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Archive for August, 2012
August 31st, 2012 at 11:46 am
GOP Takes on Overcriminalization

I found this post at NRO to be very encouraging (follow the link), in light of all my own writings and speeches on the subject.

August 31st, 2012 at 11:30 am
This Week’s Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Senik:  The Democratic Betrayal of African-American Voters
Ramirez:  Media’s One-Sided Coverage Is Clear Evidence Of Bias
Ellis:  Secret Fed Housing Giveaway Endangers Local Recovery, Safety
Hillyer:  Medicare Case Challenges Bureaucratic Coercion

Freedom Minute Video:  Voices of Democracy: Great Moments from Political Conventions Past
Podcast:  Paul Ryan’s Bipartisan Plan to Save Medicare
Jester’s Courtroom:  Fan Sues for Burned Buns

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

August 31st, 2012 at 11:14 am
Just a C+ for Romney

I haven’t yet read a lot of the pundit reviews of Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech last night, but I gather that most people are giving it solid grades. Unfortunately, I dissent. In ordinary circumstances, I would give it just a ‘C,’ and even considering that Romney’s task was a bit different than that of many nominees… and that he did a pretty good job at meeting the needs involved in those differences (i.e., he needed to, and did, “humanize” himself more than he has done before)… I still give him only a ‘C+’ for the overall effectiveness of his speech in terms of his long-term campaign needs. And I’m one who always has thought of ‘C’ grades not as “decent” but as “pretty bad.”

I thought it was predictable, repetitive, and nowhere near substantive enough.

I won’t go into detail, just because if some Obama researcher is diligent enough to be trolling this site, I don’t want to give him direction as to where I thought the specific weaknesses were.

I did think that he delivered the speech as well as anybody could expect. And I think that for short-term purposes, the speech was more in line with a ‘B’ than a ‘C’ — in other words, that he made an overall good impression. But I don’t think it was an impression that will have major lasting benefit in a way that significantly improves his chances at winning in November. Yes, it sets the stage for incremental gains that actually do survive the rough and tumble of the next two months of campaigning — and incremental might be enough in a race this close — but I was looking for something that undecided and/or persuadable voters could grab hold of and really embrace, in a way that could cause a surge in Romney’s favor. I saw none of that. I expect no big surge. A small swelling of support maybe, but no big surge.

Sorry.

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August 31st, 2012 at 9:49 am
Video – Voices of Democracy: Great Moments from Political Conventions Past
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino looks back and presents some great moments from political conventions past.

August 30th, 2012 at 6:50 pm
More Bad News on Over-Regulation

I missed this two weeks ago, but it’s worth noting. Nancy Nord, commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, had an excellent column in the Aug. 20 Washington Times that detailed the left’s addiction to over-regulation.

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August 30th, 2012 at 5:08 pm
Georgia, Maine Lead the Way on Building Sustainability, Market Fairness and Economic Commonsense

Tree farmers and small business owners have much to celebrate from a recent executive order signed by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, which broadens the eligibility criteria for timber used in state government building projects and maintenance. 
 
The order allows a larger number of wood products from Georgia forests to be utilized in state construction and building projects, protecting jobs in the state’s timber industry and reducing costs for taxpayers by opening the market to products certified by the American Tree Farm System and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), certification programs currently not recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards.
 
By ending USGBC’s LEED monopoly on “green” building wood certification, which effectively governs materials used in the overwhelming majority of public building projects nationwide, Georgia has rightly chosen competition and an open marketplace for forest products over monopolistic control by a non-profit environmental group that increasingly seems driven more by ideology and influence rather than sound science and economic common sense.
 
Recognizing that the “LEED rating system unfairly awards its wood certification credits only to products certified to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)” – the preferred certification program of extreme environmental groups that notoriously ignore the economic and employment impacts of their agendas – Governor Deal’s executive order officially acknowledges that “all forest certifications will equally help promote sustainable forests” and requires that “the design, construction, operation and maintenance of any new or expanded state building shall incorporate ‘Green Building’ standards that give certification credits equally to forest products grown, manufactured, and certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the American Tree Farm System and the Forest Stewardship Council.” [emphasis added]

The order comes at a time when LEED standards are becoming more closely scrutinized by elected officials and land managers.  Governor Paul LePage of Maine issued a similar executive order at the end of last year, and a growing, bipartisan group of elected officials are insisting the USGBC stop showing preference to FSC.   Environmental activist groups favor FSC over other systems, although it is questionable whether an FSC-only approach produces net environmental benefits or costs.  Economic logic and real-world practice suggests that a discriminatory FSC-only policy does hurt in terms of increased prices for consumers and forestry jobs. 

Favoring one standard over others upsets the delicate balance that must take place between sustainability and economic viability.  Georgia and Maine understand as much and have acted accordingly.   More states and the federal government should quickly follow their lead. 

Given the fragile state of the American economy, taking steps to break the LEED/FSC-monopoly will provide relief for taxpayers and landowners nationwide, who will be able to sell their goods in a larger number of markets.

August 30th, 2012 at 4:04 pm
A Great Idea, Economically and Politically

Buried amongst lost emails I just re-accessed was a brilliant column I had missed by a great, young, innovative thinker of my acquaintance, Sean Kennedy. He proposes something called “Home Ownership Savings Accounts.” Read all about it, here.

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August 30th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
Silver Lining in California’s Latest Pension Reform Deal

Here’s one reason to be cautiously optimistic about a pension reform deal announced between California Governor Jerry Brown and state Democratic lawmakers:

California’s public pensions are currently governed by a patchwork of contractual agreements and retirement-system rules. The deal, likely to win approval in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, would bring most of those systems under the same pension standards.

Yes, as critics correctly point out, Brown’s deal with his fellow Democrats is “insufficient to cut billions of dollars in unfunded obligations on governments’ books.”

But the value in Brown’s pension reform deal is that for the first time most of the state’s public employees will be under the same set of pension rules.

This is important for at least two reasons.

First, it makes the pension liability problem more understandable for everyday Californians.  Sure, we all know the state’s unfunded liabilities are huge – around $500 billion according a Stanford study – but what good does knowing that number do if reform opponents can sidetrack reasonable debate by citing a dizzying array of competing pension rules?  By consolidating most public employees under the same standards, citizens can begin to see the pension crisis in a simpler, more straightforward way.

The other potential improvement is related to the first.  Brown’s deal sets the table for a future reformer to make the changes Brown’s critics want now.  No one expects Brown to be that guy, so why not welcome a plan that at least moves the ball in the right direction?

Besides, a pension reform deal like Brown’s that puts most of California’s public employees under the same standards means that a future governor will have that many less obstacles to achieve the cost savings the state needs to get back its golden sheen.

H/T: Governing.com

August 30th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
Shoveling Sh**

Now Barry Obama, that clever Irishman (akin to Obrien, Oflaherty and Ogrady; but please, Chris Matthews, don’t call me an ethnicist for pointing out his heritage, because I never said no Irish need apply), is claiming that he just didn’t explain the stimulus package enough back in 2009:  ”We didn’t have the luxury of six months to explain exactly what we were doing with the Recovery Act, which was basically a jobs act and making-sure-middle-class-families-didn’t-fall-into-poverty act.”

Really? Methinks I remember all sorts of promises about shovel-ready jobs. And methinks he later acknowledged that the stimulus didn’t work as intended, because there was no such thing as “shovel ready.” (Actually, that last link was when he joked that the jobs weren’t shovel-ready; here is where he said there actually is “no such thing.)

Obama had plenty of time to sell us his shovel full of something, and then when we didn’t buy it, he crammed it down our throats. And it wasn’t really about jobs; it was about cronyism and building the power of big government.

August 30th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
On the Shamelessness of Teacher Unions
Posted by Troy Senik Print

I’ve posted here on the blog before about the ongoing fight over Governor Bobby Jindal’s bold education reforms in Louisiana, which have left the Pelican State’s teachers unions incensed. And in my column this week, I discussed the relentless tendency of liberals to rhetorically exploit African-Americans while supporting policies that harm black communities. Yet even though these two trends are not new, I’m still gobsmacked that it has come to this shameful nadir. From the Heritage Foundation’s The Foundry:

A major state-level teachers union accused a group promoting school choice for African-American families of supporting the notorious white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan in a series of statements on Thursday.

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers accused the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) of advancing a “pro-KKK agenda,” in the words of one tweet sent from the union’s official Twitter account. Another claimed that the group “endorses teaching that the KKK is good.”

The BAEO works to “increase access to high-quality educational options for Black children by actively supporting parental choice policies and programs that empower low-income and working-class Black families,” according to its website.

In response to this filth, the head of the BAEO put out a statement reading, in part:

BAEO and its allies fight every single day to give children from low-income families access to the best educational options possible. We fight to overcome the institutional bigotry that has sentenced thousands of black children across the country to a substandard education. It’s a sad day when an organization like the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which says it cares about kids, is among the organizations using degrading, race-baiting tactics to demean the very people who are doing their best to give kids hope.

Unfortunately, we’re well past the point when the teachers unions’ arguments were about the kids. These days, it’s about nothing more than holding on to power. The children are little more than collateral damage.

August 30th, 2012 at 12:24 pm
Reihan Salam Gets Artur Davis Right

Great column by Reihan Salam on how to interpret former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis’ switch to the Republican team.

The simple truth is that as the Obama years wore on, Davis found himself agreeing more and more with right-of-center figures like Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Their tough-minded, whatever-works pragmatism resonated with his experiences, while the Obama administration’s highly ideological approach did not. Davis anticipates, in his words, “the rise of a reform-oriented center-right that is bent on restoring accountability and market principles to public systems” over the next decade.

I have known Davis longer and at least slightly better than most of my conservative brethren. I have been hoping, and at least half-expecting, him to move rightward for years. I think he is very sincere. I will note that he first was elected by bucking the black Democratic machine, and that he supported controversial judicial nominee (now federal appellate judge) Bill Pryor even as the national left was badly smearing the nominee. He also had the grace and integrity, along among Democrats, to apologize, once the financial crisis broke, for having opposed reforms to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earlier in his congressional career. These were the actions, all along, of a man looking for some sort of a reformist polity near the center of the political spectrum — and, if you spoke to him, you always got the sense that he was at least open to arguments from the right, especially if they came from people of good will.

Anyway, Salam’s whole column got it right. Well worth a read. Again, see the link at the top of this blog post.

August 29th, 2012 at 4:47 pm
The RNC Speeches MSNBC Didn’t Want You to See

The utra-liberal anchors at MSNBC, led by Chris “I-feel-thrills-up-my-leg-when-Obama-speaks” Matthews, abandoned all sense of journalistic integrity long ago.  But they’ve stooped to new lows with their coverage of the Republican convention in Tampa, where they’ve ramped up their election-year campaign to label Republicans racist.

 As Ed Morrisey put it over at Hot Air:

 The cast and management at MSNBC really, really want their viewers — all 20 of them now, I believe — to understand that the Republican Party is raaaaaaaaaaaacist, and that the GOP convention is nothing more than a bunch of white men talking and applauding.  They are so desperate to sell their meme latent Republican racism that they simply averted their eyes every time a speaker that didn’t fit their lone talking point took the stage.

Matthews, Maddow and Co. not only averted their own eyes, they blacked out (oops, too insensitive?) cut their convention coverage almost every time a prominent Republican minority took the podium.

So on the off chance that you are one of the few people tuned into MSNBC for convention coverage, we herewith present you with several of the speeches MSNBC didn’t want you to see:

 

 

 

 

August 29th, 2012 at 4:45 pm
Leftist Racists

At The American Spectator, I blasted yet another leftist for projecting her own race-baiting onto Republicans. As it turns out, the editors of National Review did a much more thorough and thoughtful job toward the same end.

Here’s part of it:

Mr. Matthews’s accusations were, as is his style, presented without evidence or argument, and indeed without anything that might even charitably be called intellectual content. That he immediately connects welfare in his mind with race is of course telling: The majority of American welfare recipients are white. Blacks are disproportionately represented on the welfare rolls, it is true. That is not the only place in which black Americans are overrepresented: As conservatives have been shouting from the rooftops for a couple of years now, the black unemployment rate is a national scandal — reason enough to fire Barack Obama on its own. But the majority of unemployed people, like the majority of welfare recipients — and the majority of the country, of course — are white. Reducing the welfare rolls, like reducing the unemployment rate (and the two are not unrelated), is necessary to rebuilding the economic and human strength of the country for Americans of all races. Mr. Matthews here exhibits a crude, zero-sum view of politics and the economy, and then takes the extra step of attributing that crude, zero-sum view to his opponents. This is startling in its simplemindedness.

Enough is enough. This cry of racism from racial-minded numbskulls is the philosophical equivalent of blood libel. The left loves to say that certain forms of speech are not allowable because they are “fighting words.” If so, here’s hoping somebody lands the equivalent of a Joe Frazier hook on these purveyors of calumny. Oh, one day, there will be a reckoning. Yes indeed. Severe and painful ostracism would be a good start.

August 29th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
Teachers Union Spends $100,000 to Attack Fox News
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Now remember: they’re throughly nonpartisan and their main interest is the kids. From the Daily Caller:

A document the National Education Association filed with the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011 indicates that the teachers union donated $100,000 to Media Matters For America nearly two years ago, describing it as a payment for “public relations costs.” In the months that followed, Media Matters’ online coverage of teachers unions increased, focusing largely on attacking the Fox News Channel and other media outlets it considers “conservative” in nature.

… Since the date of the $100,000 payment, the liberal messaging group has published 41 separate articles online referring to the NEA and other teachers unions, each one staking out a position that’s favorable to organized labor and critical of a media outlet whose commentators disagree.

Almost universally, that media outlet has been the Fox News Channel. Of those 41 articles, 29 directly attacked Fox News or the name of a Fox host or contributor in their headlines. Many others attack Fox and its personnel more generally.

Remember this the next time the teachers unions plead hardship — they’ve still got six figures lying around to send to George Soros’ ankle-biters.

 

August 29th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
CATO: The Charter School Paradox?

Adam Schaeffer of the Cato Institute argues a provocative thesis about the effect of public charter schools:

How can charter schools spend less money on average than regular public schools and yet cost taxpayers more overall at the state level? How can charter schools increase educational options and diversity in the public school system and yet decrease options and diversity in education overall? And how can some charter schools outperform regular public schools on average and yet decrease achievement overall?

I call these outcomes the Charter School Paradox, but it is only a paradox if we take a very narrow view of the effects of charter schools. When we expand our perspective to include their effects on private education, we find that these seeming contradictions are really the unintended consequences of inadequate, public-sector-only reform. On average, charter schools may marginally improve the public education system, but in the process they are wreaking havoc on private education. Charter schools take a significant portion of their students from private schools, causing a drop in private enrollment, driving some schools entirely out of business, and thereby raising public costs while potentially diminishing competition and diversity in our education system overall.

Schaeffer’s commentary is based on a larger study published by Cato colleague Richard Buddin.

Some of the key findings of Buddin’s study are that public charters in urban areas draw one-fourth to one-third of their student bodies from private schools.  The direct cost of these private-to-public migrants is estimated to be $1.8 billion a year (as of 2008) in new spending.

According to Schaeffer and Buddin, unless education reformers enact “good private school choice reform, such as education tax credits,” expanding the number of public charter schools could “cannibalize the private sector, increase public costs, and decrease options and competition.”

Conservative governors like Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and others have been rightly praised for reforming their public education system by increasing the school choice options for parents.  Going forward, they and others would do well to continue pursuing policies that protect private education while improving its public counterpart.

August 29th, 2012 at 12:24 pm
Heritage: Courts Can Easily Sidestep ICE Agents’ Deferred Action Lawsuit

Last week Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach filed a lawsuit on behalf of 10 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents challenging President Barack Obama’s “deferred action” program.

In a recent column I explained how the President’s decision to instruct federal law enforcement not to enforce relevant immigration law is giving some state governments an excuse to further legitimize illegal immigration.

Now the Heritage Foundation is out with an issue brief analyzing the prospects of the ICE agents’ lawsuit.  It doesn’t look good:

The plaintiffs will have a tough row to hoe, regardless of how abusive this new initiative may be in terms of violating the spirit—if not the letter—of the Constitution’s separation of powers, as well as the executive’s obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Although the challenge is by no means frivolous, a court may be reluctant to conclude that the plaintiffs have standing.

Even if they are able to establish an “injury in fact,” a court may be tempted to cite prudential standing rules in order to avoid reaching the merits, and to avoid encouraging federal officials to defy orders of their supervisors as a prelude to challenging the legality of those orders in court. As the Supreme Court stated in Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood (1979), “a plaintiff may still lack standing under the prudential principles by which the judiciary seeks to avoid deciding questions of broad social import where no individual rights would be vindicated and to limit access to the federal courts to those litigants best suited to assert a particular claim.”

Key Takeaway: This is a political issue that requires a well thought out policy solution.  Paul Ryan dedicated his career thus far to making the conservative case for budget and entitlement reform.  It’s time for another enterprising Member of Congress to do the same with immigration reform.

August 28th, 2012 at 5:14 pm
Study: More African Americans Go to College with School Vouchers
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Chalk up another win for advocates of school choice. Opposition to school vouchers is usually steeped in language about the policy being “risky” or “untried” (it’s a uniquely liberal gift to prefer guaranteed failure over possible success). But a new study out of the Brookings Institution (no one’s definition of a conservative haven) shows powerful results for young African-Americans:

In the first study, using a randomized experiment to measure the impact of school vouchers on college enrollment, Matthew Chingos and Paul Peterson, professor of government at Harvard University, examine the college-going behavior through 2011 of students who participated in a voucher experiment as elementary school students in the late 1990s. They find no overall impacts on college enrollment but do find large, statistically significant positive impacts on the college going of African-American students who participated in the study.

 

Their estimates indicate that using a voucher to attend private school increased the overall college enrollment rate among African Americans by 24 percent.

To say that Mitt Romney is struggling with black voters would be an understatement. That’s a real shame. Barack Obama may give them rhetorical affirmation and a sense of common identity; but Mitt Romney, who supports greater educational freedom, could actually bring them hope and change.

August 28th, 2012 at 8:17 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Who’s On First
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 27th, 2012 at 7:29 pm
Romney Convention Speech Could Be Special

A Pew Research poll shows more Americans interested in the Republican Party’s convention platform than in presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech.

But an interview Romney gave to Politico indicates those who watch Mitt’s speech Thursday night might be in for something good:

His language, his approach, his mannerisms convey: I am not asking you to trust me to see into your soul, or to feel your pain, or bring you hope and fuzzy change. I will bring you concrete, measurable, profitable change — the kind you can authentically take stock of, and even measure in your family’s bank account.

Romney, who this week watched Obama’s 2008 convention speech again, said the lofty, theatrical address loaded with promises never kept provides the perfect device for juxtaposing his leadership style with the president’s.

Romney’s point: You had love, you had hero worship, you had emotion. How did that work out?

August 27th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
How NOT to Disprove Your Elitism
Posted by Troy Senik Print

A remarkable exchange took place at the New York Times over the weekend. First, there was Arthur Brisbane, writing his farewell column as the Times‘ public editor (a position that is supposed to function as the in-house voice of journalistic conscience), which contained this telling passage:

I … noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within.

When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.

As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.

This truth, plain to even the most pedestrian observer of the Times, was too much for Executive Editor Jill Abramson to stomach, which led her to go crying to Politico’s Dylan Beyers:

“In our newsroom we are always conscious that the way we view an issue in New York is not necessarily the way it is viewed in the rest of the country or world. I disagree with Mr. Brisbane’s sweeping conclusions,” Abramson told POLITICO Saturday night.

“I agree with another past public editor, Dan Okrent, and my predecessor as executive editor, Bill Keller, that in covering some social and cultural issues, the Times sometimes reflects its urban and cosmopolitan base,” she continued.

There you have it. Journalism defined: “speaking truth to those who agree with you.”

The New York Times is a publication that believes that what constitutes balanced coverage hinges on what ZIP code you’re in. They’re entitled to that belief. But they’re not entitled to a readership outside of the five boroughs — a fact that is only going to become more apparent to them with time.