Friday, April 30, 2010

Peggy Noonan: The Big Alienation -

Peggy Noonan is her usual brilliant self when talking about how far the average American is from his/her government:
We are at a remarkable moment. We have an open, 2,000-mile border to our south, and the entity with the power to enforce the law and impose safety and order will not do it. Wall Street collapsed, taking Main Street's money with it, and the government can't really figure out what to do about it because the government itself was deeply implicated in the crash, and both political parties are full of people whose political careers have been made possible by Wall Street contributions. Meanwhile we pass huge laws, bills so comprehensive, omnibus and transformative that no one knows what's in them and no one—literally, no one—knows how exactly they will be executed or interpreted. Citizens search for new laws online, pore over them at night, and come away knowing no more than they did before they typed "dot-gov."

It is not that no one's in control. Washington is full of people who insist they're in control and who go to great lengths to display their power. It's that no one takes responsibility and authority. Washington daily delivers to the people two stark and utterly conflicting messages: "We control everything" and "You're on your own."

All this contributes to a deep and growing alienation between the people of America and the government of America in Washington.

This is not the old, conservative and long-lampooned "I don't trust gummint" attitude of the 1950s, '60s and '70s. It's something new, or rather something so much more broadly and fully evolved that it constitutes something new. The right never trusted the government, but now the middle doesn't.
The widespread concern has come to a crisis point. While Barack Obama is, indeed a historic figure, the path the current Administration is on will put Obama's tenure in the White House, not as the first black president, but as the President who presided over the 2nd American revolution.

Noonan takes on the matter of the Arizona immigration law. But instead of looking at whether it is racist (it is not), or necessary (it is), Noonan notes something a little different and that isn't being talked about enough.
But the larger point is that Arizona is moving forward because the government in Washington has completely abdicated its responsibility. For 10 years—at least—through two administrations, Washington deliberately did nothing to ease the crisis on the borders because politicians calculated that an air of mounting crisis would spur mounting support for what Washington thought was appropriate reform—i.e., reform that would help the Democratic and Republican parties.


But while the Democrats worry about the prospects of the Democrats and the Republicans about the well-being of the Republicans, who worries about America?

No one. Which the American people have noticed, and which adds to the dangerous alienation—actually it's at the heart of the alienation—of the age.
Government is instituted among men to do those things that we as individuals cannot do ourselves. I can protect my own house from an invasion of illegal aliens, but I cannot protect my community and I cannot protect my state. When our immigration policy is essentially no policy, our government has abdicated its duty and it is time to find another solution.

Right now, we as a nation have lost that vital contact with those who are supposed to be our leaders. We must reestablish that connection and if that is a "throw the bums out" mentality, no matter who the bum is, a Republican or Democrat, then so be it. It is time for our leaders to have a lesson in a constitutional republic--they represent us and it is time that we re-assert control.

So How Much is Too Much

President Obama talked about his notion of salary levels:
President Obama spoke the most revealing and clarifying 10 words of his control-freak administration this week: "I think at some point you have made enough money." Peddling financial regulatory reform at a rally in Quincy, Ill., Obama then ad-libbed peculiar definitions of what he called the "American way" and the profit motive: "(Y)ou can just keep on making it if you're providing a good product or providing good service. We don't want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy."
Okay, so how much is too much?

Here is another problem for the President that not many people have considered. Remember when the President said that he wanted to add taxes to people making more than $250,000 a year? If you limit the ability of people to make more than say $250,000, then where is the President going to get his tax revenue?

Methinks the Obama Administration is a bit confused about the concept of "making too much money."

Just In Case You Need Another Reason Why the U.N. Is Something of a Joke

the United Nations elected IRAN to the body's Commission on the Status of Women. Fox News has the best lead:
Without fanfare, the United Nations this week elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, handing a four-year seat on the influential human rights body to a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women judged "immodest."

Just days after Iran abandoned a high-profile bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, it began a covert campaign to claim a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women, which is "dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women," according to its website.
Yeah--that's smart.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet

Errol Louis of the New York Daily News talks about a new feature length documentary called The Lottery directed by Madeleine Sackler, which Louis describes:
The film is designed to knock ambivalent people off the fence when it comes to the benefits of charter schools, and it does.

In the same way that "An Inconvenient Truth" mobilized a vast constituency to take action on climate change, "The Lottery" will create and energize charter supporters by the thousands. It conveys the desperation and urgency of urban public education better than the anti-charter forces can defend a status quo that is shockingly unfair and wholly unacceptable.
Let's face it, American public is not perfect (far from it) and for many students is it not too bad either (which is not to say that it cannot be better all around). But if you are poor, minority or worse both, your chances of getting a good education are fairly slim. The Lottery talks about the hopes, dreams and yes, prayers, of four families looking to win a coveted spot in "the lottery" which gives out spaces in the Harlem Success Academy. Louis talks about the atmosphere of learning that can be found in the charter school founded by former New York City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. This lottery is not about money (at least not directly) but about chances, the chance to get a better education than the local public schools, even if Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg like to crow about New York City's improving schools. The lottery is how an oversubscribed charter school doles out open spots in their incoming classes.

I am a huge fan of charter schools, but not because they are necessarily better than public schools. As Louis notes:
Opponents of charter schools tend to seize on the principled skeptics like Diane Ravitch, the education historian whose brilliant new book, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," recently became a best seller.

Examining national charter school data, Ravitch concludes that all the fuss over standouts like Harlem Success may be misguided.

"There are some excellent charter schools, but there are just as many terrible charter schools," Ravitch told me. "When you compare charter schools to regular public schools, there is no difference in performance - no difference for black kids, Hispanic kids, poor kids or for urban areas. If you create a whole sector that pulls off public money to create privately managed schools and [it] doesn't get better results, all you're doing is enfeebling the public education system."

She's mostly right.

The fact that charters, on average, don't significantly outperform other public schools doesn't invalidate the individual achievement of particular schools like Harlem Success. They are pointing the way to a future where good schooling will be more than just a matter of chance.
It is true that most charter schools are not like Harlem Success Academy, and fail to outperform the general school population. But my support doesn't come from teh belief that the charters will outperform traditional public schools. My support is founded upon that basic tenent of our society--choice.

Right now, unless you can afford private school tuition or have a Catholic school system nearby, the government has a monopoly over public education. Americans have never tolerated monopolies for very long--we all intuitively know that a monopoly sooner or later fails to serve most people very well.

If I told a room of 100 people that because of where they live, they can only shop in designated grocery stores, I might or might not get a revolt. If the stores were of similar price and quality--then we might see little backlash. But if the quality of the stores was vastly different, where people living in the richer part of the room get better stores with more selections and better quality and the poorer people get less quality and selection--I would soon have a revolt on my hands for being morally and ethically suspect.

Yet when it comes to education that is the exact scenario that we have--a monopoly where the quality of the public education is directly related to the socio-economic status of the neighborhood. In general, you only get a better quality education if you live in a more affluent area.

Charter schools offer choices and those choices matter. Even if I don't avail myself of a charter school, the fact that such schools are available is highly important because it diminishes the power of the government over our lives and our children's lives.

The fact that a charter school doesn't outperform other traditional public schools on tests doesn't bother me. The fact that the charters exist at all is what matters because it is only through charters will poor people, minorities, or other less fortunate demographics get an opportunity to break out of the grip on traditional public schools.

Can Moskowitz's model be replicated. She says yes, skeptics say no. I say I don't give a toss if Harlem Success Academy's success can be replicated or not. Well, actually I do, but the most important aspect of the charter school is that there is a choice--full stop.

If The Lottery can do for charter schools what An Inconvenient Truth has done for some aspects of our community--that is get people to think about the charter schools, then the movie is a stunning success. I can't wait to see it.

Read more:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Surfing for Porn on the Government Payroll

I just couldn't avoid this storySecurities and Exchange Commission employees spent hours surfing porn sites according to ABC News.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is supposed to be the sheriff of the financial industry, looking for financial crimes like Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. But the new report, obtained by ABC News, says senior employees of the SEC spent hours on the commission's computers looking at sites like, skankwire, youporn, and others.

The investigation, which was conducted by the SEC's internal watchdog at the request of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, found 31 serious offenders over the past two and a half years. Seventeen of the offenders were senior SEC officers with salaries ranging from $100,000 to $222,000 per year.
Of course high paying officers were more likely to be caught, they are the ones with private offices. If some clerk was trying to do it, they would have been caught much sooner and charged with sexual harassment.

Lest you think it just a bunch of dirty old men, get this paragraph:
An SEC accountant attempted to access porn websites 1,800 times in a two-week period and had 600 pornographic images on her computer hard drive.
If you figure a 5 day work week, that is 180 sites a day, or in a nine-hour day, 20 sites an hour. Seriously, how did this woman get any work done?

Another SEC accountant attempted to access 16,000 sites in a single month. Seriously!! You can't blame that on a virus.

Should Obama return Wall Street Campaign Contributions?

The Washington Examiner Editorial Board thinks he should. I am not so sure, at least for his 2008 election campaign. But if executives have to give back bonuses because they are funded by taxpayer bailouts, then Obama should not take campaign contributions for executives of companies the government bailed out with taxpayer money. That would be like taxpayer funded campaign contributions.

On the other hand, it could a back-door way to the beginning of taxpayer financed political campaigns.

California Public Pensions Feeling the Pressure

Good that people are talking about it, their solutions are too bright though:
Across California, state and local leaders are moving to confront the cost of public employee retirement packages — an escalating financial burden that threatens to choke off funding for other government services.

Legislation now being debated in Sacramento would curtail pension benefits to future state employees. Elsewhere, city and county governments are looking at a variety of measures, including raising property taxes to cover shortfalls and reducing payments to retirement funds.

On Thursday, pension consultant Girard Miller told California's Little Hoover Commission that state and local governments have $325 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, which he said amounts to $22,000 for every working adult in the Golden State.
So, instead of cutting benefits, the default answer in California is to raise taxes. Yeah, that will go over well in a state that is already heavily taxed.

Harvard Law Review on Federal Trade Commission Blogger Rules

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revised their Endorsement and Testimonial Guides (Guides) to cover "consumer generated media" such as blogs and other internet media forms should be unconstitutional as applied to bloggers. I agree.

Anger, technology shake up political landscape

We're mad as hell and we aren't going to take it anymore.
If you're angry or frustrated at the government, you're not alone.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press just reported that 21% of respondents to a March poll said they were mad at their own government. And 56% said they were frustrated.

Pew called it the highest anger-and-disgust level in a half-century of polling. It is due at least partially to the cumulative effect of political and institutional failure writ large. The last 38 years of that half-century have spanned Watergate, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, Iran-Contra, Clinton-Lewinsky, the 2000 election legal fight, 9/11, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and government bailouts of the car, housing and banking industries.
Hard to believe right now more people are madder about government than in all those other events.

Will it translate to change? One can only hope.

Financial reform’s complexity stumps even lawmakers

I'm a fairly well educated person, and I don't get the financial reform bill. But I may not need to understand the details just yet, but I would expect the drafters of the bill to understand, right? Well, not so much.

Walter Russell Mead: Return Powers to the States

From Mead's The American Interest blog:
Power has been drifting toward Washington and the federal government in the American political system; it needs to start drifting back home to the states and to local communities or our democratic system will become increasingly strained.

The latest poll from Pew is a shocker: almost 80 percent of Americans don’t trust the Federal government to do the right thing.  The Federal government received its lowest ratings in decades, with Congress in particular standing at record lows in the public esteem.  Record or near record numbers also express the view that they want a smaller government with fewer programs.  The RCP maintains a rolling average of polls on a range of questions; according to these ‘polls of polls’, 71.2 percent of those asked disapprove of Congress and only 36.6 percent think the country is headed in the right direction.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Vapidness of the VAT

Robert Samuelson discusses the rhetoric surrounding a Value Added Tax being put forth by the VAT advocates:
The VAT is being merchandised as an almost-painless way to avoid deep spending cuts. The implicit, though often unstated, message is that a VAT could raise so much money it could eliminate future deficits by itself. This reasoning, if embraced, would create staggering tax burdens and exempt us from a debate we desperately need.
The debate that Samuelson notes we need is about the size of government. Of course, the VAT is being championed as a cure-all for the massive, soul-crushing, economy-killing deficits we are seeing in the next few years. But the most important thing to remember about the VAT is that is being suggested IN ADDITION TO not IN PLACE OF the current income tax system. Everytime you hear about the "success" of the VAT in Europe, be sure to remember that Europeans don't just pay the VAT as they only significant tax, they pay a VAT AND an Income tax, usually the combined marginal rates of the VAT and income tax approach and exceed 50 percent.

Of course advocates are saying "we just need a small VAT" since it will apply to just about everything. The problem is that like any other tax that applies to "just about everything" it implies that the VAT won't apply to everything and then the jockeying will begin to have an exemption:
A VAT could not painlessly fill this void. Applied to all consumption spending -- about 70 percent of GDP -- the required VAT rate would equal about 8 percent. But the actual increase might be closer to 16 percent because there would be huge pressures to exempt groceries, rent and housing, health care, education and charitable groups. Together, they account for nearly half of $10 trillion of consumer spending. There would also be other upward (and more technical) pressures on the VAT rate.

Does anyone believe that Americans wouldn't notice 16 percent price increases for cars, televisions, airfares, gasoline -- and much more -- even if phased in? As for a VAT's claimed benefits (simplicity, promotion of investment), these depend mainly on a VAT replacing the present complex income tax that discriminates against investment. That's unlikely because it would require implausibly steep VAT rates. Chances are we'd pay both the income tax and the VAT, making the overall tax system more complicated.

Europe's widespread VATs aren't models of simplicity. Among the European Union's 27 members, the basic rate varies from 15 percent (Cyprus, Luxembourg) to 25 percent (Denmark, Hungary and Sweden). But there are many preferential rates and exemptions. In Ireland, food is taxed at three rates (zero, 4.8 percent and 13.5 percent). In the Netherlands, hotels are taxed at 6 percent. An American VAT would stimulate ferocious lobbying for favorable treatment.
If the VAT is going to be in place of an income tax, fine--I can live with a reasonable VAT, but that is not what is going to happen.

In order to close those massive, soul-crushing, economy-killing deficits, the VAT and the income tax would have to be in place. Proponents may even admit that truth, but would say "it is only temporary, until we close the deficit." But it will never happen, once in place, the government will become addicted to the income and will never take the next step--either eliminate the income tax or eliminate the VAT. As Samuelson notes in conclusion:
A VAT is no panacea; deficit reduction can't be painless. We'll need both spending cuts and tax increases. A VAT might be the least bad tax, though my preference is for energy taxes. But what's wrong with the simplistic VAT advocacy is that it deemphasizes spending cuts.
That's right--if you really want to cut the deficit in government you have to cut the government spending. It really is that simple and it won't need a VAT to do it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Europe tax model delivers much more - Sacramento Opinion - Sacramento Editorial | Sacramento Bee

Writing in the Sacramento Bee, Steven Hill claims that European tax model offers a great many benefits for the taxes that people pay into the system:
The fact is, in return for their taxes, Europeans are receiving a generous support system for families and individuals for which Americans must pay exorbitantly, out-of-pocket, if we are to receive it at all. That includes quality health care for every single person, the average cost of which is about half of what Americans pay, even as various studies show that Europeans achieve healthier results.

That's not all. In return for their taxes, Europeans also receive affordable child care, a decent retirement pension, free or inexpensive university education, job retraining, paid sick leave, paid parental leave, ample vacations, affordable housing, senior care, efficient mass transportation and more.

To get the same level of benefits as Europeans, most Americans fork out a ton of money in out-of-pocket payments, in addition to taxes.

While 47 million Americans don't have any health insurance, many who do are paying escalating premiums and deductibles. Indeed, Anthem Blue Cross announced that its premiums will increase by up to 40 percent.

But all Europeans receive health care in return for a modest amount deducted from their paychecks.
Well that "modest amount" usually amounts to something like 50% in addition to things like a Value Added Tax on just about every consumer item they purchase.

But here are two things that a European tax model can't deliver:

1. Incentives to make one's life better by working harder to build a business
2. A higher standard of living than even lower middle class Americans have.

Read more:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Schumer Sees Link Between Citizens United Ruling and ‘Ethereal’ Justices

Schumer Sees Link Between Citizens United Ruling and ‘Ethereal’ Justices. I am not sure what "ethereal" means. But with Justice Stevens retiring, the remaining eight justices all went to law school at either Harvard or Yale.

Of course, those are good schools, but I can see Stevens' argument that a little more diversity of background would be a good thing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Montgomery County Facing Billion Dollar Deficit

The County Executive and County Council blame the millionaire's tax. The subheadline on the story notes that millionaires fleeing the state millionaire's tax caused county revenues to drop 82 percent.
Montgomery lost $4.6 billion in taxable income from tax years 2007 to 2008. More than 82 percent of that drop comes from taxpayers with incomes of $1 million or more, county records show.

County data show that 216 millionaires who filed taxes for 2007 did not file with the state for 2008, compared with an average of 119 in previous years. While some of those not filing may have died or decided not to file a tax return, county officials said there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that Maryland's millionaires moved to more tax-friendly states.

"It's pretty clear that people did take their income someplace else," said Tim Firestine, chief administrative officer, noting that the loss of just a handful of millionaires has a disproportionate effect on the county's revenues.
Now let's do a little math, 82 percent of $4.6 billion in lost revenue is $3.772 billion which when divided by 216 millionaires comes to $17.4 million lost per millionaire. That is from a tax increase of 1.25 percent. Of course, not all the money lost is attributable just to the millionaires themselves, but also factors in things like the services they provided and bought, the capital gains that they earned, business taxes they may have generated etc. But that is a massive revenue hit.

Keep in mind that if you tax millionaires more than they already pay, they have the means and motivation to:

1. Find ways to avoid taxes--tax avoidance is legal, tax evasion is not--by sending the money off shore or putting into to tax sheltered programs; or

2. Simply up and move to a tax friendly state; or

3. Simply not make as much money--they have the funds to wait the government out.

I am sure all of these things happened.

So Mr. President--are you looking at what has happened in your own back yard when you tax the wealthy more to subsidize your income redistributionist policies--you get way less revenue.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Lady Justice's Blindfold

Jonah Goldberg discusses the problems with asking judges to be empathetic or to look at the litigants when making a determination on a case as our current President seems to believe proper.
In a country this vast, diverse and dynamic, any judicial conception of the little guy is bound to confuse more than it clarifies.

For instance, liberals who like Stevens' rulings insist he understands the plight of the downtrodden, despite the fact that the nearly 90-year-old justice was born rich and has served on the court for almost 35 years, becoming more liberal as he has become more distant from life as lived by the little guys.

Meanwhile, Clarence Thomas was born dirt poor and black in rural Georgia and spends his vacations exploring America in an RV. But those same liberals insist he doesn't understand poverty and race the way Stevens does. How do they know? Because they don't like his rulings.

In other words, the empathy-for-the-little-guy standard is simply a Trojan horse for an approach just as abstract as any endorsed by the right. In fact, I would say it's more abstract because at least there's a text conservatives invoke -- the Constitution -- rather than the indefinable feeling of "empathy."

Unless the plight of every gay, black, poor, old or disabled American is the same, then coming into court favoring a specific category of human being is nothing more than state-sanctioned prejudice.

The benefit of the ideal of impartial justice is that it provides a standard by which judges aren't asked to rule by prejudice. We'll never fully get there, but I don't think we should stop trying.
As a lawyer, I have sympathy for the little guy, but just because he is a little guy doesn't necessarily make him right in the legal arena. If a little guy breaches a contract or committs a tort or otherwise runs afoul of the law, does it matter if he is black or latino or white? Does it matter if he is gay, straight, bisexual or asexual? The answer is no because that is not what courts are about.

I recently saw a movie called Flash of Genius, starring Greg Kinnear as Dr. Robert Kearns, Ph.D., the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper. Kearns, representing himself, sued Ford, GM and Chrysler and won for patent infringement. That is what the courts are about, the ability for the little guy to take on the biggest corporations in America and win. Most cases are nowhere near that big, but the courts are the great leveler where everyone who comes to the court is on the same plane, the same level. We as a society should no more elevate certain classes of citizens in the eyes of the law or a judge just because they are a minority as we would not elevate one company over another.

When we start handing out advantages in the courts to certain litigants because of their race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, we open the courts to the very kinds of political meddling the Framers sought to isolate the courts from.

US Soccer Daily: A First Stab at the Preliminary 30

US Soccer Daily has first stab at a preliminary 30 man roster for the World Cup: Goalkeepers (4): Tim Howard (Everton), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Troy Perkins (DC United). There is not much surprise here. Yes, Perkins has a Goals Against Average of 3.0 so far with DC, but the back line in front of him is playing like crap. In reality, Perkins may be called into camp but won't be on the plane to South Africa--Hahnemann is playing too well right now. Short of Brad Freidel announcing he will come out of international retirement it will be Howard, Guzan and Hahnemann. Possible fringe candidates would be Matt Pickens (Colorado Rapids) and maybe Jon Busch.

Defenders (9): Jonathan Spector (West Ham), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Carlos Bocanegra (Stade Rennes), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew). Gooch remains a health question mark, but I think he will be going to South Africa. Otherwise I think this will be the list. Of this list, I think Marshall may be the biggest question mark. Of young American backs playing right now, Omar Gonzalez has made the best case for consideration--he has been strong, solid and dependable for Bruce Arena's L.A. Galaxy, but with a big list of centerbacks available, Gonzalez is a remote longshot. One other possible L.A. Galaxy defender would be Sean Franklin. Franklin usually plays right back but has been getting forward for the Galaxy.

Midfielders (11): Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro), DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Michael Bradley (Borussia Monchengladbach), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Ricardo Clark (Frankfurt), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake). Stuart Holden's leg injury is the only concern on this list. The remaining problem that we are looking at is the lack of a playmaker. I know that Bob Bradley plays a bucket 4-4-2 with lots of emphasis on wing play by Donovan and Dempsey, but I am not sure that throwing a curveball at opponents with a good playmaker in the middle might drive opponents nuts. If Bradley were to put Edu into a solid holding role and let Donovan do the playmaking, you might see something different. But now might not be the time that Bradley will experiment with something new.

Forwards (6): Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Charlie Davies (Sochaux), Jozy Altidore (Hull City), Herculez Gomez (Puebla), Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy). At this time last year, the biggest question mark for the U.S. was left back, now the biggest question mark is who else is going to play striker with Jozy Altidore. Ching will probably be healthy and will likely go and he does things that Bob Bradley likes, holds the ball up well, gets others involved in the play and is a danger on set pieces. Casey's first touch is crap so he doesn't hold well and doesn't make the runs off the ball that Bradley needs to open holes for Donovan and Dempsey. A Davies/Altidore pairing would be ideal as they both have pace, strength, movement and can operate together or separately enough to make opponents back lines worry. But given that both Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey can play up top, Bradley may only take three strikers and if Ching is healthy, Casey won't need his passport. But Gomez has been on fire in a tough league, is fully match fit, is completely on fire (and confidence is important) and provides some of the things that Davies does (only with a little less pace and strength). The problem with both Gomez and Buddle is that they would be so new to the mix that it could create as many problems as it solves. Both Ching and Casey are known quantities on the international level. The funny thing is after MLS opening weekend, someone asked if Buddle would be considered, I said only if he were scoring a hat trick every week. But Buddle has scored all five Galaxy goals this season and is doing that thing that all strikers need to do--get into a position to score. With a 1.67 goals per game average and several chances above that, Buddle is making a case. In the end though, it may be for naught, but you never know.

Terry Vaughn was right on Moreno goal 04/14/2010

SoccerAmerica's Paul Garner talks about the Jaime Moreno goal against Philly on Saturday.

I have to admit the Moreno goal causes me a little conflict. As DC United fan, I am glad that he scored, but as a referee I am torn. Should a player be able to stalk a goalkeeper and wait until the keeper "releases" the ball to then poach a goal.

Here is the problem, U.S.S.F. has already indicated that Vaughn was wrong to allow the goal. But Gardner makes a good case for why the referee "experts" are wrong. Since I referee youth games, I will likely take the U.S. Soccer position since I need to protect the safety of younger players, but on a professional level, I have to side with Gardner on this one. Philly keeper Seitz dropped the ball and Moreno waited until the ball hit the ground before snagging it away. If Moreno had knocked the ball away while it was in the air after Seitz dropped it to punt, then maybe it would have been a foul. This is one of the gray areas that tend to crop up and I think for MLS, it should be allowed if the ball has touched the ground. Professional keepers need to keep control of the ball or move away from attacking players before putting the ball back into play.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Political Correctness Trumps Public Health

In Great Britain, the National Health Services issued rules in 2007 designed to halt the spread of superbugs, like MRSA, that compromise patient safety. The rules, required, among other things, that staff members keep their arms bare below the elbow. Now the NHS has recently modified the rules to permit Muslim women, concerned about their modesty, to wear long sleeves or disposable sleeves. Other modifications allow Sikhs to wear religious bracelets and bangles so long as they are pushed up above the elbow.

How are these rules helping patients? Isn't that the role of the NHS to ensure standards of care the protect patients?

I am all for religious tolerance in dress and other matters, but seriously, when it comes to public health and patient safety, the 2007 rules made sense. Scrubbing bare skin between seeing patients is a health matter and I refuse to believe that it is more important for Muslim women to remain fully clothed than it is for the sick to receive the best, safest, most effective care possible.

Stating the Obvious

Rich Lowry does so, but eloquently:
Nearly everyone understands that his taxes just went up.

President Obama won't admit it, although he must suffer from a guilty conscience. He uncorked a defensive 17-minute-long answer in response to a question at a town-hall meeting about new taxes in the health-care bill, complaining about a lot of misinformation" without citing any.

In his cascade of words, Obama didn't get around to mentioning the $500 billion in new taxes during the first 10 years of the health bill. And they're merely a prelude.

It doesn't take an economist to understand what public debt at Greece-like levels of 90 percent of GDP by 2020 inevitably portends. Nor to realize the effects of the yawning disconnect between federal spending at 24 percent of GDP and revenue at 19 percent of GDP. Nor to understand the most basic of all budgetary concepts -- that the bill, after the fizzy party, after all the huzzahs over "making history," always comes due, and with interest.
There are more than a few people who may understand that their taxes just went up but don't give a toss yet.

But it is obvious that our government is not living within its means and therefore, it must generate more revenue or cut spending. Since the latter is apparently off the table for this Administration--the former will happen--it is only a matter of time.

Finally, A Governor Who Calls It Like It Is to Teacher's Unions

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) has had it and he is not afraid to let everyone know it. Elected last year, Christie has spent the early part of his first six months fighting a budget battle of enormous proportions. The state has a budget deficit of $10.7 billion on a budget of $29.3. In math terms, the New Jersey deficit is 36.5% of the budget.

Like most states, New Jersey spends the most on education and health care, but faces massive unfunded pension liabilities and has been the victim of poor fiscal management and over taxation to pay for that bad fiscal management. Christie, a father of young children, is telling it like it is and talking to the citizens of New Jersey in a frank and open manner. Christie is a breath of fresh air in Trenton and I hope a harbinger of things to come in many state capitals--including my own of Annapolis.

But one thing I like about Christie is that he isn't taking some of the rhetoric of special interests (on either side of the aisle) lying down. For example, like most other states, with education such a massive expenditure for the states, the state teacher's union usually has a great deal of clout in state politics. Almost as sure as the sun rising in the east, teacher's unions will ask for pay increases, essentially free health care, massive guaranteed, defined-benefit pension plans paid for by the taxpayers and other perks. And as sure as that same solar rising, the teacher's union rhetoric will say "its for the kids!" Unlike a lot of his peers, Governor Christie is calling "B.S." on that statement. His reply, collected by William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal, was:
"The real question is, who's for the kids, and who's for their raises? This isn't about the kids. Let's dispense with that portion of the argument. Don't let them tell you that ever again while they are reaching into your pockets."
Governor Christie's proposal is that the teachers take a one (1) year pay freeze and start contributing to their own health care (just like every other private sector employer). You would think Governor Christie was asking the teacher's union to pay a year's salary to the state, the howling and hollering could be heard in Maryland.

In reality, I don't mind the teacher's union lobbying for more pay--in essence that is what the union is for. But I absolutely hate with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns the argument that paying more money to teachers is about the kids. Such a statement is the biggest political lie on the state level that seems to never get called. Everyone assumes and accepts that the teacher's union cares about the kids because well, "they are teachers, right." Well yes, they are teachers, but that doesn't mean that union leadership can't be as full of B.S. as the next lobbyist.

Governor Christie has called B.S. on the teacher's union and with New Jersey in the state that it is in, Christie has laid down the marker. Governor Christie has told the citizens of New Jersey that they have been fooled by a siren's song while the siren has been picking their pocket for decades. Well, at least Governor Christie has put candle wax into his ears and won't be lulled onto the fiscal rocks by the teacher's union song any longer. I hope he turns New Jersey around, because we could use a guy like Governor Christie in the White House in a few years.

Adieu, Justice Stevens

Thomas Sowell pulls no punches when examining the jurisprudence of retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Sowell, who is no fan of Stevens to be sure, unleashes his scorn on Stevens by focusing largely on the Kelo decision:
Justice Stevens was on the High Court for 35 years-- more's the pity, or the disgrace. Justice Stevens voted to sustain racial quotas, created "rights" out of thin air for terrorists, and took away American citizens' rights to their own homes in the infamous "Kelo" decision of 2005.

The Constitution of the United States says that the government must pay "just compensation" for seizing a citizen's private property for "public use." In other words, if the government has to build a reservoir or bridge, and your property is in the way, they can take that property, provided that they pay you its value.

What has happened over the years, however, is that judges have eroded this protection and expanded the government's power-- as they have in other issues. This trend reached its logical extreme in the Supreme Court case of Kelo v. City of New London. This case involved local government officials seizing homes and businesses-- not for "public use" as the Constitution specified, but to turn this private property over to other private parties, to build more upscale facilities that would bring in more tax revenues.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the Supreme Court opinion that expanded the Constitution's authorization of seizing private property for "public use" to seizing private property for a "public purpose." And who would define what a "public purpose" is? Basically, those who were doing the seizing. As Justice Stevens put it, the government authorities' assessment of a proper "public purpose" was entitled to "great respect" by the courts.

Let's go back to square one. Just who was this provision of the Constitution supposed to restrict? Answer: government officials. And to whom would Justice Stevens defer: government officials. Why would those who wrote the Constitution waste good ink putting that protection in there, if not to protect citizens from the very government officials to whom Justice Stevens deferred?
The problem of course is that with Justice Steven's riding into the sunset this summer, we are likely to get someone on the Court who is as bad, if not worse, than Stevens' deference to government. But in reality--does it really matter. Swapping one liberal for another liberal--even if more liberal than Stevens--is not going to matter a great deal.

The Court is facing significant battles in the next few years and with the current balance, the future of the Court's rulings ride more on Justice Kennedy than on Justice Stevens. It is Justice Kennedy's replacement that will be key to the Court so if I were the GOP, I would put up a minor fight just to make the point of the nominee's liberal credentials but not make a major debacle of fighting a battle whose result is largely pre-ordained.

What Next from Obama

Chicago Tribune's Dennis Byrne has this:
Where will they strike next?

Now that we've been flattened with the crushing weight of what Democrats imagine is health care reform, what additional burdens will follow? Some say it'll be "comprehensive" (there's that word again) immigration reform, providing a "path" for millions of expatriates here illegally to be rewarded with citizenship.

But you've got to be careful when trying to figure out the direction of the next Democratic blitz. The Democrats are likely to surprise you by suddenly veering off in a different direction, or sneaking in the unexpected. Like they did with the federal takeover of the student loan program while we were distracted by the sizzling health care debate. While similarly distracted, they also zapped us with another exorbitant "stimulus" package of "investments" in roads, bridges, "clean energy" and whatnot. What have I forgotten? Oh, yes, Race to the Top, another futile showering of public schools with billions in a continuing campaign to concentrate education powers in Washington.

It's as if liberals had been waiting for years for their chance to launch this frenzy, and now with a gigantic, satisfying belch, they have issued forth every invention, concoction or scheme they've been unable to launch since President Lyndon B. Johnson. I guess they figure this is their one chance in a generation of getting them all enacted, and in that, they'd be right.
Unemployment and jobs--that legislation is not doing so well. All that other crap the Byrne lists is done so what is next?

The Value Added Tax (VAT). Now for those of you who don't know what this is, check out this primer at wikipedia. Now, one of the items missing from that primer is how does a country calculate "value added?" The problem of course is that determining a VAT at any stage is largely a political exercise not an accounting one. For example, you can be sure that calculation of VAT on gasoline will be stricter than calculation of say bio-diesel or ethanol, despite the fact that the latter processing is more expensive and thus more "value" put into the final product than refining of oil in to gasoline.

Of course, if the government can figure out a way to calculate a VAT without so much overtly political decisions, perhaps we can talk about it as a substitute. I don't necessarily mind a VAT if I don't have to pay VAT on top of my income taxes and sales taxes and business taxes. So if VAT is a substitute for income taxes, fine, but if it is in addition to income taxes, in the paraphrased words of Jim Lovell, "Washington, we have a problem."

Of course, consideration of a VAT is almost inevitable. Our current political leadership seems to think we should be more like Europe and most of the European Union have a VAT--which has been crushing economic growth for decades. Do you think the Danes or the Swedes or even Italians like to pay 30 Euros for a pizza? That is what it costs for a take out pizza because of the VAT. But after Obama and the Democrats in Congress have passed all that crap that is costing trillions of dollars, they have to find a way to pay for it without bankrupting the country or causing run-away inflation by simply printing more money. Hence the VAT.

If healthcare was a major battle, Republicans and independents and pro-growth Democrats in this country need to dig in like the 101st Airborne around Bastogne because that is the battle now.

Friday, April 09, 2010

At least I am not alone...

From Fox News:
A majority of voters think life for the next generation of Americans will be worse than life today, according to a Fox News poll released Friday.

The poll also finds that three-quarters of voters think the United States is weaker today than it was 10 years ago. Moreover, almost all consider the current economic and unemployment conditions a “crisis.”
Interesting, less than 1 in three Democrats thing the country is stronger. Not a good sign for the Obama Administration.

Read more:

Nice--NJ Teacher's Union Hints at Governor's Death

NJ Governor Chris Christie has been getting tough with public sector unions in his effort to reduce the NJ budget deficit. Apparently some teachers' unions don't like Christie's efforts all that much:
The Record of Bergen County obtained the Bergen County Education Association memo that includes a closing prayer:

“Dear Lord this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor.”
Yeah, these people need to be reined in a great deal.

Read more:

Rep. Stupak to Retire

Michigan Democratic Representative Bart Stupak is set to announce his retirement today. According to Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes:
Sources familiar with Stupak's thinking describe him as burned out from the long fight over health care in which he emerged as the leading voice of pro-life Democrats wary about the possibility that the legislation would allow federal funds to be spent on abortions.
Sorry, it is not exhaustion alone (although admittedly that could be part of it), but the fact is that Stupak's swing district (Obama won it with 50% of the vote in 2008, but Bush won the district in 2000 and 2004) was likely going to hammer him for his switch on the health care vote. After repeatedly saying he wouldn't vote for a bill that included funding for abortion, Stupak was "bought" off with a promise from the President in the form of an executive order that is barely worth the paper it is written on.

Stupak had to retire or he was going to lose and lose big.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Joblessness Hitting Records

The Obama Administration is facing a critical junction in the economy--joblessness is reaching some record levels. No, unemployment as a whole is not over 10% but there are other real problems as noted by Daniel Henninger:
Unemployment today doesn't look like any unemployment in the recent American experience. We have the astonishing and dispiriting new reality that the "long-term jobless"—people out of work more than six months (27 weeks)—was about 44% of all people unemployed in February. A year ago that number was 24.6%
Each month we hear from the Administration that we are turning a corner, that jobless claims are going down or holding steady. But when nearly twice as many people this year have been unemployed for six months as this time last year, it is hard to say that a recovery is on the way.

But remember all those young voters that reportedly helped carry Obama to victory--well they are getting screwed even worse:
But the aspect of this mess I find more disturbing is the numbers around what economists call "youth unemployment." The U.S. unemployment rate for workers under 25 years old is about 20%.


In the final month of 2009, these were European unemployment rates for people under 25: Belgium, 22.6; Spain, 44.5; France, 25.2; Italy, 26.2; the U.K., 19; Sweden, 26.9; Finland, 23.5.
If the President wants us to be more like Europe, he certainly seems to be on the path--not only for the "good" that he sees in cradle to grave government health care, but also the "bad" of massive unemployment among young people. Young people are the most energetic, the most passionate, and now the most unlikely group to have a job---even after college. So where are the new jobs going to come from? If Obama has his way--from public sector jobs. But public sector jobs or make work jobs like the Roosevelt era CCC, does not bring about economic growth. So where else are jobs to come from? Remember President Obama said that job creation would be a priority for his Administration this year but there doesn't seem to be many ideas coming from the White House.
The only new-jobs idea the philosopher kings around Mr. Obama have had is the "green economy." No doubt it will create some jobs. But an idea so dependent on subsidy economics is not going to deliver strong-form employment for the best, brightest or willing and able in the next American generation. The path we're on is toward a flatter, gentler U.S. economy.

This is not the way forward to the next version of an American economy that once created Microsoft, Intel, MCI, Oracle, Google or even Twitter. The United States needs tremendous economic forces to lift its huge work force. Since 1990, roughly 80 million Americans have been born. They can't all be organic farmers or write scripts for "30 Rock."

Many upscale American parents somehow think jobs like their own are part of the nation's natural order. They are not. In Europe, they have already discovered that, and many there have accepted the new small-growth, small-jobs reality. Will we?
For those who are unemployed for six months--they might take any job right now and that will start us down the path of small-growth, small-jobs recovery. Such a resignation will make us more like Europe and less like the nation we were under Presidents Reagan and Clinton when our economic engine was running smoothly and strongly. Now that we have hit a rough patch, it is not the time to abandon the idea that we are a great capitalist nation and become like Europe, a soft, comfortable but unimpressive society in which risk are not taken because they are not rewarded.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Charlie Davies Video Tribute

Gives me goosebumps. Hard to imagine how far he has come in a little less than 6 months.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Barone on Younger Voters

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama won the White House with a great deal of help from young voters, who went 66 percent for the President. That was not completely the basis for his winning margin nationwide, but young voters helped Obama win in crucial states.

The thought was that a "cool, hip" Obama would bring "Hope and Change" to the younger generation, many of whom were disenchanted (and rightfully so) with the political status quo. Now, the attitude of young voters may be changing. As Barone discusses: I
t seems that some young Obama voters have decided it isn't. The Pew Research Center's poll of the millennial generation, which voted 66 percent to 32 percent for Obama in 2008, found that they identify with Democrats over Republicans by only a 54 to 40 percent margin this year.
While Barone's stats do not necessarily equate, the fact that the split is much less than in the past among young voters is indicative that young people are starting to realize that a centralized government making decisions and saddling them with trillions of dollars of debt to fund entitlements that are not for young people is not good for them at all.
Perhaps they are coming to realize that the burdens the Obama policies are placing on the private sector economy are reducing their choices for the future. The stimulus package, Obamacare, higher taxes (when the health care plan kicks in and when the George W. Bush cuts for high earners expire), new environmental restrictions -- they're all job-killers and help to explain why a recovering economy isn't producing many new jobs. Unemployment has been at 10 percent, rounded off, for six months now. Even Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says it's not going to decline a lot any time soon.

We've had such an economy before, in the second half of the 1930s, and Americans didn't much like it. And not just because they weren't making enough money. Because in such an economy it's much harder to find satisfying work, work that can give you a sense of what American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, in his forthcoming book "The Battle," calls "earned success."
Let's assume for a moment that the millennial generation all care deeply about making the world a better place (a large assumption to be sure), young people are not all going to get jobs with the government to do that kind of work and young people are realizing that private sector, non-profit work tends to have a greater cumulative impact than anything the government can do. As Barone explains:
The economy we have now doesn't do that. The programs of the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership will increase government's share of the economy and will tend to choke off private sector economic growth. We've already lost 8 million private-sector jobs but no public sector jobs. We'll probably create more public-sector jobs

Yes, many public-sector jobs provide a real service to society and a sense of earned success. But too many don't. Civil service rules, brittle organizational structures and public employee union contracts tend to stifle innovation and deter creativity.

For the ultimate example, see Steven Brill's New Yorker article on the "rubber room" -- where incompetent New York City teachers spend the day in an office, doing nothing but collecting $80,000 a year during a multiyear litigation process. People in the rubber room are making money, but they're not earning success. They're not doing anything that helps anyone else.

Democrats argue that their policies transfer money down the income scale and provide a safety net for individuals. But a nation with an ever-larger public sector and an inhibited-growth private sector is a nation with fewer openings for people who want work that will benefit others. Fewer opportunities for young people who want to choose their future, just as they choose their iPod playlists and Facebook friends. Fewer opportunities for people to choose their future. Change, maybe, but not much hope.
A top down economy rarely helps anyone, let alone those most unfortunate. At best the unfortunate suffer along a little better off than they were, but far less better off than they can become. Young voters are not stupid and the dupe machine can last for only so long. Obama may have been hoping to keep the con going until after 2012, but it looks like it will have died far before the 2010 midterms.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Perry: Obama's health care plan is a disaster

Perry: Obama's health care plan is a disaster

Posted using ShareThis

"All roads lead back to organized labor”

Less than two weeks after passing a law that will massive increase the role of the federal government in our lives, the Obama Administration is looking for ways to limit the size of the federal government contractor business. Despite the fact that it costs 1/3 less to hire a contractor than having a government worker perform many, many functions, the Obama Administration is looking to cut the number of government contractors by reclassifying many jobs as essential government functions.

Now, of course there are functions that are inherently government functions, but by reclassifying thousands of jobs the Obama Administration will effectively increase the size of the federal government and the tax burden necessary to support that increased government. Remember, it costs about 1/3 more to pay a government worker because the federal government also provides not only a salary, but a high-end, Cadillac health plan, retirement plan and pensions.

Why you might ask, well, see the quote in the title: It is about increasing the power of the public sector unions--the only sector of union membership that is growing.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

President Obama: Promises Made and Promises Broken

National Review Online's Jim Geraghty is fond of saying "All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date." And Geraghty backs up that statement with this lengthy post. It is not that politicians don't regularly make promises that they don't keep, they do, and I am willing to call out any Republican who does the same thing.

But the length of the list that you see has to be taken with the thought that President Obama has been in office for just over 14 months!!!.

The Obama Tax Pledge

Here is the promise: So what will be the defense? President Obama will say, it is not my plan that was passed. Also, I didn't actually raise taxes, I just let the Bush tax cuts sunset.

So the question would be why did he sign it and why will history put his name on it?

Teen Commits Suicide and 9 of Her Classmates are Charged with Odd Felonies

Ann Althouse has the story and commentary. After reading the story, as tragic as it is for the deceased's family, I am wondering how a prosecutor can get away with some of the charges leveled against the classmates.

To be sure, the classmates sound like bullies of the worst class and there are certainly some misdemeanors and possibly some felonies that could be charged, but felony school disturbance? Seriously?

Yes, throw the book at the classmates, but make sure it is a law book, not a fiction book.

The Return of the HUAC

During the Red Scare of the 1950's one of the most feared pieces of paper one could get was a subpoena to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee or before Sen. Joe McCarthy. One witness queried of Sen. McCarthy, "have you no shame sir?"

Well, could a 21st century version of HUAC be on the horizon, or actually here. There have been stories lately discussing how big corporations are reacting to the health care bill by noting to their shareholders in SEC filings that the bill will required significant charges to their bottom line, for AT&T as much as $1 billion. Well, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), is channeling Sen. Joe McCarthy by calling to testify the leaders of some of these big companies:
That the legislation would negatively affect the earnings of these corporations and potentially hamper their ability to provide healthcare is for Rep. Waxman “a matter of concern,” as the “new law is designed to expand coverage and bring down costs.”

But I wonder, for whom are the negative effects of this legislation really a concern? For Rep. Waxman and his fellow Democrats who already forced the egregious bill on the public? For the private enterprises pummeled seemingly on a daily basis by these same politicians? Perhaps for the American people faced with all kinds of economy-crippling unintended consequences as a result of the legislation, on top of the higher costs and worse healthcare they will ultimately receive?

Is it in response to the criticism of the bill or out of the selfless devotion to public service of Rep. Waxman (he who never read his own cap-and-tax bill) that he has the gall to call individuals critical of the healthcare albatross to personally testify in front of members of his House Committee? It sure seems like the former when he is challenging the executives simply because their prognoses happen to differ from those of the almighty independent CBO.

Even more shocking is the fact that companies are being asked to provide records such as proprietary analyses on projected health care costs and “any documents including email messages, sent to or prepared or reviewed by senior company officials related to the projected impact of health care reform,” for the hearing. As York asserts, “The executives will undoubtedly view such documents as confidential, but if they fail to give Waxman everything he wants, they run the risk of subpoenas and threats from the chairman. And all as punishment for making a business decision in light of a new tax situation.” That Waxman is requesting internal emails related to the financial decisions of these companies should send a chill down our collective spine.

The threat to free speech and private enterprise represented by this hearing fits in well with the increasingly authoritarian atmosphere emanating from Washington, replete with the abrogation of contracts, bailout of businesses, levy of arbitrary taxes on bonuses, takeover of large swaths of private industry and the populist attack on commerce in general.
That's right, Waxman is looking at inernal documents of companies who think that the health care bill will cost them significant sums of money.

Oh, there is also the irony that SEC rules (which are overseen to a certain extent by the Energy and Commerce Committee) actually required the company's make these estimates in order for investors to have a clearer understanding of the value of the company. Ironic that they are now going to get hauled before Congress to testify about their disclosures that are required by Congress.