Obama's Agenda: To Fundamentally Transform America
Quoting Daniel Henninger:
Last year, Mr. Obama began to be criticized by some of his supporters for being insufficiently transformative while holding the powers of the presidency -- this despite passing the biggest social entitlement since 1965, an $800 billion stimulus bill, raising federal spending to 24% of GDP and passing the Dodd-Frank restructuring of the U.S. financial industry. Naturally an interviewer this week asked Mr. Obama why he hadn’t been more "transformative." The president replied that he deserved a second term, because "we’re not done." In term two, it will be Uncle Sam, Transformer. [...]
The question raised by the Catholic Church’s battle with ObamaCare is whether anyone can remain free of a U.S. government determined to do what it wants to do, at whatever cost. ... Anyone who signs up for more of this deal by assuming that it will never force them to fall into line is getting what they deserve.
Protecting the Innocent
Quoting John Adams:
It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, "whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection," and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.
Obviously, if Casey Anthony killed her daughter, then she deserves to be punished for that. But if she didn’t, yet she is still accused of having done so, then she deserves to be protected from punishment. The system is designed to err on the side of avoiding wrongful punishment, and a jury of Casey Anthony’s peers reviewed the evidence and concluded that there was reasonable doubt as to whether she committed the murder as charged.
Corrupt officials and broken mechanisms within the system already conspire to wrongfully punish the innocent; Anthony Graber and Louis Gonzalez III are just a couple of the victims of this evil. There are so many federal laws now, with more being created all the time, that we are virtually all guilty of breaking some absurd law or another, and could all be thrown into prison at pretty much any time. We desperately need the system to require a high standard in order to convict a person of a crime; our lives and our freedom depend on it.
Unions Guarantee Good Jobs for Bad Teachers
Quoting The Wall Street Journal:
The steep deficits that states now face mean that teacher layoffs this year are unavoidable. Parents understandably want the best teachers spared. Yet in 14 states it is illegal for schools to consider anything other than a teacher’s length of service when making layoff decisions... "Fourteen states have these rules but about 40% of all teachers work in those states, and they’re the states with the biggest budget deficits." In addition to New York, the list includes California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin.
The unions that support these laws insist that seniority is the only "fair" way to reduce the teaching work force... [but] "only about 20% of the teachers who have the least seniority are also among the least effective teachers in a district. About 80% of the time, there’s a teacher who’s worse that you could have laid off but didn’t because they had more seniority."
Suck the taxpayers dry, and screw the kids. It’s the union way.
Public-Sector Unions: the Definition of Corruption
This is another one of those concepts that modern Democrats just can’t seem to grasp, whereas their liberal heroes from decades ago understood it quite clearly:
Quoting James Sherk:
"It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government."
That wasn’t Newt Gingrich, or Ron Paul, or Ronald Reagan talking. That was George Meany -- the former president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O -- in 1955. Government unions are unremarkable today, but the labor movement once thought the idea absurd.
The founders of the labor movement viewed unions as a vehicle to get workers more of the profits they help create. Government workers, however, don’t generate profits. They merely negotiate for more tax money. When government unions strike, they strike against taxpayers. F.D.R. considered this "unthinkable and intolerable." ... Public sector unions insist on laws that serve their interests -- at the expense of the common good.
Public-sector unions are a clear-cut and blindingly obvious case of conflict of interest. The government is supposed to provide services to the people in a cost-effective way, providing what’s necessary while extracting the least possible amount of money out of taxpayers. The goal of a union is precisely the opposite: to extract as much money as possible out of the organization that it feeds on.
In the private sector, unions actually do work to some extent, because there is a built-in check on the union’s power: namely that the business or industry in question will go bankrupt when the union gets too greedy. But in the public sector, the organization that the union is feeding on is the government itself -- funded by the taxpayers, the very people whose money they’re supposed to be spending frugally. The union goal of enriching its members is in direct opposition to the government’s goal of not bankrupting the taxpayers and the nation.
Of course, bankrupting the nation is precisely what these public-sector unions are currently doing. Cities and states nationwide are drowning in hundreds of billions of dollars of debt and unfunded liabilities, consisting largely of absurdly generous and entirely unrealistic public pensions.
The other reason that private-sector unions can (in theory) work is that the two parties in the negotiations are actually two separate parties with opposing goals: the union wants to consume as much of the company’s profits as possible, whereas the company wants to give the union as little as possible. In contrast, public-sector unions consist of government employees negotiating with... other government employees, all of whom want to increase their pay as much as possible at the expense of the taxpayers, who have no voice in the negotiations.
Obama's Brilliant Economists
Quoting Victor Davis Hanson:
In 2009, brilliant economists in the Obama administration -- Peter Orszag, Larry Summers and Christina Romer -- assured us that record trillion-plus budget deficits were critical to prevent stalled growth and 10 percent unemployment. For nearly two years we have experienced both, but now with an addition $3 trillion in national debt. All three have quietly either returned to academia or Wall Street. [...]
The public might have better believed the deficit nostrums of former budget director Peter Orszag had he not retired after less than two years on the job to position himself for a multimillion-dollar billet at Citigroup -- itself a recent recipient of some $25 billion in government bailout funds.
Because it’s not enough to destroy the economy and blow up the national debt; to be a truly successful politician, you’ve got to take advantage of the situation and derive millions of dollars in personal profit from it.
Teachers Unions Prevent Education
How long will America allow teachers unions to fail its children?
Quoting Jerry Pournelle:
In Los Angeles, where the teachers unions have the most favorable contracts I know of from a large school district, the District, forced to cut back, chose to do so by laying off teachers from the 3 worst performing schools in the district. The American Civil Liberties Union promptly went to court to upset this, saying they couldn’t solve their problems on the backs of students from schools for the poor. In theory the lawsuit was to protect the students, although what they are being protected from isn’t clear. Apparently they have a right to be taught by ineffective teachers? But the ACLU and the school district reached an agreement in which the District will be able to lay off teachers using complex rules that have some concession to teacher effectiveness rather than strict seniority. The LA teacher union, predictably, threatens court action. Solidarity forever. The student be damned, bad teachers have rights. Students don’t. Students have no right to an effective teacher: the purpose of the student is to justify the payments to their teachers, and teacher effectiveness must never be considered in school management. So it goes.
Bill Gates has financed studies that strongly indicate that we could double the effectiveness of our school system simply by firing the worst 10% of the teachers. Just fire them. You needn’t replace them. Send the students to other classes. Yes, that would raise class sizes: but our cups overflow with evidence that class size is a far smaller influence on education success than teacher effectiveness. That has been known since the Chapman report. (Good luck on finding the report; I probably don’t know how to look, but I can’t. It was done prior to 1972, and is hardly the only data, as for instance Debunking the Class Size Myth: How to Really Improve Teacher Effectiveness. It’s easy to find more. I bring up Chapman to indicate that we have known all this for a long time.) The point is that almost everyone who has studied the problem understands that the first and most cost effective move we can make would be to fire bad teachers, and that we have known this for forty years, and that it is harder to fire bad teachers now than it was in the days of "Why Johnny Can’t Read". One might suppose that children have a right to be taught effectively, but that is not the case: what they have a right to is the teacher with the most seniority without regard to that teacher’s abilities. The entire system exists to assure bad teachers that they will always be paid.
Destroying the educational and employment prospects of huge swaths of future generations is bad enough, but that’s not all the teachers unions do: they’re also a primary cause of the pension disaster coming soon to cities and states near you. Because making kids stupid isn’t enough; they ought to be bankrupt, too.
How Government Unions Became So Powerful
Or, How the Unions Begat the Ruling Class:
Quoting Amity Shlaes:
This weekend we celebrate Labor Day in a country divided between two kinds of workers. The first is the private-sector worker, the vulnerable one who rides the business cycle without shock absorbers. The second worker, who works for the government, lives a cushioned existence in which terminations take years, pension amounts are often guaranteed, and recessions are only thunder in the distance. Yet worse than this division is the knowledge that the private-sector worker will pay for public-sector comfort with ever higher taxes.
The Ruling Class, Their Heels, and Our Throats
America is struggling with a sputtering economy and high unemployment -- but times are booming for Washington’s governing class.
The massive expansion of government under President Barack Obama has basically guaranteed a robust job market for policy professionals, regulators and contractors for years to come. The housing market, boosted by the large number of high-income earners in the area, many working in politics and government, is easily outpacing the markets in most of the country. [...]
As a result, there is a yawning gap between the American people and D.C.’s powerful when it comes to their economic reality -- and their economic perceptions.
A new POLITICO poll, conducted by market research and consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland, underscores the big divide: Roughly 45 percent of "Washington elites" said the country and the economy are headed in the right direction, while roughly 25 percent of the general population said they felt that way.
Misstatement of the Year
Quoting Dudi Cohen:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei ... is considered a close affiliate of the Iranian president and has previously caused a stir by saying that Iran was "a friend of the Israeli people". He later retracted this statement and issued a contrary one saying Israel should be destroyed.
I, too, always mix up "friend" and "destroy".
Why Cilantro Tastes Like Soap
Quoting The New York Times:
Flavor chemists have found that cilantro aroma is created by a half-dozen or so substances, and most of these are modified fragments of fat molecules called aldehydes. The same or similar aldehydes are also found in soaps and lotions and the bug family of insects.
In other words: BECAUSE IT IS SOAP. Green, evil soap.
Right-Wing Nuts Plot Attacks Against Cops
Quoting Joshua Rhett Miller:
Nine suspects associated with Hutaree, which is purportedly a Christian-based militia group, have been charged with conspiring to kill police officers and then attack a funeral in hopes of killing more law enforcement officials, federal prosecutors said Monday. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said agents moved on the group because the militia members were planning an attack sometime in April.
Cue the left-wing nuts in the media and online, frothing at the mouth with their gleeful comments about this, claiming it proves that Christians are dangerous extremists. The nuts don’t care about facts, but reasonable people realize that these kinds of isolated incidents are exceptions, and that these conspirators are not typical Christians, nor do they represent what Christianity is about. As a Christian, I condemn the attacks that these conspirators were evidently planning, and most other Christians would too.
The White House Kindly Requests You Do Not Refer to Its Health Care Budget Gimmicks as "Gimmicks"
Peter Suderman at Reason:
The issue with backloading spending isn’t that it hides deficit spending; it’s that it hides the full cost of the bill, thus making it politically viable. When early drafts of health care reform rang up at around $1.6 trillion, Washington underwent a massive freakout; it became clear that passing a bill with that kind of price tag was almost certainly impossible. So Obama gave Congress a target of "around $900 billion" for the bill, and one of the ways the lower figure was achieved was by starting the taxes revenue mechanisms immediately but holding off on implementing the benefits. That allowed for the Senate bill’s politically convenient $850 billion score while disguising the fact that the true cost of a full ten years of the bill’s programs is actually more like $1.8 trillion (and that’s not counting the trillion-plus in additional costs imposed by an individual mandate).
Ed Morrissey has more on these scumbag tactics:
This is why they’re delaying the start of the program, of course. If it kicked in right away, the decade-long estimate would obviously be well into the trillions. So they simply stalled it for four years, incurring just $17 billion in costs - or 1.8 percent of the total 10-year estimate - through 2013 so that wavering Democrats could go back to their districts and tell baldfaced lies to their constituents about the pricetag. A perfect ending to this travesty.
To call these "gimmicks" is to be extremely generous. They’ll start collecting the increased taxes right away, but the bulk of the benefits won’t kick in for years, just so they can lie and say it costs less than half of what it actually costs, since they’re only talking about the first 10 years. Despicable.
Class War: How public servants became our masters
This Reason article about government corruption (redundancy noted), and specifically the public pension disaster, is just infuriating:
These days, government workers fare better than private-sector workers in almost every area -- pay, benefits, time off, and job security. ... The average federal worker made $59,864 in 2005, compared with the average salary of $40,505 in the private sector. [...]
The average federal salary (including benefits) is set to grow from $72,800 in 2008 to $75,419 in 2010, CBS reported. But the real action isn’t in what government employees are being paid today; it’s in what they’re being promised for tomorrow. Public pensions have swollen to unrecognizable proportions during the last decade. [...]
These huge pension increases have eaten away at public finances, most spectacularly in California, where a bipartisan bill that passed virtually without debate unleashed the odious "3 percent at 50" retirement plan in 1999. Under this plan, at age 50 many categories of public employees are eligible for 3 percent of their final year’s pay multiplied by the number of years they’ve worked. So if a police officer starts working at age 20, he can retire at 50 with 90 percent of his final salary until he dies, and then his spouse receives that money for the rest of her life. [...]
Although Americans may have a vague sense that the nation has run up a great deal of debt, the public employee benefit problem is not well known. Yet the wave of benefit promises is poised to wash away state and local government budgets and large portions of the incomes of most Americans. Most of these benefits are vested, meaning that they have the standing of a legal contract. They cannot be reduced. [...]
In California unfunded pension and health care liabilities for state workers top $100 billion, and the annual pension contribution has shot up from $320 million to $7.3 billion in less than a decade. In New York state, local governments may have to triple their annual pension contributions during the next six years, from $2.6 billion to $8 billion, according to the state comptroller.
That money will come from taxpayers. The average private-sector worker, who enjoys a lower salary and far lower retirement benefits than New York or California government workers, will have to work longer, retire later, and pay more so that his public-employee neighbors can enjoy the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. The taxpayers will also have to deal with worsening public services, since there will be less money to pay for things that might actually benefit the public. [...]
The United States had 2.3 state and local government employees per 100 citizens in 1946 and has 6.5 state and local government employees per 100 citizens now. ... 54 percent of the economy is private, 28 percent goes to the feds, and 18 percent goes to state and local governments. The trend lines are ominous.
Bigger government means more government employees. Those employees then become a permanent lobby for continual government growth. The nation may have reached critical mass; the number of government employees at every level may have gotten so high that it is politically impossible to roll back the bureaucracy, rein in the costs, and restore lost freedoms. [...]
It’s a two-tier system in which the rulers are making steady gains at the expense of the ruled. The predictable results: Higher taxes, eroded public services, unsustainable levels of debt, and massive roadblocks to reforming even the poorest performing agencies.
Read the whole thing -- it includes a few specific examples of scumbag officials gaming the system that will make your blood boil. It’s enough to make you want to torch your house and dive-bomb your plane into a government building.
Health Care, C-SPAN, and Obama: Government Corruption At Its Worst
During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama repeatedly and explicitly promised that the health care reform process would be broadcast on C-SPAN. He lied, and now the White House refuses to even acknowledge the issue.
Perhaps worse than the lie itself, though, is what it means: the Democrats pushing this absurd health care bill absolutely do not want the public to know what’s in it.
These people are supposed to represent us. Instead, they’re creating laws in secret, forcing through the largest and most expensive government program in history -- one which the majority of Americans oppose.
This is the opposite of democracy. The only thing these people represent is the complete corruption and perversion of our system of government.
On top of the fact that the people don’t actually want this bill, there’s the fact that we can’t afford it, and we’ll be lucky if it doesn’t destroy the country.
That’s why federal spending above its revenues should be illegal, punishable by crucifixion (or perhaps something even more painful).
Crucifixion would be too kind a fate for these people.
Making criminals out of all Americans
More on the criminalization of everyone:
Quoting Gene Healy:
The Founders viewed the criminal sanction as a last resort, reserved for serious offenses, clearly defined, so ordinary citizens would know whether they were violating the law.
Yet over the last 40 years, an unholy alliance of big-business-hating liberals and tough-on-crime conservatives has made criminalization the first line of attack -- a way to demonstrate seriousness about the social problem of the month, whether it’s corporate scandals or e-mail spam. [...]
There are now more than 4,000 federal crimes, spread out through some 27,000 pages of the U.S. Code. Some years ago, analysts at the Congressional Research Service tried to count the number of separate offenses on the books, and gave up, lacking the resources to get the job done. If teams of legal researchers can’t make sense of the federal criminal code, obviously, ordinary citizens don’t stand a chance. [...]
A federal criminal code that covers everything delegates to prosecutors and the police the power to pick their targets at will, leaving everyone at risk.
Our federal apparatus is growing more unwieldy by the minute; the 2000-page $1 trillion "health care" boondoggle is only the latest example.
Mass insanity in Copenhagen
Lorrie Goldstein nails it on Copenhagen:
It has everything to do with some of the world’s most corrupt dictators and regimes extorting billions upon billions of dollars from the developed world -- us -- which they will then spend not on reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), but in any way they please.
The science is far from settled and the "fix" won’t fix a darn thing.
Pelosi rushes votes to catch plane to Copenhagen
Quoting Byron York:
The House is rushing to pass four major bills today -- a Defense Department appropriations bill, a debt-limit extension bill, a continuing resolution to keep the government going, and a new stimulus bill. New versions of all the bills were only introduced last night -- one of them, the stimulus, is an entirely new measure -- which means lawmakers are scurrying to learn what is in the bills before the accelerated schedule of voting. "They introduced a brand-new stimulus bill around 11-ish," says one House GOP source. "And we’re voting on it today." There is little doubt that few lawmakers, Democrat or Republican, will have much of a chance to examine the bills before voting.
The reason for the rush is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is scheduled to lead a House delegation to the climate change summit in Copenhagen, and the delegation plane is scheduled to leave after the last vote tonight.
Someone recently uploaded this optical illusion, and I’ve seen it a few times before. The marked squares are the same color.
I hate this illusion. Despite the fact that I’ve repeatedly verified via my image editor that the marked squares are indeed the same color, my eyes and brain will not believe it. It drives me crazy.
I never in my life got poison ivy until last year when we moved here; this place is apparently crawling with the satanic plant. But never having worried about it before, I’m not very good at identifying it, and now I’m paranoid, so I think that any plant with leaves in triplets is poison.
Some of these look like they’re definitely poison; others I’m not sure. What do you think?
Good Guy Rescued, Bad Guys Killed
Quoting Fox News:
American sea Captain Richard Phillips was safely rescued Sunday from four Somali pirates
That’s great news.
Quoting Fox News:
Three of the pirates were killed and one was in custody after what appeared to be a swift firefight off the Somali coast
And that’s about the best outcome we could have hoped for. The reason these pirates have been attacking more and more frequently is partly because it’s extremely profitable -- to the tune of $50 million last year alone -- but mainly because there’s been virtually no risk in it for them. Significantly increasing the risk/reward ratio is the only way to curb the attacks.
But the obvious question is: what is wrong with all these companies that they’re sending ships with millions of dollars worth of cargo through these pirate-infested corridors without any security on board? Perhaps that’s somewhat defensible when ships are not being regularly attacked by pirates, but surely after the first or second or TWENTIETH attack, these companies would wise up and put a couple of armed security guards on each ship?
Not a Great Start for Obama
What’s absurd is how many of these people are (or will be) in positions responsible for financial oversight.
Hope and Change!
When Israel targets enemy soldiers and it results in accidental civilian casualties, the Israelis are called "war criminals". But when Palestinians deliberately kills civilians -- when their publicly stated goal is the death of every Jew -- the Palestinians are given a free pass.
Defeating the Nazis was so much more straightforward when they were concentrated in a single country, rather than spread across the world’s major news media companies.
PA Smoking Ban Will Finally Become Law
Pennsylvania will soon finally join the rest of the northeast, the majority of the US, and many of the world’s nations by adopting a public smoking ban. After a committee last week produced a bill and the House passed it, the Senate today also passed it. It will become law 90 days from the date that Governor Ed Rendell signs it, which he has said that he plans to do quickly.
You can read the ridiculous smoking ban timeline that the PA legislature has traveled over the past year or so.
The public smoking ban will have the following exemptions:
- up to 25 percent of the rooms in hotels
- designated outdoor smoking areas at sports or recreation facilities, theaters, etc
- bars whose annual food sales are 20% or less
- cigar bars
- tobacco shops
- private clubs
- up to 50 percent of casino gaming halls
- long-term care facilities
- private homes, residences and vehicles unless they are used for child-care, rehab, or mental health services
You’d be forgiven for thinking that, with such a list of exemptions, this bill resembles swiss cheese more than a smoking ban. And in fact, part of the bill is that Philadelphia’s existing, stronger smoking ban will still stand. But this is still a huge step in the right direction for PA, and in my case for instance, only the hotel and arena/theater exemptions will affect me, and then only rarely.
Progress on the PA Smoking Ban
Today, the House-Senate conference committee finally approved a compromise version of a public smoking ban for Pennsylvania. In order to become law, it must be approved by the full House and Senate -- which could happen as early as next week -- and by governor Ed Rendell, who has stated that he’ll support this version of the ban.
This is a good step forward and if it becomes law, it’ll be a huge improvement over the current situation. However, the ban does contain a bunch of exemptions, allowing smoking in certain places, such as bars that make less than 20% of their revenue from food, and up to 25% of rooms in hotels.
This ban allows Philadelphia’s current ban to stand, but does not allow any other local bans to come into effect. This has some people upset:
"You’re saying to the people of Allegheny County and city of Scranton, go to hell," said [Senate Minority Leader Robert Mellow], who cast the lone dissenting vote.
I agree with Mellow. However, it’s clear that this legislature has neither the brains nor the guts to enact a real ban, so for now we’ll have to take what we can get. But this isn’t over, and I suspect that reason and health will prevail in the long run.
About half of the states in the US, as well as many countries around the world, have smoking bans now. But in some cases, I think it’s going to take a generational turnover to purge those politicians who are in the pockets of the scumbags running the tobacco companies.