Tag: Institute for Justice

Turkeys and Drumsticks 2013

For six years running, I have taken advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkey of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I rarely give them out to someone who is evil; they are reserved for those who regularly makes me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making blogging easier.

We’ll start with the Turkeys of the Year. For reference, the past winners are:

2007: Alberto Gonzalez, Nancy Pelosi, Hugo Chavez

2008: Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin’s critics, Hillary Clinton, Congress, Joe Biden

2009: Mike Steele, Glen Beck, the State Department, Sarah Palin, Andrew Sullivan.

2010: Janet Napolitano and TSA, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, MSNBC, Lower Merion Schools, California Voters.

2011: Nancy Pelosi, Republican Presidential Field, Occupy Wall Street, Anthony Weiner, the Eurozone.

2012: The Culture Warriors, Unions, The Poll Unskewers, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, MSNBC

So without further ado, here are my nominees for Turkey of the Year:

Healthcare.Gov: Up until October, the second nominee on the list was winning. But over time, Healthcare.gov has eclipsed everything. It doesn’t work, it’s not secure, it’s expensive as hell and all these problems were known well in advance and ignored for political purposes. And really dumb political purposes. Who the hell did Obama think he was fooling? Did he think no one would notice that the website didn’t work?

Now Obama’s defenders will tell you how the contracting process with the government is broken and horrendously expensive. Projects are proposed, revised, endlessly monitored, started from scratch and revised again. On IT, in particular, the execution is horrific. All that is true. However … we were told that this was an advanced 21st century Administration. They revolutionized politics in 2008 with their organization, right? The government’s dysfunction was precisely what he was supposed to fix. And fixing it was well within his powers as chief executive.

One of the first things Bill Clinton did on taking office was his “reinventing government” initiative. It was a key reason why his Presidency worked as well as it did. Every President who is successful understands that government accumulates cruft over the years and needs periodic reworking. Our current government is the cruft equivalent of the Augean stables. And Obama has, if anything, made it worse.

To me, this really gets at the heart of Obama’s problem. He’s great on rhetoric; he’s bad on ideas. But when it comes to running the actual engine of government, he’s simply terrible. He has a Justice Department that insists they won’t raid marijuana facilities and does; he has a State Department that can’t figure out that an Al-Qaeda stronghold in Benghazi might be a hot spot; he has a healthcare system that doesn’t work. I don’t expect Obama to micromanage. He’s not supposed to be sitting down and writing a million lines of code. But he can pick competent managers to make things work and he hasn’t. He has surrounded himself with incompetent, pigheaded ideological morons. He can hold people accountable and recognize when a Department is messing up. He doesn’t. Really, it’s a miracle the country is still standing. I meant what I said a few weeks ago: Obama should have fired Sebelius and hired someone like Romney to clean up the mess. That would have been leadership.

The Platinum Coin: I flagged this earlier in the year as the dumbest idea ever to surface in Washington. Heavyweights like Paul Krugman were insisting that our debt ceiling problem could be solved by using a legal loophole to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin. The idea was so dumb that even Barack Obama said he wouldn’t do it.

The Shutdown Caucus: This did nothing to stop Obamacare; if anything it distracted from it. But the chief architects think it was a success … because it raised a lot of money for their PACs.

The Park Service: It’s one thing, during a government shutdown, to close parks that have to be actively managed. But the Park Service became a national cuss word when they shut down open air monuments and tried to block Honor Flight veterans from going to them.

Fiscal Cliff Panic Mongers: We’re supposed to be in the worst recession ever. Government discretionary spending was cut 5% by the sequester and taxes were raised. According to the economists, we should be having a collapsing economy, massive unemployment and plagues of locusts. But the economy has kept humming along in the not-really-a-recovery-but-not-really-a-recession-either mode that has defined Obama’s presidency.

Dishonorable Mentions: Paul Krugman, Andrew Sullivan, MSNBC, the Democratic Gubernatorial Nominees, Detroit

Now the Golden Drumsticks, awarded to those who best exemplified what is right with the world. Here are the past awards, the first round from West Virginia Rebel.

2007: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ron Paul, Barack Obama, David Petraeus, Juan Carlos, Burma’s monks

2008: US Military, Jeff Flake, Ron Paul, Republican Governors, Barack Obama

2009: The American Fighting Man, Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, George W. Bush

2010: The Tea Party, Chris Christie, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the Next Wave of Republicans, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, The American Soldiers

2011: Seal Team Six, Mark Kelly, The Arab Spring (ugh), the Technicians at Fukushima

2012: Down Ballots, The Sandy Responders, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, Mathew Inman

For this year, I picked:

Pope Francis: Since his inauguration, he has been one of the most inspiring figures on the world stage (admittedly a low bar). I’m not Catholic. Although I practice Judaism, my faith wavers. But I look forward to hearing what Pope Francis has done lately and am frequently moved.

When you boil it down, he is just a good man, seemingly unaffected by the wealth and power that come with his office and filled with the love and charity that defines religion for the vast majority of people. It started when he decide to wash the feet not of his priests but of detainees in a prison for minors. He is trying to defuse culture wars, eschews wealth and privelege, is reaching out to atheists and has had several amusing and touching viral moments. He’s not sacrificing the Church’s views on anything; he’s trying to find common ground with those who disagree with the Church. You should really read this long interview with him:

“But I am always wary of decisions made hastily. I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision. This is usually the wrong thing. I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time. The wisdom of discernment redeems the necessary ambiguity of life and helps us find the most appropriate means, which do not always coincide with what looks great and strong.”

To be clear, I don’t agree with him on everything. Last week, he issued an Evangelii Gaudium about capitalism and wealth that was ignorant of the gigantic strides that have been made in eradicating global poverty thanks to capitalism. The Left predictably went all faint and blushing; I expect that will last until he says something about abortion. The Church has had a long and unfortunate affinity for socialism. But the whole point of his first year is that it is OK to disagree with him; he will seek common ground.

My mother says he reminders her of John XXIII. I hope he lasts for a long time.

Edward Snowden: I’ll admit that I have mixed feelings about this. I still wonder about his motives and what he has given to the Russians and the Chinese. He has occasionally revealed stuff I don’t think needed to be revealed (like the fact that we — gasp! — spy on other countries). But no one would be discussing the NSA’s gigantic surveillance empire without Snowden. For that, if nothing else, I appreciate him.

Rand Paul: Paul carried out an epic filibuster to force the Administration to disclaim droning American citizens on American soil. His speech at Howard was ridiculed by the Left, but he at least tried to reach out to black people and his efforts were appreciate by the students there. Another man I don’t agree with on everything. But he is advancing some very important banners.

The American Military: Do you know we are still fighting wars overseas? Do you know that our soldiers are still fighting with honor and courage and being an exemplar to the world? You might not since the MSM doesn’t talk about our wars any more. But they are still out there, standing on that wall.

The Institute for Justice: The continue to win fight after fight for property and contract rights. They are the only force really pushing back on Imminent Domain and Asset Forfeiture, claiming victories for Saint Joseph Abbey of St. Benedict, the Caswells and the Dehkos. Bravo

Honorable Mention: Bush 41, Honor Flight, Tammy Duckworth, Chris Hadfield

We’ll Take That

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: thank God for the IJ:

Imagine you own a million-dollar piece of property free and clear, but then the federal government and local law enforcement agents announce that they are going to take it from you, not compensate you one dime, and then use the money they get from selling your land to pad their budgets—all this even though you have never so much as been accused of a crime, let alone convicted of one.

That is the nightmare Russ Caswell and his family is now facing in Tewksbury, Mass., where they stand to lose the family-operated motel they have owned for two generations.

Seeking to circumvent state law and cash in on the profits, the Tewksbury Police Department is working with the U.S. Department of Justice to take and sell the Caswells property because a tiny fraction of people who have stayed at the Motel Caswell during the past 20 years have been arrested for crimes. Keep in mind, the Caswells themselves have worked closely with law enforcement officials to prevent and report crime on their property. And the arrests the government complains of represent less than .05 percent of the 125,000 rooms the Caswells have rented over that period of time.

The Institute for Justice — one of those evil Right Wing groups that defense our civil liberties — is now fighting this in the courts.

Asset forfeiture is one of the most vile things out government does. The idea that started it was not completely insane: taking the property of people who did illegal things when the people themselves were not obtainable because they were overseas. It’s ridiculous and offensive to use asset forfeiture when the supposed perpetrator of the crime is standing right there. I don’t care what the Supreme Court says — charging someone’s property with a crime to bypass their Constitutional rights is simply not acceptable. And the federal government has made a bad situation far worse. If local authorities work with the Feds, they get to keep most of the property they seize.

Cops are taking the property of people who have not been charged with a crime and then using it for their own purposes. Can this be described as anything other than plain and simple armed robbery?

I have said before the Supreme Court is only one of the defenders of our liberty. Congress needs to step in and pass laws abolishing or severely restricting asset forfeiture. And if they don’t or won’t because they are pant-shittingly terrified of being seen as weak on crime, the President should issue an executive order suspending the practice. If you need to explain it, just run Russ Caswell in front of the cameras and explain that our government is stealing his hotel.

You can not possibly claim that you uphold the Constitution and support freedom and simultaneously support this bullshit. Citizens are being robbed by their own law enforcement agents. And, as we’ve see with all government abuses, it is only escalating, now extending to people who are bystanders of crime. This gangsterism can not end … it will not end … until we force our government to stop it.

There should not be a politician in this nation who can go another day without being asked if he supports this crap. And there should not be another politician who does support who is not thrown out on his police-state-loving ass. The lesson of the recent SOPA/PIPA fight is that we can make the politicians do the right thing when we want to. Do we want to?

(And while I’m at it: if you ever wish to donate money to a political cause, support the Institute for Justice. They are doing incredible work defending basic property and business rights. I can’t overemphasize their role in this.)

Update: Something to consider: one of the things assert forfeiture is used for is to deprive accused criminals of assets needed to procure legal defense. With no money to hire lawyers, people are reduced to either incompetent defense or plea bargain. Assert forfeiture is poisoning law enforcement in every way imaginable. It has to stop.