Tuesday, January 29, 2013

President Obama's Immigration Speech Cost Taxpayers $527 per Word

Yesterday, a study from the publicly funded University of Minnesota was released noting that Governor Sarah Palin was paid $15.85 per word during her time as a FoxNews contributor. Despite all of Governor Palin's purported irrelevancy, this study generated stories at USA Today, the Washington Post, The New York TimesYahoo! News, and Politico, among numerous other outlets.

Meanwhile, just today, President Obama flew from Washington D.C. to Las Vegas to give a speech on immigration reform. Per the Weekly Standard, his trip cost taxpayers a $1.6 million or $182,000 per hour of flight on Air Force One. According to the transcript at the Chicago Sun Times, President Obama's immigration speech was 3,079 words and applause instances, meaning that President Obama's speech cost the taxpayers just under $520 per word and applause. Including the instances of applause is being generous to the President, as if those weren't included, his speech would have cost taxpayers $527 per word. The transcript also notes that President Obama's speech lasted 25 minutes. Using 2012 spending levels as a reference, the federal government spent $170 million during the President's speech, at a rate of roughly $6.8 million per minute.

Those numbers won't be found outside of the conservative blogosphere, however. The legacy media are more concerned with how much money a woman, who currently does hold publicly office, made for appearing a privately owned television station than they are with how much money the President's junkets and astronomical spending are costing the taxpayers.

Crossposted here and here.

When Reform Takes Precedence over Reputation

"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences." - Susan B. Anthony
Governor Palin's decision not to renew her contract at Fox News has received a lot of discussion from the punditry  as expected. Some have pretentiously referred to her as a fad. Others wrote her political obituary (just as they did when she stepped aside from the governorship), casting everything in past tense as if she just plans ride off into the aurora bourealis on a snow machine. Of course, Governor Palin isn't the political equivalent of pogs or Shirley MaClaine, who has had more lives than most cats. Rumors of her political death are greatly exaggerated, which is just how she wants it. As Governor Palin said to Breitbart News on Saturday, " we delight in those who underestimate us".

Throughout her career, Governor Palin, just like Susan B. Anthony, has cared far more about reform than reputation. When she was on the city council, she took a stand by voting against a regulation for garbage pickup because it would have unethically steered business to the garbage company owned by other council member. Who was that council member? Nick Carney--the very person who encouraged Palin to run for city council. Reform was more important to her than social standing.

As an oil and gas regulator in the Murkowski administration, she stood up to Randy Ruedrich, a fellow member of the Alaska  Oil and Gas Commission and the head of the Alaska Republican Party, when he did party business on state time and was engaged in other unethical behavior. Palin did all she could do with in her power to expose the corruption, but Governor Murkowski did not act. The only thing Palin felt she could do in good conscience was resign. She gave up a six figure job and risked her political future.Again, reform was more important to her than social standing.

Later, as Governor and following her time as the GOP vice presidential candidate, she was hit with a barrage of frivolous ethics complaints. Defending these complaints cost her family hundreds of thousands of dollars, her state upwards of two million dollars, and her staff eighty percent of their time. Governor Palin thought that remaining governor stood in the way of reform for Alaska, as the money and time suck of ethics complaints stymied progress for her state. Rather than bitterly clinging to power, Governor Palin resigned with the full understanding that it may negatively affect her political future.

Following her resignation, she used multiple media platforms to spread her conservative message. She became a commentator at FoxNews, endorsed and campaigned for reform minded candidates,spoke at Tea Party rallies and used social media outlets to voice her ideas and thoughts on issues ranging from energy independence to foreign policy to government ethics. She used somewhat unconventional outlets, like TLC's Sarah Palin's Alaska and appearances Conan O'Brien, to reach new groups and affect the culture beyond the traditional media used  in politics. For much of this, she was mocked. Governor Palin takes to the her Facebook page far more often than the pages of the Wall Street Journal, although she does that on occasion too. However, using such a platform was poo pooed as unserious. In reality, it was a revolutionary way for politics to enter the social media, as people were exposed to energy policy right along side new pictures of their grand children and news of their favorite music artist's tours. Her travelogue show exposed new people to Alaska's vast resources and the application of a strong work ethic. Again, reforming the method of marketing conservatism in culture and new media was more important to her than her social standing within a party holding steadfast to a world where white papers, focus groups, and power point presentations are seen as the means to influencing the populace.

Governor Palin spoke unabashedly as a commentator at FoxNews. However, as an outlet primarily seen as the "Republican" channel, commenting at Fox became "preaching to the choir". As she noted on Saturday, Governor Palin's message of reform is taking on the "big government enablers" on our side and using opportunities to broaden "the message of the beauty of freedom and the imperative of defending our republic and restoring this most exceptional nation." Interestingly and possibly purposefully, news of Governor Palin's departure from Fox and her next steps came as the same time as the National Review held a summit, complete with participation from Joe Scarborough, to discuss the future of conservatism--i.e. the very preaching to the choir that she indicated that conservatives need to move away from. For all this, the mainstream media, many of whom try to cast FoxNews as inconsequential, are now trying to portray Governor Palin as irrelevant without Fox. Yet, if one is truly irrelevant, they usually do not require hundreds of news stories deeming them so. She is so "irrelevant" that a publicly funded university did a study to determine how much money she was paid per word at Fox. There still hasn't been a study to determine how much money the federal government spends/borrows per word that President Obama reads off of a teleprompter.

Governor Palin's next step of reform is to expand her previous steps of taking on the party establishment and continuing to broaden the message of conservatism. Reform is in her nature--whether is policy reform inside elected office or conservative messaging reform and supporting reform minded candidates outside of office. As she said in channeling Revolutionary war hero John Paul Jones, she has not yet begun to fight.

Cross posted here and here

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Culture of Life

Today marks the forty years since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion. Since then, millions of unborn children have been aborted. In its most recent fiscal year report, Planned Parenthood noted it had aborted 333, 964 unborn babies--a record year. That's like wiping the city of St. Louis off the map.

When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he noted that we were endowed my our Creator with certain inalienable rights--life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Life precludes all the others. If we deny someone that first right, how can they have liberty? How can they purse happiness? Abortion is the ultimate form of prejudice--where personal convenience is pre-judged as more important than another person's existence and those inalienable rights are denied.

For all the pearl clutching pro-choice women do regarding having men interfering with their "health" care choices, they seem to forget that it was nine men who decided Roe v. Wade. Men are allowed to make "health" care decisions for these pro-choice women, so long as it is convenient for them. Sadly, we live in a world where health care legislation indicates that a twenty-six year old is considered a child for insurance purposes, but baby in her eleventh week in her mother's womb is not considered a child.

So much of politics is purportedly "for the children", yet when we deny them the right to life, what does any other legislation matter? In light of the recent ineffably saddening shooting in Newtown, CT, this well done video edit asks President Obama that very question.


 Advocating for life is not solely dependent upon court cases and legislation. It's about a culture where life is valued. This is the culture we want to help create and cultivate. Andrew Breitbart once said that culture is upstream of politics. This does not only apply to those facets of culture like entertainment or sports, but also the lens through which our society sees. Let that lens be life.

Crossposted here and here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Beautiful Brevity of Bastiat

Earlier this weekend, I finally read one of the books that has been on my "To Read" list for a couple of years--The Law by Frederic Bastiat. Bastiat was a 19th century French economist who focused on liberty and the overreaches of government's "legal plunder". The Law is a mere 55 pages long, but speaks volumes to the barrier to liberty that government becomes far too often. The words he writes ring just as true today as they did when he wrote his book in 1850. As King Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, "there is nothing new under the sun". This includes the fallibility of government and the need to emphasize the God-given right of liberty.

The Law is beautifully simple, which is why it has such a powerful message. Bastiat discusses how God has given us the rights of personality, liberty, and property and how the law is the collective organization to defend these rights. However, the law is perverted too often by two causes: naked greed and misconstrued philanthropy, as he refers to them. Diversion from the law's true purposes leads to what Bastiat refers to as legal plunder.  He also spends time railing against the elitism of politicians comparing them to gardeners wanting to prune their trees (constituents) or a scientists wanting to perform social experiments on their subjects.

Of particular intrigue to me personally was Bastiat's discussion of naked greed and misconstrued philanthropy. His rebuke of naked greed is not akin to the charge of the Occupy movement, but that of "the law" creating a system when "plunder" becomes less burdensome than working. This plunder by the few (politicians) comes at the expense of the many. Legal plunder then results in people wanting to either create laws to protect themselves against such plunder (support for selective tax credits, subsidies, etc) or organize so that they can become a recipient of it (welfare state,  politically connect grants, and protectionism in today's society).

Misconstrued philanthropy, to me at least, seems almost synonymous to the "compassionate conservatism" espoused by the Bush administration and perpetuated by many Establishment Republicans today. Bastiat decries a system of law that infringes upon liberties to organize labor, charity, agriculture, education, etc. Socialists, Bastiat says, want to government to combine "fraternity" and "liberty". He argues that forced attachment of fraternity actually destroys liberty. He is a proponent of what he calls " spontaneous fraternity". After all, conservatives can be spontaneously compassionate, and we should! True "fraternity" or compassion fails to exist when it is only the result of legal plunder redistributed to those determined in need by those who engaged in the plunder.

 Bastiat also goes on to very concisely characterize socialism and the subsequent lies that socialists project onto those who object to the State's role. He writes:
Socialism, like the old policy from which it emanates  confounds society and government. And so, every time we object to a thing being done by Government, it concludes we object to its being done at all. 
They might as well accuse us of wishing men not to eat, because we object to cultivation of corn by the State. 
In short, Bastiat was prescient about our current "Sandra Fluke" society, where lovers of liberty are accused of being anti-[fill-in-the blank] because we don't want government to pay for it with our money.

Bastiat continues by sharply criticizing the elitism and arrogance of elected leaders once they are in power, juxtaposing his views with those of his socialist contemporaries. He sums it up well when he says:
Since the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to allow them liberty, how comes it pass that the tendencies of organizers are always good?
Government is not god. It is not a moral force. It is not intrinsically good. It should not serve as an arbiter of liberty.

Brevity is beautiful, and Bastiat did it well. While there are many more current, well written books about ideology also, re-visiting the words of the past can help us understand our present and help preserve liberty for our future.

Crossposted here and here

Thursday, January 17, 2013

President Obama's "Conceal-Carry" Approach to Firearms Research

Late business professor Aaron Levenstein once said, "statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital". He is right, and President Obama's "executive actions" are a great example of this.

As part of his cache of executive actions, President Obama issued "a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence". The press secretary's release elaborating on this action states:
But for years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)and other scientific agencies have been barred by Congress from using funds to “advocate or promote gun control,” and some members of Congress have claimed this prohibition also bans the CDC from conducting any research on the causes of gun violence. However, research on gun violence is not advocacy; it is critical public health research that gives all Americans information they need.
President Obama bemoans the supposedly unclear language barring funding of research that would advocate for gun control, but President Obama signed the most recent consolidated appropriations act which had the language he criticized. Additionally, the Obama administration's Department of Justice and its research arm the National Institute for Justice (NIJ) has not funded a "single public study on firearms" during his presidency (and that's according to a report by his gun control comrade in arms, Michael Bloomberg, who would likely would have gone out of his way to show deference to the President on this matter). Meanwhile, a quick cursory search found that under President Bush, NIJ funded at least one study on ballistics analysis in crime and one on smart gun technology. If these issues are so important to the president, why did he sign a bill with murky language? Why did his Justice Department not fund studies on firearms?

Additionally, the President decries the lack of "critical public health research" being performed while at the same time using suspect and uncited non-federally  funded research in his press release. President Obama notes that "40% of guns are purchased without a background check". However, as Breitbart's AWR Hawkins notes, the source of that statistic is a study done by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the 40% on refers to guns already in circulation, not new guns. In his remarks, President Obama fails to indicate the source of his numbers. Additionally, John Fund at the National Review notes that what Bloomberg references is a small survey done during the Clinton administration nearly 20 years ago.Much of the self reported survey (surveys that  intrinsically have social desirability bias) was performed prior to the passage of the Brady Act requiring federal background checks. . Like Levenstein suggests, President Obama's gun statistics are revealing of his agenda they suggest, but what he conceals is vital.

If President Obama Department of Justice can't even fund the research that President Bush funded and if his staffers have to resort to statistics that are old enough to vote, what can be said about the research he wants to actually fund now? I think it can say what University of Illinois sociologist David Bordura and epidemiologist David Cowan said when the CDC had funded studies last during the mid 1990s (emphasis added):
In a presentation at the American Society of Criminology's 1994 meeting, for example, University of Illinois sociologist David Bordua and epidemiologist David Cowan called the public health literature on guns "advocacy based on political beliefs rather than scientific fact." Bordua and Cowan noted that The New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association, the main outlets for CDC-funded studies of firearms, are consistent supporters of strict gun control. They found that "reports with findings not supporting the position of the journal are rarely cited," "little is cited from the criminological or sociological field," and the articles that are cited "are almost always by medical or public health researchers."
 For more, please see Jacob Sullum's piece at Reason about the problems with publicly funded firearms research and the subsequent bias often found in the journals that publish such research. Suffice it to say, this latest proposal by President Obama appears to be nothing more than his version of conceal-carry--conceal the truth, and carry the misrepresentations.

 Crossposted here and here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Difference between Embracing Bipartisanship and Eschewing Obsessive Partisanship

The recently passed fiscal cliff deal was heralded by the media as a "bipartisan compromise".  Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein emphasized that the deal needed a "bipartisan basis". Republican Senator John Boozman called the bill a "bipartisan solution" that would "tackle the financial troubles are country is facing". The bill ultimately received a total of 125 Republicans and 219 Democrats between both the House and Senate. The bill indeed was bipartisan, but what was the price of bipartisanship? Eighty percent of the revenue from the bill will go to President Obama's cronies through incentives and subsidies. The Congressional Budget Office ultimately determined that the touted "balanced approach" really meant that there would be 10 dollars in tax increases for every dollar in spending cuts leading to an additional $4 trillion in deficits.Additionally, the payroll tax holiday expired as part of the deal. It is indeed arguable that the tax holiday shouldn't have existed in the first place, as the holiday could contribute to the insolvency of Social Security. However, allowing that tax holiday to expire while claiming that the deal didn't "raise" taxes is a disingenuous claim by politicians pretending to champions for the middle class while 77% of Americans see less money in their paycheck. In order to face the political reality of a looming, media declared fiscal cliff that would have meant deep across the board spending cuts and tax increases, Congress ignored the fiscal reality of our present and future to spend more... but bipartisanship!

The media has touted the bipartisanship of both President Obama and Governor Chris Christie in recent months as well. President Obama has chosen to appoint former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. Hagel supported Obama 2008 candidacy and has taken some stances on Iran and Israel that have made many leery of him as a Defense Secretary. Following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, Governor Christie embraced and praised President Obama's response while more recently trashing Republicans for ultimately waiting a few days to pass a clean bill for Hurricane Sandy aid, rather than the pork laden bill that Christie preferred. Both of these politicians "sacrificed" in their bipartisanship--Obama his partisan stance for his policy stance and political friendship and Christie his party's purported conservative platform for his political advantage.

Abandoning a party platform (i.e. principle) for the sake of party happens often in politics. It's called obsessive partisanship. Congressman Paul Ryan joined in the aforementioned "bipartisanship" when he voted for the fiscal cliff deal, noting that he "had the guts to vote for it" and that allowing this plan to pass meant that "now we can finally debate spending". However, when Congressman Ryan had the opportunity to "debate spending" when President Bush was in office, he didn't. As I have written before:
He is an intelligent Congressman who has shown leadership in the House on the budget and making strong stances against Obamacare, particularly the IPAB---the unelected board of bureaucrats tasked with managing how Medicare pays. Ryan has served as a Congressman in Washington DC since 1999 and worked for House members for several years during the early and mid 1990s as well. However, despite his strong stance against the Obama administration's profligate spending, he also supported the TARP bailout during the Bush administration and the auto bailout set in motion during the Bush administration.
Paul Ryan is just one example. Individuals on both sides of the aisle are guilty of obsessive partisanship. When President Bush raised the debt ceiling, then Senator Obama called it "a failure of leadership", only to raise the debt ceiling himself in his first term. He is poised to raise it yet again. This is obsessive partisanship. It's one thing for a liberal or a conservative to vote or govern according to his or her principles. It is another thing to abandon one's alleged principles for the sake of party or political expediency.

Thankfully, there are some individuals who have eschewed obsessive partisanship for the sake of maintaining their principles. Sarah Palin is a prime example:
She had garnered a reputation for bucking her own party-- calling out the Alaska GOP chair for doing party business on state time, taking on and defeating an incumbent governor in her own party, cleaning up the ethical mess caused by that incumbent she defeated, and even suing a GOP presidential administration to enable energy development in Alaska.
There are other examples as well. Just this week former Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate, Adam Andrezjewski filed a lawsuit against Republican comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to make the state of Illinois checkbook publicly available. Topinka had earlier denied Andrezjewski's organization's (For the Good of Illinois) FOIA request. He is suing a member of his own party for the sake of making a state in fiscal shambles more transparent. Making state spending publicly available was embraced by Governor Palin as well and is an example of obsessive partisanship eschewed. When Governor Palin launched that effort in Alaska in 2008, it was praised by both Grover Norquist and Democrat Ralph Nader. She willing exposed the spending she signed into law at the risk of political criticism.

This why pro market, pro transparency populism needs to be embraced. Americans have become jaded to politics where their kids' futures are put in jeopardy because politicians in Washington want to play kick the can for the sake of their own political expediency. Politicians too often point the finger of blame and broken promises only to find that when they point fingers they have three pointing back at them. Is a pro market, pro transparency approach to governance idealistic? Perhaps. Do we deserve it? With our propensity to vote the same folks into office election after election, maybe we don't, but America's future does deserve it. We can't continue to sacrifice our fiscal reality for the sake of our bipartisan, but obsessively partisan political reality.

Crossposted here and here.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Stand for the Second Amendment in the Land of Lincoln!: Updated

In writing his "Commonplace Book", Thomas Jefferson quoted the Italian philosopher and legal scholar Cesare Beecaria's book Of Crime and Punishments: 
"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms ... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed one."
Beccaria very well could have been describing present day Illinois where gun control often means the law abiding are punished for the actions of those who will continue to break gun laws no matter how numerous or restrictive. Despite having some of the most onerous gun laws in the country and currently being the only state in the union without some form of conceal and carry laws, Illinois' largest city of Chicago had more than 500 homicides in 2012. Gun control is not evil control. In mid December the US Court of Appeals declared Illinois' ban on concealed carry unconstitutional and gave the state 180 days to craft " a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety and the Second Amendment as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public". For anti-gun proponents of Illinois, this judicially imposed deadline,the Chicago violence, the ineffably saddening shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and a lame duck legislative session have provided the impetus to simultaneously meet the court's demands while also restricting guns in new ways. With the lame duck session ending on January 9th, the Illinois legislature is trying to ram through two pieces of legislation that would heavily restrict guns. The NRA's Institute of Legislative Action notes several aspects of these bills that are particularly draconian:
Among other things, House Bill 815 would: 
- Prohibit anyone without a FOID card from using a commercial shooting range, which in many cases would make it impossible to introduce new shooters to the safe and responsible use of firearms. 
- Grant the State Police broad discretion to impose design, construction and operation standards that could shut down most commercial shooting ranges. 
- Ban possession of magazines and other feeding devices that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. A "grandfather clause" would require registration by owners of such devices and give the State Police discretion to impose and charge fees. Registration would require "proof of ownership" that could be impossible for most people to provide, and even registered owners could not transfer magazines within Illinois, except to an heir or a licensed dealer. Transfers of "grandfathered magazines" would have to be reported to the ISP. 
- Violations of this magazine ban would be a felony. Failure to report theft or loss of a magazine would be a misdemeanor until the third violation, which would be a felony. 
House Bill 1263 would: 
- Ban, at a minimum, all detachable-magazine semi-automatic rifles and pistols. Remington 7400 deer rifles, Ruger 10/22 squirrel guns, Glocks, 1911s, etc. This ban would include about 80% of handguns now sold in the U.S. 
- Possibly ban all semi-automatic rifles and even revolvers or single-shot pistols with the capacity to accept muzzle brakes or compensators. 
- Ban "assault weapon attachments," so possession of a thumbhole stock, a pistol grip,or a fore-end (a "shroud" that "partially or completely encircles the barrel") would be a crime even if you didn't possess a firearm. 
- Ban all .50 BMG rifles. 
- Contains "grandfather" provisions that would require registration by owners of devices and give the State Police discretion to impose and charge fees. Registration would require "proof of ownership." 
- Create felony penalties for violation of this ban on guns or attachments. 
- Create lost and stolen penalties that would criminalize victims of gun theft
These bills moved out of the Senate's public health committee on Wednesday, but have not been voted on in the Senate at this point. However,  the Illinois House will discuss an additional gun control bill  (SB 2899) and additional amendments when they reconvene Sunday. These overly restrictive bills do not seem to honor the court's request for "reasonable" legislation. After all, what's reasonable about disallowing citizens the opportunity to learn how to use a gun safely at a gun range? Your voice can make a difference. Use your first amendment rights to re-affirm your support for the second. Please call or email your representatives to voice your support for the second amendment and your opposition for even more government impingement on our liberties. You can find contact information for your representative here.  As this legislation is being discussed in Springfield and national legislation is being proposed as well, exercising the right to bear arms in Illinois shouldn't only refer to Michelle Obama's right to wear sleeveless dresses!

Crossposted from Illinois4Palin.

Update: Per Illinois House GOP this Sunday afternoon, the Judiciary Committee will not discuss gun control legislation the remainder of this lame duck session, making such legislation dead for this legislative session.