Archive

Archive for January, 2013
January 31st, 2013 at 6:28 pm
Hagel Flunks Confirmation Hearing; Still Might Pass Senate

Looks like Quin might get his wish on Chuck Hagel’s nomination.  President Barack Obama’s Defense Secretary nominee misstated the Administration’s policy on containment of Iran twice; once when Hagel said he supported Obama’s policy of containment, then when he said there was no policy.  It took Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) to remind Hagel that, actually, “We (i.e. America) do have a position on containment, and that is we do not favor containment.”

Hagel also said during his confirmation hearing today that he doesn’t know enough about military programs and technology, but promised that as Defense Secretary he would do the necessary cramming to get up to speed.

Overall, Hagel did himself no favors with the senators who oppose his nomination, and may have given fence-sitters enough wiggle room to justify abandoning him.  My guess, however, is that President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will work the phones and twist the arms necessary to save the Administration from a humiliating No vote on confirmation.

January 30th, 2013 at 7:37 pm
What Kind of Legal Immigration System Should We Have?

So far, a busy half week on Capitol Hill saw Senator John Kerry (D-MA) become Secretary of State after the U.S. Senate confirmed him 94-3; gun-control politicians getting righteous blowback from the NRA and an advocate for young mothers; and another round of immigration reform heating up.

On this last point, it’s helpful to remember that a big part of what’s missing from the illegal immigration debate is how to fix the problems with the legal immigration system.  For an idea of how byzantine is the process of getting into America the right way, check out these charts prepared the libertarian Reason Foundation and the liberal Immigration Road.  (Each is a pdf.)

The worst lowlight: Waiting up to 28 years to become a citizen.

But before policy wonks and political advocates jump to conclusions and start proposing ways to fix immigration by reducing wait times and streamlining the process, it’s worth having a serious national discussion about what principle should drive our immigration policy.

If it’s about the national interest, in this case defined as what’s best for Americans already here, then it’s far from clear how importing any foreign workers, skilled or unskilled, improves the economic lot of domestic skilled and unskilled workers.  If anything, basic economics suggests that importing more labor reduces the value of the labor already here, which, while a boon for employers, translates into a pay cut for workers.  (For more on this, see Mark Krikorian’s thought-provoking book, “The New Case Against Immigration.”)

On the other hand, if immigration policy is about ensuring that America is the preeminent land of opportunity within the world community, then a small but clear set of filters (e.g. screening out convicted criminals, terrorists, and those fleeing tax problems) need to be put in place to allow the greatest number of opportunity-seeking immigrants to come, live, and hopefully contribute to the nation’s growth.

Personally, I’m conflicted about which route to take.  With Americas suffering from 7.8 percent unemployment – which is really 14.4 percent when underemployed and those too discouraged  to look for work are counted – it’s hard to justify adding to the labor market.  And yet an immigration policy focused on opportunity for those seeking it is an attractive extension of Ronald Reagan’s city on a hill, of which he said “And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

This much I do know: Finding a solution to the illegal immigration problem can’t be done until Americans decide on legal immigration’s foundational principle.

January 30th, 2013 at 5:37 pm
Another Home Run by Artur Davis

At NRO, former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis tells important truths to conservatives — namely, that we need to learn how to talk to people who aren’t already on our side and who are not of natural cultural affinity with us (not that they are necessarily culturally against us, but just that they aren’t automatically in cultural concert with us either).

Many of them work with their hands, and their backs and legs and feet hurt at the end of the day. They worry not about freedom, but about the depleted state of their savings. They don’t carry around a pocket copy of the Constitution, but they know that too many of their tax dollars go to Washington, and is it such a quaint thought that they want a return on their investment and want government to work for their interests?

What do we have to say to them, the people who work with their hands….?

Davis is right. Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal are saying similar things, with Ryan naturally recalling the themes of his late, great mentor, Jack Kemp.

I’ll throw out an issue conservatives need to do better at. We, myself definitely included, have made lots of justifiable noise about the dangers of vote fraud. We cannot back down on that issue no matter how many media people spread cheap shots about how our real goal is “vote suppression.” BUT…. BUT…. BUT, we also must show that we are intensely interested in making sure that as many people who legitimately qualify to vote find it as easy as possible to register and vote — and we must particularly try to figure out how to make voting not such a chore, so that nobody is forced to stand in line for hours just to participate in the electoral process. If there are any left-leaning people who seriously want to reach out and find solutions rather than bash us, we should find them, and see if we can find common ground. If they will admit the indisputable fact that vote fraud is a problem, and help us fight against it, we should admit that our voting system is often too complicated or convoluted.

Anyway, that’s going astray from what Davis said. But it’s just one example, admittedly on a second-tier issue (for most people), of how conservatives should try to broaden our reach. More importantly, we should likewise try to broaden our reach on economics, on opportunity, and on health care, among other major topics.

I’ll end with by quoting Davis again:

The world that Obama does not see in his progressive manifesto, the world that he barely acknowledges or address, it is the space that we can occupy as conservatives if we will only claim it.

January 29th, 2013 at 5:22 pm
Senate Dishonors Vietnam Vets

By confirming John Kerry as Secretary of State, the U.S. Senate (with three honorable exceptions: Cornyn, Cruz, Inhofe) just dishonored all Vietnam vets. After all, it was Kerry who randomly accused American soldiers in Vietnam of having “personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.”

One imagines that he will be by far the worst U.S. Secretary of State since… the current one.

January 29th, 2013 at 2:30 pm
Dodd-Frank Missing Deadlines, Hurting Businesses

A new GAO report says that Dodd-Frank, the 2010 law that enormously expands the federal government’s regulatory role in the financial markets, is being implemented at a snail’s pace:

Overall, GAO identified 236 provisions of the act that require regulators to issue rulemakings across nine key areas. As of December 2012, regulators had issued final rules for about 48 percent of these provisions; however, in some cases the dates by which affected entities had to comply with the rules had yet to be reached. Of the remaining provisions, regulators had proposed rules for about 29 percent, and rulemakings had not occurred for about 23 percent.

At first blush, limited government conservatives might cheer the slow growth in regulation.  But limited government is only good if it’s for the right reasons; for instance, relying on the current legal (fraud) and market (bankruptcy) framework to police financial bad actors.  Here, however, the delays are due to Dodd-Frank’s perpetuation of flawed regulatory methods.

For example, the report lists obstacles such as regulators with overlapping jurisdictions and inconsistent rules, impossible-to-meet statutory deadlines, and lack of consumer confidence in the regulators’ ability to produce fair and reasonable guidelines.  To cope with these realities, bureaucrats are opting to miss deadlines in favor of more collaborative rules.  But while the benefit may be more buy-in from stakeholders inside and outside the government, the costs are huge to the businessman on the street.

The two biggest casualties are the rule of law and regulatory transparency.  The first is undermined because bureaucrats allowed to ignore statutory mandates are bureaucrats allowed to operate outside the law.  Think a private business could just decide to miss a deadline because compliance is too hard?

Moreover, part of the difficulty complying comes from the lack of transparency.  Businesspeople need certainty in regulations to plan for the future, but that can’t be done when deadlines are waived at the discretion of the regulator.  So instead of being able to act on distasteful yet concrete information, businesses are left wondering how to position themselves as the regulatory elites “collaborate.”

In this type of environment, the safest bet is not to take risks like hiring or expanding.  With government like this, is it any wonder the job market is so lousy?

H/T: The Hill’s RegWatch blog

January 28th, 2013 at 12:06 pm
Brit Hume Puts Hillary in Her Place

Actually, if anything, Hume was too nice to her. On the Fox News Sunday show yesterday, he said she qualifies as a “competent” Secretary of State, but in no means a “great” one. It’s a segment well worth watching, because Hume makes a solid argument. That said, I think she has been only a small step above a disaster. Even acknowledging that bad things happen all over the globe that no Secretary of State can really be blamed for, the sad reality is that in almost every region of the world, American interests are now in worse shape than they were four years ago. Much of the blame should be laid at the feet of Barack Obama: After all, it is ultimately his policies, not Clinton’s, that are being pursued. But there is no evidence at all that Clinton in any way deviated, even in private, from Obama’s bad policies, and in many respects it seems obvious that Obama basically followed her lead.

So, where do we stand? In the Middle Easat, almost certainly worse than before. Turkey has gone further down the road towards open and troublesome Islamism. Egypt is a disaster. Iran is closer than ever to a nuclear weapon, and not only has failed to moved closer to the West, but has crushed a real, potentially powerful “freedom movement” while the Obama-Clinton team lifted not a finger. Libya actually might be slightly better (more US-friendly and ultimately safer) than it was under the mercurial Ghadafi, but compared to about 2005, when Ghadafi was completely cooperating with us, Libya is more dangerous to us — more unstable, more unpredictable long term. (This is completely aside from the 9/11 assault there that killed four Americans.) And even the overthrow of Ghadafi was a mess, with the US administration doing the diplomatic and military hokey-pokey — one foot in, one foot out, a foot back in and shake it all about — rather than dealing cleanly with the situation. Finally, of course, Syria is a disaster area, with more than 60,000 dead.

Most importantly in the Middle East, our ally Israel feels more isolated than ever. This is terrible.

In Africa, meanwhile, al Qaeda is resurgent. Algeria and Mali are especially worrisome.

Then there is Russia. The “re-set” failed spectacularly. Russia is more recalcitrant, less US-friendly than it has been since about 1992.

Eastern Europe? Our would-be friends there rightly feel insulted, stabbed in the back, and abandoned.  Western Europe? Well, the US image or influence there is about the same as when Hillary first walked into Foggy Bottom, but the state of Western Europe’s affairs is horrendous, with 26% unemployment in Spain and economic difficulties throughout.

The Far East? No progress against North Korea. Continuing militarily provocative actions from China.

How about the Western Hemisphere? Nothing good. Ecuador has joined Venezuela as uber-leftist anti-US agitators. Brazil has moved leftward and more corrupt, even as Obama has sucked up to it repeatedly. Argentina is again making noises about owning the Falklands (!).

Everywhere we look, the United States interests are no better off, and often worse off, than when Clinton took the reins at the State Department. As Hume rightly said, there have been no triumphs — but there have been spectacular failures, such as the murder of four Americans in Libya and the ascension of Mr. Morsi in Egypt.

Combined with Clinton’s repeated evasions of real answers, and of real responsibility, for the Benghazi fiasco, this record is one of failure. It would be a good thing if Mrs. Clinton’s retirement from State would turn into a retirement from public service altogether.

January 28th, 2013 at 11:57 am
This Week’s Radio Lineup: CFIF’s Renee Giachino Hosts “Your Turn” on WEBY Radio 1330 AM
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CST/5:00 pm EST:  Patrick Knudsen, senior budget expert at The Heritage Foundation – Debt Ceiling;

4:30 CST/5:30 pm EST:  Craig Shirley, author and conservative public affairs consultant – How to Reboot the GOP;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EST:  Senator Don Gaetz, Florida Senate President – 2013 Legislative Session; and

5:30 CST/6:30 pm EST:  Jacqueline Otto, Spokeswoman at National Rifle Association – Assault Weapons Ban and the Second Amendment.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

January 27th, 2013 at 3:26 pm
Obama: Delusional, Dishonest… and Disastrous

The New Republic is out with a new interview with BHO, the man in the Oval Office. It pains me too much even just to copy and paste the worst parts of it… so I won’t. But please read it yourself. The whole thrust of it is that he — yes, Mr. Obama — is the one always going the extra mile for compromise; that he and Nancy Pelosi (!) and Harry Reid (!) again and again have taken the “tough” steps toward compromise that the country needs, but that the Republicans are just so darned intransigent and a lot of them don’t even really care about what’s good for the country.

The man is either delusional or despicable dishonest, or both. Either way, his attitude is as disastrous for the country as his performance has been. He’s so sanctimonious, so solipsistic, so self-aggrandizing that it’s sickening. What a godawful creature he is.

January 25th, 2013 at 7:49 pm
“Affordable” ObamaCare Lowers Standard of Living

The Wall Street Journal shows us that the price of “affordable” health care is a reduced standard of living:

The Affordable Care Act requires large employers to offer a minimum level of health insurance to employees who work 30 hours a week or more starting in 2014, or face a penalty. The mandate is a particular challenge for colleges and universities, which increasingly rely on adjuncts to help keep costs down as states have scaled back funding for higher education.

A handful of schools, including Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania and Youngstown State University in Ohio, have curbed the number of classes that adjuncts can teach in the current spring semester to limit the schools’ exposure to the health-insurance requirement.

The scaled back hours and pay for adjunct professors is part of a larger trend in a wide variety of industries.  Faced with lower thresholds that require new benefits, employers from universities to fast food restaurants face three options: pay-up, pay-out, or tap-out.  In other words, they can increase their health care spending, be fined for not increasing such spending, or cap the hours and pay of otherwise eligible workers to avoid the spending and the fines.

Unfortunately for workers, capping hours and pay reduces their standard of living.  But don’t worry.  In 2014, Obamacare mandates that every state will have a fully functioning health insurance exchange where newly impoverished workers can get “affordable” health care – some even with government (i.e. taxpayer) subsidies – so it’s a safe bet that all will be well when the feds are in charge of at least 25 separate state programs.  Right…

January 25th, 2013 at 2:05 pm
More Fights to Come, Between Obama and Courts

Tim is right that today’s DC Circuit Court ruling on the NLRB appointments is “a humiliating rebuke for [Barack] Obama.” It also reads well, with solid textual analysis supporting its interpretation of the “Recess Clause.” That said, its holdings are so sweeping — both as to what constitutes “the Recess” of the Senate and as to what it means that a vacancy can be filled by such appointment (only) if it “happen[s]” during the Recess — that while they certainly make sense in law and logic, they may go so far as to violate enough existing practice as to make the full circuit en banc or the Supreme Court to reject the full scope of the ruling. Being a realist, I can certainly see a final result that narrows the scope of this ruling (and of it definition of “Recess” and “happen”), but that still throws out Obama’s appointments and still upholds the main thrust of today’s ruling, which is that there are serious limits to the “Recess appointment” power.

But allow just a little further prediction. When the high court so rules, and Obama’s “humiliation” is confirmed, The One in the Oval Office will have a conniption fit. As it so happens, such a high court ruling will probably be just one in a series of about five or six key decisions in the next 18-24 months that will go directly against Obama administration arguments, actions, and abuses. Look, therefore, for Obama to resurrect his constitutionally dangerous, full-frontal assault against the Supreme Court and the courts in general, trying to undermine their very legitimacy. In fact, so unhinged may be Obama’s power lust that he might even try to openly defy an explicit Supreme Court ruling, maybe even citing Andrew Jackson’s infamous (perhaps apocryphal) statement from Worcester v. Georgia that the chief justice “has made his decision; now let him enforce it.”

In short, I see in this and other developing cases the potential for serious constitutional crisis, brought on by Obama’s authoritarian impulses. I hope I’m wrong.

January 25th, 2013 at 12:38 pm
Appellate Court: Obama “Recess” Appointments Unconstitutional
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

It’s sad commentary on our current political state that the Obama Administration must be reminded that the Senate has to actually be in recess for it to attempt a “recess” appointment.  One would expect a former law professor to possess a better working knowledge of the Constitution, but alas.

In a welcome and important ruling this morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit – effectively the nation’s second-highest court – held that the Obama Administration acted illegally when it attempted to place three new members on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) without Senate consent.  Under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, a President may appoint “Officers of the United States” subject to “Advice and Consent of the Senate.”  It adds, however, that, “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”

Here’s the problem.  In a scheme to avoid confirmation hearings and votes, Obama attempted to place three members on the NLRB while “the Senate was operating pursuant to a unanimous consent agreement, which provided that the Senate would meet in pro forma sessions every three business days from December 20, 2011, through January 23, 2012.”  Thus, the Senate wasn’t in “recess.”  In fact, other acts by the Obama Administration acknowledge that fact.  As just one example, that period is when the reduced payroll tax was extended with Obama’s approval.

Accordingly, the Court didn’t take kindly to Obama’s maneuver:

An interpretation of ‘the Recess’ that permits the President to decide when the Senate is in recess would demolish the checks and balances inherent in the advice-and-consent requirement, giving the President free rein to appoint his desired nominees at any time he pleases, whether that time be a weekend, lunch, or even when the Senate is in session and he is merely displeased with its inaction.  This cannot be the law.”

This is a humiliating rebuke for Obama, and it invalidates all NLRB actions dependent upon those illegal appointments.  Moreover, it effectively invalidates actions by other administrative agencies similarly dependent upon such appointments.  The concept of “a nation of laws, and not of men” has been vindicated today.

January 25th, 2013 at 11:45 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:  A Crisis of Transparency
Ramirez:  Obama’s Use of Children in Gun-Control Debate Is Dishonest
Lee:  Assault on IP Rights Should Alarm Conservatives and Libertarians
Hillyer:  Cool Hand Conservatives?

Podcast:  Trading Safety for Fuel Economy?
Jester’s Courtroom:  A Trip (not Slip) and Fall

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.

January 25th, 2013 at 10:05 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Difference Between Life and Death
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.

January 25th, 2013 at 8:31 am
Podcast: Trading Safety for Fuel Economy?
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Robert E. Norton, vice president for external affairs at the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and former assistant general counsel at Chrysler, discusses why size matters when it comes to automobile safety and why it’s wrong (and dangerous) for the government to force consumers into smaller vehicles to advance a politically driven environmental agenda.

Listen to the interview here.

January 23rd, 2013 at 8:01 pm
Senate Dems to Pass First Budget in Four Years

The Hill posted a jaw-dropping lead to describe just how broken is the federal budget process:

Senate Democrats on Wednesday said they will move a budget resolution through the Budget Committee and onto the Senate floor for the first time in four years.

Despite protests to the contrary, the move is in response to a House-approved measure to move the nation’s debt ceiling back from late February to early May.

It’s hard to applaud a group of adults for finally getting the regular budget process going in the Senate.  Still, it’s a sign of progress that a budget may actually be produced in accordance with federal law.

January 23rd, 2013 at 7:35 pm
Paul Ryan Heckler Works at Holder’s DOJ

Jim Treacher of The Daily Caller does a public service by compiling all the data points on the man who started the booing of Paul Ryan as the latter walked to Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Dan Freeman, a civil service (i.e. technically non-political) hire at the Department of Justice’s Voting Rights section, said on his Facebook page that he “Just started the booing when Paul Ryan came out.”  Helpfully, Freeman gave his location as “United States Capitol.”

Sleuthing by the blogosphere netted biographical nuggets like Freeman’s involvement in the Yale Law Democrats, and internships for liberal activist groups.  Among his responsibilities was undermining the Bush Administration’s national security strategy by challenging the state secrets privilege in court.  He also helped defend terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.

If you’re wondering when Freeman had time to learn federal election law, he didn’t.  But at Eric Holder’s Justice Department, the relevant experience was met checking all the liberal activist boxes.

And, thanks to civil service protection, Freeman will have his position for as long as he wants it, regardless of who becomes the Attorney General, or for that matter, President of the United States.

January 22nd, 2013 at 6:00 pm
Reid’s Filibuster Reform Gets It Half Right

The Hill is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is in the final stages of hammering out a filibuster reform package.  Here are the two biggest changes:

The agreement between Reid and McConnell is not expected to include the talking filibuster, which would require senators who want to block action on legislation to actually hold the floor and debate for hours on end.

In recent days, Reid has begun to focus on a proposal to tweak the filibuster rule by requiring the minority party to muster 41 votes to stall a bill or nominee. Under current rules, the responsibility is on the majority to round up 60 votes to end a filibuster.

I say half right because I favor a talking filibuster and making the minority party (in this case the Republicans) come up with the votes necessary to trigger a filibuster.  Putting people on the record isn’t comfortable, but it is required to make the distinctions between the parties – and their ideologies – more publicly apparent.

Moreover, citizens need to know the well-reasoned, well-researched arguments for and against a proposed policy.  Far from hurting the Republican minority, I think giving articulate conservatives like Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY) an opportunity to make their case will help educate the public about important issues.  This in turn will spur a dialogue on the Right that will allow the movement to better understand itself so that it can better persuade the electorate.

January 22nd, 2013 at 4:34 pm
Gallup: Obama’s Second Inauguration Watched Less, Rated Less Positively Than Bush’s
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

The thrill is gone, apparently.

According to a Gallup poll released today, fewer Americans watched yesterday’s inaugural ceremony or news coverage of it than they did George W. Bush’s second inaugural in 2005.  Only 38% said that they watched yesterday’s ceremony, down from 40% in 2005, and only 27% “watched, listened to, or read news reports about the inauguration ceremonies” yesterday versus 33% in 2005.  Moreover, Americans are less hopeful based on what they read or heard about Obama’s second inauguration than they were after Bush’s.  Just “37% of Americans said they are now more hopeful about the next four years after Monday’s presidential inauguration ceremonies,” compared to 43% in 2005.  Some 27% said that yesterday’s inauguration made them “less hopeful,” two points worse than in 2005.

The change he brought turned out to be less hope.

January 21st, 2013 at 2:08 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: The Truth About Guns and Spending
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.

January 21st, 2013 at 12:42 pm
Obama Plagiarizes Reagan

This really isn’t a big deal, but it still rankles. Today, Barack Obama included a line in his speech that was almost a direct quotation from Ronald Reagan, but he gave no attribution. When Reagan uttered it, it was an original and interesting turn of phrase.

Here:

“Whether we come from poverty or wealth; whether we are Afro-American or Irish-American; Christian or Jewish, from big cities or small towns, we are all equal in the eyes of God. But as Americans, that is not enough, we must be equal in the eyes of each other.

Obama today: “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.