Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The United States government is
out of control and dangerous

These days the United States and her citizens face a dizzying array of threats, among which are the current economic crisis; the government failure on the southern border where illegal immigrants threaten the safety of residents; the likelihood that the rogue state of Iran will obtain nuclear weapons; the effects of radical Islam from outside and inside our borders.

The most serious, however, is the continual growth of federal power and the accompanying encroachment of the federal government into more and more of our individual liberties, because that challenges the very essence of the United States.

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese, writing for the Heritage Foundation, recounted that a leading expert on over-criminalization, John S. Baker Jr., had estimated that there were more than 4,000 federal criminal laws, and that the American Bar Association task force reported, the body of federal criminal law is “so large . . . that there is no conveniently accessible, complete list of federal crimes.”

Most of us probably believe that laws are intended to punish actual criminals for real crimes, and since most of us aren’t criminals we probably believe that we won’t be arrested anytime soon. But with more than 4,000 laws, many of which we are unaware of, how can we be sure we haven’t become criminals without knowing it. It’s easier than you may think.

Consider these examples of laws and their enforcement that Mr. Meese lists:

• A 12-year old girl was arrested and handcuffed for eating one French fry on the Washington subway system.

• A former high-school science whiz was sent to prison after initially being arrested by FBI agents clad in SWAT gear for failing to affix a federally mandated sticker to his otherwise legal UPS package.

• A 67-year-old grandfather was imprisoned because some of the paperwork for his home-based orchid business did not satisfy an international treaty.

Congress has passed more than 4,000 laws, some of which result in idiotic, even tyrannical enforcement measures and penalties, and that is bad enough. But what Columbia University law professor John Coffee tells us is a far more serious threat to our liberty. He estimates that there are as many as 300,000 federal regulations that can be enforced through criminal penalties. And, these are not laws passed by elected representatives who are theoretically accountable to the people, these are regulations developed by unelected, and unaccountable, bureaucrats working in the bowels of over-zealous agencies of the federal government.

If you believe this is what the Founders had in mind when they sacrificed their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to throw off the oppressive bonds of King George, go immediately to the rear of the class.

How could a system of government so carefully designed to limit the size and authority of the federal government and to provide the greatest possible degree of liberty to the states and their citizens have devolved into a gargantuan, unresponsive and oppressive bureaucracy that literally sticks its long nose into the everyday activities of the citizens whose freedoms it was designed to guarantee, and that eats up fully 40 percent of the nation’s economy?

Our country has lost its way, has abandoned its Constitutional guarantees of limited government and maximum individual liberty, and has morphed into an unrecognizable, out-of-control caricature of itself.

Somewhere along the way from 1776 to today politicians realized that it was easier and more profitable to pursue self-service than their sworn duty to make the best decisions for their country.

Whatever intelligence and conscience they may have once possessed has been replaced with self-interest, and the longer they are in the Congress the likelier they are to become more concerned with matters of party and of reelection than of dutiful service, and the more likely to believe they are superior to the American people they are supposed to serve.

Hence, bureaucracies are allowed to flourish, and the proliferation of laws and regulations is tolerated, all with little concern for their effects, their fairness, or their constitutionality.

The federal judiciary has the power and the duty to rein in out-of-control lawmaking, but members of the federal judiciary are appointed for life and have no need to worry about performing to a particular standard and, like their legislative brethren, many of them abandon dutiful service to the Constitution and to the ideals of the Founders and replace Constitutional principles with their personal beliefs of what is best for us.

More than 50 years ago, as Rock and Roll was catching on, Chuck Berry asserted the new music’s power and appeal with a song containing the line, “Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news.” Today we might see Madison rolling over and talking with Jefferson about the grotesque government their carefully crafted work has been transformed into.

There is no better time than now, no better opportunity to un-elect those long-term incumbents who are responsible for this freedom-limiting expansion of federal power and replace them with new blood, new public servants who are not part of the incestuous system that is ruining our country, and are dedicated to restoring the constitutional principles that made the United States the greatest country on Earth.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Liberal Democrats misunderstand
the tea party movement

In just six weeks Americans will go to the polls to decide who will fill all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and 37 of the 100 US Senate seats.

As elections near, things in the political realm always get a little crazy, as candidates do whatever they can to attract votes. A hot topic these days is the tea party movement, and the effort to minimize the movement and its candidates has reached fever pitch.

Folks involved in and friendly to the movement it say it is largely made up of normal Americans, many of whom usually do not participate in political rallies, but have been driven into activism by what they view as intolerable behavior by their government and their elected public servants. This dissatisfaction runs all the way from the President of the United States through both houses of Congress, and in many cases to state and local governments.

Both Democrats and Republicans oppose the tea party movement, and the vitriolic reaction is truly stunning, particularly among liberals, who like to paint the tea partiers as “extremists” and no more than a bunch of “angry people.” There are a few crazies in any large group, of course, but tea party members are as normal as any group of Americans you can name, and broadly labeling them as extremists is dishonest and just plain wrong.

These wild characterizations are primarily the work of people who are scared to death of the potential this group has to wreak havoc on their narrow political plans and their political self-interest.

Democrats are front and center right now, by virtue of their control of the House and Senate since 2006, and the White House for the last year and nine months.

With 58 Democrats, 40 Republicans and 2 Democrat-friendly independents in the Senate, and 257 Democrats and 178 Republicans in the House – working majorities, both – the Democrat majority could pass almost anything it desired, as it did with the odious health care reform bill.

The Democrats unilaterally produced a 2,700-page monstrosity that supporters hadn’t read and couldn’t explain. Nevertheless, President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders bragged on the bill and all the good things it would accomplish.

Republicans, on the other hand, suggested some ways to improve the health care system without passing that huge bill, including selling health insurance policies across state lines and reforming the tort system to hold down the costs of defensive medicine.

But the Democrats persisted, and in one of the ugliest legislative spectacles in recent memory the measure passed with no Republican votes and in spite of the opposition of a majority of Americans.

Since its passage we have learned what the health care bill contained and it has become so toxic and unpopular that Democrats seeking reelection take care not to mention it in their campaign speeches.

We should all be appalled that such a bizarre process could take place in our country, or that our elected public servants would behave like that. We see our leaders doing what they want, not what we want. They do not respect the wishes of those who hired them.

There is no better example than the health care reform debacle to explain what has gotten the attention of normal Americans and has driven them to attend political rallies and publicly protest what is happening in their country for the first time.

While in control of the Legislative and Administrative branches, liberal Democrats have led the country in a different direction than a majority of the American people wants it to go, and have failed to repair the economic damage they did so much to create over the last three decades.

Where the economy is concerned, liberals either do not understand basic economics, or basic economic concepts run counter to their political goals, and are thus ignored.

The Bush tax cuts, which expire this year, illustrate this situation. Democrats want to extend the cuts only for those making less than $200,000 a year, because doing so will punish those horrible rich people that President Obama calls “millionaires and billionaires.” They tell us that Republicans want to extend the Bush tax cuts to give a tax break to “the rich.” This is disingenuous, at best, and demagogic at worst; the Bush tax cuts give a tax break to everybody.

Worse, however, when unemployment is nearly 10 percent and under-employment exceeds 15 percent, this class warfare approach is particularly harmful. A rational person once observed that “‘no one ever got a job from a poor man; you get a job from a wealthy man.” Imposing higher taxes on wealthy people, many of whom are small business owners and employers, will hinder their ability to create jobs for the middle class, the very people the Democrats care most about.

This poor leadership spawned the tea party movement: people are tired of arrogant, inattentive, and self-serving politicians and want changes. Not the changes that will “fundamentally transform” America, a la Barack Obama, but changes that will put America back on the proper path.

Those who don’t understand that are out of touch and in the way of needed change.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sometimes it’s the plaintiff’s fault;
sometimes stuff just happens

A major landmark along the road of America’s devolution from a nation of responsible individuals to becoming a people looking for someone to blame for their problems is the ridiculous nature of cases that now clog our legal system.

Let’s stipulate that sometimes people are negligent in making a product, in delivering a service, or in some other way, and when innocent people are harmed through negligence they should be compensated for their injury. Maybe a surgeon operates on the wrong knee, or a company makes a product that is defective, or some other instance of true negligence occurs. In such cases a wrong needs to be righted and perhaps legal action is the only way to remedy the wrong.

But these days, you can find someone who wants to sue somebody for just about any idiotic thing you can dream up, and there seems always to be a lawyer willing to represent them. Don’t believe it? Consider the following:

• A woman sued Universal Studios for $15,000 claiming to have suffered "extreme fear, mental anguish, and emotional distress" after voluntarily visiting the Halloween Horror Nights haunted house.

• A couple sued American Airlines for $100,000 because the leg room was smaller than they expected.

• A man sued a dry cleaner for $54 million over a lost pair of pants, alleging its “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign was a fraud.

• A Connecticut woman sued a hair products company saying it ruined her social life when she accidentally dyed her hair brunette with one of its products and was so traumatized that she needed anti-depressants and had to stay home and wear hats most of the time.

• A New York City woman was awarded $14.1 million by a state Supreme Court jury after she was hit by a subway train as she was patiently laying on the tracks in an apparent suicide attempt. Later, the reward was cut 30 percent, to a mere $9.9 million, because of her own “negligence.”

Cases like those five are as goofy and frivolous as cases of true negligence and harm are valid. Idiotic cases like these have a humorous element, but can cause tremendous harm, because frivolous lawsuits cost the defendant money to defend, and that has repercussions. In the above case of the dry cleaner, after two years the owners of the cleaners won the case, but were forced to close one of their three stores because of the cost of the lawsuit.

The Sick of Lawsuits project, an arm of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, states, “Our civil justice system is under attack by personal injury lawyers who game the legal system for personal profit in the name of ‘consumer protection.’ The reality is that consumers are the ones getting fleeced. These abusive lawsuits harm the economy and job creation, threaten our access to affordable, quality health care, and delay justice for the truly injured by clogging our courts. Ultimately, lawsuit abuse hurts all of us.”

A man appeared on TV recently defending suing the manufacturers of step ladders for making an unsafe product. The ladders didn’t break, dumping users onto the ground from the heights. No, even though you don’t need a PhD. in physics to realize that a ladder will fall over if you lean very far to one side, he said the ladder makers didn’t take adequate steps to warn users about the dangers of ladder use, despite mandated warning labels on every ladder sold. Perhaps he would prefer that every ladder came with its own consultant to advise the purchaser how to use the product safely, at the manufacturer’s expense, of course.

We need tort reform in this country, not to stop legitimate law suits seeking just restitution, but to prevent people and their attorneys from prospecting for an easy settlement or a lucky verdict at trial for an injury that is more a matter of a failure of personal responsibility than of actual negligence on the part of the defendant.

A good start would be a law that charges the costs of lawsuits to the loser. Under such a system it is fair to suppose that the lady who picked up the wrong bottle of hair coloring might have reconsidered her lawsuit against the hair products company and the lady who went to a haunted house and got scared might also have been more circumspect.

The reality is that sometimes the plaintiff bears some or all of the responsibility for an injury. And sometimes, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, something goes wrong and someone gets hurt. No one did anything wrong; there was no negligence, and therefore no one should have to pay anything in such cases. Sometimes stuff just happens.

The legal system ought not to be a lottery. Cases with no real merit or questionable merit clog court dockets, and cost every man, woman and child in the U.S. a yearly “tort tax” of $835, according to The 2008 Update on U.S. Tort Cost Trends. That’s ridiculous and it’s not acceptable.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Polls continue to show Democrat vulnerability

Seven weeks is a long time in politics, and seven weeks is a long time until the November mid-term election, but at this point things look bad for Democrats. Recent polls show potential voters prefer generic Republican candidates to generic Democrat candidates for the House of Representatives in their district.

Three surveys show Republicans with a significant lead, topping Democrats by five points, 42-37, in a Quinnipiac University Poll from August 31 through September 7.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll on September 1 and 2 reflects a seven-point margin for Republicans, 52–45.

The biggest margin turned up in the September 1 and 2 poll by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics, with Republicans leading by a 46 to 37 margin.

In fact, the only poll showing a real contest during this polling period is Gallop, showing Democrats and Republican tied at 46 percent each.

However, two polls reflect a significant number of undecided voters that could turn either way, or could split along lines similar to decided voters. Quinnipiac shows 13 percent of voters undecided and CNN/Opinion Research shows that 18 percent are unsure.

Predictably, voter’s believe the performance of the US Congress is horrible.

Both ABC News/Washington Post and Fox News/Opinion Dynamics polls taken August 30 through September 2 show a high level of dissatisfaction with the performance of Congress, 72–25 and 70–22 respectively. And the dissatisfaction with Congress has 79 percent of respondents to the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll saying they favor term limits of Senators and Representatives.

And that dissatisfaction is much broader than just the performance of Congress. FOX News/Opinion Dynamics asked voters nationwide on September 1 and 2, "How satisfied are you with the way things are going in the country today? Are you very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, not very satisfied or not at all satisfied?"

Only three percent said they were very satisfied and another three percent said they were somewhat satisfied, while 61 percent said they were not very satisfied or not at all satisfied. Once again, the number of voters that are unsure is important, with 36 percent not sure how they feel about the direction the country is taking.

Republicans have the opportunity to take the House, and even some observers say they can take the Senate. However, the GOP has a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and the national organization frequently seems to be as tone deaf as the Democrats to the messages being sent loud and clear by voters.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Going Rogue, Part III: The EPA Ignores
Rules it Finds Inconvenient

What do Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Coastal Conservation have in common with the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, the Consumer Federation of America, the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, and the Center for Auto Safety?

And what do those two groups have in common with the Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Conservative Union? What strange force can unite these diverse organizations?

Would you believe that they are united against a proposed action by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?

The EPA was created in 1970 by President Richard Nixon and passed into law by Congress. The 17,000-person agency has primary responsibility for setting and enforcing national standards under a variety of environmental laws, and has been such a bulldog in enforcing environmental rules in the past that you might be surprised to learn that this year the agency has abandoned the rules it expects others to follow.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) informs us that “The Environmental Protection Agency has indicated it may take action later this year to approve higher levels of ethanol in fuel blends, even though critical vehicle tests and environmental analyses mandated by the Clean Air Act have not yet been completed.”

But as serious as that is, the problem is much broader than the mere fact that the EPA has forsaken the timetable for making the decision of whether to increase the amount of ethanol in fuel blends from the current 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15), and the unknowns of this action have this diverse group – many of whom have been bitter enemies in the past – uniting against the agency’s action.

“What’s the big deal?” you ask. “Isn’t it better for the environment if the amount of ethanol in gasoline is increased?” Maybe; but maybe not. That is what is to be determined by the scientific review process and through comments by various interested parties, and that is why the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, along with 40 other associations and organizations, have written EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging the EPA to base its decision to increase ethanol levels on a complete scientific record that includes up-to-date information and public comment on data and testing.

If the decision to increase ethanol levels by 50 percent is made this year, perhaps as early as this month, it will short-circuit the process outlined by the Clean Air Act, which mandates a detailed scientific review before new fuels, additives or fuel blends are introduced into commercial fuels, and scientific reviews of E15’s impact won’t be completed until next year.

“We write to express our concern that EPA may decide to allow the introduction into commerce of mid-level ethanol blends such as E15 based on new information that was not available for public comment when the docket was open last year,” the coalition stated. “We respectfully but strongly request that EPA provide for a second period of public comment on any data, tests, or studies that EPA may take into consideration in making its determination if such information was not available for review and comment as of the close of the initial public comment period on July 20, 2009.”

At issue is the degree to which fuels with increased ethanol levels will be compatible with today’s equipment. Ethanol is very corrosive, and could harm equipment such as automobile engines and gasoline station pumps and storage tanks. API suggests that problems may exist with storage and dispensing equipment that may create additional environmental problems through spills and leaks, which in turn could pose a threat to consumer safety. And, higher-level ethanol blends like E15 could also threaten vehicle performance and safety, void manufacturers’ warranties and confuse consumers.

“Higher levels of ethanol blends in gasoline have not yet been proven safe or effective, and it would be a mistake for EPA to act before all necessary testing is completed,” API said. The scientific reviews of E15’s impact on vehicle engines won’t be completed until 2011.

The EPA is a controversial agency and many of its actions draw strong opposition, because they seem heavy-handed and arbitrary. And increasingly, the EPA appears to have become an arm of the environmental movement. The decision last March to block a West Virginia mountaintop coal mine that had already received a federal permit is but one example. Mountaintop mining is unpopular among environmentalists, but mining is a fundamental part of West Virginia’s economy.

However, no issue illustrates this more effectively than the EPA position on carbon emissions. While Congress is reluctant to regulate carbon emissions, because cooler heads in both parties worry about the negative economic impacts of doing so, the EPA has inasmuch as said, “If you don’t regulate carbon emissions, we will.”

Most serious problems in the United States today can be linked to government interference. Our government is not only too big and too intrusive, but agencies like the EPA are increasingly ideologically driven, and sometimes ignore the rules the rest of us are expected to follow when those rules interfere with its ideological agenda.

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Saturday, September 04, 2010

Recent polls reflect dissatisfaction with Democrats

Democrats are taking a beating, according to polls over the last two weeks, showing that the American people are less than enchanted with one-party control of Congress and the White House.

A USA Today/Gallop poll from August 27 – 30 reflects that 78 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States, while only 20 percent of the respondents were satisfied.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll taken July 16-21 asked, "Which of the following is the most important issue facing the country today?” “The economy” topped the list by a huge 34-point margin (47 percent to 13 percent) over “the federal budget deficit” in second place, with illegal immigration, health care, the Iraq and Afghan wars, education, terrorism, energy and environmental policies all following far behind in the single-digits.

USA Today/Gallop also shows that Americans believe Republicans would do a better job of dealing with seven of nine major issues. While the poll shows Democrats are thought better able to address Health Care (44 to 43) and the Environment (54 to 31), Republicans are better able to deal with Terrorism (55 to 31), Immigration (50-35), Federal Spending (50 to 35), The Economy (49 to 38), Jobs (46 to 41), Afghanistan (45 to 38) and Corruption (30 to 35).

President Obama’s job approval numbers over the last couple of weeks show Mr. Obama bobbing back and forth with an approval rating as high as 50 percent in the CNN/Opinion Research poll taken September 1 and 2, and as low as 45 percent in the Ipsos/Reuters poll taken August 19 – 22. The latter poll reflected the widest spread, seven points, between approval and disapproval.

What kind of a job is the President doing keeping his important campaign promises, a CNN/Opinion Research poll asked? A “Good Job,” said 51 percent of the respondents to the September 1 – 2 poll, while 47 percent said a “Poor Job.”

With about seven weeks until the mid-term election on November 2nd, the Democrats are in deep trouble, and seem not to notice that they are completely out of step with the desires of their constituents.

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