the level of information which most voters have. If the media do not report that a 5 day filibuster occurred, it never happened as far as John Q Public knows. I don’t know why the Senate members decided to cover for the House. Nor do I know why the House Republicrats decided to provide cover for the Dems. If nothing further had been done to pass all these bills, would the Dems have been blamed, or would the media have placed the blame on the Repubs for failing to help the Dems out of the hole they dug?
Update: From Rep Ken Paxton "Capitol Steps", some of the collateral damage from the Democrats obstructionist 5-day Voter ID bill filibuster:
Unfortunately, a number of important bills were not brought to the House floor in time for us to consider and vote upon because some members of the Legislature purposefully exploited parliamentary procedures to stall one piece of legislation - the Voter ID bill. The stalling tactics by these members led to the killing of hundreds of other bills, which I believe is a disservice to Texans. Some of the bills affected by their stalling tactics are as follows:
· An eminent domain bill limiting the authority of government to seize a person’s home or land (SB 18);
· Health insurance coverage for children (SB 66);
· An air quality improvement bill (SB 16);
· A bill to encourage the use of solar energy devices (SB 545);
· A bill affording greater protections for abused children (SB 786 and SB 1877);
· A bill increasing services for children with autism (SB 1217); and
· A bill relating to the prevention, investigation, prosecution and punishment for gang-related activities (SB 11).
Rep Jackson has more collateral damage to report:

In fact, two bills I sponsored that would have made employment of children in sex clubs a public nuisance and increase the criminal penalty for repeat offense of such employment, died on the calendar. Other bills killed due to parliamentary delay would have given us:

* Cleaner air
* Insurance reform
* Property rights
* Better domestic violence prevention
* Many children’s services, including services for children with autism spectrum disorder, and
* Children’s health programs as well as many other issues.

UPDATE 2: Will Lutz on the non-action in the Texas lege.

National Sales Tax a Big Dud

Huge Opposition to a national sales tax to raise revenue:

  • Just 18% of Americans nationwide favor a national sales tax ... 68% oppose such a tax.
  • if sales tax revenue is used to provide health insurance for all Americans... 40% favor a national sales tax and 49% are opposed. Democrats strongly support a national sales tax to provide universal health insurance coverage. Republicans are opposed by a three-to-one margin, and those not affiliated with either major party are opposed two-to-one.
  • A plurality of Americans would support a national sales tax if it meant getting rid of the federal income tax: 43% favor that trade-off, but 38% are opposed. Pluralities of Republicans and unaffiliateds like the idea, while a plurality of Democrats are against it.
  • Forty-eight percent (48%) say a national sales tax is fairer than an income tax while 26% hold the opposite view. The sales tax is viewed as fairer by 52% of Republicans, 44% of Democrats and 49% of unaffiliateds.
The upshot: Even though most people think a sales tax is fairer, in fact there is not enough consensus to add it. There is not enough support to make it replace the income tax, which would require a Constitutional Amendment, so that leaves FairTax in a limbo state.

People might see a good use for national sales tax ('free medicine!' Abolish the IRS!) but are rightly distrustful of politicians, so they will see it as just another tax. And why not? Politicians are crap-weasels and this tax is guaranteed to be an additional tax, nothing more nor less.

Technology diffussion is accelerating

Interesting article on accelerating technology diffusion rates.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gun Owner Defends SA Pharmacy

Concealed carry strikes once again! Law-abiding tax-paying business owners using gun leads to the killing of an armed robber during a pharmacy holdup:

The stranger who had been loitering in the parking lot had walked into the pharmacy carrying a black revolver and a note demanding the narcotic drug OxyContin and some money, according to authorities.

Once inside, the gunman handed the note to a clerk behind the counter, Police Chief William McManus said. The clerk was one of three people inside the pharmacy at the time of the robbery attempt. The others were the pharmacy owner, 62-year-old Bill Wynn, and his wife.

The details about what happened next are unclear, but McManus said the clerk was able to inform the pharmacy owner of the attempted robbery. Wynn, who had been robbed before, somehow managed to arm himself with a gun.

That's when McManus said the robber uttered his last words: “Let's get it on.”

Police said Wynn reacted quickly, shooting the gunman in the chest.

“I was scared to death,” Wynn later said, declining to comment further.

Police arrived to find the gunman, whose identity wasn't released Wednesday, lying on his back in a pool of blood. In his right hand was a cocked revolver.

McManus said Wynn wouldn't face any charges in connection with the shooting. “He was in fear (for) his life,” the chief said. “He has a right and state law allows him to defend himself.”

Would-be robbers take note:

Wynn's wife said it's not uncommon for pharmacists to keep guns.

“A lot of pharmacies do, but we carry one because we have been robbed before,” she said without elaborating.

One of their employees, Maria Martinez, said it's been years since the pharmacy last was robbed.

And I think the pharmacy will remain quite safe for years to come.

Texas Senate cuts business tax

Texas Senate cuts business tax. It would exempt businesses earning up to $1 million a year. After two years the tax exemption will be permanent for small businesses earning up to $600,000 annually, which is double the current $300,000 exemption.

"This is a major tax cut that's good for small business and the workers of Texas," - Senator Dan Patrick.

While this is a good start, they should have made the full $1 million sales level a permanent exemption. Something for tax cutters to run on next year, I suppose.

Meanwhile, the gas-tax hikers make their case.

Texas Senate Democrats block McLeroy for SBOE Chairman

Democrats Block McLeroy. The vote was 19-11 on a party-line vote; McLeroy required 2/3rds or 21 votes to be confirmed. The Democrats blocked Dr McLeroy because his Christian beliefs and his actions over science standards had aroused opposition from liberal interest groups, including Planned Parenthood, who testified against McLeroy during his rocky reception at Texas Senate hearings.

Free Market Foundation (FMF) Director of Legislative Affairs and Attorney Jonathan Saenz released the following statement: “Some Senators have made it clear that the N.Y. Times, religious beliefs, and party affiliation are in control of deciding who serves as SBOE chairman. The message has been sent — if you have sincere religious beliefs, you need not apply to be chair of the State Board of Education.”
Sen Kirk Watson had an interesting quote: “He has enthusiastically embraced his role in the endless cultural wars,” ... Really? What about the other side of the battlefield? Did not Sen Kirk Watson enthusiastically embrace his role as a warrior on the other side by questioning Dr McLeroy's capability and voting him out as SBOE Chairman?

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said “The state board has become increasingly divided and deeply dysfunctional and almost paralyzed to action at certain times,” . ... Really? As with Sen Watson's quote on 'cultural wars', it takes two to tango. If SBOE is 'paralyzed' then why are there efforts to reduce SBOE power instead of maintain and increase it? McLeroy’s leadership was shown when he led the board to the nearly unanimous vote of 13-2 on the new science standards to continue to allow discussion and debate on critical science issues, including evolution. Some amendments had votes of 8-7. (Do we call the Supreme Court or the Texas Senate paralyzed because the body isn't always unanimous? Should House Speaker Strauss be fired because Dunham D's blew up and paralyzed the House this week?)

Maybe SBOE got divided because the people are divided on this issue and various interest groups are as well. Creationists want a chance to not have kids taught that evolution is the one and only truth of the matter; evolutionists don't want science and 'pseudo-science' mixed. The news headlines that came out of that new science standard was: Teaching evolution now protected. It's a decent compromise that takes keeps evolution in textbooks, does not force 'weaknesses' of evolution to be taught, but encourages examining scientific theories via critical thinking:

“The requirement that students examine, ‘analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations' and examine all sides of scientific evidence is the strongest critical thinking standard in any state science standards,” said Casey Luskin, a lawyer for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute ... Texans Citizens for Science President Steven Schafersman said “I think the science standards will be OK. Frankly, the publishers and the authors of the textbooks will be able to use this standard and write good textbooks,”
So surely this is not a reaction to the (reasonable science) standards that were produced by the SBOE. What then? Blaming Dr McLeroy for the 'cultural wars' that are engaged by the partisans already, then dumping on him because people are divided on issues is the height of irony. It's real simple: The Texas Senate Democrats dumped on Christian conservative Dr McLeroy not for being ineffective, but for working for things that ticked off the liberal interest groups that opposed him all along. One can replace "SBOE" for "Dr McLeroy" and the truth is the same. Now why can't Sen Kirk Watson admit that?

Austin City's Energy Audits & White Roofs

From the City of Austin's Dept of Finding-Ways-to-Make-your-Life-More-Expensive and the Green Mafia: As of June 1st, City of Austin requires Energy Audits when you sell your home.

City of Austin also now requires white roofs for commercial buildings. It may be a good idea for saving money on energy bills to have white roofs that will be cooler in Austin's summer, but I grate at the eco-nanny-statism involved. If it makes economic sense, people will do it naturally. Energy Audits don't require anything yet, but someday they will.

Further, the eco-idealists never seem to know where to stop. In this article, Obama Energy Dept head Professor Steven Chu says "paint the world white to fight global warming". He wants to color not just roofs but also roads to reduce global albedo. It's a nutty idea to think that 0.00001% of our earth surface being a lighter color will do any good or make any change. And what about in northern climes where darker roofs save on heating?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Job Losses Mount

16,000 Jobs Lost Each Day Since ‘Stimulus’ Became Law.

Jeb Bush endorses Marco Rubio

And Mike Huckabee has endorsed Rubio as well. His opponent, Gov Crist, is a pro-stimulus bill Republican Governor.

Texas Lege Update

Here's the visual:

The House Democrats didn't like Voter ID so badly, they killed a slew of other legislation in the process through "chubbing", a form of filibuster. The (led by Jim Dunham) Dunham D's have now revived the tradition of the "Ardmore Chicken D's" (heck, they are mostly the same people) of stubbornly refusing to let anything get done, since getting something done would actually mean the center-right majority in Texas would get their way.

Aside from being a partisan let-down from the Strausian 'run-to-the-center', the Dunham D's ended up creating lots of collateral damage. All to kill Voter ID. (70% of Texans support voter ID.)

At Burka Blog, Patricia Hart is upset that CHIP fell in the 'genocidal slaughter':

If CHIP dies, there’s plenty of blame to go around for killing the best opportunity in years to do something about Texas’ uninsured. ... As for the House Democrats, they chose badly when they decided blocking Voter ID was more important than CHIP, insurance reform, needle exchange, renewable energy incentives, and on and on.

Michael Sullivan tweaks her allegiance to liberal ideas:
"Patricia Kilday Hart unabashedly advocates for the expansion of the “Children’s Health Insurance Program” and other left-leaning causes, then suggested supporting such measures would get lawmakers on the ten-best list."

She replies:
"I mean that these ideas are important to Democrats and they blew it by not taking their successes this session across the finish line. ... Nowhere do I say that it was a good idea to do what the House Democrats did."

That last item I can agree with. We missed opportunities for good bills. On the other hand, a do-nothing lege will at least have done no harm, hippocratic oath-wise.

Green Hype Ride and the Goodes

Deflating the green bubble notes questioning of eco-assumptions. The Green Hype Ride is hitting a speed bump with satirical Mike Judge's The Goodes, a series which lampoons self-important greenies.

Theory of Socialist Evolution

Protein Wisdom calls it "diagramming fail". From Dr Sanity, this picture-worth-a-thousand-words is a roadmap to the roots of modern leftism and political correctness. Comment: "Not pictured in chart: eighty million corpses"

STEWARD fights Obama's Wasteful Spending

STEWARD stands for Save The Economy Without Accumulating Record Debt. STEWARD is a grassroots organization out of new Hampshire formed to fight Obama's boondoggle stimulus spending bill. This watchdog group has the following goals:

STEWARD seeks to hold the politicians and all government spending programs accountable to three benchmarks. First, we insist on absolute transparency. Second, taxpayer money should be spent wisely, with no waste and no pork. Third, all government spending decisions should be geared toward promoting economic growth.
They started with an anti-bailout message, and they are now going after a pro-stimulus New Hampshire Democrat Congressman. People are starting to look at the stimulus and asking: "Is the Stimulus Working?" This group is asking the right questions and demanding debate on this important question now.

Chrysler Dealership closings - hidden agenda?

There is evidence that there was a political bias in closing of Chyrsler dealerships.

many of the Chrysler dealers on the closing list were heavy Republican donors.
Furthermore, Chrysler Dealer closings were directed by Federal officials and will end up helping a group politically connected to Democrats and Obama:
"It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom of terminating 25 percent of its dealers," Bellavia said. "It really wasn't Chrysler's decision. They are under enormous pressure from the President's automotive task force." ...
a politically connected group of Democrats who own six Chrysler dealerships not only were allowed to keep them, but their competition was deep sixed. ... The company is called RLJ-McLarty-Landers, and it operates six Chrysler dealerships throughout the South. All six dealerships are safe from closing.
Redstate calls it an enemies list. To understand what is amiss with these closings, consider this plea from a Dodge dealer:
"On Thursday, May 14, 2009 I was notified that my Dodge franchise, that we purchased, will be taken away from my family on June 9, 2009 without compensation and given to another dealer at no cost to them. ... This atrocity will most likely force my family into bankruptcy. This will also cause our 50+ employees to be unemployed. How will they provide for their families?"
My verdict: Smoke and a 'hmmm', but no fire here. It could just be typical Governmental blundering and destruction of wealth and not a specific "Chicago way" style politicized payback.

UPDATE: This story is creeping out of Right-wing bloggerdom into some MSM blogs like Megan McArdle. Rick Moran waxes eloquent in the comments: "Those who believe Obama craps marigolds will never believe anything - no matter what the proof - that would upset their image of the messiah."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Obama Nominates Judge Sotomayor for SCOTUS

Obama's SCOTUS nomination is a Hispanic pick, a liberal who won't shift court balance as one court liberal (Souter) is replaced by another.

The New Republic shared concerns about Sotomayor pre-nomination - "not that smart":

The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was "not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench," as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. "She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren't penetrating and don't get to the heart of the issue."
TNR's Rosen is now in damage control on that article, saying he supports Sotomayor's confirmation.

LA Times on Sotomayer's "Courts make policy", she was joking. Patterico commenter has this to add:
As a district court judge, she had a habit of apologizing to criminals during sentencing, telling one drug dealer that he was a “victim of the economic necessities of our society.” And she was soft on corruption in at least one case.
Judicial Confirmation Network - "indulge left-wing policy preferences"
President Obama has threatened to nominate liberal judicial activists who will indulge their left-wing policy preferences instead of neutrally applying the law. In selecting Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his Supreme Court nominee, President Obama has carried out his threat.
Judge Sotomayor will allow her feelings and personal politics to stand in the way of basic fairness. In a recent case, Ricci v. DeStefano, Sotomayor sided with a city that used racially discriminatory practices to deny promotions to firefighters. ....The poor quality of Sotomayor's decisions is reflected in her terrible record of reversals by the Supreme Court.
SCOTUSblog mentions The Ricci case, which has heightened importance, as Judge Sotomayor's own decision may get overruled by the Supreme Court next month. The Ricci mystery is - why didn't she explain herself in the case? (She made an unsigned decision.)

Rush calls Sotomayor as racist, referencing Sotomayor's statement, shared by Hot Air"
"Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life." - Judge Sotomayor
What this pick tells us? "Race and Gender Matter"; it's "a reminder of the power of identity politics." Or as Frum puts it - Can Sotomayor pass the Biden test?

John Maynard Keynes and his other book

The Cultural Contradictions of J.M.Keynes is an excellent review of Keynes' influence through his two most influential works - "The Economic Consequences of the Peace", originally published in 1920, and "The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money", which appeared first in 1936. The reviewer James Piereson summarizes these two key works of Keynes' work and places them both in the context of his search for a way forward for post-World-War-I Europe that broke from the pre-War European mold:

... here was someone who, beginning in 1918, wrestled with Europe’s civilizational crisis, searching for ways to reverse the damage done by the war. The economic approach that he formalized in The General Theory is only the most widely recognized of his proposed avenues of escape. Like many, Keynes believed that the Great War had shattered European civilization beyond any hope of repair. The shibboleths of the old regime—laissez faire, nationalism, the gold standard, empire, Victorian ideals—could not survive in a new era of sovereign debt, despair, debauched currencies, and a permanently changed balance of world power.

Keynes in his first book widely criticized the Peace Treaty of Versailles signed after World War I as too harsh. As Keynes wrote:
"... the Carthaginian Peace is not practically right or possible. The clock cannot be set back. You cannot restore Central Europe to 1870 without setting up such strains in the European structure and letting loose such human and spiritual forces as will overwhelm not only you and your “guarantees,” but your institutions and the existing order of your society.

Keynes foresaw that the treaty would cause economic dislocation and harm, and in time his contrary views were considered prophetic:
Keynes had been right to predict that the twin burdens of German reparations and inter-ally war debts would weigh heavily upon the international system and return to bedevil statesmen and central bankers for years to come. The German hyperinflation of the early 1920s, the Great Depression as it spread around the world, even Hitler’s rise to power and the war that followed—all were linked in one way or another to those causes of mischief that Keynes identified in The Economic Consequences of the Peace.

Keynes blamed American President Wilson for much of this failure, because the United States was the economic 'winner' who could have forced England and France not to pursue a punitive peace. However:
Wilson was so thoroughly “bamboozled” by these masters of European intrigue—so judged by Keynes—that he headed back to America comfortable in the illusion that the Treaty established the foundations for true peace.

The economic crises of the 1920s and 1930s that grew out of the failed Treaty of Versailles led Keynes to a critique of traditional economic assumptions. The book "The General Theory ..." captured this critique,a view that Government could unfreeze a system stuck in underconsumption and underemployment through macro-economic demand-side stimulus - or in layman's terms, deficit spending:
In Keynes’s theory, the moral assumptions regarding individual liberty and free choice that buttressed the classical school were subordinated to the interplay of abstract forces like aggregate demand and investment, and to a self-confident belief that the state could be relied upon to intervene efficiently in the interests of all.

A common error of the liberal or socialist mind-set is that they will posit the superiority of the Government-run schemes by assuming an unrealistic idealism about how they will automatically work. The over-investment errors, market bubbles or lack of 'animal spirits' are viewed as market failures that are fundamental, but Government waste, corruption and the inherent short-sightedness of democraticly-elected political actors is ignored in the Keynesian world-view:
The state, he said, unlike individual investors or businessmen, is in a position “to calculate the marginal efficiency of capital goods on long views and on general social advantage,” a proposition which provoked the retort from Hayek that while governments may be in a position to take the long view, they rarely do. ...
Keynes seemed to believe that government budgets can be freely manipulated into and out of balance by policymakers in much the same manner and with as much freedom as central bankers have when they set interest rates or expand the supply of money. Roy Harrod, Keynes’s friend and biographer, wrote that Keynes held a faith that important governmental decisions would always be made by public-spirited experts acting in the general interest, when, in actuality, public budgets are subject to intense political pressures and are formulated by elected politicians with scant regard for something as abstract and ill-defined as the public interest.

It is curious that Keynes would be so naive about Governmental action, when in fact he was witness to the greatest Governmental follies in European history: The failure of diplomacy to stop World War I; the failure of generalship during World War I, leading to years of bloody yet inconsequential fights; the failure of peace-making after World War I to create lasting peace. All these failures were the failures of Government, of leaders who lacked imagination and foresight.

Keynes' second book is well-known and is so important it is the foundation for the economic strain of thought called "Keynesianism". However, the limits of this train of thought have been exposed in previous Keynesian experiments such as Japan in 1990s, European stagflation of the 1970s, structural deficits, etc. Keynes had not really overthrown the truisms of classical economics, and subsequent reformulations ("rational expectations", monetarianism, behavioral economics) reconciled classical economics to a broader understanding of wider forces that drive economic behavior. So in the end, it is Keynes' other book, his first book, that endures as a reliable and prophetic work, a testament to the common folly and unintended consequences of Governments that pursue short-term goals.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Quote of the Day: Davy Crockett

Texas Bob shares a Davey Crockett story - "Not Yours to Give". Originally published in "The Life of Colonel David Crockett," by Edward Sylvester Ellis, this story may be apocryphal. Wikiquote Davy Crockett quotes includes my favorite: "You can go to hell. I shall go to Texas."

The Price of Freedom

A Memorial Day reminder of the price of freedom, paid by those who served:

Since the War of Independence started in 1776 over 650,000 men and women have lost their lives in battle to secure our independence, protect our country, preserve our union and protect the freedoms of countries throughout the world. More than half a million additional soldiers have died in service outside the theater of war. They died servicing us! Among those honored, today we remember.

American Revolution battle deaths.4,435
War of 1812. 2,260
Indian Wars.1,000
Mexican War.1,733
Civil War.140,414
Spanish-American War.385
World War I.53,402
World War II.291,557
Korean War.33,741
Vietnam War.47,424
Gulf War.147
Global War on Terror.4,278 as of April 23, 2009.

Let us never forget their sacrifice and the cause they served. "And I won't forget the men who died who gave that right to me ..."

Are liberal arts degrees worth it?

Good question. Here's the justification - "The real value of a liberal arts education is that it teaches you ... how to analyze a situation and make a choice." Here's the refutation - a University that has hobbled intellectual diversity with political correctness and is replacing education about our civilization with indoctrination about what's wrong with it, has devalued their product. Such a mis-education is neither economically marketable, as would an engineering or business degree be, but neither is it civilizationall useful.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Global non-Warming 1997-2009

This chart is from an article Comparisons of 4 global temperature sets.

The article's main conclusions:
1. Substantial general agreement between the data sets,
2. Substantial short-term variation in global temperature in all data sets and
3. No data set shows a significant measurable rise in global temperature over the twelve year period since 1997.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Car Trouble

A Cali student recounts The Horror of California Emissions Rules.

Funniest car review ever of worst car ever: The new Honda Insight is " terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more."

Chrysler and capitalism: Dead on arrival

Waxman-Markey is "badly flawed piece of public policy"

I had previously argued that Waxman-Markey was mindless, rampant nanny-statist eco-tyranny.

Amazingly, Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein agrees. Consider this stunning indictment:

The other thing to say about it is that it is a badly flawed piece of public policy. It is so broad in its reach and complex in its details that it would be difficult to implement even in Sweden, let alone in a diverse and contentious country like the United States. It would createdozens of new government agencies with broad powers to set standards, dole out rebates and tax subsidies, and pick winning and losing technologies, even as it relies on newly created markets with newly created regulators to set prices and allocate resources. Its elaborate allocation of pollution allowances and offsets reads like a parody of industrial policy authored by the editorial page writers of the Wall Street Journal. The opportunities for waste, fraud and regulatory screwup look enormous.
This seems certainly the case based on a reading of this bill. The level of economic intervention is huge. The needless redundancy ('belt-and-suspenders' regulations) adds huge economic costs with zero benefit. Corruption, waste and job-killing cost-hikes for utilities, energy using industries, etc. will cripple our economy for years to come. It will kill jobs and productivity. How on earth can such a slew of terrible (unintended) consequences be better than the status quo?

Answer: It isn't.

The rise in CO2 from 1950 to today has paralleled an increase in temperatures over 60 years of ... 0.4C. That's all. The next 50 years will not see a marked increase from that; in the past 10 years we have seen no warming. The Waxman-Markey goal is 17% reduction by 2020, even though Europe's cap-and-trade scheme seems not to have worked much at all. This amounts to about a 4% impact on global CO2 generation in the 2020 timeframe. In short, miniscule and meaningless impact on actual global termperatures. The phrase "Costs too much, does too little" comes to mind.

The excellent column on the dreadful Waxman-Markey bill had one jarring and out-of-step statement:
"The Waxman-Markey bill may be the best bill that the political system can produce, and surely it is far preferable to doing nothing."
I challenge this. Doing nothing, ie, doing nothing to regulate the harmless and benign CO2 is PRECISELY the better answer compared to this horrible bill. And if this is the best the political system can muster, disband Congress!

"Doing nothing" does not need to mean doing nothing forever. This bill is far worse than doing nothing to regulate CO2 for the next 5-10 years. "Doing nothing" could mean "Do nothing to regulate CO2 for the next 5 year, but do everything else you can to get ready for the future."
To wit:
In the next 5 years, we can see if the trend of non-warming that we have seen for the past 10 years is a blip in an up-trend or an actual refutation of the man-made global warming models. In the next 5 years, we can take an R&D only approach and build the technologies that are needed, such as next-generation nuclear, energy efficient lighting LEDs, plug-in- electric vehicles, etc. None of this requires cap-and-trade nor the heavy hand on eco-nanny-statism.

Yes, a carbon tax would be better. But even better would be a carbon tax with a global temperature trigger. That is to say: Tax CO2 emissions, but only start to tax CO2 emissions if and when the temperatures do in fact rise. Why tax something that causes 'warming' when the earth is cooling?

UPDATE: Waxman-Markey "stuffed full of unpleasant surprises."

Waxman admits: "I don't know the details" and hires speed-reader to read the bill.

Sono Bono Mack casts lone GOP vote for Waxman-Markey: "While I still have significant concerns about this bill, particularly with regard to its cost and its failure to recognize innovative technologies like advanced nuclear energy, I believe this is the right direction for our district, for our nation and for our future." Wait, it has huge costs and is wrong about key real solutions, but stupidity like this is the 'right direction'? ... oh wait ... “Already, (the Coachella Valley is) seeing exciting new developments in wind, solar and geothermal energy, and this bill will help us grasp this potential.” ... Translation: It's all about the Greendoggle PORK money!

Transformational Agenda for the Right

Jon Henke asks:

What Right-of-center policies are good policy, transformational, popular, viable and sustainable?
This is not just a good question, this perhaps THE question to ask to figure out the future of the conservative movement. Some have concluded that the path to the future is paved with giving up or watering down small-Government principles, but on the contrary Big Government conservatism is an oxymoron. To the contrary:
In this 'free-agent' economy, where you outsource everything but your core competence, we can have smaller and smarter Government. Good Government is Government that sticks to its core competence, which is the protection of our rights, our lives and our property from predators, criminals, and enemies. Anything outside that core competence invites Governmental corruption, incompetence, rent-seeking and waste; it repeats the failures of socialism and causes economic dislocations. Every need or desire in the culture or economy, can and should be filled by the actions of free people in the market-oriented, open and free economy and culture.
We can and we must have a 21st century vision of society and our nation built around the conservative principles that we believe in. If we cannot envision it, then we are destined to fight a futile defensive struggle against the encroachments of the other side.
That vision of a society includes a different view of the relationship of Government and the people than proffered by liberals, leftists and socialists. It encompasses these tenets: Government (i.e. the state) exists to serve the people, and what Government does should be directed by the people ("of the people, by the people, for the people"). Government is best when it is closest to the people; that is self-government is best, then local Government, etc. Government plays a limited role, i.e., it should not try to do for people what they can do for themselves.

Here's a further take on Republican core principles:
The GOP is the party of liberty, limited government, judges who rule on law and not make them, law and order, traditional values and family values, free enterprise, equality of opportunity, strong national defense, Federalism and Government as close to the people as possible, support for the truly needy, Constitutional rights and individual responsibility.
The problem conservatives grapple with is - can we marry those high-minded principles to today's policy challanges and create correct and winning policy prescriptions?

The question arises of how to provision for 'social goods', which we might define as those things we would like to see happen in a society but which often don't happen in a natural economy. (Sometimes they do, which begs the question of whether the 'social good' requires Government provision. Coase's Theorem applies here.) The dynamic we usually see is that the Democrats become the "Santa Clause" party, raising the taxpayers for a social good provision ("more govt-subsidized healthcare! Subsidies for solar panels! paid college for all!") while Republicans (usually) say "no" or "how about less". Note that 'support for the truly needy' is a part of the fabric of Republican core values. It's a losing proposition so long as the focus is on the desirability of the social good and "how much can we afford" rather than an honest look at whether the Government program actually does the job.

We need a different mindset that goes beyond the "more or less" dynamic. That stifling two-dimensional tug-of-war is policy-wise desert that ignores most of the real challenge in these areas; further, it is politically disadvantageous to the party of "no", since the social goods are in most cases filling really needs and wants.

To break that mold, we need to also rethink what "Government" means and realize that "Government" can include self-Government. We need to, rather than fight the 'social need' or discount it, embrace the ability of society outside the state to provide these needs in many cases, either as economic goods or via benevolent charity. We further need to evaluate and think about every government program in terms of these aspects:
  1. Program's scope, strategic intent and vision - what is the purpose of the program? Does it fits Government's role? Is it Constitutional?
  2. Strategy and Goals - Is it at the right/wrong level? E.g. Federal program that could be state level? Government one-size-fits-all strategy vs a market-oriented strategy (e.g. Medicare model vs Food Stamp model)?
  3. Effectiveness - does it work? Does it have unintended consequences? (e.g. bilingual education harms educational outcomes long-term for students)
  4. Efficiency - is it cost-effective? Can it be done for less?
  5. Accountability - what metrics for costs and benefits are they? Do we have transparency in the project or program? How do we avoid waste, fraud, corruption and abuse, or are they a part of the program?
The above 5 factors lead to a host of questions that helps to dissect what is really wrong with most Government programs. Instead of just fighting for less Government, we need to motivate and justify more effective, more accountable, more efficient Government that will do more good for less cost. How? By having higher standards for Government programs, shedding what doesn't work and exists for not good reasons. The two main themes that represent vectors of opportunity here are choice and accountability. Pushing accountability via transparency is good in its own right, and it further leads to gathering the kind of feedback and information that helps drive further reforms and justifies conservative critiques of ineffective or wasteful Government spending.

When it comes to Government program strategy, the outdated socialist model can and should be superceded by the choice model and agenda:
We can move away from one-size-fits-all Government, to a system where there is maximum choice for all ... where you use the marketplace to be more flexible for people in different situations. The key word to describe this agenda is choice: Education choice, Social Security choice, healthcare choice, medicare choice.
I argue in 15% Solution for a dramatic new approach to tax reform, starting with two core points. First, the price and cost of Government are two different things; the cost of Government is what it spends, and the price of Government is the tax system. While we should advocate for a tax system whose price is as low as possible to cover the cost of Government, I say:
Without a long-term overarching goal of lessened burden of Government, tax reform is doomed to be ineffective, as the cost of Government pushes tax rates up.
I would add that politically, that is what has happened as well. Tax reform is a self-limiting solution so long as Government spending is out of control; the price of Government can never be reformed to below the cost of Government. I assert 5 principles for fundamental tax reform:
1. The Federal Government Costs too much, spends too much and taxes too much. Tax reform should include tax and spending reductions.
2. We need a simpler, flatter, lower rate tax system.
3. We need to shift taxes to tax production less and consumption more.
4. We need to fix entitlements through choice.
5. We need legislative and constitutional protections for taxpayers to limit tax hikes, spending hikes and runaway deficits.
This agenda is called the 15% Solution because the goal asserted is to get Federal Government spending to be no more than 15% of GDP. Further, this lower Government spending burden allows lower tax rates - 15% or less in most areas. I would add one more interpretation of the "15% solution" concept: We can consider the fact that our welfare system give provision to 15% of the people as 'needy'; we have a health insurance system that, without Government subsidy and intervention, would provide for 85% of the people. 15% represents that degree of "social insurance" necessary and sufficient to provide a safety net. A "15% solution" is a solution that is neither "on your own" zero Government nor one-size-fits-all socialism, but is 85% self-funding/free-market oriented and is 15% Government-welfare-state-provided. In short, it quantifies and describes with some precision to what degree we want Government to intervene - to help those who cannot help themselves, and to leave free to make their own choices those who can help themselves.

Just as the Reagan tax cuts grew out of the bracket creep of the 1970s and the welfare reform bill grew out of the failures of 1960s liberalism and the welfare system of the era, much of the conservative agenda for the coming decades will have a seedbed in the failures of the very liberal Obama domestic agenda. The 'four horseman of the Obama apocalypse' are:
  1. Massive Federal deficits and massive increases in overall Federal spending
  2. A move towards socialized healthcare with a Government-run public health insurance program that goes back to the Medicaid model (but expands it)
  3. Costly (taxes and electricity-cost-increasing) cap-and-trade, taxation and regulation of CO2.
  4. Government bailouts, handouts, new regulations, and meddling in auto companies, banks, financial institutions, and alternative energy. This is updated 'industrial policy'.
A conservative agenda could and must respond to all four points and to the rest of the Obama and Democrat agenda. There is enough Governmental encroachment that may happen in the next two years to keep conservatives' hands full for another 20 years, undoing the damage that is being done today.

Beyond the specific challenges of the Obama/Democrat agenda, the world is facing these critical issues driven by mega-trends:
  1. Globalization - Economic globalization is the number one driver of economic dislocation, raising the challenge of creating sustainable economic advantage and prosperity for the U.S. in the 21st century. We cannot sustain economic advantage if we lack education and structural economic advantages in a world of near-instant technological diffusion.
  2. Demographics - The looming entitlement funding crisis, as both Social Security and Medicare face aging demographics that will balloon support costs. This crisis is a result of another tectonic social shift, the pending demographic decline of European and other advanced countries, and below-replacement-rate fertility for non-immigrant Americans.
  3. Energy and environment - Energy shifts are being forced by several trends: Fossil fuel peaking has led to the end of cheap oil and further scarcity will create economic winners and losers; the US will be an economic loser due to our huge oil import bill. The UN's IPCC and the global environmental movement is driving the perceived (although in my view overstated) risk of warming due to man's generation of CO2; this creates another driver for change in energy use. If indeed the risk of global warming is overstated, while the risk of oil dependence is not, then it behooves us to support policies that "kill two birds with one stone" that get us off foreign oil, while opposing policies that divert attention and costs on the exclusive focus on CO2 generation mitigation.
So we see three types of drivers - global trends that require policy response, oppositional policies that require correction, and our core values that drive policy frameworks. Taken together, these create the transformational agenda items. How do we compete more effectively? Better education, business environment/regulation, and tax and trade policies are key elements. How do we achieve better education? Highlighting a framework of choice and accountability is the way to go.

Here are some specific ideas that tie these elements together:
  1. 15% Solution: A goal of having a Federal Govt take 15% of GDP, and until that time have the Federal Govt go on a 'diet' where it grows no faster than inflation plus population. (The 15% solution)
  2. 15% Solution: Transforming and reforming the Tax System to a simpler, flatter, fairer system by eliminating the income tax for 85% of American families (only those above around $100,000 pay income tax), reducing the payroll tax rate, setting a max rate on all taxation of 15-25%, and moving from taxing production to taxing consumption. The new tax system proposed would look something like this:
    • 15% - personal income ($100,000 exemption level for family of 4, so only top 15% pay); corporate income; cap gains;
    • 15% - import tariff; energy excise taxes
    • 5% - BTT/VAT/Federal sales tax
  3. While we are at it, don't forget Full expensing of all capital equipment.
  4. Taypayer's Bill of Rights: Replace the 16th amendment with a constitutional limit on tax rates, putting in a constitutional maximum of say 25%. Similar limit of 7.5-10% on BTT/VAT could be put into the amendment; have a 3/5ths or 2/3rds vote in both Houses of Congress required for tax increases; likewise have spending limitation and tax limitation Congressional rules and supporting Amendments; line-item veto and balanced budget amendments and Congressional rules. In all cases, the Amendments could be proposed, but could be put in place as Congressional rules if the votes are insufficient for actual Constitutional amendments, as done with Gramm-Rudman and "pay-go" budget rules.
  5. Choice Agenda: Educational choice - Federal level educational choice program - take 80% of the Dept of Ed funds - $64 billion - and turn it into an $800-$1000 direct voucher per student (or could be termed as a refundable tax credit), to be used for public, charter, private or home school instructional materials support (books and technology). This program would be enough to get books and computers in every classroom in America while increasing choice and parental direction in education.
  6. Choice Agenda: Educational choice - State level - take state aid and make it also a direct grant to students. That amount (eg in Texas it might be about $3000/student) would be available for public, charter, private or for qualified homeschool expenses.
  7. Choice Agenda: Universal Savings Accounts - "USA Saves" - This simplifies the plethora of tax-advantaged programs by making a simple and portable "USA" that covers the current Coverdell IRA, IRA, Roth IRA, HSA, etc. A simple pre-tax and tax-advantaged account for all qualified expenses, including healthcare and education, would be a key component of the 'choice agenda' for education, healthcare and retirement.
  8. Choice Agenda: Healthcare choice - This includes the Shadegg proposal to allow people to choose insurance from any state. We need to reduce mandates on health insurance and deregulate.
  9. Choice Agenda: Social Security choice. Combine with the "USA Saves" idea to allow portion of payroll tax to go into a USA. This would drastically increase the appeal of the approach.
  10. Pro-science education: A "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) agenda for higher-education support. Move the higher-education support subsidies and programs to favor degrees in the STEM area. That is, students in those areas would be favored. Have a goal that 60% of Federal aid to students goes to students in these areas; have higher Pell grants for students in STEM.
  11. Energy - An 'all of the above' energy approach with a goal of energy independence or near-independence; that is pro-nuclear, pro-domestic drilling, pro-natural gas, pro-plug-in-electric-hybrids, pro-renewables. Move to an energy complex that reduces reliance on fossil fuels and ofreign energy through technology.
  12. Simple idea to deflect CO2 regulation: Have a "1998 Rule" whereby the 3-year average of global temperatures need to be 0.3C ABOVE the 1998 levels before any of the draconian regulations in Waxman-Markey or other cap-and-trade regimes are enacted. End/oppose CO2 regulation, which is counterproductive and based on flawed claims about the climate.
  13. Immigration - As a party, come out in favor of legal immigration, opposed to illegal immigration and with a united front on the topic; this means that the whole party needs to oppose amnesty for illegal aliens, so the elites have to move to find common ground with the grassroots. One way to do this is to call for an end to chain migration and focus of immigration on employment-based 'best-and-brightest'. A simple 'accountability' aspect of immigration is to push to get a clear accounting and understanding of the actual costs of social services to illegal aliens and to legal immigrants for all social programs, including education, healthcare, etc. We should also end sanctuary city policies and let states move forward to address illegal immigration.
  14. Term limits - Good ideas never go out of style.
These items have both Federal-level and state-level components, but the themes of choice and transparency/accountability are common. This Pledge to Texas pledge has a 10-point program and plan. In addition to planks related to keeping taxes and spending in check - Cut Property Taxes until they are eliminated; Cut, Simplify and Reform business taxes; Limit the growth of government - it has three key planks that arent' just "do less" but are "do better" promises:
•Lower electric rates and Clean the environment
Texans can have more affordable and cleaner electric power by expanding nuclear, clean coal, wind, and biomass capacity. Texas must improve and expand its transmission infrastructure; fast-track permitting of new power facilities; and, invest in technology that utilizes Texas’ natural resources to clean the environment. To improve energy efficiency and reduce electric bills, we must ensure that System Benefit Fund revenues are dedicated to help families with their electric bills and used to make energy efficiency technologies such as smart meters more affordable.

•Make Texas a Leader in Public Education
World-class colleges and universities and a better educated population are critical for the future prosperity of our state. Texas should double the number of its nationally-recognized research universities; strengthen academic programs at community colleges so that more community college credits are transferable to universities; and, encourage adult education and promote other postsecondary educational opportunities at career colleges and schools for those who want to seek gainful employment.

•Make Health Care more affordable for families
Help Texas families access affordable health insurance by reducing costs through investment in electronic health records; requiring health plans, physicians, and hospitals to make cost and quality information available to the public; increasing the availability of low-cost, mandate-free insurance; and, offering optional health savings accounts to all public employees and high-deductible low-cost health plans to college students.
This last item takes us back to the essential element in healthcare reform - choice and accountability. The proposals are to make available information for informed decisions, and to allow more options and choice in what health insurance is provided.

Taken as a whole, this agenda takes on the fundamental issues of our time - globalization, changing demographics, and energy and environment challenges - with a choice/accountability-focussed and market/freedom-friendly framework. This is indeed a 'transformational agenda' of reform-minded conservatism.

ThoughtCrimes bill in Texas Senate

Texas Senate committee passes a "Hate Crimes bill", but it sounds more like a ThoughtCrime bill - political correctness written into the penal code:

HB 824, by Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), expands hate crimes to now be used to prosecute kids. ... It also allows a judge to order these kids go to re-education program so the child can show he or she has “acceptance” of others, basically forcing them to accept the homosexual lifestyle and not oppose such. The judge can also order the child to perform a project that serves the interest of the offended group of persons.

Free Market Foundation adds: "We have also seen hate crimes law be used as a weapon against free speech, like in the case of the Philadelphia 11." About the Philadelphia 11 case:
The group of Christians, who were given the title Philadelphia 11, had been giving their testimony on public property at the city's tax-funded celebration of homosexuality in the city's downtown in 2004. But based on a 2002 "hate crimes" plan then in force in the state, they were arrested, jailed and threatened with up to five decades in jail.

The criminal charges later were dismissed and the group members then challenged the law itself, suing over its adoption. The Supreme Court's ruling affirms the 4-1 decision in the Commonwealth Court that the amendments were unconstitutional.

More links: Hate crimes - free speech destroyer, and Congressional debate on Federal hate-crimes bill.

Anti-school choice is anti-school-children

Dave Nalle on NextRight posts an execellent article on the DC voucher case. Headline - "Democrats Condemn Kids to Ignorance and Poverty." School choice is perhaps the top innovation we could and should make to save America's future, by offering better education to America's children. To be against school choice is to be against school children.

Now admittedly, the $7500 which this program provides to students isn't enough by itself to pay for a private school which costs $15,000 to $30,000 a year.

Many private schools (not in DC) cost less than that. In Austin, Texas, there are good private schools that cost only $3500/yr and many others in the $5000-7500 range. This compares with $8000-9000 per pupil spent in public schools depending on the school district, more if you add in the Federal component. Texas charter schools are funded at about 80% of what public schools get. Here in Texas, the charter schools have long waiting lists. For us, we tried to get our child into kindergarten, it was 4X over-subscribed. You note:

In addition, these vouchers can also be used at charter schools in DC, which have performance much closer to private schools than public schools. DC charter schools graduate 91% of their students, almost double the rate at DC public schools. 83% of those students attend college, close to three times the number of DC public school students going to college.

Note that in DC the PUBLIC SCHOOLING COST is almost $15,000/yr per pupil. Rarely do we see a Government function that is so expensive, so necessary, and so POORLY DONE. It's child abuse:

Of those only 36% have completed the coursework necessary to qualify them to go to a 4-year college degree program

This is an economic death sentence for these kids. Most schoolchidlren are molded into unprepared uneducated barely-able-to-be-employed near-illiterates. Inner city kids suffer the worst ,perpetuating the economic disadvantages of minorities. If we were to read a story of kids who were sent to school and were suffering from a lifetime of crippling illness, say the school had radium in the walls or mercury in the water and gave them a disease, we'd be up in arms. The authorities would descend.

But here we have the kids subjected to worse - a monopoly school system that is mis-educating them into a lifetime of privation and near-poverty by leaving them with the crippling handicaps of illiteracy, ignorance and lower employability. We need to consider this an utter and absolute outrage that such abuses are committed in the shadow of this nation's capital. And we should consider the elitist politicians who consign these children to this terrible fate, denying them a clear positive alternative, while sending their own kids to elite private schools, to be uncaring selfish hypocrites. We need to ask: have they no shame?

As I said: To be against school choice is to be against school children.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Obama's Dresden Visit An Apology?

I thought Seven Tenets of Liberalism was a bit over the top with Number One being "Self Loathing – Liberals hate the West. The West is always WRONG (unless it’s white Europeans aligning themselves against the United States). But then I ran into this item: Obama to apologize to Germany for WWII. Atlas Shrugs blog cites John Rosenthal:

"The symbolic significance of a visit to Dresden by the American president — especially one undertaken in connection with a D-Day commemoration in France — may be missed by some Americans, but it is absolutely unmistakable for the German public. For Germans, Dresden is the symbol bar none of German suffering at the hands of the Allies."
If Obama really apologizes to Germany over Allied WWII actions during a D-Day, Obama's Apology Tour will Officially Jump the Shark.

The mindless rampant tyranny of cap-and-trade-and-tax-and-regulate

Waxman-Markey: Coercion for its own sake: "the cap-and-trade program occupies only one of four of the bill’s main sections (”titles”). Other titles contain a host of mandates and “incentives” (carrots and sticks) to reshape energy and transportation markets."

So this dreadful regulation scheme has 4 vectors of nanny-statist busybody tyranny, a belt-and-suspenders version of outrageous mind-blowing interference in our lives. Consider first the 'renewables' mandates:

* Requires utilities to meet a certain percentage of their load with electricity generated from renewable sources, like wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal.
* Promotes small-scale “distributed generation” of renewable electricity by offering three renewable electricity credits (instead of one credit) for each MWh produced.
* Authorizes electric power generators to create a Carbon Storage Research Consortium with the power to assess “fees” (aka taxes) totalling approximately $1 billion annually to fund carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration plants.
* Directs the EPA Administrator to hand out free rationing coupons to subsidize CCS.
* Establishes a CCS mandate requiring new coal-fired power plants to emit 65% less carbon dioxide if permitted after 2020, and emit 50% less if permitted between 2009 and 2020; also requires EPA to review these standards not later than 2025 and every five years thereafter.

The first item is objectionable in general terms but it adds insult to injury by excluding safe, efficient and non-CO2 emitting nuclear power from the renewables mandate. If the object is to reduce CO2 emissions, include nuclear power in the mandate. The mandate is a mandate to increase electricity costs and distort if not destroy the utilities.

CCS is carbon sequestration, a useless concept based on the myth that CO2 is so harmful it needs to be buried. This is billions of dollars diverted from productive uses into something that is worthless.

* Requires utilities to ”consider” developing plans to support electric vehicle infrastructure, and provides assistance (including free emission allowances) to subsidize electric vehicles and infrastructure.
* Mandates stricter building codes achieving 30% higher energy efficiency in 2010 and 50% higher in 2016 for new buildings, and establishes a “building retrofit program” for existing residential and nonresidential buildings.
* Mandates tougher energy efficiency standards for indoor and outdoor lighting, hot food holding cabinets, bottle-type drinking water dispensers, hot tubs, commercial-grade natural gas furnaces, televisions, and other appliances.
* Requires the President, EPA, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and California to establish greenhouse gas (GHG)/fuel economy standards for new passenger cars and light trucks.
* Requires and sets deadlines for EPA to establish GHG emission standards for heavy-duty engines and vehicles and non-road vehicles including marine vessels, locomotives, and aircraft.
* Requires States to establish goals and submit transportation plans to reduce transport sector GHG emissions, and imposes sanctions on States that fail to comply.
* Requires the Deparment of Energy (DOE) to establish industrial energy-efficiency standards.

This is all pointless, draconian, jobs-destroying, wealth-destroying, mindless, rampant, tyranny.
This bill borders on the unconstitutional, even under an expansive view of 'commerce'. In short, a Waxman bill.

Consider the mindlessness of Government regulations dictating that we don't emit too much CO2 in the operation of "bottle-type drinking water dispensers". In order to push the needle of change in temperature in the globe by even a single degree requires many trillions of tons of CO2, emitted over decades. And all the electric bottle-type drinking water dispensers in the US put together don't add up to a mouse fart in a cat 5 hurricane. And what's worse, these enforced energy requirements are ignoring the consideration that maybe the electrical generation sourcing is from nuclear or hydro, and therefore the net CO2 generation from this is ... ZERO.

The building codes are even worse. Federal building codes are leading to the nationalization of matters that used to be state and local.

The supporters speak of 'green jobs'. Let's be clear that Greendoggle spending and green jobs are created in the wake of the economic destruction of massive regulation. The 'jobs created' are akin to the 'jobs created' when you have a hurricane blow through a region; plenty of jobs are created in the wake of the destruction of economic value and property. However in this case, the destruction of property is man-made. Trillions of dollars of economic value are getting destroyed by Waxman-Markey; it literally is a bill to destroy industrial sector wealth, productivity and property.

looking for leaders

Barlett is looking for the next Jack Kemp:

Anyone hoping to emulate Kemp, therefore, needs to start with a genuinely new idea--and more and bigger tax cuts ain't it. That card has been played to the point of diminishing returns, politically. That new idea also has to respond to a genuine problem. But that will require deep thought and analysis, something few members of Congress are capable of these days. They are too busy coming up with sound bites responding to matters of only momentary interest.

The look for leaders ends up looking for the same usual suspects: Can Gingrich ride an anti-establishment wave in 2012? I am skeptical.

The brilliant Gingrich has issues that will make the grassroots be distrustful, perhaps more so than they should be. Its not just what some call ‘personal baggage’, but his sitting on the couch with Nancy Pelosi and standing next to Hillary Clinton. Such bipartisan actions are anathema to the right-roots of the GOP, but Gingrich cant help it, he ends up being ‘too smart by half’ as the saying goes. A fox not a hedgehog. That plus the baggage equals a guy who doesnt rate high on likeability/electability. He comes across as the smart policy wonk but is discounted as not empathetic/’real’/personable enough. But that’s not to say he’s not a great asset, since the GOP definitely needs a man like him, as we needed Jack Kemp back in the day, or Taft way back when, to leaven our party with some good ideas and put some intellectual rigor in a party adrift.

As with the 2008 field, we may end up with a 2012 of candidates with a variety of attributes which if you put them together might make a great candidate. Gingrich adds a key element of forward-thinking and openness to ideas, but his perceived flaws and likeability weaknesses are such that it won’t carry him into the White House.

"There's some bad dudes down there"

On CBS, Bob Shieffer Admits Cheney ‘Winning’ Security Debate:

"...the fact that the President of the United States had to make this speech, the fact that Congress had turned him down in giving him the money to close Guantanamo, I have to say that on points, I give it to -- to the Vice President on this...Right now I think the Vice President has made his case. And at this point I'd have to say he's winning."

He adds: "let's face it, there's some bad dudes down there" - and that sums up perfectly why it's a political quagmire for President Obama to close Gitmo. Americans may not want to be international law violators, but we also don't want to be releasing terrorists or playing patty-cake with them. Let's face it, the American people - minus the moonbat lefties - are not chumps.

That may be why in the end Obama's policies on handling the AQ terrorists are distinctions with shrinking differences from what Bush did on this. Obama claimed: "I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people." Really? When many of previously released terrorists went back to their ways? The only safe way is to throw away the key, and you are back to the widely-critized Bush administration approach.

Proteinwisdom says Obama says Cheney is right, while Max Boot argues Obama has come to the centrist McCain position on Gitmo etc.

It is well summed-up by Krauthammer: "If hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the flip-flops on previously denounced anti-terror measures are the homage that Barack Obama pays to George Bush. Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

TIME Cover: Indicator of GOP Rebound?

TIME Covers are what is known as a contrary indicator. When they made Jeff Bezos Man of the year, the internet bubble was about to burst. So when TIME said Republican party is Over, they had more or less put in a market - the low is in.

Patterico dissects it as "so packed with Democratic talking points that David Axelrod could have faxed it over from the White House" and counters the hogwash that TIME put forth that it's those darned non-liberal positions that keeps the GOP from winning elections. " It's principled leadership" Grunwald says of Gov Sanford's appeal to Tax Partiers, but "only the tea-party fringe seems to be following." Ah, but is that old-time religion of smaller Government, freedom and 'get off our backs' a fringe? As Patterico puts it:

For that matter, a majority of Americans oppose gay marriage, favor harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists, and are unwilling to pay higher taxes for government healthcare. If I spent more than the three minutes it took to discover that much, I could probably find that Grunwald has nothing backing his claim about tax cuts for the “investor class,” though there’s a far amount of debate as to how that class gets defined in the first place. A solid majority still see big government as a bigger threat to the country than big business.
I posited back in November that smartness, coolness, competence, and a bunch of other non-ideological and in some cases superficial reasons put Republicans on defensive. Now 6 months later we start to see that polls Show a more Even-Divided Political Environment:

Democrats began the year holding a six- or seven-point lead over the GOP for the first several weeks of 2009. That began to slip in early February, and the Republicans actually took a two-point lead for a single week in the middle of March. Since then, the results have ranged from dead even to a four-point lead for the Democrats until the GOP regained the lead.

Men favor the GOP 44% to 35%, while women favor the Democrats by the exact same margin.

Voters not affiliated with either party favor the GOP by a 38% to 22% margin.

Nevada poll is showing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) very, very vulnerable back home. The Las Vegas Review-Journal/Mason-Dixon poll found that 45 percent of Nevada voters would “definitely” vote against Reid next year — with only 30 percent saying they want to see him return to office

The numbers:
Party affiliation. Republicans 32%. Democrats 32%.
Leaning: Republicans 45%. Democrats 45%.

A year ago, the Democrats enjoyed double-digit leads in both categories.

Well. Let me be a contrarian - the liberal MSM will continue to fluff Obama up, but voters will weary of a man and a party presiding over massive job losses and proposing only job-killing tax-and-spend-and-regulate plans as the way forward. The GOP will be in comeback mode in future cycles. But it will have to earn it.