Archive for October, 2011
October 24th, 2011 at 10:48 pm
At Long Last: WikiLeaks About to Go Under
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It may seem perverse in the current economic atmosphere to take so much pleasure from a business model that fails to work out, but it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. From Politico:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Monday that the controversial website that’s been a thorn in the side of the U.S. government may close down by the end of the year because of financial problems.

The group has openly lamented the consequences of what it calls a “financial blockade” on WikiLeaks by various financial institutions.

“If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the new year,” Assange said, according to the Associated Press. “If we don’t knock down the blockade we simply will not be able to continue.”

Good riddance. Rather than playing the victim before the London press corps (the context for these remarks), Assange should be thanking his lucky stars that he lives in an age that allows someone of his disrepute such a comfortable denouement. In days past, this story would have come to an end in the hangman’s noose.

October 24th, 2011 at 4:48 pm
Jeff Sessions Puts Welfare in Perspective

Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, ranking member on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, has been doing yeoman’s work on multiple levels in highlighting waste and proposing both procedural and substantive solutions. His efforts merit, and will in the next few weeks receive, a full column to recount them. By pure happenstance, I shared a plane with the senator and then a lunch at the Atlanta airport with him yesterday. One of the many budget-related topics we touched on was welfare — or, more precisely, food stamps and other welfare-benefits that were not fixed by the tremendous 1996 welfare reform that turned Aid to Families with Dependent Children (a mess) into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (a huge success). One thing he said was more big-picture and attitudinal than it was program-specific and numbers heavy (although there was plenty of other discussion that did fit those latter categories). I repeat it here both as a teaser for a near-future column, and because, as usual, the good senator is right on target. To quote Sessions:

We need to go back to re-engage the national discussion on how receipt of welfare benefits not only is damaging to the Treasury but also hurts the recipient. We need to go back and re-establish the moral principle that federal assistance should be seen as a temporary aid where possible and the goal should be to help people become independent and self-sustaining.

Jack Kemp used to talk like that. Rick Santorum talks like that. Sometimes Paul Ryan at least comes close to talking like that. There is a nexus between morality and economic policy; it’s not all dollar signs and accounting, but instead about human potential and human lives. Kemp and others used to talk about getting rid of the “welfare trap,” and that’s exactly what Sessions is talking about. The right sort of compassion is one that helps somebody lift himself up, not one that gives him incentive to remain personally helpless.

October 24th, 2011 at 10:40 am
Ramirez Cartoon – The Obama Jobs Plan: Old vs. New
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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.

October 21st, 2011 at 7:28 pm
A Big Vote for Voter ID

In what should be seen as a tremendously significant development on the Voter ID front, former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, a (black) Democrat from Alabama and long one of the “good guys” on the left-of-center side of things (smart, honest, thoughtful, etc.), wrote this week in the Montgomery Advertiser that he now supports a requirement (as passed in Alabama) for a voter ID law in order to fight voter fraud.

The money paragraph:

Voting the names of the dead, and the nonexistent, and the too-mentally-impaired to function, cancels out the votes of citizens who are exercising their rights — that’s suppression by any light. If you doubt it exists, I don’t; I’ve heard the peddlers of these ballots brag about it, I’ve been asked to provide the funds for it, and I am confident it has changed at least a few close local election results.

This is a big development. It completely contradicts the Obama/Wasserman-Schultz/Bill Clinton narrative that voter ID laws are somehow an evil plot to suppress votes. Instead, ensuring honest elections, as Davis writes, are the best way to fight AGAINST vote suppression.

There will be much more to say on this subject, including Artur Davis’ brave stance, in the coming weeks. But I didn’t want to let this week go by without highlighting it — especially since Davis will be my guest on my weekly radio show this coming Thursday night on 106.5 FM, WAVH, in Mobile, at 8 pm Central time. When the time comes, you can listen online here.

Davis, is should be said, has good reason for his views. He has seen, and rightly objects to, massive vote fraud in Perry and Hale Counties in Alabama, some of which is recounted in the great new book by J. Christian Adams, Injustice, blasting Eric Holder’s lawless Justice Department.

Anyway, please do listen in next Thursday night. And stay tuned to this space as well, because this is a subject that needs more attention.

October 21st, 2011 at 7:07 pm
“Occupiers” Quiet on Biden, Protest Cantor

Three days, two speeches, one important difference.

When Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday, he said that opponents of the president’s jobs bill were okay that, as a result of blocking the bill, “murder will continue to rise, rape will continue to rise, all crimes will continue to rise.” Nary a peep was heard from the Occupy Philadelphia crowd.

By contrast, just the mere mention that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) would speak at Penn today brought on threats from Occupy Philadelphia to disrupt his speech.  Cantor rightly canceled his appearance at the last minute in order to avoid the kind of heckling for which liberal activists are notorious.

Biden argued that federal spending on state union members would somehow reduce murders and rapes.  Cantor was expected to speak on how to ease income inequalities.  If anyone needed more proof who these hooligans support and why, here it is.

October 21st, 2011 at 6:12 pm
My Take on Gadhafi

I wrote about Gadhafi’s end here. It didn’t need to be this way. So many lives could have been saved if Gadhafi… well, if he weren’t Gadhafi, the murderous thug.

October 21st, 2011 at 5:12 pm
Former Clinton Advisor Comes Out Firmly for Charter Schools
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If you’re a regular Fox News viewer, you’re probably familiar with Lanny Davis, the longtime Democratic political hand and former Special Counsel to President Clinton. On television, Davis can usually be seen defending Democratic orthodoxy with vigor.  He’s taken a recent turn in print, however, that shows he’s unafraid to gore one of his party’s most sacred cows: opposition to charter schools. From the piece:

The deal is this: The contract, or “charter,” allows the outside entity to operate the school free of the uniform rules applying to curriculum, teaching salaries, hiring and firing and other operating details that are applicable to all public schools; but in return, the charter school must deliver on pre-agreed goals, such as performance measured by standardized tests or graduation rates.

What does this achieve? A lot. First and foremost, it busts monopoly power, where one organization, such as the school district, has a captive group of customers, i.e., public school students, who have no choice but to be subject to the monopoly. And it provides the benefit of competition — students have choices, and if the charter school doesn’t work, they (i.e., their parents) can vote with their feet. And perhaps more importantly, the public school system is no longer a monopoly — they must do better or they will lose more students to charter schools within the public school system.

Imagine that: an institution that has to face consequences for failing its consumers. At at time when the folks over at Occupy Wall Street are casting their lot with the teachers unions that trap children in failing schools, it’s nice to see at least one liberal who realizes that “sticking up for the little guy” means defending the students, not indulging big labor.

October 21st, 2011 at 3:18 pm
George Soros is Funding Occupy Wall Street

Our friends at Human Events confirm the money trail between Leftist billionaire George Soros and the Occupy Wall Street movement attracting communists, socialists and anarchists to its ranks.

The nonprofit organization at the receiving end of Soros’ largesse, Alliance for Global Justice, is managing donations benefiting the communists, socialists, anarchists and hippies now occupying Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan.  As of Oct. 19, OWS had taken in a grand total of $435,000 from all sources, including donations made by individuals online and in person, according to reports.

And how’s this for a business model?

Alliance for Global Justice is a “fiscal sponsor,” which means that it serves as a financial clearinghouse for radical causes that haven’t filed papers to incorporate themselves as nonprofit organizations.  Donors give money to the Alliance and are then able to deduct the donations from their income tax even though the cause they are funding isn’t recognized as tax-exempt by the IRS.  Fiscal sponsors take a percentage of donations as management fees, and then pass on the rest to the cause favored by the donor.

As with all things Soros, the irony here is rich.  A Hungarian who fled Nazism and communism sets up a “shadow party” to move America closer to a state-run tyranny.  A decrier of capitalism’s excesses, he made his name manipulating England’s currency and imperiled a nation through an act verging on financial terrorism.  Now, he’s a billionaire hedge fund manager who props up a nationwide anti-Wall Street protest.

October 21st, 2011 at 2:35 pm
Bachmann in the Lion’s Den

However her presidential campaign turns out, Michele Bachmann deserves continued credit for speaking the truth no matter what the forum.  During question time after a speech in the liberal haven of San Francisco, the conservative firebrand made these distinctions between the “occupy” movement and the Tea Party:

“The tea party picks up its trash after it has a demonstration, so there’s a difference,” the Minnesota congresswoman quipped during a question-and-answer period after her speech to the Commonwealth Club of California.

On a more serious note, the two movements have “two different views of how to solve the problems” our nation faces, she said. Occupy activists believe in “government-directed solutions based on temporary gimmicks,” she said, while tea partyers believe in “permanent solutions driven from the private sector.”

Amen, sister.

H/T: San Jose Mercury-News

October 21st, 2011 at 1:10 pm
This Week’s Liberty Update
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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:

Hillyer:  Alabama Boosts Borders: The Immigration Controversy
Lee:  While Federal Spending Hit New Record in 2011, Washington, D.C. Became America’s Wealthiest City
Ellis:  Obama’s 5 (Most Recent) Dumb Statements
Senik:  Obama’s “Occupy Wall Street” Problem: He Is the One Percent

Podcast:  Hoover Fellow Outlines United States Policy on Military Intervention
Jester’s Courtroom:  Flying the Turbulent Skies Lands a Lawsuit

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.

October 21st, 2011 at 10:21 am
Senators Sessions, Snowe Echo CFIF on Overspending and Federal Employee Pay
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In our commentary this week entitled “While Federal Spending Hit New Record in 2011, Washington, D.C. Became America’s Wealthiest City”, we highlight the interrelation between federal spending reaching a new record high in 2011 and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area becoming the nation’s wealthiest.   Among other facts, we pointed out that wages of federal employees themselves are over 1/5 higher than comparable private-sector employees, and that federal benefits stand 20%-40% higher than those of private counterparts.

Today, Senators Jeff Sessions and Olympia Snowe sustain our point in their commentary within The Wall Street Journal entitled “An End to Budgetary Trickery.”  Advocating the Honest Budget Act they’ve introduced to end “the most blatant and dishonest” overspending gimmicks, they highlight “Fake Federal Pay Freezes”:

In November 2010, the president promised to institute a ‘two-year pay freeze for all civilian federal workers.’  He explained that ‘getting this deficit under control is going to require broad sacrifice.’  But 70% of civilian federal workers have continued to receive 2%-3% automatic ‘step’ increases just for showing up – costing taxpayers an extra billion dollars every year.  The Honest Budget Act, in keeping with the president’s pledge, would simply make the federal pay freeze real by legislative mandate.”

Senators Sessions and Snowe also seek to end false “emergency” spending, phony “rescissions” and timing shifts in their legislation.  As they summarize, “No more gimmicks, tricks or shell games.”  We agree, and urge you to take a quick moment to contact your two Senators in support of the Honest Budget Act.   Let’s get this done.

October 20th, 2011 at 5:57 pm
Batchelder Wows Heritage Audience

Back before G.W. Bush nominated the excellent John Roberts for the Supreme Court, many conservatives had another name at or near the top of their wish-list: Alice Batchelder, judge (now chief judge) on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (She was, as I recall, my second choice, with Sam Alito as my top choice. Of course, I have been very happy with John Roberts as well.) Last night at the Heritage Foundation, those assembled could see exactly why she was rated so highly.

The event was Heritage’s annual Joseph Story lecture, named after the brilliant and principled Supreme Court Justice appointed by James Madison. Batchelder effectively created a “debate” of ideas (albeit expressed more than three decades apart) between the Anti-Federalist of the ratifying period named “Brutus” (likely Robert Yates) and Story, as to whether or not the Constitution left too much leeway to judges to assume too much unchecked power. Story, whose own jurisprudence was of what we conservatives now would call “originalist” or “textualist” and who himself never would have overstepped proper bounds, argued that the judiciary overall would not exceed its bounds either. In doing so, he may have been projecting his own virtues onto future justices; what Batchelder argued was that Story was less able a prognosticator than he was a judge. Clearly, she said, Brutus’ warnings proved right — not, mind you, that the Constitution read correctly allows for power-wandering judges, but that its protections against that evil are not strong enough to block judges from straying.

It all made for an interesting situation where the Story lecturer was arguing against Story’s position on a particular issue (although certainly not against his jurisprudence). It was fascinating stuff.

Without ever coming close to overstepping a current judge’s rightful bounds of opining on pending or possibly pending cases, Batchelder provided examples aplenty of how judges have indeed strayed far afield from the Constitution as those like Story understood it. Perhaps most ironic was that the very arguments used by the high court in the Casey abortion decision to justify an expansive conception of jurisprudential authority, namely that it is not the job of the government to “mandate” a “moral code,” runs afoul of the reasons originally given for expanding the Constitution’s “Commerce Clause,” which was that Congress had every rightful authority to prohibit commerce undertaken for “immoral purposes.”

Anyway, I’m getting into the weeds here, which may not be the right forum for doing so. Much more deserves to be written about Judge Batchelder’s wonderful speech later, and we should eagerly await Heritage’s publication of it in text form. I’ll be sure to let readers know when it is available.

October 20th, 2011 at 4:52 pm
Tonight’s “Hillyer Time” Radio Show Guest Lineup
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CFIF’s Renee Giachino sits in for Quin Hillyer tonight on FM Talk 1065 from Mobile, Alabama. Tune in live here.  

Tonight’s line-up include:

  •  8:00 pm (CT):  Tim Lee, CFIF, Jobs and No Jobs — The Obama Administration’s Economically Destructive Agenda
  • 8:30 pm (CT):  Troy Senik, Former White House Speechwriter and CFIF Senior Fellow, Tea Party Rallies vs. Occupy Wall Street Protests
October 19th, 2011 at 9:23 pm
Harry Reid Says He’s “Just Fine” with Unemployment Numbers
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Count us surprised here at CFIF that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has any hangups about the current state of the economy. Remember, this is the man who said last year that without him the world would have slumped into a global depression. Apparently, though, the senior senator from Nevada has now realized there is a crisis — too little government spending going towards public employees:

9.1 percent of Americans are currently unemployed, as are 13.4 percent of Senator Reid’s fellow Nevadans. “Just fine”, we suppose, is a relative concept.

October 18th, 2011 at 6:06 pm
How to Eviscerate a Pundit
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Regular readers of the blog know that there is a small gallery of Washington pundits that I simply cannot abide; not because I disagree with their views, but because I despise the predictability of their positions, the ballast of their prose, and the intellectual laziness of their work.

That’s a group that includes Tom Friedman, Joe Klein, and E.J. Dionne, amongst others. But there’s a special place in pundit hell for the professional joiner: the columnist who always has to march in lockstep with Beltway fashion. That’s why it’s so delightful to see the once-respectable Fareed Zakaria get noted in the New Republic’s list of over-rated DC thinkers. The précis is priceless:

Fareed Zakaria is enormously important to an understanding of many things, because he provides a one-stop example of conventional thinking about them all. He is a barometer in a good suit, a creature of establishment consensus, an exemplary spokesman for the always-evolving middle. He was for the Iraq war when almost everybody was for it, criticized it when almost everybody criticized it, and now is an active member of the ubiquitous “declining American power” chorus. When Obama wanted to trust the Iranians, Zakaria agreed (“They May Not Want the Bomb,” was a story he did for Newsweek); and, when Obama learned different, Zakaria thought differently. There’s something suspicious about a thinker always so perfectly in tune with the moment.

Indeed. Fareed Zakaria is a man who writes Gallup polls in paragraph form. Nice to see the media take notice.

October 18th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
New DarkPeace Video Exposes Greenpeace’s Damage to the Developing World
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Here in the developed world, Greenpeace’s brand of environmentalism provides a convenient way for sheltered liberals to become saints on the cheap.  But Greenpeace’s impact in the developing world isn’t so cheap.  In fact, it can be deadly.

A new introductory video from “DarkPeace” illustrates that destructive impact in very stark terms.  From sabotage against agricultural production research centers, to pressuring apparel companies like Adidas to stop manufacturing textiles in developing nations, to targeting energy projects, Greenpeace’s tactics have the effect of reducing availability of food in nations like Somalia where starvation is very real.  Its tactics also kill jobs, eliminate avenues to better wages and exacerbate miserable poverty.  Even The New York Times has admitted that Greenpeace’s shadier activities threaten “to completely marginalize” it and “undercut its credibility on other issues.”  Greenpeace co-founder Dr. Patrick Moore agrees:

To a considerable extent the environmental movement was hijacked by political and social activists who learned to use green language to cloak agendas that had more to do with anti-capitalism and anti-globalization than with science or ecology. I remember visiting our Toronto office in 1985 and being surprised at how many of the new recruits were sporting army fatigues and red berets in support of the Sandinistas…  Their propaganda campaign is aimed at promoting an ideology that I believe would be extremely damaging to both civilization and the environment.”

Even here in America, Greenpeace’s activities threaten tens of thousands of potential jobs.  But with groups like “DarkPeace” and people like Dr. Moore exposing them, perhaps not much longer.

October 18th, 2011 at 1:15 am
Is Ron Paul Framing the Election?

One way to think of a presidential campaign is as a nationally followed negotiation.  Each political party provides players who in turn generate ideas for public consumption.  Some proposals change the national consensus (e.g. Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts), while others fall flat (Walter Mondale’s “I will raise your taxes” pledge). 

If we look at what leading Republicans have proposed this cycle, it’s an impressive range of serious fiscal ideas.  Paul Ryan has his “Path to Prosperity” budget, Rick Santorum his tax cuts. Mitt Romney has 59 points to get America working, and Herman Cain has “9-9-9”.  Now, Ron Paul says we should cut $1 trillion dollars by eliminating entire federal cabinet departments and going back to 2006 funding levels for those that survive. 

My suspicion is that Paul’s plan will get the most criticism because it is the most radical.  But might it also be the most helpful in a sense, since it probably represents the least government that any major Republican will put his or her name to this year?  And if that’s the case, then isn’t Paul doing the electorate a favor by clearly articulating what the most radical version of reform would look like so voters can weigh the differences fully? 

If Quin, Tim, or Troy has anything to add, I’d like to read it.  Is Ron Paul’s plan bold, crazy, or something in between?

October 18th, 2011 at 12:57 am
Obama’s Campaign Finance Hypocrisy

Once upon a time, candidate Obama promised to participate in the federal campaign finance program in a sop to free speech restrictionists.  Of course, he reneged as soon as he could, claiming that since the system is “broken” it was his right to collect as much money as he could  from willing donors.

Fast-forward to today, and it looks like President Obama has long forgotten his former aversion to privately financed campaigns:

[The President] can also raise large contributions for the Democratic National Committee — topping out at $30,800 per donor rather than the $5,000 limit on contributions to candidates — that are helping finance the party’s broader efforts to help Democrats up and down the ballot. During the last three months, the committee has already transferred funds totaling more than $1.3 million to Democratic organizations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the party’s filings.

I don’t begrudge any candidate for choosing a free(r) market approach to campaign finance.  What’s galling in Obama’s case, though, is that once again we have an example of how brazenly opportunistic he is when it comes to basic principles.  Whether it’s promising people they can keep their health insurance after Obamacare or campaigning as a post-partisan then saying Republicans want folks to drink dirty water, the man seems incapable of keeping his word. 

The joke on some politicians is a truth applied to the president: you know he’s lying when his lips are moving.

October 17th, 2011 at 9:29 pm
Ron Paul is Making Sense
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I’ve posted before on the difficulty that Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy presents: while Paul is utterly at sea on foreign policy issues and too philosophically pure to countenance the type of compromise that real political progress requires, his libertarian beliefs also make him one of the best candidates in the Republican race on economic issues. Thankfully, Paul has no hope of being the nominee, but let’s hope that his “Restore America” economic plan, unveiled earlier today, has an influence on the GOP field. This is solid stuff, as the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog reports:

Mr. Paul does get specific when he calls for a 10% reduction in the federal work force, while pledging to limit his presidential salary to $39,336, which his campaign says is “approximately equal to the median personal income of the American worker.”  The current pay rate for commander in chief is $400,000 a year.

The Paul plan would also lower the corporate tax rate to 15% from 35%, though it is silent on personal income tax rates, which Mr. Paul would like to abolish. The congressman would end taxes on personal savings and extend “all Bush tax cuts…”

While promising to cut $1 trillion in spending during his first year, Mr. Paul would eliminate the Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, Interior and Housing and Urban Development…

Mr. Paul would also push for the repeal of the new health-care law, last year’s Wall Street regulations law and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the 2002 corporate governance law passed in response to a number of corporate scandals, including Enron.

What’s most remarkable is that Paul — long considered an ideological outlier — is now in line with the majority of the Republican establishment (the movement was on their end, not his). With the exception of his call to abolish the federal income tax and a few of his cabinet department eliminations, these are all priorities that a Republican congress could support coming from a GOP president. That man won’t be Ron Paul … but let’s hope he’s read his plan.

October 17th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
THIS WEEK’s RADIO SHOW LINEUP: CFIF’s Renee Giachino Hosts “Your Turn” on WEBY Radio 1330 AM
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Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) 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 (CDT)/5:00 pm (EDT):  Daniel DiSalvo, Senior Fellow at Manhattan Institute’s Center for State and Local Leadership – “Government Unions and the Bankrupting of America”;

4:30 (CDT)/5:30 pm (EDT):  Rich Trzupek, Chemist, Consultant and Writer – “How the EPA’s Green Tyranny is Stifling America”;

5:00 (CDT)/6:00 pm (EDT):  Chief George Dodge – Importance of Recognizing Veterans’ Day and the Panzacola Indian’s in Pensacola; and

5:30 (CDT)/6:30 pm (EDT):  Troy Senik, CFIF Fellow – “Occupy Wall Street” vs. Tea Partiers, and Bush “Torture” Memos vs. Obama Awlaki Memos.

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