Archives for: January 2013

Kopel on Pelosi

You really should read Dave Kopel’s (PDF) prepared testimony for yesterday’s hearing on the assault weapons ban. It’s absolutely devastating to the case for it, showing that it is nebulous, far-reaching and likely to be ineffective at best.

“Doing something” is the slogan for politicians who seek merely to exploit terrible crimes for self-serving purposes. “Doing something effective” is the approach of people who want to save lives and protect the public, especially children.

The lives of Americans, especially school children, depend on the choice that elected officials make between these two alternatives.

The Left is focusing on a fairly minor academic dispute about a study on the previous assault weapons ban. That dispute seems to me to revolve around the definition of “worked”. For most people, the criteria for the assault weapons ban working would be that it reduced crime. It didn’t, or at least it can’t be clearly shown (the data are a bit noisy and a LOT of policies changed in the 90’s). But to the gun grabbers, “worked” means it got weapons out of the hands of Americans. If it reduced crime, that’s nice but not really the point.

We can quibble about what the study found. But the reason so much attention has been paid to that quibble is because the rest of Kopel’s case is just devastating. As I said earlier, it is not we who have to justify our ownership of any particular firearm. It is the government that must justify restricting it. It just got a lot harder to justify an assault weapons ban; at least at the federal level.

Scaring Students

We’ve all gotten used to the stories of school drug sweeps and “scared straight” tactics getting more and more ridiculous. Student made to stand against walls, getting sniffed by drug dogs, having weapons pointed at them. But this is a new level of insanity.

A school shooting drill planned for tomorrow in the far northwestern suburbs has many parents upset.

According to a letter from Cary-Grove High School principal Jay Sargeant, there will be a code red drill at the school on Wednesday.

It will include somebody shooting blanks from a gun in the hallway “in an effort to provide our teachers and students some familiarity with the sound of gunfire.”

CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, during the drill, teachers will keep students in their rooms, lock their doors, and draw their curtains. Police will sweep the building, while someone will fire two shots – blanks – from a starter pistol.

I just love this quote from one of the parents:

“If you need to run a drill, you run a drill,” [Sharon Miller] told WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya. “They run fire drills all the time, but they don’t run up and down the hallway with a flamethrower.”

You can read further for more disheartening information, including parents dragging out the “better safe than sorry” line and the revelation that this idea came from the local cops. They don’t quite say that live fire exercises will be next, but I’m pretty sure that’s coming.

Of course, if someone were talking about these kids hearing blanks fired in, say, a violent movie … or seeing pixels exploded in a violent video game, they would be shrieking the heavens down about how awful this was. And if you suggested, heaven forfend, that schools have shooting clubs like my dad’s high school did, they would faint.

Look, I don’t think this will “traumatize” the kids or anything. But it’s just stupid. And it’s another an example of how hysterical people have gotten about school shootings, an event which happens at about one in 7,000 schools every year and about one in a million schools when it comes to mass shootings. And it’s also an example of how putting cops in schools is having negative consequences:

More than a third of American sheriffs’ departments and nearly half of all police departments have officers assigned to local schools, according to Department of Justice statistics from early last decade. Students today are arrested in school for offenses that include talking back to a police officer, doodling on a desk with an erasable marker, farting, and being an eight-year old throwing a temper tantrum. In other words: criminalizing childhood misbehavior.

School police help enforce a regime that deals out suspensions for transgressions ranging from signing a gospel song with friends at lunch, making out with a love interest, or blowing spit balls. Schools now also require drug tests for an ever-expanding set of extracurricular activities that now includes middle-school sports and even chess club, Future Farmers of America, and band (though a California judge in 2009 ruled drug testing for the latter set unconstitutional under state law).

Our schools are becoming far too comfortable with this sort of thing. And what’s more, our students are becoming far too used to an environment that encourages them to be hysterical, compliant and obedient to authority: exactly the kind of generation big government has long craved.

OH NOEZ! It’s a surprise only if you are an Obama sycophant

The LSM is all aflutter with the “surprise news” that the economy is shrinking! It’s only a suspires if you are a leftard or a member of the LSM that was willing to pretend the economy was just fine because Obama is a genius, while the signs are everywhere that we where heading for another recession.

The U.S. economy posted a stunning drop of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, defying expectations for slow growth and possibly providing incentive for more Federal Reserve stimulus. The economy shrank from October through December for the first time since the recession ended, hurt by the biggest cut in defense spending in 40 years, fewer exports and sluggish growth in company stockpiles.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter. That’s a sharp slowdown from the 3.1 percent growth rate in the July-September quarter. The surprise contraction could raise fears about the economy’s ability to handle tax increases that took effect in January and looming spending cuts.

Still, the weakness may be because of one-time factors. Government spending cuts and slower inventory growth subtracted a total of 2.6 percentage points from growth. And those volatile categories offset faster growth in consumer spending, business investment and housing — the economy’s core drivers of growth.

Heh, covering up and excuse making on steroids. Stunning loss? Not really, in fact my surprise is that they have reported it for a change. Of course they did so with all kinds of excuses. One time factors! It’s those evil government spending cuts. We need more of that. Yeah, sure. The real story here is that the only reason our economy isn’t correcting so it can then reset is because government has spent trillions preventing that, and thus prolonged the pain. No way these Keynesian Marxists will ever admit that though.

The economy is going to get hammered by tax increases, more of the same travesty from the EPA, and most importantly from the “free” healthcare Obamacare promised, and no amount of government stealing from the productive to pretend they can hold back the tide, is going to stop that. Our economy will continue to contract for the foreseeable future, unexpectedly according to the leftards, because Keynesian economics are bullshit. All they have done is put us trillions more in debt, prolonged the pain, and prevented the needed correction.

Consumer confidence is down, and even the most biased of polls can’t hide that. Everything costs more, even though we keep getting told there is no inflation, the dollar is definitely worth less, and the employment landscape is so heavily mined that it is a wonder there aren’t more casualties. Everyone but the elite in DC are hurting, and hurting bad. Even the freeloaders are complaining that they haven’t gotten their Obamaphones.

Business spending is non existent outside the tax payer handouts by government to preferred leftists cliques like the green energy sector, because all businesses see what these fucking economic illiterate marxists have done for the last 5 years as business killing ventures. It is not accidental that all these big lefty donor companies are looking for exclusions from EPA regulation and Obamacare, while asking for handouts. No business owner in their right mind wants to work so socio-engineers in government can rob them blind in order to buy votes from non producers.

Let us not even get into the whole housing market problem. The framework for what caused the recent market implosion was not only kept in place by the Dodd-Franks bill, but the utopian wealth redistribution, leftard socio-economic tampering schemes and mechanisms have been tweaked in such a way that it guarantees to make the next crisis even more horrible than this last one.

This sort of drivel of a news article makes me pine for a republican in the WH. At least then the LSM would be pointing out things where bad. Of course with massive exaggeration of how bad too (just look at the way they reported 4% unemployment under Boosh and the 8+% under Obama). Can you imagine how the LSM would be decrying the stagnation and depression we are in then instead of the constant lies about how the bad news is unexpected? It is bad out there. And only liberal idiots think that after the last 5 years of stupid that is unexpected.

BLAME BOOSH!

There, all solved. It is always someone else’s fault, but this is our immediate future, and this is where we will end if we let these people keep making the decisions that adults should be making.

The Menace of a Double Dip

The initial numbers for 2012 Q4 show the economy shrank at 0.1%. Are we entering a double-dip recession? Ed Morrissey breaks the numbers down a bit:

In other words, much of this drop seems to be a lack of inventory expansion. Real final sales to end purchasers rose, even if it didn’t go up by much. That would indicate that inventory expansion in Q3 and prior periods was based on overly-optimistic views of the economy.

Government spending also fell dramatically by 15% in Q4, meaning that private spending was actually up. Of course, it was up in Q3, so if you average the two quarters out, we’ve got a slow economy, but not one in recession. Possibly.

A few reasons not to run for the hills just yet:

1) The numbers are preliminary and will be revised again and again over the next year and a half. Remember that the economy was actually in recovery when Bush was voted out in 1992 but it took a while for the numbers to become clear. By the same token, the economy was crashing badly in the final quarter of 2008 but that didn’t become clear until over a year later. The most dramatic revision is likely to occur at the end of February, but don’t be surprised if the numbers change a lot. That could mean the economy is better; but it could also mean it’s worse. It’s unlikely to be good.

2) A shrinking economy is at variance with a number of other economic indicators, notably falls in unemployment, jobless claims and job creation figures. Long-term unemployment is starting to fall for the first time in a while and housing is starting to recover. This may indicate the growth number is bad. Or may be a lagging indicator.

3) If the economy is slowing down, it means that the “Debt Truthers” like Paul Krugman and, alarming, Bruce Bartlett, are even more full of shit than they were a week ago. The idea that our budget is coming into balance is predicated on strong economic growth. If that isn’t happening, the debt is still a Big Fucking Deal.

4) Sniping about the media calling economic news “unexpected” is silly. Economic figures are very noisy and almost never come in at expectations. The news is always “unexpected”. That’s not media bias; that’s media ignorance of how economic figures work.

5) I suspect that the real reason Q4 was slow was because of the uncertainty created by the fiscal cliff combined with the impact of Hurricane Sandy. The last time we saw growth slow like this was … during the debt ceiling crisis. If Congress and the President would quit creating these self-induced economic crises, we might be in much better shape. And having a Katrina-level event — one that cause $60 billion in direct damage and God knows how much in lost productivity in the midst of this political mess was a huge blow. Sandy alone might have knocked a percentage point of our growth.

So we should be concerned, but I’m not ready to panic just yet. 2013 Q1 might also be a bit weak with the expiration of the payroll tax holiday and I do think this will get Congress to punt the debt ceiling and possibly the sequester just to keep the economy from any more shocks.

Update: More:

For one thing, most of the collapse was due to a stunning fall in military spending. That’s not good for GDP, but it doesn’t reflect the real underlying strength of the economy.

And it’s mostly due to war drawdown. That’s a good thing for everyone!

There was also a big decline due to a reversal of big inventory buildups.

What’s key is that the numbers that really reflect the strength of the economy were much better.

Personal consumption, fixed investment, and equipment/software all grew nicely. This is the real economy humming along.

I’m not quite that optimistic. We had a real problems last quarter with the fiscal cliff and Sandy — problems that have not magically gone away. I’m expecting Q1 to be mediocre if we’re lucky.

Pelosi Watch: College Students

Doh!

College students will soon wake up to the fact that they have been had. While they were overwhelmingly supportive of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or “ObamaCare”) when their charismatic President was championing it, they will not be pleased when they find out that there is a huge price they will have to pay. ObamaCare will be anything but affordable.

Apparently, New Jersey is the only state in the nation that currently requires all college students to have healthcare coverage. This has always been a bare-bones plan costing from $100-600 per year. The new healthcare regulations will force these plans to be phased out, as the mandated coverage under ObamaCare will cause the premiums to rise from a few hundred dollars to $1,700 per year.

North Carolina has experienced this as well. The reason is very simple and is something conservative and libertarians have been talking about since the day Obamacare was passed. If you mandate a high minimum standard for insurance, you are going to price people out of the market. We may soon reach point where paying the Obamacare tax and waiting until you’re sick to get insurance is a better choice than getting insurance.

Told ya.

The Scouts Go Pink

The Boy Scouts have announced that they might change the rules on admitting gay scouts (it will be left up to individual troops, not set as national policy). Here’s the thing I like about it: it didn’t come from a Court decision or a federal law. SCOTUS, in fact, rejected anti-discrimination lawsuits against the Boy Scouts because they are a private organization*. What’s changing this is pressure from without and within the organization.

In a statement last July affirming the ban, its national executive board called it “the best policy for the organization.”

But since then, a scouting official said, local chapters have been urging a reconsideration. “We’re a grassroots organization. This is a response to what’s happening at the local level,” the official said.

Two corporate CEOs on BSA’s national board, Randall Stephenson of AT&T and James Turley of Ernst & Young, have also said they would work to end the ban. Stephenson is next in line to be the BSA’s national chairman. During the 2012 presidential campaign, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney said the BSA should admit gay scouts and scout leaders.

About 50 local United Way groups and several corporations and charities have concluded that the ban violates their non-discrimination requirements and have ceased providing financial aid to the Boy Scouts. An official of The Human Rights Campaign, an advocate for gay rights, said HRC planned to downgrade its non-discrimination ratings for corporations that continue to give the BSA financial support.

I was a scout for several years. I never went very far but I enjoyed it. My troop was based around a church and was a little nervous about me because I was literally the first or second Jew to ever join their troop. But, in the end, they were welcoming and I got just as much hazing and support as any other scout. I’m confident they will deal with gays (and, potentially, atheists and agnostics) with the same warmth and grace.

I’m glad to see not only that they are reconsidering their policy, but considering, in essence, federalizing it. Leaving it to individual troops, at least for the time being, will ease the Scouts into the inclusive waters rather than jumping in and splashing everyone.

(*That designation is itself controversial since the Boy Scouts get a number of public benefits, including the President as honorary president. Most notable is the ongoing case of Barnes-Walls v. BSA over the $1 rent the Scouts pay for using part of Balboa Park.)

The First Salvo on Immigration

The Gang of Eight (I guess) release the outline of immigration reform today. Let’s go through it.

1. Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;

Putting aside the proclamation, they propose increases in the border patrol and tracking entry and exit for visa holders. It will also allow current illegals to come forward, pass a background check, pay back taxes and fines and acquire probationary legal status. If they continue to pass checks, they will move to the back of the line for eventual green card status. There will be special dispensations for people who came here as minors and agricultural workers (the latter put in place, no doubt, because of reports of food rotting all over the west when no one was around to pick it).

I suspect this provision will be the most contentious, but it is a fairly obvious tradeoff: enhanced border security in exchange for a path to citizenship. The striking thing is that they are trying to improve the number of people protecting the border rather than building a ridiculous and useless fence — although I suspect the fence will come when some campaign contributor needs a federal contract.

The effectiveness of this will depend on well they do on the other provisions. To wit:

2. Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;

We desperately need an overhaul of our nightmarish immigration system, which is complex, slow and expensive for legal immigrants. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: if you make it easier for people to come her legally, fewer will come here illegally. More illegals will go back and get in line.

The interesting provision is that they will give a green card to anyone in the sciences who gets a Ph.D. from an American University. While it has been fairly easy for STEMs people to get visas, getting a green card is notoriously difficult.

3. Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,

This is the second part that makes the “path to citizenship” work. If illegals can’t compete for jobs and have an easier way of becoming legal, the problem will eventually abate. I suspect, however, this will prove very difficult to implement. And it’s not going to do much about the guys standing around at Lowe’s who will work for cash.

4. Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

This mainly is about allowing more flexibility with low wage and agricultural workers.

Overall, the outlines are about what I expected. Provisions 2-4 are fairly uncontroversial, depending on the detail. It’s the first provision that’s going to provoke a battle. I’m not fond of the path to citizenship myself. As someone who is married to a green card holder and has been through the stress and expense, I’m disinclined to allow an easier path for those who broke the law.

But I also recognize that we have a Democratic President, a Democratic Senate and a Republican Party that is hemorrhaging votes. If we get better border enforcement, cleaner immigration law and a employer verification system, I’ll take the tradeoff. It will be a massive improvement over the current mess.

Post Scriptum: I should not that illegal immigration has dropped substantially in the last five years. But that little to do with policy and everything to do with the crappy economy. When the economy improves, those numbers will spike again.

GI Jane

Last week, the Administration lifted the ban on women in combat. Of course, in modern warfare, there really aren’t a lot of non-combat roles. Despite the ban, 150 women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and 800 wounded while performing “non-combat” duties. Indeed, part of the pressure for this change was so that women who have already been in combat would get the appropriate benefits and pay.

But that’s a little different from having women assigned to combat roles where the intention is to engage the enemy. We may want to be careful in certain theaters (e.g., the Middle East) where women prisoners may be subject to even greater abuse than male ones. Of far more concern is this:

At a briefing Thursday morning, Pentagon officials repeatedly stressed that there will be “gender-neutral standards” for combat positions. This could make it difficult for women to qualify in roles that specifically require upper-body strength.

For example, to work in a tank, women will have to demonstrate the ability to repeatedly load 55-pound tank shells, just as men are required to do.

Infantry troops routinely carry backpacks with 60 or 70 pounds of gear, or even more. The most common injury in Afghanistan is caused by roadside bombs. This raises the question of whether a female combat soldier would be able to carry a 200-pound male colleague who has been wounded.

NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman recently reported on the first two women allowed into the Marines’ grueling 12-week Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Va. Both women were in outstanding physical condition, yet both dropped out early in the training.

This is the rub: if we’re going to do this, the standards for roles in the military have to be set based on the role even if that means that few, if any, women qualify for those roles (or, by contrast, if women come to dominate certain roles). The Pentagon is making all the right noises now. However, I fear that, for all the resolve being shown now, those standards will be allowed to slip if women are not getting into combat roles in the numbers that various political agitators expect.

The system is broke.

If you need more proof that the west is doomed because of the broken and unsustainable social system, take a look at this latest revelation:

A SKIVING couple told last night how they claim £17,680 a year in benefits — and don’t even bother looking for work because it would leave them worse off. Danny Creamer, 21, and Gina Allan, 18, spend each day watching their 47in flatscreen TV and smoking 40 cigarettes between them in their comfy two-bedroom flat.

It is all funded by the taxpayer, yet the couple say they deserve sympathy because they are “trapped”. They even claim they are entitled to their generous handouts because their hard-working parents have been paying tax for years. The couple, who have a four-month-old daughter Tullulah-Rose, say they can’t go out to work as they could not survive on less than their £1,473-a-month benefits.

The pair left school with no qualifications, and say there is no point looking for jobs because they will never be able to earn as much as they get in handouts. Gina admits: “We could easily get a job but why would we want to work — we would be worse off.”

Oh, where to begin. Yes, this is GB, not the US, but the two country’s systems, despite anyone’s attempt to argue otherwise, fail in the same manner. Namely they discourage employment and self sufficiency, as the young lady which already has one welfare child the tax payers are subsidizing, points out. As these perfectly capable of doing work parasites also point out, they pretty much wasted their “free education”, yet they feel, and do so strongly, quite entitled to all of the freebees. That’s because their parents paid taxes!

The problem is that there is no longer stigma attached to sucking at the government’s teat. Politicians pretend to get rid of that to help make it easier for those in real need to seek help, but the result has been that the system got swamped by so many that feel like these two losers do that they are owed, for whatever reason. And the politicians don’t care anymore. It is the best vote buying scheme ever, so they will never fix the system.

Before anyone goes there. The problem isn’t that evil capitalism has made it impossible for these poor souls to find well paying jobs. It isn’t a rigged system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer that’s at fault: it is the tremendously stupid choices made by these morons. They had free education and squandered that. Why work to get skills that could get you paid more anyway, if the completely idiotic and vile wealth redistribution scam masquerading as social help is quite content to go through the motions of pretending to protect the tax payers, but really doesn’t care at all?

These people are where they are because of choices. They likely came from hard working middle class parents, and now they are quite content to demand more free shit, always paid for by others, while they avoid responsibility and anything resembling work. That shit is for suckers. Meh, don’t take my word for it.

Danny’s father, 46, even offered him a job with his bowling alley servicing company — but could not pay him enough. Danny’s mum, 45, works as a carer, while Gina’s mum, 46, is a teacher and her dad, 53, is a manager with a security company. Yet their parents’ work ethic has not rubbed off on Danny and Gina. Instead, they claim they are entitled to benefits because of their parents’ tax contributions — and even complain they should be given MORE.

Gina, flaunting fake tan and perfectly manicured nails, said: “I don’t see that we’re living off the taxpayers, we’re entitled to the money our parents paid all their lives. “They’ve worked so hard since they left school and I’m sure they’d rather it went to us than see us struggle. They pay a lot of tax, and although they’d rather we weren’t in this situation and one of us had a job, they understand why we are where we are. We can’t help it, we’re stuck like it.”

And there you have it in a nut shell. Work is for suckers. Gimme, and gimme more, because I am entitled to it. And we let these morons vote. What a tragic revelation, huh? In the mean time those of us that find this attitude anathema to progress and civilization’s survival get hammered. We are told we need to give up more so people like Gina and Danny, with little baby Tullulah – whom is totally innocent since she only had the ill luck of being born to these fools, and despite the fact that she will have the same attitude they do and want more free shit herself, can not be held responsible in any way for this failure – can live it up.

Let’s also not kid ourselves that this scenario is a rare incident, because it tends to absolutely be the norm. The “I didn’t pay attention is school, have no skills, can not get paid enough if I worked to want to leave the freebees and be productive, and I am entitled anyway so what?” attitude is pervasive and stands as an indictment of the whole system that pretends wealth redistribution will solve whatever. Not of anything else. But the left will never admit what we have now is not just broke, but will break each and every country that is spending too much on people like this, even when they remain unable to afford it, and that we need to undo the free anything system and tell people that they need to produce and not slack.

The Court in Recess

Yesterday, the DC Court struck down several of President Obama’s recess appointments:

In a ruling that called into question nearly two centuries of presidential “recess” appointments that bypass the Senate confirmation process, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday that President Obama violated the Constitution when he installed three officials on the National Labor Relations Board a year ago.

The ruling was a blow to the administration and a victory for Mr. Obama’s Republican critics — and a handful of liberal ones — who had accused him of improperly asserting that he could make the appointments under his executive powers. The administration had argued that the president could decide that senators were really on a lengthy recess even though the Senate considered itself to be meeting in “pro forma” sessions.

Recess appointments are intended for when Congress is out of session and there is a dire need. They are not intended to bypass the Congress, even when said Congress are acting like idiots and refusing to do their Constitutional duty. I commented on this a year ago. While chastising the Republicans for refusing to have hearing on necessary appointments, I said:

All that having been said, two wrongs do not make a right. The Democrats pulled this pro forma crap too. Had Bush responded this way, the halls of Congress would have been filled with the sighs of Democrats fainting from such an egregious abuse of the process. Barack Obama, as Senator, was not exactly screaming to end filibusters when he could have done something about it (he was not part of the Gang of 14).

All sides are acting like spoiled little children, playing a game of “he started it.” It’s shit like this that makes me go up to Washington with a 2×4 and start whomping any Senator who gets within range. I don’t give a shit who started it. It needs to stop.

Violating the rules again is not the way to stop it, though. The Republicans got through this when Bush was President by finding Democrats who would let judicial candidates through. Scott Brown, at least, has indicated he would allow votes to proceed and I’m certain other Republicans could be cajoled or shamed into it.

I am nervous about the potential consequences of this decision (actions taken by recess appointees could be ruled invalid, creating complete legal chaos). I also suspect this will go the Supreme Court before it’s decided once and for all (the 11th Circuit previously upheld Bush’s recess appointments). It basically removes the President’s power to make recess appointments since Congress is basically always in at least pro forma session these days. But it seems like the Courts are going to force our legislators and our President to act like adults and actually go through the Constitutional process that is their obligation and duty.