05 March 2014

Ah, the good old days...


14 January 2014

The uninformed carry water for government regulation...

Commenters on a Washington Post article about the recent chemical leak in West Virginia perfectly encapsulate the fantasy world Liberals inhabit. A sampling:

"I wonder if they're still making fun of tree huggers?"
"I'm surprised free market forces didn't have this problem fixed years ago."
"This is what happens when corporations run wild."

It's quite amazing when you think about it - a chemical plant that makes, stores, uses and disposes its chemicals only where, when and how government regulations allow leaks chemicals into a water system that is literally owned and run by the government; the contamination is undiscovered until individuals report a smell in the water. The back-up plan once government shuts off water is for private stores to increase bottled water inventories for people to find and buy on their own.

But to these commenters, the only possible culprit is private industry? The only conceivable solution to a problem that occurred amidst thousands of intertwined government regulations is to add more of them?

Brilliant.

Sadder still, numerous uninformed commenters suggested that those who think private industry can be trusted ought to Google "Love Canal." Unfortunately, the true story of Love Canal doesn't exactly make the case for trusting government.

20 December 2013

I've never watched Duck Dynasty and never read GQ and the numbers suggest you haven't either

Apparently some guy on a reality show that 96% of Americans don't watch was interviewed in a magazine that 99.7% of Americans do not read and he said something that has sparked outrage among people who don't read the magazine or watch the show, and have never previously cared about either.

Anyway, the cable TV channel fired him or something, so now a bunch more people who've never watched the show or read the magazine are mad about THAT.

Personally, I've never seen the show, was only marginally aware that printed magazines still exist, and I'm tired of all the phony outrage both by people who ought to respect free speech, and by people who ought to respect at will employment.

To be clear: I don't care. I don't care that you care. As usual, I don't even understand how the big fake news event for the week got selected.

So shut up already.

18 December 2013

"Inequality Does Not Matter" says Williamson. Read it.

Kevin Williamson has a good one today over at National Review. Here's a sample:

Mr. Barro and many other commentators on economics often write as though there were buckets marked “Income” and “Wealth,” the contents of which are ladled out by some agency or agencies according to a set of rules and procedures. There is in fact no such thing as income distribution — “distribute” is a transitive verb, and here it has no real direct object. What there is is the occurrence of income. The argument that inequality causes income stagnation or decline for those who have been worse off in recent years assumes that if the rich were earning less then the middle class and the poor would be earning more, which in most situations is not the case. If Goldman Sachs earns less money this quarter, that does not mean that some quantity of money is therefore liberated from their foul clutches to float about until lower-wage workers can claim it. High incomes at the top do not cause low incomes at the bottom, or vice versa. To assign economic agency to the abstraction that is inequality assumes the opposite.
Inequality Does Not Matter is the title, and, of course, I think you should read the whole thing. Williamson takes on the inequality mantra that the good Democrats of Stepford seem to have instituted as their current rallying cry, along with the economic fallacies of some of their prescriptions to "fix" that problem.

13 December 2013

I know it will shock you to learn this, but Obama was fully aware #Obamacare was designed to cause people to lose coverage

Now that "if you like your plan you can keep it" has been named PolitiFact's 2013 "Lie of the Year," let's revisit its origins.

Back in February of 2010, before ObamaCare was even passed into law, the President hosted a Bipartisan Summit on Health Care Reform. Present were Congressional leaders from both parties, along with President Obama. At the meeting, Obama pretended to be interested in getting Republican input and ideas to improve the bill and gain support from Republicans.

One topic of discussion was the fact that the law would cause people to lose coverage that they had and liked. As House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R, VA) put it (emphasis added):
But also, Mr. President, when we were here about a year ago across the street, you started the health care summit by saying one of the promises you want to make is that people ought to be able to keep the health insurance that they have.  Because as we also know, most people in this country do have insurance and an overwhelming majority of people do like that coverage; it's just too expensive.
Well, the CBO sent a letter -- I think it was to Leader Reid -- about the Senate bill.  And in that letter, it suggested that between 8 million and 9 million people may very well lose the coverage that they have because of this, because of the construct of this bill.  That's our concern.  And so, as we are in -- as we are in the market -- in the section of this discussion about health insurance reform, I note, Mr. President, that you have suggested strengthening oversight of insurance premium increases.  Because we want to make sure that there aren't excessive insurance premium increases that take place.
The problem is when you start to mandate all of the essential benefits, there are going to be some insurance premium increases.  None of us really want to see them.  But if you stop them, who is going to pay for it?  Well, then we get back to the fact that businesses won't be able to pay for it and people are going to lose their coverage.
So I guess my question to you is, in the construct of this bill, if we want to find agreement, we really do need to set this aside.  And we really do need to say, okay, the fundamental structure is something we can't agree on, but there are certainly plenty of areas of agreement.  And because I don't think that you can answer the question in the positive to say that people will be able to maintain their coverage, people will be able to see the doctors they want in the kind of bill that you're proposing.
Got that? Republicans were not just running campaign commercials, they were addressing the President directly in conversation with their concerns that the bill would, in fact, cause people to lose coverage and to lose the ability to see their preferred doctors. I guess Obama just mis-judged, right? He didn't think their predictions were correct?
Well, let me -- since you asked me a question, let me respond.  The 8 to 9 million people that you refer to that might have to change their coverage -- keep in mind out of the 300 million Americans that we're talking about -- would be folks who the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, estimates would find the deal in the exchange better.
Wait, what? He didn't deny it? He knew perfectly well that people would lose coverage? That was part of the plan? Yes, I get it that he is saying the exchange plans will be "a better deal." That is not the same thing as "less expensive," and it is certainly not the same thing as "if you like your plan you can keep it. In fact, it's so far from the same thing that there ought to be a word for it. Oh, right, there is one: it's the "opposite."

Lest you think I am taking things out of context here, please read the entire transcript for yourself at the well-known right-wing site, whitehouse.gov.

16 August 2013

Avoiding principles to prove you are "tough on crime" doesn't make you conservative

In a recent Wall Street Journal column, Daniel Henninger suggests that any critic of New York City's "stop and frisk" policy is self-evidently soft on crime.

His argument is reminiscent of those previously used by conservatives who defended torture on the basis that "it works," an argument I addressed a while back. Setting aside for a moment that there is little (if any) evidence that stop and frisk does, in fact, "work" to reduce crime (New York's crime trends are in no way exceptional compared to many jurisdictions that do not exercise such policies,) the real question is: why should that matter?

Henninger goes so far as to deride U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin's statement that "this Opinion takes no position on whether stop and frisk contributed to the decline in crime....This court's mandate is solely to judge the constitutionality of police behavior, not its effectiveness as a law enforcement tool."

I suspect that in other contexts Henninger (and other defenders stop and frisk) would be more sympathetic to the view that Constitutional constraints on state power serve a higher, and more important purpose than utilitarian arguments in favor of "law and order by any means necessary." Had Obamacare been struck down on a (legitimate) Constitutional basis, would Henninger have lamented that as a result, more poor people would now die for lack of health care?

It is in fact quite appalling that the only argument so-called limited government conservatives can muster in favor the policy amounts to little more than "a police state is a safe state."

Henninger also dredges up Justice Jackson's old saw about the Constitution not being a suicide pact, a (mis)quote that is becoming quite a favorite of the police-state right these days. Before using it, you might want to read a bit more about the case and the context for that quote.

In Terminiello vs. Chicago, the Supreme Court was asked to rule on a Catholic priest's conviction for a public speech under an Illinois statute because such speech "may constitute a breach of the peace if it stirs the public to anger, invites dispute, brings about a condition of unrest, or creates a disturbance, or if it molests the inhabitants in the enjoyment of peace and quiet by arousing alarm..."

In its decision overturning that state law, the majority pointed out that the "argument here has been focused on the issue of whether the content of petitioner's speech was composed of derisive, fighting words, which carried it outside the scope of the constitutional guarantees. We do not reach that question, for there is a preliminary question that is dispositive of the case." (Emphasis added; references removed.)

Dismissing the possibility that Father Terminiello may (or may not) have violated longstanding prohibitions of incitement or used "fighting words," the Court instead addressed the clear Constitutional issue of an overly broad statute that unconstitutionally restricted free speech. In other words, the Court chose, like Judge Sheindlin, solely to address the Constitutionality of the law. Gee, how crazy is that?

The facts of the case, recited by none other than the dissenting Justice Jackson, show that an unruly mob was in place outside the building, and had begun attacking people entering the building, and throwing rocks through windows, before Terminiello even began to speak. Nevertheless, in his dissent, Henninger's favorite justice thundered:
This Court has gone far toward accepting the doctrine that civil liberty means the removal of all restraints from these crowds and that all local attempts to maintain order are impairments of the liberty of the citizen. The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.
One suspects that Justice Jackson might well find the cancellation of an Ann Coulter speech at the University of Ottawa to be an example of "ordered liberty," as the university clearly was only trying - just like the City of Chicago in 1949 -  to avoid "disputes," "disturbances" and "conditions of unrest."

After all, as Jackson also argued, our "freedom of speech exists only under law and not independently of it. What would Terminiello's theoretical freedom of speech have amounted to had he not been given active aid by the officers of the law? He could reach the hall only with this help, could talk only because they restrained the mob, and could make his getaway only under their protection."

The reasoning seems to be that if enough people hate you and want to throw rocks at you, then you ought to just shut up or be jailed. It's difficult even to reconcile Justice Jackson's reasoning with his own decisions in other cases during his tenure, much less with a traditionalist understanding of the First Amendment and natural rights.

It turns out that the Fourth Amendment is also part of the Constitution, and although "tough on crime" types may not have noticed, it has been steadily eroding for quite some time. At the risk of making a slippery slope argument, let's just say that maybe it's time to at least dig in our heels a little bit and give some thought to climbing back up. That isn't "soft on crime," and unlike soft on crime aspersions cast on opponents of "stop and frisk," it also isn't softheaded.

In other words, how about discussing principles for once?