28 February 2011
It was flummoxing to learn the EPA is issuing a directive to lower the maximum level of flouride in drinking water for the children.
Starting in the late 1940s, the government encouraged municipal water authorities to add fluoride to community drinking water after an industry lead publicity campaign. Approximately 70% of American drinking water has fluoridation. There was concern in medical journals as late as 2005 which speculated that there would be an increase in tooth decay because of the popularity of people drinking bottled water that did not have fluoridation.
However the EPA is frowning on fluoridation based in part from a 2006 National Academy of Sciences report that dental fluoridation risked the breakdown of dental enamel and discoloration. The EPA’s revised risk study indicated that two out of five adolescents had spottiness, tooth streaking or pitting that is attributable to excessive fluoridation.
While a fluoride fixation was quite a laugh line from Stanley Kubrick’s dark comedy Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, it seems that General Ripper may not have been far off base about protecting his vital bodily fluids. But it was a difficult argument to win with Englishman during the Cold War.
It is sickening to think that a government that seems to be swayed by Big Science took sixty years to figure out that their well intended alchemy with community drinking water is actually hurting our children. It should make us all chary to totally cede our health care to the auspices of the Federal Government that is seduced by popular science. The EPA reversal also makes a reverse osmosis water filtration system an attractive home improvement project as it is more risk than one ought to swallow.
The guys from Politizoid fabricated a filk that was a pleasant laugh at the efforts to totally strip flier of their civil liberties without giving airtight privacy OR security assurances.
As Jay Leno jested "Have you heard the TSA's new slogan? 'We handle more junk than eBay.'"
H/T: Right Network
As Jay Leno jested "Have you heard the TSA's new slogan? 'We handle more junk than eBay.'"
H/T: Right Network
Since the start of 2011, there has been a string of revolutionary activity throughout the Arab world. The so-called Jasmine Revolution started in early January during the Sidi Bouzid revolt in Tunisia. February brought change to Egypt as myriad of people persistently protesting in Cairo’s Tahir (Liberation) Square chased Hosni Mubarak from his 28 years of strongman rule from office. There have been messy demonstrations in the island Kingdom of Bahrain. Libyan strongman Col. Muammar Gaddafi (a.k.a. known by other spellings such as Qaddafi, Kadhafi, Gadaffi, or Gadhafi) is intent on being martyred from his dictatorship since 1969. There is rabble rousing for mid-March in Saudi Arabia. Since it has spread from the Levant to the Mahgreb seems as if it is a pan-Arab epidemic.
The wave of uprisings may spread beyond the Arab world. Tony Femino’s Voice to America radio program indicates Jasmine Revolution may have spread to the Sub-Saharan North African nation of Mauritania, where hundreds have taken to the streets in the capital of Nouakchott. The wave of unrest may also spread further east as crackdowns in Iran on dissidents may spark a massive Persian protest on March 1st in Tehran.
Instead of assuming that these revolutionary winds are unprecedented, thoughtful observers choose to think in time and analogize the revolutionary wave in 2011 with the Year of Revolutions of 1848 in Europe. Historians attribute various triggers for the uprisings in the various European states in 1848. But all of them share the legacy of an economic downturn coupled with a failed crop in 1846 fulminating famine. New technology revolutionized the lives of the working class. The popular press expanded political awareness. And there were efforts by reformers and radicals to reshape governance towards nationalism.
Some of these revolutions failed outright, as in Ireland and Poland. Other revolutions were eventually overturned, as the France’s February Revolution overthrew the Orleans monarchy and instituted the Second French Republic with the help of peasants. But within three years, President Louis Napoleon declared the Second French Empire. The March Revolution in the German Confederation did instill some liberal reforms and started the first German Navy (Reichsflotte) but failed to unite all German speaking states and eventually succumbed to Austrian power in 1849.
While some of the revolutionary reforms were rolled back, the Revolutions of 1848 are thought of as the Spring of Nations, as it solidified nationalism in the minds of the people. It also further strengthened organized labor which was later doctrinally expressed by Karl Marx in Das Kapital in 1867.
How does the legacy of the Revolutions of 1848 compare with what is happening today? With events on the ground, things can change minute by minute. But an overview indicates many striking similarities. The world certainly has been roiled by a severe economic downturn since 2008. The United States compounded the pain for the world by its Quantitative Easing (QE2), which will cause commodity inflation to compensate for the effective American monetary devaluation. That tends to first hit with food prices. While there have not been as devastating of droughts as the anthropogenic Global Warming activists would expect, the drought in southwestern China in 2010 was the worst in a century, which was followed by floods that wiped out crops. The QE2 along with failed crops in the world’s most populace nation certainly will push up worldwide food prices, which has disproportionate impact on populations who already earn meager wages. Outside observers have labeled the unrest as the Jasmine Revolution but perhaps it would be better known as the Intifada of the Starved.
Between the spread of cellular phones and social media worldwide, there are revolutionary strides in lateral communications. The proliferation in media, particularly independent Arab language news outlets like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, which can quickly spread reports of political dissent as well as disseminate notions of salafist jihadism.
Another parallel element between both Years of Revolution are reformers and radicals working in the background to reshape the globe. As for the wave of unrest that is happening today, alarmists have pointed out that labor leaders seem to have been preparing for the current protests for years and are acting in international coordination. Many of the protests in Egypt, including the Day of Rage, are curiously coordinated to occur after Friday prayers at the mosque. During the height of the unrest in Egypt when opposition figures were vying for power, the cleric chosen to lead Friday prayers was Youssef al-Qaradawi, the TV-imam who is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who had been banned from speaking in the center of the Ummah for 30 years. Coincidence? Hardly.
The theory is that a perfect storm which temporarily has the winds of revolutionary socialism and the Islamic jihad will temporarily join forces to fulminate unrest and overthrow the status quo. Once the hyper-power is vanquished or neutralized, the revolutionaries can duke it out themselves to be top dog, so to speak.
But the forces of Islamic unrest are not just one source. Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Muslims, comprising about 80% of the 1.5 Billion faithful. Salafism is a school of Sunni Islam that seeks to re-establish a Caliphate that practices the pure Islam and force others who do not subscribe to their understanding (both Muslim and non-Muslim) into submission, subservience or the sword. The Muslim Brotherhood is a Sunni organization which was banned from Egypt since the 1920s due to their violent past. Supposedly, they have renounced violence and they just do community organizing in Egypt, despite being linked to the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat in 1981. Certainly, the Egyptian and Tunisian unrests were influenced by this Sunni school.
The other major Islamic sect is Shi’a Islam, which is centered in Iran. One sect of Shia is one which seeks the Madhi, or the Twelfth Imam, who mysteriously went into occultation and will return during a period of great upheaval to establish the Caliphate. According to the film Iranium, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a “12er” and that Iranian foreign policy since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 has been premised on creating the chaos to facilitate the Mahdi’s return. Hence, the “blessing” of the American Embassy in Tehran, the Beruit Bombing in 1983, the ferocious fighting during the mid ‘80s Iran/Iraq war, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the U.S.S. Cole attack in 2000, as well as the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
This Iranian foreign policy intent on encouraging chaos in the world meshes well with an expansion of Iranian sphere’s of influence. By funding Hezbollah’s (the Party of God) militant activity in Lebanon, Iran chased the United States from its base, giving Shi’a forces a base to attack the little Satan (a.k.a. Israel) and eventually overtake the Cedar Revolution. Syria has benefitted from Iran’s revolutionary foreign policy in nuclear proliferation, as has Libya.
Aside from the state sponsored terrorism emanating from Iran, this Shia inspired revolution may have a hand in defending Gaddafi. While it is unclear if there was coordination, Bahrain’s unrest stems from a Sunni Sultan ruling over a Shi’a population. Not all Shi’a are on board with the Mahdi movement and that may explain, along with brutal repression and a youthful, educated population that yearns not to live in a strict and brutal Islamic Republic, may explain any unrest in Tehran.
It is hard to know where these revolutionary winds of change will blow. Egypt seemed like it had a popular uprising that threw out a dictator/President. But his replacement was Mubarak's friend who was the head of the Secret Police who's first act was to suspend the Egyptian constitution. There are supposed to be elections in September but the only organized group in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood and the military has a bone to pick with them (after the Sadat assassination). The Muslim Brotherhood has indicated that it will not honor the 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt, Israel and the United States, which would cut off $4 Billion in military aid from the US, which threatens the Egpytian military's well-being. It is dubious if the Muslim Brotherhood was poised for victory that the military would cut off their nose to spite their face.
While the Green revolution of 2009 in Iran was stillborn, in part due to the lack of international support against the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is possible that a popular uprising during this season of change might bring down the government. It is unlikely a freed populace that has suffered in an Islamic theocracy would embrace a furtherance of the Caliphate, especially one that is not Shi'a in nature.
It is right to wonder if this revolutionary wave may extend outside the Ummah. It already has spread beyond Arab areas. There has been increased agitation in the United States by labor forces, as particularly seen in Wisconsin. A severe oil shock combined by stagflation in an economic downturn might be kick up the winds of change. Perhaps the two hundred year old democratic republican institutions and a conservative American psyche stifles any irrational exuberance of unrest. But those same circumstances could effect more unstable players earlier, like the Peoples Republic of China.
As America is having an agonizing self appraisal, it looks at its largest Asian economic competitor with rose colored glasses. But the Chinese have built their economy based on imports with an expectation of 10% per annum growth. For the current Chinese leadership, growth is so key that planners keep building ghost cities in far flung places in Western China to reap the rewards of continued growth. Yet at least 55% of the Chinese population is agrarian and is not allowed to reap the rewards of the big city. Chinese factory workers are paid subsistence if not slave wages.
There is a Chinese proverb (and perhaps a curse) “May you live in interesting times”. Combine famine with stagflation along with improved communications and no wonder why PRC party leaders are worried and ready to stifle any unrest lest the Jasmine Revolution be paired with Jasmine rice in a political pupu platter.
27 February 2011
There have been a couple of high profile squatting stories emanating from London which makes one wonder if the inmates are running the asylum in the UK and whether anarchistic multiculturalism is compatible with bourgeois free market systems.
Guy Ritchie, the English filmmaker and Madonna’s ex-husband, was conducting renovations on a £6 Million mansion in the central London Fitzrovia district. Ritchie bought the former language school, which had been empty for three years, last May and was in the process of having the five-story building converted into two homes.
My Generation”? At the “formerly” Richie flat, occupier advertised online ‘We need occupiers for tonight! Will be film showings in the new cinema. Come sleepover in the most rah property in London”. Quite.
Richie’s building contractors contend that they were working on the place and that the erected scaffolding makes it unsafe for the squatters. Outside observers might think that the kids are alright unless someone gets hurt, such as the rightful property owner.
The Daily Mail of London showed a property owner begging the squatters of his £1 Million home in the Archway section of North London. While John Henry Brown was not as famous as Guy Richie, his story is similar. Brown had saved up for 10 years to purchase his rowhouse and was in the process of having it renovated for his wife and two children, but a band of twelve squatters from France, Spain and Poland took possession of the property.
Neighbours have told the homeowner that squatters forced a window open to Hamilton-Brown’s property just after the sale of the house, but that forced entry is almost impossible for the owner to prove in court. Hamilton-Brown has been to court five times since his property was absconded on January 21st to obtain a possession order, but he will have to wait for six weeks to get a warrant for bailiffs to remove the squatters. During the meanwhile, Hamiliton-Brown has been forced to rent a small flat for his family until this legal matter is resolved. It is probably little solace to Mr. Brown but one of the squatters is a dead ringer for Spike, Hugh Grant's silly berk flatmate in Notting Hill.
English law treats squatting as a civil matter unless there is evidence of forced entry, which permits the police to forcibly evict the freeloaders. Otherwise, the owner must prove in court that he has a legal right to live there (and the squatters do not). A squatter can try to justify his occupation by showing that he has exclusive access to the property and can secure the abode with no broken locks or windows. But do not try this defense in thrifty Scotland, as squatting is treated as a criminal offense.
Twenty five years ago, the London School of Economics housing assistance offered squatting as an unsavory option for the poor student, but they recommended dicey hovels South of the Thames. Now, the internet has well developed Squatters Networks. It seems that the squatters are organized to move like locusts from one pie-de-terre to the next after eviction. The economic downturn leaves lots of seemingly vacant properties and there are no criminal consequences to squatting in London-town.
Several factors attached to the Hamilton-Brown homestead highjacking stick in the craw of the great silent majority. Many of these squatters were not British but took advantage of England’s soft squatting laws. In fact, a Frenchman calling himself Jean-Claude boasted that: "I came to England because this is where the love is. We will speak to other people from all over the world to come here and live because it is so easy. Why can't we live where we want?". To add fuel to the fire, these foreign freeloaders were given legal aid for their squatting by the local authorities as they are applicants European Union citizens who are unemployed.
The truly galling thing is that these cheeky prats had the audacity to post a legal notice on the abode warning against trespassing threatening a £5,000 fine and six months imprisonment. In the meantime, police are often called to the address over the loud parties and it is said that there has been significant damage to the interior of the abode.
It used to be assumed that a man’s home is his castle. Accordingly, the squatting laws favor property owners who protect their domiciles. Recently, residents in villages in Surrey and Kent were ordered by police to remove the mesh wire from around their windows. The homeowners were trying to thwart a string of burglaries, but community police officers were warned that the wire was dangerous and they it could lead to compensation in case the criminals (breaking in) hurt themselves.
I am reminded of the lyrics on an album titled “Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols”
I am the anti-Christ I am Anarchy. Don’t know what I want But I know how to get it. I wanna destroy the passer-by ‘Cos I wanna be anarchy... How many times do you get what you want? I used the best I use the rest. I use the NME. I use anarchy. ‘Cos I wanna be anarchy. It’s the only way to be.“Anarchy in the UK” Sex Pistols (1975)
Those cacophonic lyrics epitomizes the philosophy that such narcissistic, nihilistic notions that these anarchistic vagabonds assume. This libertines may enjoy causing the common law system to collapse, but the hoi polloi in a civilized society will not countenance such capricious lawlessness for long. I doubt that they will enjoy sharia law that is gaining acceptance in Britain as theft receives some harsh justice under the tenants of “The Religion of Peace”.
In Oliver Twist, a nineteenth century novel the sordid lives of criminals in London, Charles Dickens wrote: “the law is a ass—a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience.” At the time, Dickens was satirizing how the underclass was mistreated by society. It seems now that the bourgeois are now the underdogs who pay for the wanton ways of anarchistic internationalist socialists. If this skewed social justice myopia is not corrected by clear eyed experience, taxpayers and the pillars of society will wonder “Who’s Next?”
H/T Daily Mail
H/T Evening Star
During the Democrat National Committee winter meeting, Obama Labor Secretary Hilda Solis gave an impassioned partisan presentation of the public sector labor disputes in Wisconsin and Indiana. Solis accused Republicans of trying to turn back the clock on worker’s rights.
Solis segue to started to address union issues by stating: "People now have to be reminded, the American public needs to know, and we need to be out there reminding them, elections do matter. They really do." Either Solis' speechwriter is fluent in Orwellian Newspeak or lives in Wonderland, as her premises seem counterintuitive to the election results in November 2010. Solis insists that public employees “want to be at the table but that is not what the other party [Republicans] want.” Solis mouthed the lines of shared sacrifice, but implied that it had to be negotiating with unions and not within the ordinary governing process.
As Solis was voicing solidarity with unions in Wisconsin, she was supporting labors cronies in the state house lose power and the state is needs to balance the budget by $3.4 Billion through reductions in the platinum pension deals which Democrats had given away with taxpayer money. So Wisconsin teachers honor their positions by having an illegal sick out strike, occupying the State Capitol and getting bogus doctor’s notes. And they laud the cowardly lawmakers who fled the state to impede the legislative process on the matter because they don’t have the votes. Honestly, that does not sound like Solis accepts the will of the people at the ballot box.
Of course a Democrat Labor Secretary will have a more progressive perspective towards organized labor than the prior Administration. Both of her parents were industrial union members. And prior to serving in the Obama Administration, Solis was Congresswoman in California’s 31st and 32nd districts, which represented East Los Angeles.
Solis ratcheted up the rhetoric by declaring "The fight is on... We help the embattled states right now where public employees are under assault. And we work together and get going." Out on the campaign trail, candidate Obama insisted that he would put on a comfortable pair of shoes to walk with protestors who were being denied their “rights” to collective bargaining. Maybe just Solis’ words are change that union activists can believe in.
An article chronicling the costs associated with the Detroit People Mover shows why the Obama Administration is emphasizing trains and supporting union labor. The Mackinaw Center shows that the DPM employees receive double the pension contributions than their private counterparts. The monorail that makes a 2.9 mile loop around the Detroit’s downtown core. To attract it’s 2 million riders, the DPM only charges $0.50 a ride but it costs $4.31 a mile to move a passenger, which requires a $6.2 Million operation subsidy from a destitute Detroit and another $4.3 Million from the State of Michigan.
It is another example of how organized labor has helped kill a once Great Lake State and the unions continue their death grip on the corpse to suck all the marrow from the bones.
26 February 2011
After being a Loose Cannon (sic) on Alex Jones’ conspiracy radio show, Charlie Sheen finds himself temporarily out of a lucrative gig on Two and a Half Men. The problem is that the raving and ribald rogue managed to put the cast and crew of his comedy out of work for the rest of the season.
Sheen bristled at being coerced into rehab after the unpleasantries of Sheen's naked rampage with a prostitute and a suitcase of cocaine that caused $7,000 damage at the Plaza Hotel in October 2010. Along with his “hernia” episode last month. Sheen lashed out at the show’s producer Chuck Lorre in several anti-semitic slurs. Assuredly, this was not a slip of Sheen’s “gifted” tongue, as he continued the war with Lorre on TMZ.
Sheen’s hospitalization had already caused the Two and a Half Men crew to miss several episodes. But after hearing repeated insults and Sheen’s addictive delusions of grandeur and contempt, the producer cancelled the rest of the season.
While it is gratifying to watch some celebrity schadenfreude, it is a pity that it comes at the expense of the rest of the cast. Sheen is under the impression that he is sine-qua-non for Two and a Half Men. But the long running bawdy comedy has been a sinful delight for many television viewers, with a talented ensemble cast. In some ways, Sheen’s character has been somewhat superfluous this season, probably as writers needed to anticipate a prolonged Sheen absence. The production needed to accommodate for Sheen’s institutional haircut on account of that man behaving badly.
If "Ubermensch" Sheen things that the world can not revolve without him, his lawyers had better read the fine print of his contract. It would be surprising if CBS and Lorre Productions did not have some form of morality clause or pay or play termination.
While Lorre closed the comedy for this season, it is unclear if it will resume production. The show is long in the tooth but it has fine ancillary players and several unresolved subplots. Abandoning all might hurt further syndication sales.
Some entertainment observers have suggested cast substitutions. An idea floating around for this season (until it was cancelled), was to have guest appearances, like Charlie’s father Martin Sheen. There is the outside chance that Sheen’s role could be substituted to hobble to the comedic finish. In Betwitched, Dick York was replaced by Dick Sargant as Darren for the last three seasons and viewers were not severely scandalized. When Michael Fox needed to get off Spin City for personal health reasons, ironically Charlie Sheen was brought in to City Hall to continue the series for two years, but as a different character. This probably was done to ensure enough episodes for good syndication strippage. There is little need for that after eight seasons of Two and a Half Men.
While Sheen’s character in Two and a Half Men is funny, it is not an acting stretch for him as it is premised on Sheen’s bad boy reputation. Personally, it would be poetic justice if Rob Lowe assumed the Charlie Harper character, especially mindful of Lowe’s undercovers “performance” at the 1988 Democrat convention. Alas, Lowe is busy doing Parks and Recreation on NBC.
Although Chuck Lorre currently has a string of other hit comedies on CBS to keep him occupied, like The Big Bang Theory and Mike and Molly, it might behoove him to continue Two and Half Men for another season. The show has hinted at the perils of being a bastard bachelor throughout, even having a mock funeral for Charlie and not just depicting a happy whoring drunk. A couple of seasons ago, Two and Half Men intimated that Charlie was essentially lonely and was trying to grow into a real relationship, but that sensibility seemed stillborn.
Perhaps the writers of Two and Half Men can riff off of Sheen’s destructive lifestyle. He can be put into rehab. If Sheen insists on continuing his comedic cash cow, Sheen could have close encounters with a string of self-destructive celebutards inhabiting the TMZ. Sheen could share the screen with Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, Miley Cyrus, Mel Gibson, John Edwards, even Al Gore. Not bad money for a walk on appearance.
Even if Charlie was not shown while in rehab, the show can go on without him. Why not?-- as they mostly leech off of the largess of Charlie’s character, there is little reason for him to be present. Maybe Herb (Ryan Stiles) can finally escape the clutches of Judith (his wife and Charlie’s brothers ex-wife). If the Two and Half Men producers wanted a true denouement that would appeal to the show’s hedonistic sensibilities as well as an outreach to middle America, what if Alan (Jon Cryer) actually inherits Charlie’s Malibu place–would his ex wife Judith (Marin Hinkle) see him in a different light, especially after “her” child support runs out, and try to reconcile?
Sorry Charlie, but Two and a Half Men doesn’t really need you. Don’t worry, no crocodile tears will be shed for Sheen. He still collects part of the $2 Billion in syndication royalties. And rumor has it, he will parlay his rants into an HBO series. But if he is still looking to pick up work, he would be the perfect co-host for the revamped CNN primetime show “In The Arena” with Eliot Spitzer.
25 February 2011
Kathleen Parker, the supposed conservative co-host of “Parker-Spitzer” on CNN has decided to leave the show to concentrate on her syndicated column. This press release sounds as convincing as a politician announcing that he is not standing for re-election to “spend more time with my family”. While it was presented to the public as a resignation, Hot Air reports that CNN producers had complained about Parker’s weakness from the start. In addition, her co-anchor Eliot Spitzer recently predicted that Parker would be gone within a week.
Many television critics did not think that the prime time “Parker-Spitzer” show would be on the air for a week. Former Manhattan Madam Kirsten Davis cattily said “Spitzer is as boring on TV as he is in bed..” The show tended to have tight shots showing the former New York Democrat Governor disgraced by a sex scandal uncomfortably close to the comely Parker. Yet the show has remained been the 8 pm EST lead in for CNN for almost six months.
While initially it seemed as if CNN was attempting to attract more conservative viewers by hiring an attractive and articulate right leaning columnist like Parker, who is a both a Washington Post writer and Weekly Standard contributor. But in the intial promotion of her new CNN show, Parker told Larry King "I'm a big fan of Barack Obama as he came into office, and was not one of those Republicans who wanted him to do badly. I didn't want him to fail." Other self-labeled Republicans, like Christopher Buckley, Peggy Noonan and Gen. Colin Powell hav said similar things. But early in the “Parker-Spitzer” initial promotion, Parker opined that President Bill J. Clinton should not been impeached. OK. But it is quite revealing when Parker referred to Tea Party types as “Teabaggers”. And Parker revealed her true character when she postulated that the best explanation for the Restoring Honor rally was that Glenn Beck was a former alcoholic and the organizing the event was part of the “grandiosity of an addict”. With friends like that, why would conservatives need enemies?
While “Parker-Spitzer” has been virtually tied with MSNBC since Olbermann has flown the coop to Al Gore’s Current TV, it is about 3 ½ times behind ratings leader “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News. That’s not much of a race.
It will be curious in a celebrity schadenfreude sort of way to see if Eliot Spitzer’s solo effort “In the Arena” will amount to much. Has six months in front of the cameras helped alleviate his on air stiffness? Will the left leaning news junkie both forgiven him for the sex scandals that drove him from office as well as warmed to his on-air persona?
Well, Katie Couric’s contract with CBS expires in May. There were rumors last year that CNN was hoping to land perky Katie in Atlanta. During the meanwhile, if Spitzer still needs a co-host, why not pair him with Charlie Sheen. Aside from Sheen’s anti-Semitic rant on Alex Jones, it would seem like a match made in heaven. Men.
After 61 hours of debating amendments intended to stall the inevitable, the Wisconsin Assembly (lower chamber) passed Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) budget repair bill during the early hours of Friday morning.
There was considerable controversy attached to the voting. Democrats were dismayed that they still had fifteen speaker queued up when final passage was considered. But the majority limited debate to one amendment per legislator with 10 minutes debate per amendment. These ignored speakers may not have been following the floor rules. There were also complaints that the Speaker of the Assembly did not give the traditional motion and roll call procedure. But how could this be discerned as Democrats brayed their boos during the Voice Vote. During a quick electronic roll call vote, the legislation passed by a margin of 51 to 17, with 4 Republicans, 25 Democrats and 1 Independent were not on the record.
While the parliamentary procedure may not have been pretty, it at least was lawful. The ex Speaker Pelosi (D-CA 8th) run House of Representatives used a procedural emergency war spending vote to attach a document with a non-existent $1.1 Trillion Budget that was “Deemed As Passed.” And ex Speaker Pelosi seriously considered using the “self-executing rule” (a.k.a. Deemed as Passed) on Obamacare. How about the 400 page Chairman’s mark that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA 30th) dropped 18 hours before the Cap and Trade Vote that was specially crafted just to win a close vote in 2009? Oh, but that’s not the Wisconsin tradition. How about 14 Democrat Wisconsin state Senators fleeing the state rather than deliberating and voting on legislation that they would likely lose?
This was contentious legislation as it included the right to work provisions that so many teachers protested by squatting in the Capitol Rotunda. Many of the Democrats who showed up on the Assembly floor to do their jobs were arrayed in an orange raiment that showed solidarity with their union brethren.
Beautiful loser Read it on the wall And realize You just can’t have it all You just can’t have it all -Bob Seger
But instead of acting like the honorable title that is attached to their names, the losing Democrats acted like street thugs. According to Mother Jones Magazine, the livid losing lawmakers shouted “Shame” at their colleagues as the Republicans left the chamber single file. Other Democrats threw paper up in the air. One hooligan lawmaker even threw a drink.
Is this rowdy floor etiquette a harbinger of the future? Unfortunately, the boorish behavior on display by Wisconsin Democrats is not like the quaint Question Time raucousness in the British Parliament. The uncivilized actions on display by Democrats in Madison seem like precursors for chaotic comportment of politicians in fledgling democracies in South Korea, Taiwan and Ukraine, where scuffles, smoke bombs and kung fu occur.
This should be lots of grist for the mill at the National Institute of Civil Discourse, if the faculty can take their blinders off. I wonder if Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) would salute the minority making its point as a legitimate part of the process or if a Potomac Fever politician would cause him to later condemn the the actions as outrageous and unacceptable.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) rejected $2.4 Billion in Porkulus spending “High Speed” rail line in Central Florida. There was not strong support from Central Florida citizens for this High Speed Rail project. Voters in in Tampa and Polk County (FL) rejected a 1 cent sales tax increase dedicated to the “Supertrain”. Moreover, Gov. Scott reasoned that the Orlando metropolitan area (2 million) and the Tampa Metropolitan area (2.7 million) was too small to sustain the high speed rail system. In addition, it is unlikely that the five scheduled stops in the 84 mile route would allow the train to ever reach “high speed” status.
Gov. Scott claimed that he was trying to protect Florida taxpayers from an estimated $3 Billion in cost overruns. The SunRail deal was structured so that Florida was responsible for half of the high speed rail costs and 20% of commuter rail costs. Gov. Scott suggested “Rather than investing in a high-risk rail project we should be focusing on improving our ports, rail and highway infrastructure.”
Obama Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood snarkily reacted that since there was an overwhelming demand for the stimulus funds earmarked for high speed rail and states like California ought to send a thank you to Florida for rejecting the funds. LaHood denied that Florida taxpayers would be on the hook for cost overruns or stillborn project planning costs. This assertion is a stark contrast to the New Jersey paradigm, where the Obama Administration levied a charge back of $350 million to the Garden State when Gov. Chris Cristie (R-NJ) refused to write a blank check for the train to Macy’s.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-FL 7th) has been conflicted about rail expenditures. Rep. Mica inveighed that “Amtrak's Soviet-style train system is not the way to provide modern and efficient passenger rail service." Mica also derided the Obama Administration’s push to spend an additional $53 Billion in passenger rail projects under the auspices of the Federal Rail Authority and Amtrak as “This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio.” But Mica was also disappointed that the SunRail point was scuttled by Gov. Scott, perhaps because a pet project of a Congressional Cardinal was being sacrificed.
Building upon the fact that Orlando attracts 63 million visitors a year, Rep. Mica renewed a call to complete 21 miles of the proposed SunRail route that would connect Orlando’s main airport with the Orlando Convention Center and Disney World. Based on the massive influx of tourists, this cautious first step on the Central Florida HSR route has a chance of not being a modal money pit.
However it is unlikely that the Obama Administration DOT Secretary LaHood will approve the project on its merits because it is not a high speed rail connecting two cities. The real reason maybe somewhat murkier. The Obama Administration was poised to point to SunRail during the President’s re-election effort as a validation of the $836 Billion in Stimulus Spending on shovel ready projects, as well as to burnish the 21st Century Infrastructure improvements and as a sop to green voters who want to force Americans out of their evil polluting automobiles. That argument is less auspicious when it is effectively a commuter rail for tourists.
It is probable that financial and power considerations also make Rep. Mica’s modest proposal less palatable to the Feds. The State (or municipality) only needs to pick up 20% of commuter rail costs. A commuter rail between MCO and Disney would be under the auspices of the City of Orlando and Orange County (FL), thus bypassing the authority of the Federal Rail Administration or Amtrak, which is a government sponsored enterprise that has long been a financial featherbed for connected Democrat politicos. No wonder why Between-the-Beltway elites are dotty about trains.
Florida is the fourth most populous state and does not receive anywhere near its fair share of federal transportation expenditures compared to its gas tax contributions to Washington. It is unseemly to have unwanted federal public policy projects from outside of the state foisted on its citizenry who will bare the brunt of the boondoggle.
But local pet projects of politicians also can be undesirable. In 1987, the Detroit People Mover was completed at the behest of longtime Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young (D-Detroit) for a mere $187 million. The 2.9 mile route does nothing to alleviate congestion or commuting. It does attract 2.7 million in ridership, mainly because the $0.50 fares does not include the $3 per ride that the government absorbs. It was a vanity project to take advantage of Federal transportation dollars.
If the U.S DOT diverts Florida’s transportation earmark from Florida to California, it will have the appearance of rewarding political friends and punishing foes to push an idealistic ambition. Considering the estimated cost of $45 Billion for the Golden State High Rail project and the possibility that cost overruns will skyrocket the cost to $60 Billion, they can use all of the earmarks that they can get.
H/T: Orlando Sentinel
H/T: Rick Geller
24 February 2011
During the Health Care fight last year, then Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 6th) compared the peaceful grassroots protests by Tea Party activists with the violence in San Francisco during the mid 1970s. The Lamestream Media persistently propagated the unfounded attribution that Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s intended assassin was a right leaning wingnut. So much so that the University of Arizona established a National Institute of Civil Discourse.
The Civility Center comes at a propitious time considering the union antics against right-to-work and benefits contribution legislation in Wisconsin to help balance the state budget. On Saturday there was a counter-protest in Mad-town by Tea Party activists and supporters of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) reacting to the teacher occupation of the State Capitol. The Daily Caller documents how union activists tried to sabotage the counter protest by vandalizing the dais’ sound system. I’m sure that he was only trying to help as he shouted anti-Tea Party invectives.
During a union rally in Boston to show solidarity with their Badger brethren, Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA 8th) proclaimed:
I’m proud to be here with people who understand that it’s more than just sending an email to get you going. Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary...
Perhaps that was rhetorical overstatement or just an evocative metaphor. But union activists have been interpreting that exultation a little too literally of late.
Consider the case of the ASCME “soladarity” rally on the Rhode Island State Capitol steps in Providence. A cameraman for “We the People of Rhode Island” Public Access television was assaulted by an ASCME activists. In order to convey the contentious altercation for broadcast, Glenn Beck used codewords for the FCC-finable words. The edited exchange was “He will Fruit Smoothie him in the cookie you Happy Man”. So much for civility. The Rhode Island State Troopers did haul the assailant way as the assembled crowd chanted “Hey, hey, ho-ho, union busting’s got to go.”
In our nation’s Capital, the Communication Workers of America solidarity assembly took place at the Hall of States near Capitol Hill, which happens to house the DC bureau of Fox News Channel and Freedom Works. Tabitha Hale, a diminutive 5'1" young female was filming a heated tete-a-tete with a CWA activist. When the exchange was not going his way, the union thug assaults her twice, including one swipe with his placard. I guess that union signs are more than just trash after a union demonstration.
Apologists will explain away these embarrassing assaults by the left as isolated incidents of a few unstable individuals. But as Pelosi implored words have consequence and political actors need to assume responsibility. As for the limited extent of these incidents, it is curious that MoveOn.org is rallying union sympathizers to conduct protests in all 50 states this weekend. This will show if progressives can protest peacefully or if it is syndical incivility.
H/T: Michelle Malkin
H/T: The Daily Caller
23 February 2011
President Obama instructed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) because the Chief Executive believes that the law is unconstitutional. This public policy position regarding the protection of traditional marriage is a change from Obama’s stances on the campaign and during the first two years of his Administration.
Despite the verbal faux pas with Obama’s inauguration, the oath still requires the President to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States. Surprisingly Article II Sect. 1 of the U.S Constitution does not include determining the constitutionality of laws but instead requires the oath taker “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Whether President Obama likes it or not, 28 U.S.C. § 1738C (a.k.a. The Defense of Marriage Act) is the law of the land. It was passed by Congress in 1996 when Hawaii was flirting with a judicial recognition of Same Sex “marriages”. The law was designed to not force states steadfast in supporting traditional marriage to be obliged to honor these homosexual unions by Article IV Sect. 1, the Full Faith and Credit Clause, of the U.S. Constitution. The Defense of Marriage Act was passed by a vote of 87-13 in the Senate and a margin of 342-67 in the House and was signed into law by President Clinton.
However Obama as Chief Executive has determined by himself that the federal definition of marriage was unconstitutional. The President has made this determination without being compelled by a Supreme Court ruling on the matter. Jay Carney, President Obama’s new spokesman, indicates that the Department of Justice still enforce the laws, as they are required to do so. But looking into the details, the portion of the law that the DOJ will no longer defend is 28 U.S.C. § 1738C, the part that effects states and the Full Faith and Credit Clause, so it effectively guts the law. So it is meddling in state’s rights as well as not defending the law of the land.
Richard Neustadt, a Harvard Political Science Professor who helped found the Kennedy School of Government, postulated that: “Where you stand is where you sit”. This was intended to explain why governmental officials gravitated towards policies that reflected the institutions which they represented. Looking at it from a good governance lens, Obama’s dereliction of duty makes no sense as it is not the President’s duty to determine Constitutional. According to Article III of the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court is the supreme arbiter of the constitutionality of the laws of the land.
But if one consider’s Neustadt’s maxim through a political lens, things become more focused. It kind of seems like a naked political move as Obama’s political support amongst Independents has eroded that a reliable and rich base is stroked for future support. So Obama is reflecting the sensibilities of those who keep him in his chair.
Obama’s ukase seems aligned with former California Attorney General (and now California Governor) Jerry Brown’s refusal to use state resources to defend the California voters' will as expressed in in Proposition 8, which again defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Some caution should be applied when adhering to Governor Moonbeam’s lead, as Brown was hectored as being ineligible for the Attorney General office, as he had not practiced law for five years prior to his election. But eventually a judge dismissed this suit as it was a political issue.
The laws be damned. That sounds quite familiar.
UPDATE 03/01 During testimony before House committees, Attorney General Eric Holder said that DOMA will continue to be enforced as it is now on the books – but he will not allow DOJ attorneys to go to court to defend its constitutionality. Whatever that means.
After the assassination attempt against Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ 8th), the University of Arizona announced that it was establishing the National Institute for Civil Discourse, to be co-chaired by former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill J. Clinton. The civility center is described as “a non-partisan center for debate, research, education and policy in civil discourse.” In the abstract, it sounds like a noble but nebulous notion. In practice, it will probably be as insipid as the U.S. Institute for Peace or perhaps it can aspire to evolve into a organization like the feckless kleptocracy of the United Nations.
Such a civility institute should examine the media coverage surrounding the inception of the center. Immediately after the Congresswoman was shot, most of the Lamestream Media jumped on the thesis that the Tea Party was to blame and this should be the end of Gov. Sarah Palin’s political career. The Lamestream Media meme continued long after it became apparent that Jared Lee Loughner, Gifford’s assailant, was troubled man who spouted 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Lamestream Media coverage sought out any wacky protestors at Tea Party events and decried when they found depictions of President Obama as Hitler. Of course, these liberal Lamestream “reporters” failed to mention that such protest placards were produced by Lyndon Larouche, a perennial Democrat Presidential candidate. Strangely enough, Big Media never seemed offended or even aware of the many unflattering depictions of President George W. Bush at the anti-war protests During the current showdown at the Wisconsin State Capitol by pro-Union protesters, how often does the Lamestream Media show the crude comparisons of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) as a dictator or even as Hitler? Hmm, that’s strange but no surprise as the liberal Lamestream media focuses on what fits in their ideological framework and magnifies anything attributable to their opposition.
The crux of the walkouts by Democrats in the Wisconsin and now the Indiana legislatures is about right to work legislation. Instead of standing firm like Gov. Walker, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) chided his party for pursuing controversial legislation and urged the Republicans to drop the matter. While speaking to reporters, Daniels saluted the Democrats for participating in the political process (by fleeing from their duties in the Statehouse) and hoped that by eschewing controversy he can lure dissenting Democrats back to the table. Certainly the Lamestream Media will characterize Daniels as being a Statesman and Walker as intransigent.
Civility is a cudgel used to bloody conservatives to relent from their principles to strive for consensus, which is remarkably similar to liberal political objectives. But when Republicans strive for bipartisan cooperation, as President George W. Bush attempted early in his administration, the concessions are one way. This “kinder and gentler” governance allowed the 43rd President to be vilified when political choices got tough. So much so, Rahm Emanuel (D-Chicago), Obama’s former chief of staff and the newly elected mayor of Chicago, could be crude as President Bush arrived at Obama’s inaugural. Perhaps Gov. Daniels is modeling his governance after President Obama’s inaugural address which offered to “extend a hand if they unclench their fist”. That has worked out so well for the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.
Granted, the Civility Center is based at the University of Arizona. Seeing the way the memorial service for the fallen in Tucson was quickly organized as “Together We Thrive” pep rally, which echoed an organizing for America theme, it is easy to understand the center’s orientation. Come to think of it, the National Center for Public Discourse may be as meaningful as City College’s Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.
22 February 2011
There has been rampant speculation that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will be a candidate in the 2012 Republican primaries. Aside from being a two term governor of Indiana who successfully managed to privatize the Indiana Toll Road, he also was President George W. Bush’s O.M.B. Director. This would position Daniels well in a period of federal fiscal austerity and innovative ways to make government more efficient through the free market. Gov. Daniels gave the keynote speech for the Ronald Reagan dinner at CPAC this year which was widely lauded for coining the “Red Menace” of red ink.
However Daniels continues a curious tract of “Truce Talk”. In June 2010, Gov. Daniels gave an interview with The Weekly Standard that suggested the next president “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues” until economic issues are resolved. Hoisting the white flag on social issues was not well received by the conservative party base. But Daniels doubled down on his moderation methodology in December 2010 when Gov. Daniels signaled that conservatives could proceed with anti-abortion legislation as long as it did not interfere with his economic and educational priorities. Daniels also insisted that his truce talk was aimed at Congress not at the Indiana state legislature.
Well, now that Indiana Democrats have fled the state capital to stymie consideration of right to work legislation, Daniels has again hoisted a Hoosier White Flag. Gov. Daniels urged Republican lawmakers to drop consideration of the right to work legislation to bring the dissenting Democrats back to work. Daniels had warned Republicans in the legislature not to pursue right to work legislation it was a big issue that deserved statewide debate and they had not campaigned on it.
Daniel’s CPAC speech addressed the ideological divide that pits more government forces versus less government adherents while trumpeting Indiana as a model for the nation. Gov. Daniels does have some significant accomplishments while being Governor of Indiana. But being Chief Executive also involves leadership. It is commendable that he wanted politicians to campaign of big issues, the people can speak up if they disagree with legislation and throw the bums out if that is the peoples’ inclination. But when the minority abrogates its office in order to stall governing, it seems pretty lame to give in to the partisan walk out just to bring the minority party back to the table. At what point would Gov. Daniels not compromise?
A cynical political analyst such as myself wonders if Daniels is positioning himself to be a voice of moderation to appeal to Independent voters. That is a good general election tact, but does not work well in the primaries, where the base decides. Maybe Daniels does not want contentious social issues to mar his record of political victories in economic and educational issues. Or perhaps it is the sagacity of a senior statesman who yearns that “we all just get along.”
Today’s headline from the race for the White House in 2012 was that Senator John Thune (R-SD) decided not to run for President. But I fear that Gov. Daniels may have inadvertently raised a White Flag to his aspirations for higher office by forgoing leadership and renewing his truce talk.
A Wall Street Journal article by Douglas Belkin and Kris Maher gives a concise narrative of how the fourteen fleeing Wisconsin State Senators decided to fight Governor Scott Walker’s (R-WI) legislation over the budget bill through flight from the state capital in Madison. These elected officials decided to abandon their offices just three hours before a roll call on the legislation.
During a coffee klatch by the Capitol, Democrat Minority Leader State Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) recommended regrouping in Rockford Illinois at the Best Western Bell Clock Tower Resort which could be easily spotted from the Interstate. This spot was an hour and a half drive from Madison was just over the Wisconsin state line, which was out of reach of Badger state troopers to recall the legislators on the lam.
Twelve of the fourteen self-exiled Democrat State Senators managed to make it to the Bell Tower Resort, but two missed the mark due to a wrong turn on the highway. The Democrats flight did not remain secret for long when Miller was spotted by reporters in the hotel parking lot trying to elude a cellular dead zone. Citizen activists figured out where these cowardly State Senators were held up and two Tea Party types confronted State Sen. Jim Holperin (D-WI 12th Eagle River) and State Sen. Bob Jauch (D-WI 25th Poplar) as to why they were not doing their jobs in Madison.
It was interesting to learn some of the hardships that these absent Democrats have endured in their exile, like paying $28 for a room service hamburger or a spouse needed to drive 350 miles roundtrip to deliver clean laundry and $300 cash. Wonks have wondered if these diasporic Democrats were expensing their exile on Wisconsin state credit cards. In 2002, 50 Democrat Texas State lawmakers tried to flee Texas to protest the redistricting plan. The Democrats were enticed back to Austin when Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) cut off the state credit cards. One lesson learned from the Lone Star expatriation comes from Texas State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-TX 26th San Antonio) who recommended, “If you are going to be out more than two weeks call your spouse for conjugal visits.”
Now Hoosier lawmakers are following their Badger counterparts and Indiana Democrats have fled the State Capitol in Indianapolis to avoid legislating limited governmental union coercion. This is a pitiful abdication of their oaths of office. Being an elected official means making hard choices and going on the record with their representation. Taking your ball and going home when you know that you are going to lose risks making our democratic republic look like a banana republic, more like an unstable Mesoamerican regime than a hip retailer. Some slick politicians who aspired to run for higher office were chary about taking difficult votes, but at least he voted “present”.
Perhaps these abdications of office are political theatre, coordinated anarchistic strategy or just a desperate short term answer for losing legislators. But this fight by flight strategy may be too clever by half. In Wisconsin, there needs to be a 60% quorum when voting on budgetary matters, but only a simple majority for other legislation. These cowardly Cheesehead State Senators might find lots of antithetical acts have been passed in their absence.
H/T: Wall Street Journal
21 February 2011
Most calendars indicate that today is Presidents’ Day. But it has come to my attention that this is a misnomer which truly misses the mark. Popular observance of President’s Day have come down to silly sales and a day off for the government. While we might enjoy the bargains at the malls and the time off Between the Beltways, we really ought to observe the real meaning behind the holiday.
Prior to the standardization of the Uniform Holiday Act in 1971, the shortest month used to have two holidays, both Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12th) and Washington’s Birthday (February 22nd) which many states observed. Even though an early draft of the Uniform Holiday Act referred to the third Monday in February as Presidents’ Day, the Congress never changed the observance from “Washington’s Birthday”.
Rather than have a holiday celebrating the general office of the Presidency, or being forced to celebrate James K. Polk, it seems appropriate to honor the father of our country, George Washington.
While there are many myths attached to the first President of the United States (e.g. chopping down the cherry tree) as well as an impressive resume as patriot, warrior, military leader and chief executive, there are several that the American body politic should emulate.
Firstly, there is perseverance. When we recall the American Revolution, we swell at the victory over the Great Britain, our mother country. But when not gazing through the rosy glow of hindsight, Washington was leading a ragtag bunch of citizen soldiers against the hyperpower of the day. Things did not seem so glorious after Washington lost New York City and he was huddling in the snows of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. But through Washington’s leadership, American forces eventually were victorious over the British Empire.
After the victory in Yorktown in 1781, the new nation was starved for leadership. If America followed European models, people would have yearned for a king. Due to his prominence and his victory, there is speculation that Washington could have had the crown for America. But Washington chose to retire to his beloved home of Mount Vernon, Virginia. This proved Washington’s opposition to dictatorship and his belief in republican government.
When the Articles of Confederacy proved to be an inadequate governing framework for the American Republic, Washington came out of retirement to preside over what became the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Despite his desire for retirement, Washington was the natural choice as the first U.S. President. This shows Washington’s self sacrifice and his dedication to his country.
After serving two four year terms, Washington chose to retire. Washington’s retirement set a standard for chief executives (until 1940 with F.D.R) to have limited terms of power as President. More importantly, Washington helped the American Republic to have peaceful transfers of power. In addition, Washington’s quiet retirement served as a model for future Presidents (until Carter) to remain above the fray on his successors’ public policies.
At his death, Washington was hailed as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen". I can think of a more fitting tribute to a great man who was instrumental in establishing the great experiment of America.
18 February 2011
During a debate in the House of Representatives on an amendment to defund aspects over last year’s health care law, Minority Chief Party Whip Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL 20th) formally objected to the use of the term “Obamacare”.
After two Republicans referenced the controversial health care law as “Obamacare”, Rep. Wasserman-Schultz made a parliamentary inquiry as to whether these “disparaging remarks” should be allowed on the House floor. Wasserman-Schultz alleged:
That is a disparaging reference to the president of the United States; it is meant as a disparaging reference to the president of the United States, and it is clearly in violation of the House rules against that...
The chair deferred on ruling since the inquiry was about a hypothetical over the term “Obamacare”, but the chair encouraged members "refrain from engaging in personalities or descriptions about personalities in general."
It is curious that at least according to the Democrat’s Chief Party Whip, associating Obama with health care is disparaging. Immediately after the exchange, five term Congressman Denny Rehburg (R-MT AL), who authored the Amendment, still referred to the healthcare law as Obamacare and rhetorically wondered why the President would not want his name attached to his signature achievement. Rep. Steve King (R-IA 5th) also referred to it as Obamacare.
Controlling public policy debate through a thought police may work with willing Lamestream Media scribes but it is dubious when conducting the work of legislating. Perhaps Democrats will follow their Cheesehead comrades in arms and will leave the jurisdiction since they object to the legislative outcomes. Rumor has it that Club Gitmo is pretty nice and the Obama Administration will still keep it open. But out of deference to the tender sensibilities of Democrats who are the minority party of the House, maybe we should refer to this Administration’s landmark legislation as “Zero-care”, since that what taxpayers will experience if a broke federal government takes over 1/7th of the economy.
16 February 2011
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA 49th) held a hearing to investigate the $787 Billion stimulus (a.k.a. Porkulus 1) from 2009. But two key witness chairs remained empty as the Obama Administration did not deign to allow two key architects of the freespending economic policy testify.
Issa had requested the testimony of Christina Roemer, the former Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, and Jared Bernstein, Vice President Biden’s Chief Economic aide, but the Obama Administration declined. Obama spokesman Reid Cherlin insisted that senior White House advisors in Democrat and Republican Administrations generally do not testify before Congress. But Cherlin indicated that this move is part of a general White House policy against top White House aides testifying before Congress. Instead, the Obama White House offered to send a bureaucrat from the Commerce Department and the Transportation Department to testify about the economic impact of the massive two year old stimulus bill. Cherlin's rationales defies credulity in covering all bases. If it is customary to excuse Executive Branch officials from testifying, then why would there be a new move to bar White House aides from testifying?
In a Constitutional Republic like the United States, the Chief Executive does not decide with which laws his Administration will comply vis-a-vis a co-equal branch of the Federal Government. The White Council of Economic Advisors requires its appointees to be obtain the advice and consent of the Senate. That should not be a one time rubber stamp by the Legislative Branch.
In the case of Porkulus, I doubt that the obscure Commerce and Transportation Department bureaucrats could convincingly testify how many jobs were “saved” by the massive stimulus package, it would have been instructive to know what premises were behind the economic models which showed that Porkulus would cap the unemployment rate at 8 percent, when U.S. reported unemployment has been hovvering at near 10 percent (and is actually closer to 17%).
The White House can not claim that this was Executive Privilege for advise since the Obama Administration sold this spending spree to Congress and the public on this irrationally exuberant logic. Rep. Issa’s spokesman Kurt Bartella pithily opined “It really makes you wonder how much do they truly believe in their own work product when they aren’t willing to talk about it in a public forum.”
But this is not the only instance when the Obama Administration has stonewalled oversight from the new House Majority Leadership. Obama Administration Homeland Security Head Janet Napolitano missed two deadlines for documents regarding alleged agency interference with document requests coming from lawmakers, watchdog groups and journalists. Now HSA is said to be complying with the requests from Issa’s committee.
What is troubling is that Obama partisans are not content with dragging their feet and obstructing Congressional oversight. The Politico has reported that liberals have launched an anti-Issa campaign. The Third Lantern is a nonprofit group run by Averal Smith, a cut-throat Hillary 2008 operative, which aims to use the internet and paid media to undermine and investigate the rabble-rousing Issa. The Third Lantern refuses to disclose who is bankrolling its efforts or how much will be spent to smear the Government Oversight Committee Chairman.
If the Obama Administration’s rhetoric would be represented in reality, the Administration would be cooperating with Congress to try to solve some of America’s pressing problems. Instead, these words are wind meant to sway open minded independents. In Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinski advised that: “the end justifies almost any means” and “pick a target, freeze it and polarize it” blows away any spirit compromise. Thus the Issa-lation continues.
14 February 2011
The White House submitted its 2012 Fiscal Year Budget proposal to Capitol Hill. The $3.75 Trillion budget proposal ignores the $4 trillion of recommended cuts contained in the bipartisan Debt Commission report that the Obama Administration received in December.
The Lamestream Media lauds that deficit hawk Obama Administration is cutting $1.1 Trillion over 10 years. But when you take off the emerald colored glasses when looking at the Emerald City, it turns out that this is only $775 million in FY 2012. Putting that into perspective, that is less than 1/10 of one percent of the federal budget. Oh, but the big savings would occur after Obama’s re-election. How convenient!
And the left is in an uproar because the cuts detailed are slated to hit the working poor, home heating assistance programs and graduate education programs. The dirty little secret is that these proposed hard nosed cuts would never survive the scrutiny of Congressional forces seeking re-election by supplying the income redistribution gravy train.
When President Obama gave his 2011 State of the Union Address, he sought to win the future by reinventing himself as a fiscal hawk. Two weeks ago, President Obama proposed a five year across the board domestic spending freeze, that supposedly would save $400 Billion. Of course, this does not consider all of the pork and budgetary increases that were baked into federal agencies over the last couple of years. Moreover, congressional budget hawks allege that it fails to account for dubious domestic spending that was surreptitiously included in Department of Defense spending (Climate Change, children’s health etc.).
But the freeze in domestic spending did not last very long. The budget calls for a $22 Billion increase in discretionary spending over FY 2010 levels. And last week, the Obama Administration was publicizing its proposal to spend an additional $53 Billion on American Passenger Rail infrastructure “investments”.
Despite the cut in graduate education grants, the Obama budget is asking for $4.3 Billion for teacher improvement, $900 million for the “Race for the Top”, $350 million for early learning increases and a “paltry” $80 million to push for more math and science teachers. So for a period of alleged fiscal austerity, the Obama Administration wants to increase federal education spending by 38%. While this proposed 38% increase in federal education spending, Obama’s OMB should allocate re-education resources on vocabulary lessons and basic math. Austerity does not belong with funding increases. Freezes in domestic spending does not equal a 38% raise in the DOE budget.
The Obama OMB dream machine tries to pay for this budget not only with phantom cuts but also with tax increases that Congress has rejected since 2006. Obama’s budget includes tax increases for oil, gas and coal producers, at a time when conventional energy sources are at risk. The budget anticipates letting the Bush era tax rates expire after 2012. Moreover, the wealthy would have their deductions slashed. The Americans for Tax Reform estimates that such changes would cost 4 million taxpayers $26,000 per annum. In less than a day, wonks have identified 15 “hidden” tax increases that could total up to $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
Even moderate Democrats like Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) are bristling over the partisanship of the Obama Budget proposal and the belief that real cuts are necessary. But Conrad is not running for re-election so he can afford to be real. It seems that the Obama Administration fussed over the small stuff which in the end won’t matter and fudged the important stuff. For those of us who plan to remain Between the Beltways, we must take off our emerald glasses and stop treating the Capital as Fantasyland on the Potomac and do some plain talking to achieve real results to save us from drowning in debt.