M.I.A.

Sorry for the prolonged absence.  I intended to blog a bit over the holidays, but found myself eating and drinking and doing other stuff instead.  Back in action over the weekend.

I hope you all had a great Christmas, and Happy New Year.

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Published in: on December 30, 2010 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Truly Scary Thing Is, This Idiot Actually Believes It

Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), thinks “no security can be premised on military might” and should instead be based on “philosophical ideas” of “equity, generosity, and engagement.”  Oh, “and God willing one day the border will become an irrelevancy.” 

I am pretty sure that, but for our military might, the border would have been an irrelevancy to Nazi Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union some time in the forties or fifties.  And radical Islam is hell-bent on making our borders an irrelevancy today.  It goes without saying that, except for idiots like Ellison, Islamic radicals — like the Nazis, Imperialists, and Communists who came before them — have slightly different views on the value or definition of “equity, generosity, and engagement.”

Via Hot Air.

Published in: on December 23, 2010 at 12:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Thomas Sowell’s Random Thoughts

When reading Thomas Sowell’s writings, I am often struck by how simple and yet important his contributions are.  He is a very brave and honest observer and thinker.

One of my favorite things he does is collect a dozen or so random thoughts on the passing scene into a column every so often.  Here are a few of my favorites from today’s offering.

One of the biggest obstacles to economic recovery is that politicians and the media are both focused on how government can MAKE the economy recover, rather than on how it can LET the economy recover. One of the biggest deterrents to investments, and the jobs they could create, is uncertainty as to what new bright idea will come out of Washington to change the rules in midstream.

We would be far better served if or political class would spend more time trying to stay out of the way rather than determining the winners and losers of industry.  The “green jobs” emphasis, ethanol subsidies, health insurance takeover, and other federal boondoggles are part of the problem, not the solution.

One of the telling signs carried in a tea party demonstration said: “Spread my work ethic, not my wealth.” It may be better to teach people how to fish, rather than giving them fish, but too many politicians give them fish, in order to get their votes.

And the really problematic thing is that politicians are not handing out their own fish.  They want to take fish from those who learned how to fish and caught them, and give the fish to those whose votes they want to buy.

University students rioting against tuition increases on both sides of the Atlantic are painful signs of the degeneracy of our times. The idea that taxpayers owe it to you to pay for what you want suggests that much of today’s education fails to instill reality, and instead panders to a self-centered sense of entitlement to what other people have earned.

I would wager that relatively few engineering and science students are among the ranks of rioters demanding a hand out, but students from gender and race studies departments are well represented.

When arguing against the tax compromise, Senator Bernie Sanders castigated “the rich,” asking “When is enough enough?” and saying that “reckless uncontrollable greed is like a disease.” Such statements are far more applicable to government big spenders and big taxers, who confiscate not only the earnings of today’s citizens, but the earnings of generations yet unborn, who will be left a record-breaking national debt.

Yes, the most rapacious among us are our political class.  They are never satisfied, never have enough of other peoples’ money, and yet never cease attacking those who have earned it as greedy, heartless, and unpatriotic.

Read the whole thing.  Professor Sowell’s thoughts are always interesting.

Via Real Clear Politics.

Published in: on December 21, 2010 at 11:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Sunspots Are Back To Zero

At Watt’s Up With That, David Archibald marks the occasion by posting updates a few graphs relating to solar activity.  The upshot — solar activity is low and seems to be bent on remaining low.  That matters because low sunspot activity historically has corresponded with lower than average global temperatures.  In particular, Archuleta spots some similarities to the Dalton Minimum, a period of global cooling lasting from about 1790 to 1830.  As humankind learned back then, cold weather is far worse for us than warm weather.

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  

I Thought Leaks Were A Good Thing

Jim Geraghty reports in his Morning Jolt e-newsletter, subscribe here, that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is upset and demanding an investigation into the . . . wait for it . . . leak of information relating to the criminal charges against him in Sweden:

“Lawyers for Julian Assange have expressed anger about an alleged smear campaign against the Australian WikiLeaks founder. Incriminating police files were published in the British newspaper that has used him as its source for hundreds of leaked US embassy cables. In a move that surprised many of Mr Assange’s closest supporters on Saturday, The Guardian newspaper published previously unseen police documents that accused Mr Assange in graphic detail of sexually assaulting two Swedish women. One witness is said to have stated: ‘Not only had it been the world’s worst screw, it had also been violent.’ Bjorn Hurtig, Mr Assange’s Swedish lawyer, said he would lodge a formal complaint to the authorities and ask them to investigate how such sensitive police material leaked into the public domain. ‘It is with great concern that I hear about this because it puts Julian and his defence in a bad position,’ he told a colleague.”

The Guardian newspaper, $5.00.  Sweet, sweet irony, priceless.

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 9:16 am  Leave a Comment  

The Nutcracker

No, not Nancy Pelosi. 

Mrs. Hound and I just got back from one of our favorite things during the holiday season — watching the Colorado Ballet’s performance of The NutcrackerThe Nutcracker is a ballet originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov that is most famous for its score by Tchaikovsky. 

 I am not a ballet aficionado, but the Colorado Ballet does a fantastic job.  The show is just magical — the set, staging, and performances are terrific. 

And the music is divine.  The Ballet has a great conductor, Adam Flatt.  We bought late this year and had tickets on the mezzanine, so we could see into the pit.  Flatt is a really animated conductor who is very interesting to watch (we saw him before when he conducted the Denver Young Artists Orchestra).  The music tonight was beautiful.

Anyway, what a great night — a martini and crab cakes at Oceanaire, a great show, and an after show drink across the street at The Corner Office.  A good time had by all.

Happy holidays.

Published in: on December 18, 2010 at 10:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is It Ego, Or Something Else?

Using Obama’s disastrous press conferences regarding the tax compromise deal as a springboard, Michael Gerson asks a question:

Is [Obama] really this bad at politics? The list of miscalculations grows longer. To pass the stimulus package, the administration predicts 8 percent unemployment – a prediction that became an indictment. It pledges the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison – without a realistic plan to do so. It sends the president to secure the Chicago Olympics – and comes away empty-handed. It announces a “summer of recovery” – which becomes a source of ridicule. It unveils a Manhattan trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed – which nearly every New York official promptly turns against. Press secretary Robert Gibbs picks fights with both conservative talk radio hosts and the “professional left” – which uniformly backfire. The president seems to endorse the Ground Zero mosque – before retreating 24 hours later. He suggests that Republicans are “enemies” of Latinos – apparently unable to distinguish between hardball and trash talk.

Gerson concludes that Obama’s prodigious ego keeps getting him into trouble:

In the tax debate, Obama has proved a quarrelsome ally and a dismissive foe, generally dismayed by the grubby realities of politics. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Unfortunately, he seems to put just about everyone who disagrees with him in that category.

That could be it, and Obama certainly has no shortage of self-regard.  But I have an alternative theory.  Maybe Obama just isn’t very smart.

Via Hot Air’s Headlines.

Published in: on December 18, 2010 at 8:32 am  Leave a Comment  

The Weak Liberal Case For The Individual Mandate

Although I remain skeptical of the chances of lawsuits challenging the Obamacare individual mandate under the Commerce Clause, one compelling question is gaining traction among the commentariat.  As Jennifer Rubin frames it: “If the government can force you to buy insurance, is there any limit to its power?”  Or as Megan McArdle put it: “On a reading of the commerce clause that allows the government to force you to buy insurance from a private company, what can’t the government force you to do?”  I asked it myself here.

I have been looking for the liberal answer to this question without much luck, until today.  Writing at The American Prospect, Adam Serwer notes that when “[a]sked about the constitutional basis for the individual mandate, some liberals mumble quietly about legal precedent before making the compelling policy argument that without the mandate, you can’t preserve the private insurance market and ensure affordable universal coverage,” then takes a crack at it himself.  Actually, Serwer further illustrates the conundrum by not being able to make a meaningful rejoinder.

Instead, Serwer simply declares health care to be a federal problem begging for a federal solution:

Without some kind of federal mechanism, you can’t preserve the private insurance market and ensure affordable universal coverage. States that impose mandates will bear the costs of providing insurance for those that don’t. This is why Hudson’s argument that the commerce clause doesn’t give the government the authority to regulate economic “inactivity” in this context rings hollow — you can’t actually choose not to participate in the health-insurance market, because deciding not to buy health insurance drastically affects everyone else.

This is not correct.  We have a private insurance market and no federal mandate now.  What you cannot have without the mandate is a new kind of market — one that Serwer undoubtably prefers — that requires insurers to take on new insureds who have pre-existing conditions.  But that does not mean that in every instance “choos[ing] not to participate in the health-insurance market . . . drastically affects everyone else.”

Moreover, the same can be said about everything.  More demand or less supply in a market economy impacts the prices everyone else pays.  It is called the law of supply and demand.  Look it up.  So that cannot be the basis for Commerce Clause authority, or Congress would have authority over everything.

Serwer then moves on to, essentially, the penumbra of the Commerce Clause, citing Yale law professor Jack Balkin:

“The Founders’ logic was that the enumerated powers are to map on to areas where you need a federal solution,” Balkin says. “You couldn’t do this with cars, you couldn’t do this with cell phones, you couldn’t do this with Cuisinarts. [Health] insurance is special.” Conservatives worried about a “food mandate” might remember that unlike health insurance, the price of food doesn’t go up dramatically when someone waits until they’re starving to eat.

Ah, health insurance “is special.”  That is not much of an argument. 

And in any event, the previously mentioned law regarding supply and demand means that the price of food does go up dramatically when many want to eat it and supply is limited.  Or, for example, when they use corn as fuel for cars.

Again, Serwer must assume one part of Obamacare to support the second part — if you require insurers to take on new insureds who have pre-existing conditions, then you need to get everyone into the pool or the system will go bankrupt.   But a problem created by Congress cannot be used as a bootstrap to expand Congress’ power over citizens.  The power has to be in the Constitution.  Where is it, and what limits are there if it allows the individual mandate?  Serwer still has not answered the question he set out to address.

So he retreats back to policy arguments and chest thumping about how darn nice liberals are:

The real difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals admit that in the pursuit of a fairer and more equitable society, they make judgment calls about the balance between freedom and providing for the general welfare. 

I disagree with the notion that liberals alone “make judgment calls about the balance between freedom and providing for the general welfare.”  But let’s stick to the question at hand.  If the government can force you to buy insurance, is there any limit to its power? 

That question will remain unanswered.  Serwer instead falls back behind Professor Balkin, who more or less handwaves about tea partiers, general welfare, and taxes:

“Liberals should take a page from the Tea Partiers and wave their pocket Constitutions around and ask, what part of regulating commerce between the states don’t you understand?” Balkin says. “What part of tax and provide for the general welfare don’t you understand?”

The problem, of course, is that the Congress is attempting to regulate non-participation in intrastate commerce.  And the individual mandate is not a tax.  President Obama himself said so, rather emphatically.  What part of “it’s not a tax” don’t you understand, Professor?

It seems the real difference between liberals and conservatives (at least on this question) is that conservatives think the Constitution imposes limits on government power, and we should adhere to them.

Published in: on December 17, 2010 at 4:38 pm  Comments (1)  

California Ensures Its Economic Demise

Yesterday, Professor Jacobson at Legal Insurrection reviewed Victor David Hansen’s account of his journey through central California and found it to be scarily reminiscent of the Soviet Union in the 1980s — a third world country surrounding pockets of first world wealth:

Leaving the ring road was like taking a step a hundred years back in time. No modern toilets, donkeys pulling carts, manual pump water wells, and so on. This was a scene repeated from city to city. If all you ever saw were the cities, you couldn’t understand the country.

I commented at the time (I have witnesses!) that I didn’t see how the country could last another decade given its intrinsic third world economy supporting a first world military, and it didn’t.

Fast forward to 2010, and Victor Davis Hanson has a chilling account of California which resembles in many ways the Soviet Union of the early 1980s — first world cities of relative wealth sitting on top of an increasingly third world economy. . . .

He concludes that “[i]t can’t last another decade.” 

It won’t even come close.  Yesterday, California made sure of that:

California regulators voted to cap the greenhouse gas emissions of the state’s major industries and establish a carbon trading program. California’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act requires the state to reduce emissions by 15 percent from today’s levels by 2020. “This is an historic venture,” said Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board. The Board voted 9 to 1 to approve approximately 3,000 pages of regulations.

* * *

The cap and trade plan would require 600 industrial plants in the state to cap their greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, and reduce those levels over the next eight years. Allowances would be granted to plants based on the tons of carbon dioxide they could emit. Plants could raise their limits by purchasing offsets from timber companies that pledge to preserve more carbon in forests.

As its economy slides further into the regulatory tar pit, more high earners and corporations will flee the state, tax revenues will contiunue to decline, and California’s economic demise will accelerate.  You cannot tax, spend, and regulate yourself to prosperity.  It is amazing that, with all of its manifest problems, California’s political class just doesn’t get it.  Of course, neither do its voters, since they just reelected Jerry Brown to the governorship.

The call for a bailout is inevitable.  Conservatives must resist.  Taxpayers from responsible adult states should not bail out the irresponsible politicians, regulators, public employee unions, and voters of California.

Published in: on December 17, 2010 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Stick A Fork In Him; He’s Done.

Dr. Helen reads the signs:

I was watching CNBC the other day with interviews of the various CEOs who met with the President and while they were talking a good game of cooperation with the administration, some of their body language and facial features let me to believe otherwise. Some of the CEOs gave the impression that they were no longer the pitchforkees but rather the ones who would do the pitchforking, metaphorically speaking, of course.

Based on written reports, I agree. 

As a commercial litigator, I am often asked by clients who witness an exchange between counsel or attend a hearing whether things went well or not — it is often ambiguous.  My standard response is to ask the client which side they intuitively think “won” — who was joking around and chatting about the weather or fly fishing or college football after the event, and who just gathered their stuff and left.  The former likely got the better of whatever exchange took place even if the court has not issued a  ruling or things are otherwise left unsettled.

I have the same feeling about the CEO summit.  The CEOs — although most represented companies that were incumbent rent-seekers who benefitted from Obama’s new regulation and market interventions — smell weakness, and it shows.  They know the President needs them far more than they need him, and that he has diminished power with which to do their companies harm.

Published in: on December 17, 2010 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

The U.N. Wants To Regulate The Internet

“The United Nations is considering whether to set up an inter-governmental working group to harmonise global efforts by policy makers to regulate the internet.”  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, let’s see.  The U.N.’s “human rights” committees are invariably dominated by totalitarian regimes.  Is there any doubt that the same thing would happen if we were to surrender our sovereignty with respect to the Internet to the same bunch of corrupt crackpots?  Pretty soon, every Google search would return nothing but anti-Israel diatribes.

Although the effort is being pitched as a response to the reprehensible WikiLeaks fiasco, it is nothing more than an attempt to suppress and control speech.  Never let a crisis go to waste and all that.  It must be resisted by freedom-loving people.

Published in: on December 17, 2010 at 11:42 am  Comments (1)  

Ding Dong! The Bill Is DEAD! Which Old Bill? The Wicked Bill.

Breaking news:

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said Thursday night that he was abandoning efforts to pass a $1.2 trillion spending measure to finance the government through Sept. 30 because Republicans would not support it.

* * *

Republicans had pledged to stop the spending measure, even though it included millions of dollars for projects that they had requested, and had even threatened to force the entire bill, which is more than 1,900 pages, to be read aloud on the Senate floor.

Mr. Reid in floor remarks on Thursday night said that he had spoken with Republican senators who had previously expressed a willingness to support the spending bill and concluded they would not vote for it.

Thus ends a desperate and disgusting attempt by lame duck (and lame in so many other ways) Democrats to control spending and pay off favored special interests for another year.  Well played, Mr. McConnell.  And Reid has shown the weakness of his hand.  Funding for Obamacare and other Democrat priorities is in serious jeopardy.

Via Professor Jacobson, who celebrates in a culturally appropriate manner.

Published in: on December 16, 2010 at 9:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

50 Reasons To Be Glad To Live In Denver

Denver’s tabloid newspaper Westword has a list of “50 reasons we’re glad we live in Denver and not the United States.”  I’m pretty dang glad to live in both, thank you very much.  But I enjoy these kinds of lists of semi-obscure local people, places, and inside jokes.

Some of the entries:

50. What other city has a blue, badass horse of the apocalypse greeting people at the airport…[MRH — The horse is so badass that it killed its creator.]

* * *

43. The shit-stompin’ National Western Stock Show and Rodeo!  [MRH — Where, among other attractions, you can hang out in a cow shit and hay floored bar and drink beer surrounded by livestock.]

* * *

40. Every day is like the Great American Beer Festival.

* * *

24. Casa Bonita, the weirdest Mexican restaurant on the planet. [MRH — Complete with cliff diving.]

* * *

9. It’s the land of green chile. [MRH — No.  That is New Mexico.  But we do a good job.]

* * *

5. We can ski in June and sunbathe in January — not to mention doing both at the same time. 

* * *

2. Being a bartender or a brewpub owner is considered qualification for major public office.

Published in: on December 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Proper Label For E.J Dionne Is “Partisan Hack”

In his latest column, E.J. Dionne praises the “No Labels” group that held its first meeting this week:

Who can disagree with a call to put aside “petty partisanship” and embrace “practical solutions”? Let’s cheer the group’s insistence on “fact-based discussions.” Too much political talk these days is utterly disconnected from what’s actually true. Fact-based always beats fantasy-based.

The No Labelers are also right to be repulsed by the replacement of real argument with a vicious brand of name-calling. When a president of the United States is attacked simultaneously as an “extreme liberal liar” and a “Nazi,” there is a sick irrationality at work in our discourse.

He then uses the occasion to label Republicans and conservatives as extremists:

The No Labelers can yet be a constructive force if they remind us of how extreme the right has become and help broker an alliance between the center and the left, the only coalition that can realistically stop an ever more zealous brand of conservatism.

Let’s flash back a few years to see what one of Dionne’s fellow Washington Post writers had to say about President Bush, shall we. 

Katrina vanden Heuvel, for example, claimed that the Bush Administration engaged in human experimentation by having doctors monitor enhanced interrogation.  Sure, she would have accused them of depravity if doctors were not present to monitor the terrorists’ health as they were being interrogated, but whatever. 

She even invoked Nazi Dr. Mengele in a backhanded way: “Granted, this ‘research’ was not the Frankenstein stuff of Dr. Mengele — the experimentation seems to have been conducted in order to determine how sadistic American torturers could be before they crossed into illegality.”  As fellow Post writer Eva Rodriguez noted, “this qualifier seems acutely insincere. By raising the specter of Mengele, vanden Heuvel makes her point clear: Bush and company were ‘sadistic American torturers’ who used ‘interrogation victims as guinea pigs.'”

Where was Dionne?  Why wasn’t he raising his voice as a noble champion of civil discourse in defense of an administration and doctors working to protect this country when they were labeled with the worst possible label in the pages of his own newspaper? 

Because he is a partisan hack.

People like Dionne were silent during the Bush years — when he was routinely slandered by the left as everything from a stupid chimp to a Nazi war criminal to the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks — because they are partisans.  They are no longer fond of labels only because the labels are being affixed to people and policies they support.  In particular, they are upset because the label “socialist” (in its modern European left definition) fits President Obama and most of the remaining Democrats in Congress pretty well. 

Labels, like partisanship, can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how and why are being used.  It is hypocrites like Dionne that are generally worthless.  They will have credibility only when they decry labeling on both ends of the political spectrum.

UPDATE: Peter Wehner has similar thoughts at Commentary Contentions.

Published in: on December 16, 2010 at 11:34 am  Leave a Comment  

David Bernstein’s Commerce Clause Analysis Is Just Sad; But Probably Right

At the law professor group blog Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein has some depressing thoughts that are ostensibly about Obamacare and the Commerce Clause, but are really a terrible indictment of the Supreme Court:

Here’s my take: What the opponents of the individual mandate had to do was provide plausible arguments that the individual mandate is distinguishable from precedents like Wickard v. Filburn and Gonzales v. Raich. Whether or not the best interpretation of those precedents supports the individual mandate or not is almost entirely irrelevant.

The modern Supreme Court is reluctant to directly overrule precedents, especially well-entrenched precedents, but is not at all reluctant to distinguish precedents, even when the distinctions in question are quite strained. I could present many examples, but just consider, for example, how Boy Scouts of America v. Dole turned out not to be governed by Roberts v. United States Jaycees; the Court distinguished Matthews v. Eldridge from Goldberg v. Kelly; or how the Court has gone back and forth between relying on Mulligan and Quirin in detainee cases without overruling either one of them, or really explaining how they don’t contradict each other.

So now that the opponents of the individual mandate have manged to make arguments that pass the laugh test, the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision will involve such factors as: (1) How popular will the individual mandate, and health care reform more generally, be when the Court takes up the issue?; (2) How popular will President Obama be at that time? (3) The Republicans on the Court will undoubtedly be less likely to support a law passed with only Democratic support; (4) Will Justice Kennedy be more in the mood to be susceptible to the “Greenhouse Effect,” or to cement his conservative credentials, which in part will depend on, “How close to retirement is he?” (5) Does Justice Scalia think that invalidating the individual mandate will somehow hurt the cause of ultimately overruling Roe v. Wade, . . . .

In other words, it’s all politics and no Constitution.  Sadly, I can nibble at the edges — and would say that the indictment primarily covers the lefties and not principled folk such as Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and mostly Scalia — but the math is close enough for government work.

There is the glimmer of hope:

If the liberals on the Court, like the dissenters in Lopez, are unable to articular a limiting principle that would prevent their decision from giving the federal government an essentially plenary police power to regulate virtually all human activity and inactivity, the individual mandate is doomed. The conservative majority simply will not accept a doctrine that suggests that federal power is not one of limited and enumerated powers.

And how, exactly, would a decision supporting the individual mandate allow a “limiting principle”?  I cannot think of one.  But then, I didn’t go to Harvard or Yale, so I guess I’m not smart enough to divine it.

Published in: on December 16, 2010 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment