Monthly Archives: January 2009

In Da News

Nanny state grows exponentially: Getting arrested for participating in a snow ball fight.

From the No Shit Sherlock Department: People are actually more concerned about the economy than global warming.

Paul Jacob is free, at last: “The right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” is once again legal in Oklahoma.

Osama bin Laden’s “success:” American economy in disarray.

Stale political arguments (you know, like about the size and scope of government) no longer apply: Tim Carney wants to ask President Obama some questions.

A bit on the weird side: Man punished for abandoning rats.

More from the weird side: Dems pick a gun-loving, bailout-hating woman to replace Hillary.

Are we considered a socialistic country yet: The nationalization of major banks.

Barack Obama believes in big government; Ron Paul doesn’t.

Here’s a big shocker: The drug war doesn’t work.

Obama gives civil libertarians some hope during his first week of office and Bob Barr says thanks.

Was Ayn Rand a prophetess? Atlas Shrugged wasn’t fiction after all.

Finally, if this doesn’t piss you off, nothing will:

Phillips is being held on $15,000 bond, and he has no history of arrests in Anderson County.

Fuller is being held on $10,000 bond, and has a history of domestic violence charges, resisting arrest and evading arrest. He has also been charged several times for violation of probation and failure to appear in court.

Fuller is accused of multiple counts of auto burglary. Phillips is accused of using a firearm to stop Fuller from stealing cars. And they set a higher bond for Phillips than for Fuller?

Ezra Klein — China Should Replace Personal Savings With Tax Burden

Okay, that’s not exactly what he said, but that’s what it boils down to:

But it’s worth zooming in on why the Chinese are making this a priority right now: Chinese economists see universal health care as a way to induce consumption and economic dynamism. The Chinese have a high savings rate — indeed, an absurdly high savings rate, between 30 percent and 40 percent of income — and one of the reasons is fear of medical expenses. China lacks a safety net, and so people spend less because they need to plan for catastrophe. And if catastrophe doesn’t befall, then they’ve simply spent less. Which is a problem when you’re facing down a potentially long recession. And so China is trying to make it safe for its citizens to spend, which means making future expenses more predictable, which means offering health care coverage.

Chinese saving rates are extraordinary. While Ezra’s point that one of the reasons is a fear of catastrophic medical expenses, there are certainly other factors at work — cultural, historical, etc. China is a poor country rapidly modernizing, and I would guess that the level of uncertainty for most workers is surprisingly high. Americans who lived under the Great Depression were far more savings-oriented than Baby Boomers or Gen-Xers, and this is probably due in large part to knowing “how bad it can get”.

But look at what Ezra is claiming here. He is essentially claiming that because the Chinese — who have decided their best interests are to save rather than to engage in American-style consumerism — aren’t “spending enough”, that the government should take their money away from them to cause them to spend more. The logic is that government taking away a bunch of money will remove their responsibility to plan for their lives, and allow them to live on the edge.

Doesn’t this remind anyone of the reason we’re in a worldwide deflationary debt spiral bordering on the worst financial crisis in history?

This completely avoids the COST of such a safety net as Ezra is suggesting. For many, it could be between 25 and 45 percent of income. If you look at high-tax European countries, where the social safety net is well-established, citizens need not worry about saving 30 to 40% of their income, because the government has taken it away as taxes.

China would be far better served by private entities (such as insurance companies, etc) helping to allow them to better plan their future expenditures than passing that burden to the government. In order for that to occur, of course, it would require a consistent legal environment based upon the rule of law, much more economic liberalization, and a commitment to property rights. The end result, however, would be to empower the Chinese to have both moderate saving rates, consistent planning of expenditures, and higher consumption. And it would allow them to control the balance of each. Ezra, on the other hand, would rather the government simply take the money away from them and decide how it gets spent.

It’s Good To Be The King

From The Economist’s Free Exchange blog, the Brits are learning that you can’t play the King when you’re only a Duke:

Do not do as America does, unless you are a very big country (or economic bloc). That seems to be the lesson Britain is learning as the pound weakens and confidence in the credit worthiness of the country slips. If you have a global reserve currency, if private demand for your debt is strong, if the flight to safety means that government borrowing costs remain low no matter how profligate the central bank, well, then you can do as America has done. If not, better prepare to have your capital dubbed “Reykjavik-on-Thames”.

I don’t think many Americans understand the fortunate position our currency holds in the world. I don’t think they understand that we’ve been taxing the world for decades, but that the world is so intertwined with our monetary system that we’re the de facto “gold standard” of the world.

Hopefully for America, the rest of the world doesn’t wise up and realize the tribute they’ve been paying. I think it’s too late, though. Even if they realize it, they [and we] are still screwed.

Quote Of The Day

From The Austrian Economists:

During the inauguration celebration a reporter asked Magic Johnson about President Obama’s plan to replace the White House bowling alley with a White House basketball court and whether or not he will get an invitation to play some hoops with the President. Johnson replied that he would obviously lace up his sneakers if he was invited to play. However, when asked if he would take it easy on President Obama during the game, Johnson flashed his famous smile and laughingly said “I will take it easy on him, if he takes it easy on my taxes.”

I think if the invitation comes, Obama’s gettin’ schooled.

No, No, Not Roquefort!

Some midnight regulations need to be rolled back, and quickly:

The quintessential French blue cheese found itself the unlikely focus of a trade war after the Bush administration took punitive action for the European Union’s ban on imports of US hormone-treated beef.

America imposed a 100 per cent import duty on a long list of EU products on Thursday, but singled roquefort out for a 300 per cent tariff.

Producers of what the French hail as the “king of cheeses” for its salty tang and creamy finish are furious at the move. They claimed that the action was a parting shot by a Bush administration still piqued by France’s opposition to the Iraq war and that President George W Bush had taken his final revenge against a nation once maligned by Americans as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”.

“Roquefort is a French symbol and we’re paying for its fame,” said Robert Glandieres, president of producers of the cheese, which is made in the Midi-Pyrenees region from sheep’s milk according to a 1,000-year-old tradition.

But don’t worry, in this economy Obama’s going to provide us with all the government cheese we can eat!

Montana Brings A Gun (10th Amendment) To A Knife (Interstate Commerce) Fight

This could get interesting:

A personal firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in Montana and that remains within the borders of Montana is not subject to federal law or federal regulation, including registration, under the authority of congress to regulate interstate commerce. It is declared by the legislature that those items have not traveled in interstate commerce. This section applies to a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured in Montana from basic materials and that can be manufactured without the inclusion of any significant parts imported from another state. Generic and insignificant parts that have other manufacturing or consumer product applications are not firearms, firearms accessories, or ammunition, and their importation into Montana and incorporation into a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition manufactured in Montana does not subject the firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition to federal regulation. It is declared by the legislature that basic materials, such as unmachined steel and unshaped wood, are not firearms, firearms accessories, or ammunition and are not subject to congressional authority to regulate firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition under interstate commerce as if they were actually firearms, firearms accessories, or ammunition. The authority of congress to regulate interstate commerce in basic materials does not include authority to regulate firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition made in Montana from those materials. Firearms accessories that are imported into Montana from another state and that are subject to federal regulation as being in interstate commerce do not subject a firearm to federal regulation under interstate commerce because they are attached to or used in conjunction with a firearm in Montana.

Reading through the introduction to the bill, Montana directly claims that the 9th and 10th Amendments, the Montana state Constitution, and the fact that they are declaring all of this to be intrastate commerce removes them from federal regulation on firearms.

I’m not sure how this will stand up to the precedents of Filburn and Raich. Based on his concurring opinion in Raich, one may suspect that even Scalia (if he’s consistent) would strike down Montana’s statute:

Unlike the power to regulate activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce, the power to enact laws enabling effective regulation of interstate commerce can only be exercised in conjunction with congressional regulation of an interstate market, and it extends only to those measures necessary to make the interstate regulation effective. As Lopez itself states, and the Court affirms today, Congress may regulate noneconomic intrastate activities only where the failure to do so “could … undercut” its regulation of interstate commerce. … This is not a power that threatens to obliterate the line between “what is truly national and what is truly local.” Lopez

Scalia just wrote the government’s argument in case they try to implement their will. They simply will claim that this intrastate activity substantially undercuts their ability to regulate firearms in interstate commerce.

Morally, I applaud the state of Montana for standing up for their Constitutional rights. Given modern Constitutional jurisprudence, though, I don’t have high hopes for their success.

Hat Tip: Billy Beck

Joe Trippi’s Great Tweet

I was going through my Twitter account to catch up on what’s going on in the world when I stumbled upon this gem:

JoeTrippi RT [redacted] Barack should take the oath daily. Would be huge on YouTube. Bonus: reminds us he’s really president

It might also do the country a great deal of good if President Obama was reminded daily of these ever-so-important words: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

NSA Spied on US Journalists — And You!

Here’s a chilling interview of former NSA analyst Russell Tice conducted by Keith Olbermann. While I’m not the biggest Olbermann fan in the world, he asked some important questions about how far the NSA went during the Bush administration. It’s a chilling interview. Hopefully restraining the NSA to 4th Amendment boundaries will be a priority for the Obama administration.

And while we are talking about privacy, we also need to keep the government out of the panties of our 13-year-old daughters and our private health records, too.

Good Job, Obama! Now Replace Hillary.

I’ll sure I’ll be voicing plenty of criticism about Obama over the next four to eight years, but I’d like to take this time to say thanks to Obama for shutting down Gitmo.

Hopefully, Obama is still opposed to torture, as well. As a sign of good faith, he could replace Hillary, as having to listen to her grating voice for four or more years is indeed an “act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person.”

Glenn Beck Moving to Fox

Glenn Beck is rapidly becoming more libertarian and he’s treated people like Ron Paul and Bob Barr with the greatest of respect.  He’s moving from CNN to Fox News.  Here’s the low down:

Glenn Beck goes on the air with Fox News for the first time Monday afternoon, and he’s got a surprise for you: He’s not a conservative anymore.

”Every day that goes by, I’m more and more libertarian,” says Beck, whose new show (titled, coincidentally, Glenn Beck) will air from 5 to 6 p.m. weekdays. ‘I’ve always been a conservative. But every day I find myself believing more and more in states’ rights, individual rights — let people alone, get the government out of everybody’s lives, let everybody rule themselves.”

That might seem startling news from somebody who’s built a multimillion-dollar one-man media conglomerate out of jauntily acerbic conservative commentary. In nine years he’s gone from a rookie talk-show host on a puny Tampa radio station to a syndicated powerhouse heard on more than 300 stations (including Miami’s WIOD-AM 610). And the program he did on CNN Headline News from 2006 to 2008 raised the network’s ratings 200 percent — in both its live 7 p.m. time slot and as a 9 p.m. rerun.

But Fox News, which hired Beck away from CNN in October (CNN took him off the air until his contract expired), doesn’t seem concerned about his political evolution.

”I’m not so sure that he was ever a conservative to begin with,” says Bill Shine, senior vice president for programming at Fox News. “He’s one of those guys it’s hard to put into a corner or give a label to. I think that’s what makes his show interesting. I think that’s what makes it unpredictable.”

I’ve not been watching much FNC for some time because of the way they damned near treated Bush like the Messiah, but I think I’ll tune in and check out Beck’s program, though.

New Freedom Website

There’s a new freedom-oriented website out there: Freedom Politics. From their initial blog posting:

Lovers of liberty, rejoice. Today, we’re launching FreedomPolitics.com, a site dedicated to the pursuit and protection of freedom.

We’re not the only ones who think freedom needs a hand, but as a Freedom Communications site, we follow the model of an exceptional defender of liberty, R.C. Hoiles. [snip]

With the support of more than 25 newspapers across the country, including that flagship, FreedomPolitics.com will be a hub of news and commentary dedicated to spreading R.C. Hoiles’ vision and the ideas of liberty of liberty he loved.

Right now we’re just getting started (consider this our soft launch), so don’t hesitate to let us know if something goes awry. The site will go fully operational on Inauguration Day with a slate of commentary from the top minds in the freedom movement.

The first set of articles are great. My fave is from former co-worker Doug Bandow, who writes about our “Return to Liberal Interventionism.”

Barack Obama is nothing if not a unique politician.  Despite his liberal background, he rushed to the center after the election.

Indeed, his foreign policy is starting to look like a slightly more reasonable version of Bush-McCain neoconservatism.  The result may be promiscuous military intervention, but only after Washington takes the usual diplomatic steps and rounds up the usual allies.

The most disconcerting sign of the future is the appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.  True, when testifying before the U.S. Senate she sounded like the model of responsibility:  “We must build a world with more partners and fewer adversaries.  Foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology.”

I’m bookmarking the site and will be checking it out from time to time.

Why Are the Feds in My Little Hometown?

Here’s some embarrassing news from my small hometown:

The Hartselle Police Department has teamed up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to figure out who put a Confederate flag on a church building earlier this week.

On Monday, Hartselle Police responded to Mt. Pleasant C.M.E. Church, in the 500 block of Bethel Street, in reference to a Confederate flag hanging on the church property. Officers removed a flag from the church buildin[g]. There were no other items with the flag.

Police assigned investigators to the case, who are currently looking for the person or persons who put the flag there. Police say they consider this a crime and will pursue charges.

“The City of Hartselle is a great place to live and we do not endorse or condone this type of behavior from individuals,” said Chief Ron W. Puckett. “We are a community of citizens united by our strengths in faith and love for each other. We do not threaten or treat others with disrespect and we will not tolerate desecration of our churches.”

Chief Puckett is correct in that the overwhelming majority of folks in Hartselle are very decent folks who (almost) always treat others with a great deal of respect. Aside from alcohol prohibition at the county level, it is a most wonderful place to live.

Hopefully they will find the person or people who placed a Confederate battle flag on church property and charge them with the appropriate crimes. Charge the suspect(s) with trespass, vandalism and perhaps some desecration charge which might be in the law books.

What I don’t understand, based on the information presented so far, is why the FBI should be involved. It seems to be a local matter that local police should be able to handle. In the meantime, there are much more serious crimes (i.e. kidnapping, corruption on Wall Street — or DC for that matter) that the FBI could be investigating instead.

Perspective

David Harsanyi nails it, in both paragraphs:

Yes, two important historical events transpired Tuesday: The first was the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected politician to another (an uninterrupted streak we often take for granted). Then there was the first presidency of an African-American, which proves we can transcend our unsightly past.

After that, what we had was just another election. We conduct one every four years. For those of you not shouting hosannas, it might have occurred to you that we are suffering from a rampant sickness in American life that casts government as the author of your dreams and an Illinois politician the linchpin of your hopes.

There is a part of me that is celebrating Barack Obama’s election. The historical significance of this is not lost on me.

But that wears off quickly. Barack Obama may be the first black President, but is still just another President. The true test of the historical significance of his election is that we treat him like just another politician. That means — when it comes to his policies — no quarter will be given. The problems this country faces haven’t changed in the last two days, and the nature of government (and its rightful place in our lives) has not changed, despite Obama’s historic inauguration.

The inauguration is over, and the Inaugural Ball-induced hangovers are fading. It’s time to get back to the fight for liberty — a fight for Change that I can believe in.

A not so brilliant idea

Welcome back to the New Deal:

A stimulus package may be a lifeline for the nation’s economy, but it could be a death sentence for a lot of cows.

Lawmakers are looking for ways to use the forthcoming stimulus bill to help dairy farmers, and the number one priority is to dampen milk supplies and prop up prices. Translation: reduce the nation’s dairy herd.

In case you didn’t know, during the Depression the federal government paid farmers to destroy their crops to artificially increase agriculture prices, some “10 million acres of crops and 6 million farm animals,” according to Jim Powell.

And people wonder why FDR is criticized for worsening and prolonging the Depression.

H/T: Red State

Open Thread – The Emergency Alert System

On my way to work today, my XM radio blared the ever-familiar “This is only a test” emergency alert system. As I tried to switch to a station other than Rawdog Comedy (where a good comedy bit was playing), I realized that this discordant tone was across the entire spectrum. And I was annoyed.

Is the purpose of this system, and this test, really to disseminate critical information during a national emergency? Or is it more necessarily to make us feel good?

After all, as wikipedia reports, the only time it’s been activated in the last 10 years has been accidental, but it wasn’t activated on 9/11:

  • On September 11, 2001, “. . . the EAS was not activated nationally or regionally in New York or Washington during the terrorist attacks on the nation.” Richard Rudman, then chairman of the EAS National Advisory Committee explained that near immediate coverage in the national media meant that the media itself provided the warning or alert of what had happened and what might happen as quickly as the information could be distributed. “Some events really do serve as their own alerts and warnings. With the immediate live media coverage, the need for an EAS warning was lessened.” 34 PEP stations were kept on high alert for use if the President had decided to order an Emergency Action Notification. “PEP is really a last-ditch effort to get a message out if the president cannot get to the media.”
  • On February 1, 2005 someone inadvertently activated an EAS message over radio and television stations in Connecticut telling residents to evacuate the state immediately. Officials at the Office of Emergency Management announced that the activation and broadcast of the Emergency Alert System was in error due to possibly the wrong button being pressed. “State police said they received no calls related to the erroneous alert.”
  • On June 26, 2007, the EAS in Illinois was activated at 7:35AM CDT and issued an Emergency Action Notification Message for the United States. This was followed by dead air and then WGN-AM (720) radio (the station designated to simulcast the alert message) being played on almost every television and radio station in the Chicago area and throughout much of Illinois. The accidental EAN activation was caused when a government contractor installing a new satellite receiver as part of a new national delivery path incorrectly left the receiver connected and wired to the state EOC’s EAS transmitter before final closed circuit testing of the new delivery path had been completed.
  • On June 10, 2008, ABC Wichita, KS affiliate KAKE broadcast an EAS test during the last few minutes of the 2008 NBA Finals.

So what do you think? Is the Emergency Alert System a critical piece of infrastructure helping to enhance our national security or personal safety? Or is it a feel-good waste of time, money, and technology that simply provides a false sense that government is taking care of us?

Change Libertarians Can Believe In?

There’s no secret that most of the Obama Administration agenda is at odds with the Lockean rights of life, liberty, and property at almost every turn. Obama’s views on freedom are more along the lines of FDR’s so-called “Four Freedoms”. As disturbing as this agenda is, I thought it would be important to identify policies which actually do promote liberty based on the more traditional Lockean model.

These agenda items are the only ones I can at this point say I am comfortable with. There are probably more items I could support but without knowing the details of many of Obama’s policies, I’m hesitant to do so (mostly due to his reliance on doublespeak, i.e. redefining welfare as tax cuts). The two most promising policies I have found so far are in the areas of civil rights and ethics.

Civil Rights:

Eliminate Sentencing Disparities Between Crack and Powder-Based Cocaine

Expand the use of drug courts for first-time non-violent drug offenders

Equal Rights for LGBT couples

Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act

Repeal “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell”

Ethics:

A More Open and Transparent Federal Government (complete with searchable internet databases)

“Sunlight Before Signing” – Five days for the general public to review “non-emergency”* legislation before bills are signed into law.

The Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act – A law which would name names of legislators and the earmarks they request, require written justification for the earmark, and require 72 hours for the full senate to review and approve the earmark.

Make all White House Regulatory Communications Public and Release Presidential Records

Protect Whistleblowers

Eliminate Inefficient Government Programs and Slash Earmarks**

Libertarians, myself included, may be disappointed that these libertarian friendly policies do not go nearly far enough. Having said that, I do believe we should encourage these changes even if they are mere baby steps in the right direction.
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