Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Sonia Sotomayor is Obama's nominee to replace Justice Souter. The opportune announcement allows us a little more insight into what Obama values and gives us the chance to focus in on Sotomayor's views. Obama claims he was looking for empathy in his nominee. He seems more interested in her life story than in what she stands for as a judge. In my opinion, she has three glaring strikes against her. Didden v. Village of Port Chester, Doninger v. Niehoff and Ricci v. DeStefano.
In Didden v. Village of Port Chester the Second Circuit addressed the case of a taking of property by the village of Port Chester. Didden owed a parcel of property in a redevelopment district which was overseen by Wasser. When Didden requested permission to develop his property as a CVS pharmacy, Wasser demanded $800,000 or a partnership interest or he would condemn the property and take if for the village. When Didden did not meet these demands, the village did take the property and built a Walgreens. The Second Circuit upheld the taking. This expansive view of the government's right to take private property puts even Kelo to shame.
Doninger v. Niehoff dealt with a student's First Amendment rights. Doninger was running for student council when she objected to the school administration's cancellation of "Jamfest" calling the administrators "douchebags" on her livejournal. The school refused to let her run for student council based on her comments and ignored write in votes she received. The Second Circuit ignored the First Amendment implications and felt that the administrators were correct to punish private speech. This speech was made outside of school, but that mattered little.
Finally, Ricci v. DeStefano Sotomayor joined in an unsigned opinion that upheld the lower court's ruling without touching on the constitutional issues raised by the case. Frank Ricci and several other firefighters filed suit after the New Haven fire department refused to certify the results of an exam because no African Americans had passed to be promoted. The Second Circuit upheld what amounts to reverse discrimination.
Sonia Sotomayor may have an admirable past. She may have the right background in Obama's eyes, but from the decision she's supported, she clearly is no defender of the Constitution. She's an activist with an agenda and anyone who believes in property right, free speech or opposes discrimination should be concerned about Sotomayor's nomination.
Monday, May 25, 2009
The South Park gnomes teach us about Obama's policies. There is a lot of idealism in Obama's policies. Here and there he has made a decision that veered away from his campaign promises (for example, not releasing interrogation pics), which seemed to be based on having his eyes opened on the job. For the most part though, he has stuck with his naive "diplomacy cures all" approach to the Middle East and "apologies cure all" approach to Europe. I think this has worked, and will continue to work to his detriment.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Yes, folks, fear not. Mark Mallory is on duty. Somewhere else. Uh, I think in Vegas?! Well, anyway, he's still on top of things even when he's in Japan or wherever and he's eager to let us know that we needn't worry about that budget crisis. Nah, it's all cool. Is it time for Cirque de Soleil yet?
The call for universal healthcare has grown louder over the past few years. We constantly hear from the President and the Democratic majority that we can’t fix the economy until we fix healthcare. Now come the commercials preaching the same message. Is healthcare broken? Is the only solution to march down the path to socialized medicine?
Obama and the Democrats are rubbing their hands together and hatching their plans to “fix” healthcare. The ultimate goal being universal coverage, we can guess what some of those plans may be by looking at Obama’s campaign promises. Imagine a Medicare-like government program for those who don’t qualify for the newly expanded SCHIP program, but who are dissatisfied with their current insurance or who have none available. Medicare is currently a growing nightmare, with increasing costs and recent estimates showing its bankruptcy looming closer than expected. How would a new government program control costs where Medicare has failed? Rationing. Medicare has already seen the light and started down this path, refusing to cover new technology for less invasive colonoscopies currently being covered by many private insurers. This is just the start of the restrictions that people will have to face on their new universal coverage. Prescriptions drugs with be assessed for cost and efficacy. Procedures will be weighed by your age, potential for survival, etc. The United States currently has the highest cancer survival rate in the world. We may be sacrificing that too in the name of universal coverage. Michael Moore may think he’s willing to wait for access to doctors in the name of “fairness,” but is he willing to wait 19 months for bypass surgery? Knee replacement? A tumor biopsy?
Conservatives have been accused of finding fault with the Democrats’ plans, but offering no solutions themselves. This is not true. The love affair with European-style socialism has blinded people to smaller, more practical solutions that have been offered. First, tax breaks are key to making insurance affordable and portable. McCain offered the idea of replacing the tax benefit of employer-provided coverage with a tax credit for individuals and families. Removing the employer/insurance link that limits the portability of insurance is important and often misunderstood.
Another good idea that has been put forth is removing regulations that limit individual insurance policies sales. For example, living in Ohio, I can’t shop around for a cheaper policy designed in Oregon or Utah. If your state regulates insurance policies heavily and these barriers are removed, you can expand your choices and be responsible for your own coverage choice.
Obviously, innovation would help lower costs. I believe liberals and conservatives can both agree on that. Improved technology prevents duplicative testing and procedures and also reduces errors.
Finally, part of the reason that insurance is so costly is that it is so abused. Why do we run to insurance to cover day to day costs from routine doctor’s visits to antibiotics? Why is health insurance so different from car insurance or homeowner’s insurance. Paying for routine visits and having insurance for crisis or prolonged illness would put less strain on the system. Encouraging healthy people to opt for higher deductible insurance policies would reduce the drain on insurers and help curb rising premiums.
Universal coverage is a beautiful idea, but is America really ready for what it truly brings: rationing, wait lists, limited selection of doctors and little control over your own healthcare decisions? And we haven’t even mentioned how Obama plans to pay for it. Conservatives need to start screaming from the rooftops that universal coverage isn’t free and it won’t just harm our wallets, it will harm those we love the most.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Obama has certainly made his position clear on the issue of taxing the rich. A modern day Robin Hood, he sees it as fair to redistribute wealth. You tax the rich as much as you can and give that to the poor and magic happens and we are all equal, socialism abounds and peace reigns. Right.
What I fail to grasp about the revival of socialism v.2.0 is why this dead philosophy keeps being resurrected. How can something fail repeatedly and still be considered viable? The poor don't get richer. The rich just get poorer as they are taxed more and more to sustain the burden of carrying numerous social programs that, in the end, don't elevate the poor. The poor continue to stagnate, dependent on the social programs that the government doles out. They are also dependent on the government and will continue to vote themselves more and more benefits, thinking that maybe more will be better, more will bring wealth. I believe we will reach the tipping point soon, when those who don't pay taxes outnumber those who do. When you have that majority, how do you convince people to give up the dole? How do conservatives ever get a foothold again when liberals are passing out all the goodies?
What can people do if things keep going down this path? When states raise taxes, the rich can call "Two Men and a Truck" and move on to greener pastures with lower taxes. If they can't outrun the taxes because it's the fed that comes a calling, they may just go Galt. After the election there were numerous articles interviewing people who intended to reduce their incomes in protest of unfair taxation. If you cant soak the rich, they'll have to move on to the middle class, which I think will open people's eyes as to the unsustainable nature of entitlements. How happy will people be to pay 50% of their income to receive less competent medical care? When cancer survival rates start to match those of Europe, will it be enough comfort to know that we are all receiving the same reduced care? When will we realize that equal isn't always an admirable goal, if equal means we all suffer.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
(photo Associated Press)
the more they stay the same. I think Arlen Specter has learned a valuable lesson. He learned that calling himself a Democrat hasn't improved his ability to negotiate a compromise on the Employee Free Choice Act or Card Check. I just have to wonder how long it will be before Specter caves and just votes for the bill as is and solidifies the grip of the unions in this country? Card Check ends the right to a private ballot. This enables union organizers, who certainly have an interest in the outcome of any vote as they collect a percentage of employees' income in dues, to more directly coerce or threaten employees. Union organizers can visit employees homes and could refuse to leave until a card is signed, not to mention the possibility of fraudulent signatures. Card Check also requires binding arbitration if the parties fail to agree on an initial union contract. Arbitration isn't a discussion or a chance to reach a compromise. The decision of the arbitrator if final and imposes a contract on both parties for two years. This destroys the right of employees to bargain with their employer. It just slaps a contact in place and both parties have to live with the results.
The unions tout this bill as necessary to save the middle class. They claim that the corporations deny people the right join unions, that they coerce and control their employees. Because unions are so much less coercive? Locally, Ohio's AK Steel employees were out of work for a year. They couldn't get other jobs if they wanted their AK jobs back through the union. People lost their homes because the union organizers stuck to their demands and AK Steel argued that it needed to cut positions and benefits to remain profitable in the current market. If a company starts losing profits due to union demands, does it really benefit the employees for the unions to keep pushing and push the company out of business altogether? How much fault do the unions bear for the problems America's car industry is facing? The economy of this country is changing and union membership is declining. Card check is a thinly veiled attempt to swing the balance back in the union's favor. Card check as it stands replaces the corporate bully that the unions claim controls the system, with the union bully.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
What true sci-fi geek can resist a good Star Trek metaphor? Not this geek. I've got two. First, I was eavesdropping the other day at lunch and some folks were discussing the new Star Trek movie. This will include major spoilers, so beware! They commented that the movie's alteration of the original Star Trek timeline, on which all the series have been based, may upset the traditional Star Trek fans. My thoughts turned to politics. How's that for a one track mind? I thought that the new Star Trek movie represents more moderate Republicans. Traditional old school Star Trek is the hardcore right Republicans. Maybe the traditionalists will hate the new Trek for selling out or watering down the story line, just as some Republicans dislike the more inclusive moderate view that is moving through the Republican Party and wish to reject those who support it. But, new Star Trek seems to appeal to non-Trek fans just as a moderate focus for the Republican party would be more likely to attract Independents. Would traditional Trekkies rather have no new Star Trek movies because they want to stay true to the original series, or would they rather keep the story alive with a modern twist? Would traditional Republicans rather see the party lose national elections rather than welcome those who sit a little closer to the center than to the right?
The second metaphor is borrowed. I certainly think the comparison of Obama to Spock and Bush to Kirk as accurate. There's a reason that Spock was always better as a First Officer or Ambassador and when it came to a crisis, he turned things over to Kirk.
Monday, May 11, 2009
The train wreck that is socialized medicine is speeding towards us and it seems that there is little being done to stop it. It seems Democrats plans to use budget reconciliation, a procedure normally used to reduce spending, to ram healthcare through without meaningful debate. Clinton was tempted to use budget reconciliation to pass Hillarycare, but the story is that Sen. Byrd enlightened him to the fact that it would not be a proper use of the process. Clinton agreed. Hillarycare was also killed, in part, by the strong opposition of the healthcare industry. Doctors, hospitals, insurers voiced their dissent. Where is the dissent this time? It seems that the clamor for "free" healthcare is drowning out the sane voices that are pointing out the pending disaster. Obama paints his plan as a public alternative for those not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurers, and that if you're happy with your current insurance you can keep it. But, when the government competes against the private sector, it will most likely win. Not because it's better, but because government can run at a deficit. Private insurers must be profitable or they go out of business. All government has to do it keep providing enough coverage to keep people happy until the private insurers tank and then they can start rationing and dictating your healthcare because then they'll be no alternative. Governments don't go out of business, they just provide shoddy service and tax you more for it. I regularly hear people comment that they'd pay more taxes if it would provide universal healthcare in this country. Really? How much more? Will 50% of your income be too much? 70%? Every government programs runs inefficiently and costs more and more over time. How many years will we have to live with this mistake before we realize that it's a failure everywhere it's been tried?
Thursday, May 7, 2009
What was all that flack about the torture memos? Why were they even released? First they say there will be no prosecutions and then they hint that maybe there will be? Now they plan to refer the Bush administration's lawyers to their local bar's disciplinary boards for ethical violations? By the way, did you hear that after all that condemnation, Obama's Justice Department is now relying on that same legal analysis in a brief supporting the extradition of John Demjanjuk. The gist of the memos is that torture is defined by intent and if there is no evil motive to cause harm or suffering, it is not torture. Demjanjuk argued that at his advanced age/physical condition extraditing him to Germany and causing him to stand trial would amount to torture. The Justice Department cited the memos to argue that without evil motive, the extradition and trial would not amount to torture. I guess this is what it looks like to have ones cake and eat it too.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
(Photo from the Ronald Reagan Library)
Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic party has added to the growing concerns about the future of the Republican party. While Specter's move was more about self-preservation and less about the nature of the Republican party, the question still must be asked: which way is the party heading, towards tolerant inclusiveness or a purge of those deemed Republicans-in-name-only (RINOs)?
I have identified myself as a conservative, a Libertarian and a Republican. In our current two party system, if you don't fit into the mold of one particular party, you worry that your voice won't be heard. Most people have an issue that is close to their hearts and mine is limited government. I can compromise on many things, but the expansion of government under the Bush administration was something I found frustrating and harmful to conservative ideals. I still voted for Bush in 2004, because I felt Kerry was too weak on national defense. I supported Ron Paul in 2008. I knew there was no chance that he'd get the nomination. I voted for McCain with many trepidations. I am one of the moderates that Olympia Snowe thinks the Republican Party is driving away
The question now is, will the Republican party embrace the moderates or push them away to their own detriment. I have to agree with Rick Moran's article on PJTV that opines that purifying the party is harmful and embracing moderates is the only way the Republican party can survive. A purified party is unified by it's ideals, but too small to garner a majority vote. Purity equals extinction.
Monday, May 4, 2009
The passing of Jack Kemp is an excellent time to reflect on how the Republican party has strayed from it's roots and what we can do to bring focus back to the party. The past eight years have seen Republicans sell out their core values of small government, low taxes, personal responsibility and free markets. Whether it was a sad attempt to pander to voters or just a lack of true conviction, our elected officials lost the confidence of the voters, and justifiably so. It's time that the Republicans remember their roots and stop being a subset of the Democratic Party. We know how this is done. Remember Carter? We are in that place again and we can come out of it again. Where are the new Jack Kemps and Ronald Reagans? They need to start making their voices heard again. Soon.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Very quietly and with little fanfare, the Senate did something right. I'm unsure why Obama didn't push this measure. Perhaps, given time, he came to realize the problems it posed, from increased bankruptcy filings to the plain old disgust felt by people who acted responsibly at the thought of bailing out those who fiddled the summer away.