Monthly Archives: September 2009

Barack Obama’s Newspeak on Health Care

Tonight’s speech on health care was a doubling down on the part of the administration. All the bad policy, all the economic voodoo, and all the flat out repression remain in the President’s platform. So does all the newspeak:

Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch.And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.

Employer provided health care does not work. It is the primary reason people are uninsured in this nation. Every sob story about someone losing their insurance when they lose their jobs, or about someone being unable to get insurance when they get a new job, traces back to this core fault of our health care system and our tax code.

First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

Nothing, except the public option. The above statement cannot be true given the current state of health care in the US. Remember, most people have no control over their health insurance. Their employers do, and employers can certainly force employees onto the public option if its more economical for them.

What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.

In other words, there will be no actual health insurance in the US. There will be subsidy plans called insurance with no mechanisms to control how much they pay out. American “insurance companies” will become no-limit ATMs for doctors and patients. This is supposed to lower costs?

Also, with regards to the previous point, Jim the office manager will certainly be forced off his insurance when it goes under because of these rules.

» Read more

Supreme Court Seems Poised To Overturn Campaign Finance Precedents

Based on the oral argument that occurred before the Supreme Court today, it seems pretty clear that the Court is prepared to strike down many restrictions on political advocacy that it had previously allowed:

WASHINGTON — There seemed little question after the argument in an important campaign finance case at the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the makers of a slashing political documentary about Hillary Rodham Clinton were poised to win. The only open question was how broad that victory would be.
chrome://foxytunes-public/content/signatures/signature-button.png
Elena Kagan, the solicitor general, all but said that a loss for the government would be acceptable, so long as it was on narrow grounds.

She suggested that the Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group that produced the documentary, “Hillary: The Movie,” may not be the sort of corporation to which campaign finance restrictions should apply. The group lost a lawsuit last year against the Federal Election Commission in which it had sought permission to distribute the film on a cable television service.

Theodore B. Olson, a lawyer for Citizens United, argued for a broad ruling that would reverse two precedents allowing the government to restrict the campaign speech of all sorts of corporations notwithstanding the First Amendment.

That prompted a question from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, her first as a Supreme Court justice. “Are you giving up on your earlier arguments that there are statutory interpretations that would avoid the constitutional question?” she asked Mr. Olson.

Indeed, it would not be hard for the court to rule in favor of Citizens United by interpreting or narrowing the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which bans the broadcast, cable or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general election.

The law, as narrowed by a 2007 Supreme Court decision, applies to communications ”susceptible to no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.”

The court could say, for instance, that the law was not meant to address 90-minute documentaries like the one at issue. It could say that the way Citizens United wanted to distribute the documentary, on a cable video-on-demand service, was not covered by the law. Or it could, as Ms. Kagan suggested, carve out some kinds of corporations.

Mr. Olson indicated that he was prepared to accept any sort of victory but that the court would have to confront the larger question soon enough.

Arguing on behalf of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, Floyd Abrams reminded the court that it could have decided New York Times v. Sullivan, the 1964 decision that revolutionized the law of libel, on quite narrow grounds. When First Amendment rights are in danger, Mr. Abrams said, bold action is sometimes required.

Lyle Dennison agrees that at least two campaign finance precedents would seem to be in jeopardy:

If supporters of federal curbs on political campaign spending by corporations were counting on Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., to hesitate to strike down such restrictions, they could take no comfort from the Supreme Court’s 93-minute hearing Wednesday on that historic question. Despite the best efforts of four other Justices to argue for ruling only very narrowly, the strongest impression was that they had not convinced the two members of the Court thought to be still open to that approach. At least the immediate prospect was for a sweeping declaration of independence in politics for companies and advocacy groups formed as corporations.

The Court probed deeply into Congress’ reasoning in its decades-long attempt to restrict corporate influence in campaigns for the Presidency and Congress, in a special sitting to hear a second time the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (08-205). At issue was whether the Court was ready to overturn two of its precedents — one from 1990, the other from 2003 — upholding such limitations.

From all appearances, not one of the nine Justices — including the newest Justice, Sonia Sotomayor — appeared to move away from what their positions had been expected in advance to be. In her first argument, Sotomayor fervently joined in the effort to keep any resulting decision narrow — seemingly, the minority position but one she had been assumed to hold.

Three Justices — Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — have explicitly urged the Court to overturn the two precedents that sustained congressional limits on campaign financing by corporations and labor unions. Kennedy and Thomas only seemed to reinforce that position on Wednesday; Thomas remained silent, but had given no indication earlier of a change of mind.

You can listen to the full audio of today’s oral argument here.

Jon Henke Appearance on Rachel Maddow Show

Having spent a few years in the ‘sphere, I remember the good ol’ days when Jon Henke was a fellow obscurity at QandO — which I’d point out was then and is today a bit less obscure than The Liberty Papers. He’s gone on to quite a few high-profile gigs, including online media coordination for the 2006 Republican Senate candidate from Virginia.

He recently got himself into a fight with WorldNetDaily, where he may have inadvertently learned George Bernard Shaw’s lesson:

I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.

I’ve largely avoided the WorldNetDaily stuff, the birthers, and all that nonsense. I do so because frankly I don’t have the time or energy to even give these conspiracy nuts a mention, much less spend more than a minute debunking them. These days, I barely have time to post about stuff I actually like to think about! And this nonsense doesn’t interest me in the slightest. Besides, my co-contributor Doug does an excellent job of it on his own. But suffice it to say that I’m in the Mataconis/Henke camp. There are a lot of things to criticize the Obama administration for, and silly fights over birth certificates are merely a distraction that obstruct our view of the important issues.

So below is Jon Henke, on the Rachel Maddow show, essentially calling the WND folks (and Maddow) to task for wasting time on nonsense, and suggesting that credible voices would do far well to distance themselves from WND:

Well said, Jon, and good work taking Maddow to task.

Honduras sheds light on Obama

Juan Carlos Hidalgo asks the question of the day in a post at Cato@Liberty:

What Principle is Guiding Obama’s Honduras Policy?

The Obama administration is threatening not to recognize the result of Honduras’ presidential election in late November unless Manuel Zelaya returns to the presidency beforehand.

The presidential poll was already scheduled prior to Zelaya’s (constitutional) removal from office last June. The candidates had already been selected by their parties through an open primary process. The current civilian interim president, Roberto Micheletti, is not running for office and plans to step down in January as stipulated by the Constitution. Both major presidential candidates supported the ouster of Zelaya. The political campaign is playing out in an orderly manner, and there’s a significant chance that the candidate from the opposition National Party will win the presidency. The independent Electoral Tribunal is overseeing the process.

And yet the U.S. Department of State is signaling that it won’t recognize the result of the poll in the name of defending Zelaya’s return to power.

The Obama Administration has been going out of its way to be on the wrong side of both the law and morality when it comes to Honduras. Obama has his first chance to rebuke the shameful history of the US being propping up dictators in Latin America and what does he do? He goes out of his way to prop up a would-be dictator who had neither the support of the people nor of the Honduran Constitution. He’s laid sanctions on the Honduran people. He refuses to recognize the legal, constitutional government of a country.

Why would he do this? Zelaya was the elected President of Honduras. He had been given the power, through the vehicle of democratic election, to shape Honduras.

Let’s cast it again: Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. He has been given power, through the vehicle of democratic election, to shape the United States.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Remember this incident from the early days of the Obama administration:

President Obama listened to Republican gripes about his stimulus package during a meeting with congressional leaders Friday morning – but he also left no doubt about who’s in charge of these negotiations. “I won,” Obama noted matter-of-factly, according to sources familiar with the conversation.

Obama won. Zelaya won. To the victors go the spoils. There is no higher principle behind the US Government’s abuse of the Honduran people, just that.

Even more worrisome, though, is what the Obama Administration’s treatment of Honduras means for us when we try to hold them to the limits of our Constitution.

Supreme Court May Overturn Previous Rulings On Campaign Finance

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear re-argument in a case that could lead to a big change in campaign finance law:

The Supreme Court’s unusual hearing Wednesday on the role corporations can play in influencing elections carries the potential not only for rewriting the nation’s campaign finance laws but also for testing the willingness of the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to defy the decisions of Congress and to set aside its own precedents.

The court will consider whether the “proper disposition” of a case — pitting a conservative group’s scorching campaign film about Hillary Rodham Clinton against federal campaign finance laws — requires overturning two decisions that said government has an interest in restricting the political activities and speech of corporations.

(…)

Roberts’s instincts have been to move incrementally, Lazarus noted. But such a narrow and consistent chipping-away approach — Roberts and Alito have voted for every challenge to campaign finance laws since joining the court — may simply be a way to make more-sweeping decisions appear inevitable.

“I don’t think people should underestimate the chief justice’s ability to look down the road,” said Washington attorney David C. Frederick, who frequently argues before the court. “I think he’s got a larger constitutional vision. He’s relatively young and looking into the future.”

(…)

Roberts’s instincts have been to move incrementally, Lazarus noted. But such a narrow and consistent chipping-away approach — Roberts and Alito have voted for every challenge to campaign finance laws since joining the court — may simply be a way to make more-sweeping decisions appear inevitable.

“I don’t think people should underestimate the chief justice’s ability to look down the road,” said Washington attorney David C. Frederick, who frequently argues before the court. “I think he’s got a larger constitutional vision. He’s relatively young and looking into the future.”

The case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has already been heard once by the Court. However, in June, the Court took the somewhat unusual step of asking the attorneys for both sides to re-brief and re-argue to address the question of “whether the court should overturn its earlier rulings on limiting corporate and union contributions in federal elections.”

As I said at the time, this seems to indicate that there’s at least some sentiment on the Court for revisiting previous ruling and, perhaps, putting a stake into the heart of one of the most invidious pieces of legislation of the past decade.

One can only hope so, at least.

Taxation And Morality

There have been plenty of books and policy papers written, plenty of speeches and television and radio interviews, about the economic reasons that high progressive taxation is a bad idea. We’ve heard many times about how it restricts innovation by discouraging investments, or how higher tax rates actually have the seemingly perverse impact of decreasing government revenue, while lower tax rates lead to more money in the Treasury. Those arguments have been made and re-made, stated and re-stated, so many times that most fiscal conservatives can restate them on their own.

What we haven’t seen very often, though, is an argument about tax policy from a moral perspective, an examination of the impact that tax policy has on society in the manner that it punishes good behavior and rewards bad behavior. That is exactly the argument that Leslie Carbone takes up in Slaying Leviathan: The Moral Case for Tax Reform, and it’s a welcome addition to the debate.

Through a combination of history, economic analysis, and good old-fashioned common sense, Carbone demonstrates quite clearly how tax policies over the past 70 years or longer have succeeded in sending the wrong signals to citizens and helped to encourage behaviors that have adverse consequences for individuals and society as a whole. In one compelling section, Carbone examines the immorality behind the IRS’s tax enforcement mechanism and concludes with this devastating point:

When a government does to people not convicted of any wrongdoing what the people cannot do to one another, the march toward tyranny has begun. When it takes from some just because they have more than others, when it places its interests in self-support above the privacy of its citizens, when its enforcement of unnatural law is identical to its enforcement of heinous natural offenses, when it can’t even understand it’s own laws, it has shifted from enforcing justice to enforcing injustice and sows disrespect for the Rule of Law. It becomes an instrument of the very wrongs it is instituted to subdue.

That’s the America we live in today.

The book concludes with an insightful analysis of the various tax reform proposals that have been made in recent years, ranging from the flat tax to the national sales tax, and makes clear that only reform that allows the people to keep more of what they earn can ever be considered moral.

For a quick read, this is an excellent edition to the voluminous literature condemning the leviathan that has become America’s tax system.

Quote of the Day

From former GAO head David Walker in the WSJ:

Mr. Walker’s own speeches are vivid and clear. “We have four deficits: a budget deficit, a savings deficit, a value-of-the-dollar deficit and a leadership deficit,” he tells one group. “We are treating the symptoms of those deficits, but not the disease.”

Remember, this is from someone who has seen the books of the Federal Government.

Shooting the Messenger

JERICHO, Ark. – It was just too much, having to return to court twice on the same day to contest yet another traffic ticket, and Fire Chief Don Payne didn’t hesitate to tell the judge what he thought of the police and their speed traps.

The response from cops? They shot him. Right there in court.

[…]

It’s unclear exactly what happened next, but Martin said an argument between Payne and the seven police officers who attended the hearing apparently escalated to a scuffle, ending when an officer shot Payne from behind.

Incredibly, the prosecutor says he doesn’t plan to file charges against the officer but the victim of the shooting, Payne, could face misdemeanor charges from the incident.

A Conversation with Family

From my cousin:

No one should die because they cannot afford health care, no one should go broke because they get sick, and no one should be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions. (But I also believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions especially from personal experience. And I won’t urge you repost this for the rest of the day. :-p I also hope that we can develop a system that truly works.)

My Response:

And we should all have unlimited money, and free ponies. And everyone should have free food and houses and college and… and… and…

There’s no such thing as free. Do you have the right to hold a gun to my head, steal my money, and use it to pay for someone else’s healthcare?

If you personally don’t, then why does the government have the right to do it on your behalf?

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

AARP Ad: Opponents of ObamaCare Oppose “Health Care Reform”

The “Ambulance Commercial” from AARP claims that the “special interest groups” are “trying to derail” the healthcare debate. Those who oppose “reform” are “spreading myths” about rationing of care. In case you’ve missed it, here’s the ad:

One of the things that really makes me angry about this debate is the way groups like AARP, the Obama Administration, and the Democrat Party use straw man arguments to characterize those of us who oppose government run healthcare are “anti-reform” or happy with the system the way it is. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m sure there are some who are GOP political hacks out there who oppose ObamaCare but would have no problem supporting RomneyCare or whatever variation of government healthcare McCain would have been pushing had he won the presidency. I get that. But despite what Rachel Maddow, Kieth Oberman, or any of these other Left-wing talking heads would have you believe, there actually are legitimate reasons to fear ObamaCare and not everyone who opposes it is not some sort of Right-wing lunatic.

So who is really spreading the “myths” about ObamaCare?

To be fair, I’m pretty sure it’s not the intention of Democrats to create healthcare rationing. Maybe proponents of the bill claim such things as “death panels” to be myths because such panels of bureaucrats are not part of the plan per se. Perhaps what the fans of big government do not understand is that rationing is inevitable, whether or not rationing is intended. If Red Lobster decided to serve steak and lobster for “free” to the general public every Saturday, one would imagine that there would be lines around the block and Red Lobster would run out of steak and lobster very quickly on Saturdays (and not everyone who stood in line would receive their free food).

The same is true for healthcare or any other product. If suddenly some 50 million uninsured individuals suddenly have access to “free” healthcare along with the remaining 250 million with no increase in the supply of healthcare providers, there will be shortages. Whenever there is a shortage of a product or service in a government controlled program, rationing is the only way to meet the needs for the greatest number. In other words, bureaucrats make the decision regarding who receives healthcare and who does not. The most likely choice will be that the elderly will be asked to sacrifice themselves for the good of “more productive” individuals (i.e. tax payers). This very phenomenon is already happening with vital organ transplants in the U.S. and around the world (with the notable exception of Iran of all places!).

But what is even more galling about the AARP ad than the complete ignorance regarding supply and demand is the notion that those who oppose ObamaCare are anti-reform. Just because some of us oppose ObamaCare does not make us anti-reform but simply anti-government healthcare. There are good free market approaches to health care reform; Cato Institute has an entire website dedicated to such approaches . I’m sure Dr. Ron Paul has some ideas and many other free market individuals as well but AARP, the Democrat Congress, nor the Obama Administration want to consider these approaches.

Couldn’t we just as easily say that they are anti-healthcare reform? If anyone is “derailing” the debate it would be AARP and their special interests.

If AARP believes “special interests” are obstacles to a quality healthcare system, just wait until they get their wish and politicians get between the patients and their doctors.

For those who would like to see the free market reforms Cato proposes, click on the banner below.

Open Thread – Government Debt

From the Treasury, as of Tuesday 9/1:

Total US Debt: 11,792,918,170,836.43
——————————–
Debt Held By The Public: 7,481,218,854,095.12
Intragovernmental Holdings: 4,311,699,316,741.31

Debt held by the “public” includes anything not held by other government agencies. I.e. this is t-bills sold to individuals, corporations, foreign individuals and even foreign governments or sovereign wealth funds.

Intragovernmental holdings a money the government owes the government, such as the social security trust fund.

I contend that the ONLY meaningful number is debt held by the public.

Tell me why I’m wrong.

Georgia Pastor Is Latest Victim Of War On (Some) Drugs

A Georgia Pastor was mistakenly killed in the a police drug string operation:

STEPHENS COUNTY, Ga. — A pastor was shot and killed following a drug sting in Stephens County, Ga., on Tuesday, and the officers involved and friends of the pastor are giving different versions of what led up to the shooting.

The Stephens County coroner confirmed that 28-year-old Jonathan Ayers was pronounced dead at Stephens County Hospital on Tuesday.

Ayers, a father-to-be, was the pastor of the Shoal Creek Baptist Church. He maintained a personal blog linked off the church’s Web page, jonathanayers.blogspot.com.

Sheriff Randy Shirley said that officers had been involved in an undercover drug sting at an unnamed establishment in Toccoa. He said the target of the sting was a passenger in Ayers’ car. Shirley said Ayers dropped the woman off and went to the Shell station. He said the officers followed Ayers there.

hirley said, outside the Shell station, the plain-clothes officers identified themselves with a badge. The officers said that Ayers put his car in reverse and struck and agent. They said they opened fire on Ayers when he drove toward the second officer. Two shots were fired in the car, one hit Ayers. The officers said Ayers sped away and crashed about a half mile from the Shell station. They said they found him conscious and alert, but he died a short time later.

The woman who was the subject of the drug sting was arrested, but police are not identifying her yet. She is charged with selling cocaine. Other charges against her are pending.

Investigators said they did not find drugs in Ayers’ car.

“They deserve punishment,” said Ayers’ sister, Rebecca Floyd. “They deserve to feel somewhat of the pain we’re feeling, because I can’t get my brother back he’s gone forever.”

And, no doubt, the officers won’t receive any punishment at all.

Quote Of The Day

Kevin Drum:

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act makes it illegal to sell toys that haven’t been tested for lead content. In general, I think that’s a perfectly fine idea.

You know, I’ll step away from anarchism for a moment to say this.

I think, in general, it’s perfectly fine to make it illegal to sell toys that contain (over a certain trace amount) of lead.

I think mandating that everything undergo extensive third-party testing, however, is bad policy.

If you create the regulation up-front, the market will find more efficient ways to satisfy the regulation than government-forced methods.

Show Support For Your Team With Bud Light!

Fan Can
With the start of college football barely over 24 hours away, those of us who are rabid fans are salivating for some action… And for many of us, that pavlovian response to college football has us salivating for a tasty adult beverage as well. What better way to show our support than by drinking our beverage of choice* in team colors?

Well, apparently some schools have an issue with this, including my alma mater, Purdue:

Purdue University officials have joined a coalition of colleges in calling for Anheuser-Busch InBev to stop selling its “fan can” — a regular-size aluminum can of beer decked out in school colors.

Lafayette-area liquor stores and bars are now selling Bud Light in the cans mirroring Purdue’s black-and-gold colors.

“We feel like it implies that Purdue is associated with that certain type of product,” said Teri Lucie Thompson, Purdue’s vice president for marketing and media. “We have sent a letter to ask them to cease and desist.”

Now, as someone who bleeds Old Gold & Black when cut, I have a more than tangential emotional attachment to those colors. But are they legally defensible in a trademark battle? Prior to 2008, one might think that a color scheme is not defensible. In Nov 2008, though, the 5th Circuit Court ruled that school colors were defensible against a company marketing apparel. This is still not necessarily relevant here, as one of the tests of the court was that of confusion:

The three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit appeals court took very much the same stance as the lower court. In their ruling, the judges laid out the two major criteria the universities had to meet to prove trademark infringement: to “establish ownership in a legally protectible mark,” and to “show infringement by demonstrating a likelihood of confusion” between Smack’s apparel and the universities’ own products.

Most of Smack’s shirts and other equipment, he points out, “taunt the opponent” rather than “extol the virtue of a college,” he said, and since “universities tend not to approve or license shirts that taunt their opponents,” Smack is free to make shirts like that.

This suggests that one of the clear delineations in this case might be a question of whether there is confusion over whether the product is competing with officially-license products, in such case as the university does officially license similar products (such as apparel). No university that I am aware of licenses its colors or other logos to alcoholic beverage makers, therefore I think claims of confusion may not exist. In addition, the ONLY identifiable mark on these cans is the colors, unlike the apparel case where the shirts contained many additional marks relating to specifics of the schools’ teams or specific dates and scores of games.

Whether legally defensible or not, though, it seems that the cans are welcomed by fans:

Dan St. John, owner of the four Village Bottle Shoppes in West Lafayette, said he has been stocking the black-and-gold can for a few weeks.

The cans, which retail for $18.49 in a 24-can case, are selling a little better than the regular Bud Light cans, he said.

So far St. John has heard no complaints or been told by his distributor the promotion was over.

For now, the Bud Light “fan cans” are available around Purdue and the popularity is catching on.

Jake’s Roadhouse, a bar in the Chauncey Hill Mall, recently made an order from its distributor to start selling beer in the “fan can,” said manager Shannon Duda.

Without conducting a poll of those in the Lafayette area, my gut instinct is that most purchasers of these cans are not under the assumption that they are drinking officially licensed beer.

I don’t mind the universities calling for Anheuser-Busch to end the promotion, and ratcheting up the public pressure on them to stop. As the story mentions, A-B has already pulled the promotions from a few locales. But I’d prefer to see this handled outside the courtroom.
» Read more

1 2 3