Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Real Lesson of the NY-23 Race

The conservative blogosphere has been abuzz about the New York 23rd district special election, and conservatives have been lining up to pick sides. This reliably Republican rural district in way upstate New York, vacated when President Obama appointed John Hugh to Secretary of the Army. Instead of holding primary, the party county chairmen picked the candidates. On the left is down-the-line Democrat Bill Owens, in the center is socially liberal and economically moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava, and on the right is Doug Hoffman of the Conservative Party. Often, the Conservative Party endorses the Republican candidate, and Doug Hoffman initially sought the Republican nomination, and was nominated as a Conservative when the pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Scozzafava (who voiced support for the bank bailout) was nominated. Recent polls show Doug Hoffman leading, which would certainly empower the Tea Party movement, and the New York Times has declared the race a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. But the truth is that grassroots Republicans have already been indicted in this race. If they really wanted a down-the-line conservative, they should have been involved before now. If Conservatives get upset at the Republican Party, take their ball and leave, the moderates, neoconservatives, and liberals will take control of the Party. And when they do, don't expect them to pick anything other than moderates, neoconservatives, or liberals. If conservatives are upset with the Republican Party, that is all the more reason to get involved and try to change it. The process might not be democratic, but the Republican Party county chairmen unanimously chose Dede Scozzafava as their candidate. I'd like to think that involved conservatives would have changed that, and we wouldn't have to be dividing the center-right voters.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Incompatibility of UN Goals

Tonight was the premier of Not Evil Just Wrong, Irish director Phelim McAleer's new documentary that challenges the Climate Change religious beliefs and specifically, the claims of An Inconvenient Truth. I watched it streamed online courtesy of Andrew Breitbart. Overall, the film was somewhat disappointing to me, long on emotion and mood, and short on details, but central point is one that needs to be said more often. Environmental controls, especially those that restrict carbon dioxide emissions, create poverty. Since the UN has been so bad at achieving it's original goal, world peace, it's primary activities in recent years have been centered around trying to alleviate poverty and fighting CO2 emissions. I question the ability of the UN to do either, but the combination is impossible. Three things are necessary to get third world countries into the first world: a stable political climate, economic freedom, and cheap energy. Restricting CO2 emissions eliminates two of those necessary legs of development. Giving in to the extreme environmentalists will not only hurt the ability to alleviate poverty for workers or the developing world, it will likely create more poverty.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What President Obama Should Do With the Nobel Prize Money

As many could probably predict, I disagree with Obama's Nobel Peace Prize. Obama has slightly reduced military action in Iraq, and has started the process to close the prisons in Guantanamo Bay, but he has dramatically escalated the Afghanistan War, spread it into Pakistan, expanded the ability of the NSA to spy on American citizens, started major saber rattling with Iran, and supported a deposed would-be dictator in Honduras. I joked on Facebook that maybe it should be renamed the Nobel War Prize. Despite my unheard objections, the Nobel committee has given the Peace Prize to our warmongering President. That's water under the bridge. But since President Obama has promised to give the $1.4 million prize to charity, he could do something really meaningful with it. May I suggest he give it to one of the nominees that really deserved it. (A few here and here.) I would give it to either Handicap International and Cluster Munition Coalition, Denis Mukwege, or Sima Samar. By empowering one of these worthy causes, Obama would have done more for peace and human rights than anything he's done so far.

To be fair to President Obama, though, I don't think many politicians deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Nelson Mandela deserved it for his efforts to end apartheid, but few others. For the most part, politicians create war and oppress individuals, and free people acting out of love improve the human condition. That should be acknowledged.

Saving Grace: Benkiser’s role in Perry Campaign an appeal to Evangelicals

Cross-posted from halc.us, written by Junta member Benito.

On September 26, 2009, Tina Benkiser, now former Chair of the TX GOP, announced her resignation to join the re-election campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry as senior advisor. According to the announcement made on Rick Perry’s website, her new role in the campaign was chosen because “she will be an important voice in promoting our message of fiscal responsibility and limited government.”

Perhaps, but it is more likely that Benkiser was tapped because of her significant, yet waning, influence with TXGOP leadership and strong Evangelical support. Since 2003, Benkiser enjoyed success in flooding the TX GOP with Social Conservatives. Now, Benkiser’s new role in the Perry campaign indicates a direct appeal to Evangelical Christians. Benkiser, an evangelical herself, has energized the social conservative base during her tenure with the Texas GOP, but her success in this arena alarmed many party faithful since evangelicals have been portrayed as being myopically concerned with social issues while tolerating fiscal and civic mismanagement.

Additionally, during the 2008 primaries, Benkiser, along with many GOP leaders, alienated the party’s liberty movement. She was accused of repeatedly breaking TX GOP rules to block their attempts at party reform through a genuine return to principles outlined in the platform. This even elicited a “fair convention” mini-movement, complete with shirts that bore the expression, “The GOP Rules! Let’s follow them”.

A Fresh Start for the RPT

Enrique Rangler, A-J Austin bureau chief, believes Benkiser’s move out is just what the GOP needs to begin rebuilding. He may be right.

“If Benkiser had run for another term next year, Tom Mechler of Amarillo, Mark McCaig of Katy and others unhappy with her leadership would have challenged her.

Mechler, who remains a candidate for party chairman, and McCaig, who is no longer running because Benkiser is bowing out, wanted to oust her because under her watch Texas Democrats have made significant gains, especially in the House.

Yet, the prospect of a nasty power struggle was one some GOP loyalists – already worried about the damage the Perry-Hutchison fight may do the party – feared.

“The resignation of Tina Benkiser from the Republican Party of Texas provides a great opportunity for Texas Republicans to begin to right the ship,” said Debra Medina, who is also seeking the party’s nomination for governor. “The Republican Party of Texas is in serious trouble and more of the same will not save us.”

Culture War against Hispanics

Benkiser’s social conservatism included a culture war against Mexican immigrants. Immediately before the 2008 convention, she commented on immigration restrictions saying, “We believe that we are in a war for our culture, and our activists understand that the principles that we believe in are the principles that will make Texas a better place and make the lives of Texans better every single day.” Declaring war against the state’s fastest growing minority, however, runs counter to attempts by the party to reach out to Hispanics.

In what appears to be an attempt to reach out to hispanic voters, Perry’s campaign has hired Austin-based advertising agency, LatinWorks. The Austin company will be “helping on a number of message delivery issues, including Hispanic outreach,” said Mark Miner, spokesperson for Perry’s re-election Campaign.

Fiscal Woes

While some would hope that new RPT leadership would be more inclusive, perhaps the most room for improvement would be in how the business of the party is run. When Benkiser took over the reins of the state party, the party had $194,500 cash on hand and $70,000 in debt. She leaves the party with $52,000 cash on hand and $258,200 in debt. Running a party can get expensive, but to be fair to Benkiser, no one has ever accused her of being a fiscal conservative.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Financial Writer Blames Conservatives for Destroying the Dollar

That's right. Instead of blaming the Fed and it's doubling of the money supply since last year, or blaming the government for their ridiculous spending that necessitated all that money printing, Reggie Abaca, blames conservatives. You see, by telling people that the Fed is printing an incredible amount of money, and explaining how that's bad for the value of the dollar, Ron Paul, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck are destroying the dollar, and that's the reason gold went up this week. It's not the act of printing money that causes inflation, it's telling people about it. I think Mr. Abaca could use a little refresher course on how inflation works, courtesy of Scrooge McDuck and Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Glenn Beck is the new Oprah

I have been a Glenn Beck fan for a while, mostly because I tended to listen to anyone from the right willing to criticize Bush, but recently, his show is getting wierder, and I like it less. I still enjoy his radio show, and I loved his CNN show when he still had it. Beck's Fox News TV show is becoming more popular, and I couldn't put my finger on what I liked less about it. Then yesterday, he had his patriot moms show, where he had a bunch of conservative moms, most of whom homeschooled their children, on for a conversation with them. They complained about issues that they faced with society and government, and he listened to them. You could feel his empathy, and the moms were obviously glad to have a voice and feel a part of something. Several of them had very real problems of harassment by bureaucrats at various levels of government. Then it hit me. Glenn Beck is using the Oprah Winfrey model to go after Oprah's viewers. He gives a voice to the voiceless, talks about problems that average, everyday women face, and gets viewers that care about those problems. Just like Oprah, he gets viewers that are involved in the show beyond just viewing. When he recommends a book, it flies to the top of best-seller lists. He challenges viewers to do something to make a difference in their world. And hundreds of thousands of them show up to Washington at his suggestion. Beck's new job as housewife hero is powerful one for entertainer/newsman, but that with that power comes great responsibility. I pray that Beck will keep his legions of followers pointed in the right direction.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Department of Energy Subsidizes Sports Cars for Millionaires

A few months after the Department of Energy gave a $465 million sweetheart subsidized loan to Tesla Motors, to build two $100,000+ all-electric sports cars in the UK, now they've given a $529 million sweetheart subsidized loan to Fisker Automotive, an Al Gore-backed company that will build an $89,000 hybrid sports car. It is stupid that the Federal Government is taking money from Americans and subsidizing Finnish and British jobs when there is increasing unemployment in the United States (or anytime for that matter). It is criminal that the Federal Government is taking money from poor and middle-class taxpayers and subsidizing toys that only the very wealthy can afford. It goes to prove that big Government programs serve the most wealthy on the backs of workers and entrepreneurs.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vote Yes on Prop 11 This November

The Texas Constitutional Amendment election is Tuesday, November 3. In the upcoming weeks, I'll examine all of the proposed Texas Constitutional Amendments, but I want to give special attention to Prop 11, because it is worth campaigning for. Here's the text:

“The constitutional amendment to prohibit the taking, damaging, or destroying of private property for public use unless the action is for the ownership, use, and enjoyment of the property by the State, a political subdivision of the State, the public at large, or entities granted the power of eminent domain under law or for the elimination of urban blight on a particular parcel of property, but not for certain economic development or enhancement of tax revenue purposes, and to limit the legislature’s authority to grant the power of eminent domain to an entity.”

This is a rather narrowly-written amendment, but it represents a significant increase in property rights protection. The amendment was written in direct response to the Kelo v. New London Supreme Court case. This case ruled that an increased property value, and subsequent increased property tax take, was a public use, and therefore private property could be transferred from one owner to another if the new owner would pay more property taxes than the current owner. In the Kelo case, the City of New London, Connecticut, took Suzette Kelo's (and many of her neighbor's) home and gave it to Pfizer because the complex that Pfizer would build would be be valued higher and worth more in property taxes than the homeowners in the neighborhood. Proposition 11 would effectively prohibit governments in Texas from using eminent domain to take land for anything other than explicit public purpose. Eminent domain is one of the most anti-liberty powers that governments have, so it should be strictly limited. Prop 11 would apply some necessary common sense restrictions to that power.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Global Warming Hysteria Distracting From Real Environmental Problems

I have a confession to make: I'm an environmentalist. I'm not the kind of environmentalist that pushes for international bans on DDT production based on weak science, allowing millions of African people to die of malaria, but I am an environmentalist. I think governments have a fundamental responsibility to promote responsible use resources and protect habitat and shared resources from contamination. I'm glad that I live in the most environmentally responsible major industrial power in the world. Now I haven't bought into the global warming hysteria, so I've been accused of being anti-environmentalist. But now, more and more environmentalists are realizing that the Global Warming religion has distracted environmentalists from major environmental problems in our world. From the BBC (Read the whole article, it's interesting):

As the UN climate summit in Copenhagen approaches, exhortations that "we must get a deal" and warnings that climate change is "the greatest challenge we face as a species" are to be heard in virtually every political forum.

But if you look back to the latest definitive check on the planet's environmental health - the Global Environment Outlook (Geo-4), published by the UN two years ago - what emerges is a picture of decline that goes way, way beyond climate change.

Species are going extinct at perhaps 1,000 times the normal rate, as key habitats such as forests, wetlands and coral reefs are plundered for human infrastructure.

Aquifers are being drained and fisheries exploited at unsustainable speed. Soils are becoming saline, air quality is a huge cause of illness and premature death; the human population is bigger than our one Earth can currently sustain.

Now some of that is overstated hysteria, especially the last clause, but a lot of that is true. Deforestation and habitat loss, especially in Central America, is causing more environmental damage right now than all the carbon dioxide that humans have ever produced. Fresh water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource, and the air quality in China and India (among others) is becoming dangerously bad.

With all of these very real problems, why do environmentalists, especially government environmental regulators, seem so focused on whether the world is 1 degree warmer or 0.8 degrees warmer in 100 years? None of the real issues offer them governments the kind of opportunities for control that Carbon Dioxide emissions control does. Free enterprise, with developments in desalination technologies, can make a major dent in the fresh water shortage. Governments can preserve habitats, but landowners often do a better job, and land preservation doesn't offer government much behavior control. Western governments can't do much about China's and India's air quality. But humans emit carbon dioxide everywhere they go and with every thing they do, so carbon dioxide regulations offers governments control over everything in everyone's life.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Obama's Speech to Student's Leaked

This is a Pitchfork and Musket Junta exclusive. Since the Junta have such a good relationship with President Obama's teleprompter, we occasionally get scoops. Here is the full text:
Good, um, afternoon, children of America. Thank you for, uh, letting me speak to you today. I'm going to talk to you about how you can be as successful as me, if you just work hard, have the right connections, and worm your way into the right, uh, elite circles. First things first: to all of you in public schools (which I would suppose would be all of you, since I can't imagine to many homeschoolers or private school kids wasting their time on this), get out now. Just like I had to do. Indonesian public school wasn't going to allow me to get where I wanted to be, so I moved back to Hawaii and enrolled in the best private school in the state. In the United States, with the politicized Department of Education that we have, you're at an even bigger disadvantage in public schools. Now, some of your parents don't have the money and are wondering how to pay for private school. Well, just get your, um, millionaire banker grandmother to twist some arms and get you a scholarship. It worked for me.

Some of you won't to listen to me, and will stay in those horrible public schools, but that's okay. Not everyone is cut out to be President or even a University of Chicago Law Professor or Community Organizer. We'll need you on welfare or in low-paying service jobs to help bully, I mean, influence voters.

While you are at your elite private school, make sure that you make all of the connections that you can. They will help you get into an elite liberal arts university, maybe even in the Ivy League. This is important, because to fully understand the direction of the country, you need to understand the evils of capitalism, and the best way to learn that is from the wealthiest communists in the world. Columbia and Harvard, and other important universities attract many great professors whose families have made so much money that they really understand the inequality that capitalism brings about, and who really want to tear down the opportunities for other people to have to suffer from having so much. Understanding the evils of capitalism will help you be a leader in this new America that we are trying to create. Make sure that you develop strong relationships with your most, um, radical professors, as these will help you succeed in Party politics in the future.

Now some of you are worrying how to pay for this elite education. Don't worry about that now. Just borrow the money from the Government, who will have the Fed print it out for you. If you learn well enough, you can move to Chicago, become a community organizer, do great work for the Party, and have someone else pay your student loans for you.

I thank you for your time, and, um, tell your parents that you need the healthcare bill to pass.

Minimum Wage Hike: Record Teenage Unemployment

From the NY Times:
This August, the teenage unemployment rate — that is, the percentage of teenagers who wanted a job who could not find one — was 25.5 percent, its highest level since the government began keeping track of such statistics in 1948. Likewise, the percentage of teenagers over all who were working was at its lowest level in recorded history.... Increases in the minimum wage may have made employers reluctant to hire teenagers, said Marvin H. Kosters, a resident scholar emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute.
Now, I'm pretty sure that the car wash where I got a job at 15 would still hire some of these teenagers part-time (I did survive a minimum wage hike while I was there - $4.25 to $5.15), but it has been shown over and over again that the effect of a minimum wage hike is to disallow the lowest quality, poorest, entry-level workers a job. I'm glad that the New York Times is at least reporting well-supported economic theory.

Real Live Homegrown Terrorism

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has been extremely concerned about homegrown terrorism - putting pro-life activists, anti-government/anti-Federal Reserve activists, and returning veterans on terrorist watch lists. There have been a couple of criminal activities that have been painted as terrorism to ensure that these lists are taken more seriously. Meanwhile, in Washington, a real-live homegrown terrorist organization is active and committing acts of terrorism. The Environmental Liberation Front tore down a radio tower in Everett Washington, because they thought it might mess with trumpeter swan habitat. The ELF was once the #1 homegrown terrorist organization in the country. Now, as terrorism goes, this was relatively minor, and some of the individual criminal acts by "right-wing" extremists has been worse. But there has been no organized right-wing terrorist plot to justify the villainization of legitimate protesters. No matter how politicized and anti-citizen the Department of Homeland Security becomes, I hope local law enforcement pays attention to the real terrorists, and lets those who have legitimate complaints about government protest without harassment by law enforcement.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iranian Revolution: The Neoconservative Legacy

During the secondary justification of the Iraqi Invasion, after it had become increasingly clear that the WMD excuse was a farce, the neoconservatives began saying that by freeing the Iraqi people, they would put the spark of democracy in their neighbors. Now with incredible, brave resistance to their government by Iranians, I am sure some will claim that the Iranian people were inspired by a freed and newly stabilized Iraqis. There's probably some truth to this. But even if the young, brave Iranian revolutionaries succeed and establish a more liberal democracy, and the fledgling Iraqi pseudo-democratic government stabilizes and becomes more free, the neoconservative model should not be considered accurate. The fact remains that the best way to spread freedom remains the Washington/Jefferson model- "Act for ourselves and not for others," and "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations -- entangling alliances with none." Spreading democracy at the point of a gun is poor strategy and wasteful of valuable lives and treasure. Allowing trade and communication between Americans and oppressed peoples is still the best way to spread freedom, even if other strategies work at times.

Still, no matter the official position of our government, we as relatively free Americans should offer our support and our prayers

Monday, June 1, 2009

Republican Party of Texas Wastes a Legislative Session

Here's a question for you Texas Republicans out there: What state issue is most important to you? Is it securing the border? Property tax reform? Getting rid of the franchise tax? Civil liberties protections, including gun rights? Or is it requiring that voters present one form of photographic identification or two forms of identification lacking a photograph before voting? If you chose that last choice, popularly known as Voter ID, good for you. Your state party went to bat for you this legislative session. They failed to get it through the House of Representatives over Democratic opposition, but they tried. If you careabout anything else, your state party failed to even speak for you.
I certainly think ballot integrity is a worthy cause, but right now, in Texas, it's a solution looking for a problem. There are rumors every year of voting irregularities in the Rio Grande Valley, and in some of the inner-cities, but most investigations seem to find only small amounts of localized fraud. I don't pretend to know how the inner mind of any of our state party leadership works, but, to me, the only logical reasoning for this was to win a public relations by getting Democrats on record "supporting voter fraud". Unfortunately, the Democrats might have even won the PR battle, as the media and much of the public seems to have accepted the Democrats ridiculous claim that Voter ID would disenfranchise legitmate voters.
On the other hand, Texas has many opportunities for real, meaningful reform: Some would like a plan to replace all of the very high Texas property taxes, which unfairly target small farmers, independent ranchers, and the elderly, with a small increase in the sales tax. Others have talked about replacing the anti-business Margins Tax with a 1/2% increase in the sales tax. (To their credit, conservative Republicans and Democrats in the legislature temporarily increased the exemption on gross receipts from $600,000 to $1,000,000 this year, with no help from the Republican Party.) Still others have talked about ending the diversion of gasoline tax money away from transportation, so that needed highway, rail, and port projects could be funded without increasing taxes. The Republican Party was nearly silent on all of these issues. They were completely silent on all of these issues until it looked like a gasoline tax increase might be passed, and they panicked and quickly threw together an opposition. I'm sure that those who care most about enforcing the border, civil liberties, religious liberty, parental rights, or health freedoms could give a similar list of worthwile legislative pushes that fit within Conservative ideology.
Although they have lost much of the goodwill and support that was fought for over many years, Republicans in Texas are still a majority, hold majorities in both houses of the Legislature, and hold every state-wide elected position. With that kind of clout, they should be able to pass meaningful reform that makes a real difference in citizen's lives. Overall, it was a pretty forgettable legislative session. There were many efforts to quash liberty, like the nearly-passed statewide smoking ban, but overall, not much good or bad legislation passed, and the status quo won. Still, I wonder how many conservative victories we could have had, if only we had a Republican Party with vision.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Junta Consults for New Texas Declaration of Independence

Many thanks to The Pitchfork and Musket Junta's own Wesley Linder for his sage advice and revision suggestions on my inflammatory but thought-provoking new post on www.patriotwriter.blogspot.com .

Inspired by a recent trip to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, I again read the Texas Declaration of Independence penned in 1836. Again, those timeless words struck me to my core. This time, however, I made good on my internal promise to update that fine document. My initial attempt is available for your viewing pleasure on my personal blog. Comments are welcomed!

At the most, it's over the top. At the least, it's food for thought. Hopefully, however, it will spur us into action--in a higher gear.

God bless the patriots!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Nuclear Armed World is a Polite World

President Obama has been making a lot of noise about nuclear nonproliferation lately. One of his visions, which he has held since he first moved to Hyde Park and his education by the great progressive thinkers began, is a nuclear-weapon-free world. This is a very dangerous vision. The greatest deterrent to war that the world has ever known is nuclear power. Before the development nuclear weapons, industrialization had grown the size of war beyond everything that the world had known up to that point. In the two world wars of the 20th Century, a total of 98 million people were killed. Larger, more mobile, and more long-range weapons made it much easier to create massive destruction on a very large scale. But at the end of World War 2, a game-changing weapon made its debut. The atomic bomb.

The atomic bomb, and later development of the hydrogen bomb, has raised the threat of assured-destruction of anyone who starts a major war against a nuclear power. With all due respect to my hero, Barry Goldwater, it is not "just another weapon". To this day, no nuclear power has ever attacked another nuclear power directly, despite some of them being enemies: United States - Soviet Union and Pakistan - India, specifically. There is always a threat of nuclear arms falling into the hands of a suicidal madman, and we should work to prevent that. But for most countries and world leaders, even crazy ones like Kim Jong-Il, the threat of mutually-assured destruction is enough to keep them from using nuclear weapons. Even with world-dictator visions, the threat of France destroying Berlin and Munich at the push of a couple of buttons would have given Hitler second thoughts. And conventional weapons have advanced to the point that a non-nuclear world war could be even more destructive today.

Now I'm not necessarily saying that the steps President Barack Obama have taken so far are wrong. Just because the United States needs nuclear weapons to prevent world war doesn't necessarily mean that we need 10,000 of them, or 2500 on trigger-alert. A country having an enormous nuclear arsenal is like an individual having a 50-gun personal arsenal. The increased safety beyond having enough weapons to protect yourself is almost nil, and might be outweighed by the marginally increased chance of accident. It might be possible to reduce the size of our nuclear arsenal significantly, and save some money in the process. He might even get to 5% of his desired $100,000,000 in savings by reducing the arsenal to some more reasonable size. It's just that his vision is dangerous, and would kill any eventual prospect of world peace.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Of Presidents and Prime Ministers

The Year was 2002. Having made quick work of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and completed all military objectives that his administration had planned ahead for with little effort and little cost to American and Allied lives, President George W. Bush turned his eyes a little to the West. He really wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq and implement a more America-friendly regime. Disobedience to UN mandates and intelligence suggesting there might be weapons of mass destruction gave him cover, but President Bush wasn't particularly popular abroad, there wasn't much support outside of the US for the Iraq invasion, and President Bush needed someone to support his plans.

Enter Tony Blair. The United Kingdom's Prime Minister was young, vibrant, moderate, reform-minded, and incredibly popular. There were newspaper articles about his meetings with the teachers of his children. He was seen as a man of the people, a Prime Minister that common people could identify with. In 1997, under his leadership, the "New" Labour Party had given the Conservatives their most devastating defeat ever. And importantly for President Bush, PM Blair wanted Hussein gone as much as he did.

It didn't exactly work as planned. Instead of PM Blair's popularity gaining support for President Bush's invasion, it killed PM Blair's popularity. The United States and United Kingdom had allies: Canada, Australia, Georgia, Spain for a while, and (don't forget) Poland, but many important, reliable allies like France and Germany refused to join the party. PM Blair was called as a Bush-loving neoconservative in his home country, and his support eroded to the point that he stepped down from his post in 2007.

Seven years later, while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still being fought, the world has turned its attention to the worldwide banking crisis and recession. During the first days of the recession, the world seemed to want to work together. When credit froze up, most major countries bailed out their banks, expanded deposit insurance, expanded their currency supply, and did what they could to insure that bank failures were minimized. One leader wants to do more. Much, much more. UK's Prime Minister Gordon Brown fully believes in a government spending a country out of recession, and is prepared to print as many Pounds as it takes to do it. If the UK destroys its own currency to inflate itself out of recession, it needs its trading partners to do the same, or it will destroy the standard of living for UK citizens. Unfortunately for PM Brown, many of the UK's trading partners are refusing to spend their way out of the mess, and are preferring to clean up their regulatory systems and provide a growth atmosphere for a market recovery. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is off fighting windmills of competing currencies, and many of the rest of the G20 leaders from PM Stephen Harper of Canada to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to libertarian-leaning President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic (current EU Presidency) are taking a more conservative approach. PM Brown doesn't have the respect, and certainly doesn't have the popularity to convince them.

Enter United States President Barack Obama. He's young, vibrant, liberal, and incredibly popular. He's easily the most popular world leader right now. Some European commentators have said that his "Barackness" will convince their citizens and politicians. In November, he and his Democratic Party gave the Republicans their worst defeat in years. And importantly for PM Brown, President Obama wholly endorses the idea of governments spending their way out of recession. At this week's G20 meetings, PM Brown is counting on President Obama's popularity to give him cover and gain support for the borrow-and-print-to-recover economic plan. They will gain some support, but the President and the Prime Minister need most or all major trading partners to agree to go along, or their plan doesn't have a chance of making life better for their citizens. If France, Germany, China, Japan, or Russia decide to play a different game or take their ball and go home, PM Brown doesn't get cover, he takes President Obama down with him. If "Don't Forget Spain" becomes the next "Don't Forget Poland", President Obama's popularity will fade quickly.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Predicting a $2,000,000,000,000 Budget - Update

On January 7, I made what I thought then was a bold prediction, that the budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2009 would be $2 Trillion. Today, the CBO projects a $1.9 Trillion budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2009. Odds are that many more stimulus packages are on the way. I'd like to revise my prediction up to an immoral $2.5 Trillion. The words of Senator Tom Coburn are worth repeating: “The greatest moral issue of our time isn’t abortion, it’s robbing our next generation of opportunity. You’re going to save a child from being aborted so they can be born into a debtor’s prison?” However, my response to the Good Doctor is that at the rate we are going, we may not be able to afford to finance debtor's prisons. Federal bankruptcy is looking more and more likely every day.

Congress May Have Saved Us 0.045% of the Money They Wasted on AIG


Sure, between the Federal Reserve and Congress $180 Billion of future taxpayers' wealth might have been wasted on AIG in two bailouts. Sure, untold tens of billions of dollars of that passed right through AIG and went to banks in Europe and Asia. Sure, these coordinated actions by Congress and the Fed has propped up zombie banks that destroy untold billions more wealth. But Congress is going to tax the bonuses on people work for AIG Financial Products, and make more than $250,000 per year, at 90%. If this action isn't challenged and ruled unconstitutional, they are going to get back 90% of some portion of the $170 Million in bonuses that represents less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the money that they've wasted on that one company this year. Good thing they're looking out for us and our children.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Reports of the Death of the GOP are Somewhat Exagerrated (Part 2)

In the Generic Congressional Ballot poll, Republicans now lead Democrats 41%-39%.  This hasn't happened in years, and Republicans have won majorities in years where they trailed by several percentage points.  A general rule of thumb for Congressional races is that Americans generally like their Republican better than all the rest, and that they like all the rest of the Democrats better than the one that they're watching daily.  Let them start to practice what they preach, and people really start to like the Republicans.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


The Junta's favorite governor, Mark Sanford, invoked comparisons to Zimbabwe in describing the stimulus package.

On Earmarks, Ron Paul, and Cognitive Dissonance

All of the tubes of the internet are abuzz with a speech that Ron Paul made Tuesday, calling for more earmarks. Despite the fact that I actively supported Ron Paul's campaign for President and am supporting the Campaign for Liberty, I can't support this. Let me go through Dr. Paul's claims:

1. Earmarks are a tiny part of the overall budget. - Agree completely.
2. Cutting earmarks out doesn't take away from the budget. - Mostly true, but it ignores future costs. If you request $750,000 for Houston Memorial Hermann HealthCare system for Life Flight operations center in an earmark, odds are that is going to have ongoing costs. And as we know from New Orleans, if the Federal Government builds it, everyone expects the Federal Government to maintain it.
3. Earmarks add transparency to the budget. - Not true at all anymore. Since the Coburn-Obama Act in 2006, every dollar spent by the government is tracked at USASpending.gov. (Yes, I know that the bank bailouts aren't being tracked here. I think that's illegal based off this act, and I'm pretty sure that's the only off-the-record spending.)
4. Earmarking is a responsibility of Congress. - Not in any historical sense, and not Constitutionally. Since the beginning of the Republic, the Congress set the budget for the executive departments, gave them laws, and let them spend the money to execute those laws. More importantly, most earmarks, such as $25,000 to install security cameras at Fox Run Apartments in Victoria, are for specific welfare, and not general welfare as required by Article I Section 8 of the Constitution.
5. What's considered an earmark is confusing - An earmark is a line item in a budget that directs Federal funds to a specific project. That's not really confusing to me. Dr. Paul's example of a weapons system would be an earmark if picked by Congress, and not an earmark if picked by the Pentagon.
6. The Federal Reserve is worse than all earmarks, and should be audited - Agree completely.

The fact is that earmarks allow all sorts of things to be passed that would never stand on their own. Congressmen get to add things for their district, as long as they vote for things in other districts. It's an I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you'll-scratch-mine system that is rotten to the core. The fact is that as bad as bureaucracies are, they have laws that direct them in how they spend their money, and they have bid processes that get rid of some of the waste. Congress is making up the laws about spending as they go, and they may or may not have a good bid process.

Now I really don't have that much of a problem that Dr. Paul requested the earmarks. If he had said, "The people of the 14th district of Texas pay a lot of taxes, they've been devastated by a hurricane, and I'm going to make sure that some of their tax dollars come back to help rebuild," I wouldn't have a problem with it. But he defended the corrupt earmark system, and that's where he loses me.

Here's a solution for Dr. Paul: The one-subject-at-a-time rule. Congress has operated under this rule before. The concept is this: Spending must be passed on a by-department basis. No omnibuses. You can't fund National Park bathrooms in a Highway Administration bill. I know Dr. Paul's friend John Culberson supports this. Dr. Paul needs to get on board as well.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pat Buchanan: Pitchfork Time

When one of the Pitchfork and Musket Junta's favorite public figures, Pat Buchanan, writes an article called Pitchfork Time, the Junta takes notice. This article is a good one. Here is an excerpt:
In his campaign and inaugural address, Barack Obama cast himself as a moderate man seeking common ground with conservatives. Yet, his budget calls for the radical restructuring of the U.S. economy, a sweeping redistribution of power and wealth to government and Democratic constituencies. It is a declaration of war on the Right. The real Obama has stood up, and lived up to his ranking as the most left-wing member of the United States Senate....
...Where the U.S. government usually consumes 21 percent of gross domestic product, this Obama budget spends 28 percent in 2009 and runs a deficit of $1.75 trillion, or 12.7 percent of GDP. That is four times the largest deficit of George W. Bush and twice as large a share of the economy as any deficit run since World War II. Add that 28 percent of GDP spent by the U.S. government to the 12 percent spent by states, counties and cities, and government will consume 40 percent of the economy in 2009.
We are not "headed down the road to socialism." We are there.

Buchanan concludes his article this way:
The president says he is gearing up for a fight on his budget.
Good. Let's give him one.

I'm with you, Pat. My pitchfork is ready.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Independence Day

The Texas Declaration of Independence was signed in Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, 1836, 173 years ago today. It is worth reading today.

The Unanimous Declaration of Independence made by the

Delegates of the People of Texas in General Convention at the town of

Washington on the 2nd day of March 1836.

When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.

When the Federal Republican Constitution of their country, which they have sworn to support, no longer has a substantial existence, and the whole nature of their government has been forcibly changed, without their consent, from a restricted federative republic, composed of sovereign states, to a consolidated central military despotism, in which every interest is disregarded but that of the army and the priesthood, both the eternal enemies of civil liberty, the everready minions of power, and the usual instruments of tyrants.

When, long after the spirit of the constitution has departed, moderation is at length so far lost by those in power, that even the semblance of freedom is removed, and the forms themselves of the constitution discontinued, and so far from their petitions and remonstrances being regarded, the agents who bear them are thrown into dungeons, and mercenary armies sent forth to force a new government upon them at the point of the bayonet.

When, in consequence of such acts of malfeasance and abdication on the part of the government, anarchy prevails, and civil society is dissolved into its original elements. In such a crisis, the first law of nature, the right of self-preservation, the inherent and inalienable rights of the people to appeal to first principles, and take their political affairs into their own hands in extreme cases, enjoins it as a right towards themselves, and a sacred obligation to their posterity, to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their future welfare and happiness.

Nations, as well as individuals, are amenable for their acts to the public opinion of mankind. A statement of a part of our grievances is therefore submitted to an impartial world, in justification of the hazardous but unavoidable step now taken, of severing our political connection with the Mexican people, and assuming an independent attitude among the nations of the earth.

The Mexican government, by its colonization laws, invited and induced the Anglo-American population of Texas to colonize its wilderness under the pledged faith of a written constitution, that they should continue to enjoy that constitutional liberty and republican government to which they had been habituated in the land of their birth, the United States of America.

In this expectation they have been cruelly disappointed, inasmuch as the Mexican nation has acquiesced in the late changes made in the government by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who having overturned the constitution of his country, now offers us the cruel alternative, either to abandon our homes, acquired by so many privations, or submit to the most intolerable of all tyranny, the combined despotism of the sword and the priesthood.

It has sacrificed our welfare to the state of Coahuila, by which our interests have been continually depressed through a jealous and partial course of legislation, carried on at a far distant seat of government, by a hostile majority, in an unknown tongue, and this too, notwithstanding we have petitioned in the humblest terms for the establishment of a separate state government, and have, in accordance with the provisions of the national constitution, presented to the general Congress a republican constitution, which was, without just cause, contemptuously rejected.

It incarcerated in a dungeon, for a long time, one of our citizens, for no other cause but a zealous endeavor to procure the acceptance of our constitution, and the establishment of a state government.

It has failed and refused to secure, on a firm basis, the right of trial by jury, that palladium of civil liberty, and only safe guarantee for the life, liberty, and property of the citizen.

It has failed to establish any public system of education, although possessed of almost boundless resources, (the public domain,) and although it is an axiom in political science, that unless a people are educated and enlightened, it is idle to expect the continuance of civil liberty, or the capacity for self government.

It has suffered the military commandants, stationed among us, to exercise arbitrary acts of oppression and tyrrany, thus trampling upon the most sacred rights of the citizens, and rendering the military superior to the civil power.

It has dissolved, by force of arms, the state Congress of Coahuila and Texas, and obliged our representatives to fly for their lives from the seat of government, thus depriving us of the fundamental political right of representation.

It has demanded the surrender of a number of our citizens, and ordered military detachments to seize and carry them into the Interior for trial, in contempt of the civil authorities, and in defiance of the laws and the constitution.

It has made piratical attacks upon our commerce, by commissioning foreign desperadoes, and authorizing them to seize our vessels, and convey the property of our citizens to far distant ports for confiscation.

It denies us the right of worshipping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience, by the support of a national religion, calculated to promote the temporal interest of its human functionaries, rather than the glory of the true and living God.

It has demanded us to deliver up our arms, which are essential to our defence, the rightful property of freemen, and formidable only to tyrannical governments.

It has invaded our country both by sea and by land, with intent to lay waste our territory, and drive us from our homes; and has now a large mercenary army advancing, to carry on against us a war of extermination.

It has, through its emissaries, incited the merciless savage, with the tomahawk and scalping knife, to massacre the inhabitants of our defenseless frontiers.

It hath been, during the whole time of our connection with it, the contemptible sport and victim of successive military revolutions, and hath continually exhibited every characteristic of a weak, corrupt, and tyrranical government.

These, and other grievances, were patiently borne by the people of Texas, untill they reached that point at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue. We then took up arms in defence of the national constitution. We appealed to our Mexican brethren for assistance. Our appeal has been made in vain. Though months have elapsed, no sympathetic response has yet been heard from the Interior. We are, therefore, forced to the melancholy conclusion, that the Mexican people have acquiesced in the destruction of their liberty, and the substitution therfor of a military government; that they are unfit to be free, and incapable of self government.

The necessity of self-preservation, therefore, now decrees our eternal political separation.

We, therefore, the delegates with plenary powers of the people of Texas, in solemn convention assembled, appealing to a candid world for the necessities of our condition, do hereby resolve and declare, that our political connection with the Mexican nation has forever ended, and that the people of Texas do now constitute a free, Sovereign, and independent republic, and are fully invested with all the rights and attributes which properly belong to independent nations; and, conscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme arbiter of the destinies of nations.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's at $1.75 Trillion Now

Back in January, when everyone was yelling about a $1 Trillion budget deficit, I predicted a $2 Trillion budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2009.  Well, President Obama sent his budget request to Congress, and it requires a $1.75 Trillion deficit.  There will be more spending bills.  My $2 Trillion projection may be low.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This is why it's going to get worse

The Old Gray Lady has an article today by Hiroko Tabuchi that blames Japan's two lost decades and current depression, not on government-sponsored zombie banks, lousy central planning, and unsustainable deficit spending that kills investor confidence, but on consumer frugality.  Now intelligent people gave up on The Times as a reliable source years ago, but many of the educated in our society still look at it as a respectable medium.  Here's a simple lesson for Mr. Tabuchi: The root word in capitalism is capital.  The basis of the economic system is that the economy is powered by those with capital.  Consumerism, funded by ever-expanding credit is an unsustainable system that will lead to collapse.  If you have good banks, a frugal citizenry, and a government that lives within its means and thus doesn't take the loans that would go to producers, your country will build capital, which can be lent to the productive class to increase production.  With more production, you create more capital, and can sustainably consume more.  The Austrian School has a famous saying: "Consumption is the reward for Production."  The only things that will stop savings from being turned into increased productivity are: Government deficits crowding out good loans or zombie banks with bad balance sheets taking the savings without the ability to loan.  (This is why those banks must be liquidated.)
I charge The New York Times to not print articles like this.  They should be easy to spot.  If anyone blames our current financial mess on too little consumption or poor consumer confidence, they don't know what they are talking about, and giving them a voice does a disservice to the country.

Monday, February 23, 2009

GM Business Plan

Since GM needs so much help, I have a plan to get them profitable. First, they need to put all of those eliminated because of loss of sales back to work. So they can pay them to paint the factories and repave parking lots. Then they can get a few of them to replace their old, outdated natural gas power generation with new, efficient windmills. And since these will cause power reliability issues, they can put in new smart meters that shut production lines down when the wind doesn't blow.  It might hurt production at times, but think of all the money they'll save on energy.  Finally, to keep workers happy, they'll expand their health benefits, extend unemployment benefits for those who they can't re-hire, and give away their cheapest cars to the lowest level workers.

Of course, they'll have to borrow a lot of money to do all of this, and they're already pretty deep in debt, so they'll have a summit to discuss their profitability plan. In it, they'll promise to reduce losses by half in 4 years. They'll do this by 1) praying that sales recover somehow, 2) raising prices by 20% on Hummers, Cadillac SUVs, and Corvettes, and 3) eliminating any incentives available to their high volume fleet customers.

After all, this is the business plan that President Obama and his administration of the best and brightest has produced for the Federal government. It should work swimmingly.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kid Rock for Commerce Secretary

Kid Rock is getting a $700,000 stimulus check for his brewery from Michigan's Economic Growth Authority, and will create 400 jobs.  That's $1750 in tax credits per job created.  Since the Trillion Dollar Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Snowe-Collins-Specter national spending program is conservatively estimated to cost $225,000 per job created (~$170,000 in government spending, ~$55,000 in tax cuts and credits), it seems obvious to me that Kid Rock has much better economic sense than anyone that had input into the bill.  So President Obama should use his expertise, appoint him as Secretary of Commerce, and let him manage the spending bill.  If he has similar results, he might be able to offset all damage done by TurboTax Timmy at the Treasury.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tyranny of City Planning and Zoning

At the Pitchfork and Musket Junta, we tend to concentrate on State and Federal tyranny, because we generally believe that local tyranny will be taken care of by citizens voting with their feet. That tyranny still exists, though, and we should expose it when we come upon it. I recently have come across three examples of tyrannical local laws destroying opportunities for local citizens.

The first from San Francisco, where the Planning Commission refused to allow American Apparel to open a store in the Mission District. According to Caille Millner:
It is too easy to make fun of the people who packed Room 400 in San Francisco's City Hall to stop American Apparel from opening a store on Valencia Street in the Mission District last week.

They are not serious people. They live in a world where facts like 27 vacant storefronts on Valencia Street and 9.3 percent unemployment statewide and nearly 600,000 jobs lost nationally last month do not matter. The few who read books know no authors beyond Naomi Klein. They do not believe that the world has changed since the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. This accounts for both the static nature of their vocabulary - "no formula retail!" is their death chant, though anyone who has picked up a newspaper in the last five months could tell you that there isn't a single retail establishment with a formula today - and the juvenile nature of their worldview. They do not want to see businesses be successful. They do not want the Mission District to be welcoming to different types of people.

What they want is magic.

The word "magic" kept recurring during the hours of public comment at the Planning Commission meeting where the American Apparel store's permit was up for a vote. "Valencia Street is a magical place," one speaker said. Another claimed that "Our neighborhood is a dream, a delicate flower." Others spoke of American Apparel as a "parasite" on their "ecosystem." Several local business owners testified that it was their "dream" to operate in such a "magical" place, and noted, with horror, that they might have to make alterations to their business plans if a new store opened in the area.

Next, in Chicago, Walmart proposed building 5 new stores. Chicago has only allowed one Walmart to be built inside the city so far. It employs 400 workers at an average of $11.25/hour, roughly average for unskilled workers. You would think that, during a recession (depression?), Chicago would welcome 2000-2500 new decent jobs, and a retailer that consistently lowers prices to serve poor citizens. Chicago's planning board refused to rule and punted to city council. Chicago alderman are fighting it tooth and nail, because of objections by big labor.

Finally, in Beaumont, they've banned mobile food stands. According to Junta member Shane, who was at the council meeting and heard testimony to get the moratorium overturned, the objectors were all full service restaurant owners. These taco stands and barbecue stands provide cheap, quick lunches, and are frequented by the poorest workers in the city, many of them immigrants.

These three examples are all vastly different, but they have one thing in common. By abusing the zoning privileges of a city, they all will reduce choice for their citizens and will lower the standard of living for the poorest of their citizens.

This Would Make a Great Crime Movie

Courtesy of The People's Cube:

Friday, February 13, 2009

I'm Respectfully Reject the Postition of Commerce Secretary

Dear President Obama,

I understand that you are have trouble filling the position of Secretary of Commerce. I'm sorry, but I can't accept either. Unlike Governor Richardson, I have never traded government contracts for campaign contributions, but like Senator Gregg, I tend to think that our beliefs about the Federal Government's role in Commerce are irreconcilably different. Thank you for your consideration.* I am truly honored.

Good luck finding someone honorable that agrees with your ideology on Commerce. It may be difficult.



* - President Obama hasn't notified me about consideration for any Cabinet position. At the rate he is going through candidates, I assume my name is coming up soon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The First 435 People Listed in the Telephone Directory

William F. Buckley famously said, "I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University."  Well, now the American people trust that randomly selected group more than they do those currently elected to Congress.  According to Rasmussen:
Forty-four percent (44%) voters also think a group of people selected at random from the phone book would do a better job addressing the nation's problems than the current Congress, but 37% disagree. Twenty percent (20%) are undecided.
Other highlights from the survey:
Americans trust themselves more than Congress.
When it comes to the nation's economic issues, 67% of U.S. voters have more confidence in their own judgment than they do in the average member of Congress.
And the part that is most interesting to me:
Fifty-eight percent (58%) agree, too, that "no matter how bad things are, Congress can always find a way to make them worse."
As Will Rogers said more than 70 years ago, "This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer."  It applies as much today as it did then.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Priming the Pump

Last night, President Obama gave his first press conference to make his case for the spending package. He did a pretty good job of demonizing the opposition, and painted a pretty bleak economic picture. First of all, I agreed with him on two points: 1) Republicans, specifically Bush, got us into this mess. 2) Alex Rodriguez using steroids is a black eye on Major League Baseball.

For his main point though, Obama's defense of using massive government spending for stimulus is based on junk science. I don't remember him using the analogy, but the typical one used for this kind of stimulus package is "priming the pump". His idea is that the government can spend a lot of money on projects for a while, and that will create confidence, spark consumption, and at some point, spark private investment will create more long-term jobs. It's an idea right out of Lord Keynes' General Theory. The problem is that the theory has never been supported by evidence in the real world. During the New Deal, despite 5% of the workforce being employed by the CCC and WPA, unemployment remained relatively constant. The jobs created by government were almost completely offset by jobs destroyed in the private sector. We got some nice National Parks' buildings from the CCC, and nice paintings on Post Offices from the WPA, but no economic growth. Over the past 15 years or so, Japan has had a similar experience.

We will get some good infrastructure projects out of the spending bill and some wasteful ones. Some people who have lost their finance job that won't come back will get to stay in their house a little longer than they would earlier. Some state and local governments won't have to cut as many programs. What we won't get is stimulus.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Most Egregious Act of Generational Theft in History

Question: What's the difference between a Donkey and a RINO?

Answer: About $100,000,000,000 of future taxpayers' money. That's the amount of money that Democrats cut out of the $800+ Billion pork/welfare/state bailout/Medicaid/public art/maybe a little bit of infrastructure bill to get Arlen Specter, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe to jump in with both feet. The bill that Congresscritters are calling a stimulus bill, despite the fact that Congressional Budget Office calls it harmful to the economy over the long term. (I figure that John McCain was holding out for another $15).

You've seen them in action. 61% of the Senate, and 56% of the House will shackle an enormous national mortgage to the the feet of their children to grow their own power. It is taxation without representation.

(Thread title borrowed from Tom Coburn's excellent op-ed on the same topic.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Reports of the Death of the GOP Are Somewhat Exaggerated

It's been popular since the election to pronounce the death of the Republican Party as a national force.  Democrats have claimed that they own the West Coast, the Northeast, and the Middle Atlantic, and some even go as far as to claim the Midwest as solidly Democratic.  They usually drag out this map that shows that for most of the country, the trend showed many more votes for Obama in 2008 than Kerry in 2004.  And they have some evidence in their favor.  After all, there are no longer any Republican Congresscritters in the Northeast.  I've even been guilty of this, saying that the Republican Party's focus for the next four years should be on growing grassroots networks, and not really worrying about major elections.  I wholly endorse the 435-district strategy, but I have thought of it more as a very long-term plan than most have. 
But there might be another explanation for these trends.  It not be realignment at all, but a one-year response to a much better Democratic candidate than Republican.  Evidence for this:
First the weak evidence: In yesterday's Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman election, the Republican outperformed McCain by 10%, is 1200 votes behind, and still has an outside chance of pulling the race out once all the absentee ballots and provisional ballots are counted.  Now, normally a Fairfax County election wouldn't mean much beyond Fairfax County, but with an RNC Chairman in Maryland and a DNC Chairman in Virginia, this was a bit of proxy battle.
Now the strong evidence: A Quinnipiac poll shows that Republican Chris Christie, former US Attorney, leads Democrat Governor Jon Corzine, 44%-38%, in very early polling for the New Jersey Governor's race.  Cristie doesn't even have the nomination yet and he has a strong lead over an incumbent Democrat in a state that Obama won by nearly 15%.  The New Jersey and Virginia governor's races are often bellwethers for the strength of the national Parties in the first post-Presidential years, and both states have been claimed as solidly Democratic by Democrats.  We'll definitely keep an eye on them.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Hampshire Legislature has some heroes!

A RESOLUTION affirming States' rights based on Jeffersonian principles.
SPONSORS: Rep. Itse, Rock 9; Rep. Ingbretson, Graf 5; Rep. Comerford, Rock 9; Sen. Denley, Dist 3
COMMITTEE: State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs
This house concurrent resolution affirms States' rights based on Jeffersonian principles.
In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine
A RESOLUTION affirming States' rights based on Jeffersonian principles.
Whereas the Constitution of the State of New Hampshire, Part 1, Article 7 declares that the people of this State have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent State; and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right, pertaining thereto, which is not, or may not hereafter be, by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in congress assembled; and
Whereas the Constitution of the State of New Hampshire, Part 2, Article 1 declares that the people inhabiting the territory formerly called the province of New Hampshire, do hereby solemnly and mutually agree with each other, to form themselves into a free, sovereign and independent body-politic, or State, by the name of The State of New Hampshire; and
Whereas the State of New Hampshire when ratifying the Constitution for the United States of America recommended as a change, "First That it be Explicitly declared that all Powers not expressly & particularly Delegated by the aforesaid are reserved to the several States to be, by them Exercised;" and
Whereas the other States that included recommendations, to wit Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia, included an identical or similar recommended change; and
Whereas these recommended changes were incorporated as the ninth amendment, the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people, and the tenth amendment, the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people, to the Constitution for the United States of America; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring:
That the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes, -- delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force; that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral party, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress; and
That the Constitution of the United States, having delegated to Congress a power to punish treason, counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States, piracies, and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the law of nations, slavery, and no other crimes whatsoever; and it being true as a general principle, and one of the amendments to the Constitution having also declared, that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people," therefore all acts of Congress which assume to create, define, or punish crimes, other than those so enumerated in the Constitution are altogether void, and of no force; and that the power to create, define, and punish such other crimes is reserved, and, of right, appertains solely and exclusively to the respective States, each within its own territory; and
That it is true as a general principle, and is also expressly declared by one of the amendments to the Constitution, that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people;" and that no power over the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press being delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, all lawful powers respecting the same did of right remain, and were reserved to the States or the people: that thus was manifested their determination to retain to themselves the right of judging how far the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged without lessening their useful freedom, and how far those abuses which cannot be separated from their use should be tolerated, rather than the use be destroyed. And thus also they guarded against all abridgment by the United States of the freedom of religious opinions and exercises, and retained to themselves the right of protecting the same. And that in addition to this general principle and express declaration, another and more special provision has been made by one of the amendments to the Constitution, which expressly declares, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press:" thereby guarding in the same sentence, and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press: insomuch, that whatever violated either, throws down the sanctuary which covers the others, and that libels, falsehood, and defamation, equally with heresy and false religion, are withheld from the cognizance of federal tribunals. That, therefore, all acts of Congress of the United States which do abridge the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, are not law, but are altogether void, and of no force; and
That the construction applied by the General Government (as is evidenced by sundry of their proceedings) to those parts of the Constitution of the United States which delegate to Congress a power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imports, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States," and "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers vested by the Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof," goes to the destruction of all limits prescribed to their power by the Constitution: that words meant by the instrument to be subsidiary only to the execution of limited powers, ought not to be so construed as themselves to give unlimited powers, nor a part to be so taken as to destroy the whole residue of that instrument: that the proceedings of the General Government under color of these articles, will be a fit and necessary subject of revisal and correction; and
That a committee of conference and correspondence be appointed, which shall have as its charge to communicate the preceding resolutions to the Legislatures of the several States; to assure them that this State continues in the same esteem of their friendship and union which it has manifested from that moment at which a common danger first suggested a common union: that it considers union, for specified national purposes, and particularly to those specified in their federal compact, to be friendly to the peace, happiness and prosperity of all the States: that faithful to that compact, according to the plain intent and meaning in which it was understood and acceded to by the several parties, it is sincerely anxious for its preservation: that it does also believe, that to take from the States all the powers of self-government and transfer them to a general and consolidated government, without regard to the special delegations and reservations solemnly agreed to in that compact, is not for the peace, happiness or prosperity of these States; and that therefore this State is determined, as it doubts not its co-States are, to submit to undelegated, and consequently unlimited powers in no man, or body of men on earth: that in cases of an abuse of the delegated powers, the members of the General Government, being chosen by the people, a change by the people would be the constitutional remedy; but, where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy: that every State has a natural right in cases not within the compact, (casus non foederis), to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits: that without this right, they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them: that nevertheless, this State, from motives of regard and respect for its co-States, has wished to communicate with them on the subject: that with them alone it is proper to communicate, they alone being parties to the compact, and solely authorized to judge in the last resort of the powers exercised under it, Congress being not a party, but merely the creature of the compact, and subject as to its assumptions of power to the final judgment of those by whom, and for whose use itself and its powers were all created and modified: that if the acts before specified should stand, these conclusions would flow from them: that it would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism -- free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power: that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go. In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution. That this State does therefore call on its co-States for an expression of their sentiments on acts not authorized by the federal compact. And it doubts not that their sense will be so announced as to prove their attachment unaltered to limited government, whether general or particular. And that the rights and liberties of their co-States will be exposed to no dangers by remaining embarked in a common bottom with their own. That they will concur with this State in considering acts as so palpably against the Constitution as to amount to an undisguised declaration that that compact is not meant to be the measure of the powers of the General Government, but that it will proceed in the exercise over these States, of all powers whatsoever: that they will view this as seizing the rights of the States, and consolidating them in the hands of the General Government, with a power assumed to bind the States, not merely as the cases made federal, (casus foederis,) but in all cases whatsoever, by laws made, not with their consent, but by others against their consent: that this would be to surrender the form of government we have chosen, and live under one deriving its powers from its own will, and not from our authority; and that the co-States, recurring to their natural right in cases not made federal, will concur in declaring these acts void, and of no force, and will each take measures of its own for providing that neither these acts, nor any others of the General Government not plainly and intentionally authorized by the Constitution, shall be exercised within their respective territories; and
That the said committee be authorized to communicate by writing or personal conferences, at any times or places whatever, with any person or person who may be appointed by any one or more co-States to correspond or confer with them; and that they lay their proceedings before the next session of the General Court; and
That any Act by the Congress of the United States, Executive Order of the President of the United States of America or Judicial Order by the Judicatories of the United States of America which assumes a power not delegated to the government of United States of America by the Constitution for the United States of America and which serves to diminish the liberty of the any of the several States or their citizens shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution for the United States of America by the government of the United States of America. Acts which would cause such a nullification include, but are not limited to:
I. Establishing martial law or a state of emergency within one of the States comprising the United States of America without the consent of the legislature of that State.
II. Requiring involuntary servitude, or governmental service other than a draft during a declared war, or pursuant to, or as an alternative to, incarceration after due process of law.
III. Requiring involuntary servitude or governmental service of persons under the age of 18 other than pursuant to, or as an alternative to, incarceration after due process of law.
IV. Surrendering any power delegated or not delegated to any corporation or foreign government.
V. Any act regarding religion; further limitations on freedom of political speech; or further limitations on freedom of the press.
VI. Further infringements on the right to keep and bear arms including prohibitions of type or quantity of arms or ammunition; and
That should any such act of Congress become law or Executive Order or Judicial Order be put into force, all powers previously delegated to the United States of America by the Constitution for the United States shall revert to the several States individually. Any future government of the United States of America shall require ratification of three quarters of the States seeking to form a government of the United States of America and shall not be binding upon any State not seeking to form such a government; and
That copies of this resolution be transmitted by the house clerk to the President of the United States, each member of the United States Congress, and the presiding officers of each State's legislature.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Don't Cry for Me, United States

Philip Jenkins over at The American Conservative has a great article this week that compares the response by the United States to this financial crisis to that of Argentina to the Great Depression.  It ain't pretty.
Side note: For those out there that are traditional conservatives or want to know what traditional conservatives think, The American Conservative might just have the best commentary available.  It's worth a subscription.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Whither the Blue Dogs?

During the 2006 mid-term elections, Democrats picked up a lot of seats in very conservative areas by promising to offer a fiscal sanity check to a Republican-led government that had went nuts on spending.  Many of them were rhetorical deficit hawks, and the Blue Dog Caucus grew to be one of the largest and potentially strongest on the Hill.  Now that they get their first test of the Democrat-led era, a $900,000,000,000 pork-filled welfare and infrastructure "stimulus" bill, lets look at it and see how they did.  Of the 43 members of the Blue Dog Caucus, only six voted against the record spending bill.  That's a 13% pass rate.  These are your real blue dogs: Allen Boyd, Jim Cooper, Brad Ellsworth, Collin Peterson, Heath Shuler, and Gene Taylor.  Call them or email them and thank them for standing up for the taxpayer.  The other 37 are old-fashioned yellow dogs that didn't mean a word of their rhetoric.  They were just Bush obstructionists who wanted to win in the South, West, and Rural East and Midwest.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Make-work Projects in Beaumont

Yesterday I predicted that much of the so-called stimulus package would be make-work projects that don't really improve infrastructure. Today, the local radio station reported that Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames has been in Washington lobbying for her projects. Here's the list:

Amtrack train stop - $750,000
Block grant reinvestment zone housing - $5 Million
Landfill hydrogen project - $5 Million
Public Safety Headquarters - $272,000
Bus stop rehabilitaion - $1 Million

The current Amtrack station in Beaumont is a slab, because it gets no passengers. It's near my office, and I see the train stop there when it does in the afternoon. They could triple their ridership and still not get passengers on every stop. But it has nothing to do with new riders. The
mayor's justification was, "We want to move it to a nicer area so when the train stops in Beaumont, the passengers get a better view." She has called this her highest priority for stimulus money.

I have no clue whether housing block grants are needed, but it seems that every city asks for them every time Federal money is offered.

The landfill hydrogen project is a cool project. They reform the methane as it comes off the landfill and sell the hydrogen to local refineries. This project is already funded and will go forward without Federal funds. They're just asking for Federal dollars because they might be available.

I don't know anything about the Public Safety Headquarters. From the amount of the funds request, I think they're going to build a house for the Police Chief.

Bus stop rehabilitation is the only project of the bunch that is a good idea and not currently being progressed. Most Beaumont bus stops are just benches, and I often see people waiting for the bus out in the pouring rain. I'm really skeptical about the amount of economic stimulus it will

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Buicks to the Moon

The current congressional proposal for stimulus will borrow (or print, because God knows who would buy a Treasury bond at 0.05% interest, or whatever it is today) $825 Billion and throw some of it into the economy in various ways.  Some of it will go to State and local governments, which means that we can kiss that money goodbye.  Some of the other provisions: a small cut in Social Security Withholding that should help the poor, but puts one more chip in our fragile Social Security situation.  About $358 Billion of it will go into so-called "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects, which someone somewhere in Washington thinks will be built in the next two years.  Let me first say that within reason, infrastructure is the business of government.  No country has ever successfully transferred the building of roads, bridges, water supplies, etc., to the private sector.  It is cheaper to build infrastructure projects in bad economic times than in good.  That being said, let's put this $358 Billion number in perspective:
In 2008 Dollars,
The entire Space Program through the Apollo Era cost $288 Billion over 18 years.
The entire Interstate Highway System Project cost $425 Billion over 35 years.
The entire New Deal cost $500 Billion over 18 years.
There is no way that this stimulus package will actually get spent on real, needed projects in two years.  And the stimulus effect of infrastructure projects is greatly overrated.  One only has to look at the US during the 1930s or Japan during the 1990s to see that.  So I expect a whole lot of the money to be spent on time machines and bridges to the moon, which will neither have a stimulative effect nor provide meaningful improvement to our country's infrastructure.  On a local scale, this is the equivalent of Houston looking at Reliant Stadium, calling it a success, and building 5 more.
I don't want to reject the Obama/Pelosi/Reid plan without offering one of my own.  Cut the infrastructure grants to zero.  Instead, offer very low interest loans (1% is probably possible) to any state, city, county, school board, or other local government who can pass a bond on the infrastructure need that they think they have.  I'll bet gold to dollars that this would cut the short-term Federal expenditures by 75% or greater, cut the long-term cost to almost zero, and eliminate almost all of the make-work programs that don't improve infrastructure in any meaningful way.