Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ignorance and Insanity

“Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”


Federal debt as of 12/05/11: $15,068,133,903,969.13
Federal debt as of 12/04/12: $16,347,055,651,380.32


That's roughly $1.3 trillion in debt over the last calender year.  In Washington, our President is absolutely demanding tax hikes on the "top 2%" which will supposedly raise $1.6 trillion over ten years.  That's $160 billion per year, assuming of course rich people do not abandon this country.  The United Kingdom just jacked up taxes on their rich and now collect $11 billion less in revenue than they did before.  

$1.3 trillion minus $160 billion is still well above a trillion dollars in the hole per year. 

This is not a serious plan for a very serious issue.  This is purely about attacking innocent civilians who can only be accused of being successful.  And our electorate put Obama back into office purely for this politics of envy. 

No wonder Washington is so dysfunctional. 

The truth is, we are going bankrupt.  The President's plan is not even aimed at this problem but at attacking people he despises for no particularly good reason.    And the American people are so damn ignorant that they can't even do the basic arithmetic to find out his glorious plan leaves us a trillion short for the upcoming year. 

It's not so much that the future isn't bright as that it's horrific.  And it is incredibly frustrating to realize my future is tied to this ship where the captain is a petty minded fool and the rest of the passengers are convinced the ship cannot sink. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Are These Truths Self Evident?

The bedrock of this nation's conception of justice has been summed up with Jefferson's beautiful phrase 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
But our nation has changed greatly over the past 236 years.  Among those changes is the nation's lack of faith in Jefferson's Creator.  Now, I will not condemn that change, for as an agnostic I too hold doubts of any such Creator existing.  Any honest person will note, however, without the Creator, the source of our endowment becomes unclear, raising the question: are we endowed with any such rights at all? 

I have been sifting through the works of various philosophers of positive and natural law in search of a solid footing on which such rights might rest, but the search has largely been in vain.  A ridiculous amount of verbiage is spent to create ludicrously few solid concepts, but this much I see:

There is no natural law or natural rights in the sense that "Good" requires those laws to be and anything in contradiction is not actually law.  "Good" itself has no objective existence.  Positive laws, those that are actually imposed by men on other men, do exist, no matter how poorly expressed or even insane they may be.  Laws are judged not in objective abstract terms of how will they coincide with the philosophical concept of law but in whether it aligns with one's political philosophy.  As atrocious as it seems to me, Nazi law was in fact a legal system in that it allowed those subscribing to Nazi ideology to fulfill their goals.  We may condemn those ideologies and their attendant jurisprudence, but we cannot point to a Higher Power that condemns them.  If God is dead, so is the Devil; there will be no retribution on evil men who live out long and happy lives.  

This fact has driven philosophers I otherwise respect into flights of fancy.  Friedrich Hayek, for example, condemns positive law as the rule of those who make the rules rather than dispassionate, impersonal law.  Hayek (and my) political philosophy may very well depend on limiting the power of those making the laws, but all of the rules ever written to that effect are in vain if nobody is there to enforce them.  In any democracy, it is easy to bribe a segment of the populace by promising the redistribution of the wealth of another segment's.  Those of us who see this as both morally wrong and economically harmful to most of us (even many in the bribed party) face Plato's daunting task of convincing the tyrant with the ring of Gyges that he personally would be better off doing good, even in comparison to doing evil with absolute impunity.  

Plato did not have a particularly good answer.  Neither the Myth of Er nor the Creator have much sway these days and pushing them would be a pathetic Nobel Lie.  I believe respecting the life, liberty, and property of all citizens it he only way to preventing our government from being an organ of theft and corruption to benefit whichever party currently occupies the Capitol.  But so long as some citizens are willing to be bribed with the wealth and happiness of others while most remain ignorant and apathetic, those on the throne making our laws will reap the benefits of Gyges' ring.  All appeals to natural law will fail, as those corrupt governors are following the natural law of their ideologies.  The only appeal that will demand their attention is the use of force. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Congress of Common Men?

It is "common wisdom" that our Congress lacks truly common men and women, that those who represent us are rarely drawn among a representative strata of the society they represent.  If only the more average citizens could be elected, these patriots would work wonders for the common good rather than putting politics or certain segments of society first.  I find plenty wrong with this commonly held belief, but let's put aside the supposed conspiracy keeping average folk out and the intellectual weakness of the "common good" concept.  Even if a majority of such working class heroes were elected, little would be done of use.  To create change, Congress must legislate.  This is not a patchwork of unrelated laws but rather an immense set of legislation and regulation running into hundreds of thousands of pages, dealing with hundreds of agencies and trillions of dollars, exclusive of contracts with the private sector.  Senator John Q. Public has no chance of effecting meaningful change in this labyrinth he cannot navigate. 

Perhaps more frightening, Representative Silverspoon N. Mouth, with his years of public service and elite education afforded him by his privileged status in society, cannot comprehend this interminable Gordian Knot, either.  That's a frightening thought: nobody actually understands the law.  The most studious lawyers among us only become experts in parts of that law. 

If there are so many laws written in a language only a few can understand, any pretense of our laws being subject to democratic approval should be dropped.  Our elections are never based on the laws passed by politicians but rather on whether the quality of life has seemed to improve or not; most people could no more connect the impact of laws to actual life than they could read the mind of God himself. 

In their ignorance, people call for more regulation from the government.  It has nothing to do with having a sound understanding of economics, finances, or the law, but rather a primordial gut response that the people in charge need to "do something" to prevent bad economic outcomes.  Again, the people in Congress hardly understand the law, much less our entire economic system, but because of political pressure they feel compelled to create some new law or another.  Since the folks in Congress do not understand the laws well enough to change anything in a meaningful way, they turn to the experts in those particular areas of laws to be impacted by the new regulation.  

Those people are called lobbyists.  Their entire point in existing is to understand segments of the law relevant to their interest and write proposed changes that will change those segments in their (or their employer's) favor.  The more we regulate, the more complicated the mess becomes, and the more power lobbyists end up with due to this black hole of legal information. 

"It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood"

~Federalist 62 (I recommend reading it in its entirety)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Test The Test

I'm currently reading Teaching America: The Case for Civic Education, edited by David Feith with contributors ranging across the political spectrum.  A single theme is dominant in each work: civic literacy is unacceptably low for a republican government like ours to function correctly.  Study after study has revealed America's profound and distressing ignorance of its own history and Constitution.  The rule of the People is based on the notion that the People will be a strong check on government abuse.  That, however, requires the People to first know that abuse is even going on (current events), to understand the proper sphere any particular public official operates in with corresponding powers and limits (the Constitution and attending laws), with a solid understanding of what is right and wrong in politics to begin with (political theory).  Public schools fail on nearly all of these categories; those who learn them do so on their own initiative.  

I think everyone knows this.  It's not even really controversial.  And yet, we continue down the same path, perhaps more out of apathy than anything else.  I've pointed out my discontent with New York's history curriculum before.  It is a creature of bureaucracy, more bent on allowing quantification of student results than improving student knowledge.  Recalling for two years arcane factoids and writing a vapid essay qualifies as acceptable in New York.  This hardly lives up to the lofty goals of Social Studies our state's Department of Education lays forth: 

Courses of study should give students the knowledge, intellectual skills, civic understandings, and dispositions toward democratic values that are necessary to function effectively in American society. Ultimately, social studies instruction should help students assume their role as responsible citizens in America’s constitutional democracy and as active contributors to a society that is increasingly diverse and interdependent with other nations of the world. For example, students should be able to use the knowledge and skills acquired through social studies courses to solve problems and make reasoned decisions in their daily lives. Social studies courses should provide students with the background to conduct research in order to cast informed votes, with the skills to place conflicting ideas in context, and with the wisdom to make good judgments in dealing with the tensions inherent in society such as the enduring struggle to find the proper balance between protecting the rights of the individual and promoting the common good.
Not having a high school diploma in this era is an economic death sentence; failing to pass the history Regents Exams bars graduation.  When the room has a high proportion of students who may not pass, the only option a teacher realistically has is to focus on those border line cases and do whatever possible to get them to squeak by.  The highest achieving students have to hope there is an AP program in order to receive attention, the lowest students are considered lost, and those border line cases hopefully pass the test.  This hardly helps "students assume their role as responsible citizens in America's constitutional democracy" (most people could not tell you what constitutional democracy means) who will "cast informed votes" (take a look at our voting rate and those who vote on issues rather than personalities) who "conduct research" (The Daily Show constitutes the main source of news for a ridiculously high proportion of Americans). 

Ok, so we're not living up to those lofty goals, but students will at least recall some basic facts from world and U.S. history because they can pass the test, right?  Everyone should be laughing at that thought.  Once the test is passed, the information can be and usually is forgotten, except for those few who found the material interesting; those students generally knew the information prior to taking the class. 

I would love to see a study on how many voting New York residents that passed the Global and United States Regents Exams in high school could pass them again now.  We'll eliminate the essay part and give a passing grade of 30 correct responses to 50 questions.  This is the general rule of thumb as to whether a student will pass the test. A response of 2 out of 5 is required on the essays, which amounts to making some vague statement about the topic at hand that wasn't handed to the student in the written directions.  I would wager good money that less than one in four would pass. 

So, why are we doing this?  We're not creating engaged and thinking citizens.  In the long run, we're not even creating citizens who recall factoids from the class. 

We do it because we're in a rut.  Getting out of that rut would require a great deal of work and squarely facing many unpleasant truths, among them that many students do not have the aptitude to understand our government well enough to hold them accountable.  Some will never get it, no matter how much education you throw at them.  We have a strong egalitarian streak in this nation and the notion of a natural aristocracy sets many teeth on edge.  Nevertheless, it exists, and we would be better served by focusing squarely on those with the talent than in wasting our time getting uninterested and incapable students to squeak by a test that has no bearing on long term civic literacy. I mean no disrespect to those who do not have the mental aptitude to govern as voters; the theory of multiple intelligences is one I happen to agree with.  Those with the ability to become mechanics should have that ability improved and polished rather than ignored while becoming frustrated as their intelligence is measured by some other standard.  But just as I don't want somebody who does not understand mechanics (like myself) working on my car, so I don't want those without understanding of government working on that, either. 

I don't know if we'll ever be ready for that as a nation.  Until we do, though, we will continue to fail to develop potential minds by wasting resources on those without the potential.  The first step will be removing these damn state tests and the best way of removing them is to prove how worthless they are.  Some institute or college should be looking into this.  If the History Regents are so important for students to pass that their futures can be ruined without satisfactory performance, then the test itself should be tested to see if the state standards are being met by voting age citizens who successfully completed New York's curriculum.  If there's no link between passing the tests and being informed (even about the exact same material), then the test serves no purpose whatsoever.  

Let's test the test. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

We Are Awake In A Nightmare

Over at RedState, Erik Erickson has a post arguing that John Robert's otherwise unaccountable defection is a blessing in disguise for the Tea Party.  They will arise from their slumber and whoop up on the Democrats in November, leading to the repeal of ObamaCare.  He argues, " A giant woke in 2009. It went back to sleep thinking it had saved the republic in 2010. It’s awake now and I don’t think it is going back to sleep."

I respectfully dissent.  

For starters, even if Erickson is correct about the ObamaCare ruling revving up support for libertarian beliefs and elects enough Tea Party politicians to Washington to overturn ObamaCare, it will take all of one election to undo that and bring back the mandate.  Additionally, more mandates may be coming down the line from our statist foes.  As I argued in March, we had to win that case to keep Pandora's Box from opening.  I erred in believing the Commerce Clause would be the main argument (as did every lower court judge, regardless of their vote on the legality of ObamaCare), but the now solidified "constitutionality" of mandates is a reality.  Every election is now a battle to keep mandates out of our lives, and sadly we will not win them all.  The expansion of the federal government into our lives will accelerate regardless of the outcome in November. 

Nearly every argument conservatives and libertarians make about the damaging impact of Obama's policies on our lives is just too complicated for the average Joe or Jolene to follow.  It's far simpler to believe the grocery store is just jacking up prices to make profit than to understand how low interest borrowing by the federal government increases the money supply, decreasing the value of money down the pipe but not for those initially receiving that spending.  It's pretty damn tempting for people suffering in this economy to take a "free" entitlement of any sort, especially when the real downside won't hit for another few years or even decades (think Social Security, Medicare, ObamaCare, etc.).  It's too damn real out there for most folks not to want some great leader to magically pull us from the morass; they will follow that hope even when their reason tells them our leaders are egotistical, corrupt, and blatantly incompetent.  You can literally point this out to people: ask them if they think Congress is competent and generally not corrupt.  They will tell you no.  Their polling is usually in the low teens.  Ask those same people if Congress should be more involved in "fixing" our problems.  You won't like their response.  It's doublethink; the cognitive dissonance should be deafening, but it isn't.  We should throw more power to the corrupt and incompetent to fix our problems. 

We see it in Europe.  Nobody at all wants to face the fact that most nations over there are bankrupt and need to cut spending immediately.  Our people will be no different. 

Us Tea Party folks may very well awake to find ourselves in a living nightmare from which we cannot escape.  Erickson says they fell asleep after 2010; maybe so, maybe no.  But their impact in 2010 was not particularly great.  We may have slowed down the expansion of government some, but we are not reversing it, and 2010 was very likely our high water mark in terms of support. 

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the only options before us are secession (highly, highly unlikely) and going into the thousand years of darkness Reagan warned us of.  If the Tea Party cannot put government growth into reverse, then that second outcome is inevitable so long as we stay within our current political system. 

If we are serious about our stance on personal liberty and limited government, we will have to start taking a hard look at that first option.  But I don't think most people, even within the Tea Party, are that serious.  When given the choice between fighting for those liberties we supposedly hold sacred, putting our lives, fortune, and sacred honor on the line, or maintaining our admittedly shrinking comfort in the land of soft despotism, you'll find the forces of revolution being mighty small. 

I'll continue struggling against this parental tyranny because it is wrong and I cannot quietly abide what I see as wrong.  But I do not continue this struggle with a belief that it will work, at least within our current political framework.  And I'm pretty certain I'm not alone in that. 

We are awake.  The nightmare isn't a dream.  The monsters are real.  And we are now very, very naked before them. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sorry, Mr. Freedland

Reading Jonathan Freedland at The Guardian today is both amusing and painful.  You can tell Freedland is not a conservative/libertarian type, but he keeps skirting with their conclusions before fleeing them once their impact dawns upon him.  His problem, like so many on the Left, is that he takes democracy to be the best form of government by the people, rather than a republic governed by laws and respecting certain rights regardless of what a majority may say.  As Freedland says, democracy is like a car; if the people vote right or left, the country should respond accordingly.  

I'm going to ignore Egypt because it was never a democratic government to begin with.  They had a popular uprising, but no plan of action for establishing control afterwards.  Freedland's comments on Greece are illuminating, however.  

The point is, the answer is not in the Greeks' own hands. They are subject to the decisions of others, over whom they have no democratic control. Fair enough, you might say, since the Greeks are demanding the help of others – in the form of cash to bail out their ailing economy. But the effect is the same. For the Greeks, the ancient, animating promise of democracy – that it allows a people to be the master of their own fate – no longer holds.
But, Mr. Freedland, the Greeks were masters of their fate.  This is their fate.   The is the fate of the welfare state.  

Crudely, it means that governments whose prime task used to be giving things to people now have to take things away from them. 
Government cannot give without first taking away, Mr. Freedland.  Up until now, the welfare state has subsisted on taxing the rich and borrowing the remainder.  Now Europe can't borrow.   Europe has promised so many things to people and couched them in terms of "rights" but now cannot deliver.  They have run out of other people's money.  

Do not be surprised.  Conservatives and libertarians have been predicting this for decades.  So long as politicians can use the money of some people to bribe others, they will, even if it means promising more than there actually is.  A supranational solution does not exist for the same reason: mathematics will rule against you every time.  You cannot give more than there actually is, and how much there is depends on how much people are willing to produce, and how much they will produce depends on how much those people will get to keep.  
Politicians suddenly look small. The big forces that shape our lives – whether the euro or the bond markets – are increasingly beyond the reach of any national government.
For some of us, the abilities of government always looked small; they created a temporary boom with a gigantic bust.  Welcome to the club.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

All of the Rules Apply

"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."

~Rule 13, Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals

"Never go outside the experience of your people."

~Rule 2, Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals

Scott Walker won a decisive victory over Tom Barrett and the public service unions last night.  Given the raucous protests in 2011 from Madison to the Occupy movement and the supposed retreat of the Tea Party, folks on the Left are wondering how Walker could possibly have own.  The straw they are latching onto is that Walker's spending advantage, bolstered by the Citizens United decision, is weak.  Ask yourself, when was the last time you voted for a candidate because of how much money they spent?  Have those 30 second ads ever swung your vote?  Possessing a large war chest is more often a symptom of popularity rather than its cause. 

So what went wrong for the unions and their OWS prototype protest?  They followed Saul Alinsky's most famous rule to a T.  Scott Walker was their target, they painted him as evil incarnate (often literally), and made it clear that supporting the governor was morally unacceptable to anyone who would listen.  The negative rule 13 tactic has rarely been carried out as ruthlessly as against Walker.  It pumped up union members and liberals to nearly hysterical levels.  They remained focused on portraying collective bargaining as a basic human right to stay within Alinsky's second rule, to not go outside the experience of your people. 

But those folks misread Alinsky and America.  Middle class Wisconsinites were the people to be organized and they play by rules very different from those of the radical Left.  Trashing the Capitol and war monuments, screaming obscenities, drum circles; these are poison to average John Q. Public III.  He is revolted by them.  "The failure of many of our younger activists to understand the art of communication has been disastrous.  Even the most elementary grasp of the fundamental idea...would have ruled out attacks on the American flag."  The OWS types can scream that they are the 99% until they are blue in the face, it just isn't so.  Both the Wisconsin Democrats and OWS made the incredible mistake of assuming Middle America resembles the protesters!

What does Middle America actually see when it comes to Scott Walker?  A challenge to a privileged class.  Note not "the" privileged class, but certainly a class with privilege.  My step-dad would fit in with most middle class Americans.  He is 59 and is a supervisor of a few dozen employees, but started decades ago at the bottom.  Retirement is a fading dream for him; likely as not, he will work until he physically cannot out of financial necessity.  There is no love for Wall Street bankers, that's for damn sure, but they rarely show up in our part of the world.  What burns his ass on a daily basis are "public servants" complaining about not getting a bigger raise, chipping in for their own health care, or the travesty of retirement at 55.  

Again, my step-dad is 59, retirement is a fading dream, his property taxes are skyrocketing to pay for others to retire at 55...and they are ungrateful. 

The wonder isn't so much that Walker won as it is that Middle America has not smashed this machine until now.  "Fairness" should never leave the mouth of anyone retiring before 60 on a public pension, if not for moral reasons than just out of basic tactical considerations.  But the unions and the Democrats pushed this issue.  They were resoundingly defeated and every governor in the nation facing budget troubles (nearly all of them) knows now that public sector unions are not invincible machines.  They can be beaten, and more importantly, there is a huge groundswell that wants to see them beaten that extends far beyond the Koch Brothers. 

If Republicans are smart, they will tie the President to these unpopular public unions and force him to declare where his loyalties really lie.  If the Democrat Party renounces their top financial and organizational support structure, both could find themselves estranged from each other and significantly weakened for years to come.  Their strength lies in reinforcing each other; the unions provide votes and cash for the Democrats, who in turn provide privileges to the unions.  But apart from each other, they both lose.  The unions are unquestionably unpopular and it is easy to point out their privileges to those paying the bill.  Let's make Obama lose his union support or that of those disgusted with union privileges.  I think this is something we absolutely must focus on.  Unemployment and the bad economy hurt Obama for sure, but they are complicated enough for the average American or Harvard economist not to fully understand, which makes assigning responsibility difficult.  Supporting union privileges, on the other hand, is straightforward. 

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that the Left is in a bubble, a point noted by many conservative bloggers.  The Tea Party is extreme, public pensions are popular, Walker was weak, ObamaCare is popular and unquestionably constitutional, Occupy would play a large role within our political system, etc.  It's frustrating to deal with somebody who just cannot see a damn wall in front of their own face, who is adamant that the wall doesn't exist.  But I'm long past done trying to convince those people of their own weaknesses (though I still love creating cognitive dissonance wherever possible).  Keep telling yourself that people who face a lifetime of working for no retirement will support paying higher taxes to hear the recipients of tax money, retiring with color still in their hair, bitch about how hard the public servant's life is.  Don't work within the experience of the very people you need to convince.  When you skip right to Rule 13, it is your own cause you freeze, personalize, and polarize.  We'll make every election a Pickett's Charge in which you assault our fortified positions with actual Middle America. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ready to Go

I'm #ReadytoGo stand in the unemployment line in Obama's economy. 

I'm #ReadytoGo cry after not being able to find a job after 27 weeks in Obama's economy.

I'm #ReadytoGo blow up a bridge to support the 99%! (OWS version)

The Justice Department is not #ReadytoGo prosecute those domestic terrorists.

#ReadytoGo beat he hell out of random white people over Trayvon Martin.

The Justice Department is not #ReadytoGo deal with that, either.  

#ReadytoGo meet my maker since I've been handed back to the Chinese Government. (Chen version)

These guns are #ReadytoGo to some Mexican drug cartels!

I'm horny and #ReadytoGo. (various politicians version)

We're #ReadytoGo on yet another taxpayer funded vacation! (Obama family version)

Obama's #ReadytoGo on yet another taxpayer funded campaign trip.

We're #ReadytoGo get some more Stimulus money! (various Obama cronies version)

I'm #ReadytoGo mock Obama for his Twitter incompetence. 

And since I'm #ReadytoGo look for more work, I guess I'm #ReadytoGo bang my head against a wall. 

I do hope Obama is #ReadytoGo come January. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Free Speech

Eugene Volokh has a post up about a proposed Constitutional amendment the effectively denies corporations the rights of the Constitution.  I'm trying to put my objection to this idea nicely, but it is hard to do because those proposing this amendment are themselves not being particularly nice.  Let's not set a precedent for banning the speech of those we dislike.  Because someday it may be your speech being banned "for the good of democracy" or some such crap. 

Also, it's not like if corporations couldn't spend money in elections, government would all of a sudden be focused on what is "the common good."  For starters, Citizens United was in 2010; whining about the unequal spending of political money dates further back than that.  Also, it's idiotically simplistic to believe there is a "common good" that is only hidden by corporate political money.  We'd argue and bitch about what is, just like the ancient Greeks and Romans did.  Just like the "ancient" Americans did. 

I do not believe political speech should ever be banned, regardless of who is saying it or what they have to say outside of inciting violence.  Corporations have their own interest, sure, but if they are going to be regulated with hundreds of thousands of pages of laws, corporations should have a say in what those laws will be.  I'm disgusted that people are actually arguing that other Americans should be under the threat of law but should not be allowed to voice their opinions on those laws.  

It isn't like all of a sudden political speech will be equal for everyone on a national scale.  There are over 300,000,000 of us; do the math, and you'll find there isn't even enough time for us all to have an equal input into the national debate during a four year presidential term. 

Finally, I'm tired of hearing that the Founding Fathers didn't mean to include people speaking as a group.  The same 1st Amendment that protects speech protects assembly.  It's asinine to believe we get to pick one 1st Amendment right, but only one.  We get them all, in combination with one another.  So if a bunch of us want to get together and put up an ad saying Obama's policies suck for our business, it is our right.  It is our moral right as citizens that under the threat of law.  People that are impacted as a group have every right to speak as a group. 

Those who love the freedom of speech will never tolerate it being limited, because those doing the limiting always have ulterior motives.  If you disagree with someone else, say so, but don't ban what they say. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Et Tu, Nelson?

“Scalia said [Wednesday] that it was totally unrealistic to read the whole law. Sen. Nelson didn’t think it was too much for the justices to know what they’re talking about when questioning the law’s content,” said Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson. 

I'm just disappointed nobody bothered to ask senator Nelson if HE read the bill.  You know, since he imposed it upon us and all. 

Funny that nobody on the Left is complaining about the four liberal justices who were and remain considered dead locks in favor of ObamaCare.  No, we'll question the independence of the conservative justices who up until this week were considered in play.  And we certainly won't question Kagan's role as Solicitor General when ObamaCare was passed. 

And finally, the four liberals effective took over Donald Verrilli's role once the Solicitor General made it perfectly clear he hadn't done his homework.  But we won't question their independence.  No sir! 

How dare Scalia ask hard questions!  Seriously? 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dear Leader Dahlia...

But we seem to want to be free from that obligation as well. This morning in America’s highest court, freedom seems to be less about the absence of constraint than about the absence of shared responsibility, community, or real concern for those who don’t want anything so much as healthy children, or to be cared for when they are old. Until today, I couldn’t really understand why this case was framed as a discussion of “liberty.” This case isn’t so much about freedom from government-mandated broccoli or gyms. It’s about freedom from our obligations to one another, freedom from the modern world in which we live. It’s about the freedom to ignore the injured, walk away from those in peril, to never pick up the phone or eat food that’s been inspected. It’s about the freedom to be left alone. And now we know the court is worried about freedom: the freedom to live like it’s 1804.

That would be Dahlia Lithwick's despondent response to libertarians.  Apparently, freedom actually consists of being lead by the nose without complaint by Lithwick and her ilk whenever they decide what is good for us. 

The fact of the matter is, Dahlia, there are many different goods in the world.  There is no one Good in Plato's sense.  I get it, you think universal health care is the bee's knees.  Well, I don't, mostly because I'm young and not doing so well in the Age of Hope and Stimulus.  I need to put that money where it will do me some good (paying loans, food, rent, gas, etc.) rather than health care insurance, seeing as I haven't had a medical expense I couldn't pay out of pocket, yeah, I'm guessing since I was a toddler.  By the way, Scalia was exactly right: people my age are smart enough to make decisions individually about their own health care.  Most of us will not need it now and should be allowed to fund our more pressing needs rather than your health care.  As for those my age that do purchase insurance, they may have the resources or the need to do so; Scalia's entire point is that they would know better about their individual needs than Lithwick or Obama. 

She keeps speaking of obligations to each other.  I don't recall assuming any such obligation.  None of this means that I won't help people voluntarily; I have, I do, and I will again.  I grow so tired of this dishonest argument that conservatives and libertarians don't want the government to help people, ergo they don't want those people to be helped.  That's wrong (Bastiat destroyed it in 1850); there are sentient actors outside of the government who can and do help others on a voluntary basis.  They are called individual human beings. 

Freedom does indeed mean not having to comply with the demands of Dahlia Lithwick.  It should be a surprise to nobody that Lithwick thinks that is wrong, but then, what tyrant doesn't define freedom as "what I want you to do is best"?

UPDATE:  Just got mentioned by the Instapundit himself!  Many thanks, Professor Reynolds!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Initial Thoughts on the ObamaCare Oral Arguments

Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments over the constitutionality of the individual mandate in what is commonly called ObamaCare.  The transcript for the argument can be found here (audio can be located here).  My thoughts:

  1. It was repeatedly argued by the Government that the mandate is necessarily because this market is "unique."  There are multiple problems with this argument.  For starters, the Government was never clear as to what "market" they were referring to, health care or health insurance.  They routinely switched between them, when in fact they are not interchangeable.  I can go to an emergency room without insurance.  And there is nothing unique about the health insurance market.  The government stated that "virtually everyone" and "everyone" is involved in the market (again, unclear as to which).  That's simply not true.  There are people who never use health insurance and can pay for health care on their own; so far, I've been one of them.  Maybe in the future that will change, but I'm smart enough to act accordingly. 

    There are markets in which literally everyone is involved, markets like food and clothing.  Medical care is not one of them.
  2.  The government tried to argue that the health care market (whichever they were talking about) is unique because costs are shifted from the uninsured to the insured.  Again, this is not necessarily so: a great deal of medical costs could be and are paid out of pocket.  Most people do not experience major medical costs in any particular year.  The uninsured are, by and large, young people at less risk.  This mandate exists to force people who will not use medical care into the system at their cost, not for their benefit, in order to make the ban on using pre-existing conditions to determine insurance costs possible.  Without it, those health insurance companies go under and the whole system collapses. 

    Please note that this mandate isn't about helping the uninsured.  It's about using them as cash cows.  We place limits on Congress precisely to stop this sort of abuse.
  3. The Government's understanding of economics is a muddled mess.  People not buying insurance and not using medical care are shifting costs to the insured and taxpayers?  Um, if the uninsured acted otherwise it is true that prices could be different, but that can be said of any other market in existence.  If more people bought guns, the prices of guns would be different; we do not thereby say people not owning guns are shifting the costs to those who do own guns.  We don't say those not buying Chevy Volts are shifting the costs to those who do. 
  4. But what about those few uninsured who do end up costing the taxpayer by having the government pick up the tab?  Ok, riddle me this: how is giving some of them subsidized health care fixing that free rider problem?  These people can free ride because of government laws requiring healthcare providers to take care of them.  This is the result of unintended consequences of government interference, which of course requires more government interference, which will likely have unintended consequences requiring more government interference...
  5. "Before you move on, could you express your limiting principle as succinctly as you possibly can?" ~Justice Alito.  That is on page 43; see if you can find the limiting principle to the Commerce Clause.  There isn't one.  The closest thing the Government comes to an answer is if Congress creates a regulatory scheme so freaking huge that everyone must be in it in order to work, well, so be it.  That's insane.  The larger the undertakings of Congress, the smaller become our individual rights according to the Constitution?  The whole reason we have the Constitution is to set boundaries to what Congress may do; the very fact that Congress wishes to go beyond those limits is not a constitutional argument that it may do so. 
  6. This may very well come down to Justice Kennedy.  To Justice Kennedy: I know you don't want to make a big splash, that this is Obama's big political achievement and all.  It doesn't matter.  The Constitution, not the President's signature piece of legislation, is the Supreme Law of the Land.  We cannot set a precedent that each President may bypass the Constitution on one "Big Thing."  There is nothing about health care insurance that makes it unique.  The nation did not get entangled in this mess because it is something Congress needed to tackle, but because our President made it a campaign theme to get elected.  Again, there is absolutely nothing unique about this particular market in which you will find a limiting principle allowing an individual mandate in this case but only this case. 
  7. It's hard to even comment on the Government's case, largely because it is incoherent.  They literally argued yesterday that the mandate is not a tax and today that it is (a point explicitly pointed out by some justices).  Their argument seems to be that the uninsured cost the insured, but the fact is most people don't experience large medical bills in any particular year.  Most that do are elderly, with insurance, in particular Medicare.  None of this points to a reason why Congress can compel people into commerce via the Commerce Clause in a way that doesn't open the door to future mandates. 
  8. The opponents case is much clearer: the individual mandate is a novel idea that deserves strict scrutiny.  If it stands, there is no aspect of our lives that cannot be regulated, as not participating is just as much "commerce" as participating.  We have a government of limited, enumerated powers, and such an all encompassing power is inconsistent with a limited government.

    The opponents of ObamaCare were clear and concise.  The Government's case is a muddled mess, depending on shifting meanings of which market they are talking about, what shifting costs are, who they are shifted from and to, how they are shifted, and without a limiting principle on Congress should Congress decide to be really ambitious.  I've largely defended the opposition to ObamaCare, largely because it is the only position that can be defended.  Today's oral argument drove that point home, as commentators across the spectrum noted the Government's lack of preparation, in particular in comparison to the opposition.  That there are four justices that have never been in doubt is proof those four justices are intent on giving Congress unlimited powers come hell or high water; nearly every conservative justice has been considered a possible "Yes" vote, showing their intellectual honesty.  They want to see if this can work within the Constitution of limited governments, while their left leaning colleagues see no need to have such limits.  

    It's going to be a long wait until June. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

An Extremely Important Case

"The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the constitution is written. To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing; if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained?"

"But there is another way to look at these precedents—that the Court either should stop saying that a meaningful limit on Congress’s commerce powers exists or prove that it is so."

Last March, I compared the arguments over the constitutionality of ObamaCare as put forward by a liberal and a conservative circuit court decision.  The Supreme Court will take up the issue over the next three days. 

I cannot stress enough how important this case is.  I fully believe the bill should be struck down, not because it is too expensive (it is), not because the American People didn't want it (they didn't), nor because there was no transparency in the process (there wasn't); it should not be struck down because it undermines American civic virtue (it does), not because we were lied about how expensive it will be (we were), nor because it increases medical costs while reducing coverage and causing people to lose their current insurance. 

This individual mandate must go because if it stands, the Constitution will cease to be the bastion of our individual liberties.  If Congress can force us into commerce, it may regulate any aspect of our lives it so chooses.  The entire idea of a limited federal government of enumerated powers will dissolve if absolutely anything Congress would like to do can be justified by the Commerce Clause; as the Founding Fathers didn't just pen "Congress has carte blanche", I think it is safe to say this was not their intention. 

Those who like this bill will accuse me of wanting the bill struck down for purely policy reasons.  To them I ask, where is the limit of the Commerce Clause?  I will not accept the response that there is none.  If that argument is upheld, all Congress will ever need to do again is invoke the words "Commerce Clause" and declare the issue settled. 

Limits on what government may or may not do are extremely important.  I get it that the supporters of this bill think it is all sorts of awesome, but that does not change the fact that they lack a constitutional argument outside of Congress has absolute power to do as it likes.  If you annihilate the limits of government, you cannot then cite those same obliterated limits when another political party obtains power in Washington and starts using this new found mandate power in ways you don't like.  Why?  Because they'll simply quote your defense of ObamaCare. 

This is Pandora's Box.  Don't open it. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Rally for Reason?

Yesterday, noted atheist and evolution proponent Richard Dawkins published a piece in the Washington Post supporting an apparent Rally for Reason being held in D.C. on the 24th.  It seems like a pretty hard thing to argue against; perhaps that is why I'm inclined to do so.  

Dawkins' piece is largely a glorification of mankind's intellectual triumphs.  What we have learned to do is indeed impressive, especially when compared to whatever may be the closest competitors we have on the planet.  Reason, as a scientific method that promotes inquiry and demands natural rather than supernatural explanations, is indeed a blessing to our society.  However, we do not "base our lives in reason" alone.  Reason tells us how to do things, how things can physically be accomplished, but it fails to explain why we would want to do or not do something.  The goals in our lives are the product of passion, not reason.  The desire to have more happiness, as subjectively defined by us as individuals, is a ubiquitous feature of human nature, perhaps even more so than reason. 

In many ways, those proclaiming their own infallible wisdom are the greatest threats to reason.  Look at Dawkins' list.  In particular, he claims to know where we came from (evolution).  Now, I see no small amount of evidence to support the theory.  Walking in the field behind my house, I routinely stumble upon fossils of small aquatic beings with nifty little shells, and I live in upstate New York, far from any ocean.  And yet, the theory of evolution, that life has spawned without a guiding hand, is not beyond challenge.  No scientific theory is beyond challenge!   That spirit of skepticism is what makes science...well, science! 

Let me explore that example to show why allowing skepticism without ridicule is important.  Evolution, in particular that version that sees all of life as a byproduct of chance, has some pretty big holes.  For starters, how life came into being is still a mystery.  Literally everything else in the theory of evolution hinges on there being life in the first place, but science lacks an answer as to how this came about.  I'm not claiming science will not do so, but only pointing out that it hasn't.  This is a huge problem, because if we cannot recreate life with all of our vaunted reason, how in the world did chance do it?  Go get a quick refresher on what proteins are and how exact they have to be, both in their order of amino acids and in their folding patterns.  It is insanely complex, and a single living cell requires thousands of these things to work in unison.  

Think of it this way: you are looking at a blog post on a web page.  You understand what I'm saying, even if you disagree.  What are the odds that this was all typed by a cat?  Well, the odds of a living cell organizing itself is even more remote.  This post is fairly simple in its complexity, especially in comparison to what life is.  

Which, by the way, is another thing reason has not answered.  What is perception?  What is sentience?  Yes, I know that electrons and nerves are involved, but how do their reactions to stimuli become perceived?  

The actual argument over evolution isn't one that interests me much anymore.  When I was a teenager, I found it important, largely because the origin of life to be important in establishing an "objective" morality.  The idea that morality can exist outside of a great lawgiver did not seem convincing at the time, though it does now.  I've moved on, though I still have questions to pester the average atheist.  But in general, I don't raise them unless an atheist gets all righteous on me.  

And that is what Dawkins has done.  I don't trust educated intellectuals, either, when they forget Socrates' definition of wisdom.  That definition, by the way, is knowing that you don't know something.  Even the most educated intellectuals in the world put together know so little about the entirety of things to be known, in particular when it comes to people and their subjective lives.  The revolt against intellectuals is caused by the overreach of intellectuals.  

These intellectuals have begun worshiping their own tools, forgetting that they are means to an end rather than an end in itself.   Dawkins' second criticism is of those that would rather have their kids know the Bible rather than "modern science."  Quantum physics and an oil tanker are both tools and both would be equal wastes of time and effort for me to obtain.  The theory pointed out by Dawkins, evolution, is particularly worthless from my point of view.  I cannot think of a single aspect of my life that is improved by a thorough understanding of that theory.  Yet rules that allow us to work together in peace and harmony are essential.  Like it or not, the Bible has been a huge source of those rules.  Again, I'm agnostic, not a Christian, and there are parts of the Bible I dislike, but a great many of its precepts are both accepted and practiced by people in America today with peaceful results.  If given the choice, I too would say it would be more important for children to learn some morals rather than where birds came from.  

Perhaps the most amusing thing is that the guy who spent the entire article cranking on other people for happily living their lives with a Savior ends it by pretending to be their savior.  A hundred years from now, people will still be the same, driven by their passions and seeking to satisfy them by reason.  But the nature of those passions will still be beyond reason.  The joy, beauty, and mystery of being human will never be reduced to a mathematical equation. 

I will rally for reason by being skeptical of those claiming to know, by pointing out holes in their theories any time they get cocky about them, and generally ignoring the theory of evolution as the fairly useless piece of information that it is. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oh Occupy, I Miss You

Murphy didn't like "Power to the People" either. The phrase had deep roots in earlier protests, but Murphy said echoing it now could mean repeating history's mistakes. "I don't see any benefit from anything that's ever happened in the past. I think it's only served to just reaffirm the system." In Murphy's view, all systems are bound to fail; he'd rather scrap the economy and the government altogether and move back to primitivism

Wow.  Haven't had much to say about Occupy, largely because it has become irrelevant (just as I predicted it would).  But hell, why not remind people that these lunatics would rather see us all go back to a time before mankind knew how to make and use fire?  That sounds fun!  And remember, him scrapping society means it goes away for all of us, not just him...and that's his goal.  

Perhaps more amusing is the fact that "primitivism" wasn't apolitical.  Rather, it was dominated by tribes and families with pretty clear cut hierarchies that were unchallengeable due to taboo.  This dovetails nicely into an excellent book I just finished, Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume 1.  Highly recommend it. 

I want to get rid of crony socialism as much as anyone, but the only way to do it is to limit the power of the government to spend our tax dollars.  It's almost cute how people cite Citizens United as a cause of corruption; the case is only two years old, but all of history is full of politicians using their position of power to financially help family and friends at the expense of subjects and citizens.  The spoils system most certainly out dates election spending; the monarchs and oligarchs of old, who never once stood for election, used their powers to be corrupt, too.  Getting rid of campaign contributions doesn't change who the government will abuse its power for.  

The whole project just amuses me.  Direct consensus democracy can accomplish almost nothing; unanimous votes are incredibly rare, especially among large groups.  Yet this was seriously proposed as a goal, not just for the movement but for the nation!  It's proof of how deluded these folks are.  They have gotten it in their heads that not only are they right about designing societies (a tall order), but that everyone else recognizes they are right.  Hell, even people on their own side find problems with their solutions!  Welcome to reality, where dissent and faction are the order of the day and every day.   Believe it or not, Utopia is not something we can just choose to do, and many problems are not the acts of conspiracy by an oligarchy but rather an inherent bug caused by human nature, of which all human institutions are based upon. 

My greatest disappointment with Occupy is its total lack of a stated vision.  "Power to the People" is a pretty meaningless statement.  Getting rid of the 1% who has influence is also nonsensical, as influence on government will never be perfectly equal or anything resembling it.  Society is hierarchical and people are unequal.  That cannot be changed, and every attempt to do so has been both horribly bloody and ultimately a failure to even achieve the stated goals.  

Reduce the power of the government to pick winners and losers, create equality under the law (aka same rules for everyone, which does not imply same results as people are not identical, just like a game of chess), and respect the fundamental rights of Life, Liberty, and Possessions.  These things can bring far greater happiness to our lives without resorting to bloodshed and anarchy. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Romney's Not Caesar

The only way Romney doesn't survive March is if somebody pulls a Brutus on him.  This article is insane, implying that Romney's going to have a hard three weeks after last night's results.  Mr. Chalian may have missed it, but Santorum's extremely narrow wins in Mississippi and Alabama gave him all of 8 more delegates than Romney; Romney more than wiped that out with American Samoa's 9 delegates, plus Hawaii.  

And where are we going next?  Puerto Rico, which is winner take all.  I'd bet good money Romney will win that on Sunday.  So whatever momentum Santorum got from yesterday (and really, it shouldn't be much, he needed to do much better than that in the South to keep this race close) will be gone before next Tuesday.  

After that, outside of Louisiana and Pennsylvania, I don't see Santorum winning any other states.  During that same stretch, Romney will likely pick up Maryland, D.C., Wisconsin, Deleware, and Connecticut in winner take all matches, while also dominating New York and Rhode Island.  

And again, this primary ends with winner take all in California, New Jersey, and Utah, where Romney will pick up 260 delegates to Santorum's zero.  Based on a very rough projection of the remaining races, I think Romney will need about 100 of the unpledged delegates to secure nomination.  That's roughly a third of them. 

The media can try to spin this as a rough time for Romney all they want; I believe it's effectively over. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Not Mitt Folks, Come to Terms Before Obama Gets His Second

At this point, I don't see how anyone other than Mitt Romney wins the GOP nomination without going to a brokered convention.  Romney's 386 delegates are 138 more than Santorum and Gingrich combined.  It's not certain either "Not Mitt" candidate could beat Romney in a straight up contest, but after Gingrich's completely unsurprising win in Georgia last night, we won't find out.  If he has any bounce at all, it'll come at the expense of Santorum over the next week as a few more southern states vote, giving Newt even more reasons to stay in it.  Once March is over, though, the race moves into decidedly Romney territory, with a number of those being winner take all. 

A lot of folks are not particularly thrilled about Romney winning.  I'm not giddy about him, but I cannot possibly imagine Independents voting for Rick Santorum.  The 2006 PA Senate race shows how unelectable he really is.  Santorum's conservative record is as spotty as Romney's.  And the biggest kick in the nuts is that he's running as a social conservative.  Got news, people: that's not the winning issue of 2012.  Most independents do not want to trade one guy meddling in their pocketbooks for another meddling in their bedroom.  

Gingrich has just as many problems as Romney as well.  Hey, who worked with one of the most hated companies in America that brought on the housing market bubble and collapse?  And who has a record of dysfunctional leadership?  Speaker Gingrich.  And is he going to attack Obama on the individual mandate?  Hell no, the man supports it.  Yes, he's better at debates, but there will be all of 2, maybe 3 with the President.  We absolutely must have somebody who can run a campaign efficiently to stand up against the Obama machine; Romney's the only one who has consistently done that so far.  

And Ron just keep being Ron Paul.  Actually, no, just go away.  I'm a libertarian and you're the single greatest thing holding that ideology back.  Publishing racist material will automatically disqualify you from being a person worth listening to.  Now if Rand Paul could step up, that might be interesting, but regardless of who takes the mantle, it is imperative that Ron Paul go away for the sake of liberty. 

Really, compared to the alternative, Romney's not so bad.  The best thing we Tea Party types can do is avoid the worst possible situation of having Obama nominate more people to courts over another four years.  We need to come out in numbers to win the White House and, perhaps more importantly, put liberty loving citizens in the House and the Senate, just in case Romney does let out his inner RINO.  But we cannot despair because our most likely candidate is not the solid conservative we might wish.  We have to be the realist we are and make the most of what we can.  

Our rallying cry that will work with independents is not going to be "Get Romney/Santorum/Gingrich In"; it's going to be "Get Obama Out!"  Going to a brokered convention with Romney leading and having GOP insiders pick anyone but the guy with the most votes is an absolutely horrible idea; I haven't heard people advocating it yet, but it's not beyond the more outspoken Not Mitt crowd to do so (looking at you, RedState). 

Again, a Romney win is not my wet dream, but the other two viable choices are not particularly conservative, either.  The passionately Not Mitt crowd needs to come to terms that Romney will likely win so that we can put the energy in tossing Obama out and weeding out the foes of liberty in Congress as best we can. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A (Very) Simple Voting Test

Quick, who is the head of the Federal Reserve?  

If you can't answer that, don't vote.  If you can't tell me what the Federal Reserve does (or, more likely, have never heard of the Federal Reserve), don't vote. 

Don't know who your Senators are?  Don't vote.  Your Congressman?  Stay at home Election Day.  The nine Supreme Court Justices?  What the Supreme Court even does?  Don't vote.  

Don't know who the President is?  Um...I'm not worried about you voting, just stay in your cave without Internet access.  Actually, come to think of it, how are you reading this?

These are not particularly difficult questions; in fact, they are asking basic matters of fact about the composition of our government.  If you cannot answer everything of the above, I'm quite serious, you are not qualified to be making decisions about our government.  This doesn't even bring into question the strengths and weaknesses of particular ideologies.  Just flat out facts.  

Democracy: rule of the ignorant. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Are We A Post-Constitutional Society?

This is about a week old, but didn't get nearly enough airtime for its importance.  A Gallup poll was taken asking certain questions about ObamaCare; the most important chart is likely the last one.

Only 20% of Americans believe this law is constitutional, yet 44% would oppose a Republican Congress and President from removing it?  At least a quarter of Americans, the vast majority of them Democrats, seem to be taking this stand.  As a basic policy preference, this large chunk of the Left is openly admitting that where their laws and the Constitution come into conflict, the Constitution should back down. 

I think it's also reasonable to question how many of that 20% stating ObamaCare is constitutional actually believe that but are rather saying that because it is politically expedient to have the two appear in harmony rather than in conflict.  It's also worth questioning the constitutional understanding of those who legitimately think this healthcare law is square with the Supreme Law of the Land. 

Libertarians and many Conservatives have been making the case that the Left sees the limitations on government as an artifact of the past that should be eliminated in favor of "progress" without understanding that "progress" is a subjective term.  This poll indicates that is the case.  Frightening news. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Repeal Isn't An Option

Immediately after ObamaCare was passed, conservatives and libertarians have been calling for its repeal.  In some ways, Romney may have hurt himself as a candidate because his mandate for health care in Massachusetts was effectively the beta version of ObamaCare.  I don't believe it should particularly matter whether Romney will repeal a copy of his own bill, and that's not because I'm a fan of ObamaCare.  You can read through my blog to find that's not the case. 

Rather, I believe the Supreme Court is the only thing that matters now.  If they uphold the individual mandate, repeal means nothing.  Politicians on both sides (though particularly the Left) will undoubtedly abuse this power.  ObamaCare, as bad as it is, is just the beginning.  It isn't enough to close the lid on Pandora's Box.  The Court effectively decides whether we will open that box or not.  

If ObamaCare's repeal is an issue in October, liberty has lost already.  That said, Obama absolutely must be defeated in order to prevent a Court from being tipped to the left.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What's Super About Tuesday?

Tuesday is Super Tuesday, the day the largest number of states vote during the Republican Primary.  In the past, this event has been the opportunity to effectively clinch nomination for a party, but I rather doubt that will be the case this year.  The number of states and delegates awarded this Super Tuesday is significantly less than in past years, which combined with the proportional system of awarding delegates means the contest will almost certainly drag on past this media event.  

A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to win.  As it stands, Romney has the most with 135 for sure delegates, plus an indeterminate amount that are allowed to change their minds.  That gets him about ten percent of what he needs.  The total amount up for grabs Tuesday is 410; even if Romney won all of them, that wouldn't put him halfway to the finish.  And as I mentioned, with the delegates almost certainly to be divided up fairly equally, the odds of a knockout blow being delivered here are extremely low.  

Just to really throw a wrench in things, Gingrich will almost certainly win Georgia.  He's currently the number 2 man in terms of delegates and Georgia is the largest state up for grabs.  Based on polling, he'll suck just about everywhere else and Santorum should overtake him in overall delegates, but a big win in Georgia could convince Gingrich to stay in this race, at least for a few more rounds to see if he derives any momentum from his win.

There are only 8 winner take all races remaining, most of which are in April or later.  Utah and California alone would give Romney 200 delegates, but that won't be settled until June.  Romney would still need 800 delegates from the other races.  

My biggest concern is that he doesn't quite make it.  Newt and Ron Paul could easily rack up 200 delegates between them, enough to send this a brokered convention, which has nightmare written all over it. 

Two thoughts:

  • I thought this during the '08 campaign as well: primaries should be closed.  There's no reason to give the opposing party a voice in choosing your party's candidate.  This is particularly true during a close primary when there is an incumbent president. 
  • Move up the primaries, or move them back, but have them at roughly the same time.  Either that, or make them winner take all.  Dragging this out until June keeps the candidates shooting at each other rather than their November opponent.  Not particularly wise. 
As for Tuesday, Romney will obviously win Massachusetts and Virginia, Gingrich Georgia, and Santorum Oklahoma and Tennessee.  Ohio is close, but Santorum failed to get on the ballot in a few districts, meaning those are certain Romney wins.  Santorum may squeak out ahead on the total vote, but will lose in delegates by a few.  

Overall, Romney will gain a few more delegates in his lead, Santorum will solidly take second place in the overall count, and this thing will drag on at least through April.  Anything but Super, or even particularly interesting. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

No H8? How About No Single Payer Health Care

A good chunk of liberals celebrated Andrew Breitbart's untimely death yesterday.  As I understand it, these are the same enlightened people who should be running a government single payer health care system.  

The people who celebrate the deaths of conservatives should be making decisions about whether conservatives get treatment?  They should decide whether we live or die?  

Fuck that.  It's not much of a stretch to say those who celebrate our deaths would cause our deaths if given proper government protection.  A single payer, government run system would give such cover to deny coverage based on ideology.  It wouldn't need to be policy of the administration; faceless bureaucrats with a political axe to grind, above which there would be no timely appeal, could accomplish untold havoc.  I would not want to be a Rush Limbaugh or a Michelle Malkin under those circumstances.  And where else would you turn? 

As a principle, government should not be involved in our lives if at all possible, but most certainly these sick bastards celebrating Breitbart's death should be kept out of power at all costs.  Not ironically, they are the people calling for more government power.  Hard to abuse other people if Life, Liberty, and Property are respected. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bastiat, Call Your Office

"Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday, for example, said the amendment amounted to a “contraception ban,” and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday argued that an “extreme ideological” element of the right had hijacked the underlying transportation bill Blunt was seeking to amend."  The Hill, Senate Rejects Blunt Amendment

The amendment would allow religious institutions to opt out of paying for contraceptives.  Because, lo and behold, some religions do not support that.  

Note that is not a "ban" on contraceptives.  At all.  In any way, shape, or form. 

And while I'm at it, at what point in time did it become a fundamental human right that other people pay for your sex life?  I've got a crazy alternative: let people purchase their own contraception!  Oh my God, I'm a genius!  Nominate me for a Nobel Prize in Economics and I'll be on my way. 

So tired of this stupid shit.  Why can't Democrats fight our actual arguments rather than straw men? 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thrasymachus Must Be Answered

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

I've been pondering these lines and the question of what makes things right and other things wrong.  We establish government to secure our unalienable rights granted to us by our Creator.  But what if there is no Creator, no God?  Does the theory of Natural Law still stand if there is no Natural Law Giver?  It can be said that Natural Law is the Best Positive Law that we can create...but the best for whom?  

At the beginning of our Republic, these principles were generally (though obviously not absolutely) held by the public, that the life, liberty, and property of others were sacrosanct, that they are granted by a Higher Power.  These values have largely been replaced in society with the idea that the wealth of others may be deemed unfairly gained without a reference to what fairness is, that liberty can be enhanced by the dictates of government.  In most aspects, people lack any guiding principles apart from personal gain, regardless of means.  In fact, most people consider the means of government appropriating and redistributing wealth gives the action moral credibility. 

The ideal of Life, Liberty, and Property as fundamental Natural Rights has been usurped for Might Equals Right.  Most will not be comfortable putting it so bluntly, but the idea that government actions are legitimate because it is a democratic government that took them is arguing that having the power of the majority makes an action right.  Of course, the same people that support government intrusion on the rights of others become indignant the second they become part of the minority, the abused class.  And sadly, many that denounce the abuses of government do so because they wish to be sucking at the tit of government instead.  It is not the abuse of government powers, but the recipient of the benefits that angers these people (the Occupy movement is a great example of this).  For so many people in this country, what is right equals what is good for me.  

The threat of an afterlife, the Myth of Er, may have been false but it certainly had its uses.  In a world without a Higher Power (and I am an agnostic myself), the whole question of right and wrong is often thrown overboard; there is no disincentive to do wrong, and often a great reward. 

Can a society survive if it embraces the philosophy of Thrasymachus?  Perhaps so, perhaps not.  But will such a society be happier than a free society based on respect for life, liberty, and property?  For a small group, yes; for the rest, no. 

And that's where I find myself.  I'm an agnostic.  I don't believe there is a Creator that particularly cares if our Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness are upheld or violently raped.  I do believe that a free society, with positive laws upholding Jefferson and Locke's ideals, is the happiest of societies for most within it.  But I also know that those same political tools used to create positive laws will almost inevitably be employed to destroy what they are supposed to protect; politicians will forever bribe some people with the wealth of others.  Perhaps liberty is such a fragile thing that its existence cannot be maintained.  Like a silver coin passed around too many hands, perhaps we can't prevent its tarnishing and eventual ruin. 

But I intend to keep throwing objections at Thrasymachus, even if he isn't listening.  The political tools used to abuse our economic machine have taken that machine to its breaking point.  Europe may have passed that point already and we are definitely moving in that direction.  When the breakdown occurs, Thrasymachus will not be content to watch the world (and his privileged position) blow up into a billion pieces.  No, he'll have a new political system to mitigate the impact of the next economic implosion.  This one won't be democratic, though I can easily see it being demanded by the people. 

"You never want a serious crisis go to waste."  They won't miss their opportunity. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2012 Presidential Election Predictions

Ok, so it is incredibly early to be saying for sure how the Presidential election will break down nine months from now.  Anyone who knows anything about politics can tell you a who lot of things can change during that time period.  The 2008 election is proof enough of that.  Currently, we hear a lot of moaning and whining about how the GOP field sucks and how this will lead to an Obama reelection.  I don't think that's accurate; the GOP field is definitely not great, but they have the distinct advantage of not being Obama.  Mitt and Newt will duke it out for a few more weeks, but come March I think the primary will largely be decided (with Mitt winning), at which point it becomes a referendum on the President. 

This is what an admittedly not great GOP candidate is up against.  I took these Gallup numbers and plugged them into the electoral college map provided by, with the following conditions:
  • The Republicans win every state they won in 2008.  If these states stuck by the GOP during the landslide Obama win, there's no reason to believe they will switch now.  Polling indicates this is the case.  After the Census changes, the score is Dems 359, GOP 179.
  • States with a 50% or more disapproval of Obama go Republican.  Disapproval of a President is very hard to overcome; people are more excited to throw the bum out than supporters are about going out to vote for him.  Even with an equal participation rate, Obama still loses.  Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Indiana, Ohio, and New Hampshire all go into the red column.  Obama 306, Romney (?) 232.
  • Now we take all of the states that have higher disapproval than approval of Obama, but which are not at 50% yet.  Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Iowa all flip to neutral.  GOP 232, Obama 216.  
  • I don't feel like playing with the Nebraska and Maine splits, so they will stay as they were in 2008.
Of those six states, I somewhat randomly predict the following:
  • Oregon will stay Blue, despite the lower approval rating.  They haven't voted for the GOP since the year of my birth; it's not impossible this will change, but I wouldn't describe it as probable.  GOP 232, Obama 223.
  • Iowa is almost exactly tied according to Gallup.  Romney did pretty well there in the primary, and if push comes to shove I don't see the more hardline conservatives sitting it out in favor of Obama.  I'm leaving this as a tossup for now. 
  • My neighbor just to the south, Pennsylvania.  They swung pretty hard for the GOP in 2010 and the race was pretty close in 2008.   This could end up repeating the 2000 Florida mess.  
  • Virginia has swung pretty solidly against the President, electing a GOP governor against the President's direct campaigning in 2009.  Nearly a 5% difference in approval/disapproval not favoring Obama.  Goes GOP.  Reds 245, Blues 223.
  • The Tar Heels are pretty close to VA; while the African American community will still swing hard for Obama, they always go for the Democrats.  Obama has lost the independents in that state and has a 43% approval rating and a 48% disapproval.  GOP 260, Obama 223.
  • Florida.  A must win for Obama if my other predictions are accurate.  Obama has a 43% approval rating, just short of 48% disapproval, and Romney just stomped Gingrich in Florida.  This one goes GOP.  President Romney 289, Former President Obama 223.  26 are tossups which Obama would have to win, along with flipping either Florida or Virginia and North Carolina. 
Again, a long way to go.  But the GOP should not be despondent about this situation.   Neither Mitt nor Newt is a great bastion of liberty, but either are strongly preferable to the current occupier of 1600 PA Ave.  I've heard a lot of worrying that the weakness of the Republican field could cost them the election, but if I had to bet, my money would be on Romney winning.  The President is not popular.  The nation elected a complete unknown in 2008 due to the unpopularity of the previous occupant; there's no reason to believe under qualified candidates can't be elected again under similar circumstances. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

To Read For 2012

The new year is upon us and has decided to immediately bludgeon us with a presidential election and a massive financial crisis in Europe.  Here's my to read recommendations to help you make any sense of it:

  • Zero Hedge: And the first pitch of the new year is a knuckler!  In order to gain useful info from this site, you will have to learn a few things about the financial markets and have a good eye for separating what is complete hysteria from what is a logical threat.  That latter part is tricky, mostly because you can't assume the most dire predictions are necessarily the most outlandish ones.  
  • Marginal Revolution: Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason U., is a pretty big name nowadays, routinely being published in places like the NYT and Wall St. Journal.  A very even handed fellow, he's also very academic and can be challenging for that reason, but that doesn't make him wrong.  Probably the most important thing I've picked up from him is the notion that starting a book is not an inviolable contract that you will then finish said book.  If it sucks, put it down.  
  • The Volokh Conspiracy: Don't get fooled by the name, these are some top notch legal experts in the country, including some former clerks and current advocates for the Supreme Court, along with some guest posts by academics and sitting judges.  Very human group, by which I mean you'll often find some pretty amusing posts, but very bright jurists with a libertarian bent.   Will be a valuable source when ObamaCare goes before SCOTUS.  
  • Instapundit: I check this about a dozen times a day.  Glenn Reynolds, a law professor, posts little blurbs on whatever happens to interest him on the Internet.  Lots of good finds on politics, law, transhumanism, sex, the bizarre, what have you. 
  • Via Meadia: A lot of good stuff on what's going on in and outside of the United States.  
As for books, now is the time to read at least one of these if you haven't already:

  • The Federalist Papers by Publius: The words "Supreme Court" or "Un/Constitutional" should not escape your lips/finger tips if you have not read this book first. 
  • The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek:  Collective efforts are not particularly easy, especially when you have elected officials held accountable by different electorates.  The most common way of dealing with that deadlock is to just get rid of those pesky elections and representatives! 
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:  Why the above shortcut is a bad thing.  Also, you'll never look at a bad day the same way again. 
  • Human Action by Ludwig von Mises:  This one is tough but worthwhile because Mises explains how economics works.  Not how it should work, but how it will work.  Most people do not understand how economics works.   
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand:  I know, I know.  I have my problems with it, too. Read it anyway.  The few fundamental truths she hammers away at are so important that the flaws can be overlooked. It's possible I want people to read this so they stop making criminally stupid criticisms about the book.   Like any book, read it before you praise or criticize it.