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Archive for April, 2010

The Specter of Arlen Haunts Florida

Charlie Crist has formally abandoned the Republican Party. In an announcement yesterday, Crist said that he was going to take his ball and go home, ostensibly to find a new game. Crist has decided that since his chances in the Republican primary were slim-to-none, he would bolt and run as an independent. Much like Arlen Specter, Crist has decided that utility is more valuable than principle.

This comes, by the way, less than a month after he swore that he would not do it. Chris Wallace asked him five times whether he would leave the primary and run independently, and five times Crist said it would never happen. Then, mirabile dictu, Marco Rubio starts leading in all the polls, and Crist changes his tune.

Crist is no stranger to prevarication.  His recent veto of the controversial Republican education bill, which would have tied teacher salaries to student test scores, made the front page of the New York Times. The legislation was vehemently opposed by Florida teachers and many parents, and Crist’s action won over new fans as well as some doubters. Overlooked, however, was the fact that Crist had earlier said that he would continue to be an advocate for parent choice in education, including stringent testing and vouchers. Crist encouraged standardized testing “to guarantee that each student receives a year’s worth of learning in a year’s worth of time.” What’s clear is that he was planning the veto in order to woo the NEA after his exodus from the Republicans.

Charlie also had some problems with the truth on the abortion issue. Crist claimed to be “pro-life and pro-family,” however, he had no plans to change abortion law in the state of Florida, stating in the August 21, 2006 issue of The Tampa Tribune that “I’d rather change people’s hearts than change the law.” However, Crist also said months earlier that he would, if elected governor, sign a ban on abortion similar to the one in South Dakota.

Predictably, the Democrats are having a ball over this, and for two different reasons. Obviously, the first is that they hope that Crist will split the right-wing vote, letting Kendrick Meek slip in essentially unopposed. The other, and more important reason, is that it gives the Democrats and their shills in the media a chance to bash the right. The current spin from the left is that there is a new, emerging Republican party composed of far-right lunatics driven by tea-party types.

We got to listen to Howard Dean, for example, tell us that,  “What effect does the tea party have on the Republican Party? And this is a really good example. They’ve driven another moderate out of the Republican Party….there just apparently is no place in the Republican Party for moderate, thoughtful people anymore.” Anytime you hear a democrat call someone moderate and thoughtful, you can be sure that he’s describing a RINO(republican in name only). He went on to say, “I actually think that the two big winners out of this are the United States, who are hopefully going to get a real senator instead of a far-right person.” The implication being that only people who adhere to Dean’s agenda are “real.”

And it’s not just Dean.  Andrea Mitchell said “Charlie Crist expected to make it official later today, running as an independent in the Florida senate race. Is he leaving the party or did they leave him?”

One wonders, pari passu, whether this Rubio bashing will hurt the Democrats in a heavily Hispanic state. Rubio seems to embody that Horatio Alger-type story that Americans love, and being of Cuban heritage in Florida is no disadvantage in carrying certain precincts.

The long knives are out, however. There are  unconfirmed reports that the IRS is investigating Rubio for alleged expense report irregularities and potential underpaid taxes. Leading the charge is, oddly enough, Charlie Crist. Based solely on unsubstantiated reports, Crist started slamming Rubio as unprincipled.

One wonders about collusion between Crist and the Democrats. How much has been promised to Crist if he sabotages Rubio’s candidacy? What concessions has Crist extracted from the Democrats? Or, like Jim Jeffords and Arlen Specter, is this pure calculated self-interest? In any case, one is never worse off by rejecting the duplicitous.

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Arizona 1, Obama 0

Years ago, my father used to tell us kids a joke. It seems there were 2 guys sitting in their dorm room at Harvard when they hear a knock at the door. One of them yells out, “Who is it?” The answer comes back, “It’s me.” The two guys look at each other and one of them says, “It can’t be anyone we know.”

(I had to remove a paragraph complaining about Barack’s command of the language when it was pointed out to me that i was in error, and Obama was correct. I’m leaving the above joke in, mainly because I like it. This redaction also requires me to edit the first sentence or so in the next paragraph to make sense, since I had to delete my scintillatingly brilliant lead-in.)

What is disturbing is Obama’s misunderstanding of the constitution and its application to criminal law. Specifically the law passed in Arizona that gives the police the authority to investigate and act upon the crime of illegally entering the country through Arizona. Generally speaking, any police officer, if he has reasonable suspicion that someone has committed a crime, may investigate to determine if a crime has, in fact, been committed. If, after investigation, he has probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a crime, he may arrest the suspect and process him in accordance with the applicable law.

If we look at the Arizona law, we see that what it has done is to apply those principles to the crime of entering the country illegally. Here is the actual wording from the statute:

“FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON.”

If a policeman has reasonable suspicion, he shall make a reasonable attempt to determine the status of the person involved. No different from any other crime. While it may have a greater impact on illegal aliens from Mexico, the law doesn’t mention Mexicans. It is not unreasonable, though, to estimate that there are more illegal Mexicans in Arizona than illegal Canadians or Luxembourgers. That does not automatically make the law racist or anti-Mexican. It merely means that since the majority of immigration criminals in Arizona are Mexicans, the majority of people affected by the law will be Mexicans. That’s just arithmetic.

Another section of the same law makes it illegal to smuggle human beings into Arizona. This section specifically targets “coyotes,” who are Mexicans that make a living trafficking in human flesh. I don’t see anyone complaining that this portion of the law is racist or anti-Mexican. Nor the 6 pages of the bill that deal with businesses that hire illegal aliens.

But Congressman Grijalva from Arizona has a slightly different take. According to him, “We’re going to overturn this unjust and racist law, and then we’re going to overturn the power structure that created this unjust, racist law.” Aside from the 1960s language, Grijalva apparently has no problem with human trafficking. Or with illegal aliens. Making me wonder, of course, how many illegal aliens have voted in Arizona elections lately.

Al “I still believe Tawana Brawley” Sharpton has pledged to march with large numbers of aliens, hoping to promote a confrontation between law enforcement and immigrants. One can only hope that Al is an illegal immigrant, and is dispatched forthwith.

Barack Obama has pledged to interfere with the operation of this law.  Obama called the Arizona bill “misguided” and instructed the Justice Department to examine it to see if it’s legal. He also said the federal government must enact immigration reform at the national level — or leave the door open to “irresponsibility by others.”

Of course, when Obama talks of immigration reform, what he means is some form of amnesty. Almost always in Washington, the debate begins with a focus on how to address the status of illegal immigrants. To the people, especially those in Arizona and the other border states, that is a secondary concern.  Controlling the borders is the top priority. That hasn’t changed since the 2006 immigration legislation collapsed when the U.S. Senate surrendered to public opinion. During that debate, a New York Times/CBS poll found that 69% believed illegal immigrants should be prosecuted and deported. Three out of four believe that the Federal government is not doing enough to stop the flow of criminal immigrants, and a like number believes that the Federal Government should reduce the number of criminal immigrants already in the country.

Once again, however, Obama and his cronies are committed to coming down on the wrong side of the issue. Just like health care, you can count on him doing exactly the opposite of what the citizens want done.

P.S. If you don’t get the joke at the beginning of this post, don’t worry. Obama wouldn’t either, and it didn’t keep him from becoming president.

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VAT Is he Thinking?

My favorite British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, once observed that there were three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. It doesn’t take a PM, however, to figure out that there must be a lot of statisticians in the White House.

A week or so ago, Paul Volker raised the idea of a VAT, or Value Added Tax. Almost immediately, the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a non-binding resolution that criticizes such a tax as “a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.”

The White House spent days saying that Obama is not considering a VAT. “I think I directly answered this the other day by saying that it wasn’t something that the president had under consideration,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters shortly before Obama spoke with CNBC.

So Obama goes on CNBC, and, when asked if he could see a potential VAT in America, says “I know that there’s been a lot of talk around town lately about the value-added tax. That is something that has worked for some countries. It’s something that would be novel for the United States. And before, you know, I start saying ‘this makes sense or that makes sense,’ I want to get a better picture of what our options are”

And then, after the interview, White House deputy communications director Jen Psaki said nothing has changed and the White House is “not considering” a VAT.

So, let’s see. It’s 2-1 for no VAT being considered. Gibbs and Psaki say no, Obama has ruled nothing out. Who’s lying? It’s clear that it must be someone.

Obama said his first priority “is to figure out how can we reduce wasteful spending so that, you know, we have a baseline of the core services that we need and the government should provide. And then we decide how do we pay for that.” Which, if you ask most people, is exactly backwards. Anyone who has had to run a household will tell you that first, you figure out how much you have available to spend, then decide what to spend it on. And as far as wasteful spending goes, Obama has yet to achieve the savings based on wastefulness that he campaigned on. He has, in fact, increased wasteful spending to record levels.

However, if he were to ask me, I have a few suggestions as to where to lay the budgetary axe. Aside from the easy ones, like the Department of Education, the Rural Electrical Administration, and the National Endowment for the Arts, there are tons of areas ripe for cutting that would save billions.

There are two aspects of budget cutting that we can focus on. The first is the immediate, like the cuts mentioned above. In addition to those, there are programs like the 12 billion dollars in farm subsidies and the half-billion dollar Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And let us not forget the absurd amounts spent on aid to foreign countries. In 2008, 2.5 billion dollars to Israel alone.

The second aspect is the long-term approach towards cutting the deficit and the debt. And one of the largest long-term expenses that we have is Social Security. Along with Medicare and Medicaid, they form the largest drain on America’s future. So how do we solve this problem? The answer is identical to the answer about how porcupines make love. Carefully! The first thing to realize is that the transition to a world without Social Security is going to be painful. However, like pulling off a band-aid, it’s a necessary pain.

First, we guarantee the program’s promises to those aged 50 and older. Then, we make it optional for those between 40 and 50. Those in that group can make a one-time election to remain in the program, or to leave. If they elect to leave, they forfeit their contributions, but keep the 7.5 percent deduction. Third, the program ceases to exist for those under the age of 40. They lose their contributions, but they also stop having the 7.5 percent removed from their paycheck. And their employer stops having to send an additional 7.5 percent of the employee’s pay to the Feds. Depending on the economy and the labor market, that 7.5 percent is now available for either labor or capital investment. And the 7.5 percent the employee keeps could fund a substantial IRA or 401K that would surpass SSI in terms of income security.

If we take as a baseline a 40 year old, with a life expectancy of, let’s say, 90, that means we can eliminate Social Security obligations in 50 years. Yea, it’s a generation off, but we must start somewhere, or it will be two or three generations off. Assuming the program survives that long. And if we make these serious cuts, perhaps we won’t need a VAT.

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Don’t Tase Me, Bro!

Once again, a new poll has emerged to tell us that which we already knew. The Pew group of pollsters has released numbers that say that 76 percent of Americans don’t trust our government. A month ago, it was a CNN poll that said the same thing. When faced with these numbers, the administration went on the attack. Not against themselves, mind you, but against the people who don’t trust them. The ever-vigilant media gave time to both Bill Clinton and Janet Napolitano, who began to deride the citizenry as violence prone lunatics.

The former commander-in-chief, Bill Clinton said that  “legitimate” comparisons can be drawn between today’s grass-roots anger and resentment toward the government and the right-wing extremism that bubbled up prior to the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City 15 years ago. Just as a counterpoint, let us remember that both Ruby Ridge and Waco happened on his watch. Let us further remember that McVeigh gave both of those incidents as motivating factors behind his bombing.

Clinton went on, quelle surprise, to say that “This tea party movement can be a healthy thing if they are making us justify every dollar of taxes we raise and every dollar of money we’ve spent.” He added,  “But be careful with what you say and do not advocate violence.” I would point out his use of the words “they” and “us.” Implicit in his language is his belief in the distinction between the masters and the serfs. One wonders how a man so careful with language that he needs to know what your definition of the word “is” is, could be so reckless with these words. The answer is, of course, that he is not careless. He said exactly what he meant. It’s us against them.

In a speech delivered the same day, Clinton went on to say,  “Civic virtue can include harsh criticism, protest, even civil disobedience. But not violence or its advocacy.” I can only turn to one of the founding fathers of the country, Thomas Jefferson, to see if Bill has it right. And what did Tom have to say? “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive.” And, “I hold it, that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” Apparently, Bill didn’t read that. Violence is as necessary to politics as ideas. Our forefathers knew that on at least three occasions in our history: the revolution, the civil war, and the war of 1812. To suggest that violence is never the answer to government’s depredations is to, at best, ignore our history, and at worst, label Washington and the rest of them as mere criminals.

Janet Napolitano was on the idiot box as well.  After a speech at the Oklahoma City memorial, she was asked about the DHS memo that suggested that returning veterans were at risk to become “right-wing extremists.” Taken aback by the question, she replied that, on the contrary, she wants veterans to work for the DHS. From terrorists to patriots in less than a year! Miraculous.

She had no difficulty referring to Timothy McVeigh as a terrorist. He may have been one, for all I know. But I find it funny that earlier in the year she kept referring to muslim terrorist incidents as “man-made disasters.”

She went on to say that Americans have the right to be angry, and the right to express that anger, but not the right to resort to violence.  This is what passes nowadays for the kind of bold and visionary thinking that propels one to the Supreme Court.

Both Clinton’s response and Napolitano’s response seem to be saying the same thing. They both seek to marginalize the Tea Party activists, mostly by suggesting that they are, somehow, the  “lunatic fringe.” Clinton went as far as to suggest that people are “disoriented,” and that that disorientation is apparent today in “the fact that you ought to be able to pack a six-gun into Starbucks and order a Cowboy Latte.” Aside from the mockery, he seems to believe that anyone exercising a constitutional right in a legal way is “disoriented.”

When coupled with the recognition that eighty percent of the citizens distrust their own government, the message from both Clinton and Napolitano seems to be, “Please don’t shoot us.” Perhaps the Tea Party activists should borrow the Commonwealth of Virginia’s motto: “Sic Semper  Tyrannis.”

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A New Drug Policy Proposal

Like most of you, I’ve been following the progress of the drug wars in Mexico and elsewhere. The recent killing in Mexico of the American embassy employee from El Paso was a shock that should serve as a wakeup call. If not that, how about the warning not to travel to certain areas in Mexico that are controlled by the narco-terrorists? And we’re all familiar with story after story of drug cartel violence south of the equator. And while ostensibly fighting Taliban forces in Afghanistan, our troops can always find a little time to disrupt the opium trade.

The fact of the matter is that the war on drugs is big business in America. Recent estimates place federal spending on drug interdiction at 20 billion dollars yearly. State and local spending amount to 30 billion dollars. That fifty billion dollars buys uniforms, guns, employees, helicopters, etc. All the usual accoutrements of a war. Year in, year out, fifty billion dollars in an ever-increasing quasi-military action against mostly Americans.

We all go along with it, of course. Every day we’re presented with blood and guts on the TV. The little girl shot accidentally, the seemingly ubiquitous gang presence, the stories of massive drug seizures. We see these things and never question the need for more spending. The government spends vast sums, but more importantly, large numbers of lives in a clearly unwinnable war. Ever since “Reefer Madness,” the government has placed more and more restrictions on us, to the point of needing a driver’s license to buy cold medicine. And yet, things keep getting worse. Aldous Huxley told us sixty years ago that “continued crisis breeds continued control.”

Where are we today? Last year there were 2 million arrests, about 13 percent of all arrests, for drug violations. 750,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession alone. Let’s not forget the other costs, either.  LA County estimates that the cost of gang violence to the county exceeds 1 billion dollars per year. That’s just LA County. Some federal estimates suggest that gang violence is responsible for over half of all homicides in major cities.

It’s clear that America is losing the war on drugs. It’s also painfully clear that doing more of what we’ve done in the past isn’t the right answer. In one of my favorite movies, “Dawn of the Dead,” dead people come back to life, only to kill more people. One character looks at another and says, “When the dead come back to life, it’s time to stop the killing.” Perhaps it’s time to stop what we’ve been doing, and try a new approach.

Here’s my approach. The government should cease the war on drugs, and use the fifty billion dollars to buy and distribute drugs and the associated paraphernalia free of charge. Not just legalize, but actually give it away for free. There should be places, perhaps post offices, where one could walk in and then walk out with their drug of choice. No recording of ID, no lectures, no morality police. Prove you’re 18, and receive a dose of your drug, and, if needed, the associated equipment with which to enjoy it.

Now before anyone gets all religious and righteous, stop and think about it for a few minutes. Let me lay out some of the benefits of this approach.

First, the growers of poppies and coca would have a legitimate avenue to make a fair profit and make a decent living. It would also eliminate the need for the cartels to use violence to control the market, and would allow the government of drug producing countries to more effectively manage the production process. Sort of a “single payer” system for drug purchasing.

Second, it would eliminate the profit motive from the street gangs, depriving them of their sustenance and their raison d’etre. Without the need to control their turf to protect their drug profits, gangs would wither and die on the vine.

Third, if drug users could get clean needles with their drugs, it would help slow the spread of HIV and hepatitis. In fact, one study suggested that a clean-needle program could prevent as many as 4000 cases of HIV annually.

Fourth, it would help reduce the costs associated with bad drugs. The drugs would be of a known quality, reducing the incidence of hot-shots. It would also reduce the incidence of drugs being cut with undesirable substances such as arsenic. Eliminating those problems would alleviate the associated health care costs of drug related emergency care.

Finally, my plan would also reduce the amount of petty crime. No longer would junkies be forced to steal, mug, or burglarize to fund their habit. This is one of the reasons mere legalization isn’t sufficient. Legalization would still require the junkies to have cash. My approach eliminates that need, and therefore the need for junkies to become desperate.

I am certain that this proposal is not going to be popular. But sometimes, the most common-sense proposals are the most difficult to accept.

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Obama’s (non)Nuclear Option

In a move designed to appeal to Francophiles everywhere, the anointed one has decided to surrender a part of our nuclear option, and has promised Russia to at least partially disarm ourselves. And, much like the French, he has promised to limit the number of scenarios in which he would use the nukes that he manages to keep.

As he prepared for a trip to Prague to sign the treaty with Russia, he said, “The greatest threat to U.S. and global security is no longer a nuclear exchange between nations, but nuclear terrorism by violent extremists and nuclear proliferation to an increasing number of states.” His Defense Secretary, Robert Gates weighed in with further details on the need for a treaty with Russia: “Given al-Qaida’s continued quest for nuclear weapons, Iran’s ongoing nuclear efforts and North Korea’s proliferation, this focus is appropriate and, indeed, an essential change from previous policy.”

So, to save us for irate muslims, Obama has promised the Russians that we would disarm. In case the North Korean answer to Adam Lambert decides to attack us with nuclear arms, we will be able to say to them, “Wait, our treaty with the Russians will stop you!” How anyone decides that agreeing with Russia on nuclear proliferation does anything to reduce the threat of Islamic extremism is beyond me. Especially since Venezuela under Hugo Chavez is a Russian nuclear client. Although in the case of Venezuela, we can, I suppose, rely on the perspicacity of that esteemed international diplomat Sean Penn.

It is, in retrospect, not all that surprising that Obama sees things this way. 15 million illegal aliens and Obama opposes legal amnesty for 7 Germans. Upset over a Moscow subway bombing, Obama’s FBI arrests 9 Christians in the Midwest. In his healthcare blitzkrieg, he attacked everything except the problem. That, in a nutshell, is the current administration’s problem. They identify a problem, and then pick the entirely wrong solution to that problem.

Gates then went on to describe the various ways in which the administration would consider using nuclear weapons. Just in case the Iranians or Saudis or Hamad Korzai were paying attention, Gates laid out military strategies we’d consider employing. Obama believes that eliminating many weapons, then telling our enemies when we would use our remaining ones somehow makes us safer. He reminds me of the stereotypical Hyde Park liberal who opposes guns ownership by civilians claiming he doesn’t see the need for them, conveniently forgetting the people who can’t afford to live in the ivory tower estates.

Apparently, the only time Obama would deign to use the nuclear option is against anyone who opposes his health care plan!

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