IRS correspondence seems to reveal conspiracy to criminalize conservative speech

Obama-IrsThe IRS’s job is to collect the taxes that Congress demands the American people pay. Under Lois Lerner’s guidance, though, the IRS’s job, apparently, was to identify potential conservative targets for Department of Justice criminal investigations. Hmmm.

PJMedia currently has running two excellent posts on the subject. The first is J. Christian Adams’ “A new, more sinister IRS scandal.” The second is Bryan Preston’s “The terrifying implications of the IRS Abuse-DOJ connection.”

Preston opens his post with this compelling paragraph:

Thank God for Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. His investigation of what turned out to be the IRS abuse scandal may well have saved the Constitution and the nation.

I hope Preston is correct.

Adams closes his post by saying, “Just wait until the American people learn more about the modern American version of history’s speech regulators.”

Sadly, I think Adams is wrong. The ones who never pay attention will continue not to pay attention. As for the man-in-the-street Democrats, the ones who are unthinking, not activist, Leftists, I’m sorry to say that they won’t suddenly think, “Oh, my God! What have we become? This has to stop.”

Instead, when you try to convince knee-jerk, unthinking Democrats that their party is using the most powerful government agency in America to shut down political debate and imprison political dissent, you’ll get a shrug, along with mumbled remarks about “conservative wackos are paranoid,” and “these people were obviously breaking the law,” and “the IRS saved us from turning into a Christian Fundamentalist Nation, kind of like Iran.”

Government is the last place in which the war is fought.  The initial battles are for people’s hearts and minds, and the Left started fighting and winning those battles in the 1960s.  Now, as the old saying goes, “it’s all over but for the shouting.”

Why Bundy’s legal position vis a vis the federal government probably doesn’t matter

Charles C.W. Cooke is almost certainly correct that Bundy doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on when it comes to his fight with the feds.  While its disgraceful that the feds own most of Nevada, the fact is that they do, and they get to right the ownership rules for that land.  Nevertheless, Cooke acknowledges why Bundy’s plight makes him a sympathetic figure and these posters (h/t Caped Crusader) pithily sum up what really has people outraged:

America

compare Bundy and Sharpton

The view from the trenches puts the lie to the media’s gloating about 7 million Obamacare new enrollments

Obamacare error 404Rush opened his show today by focusing on the mainstream media’s joyous assertion that, overnight, Obamacare went from a mere 26% in support to plurality support and that, within two weeks, it went from 5 million to 7 million enrollments (with that 7 million number coming from two “anonymous” White House sources).  Rush asserted, and I agree, that this is lies and damn lies, powered through by falsely derived statistics.

Even assuming solely for the sake of argument that there’s any truth to the dramatically increased poll and enrollment numbers, the numbers are still meaningless because the law has failed resoundingly at effecting its primary purpose:  to insure the uninsured.  As of yesterday, based upon the limited data the Obama administration has reluctantly released, only 1.7% of the previously uninsured have enrolled in Obamacare.

If the uninsured aren’t enrolling in Obamacare, who is?  It seems that new enrollees consist primarily of (a) those who were insured but wanted subsidies and (b) those who lost pre-existing coverage because of Obamacare.  Moreover, analyzing enrollment data, it appears that the new enrollees are weighted heavily in favor of those requiring subsidies, as opposed to those paying full fare and funding the subsidies.  Even math-illiterates (i.e., the Democrat party and its MSM mouthpieces) will eventually figure out that this is unsustainable.

The statements I made above are data-based, although the administration’s death grip on actual numbers leaves one unsure even about the accuracy of that information.  Now let me throw in some anecdotal information.  I know that anecdote is not data but, to the extent this anecdote tracks the available data, it’s worth noting.

I have mentioned before that I have a friend who has pursued a very different life path from mine.  We both come from extremely middle class backgrounds, but while I was able to stay economically middle class, my friend made life decisions that saw her sink lower and lower economically.  She now lives in a community where, as she jokes, she and her husband are the only ones she knows who don’t have a parole officer.  (A fact that relates in part to substance abuse problems rife in her community and in part to draconian prosecutorial abuse.)

What distinguishes my friend from her neighbors, aside from her lack of a criminal record, is her middle class values.  She may not live the middle class life, but she still follows middle class rules, one of which is her belief that you pay your bills and you carry health insurance.  Unfortunately for her, she reached a point a few years ago at which she could no longer pay health insurance bills.  Quite reluctantly, she let her insurance lapse.

My friend was therefore delighted when Obamacare finally went into effect.  Because her state’s exchange was dysfunctional, she had to sign up the old-fashioned way (by mail), but sign-up she did.  Moreover, given her dire finances, she qualified for a subsidy.  I don’t have the details, but I believe she pays $50 a month for a Gold plan.  The moment her plan vested, my friend went on an orgy of doctor’s visits to catch up on all the health care (mostly standard tests and procedures) that she missed in the last few years.  While I disapprove of Obamacare, she’s my friend and I’m happy for her.  At least someone’s benefiting from the law.

I was speaking to my friend just yesterday about her healthcare and she offered a very interesting observation:  She and her husband, the only middle class people in a sea of poverty, are the only people she knows, amongst both friends and acquaintances, who have signed up for Obamacare.  The others have no interest in getting health insurance.  Even with a subsidy, they don’t want to pay a monthly bill for health insurance.  Even a subsidized rate is too onerous when they can get all the free health care they need just by showing up at the local emergency room.  Additionally, the ER docs are usually better than any doc who’s willing to belong to whatever plan they can afford.  Nor are these people worried about the penalties for refusing to buy Obamacare, since none of them pay taxes.

Not only are the people in my friend’s world refusing to buy Obamacare, they resent it.  According to my friend, someone she knows abruptly announced that she’s getting involved in local politics, something she’s never done before.  Until recently, this gal was one of those people who just floated along, getting by.  Now, though, she’s fired up.

The reason for the sudden passion is unexpected:  She’s deeply offended by a law that forces people to buy a product they don’t need — never mind that she might benefit from the product, that she would pay far below market value for the product, or that she’s too poor to be penalized for ignoring this government diktat.  The mere fact that the diktat exists runs counter to her notion of individual liberty.  Her view of government is that, while it’s fine if it hands out welfare checks and food stamps, it goes beyond the pale when the government uses its power and wealth to coerce activity.

Democrats: Using band-aid remedies to “cure” systemic failures

bandaid-2One of the mantras to emerge from feminist side of the Leftist swamps during the late 1960s/early 1970s was notion that “the personal is political.”  As used by the feminists, it meant that, when suburban women got together to burn their bras, examine their genitals in mirrors, and gripe about patriarchal oppression, they weren’t just engaging in the updated version of coffee klatches.  Instead, this “consciousness raising” was a political act because the conclusions they reached would drive their politics.

As is so often the case when it comes to manipulating the political process, the Leftists were onto something.  No matter what they say, most people don’t approach issues through education and analysis, nor do they abandon ideas just because those ideas actually fail when they finally leave the analysis phase and become operational.  Instead, most people are driven by emotion:  Do I feel like a good person when I do this?  Is the beneficiary of my political act a good person?  And the contrary is true too:  Am I punishing an “evil” person if I vote or act in a specific way (since punishing an “evil” person elevates my “goodness” quotient).

I’m not saying anything all of you haven’t already figured out.  The only reason I mention this is because I’m struggling with the way in which I can counter a compelling, hard Left HBO documentary that my daughter saw, one that has left her inclined to believe that the welfare state is the answer.  The documentary is “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert.”

Maria Shriver, who produced the documentary, chose well when she and her team selected Gilbert as the poster child for single mothers, since Gilbert is a very sympathetic woman.  She got married at 19 (no out-of-wedlock children here) and had three children with her husband.  Unfortunately, her husband was addicted to prescription drugs (no tawdry illegal meth addiction here), wrecking the family finances and destroying their marriage.  The show picks up with Gilbert now in her mid-20s, working hard for $9.49 an hour at an assisted living center for the elderly.  She’s able to do this work because her children attend a government-funded pre-K daycare center in their hometown of Chattanooga.  Further, this loving mother puts food on the table only thanks to the food stamps.

As Alfred Doolittle would have said, Gilbert is definitely among the deserving poor.  When you see Gilbert — who did the right thing when she married her children’s father — struggling to cope with sick children and a flooded house (her boyfriend’s house), you can’t help but feel sympathetic.  You want to help her.  You want her to earn more money considering how hard she works and you want her to have better childcare opportunities.  And you think to yourself, “Heck, if she  lived in Denmark, none of this would be a problem.  (In part, of course, because Denmark’s young people aren’t having children to begin with.)  Gilbert would get free child care, a high living wage, all the benefits in the world, and be able to take endless sick days for her kids, as well as for herself.”

When the documentary ends, by which time you’re firmly rooting for Gilbert, the film hits you with the real numbers.  Gilbert, we’re told, isn’t an anomaly.  She’s part of a crowd:  According to the documentary, Gilbert is the living embodiment of the 42 million women in America who live at or below the poverty line, along with (I believe) 28 million children.  The documentary doesn’t have to say what we need to do.  It’s quite obvious that we ought to raise the minimum wage, make free childcare available to all American children, and provide comprehensive welfare for food and housing.

In case you’re too dim to reach this conclusion by yourself, HBO helpfully provides a guide for you to read alone or discuss with a group.  Some of what you’re supposed to discuss involves smart choices women can make.  Other discussion ideas, though, encourage Big Government as a solution, and advance a highly partisan Progressive agenda:

The Chambliss Center [pre-K childcare] is very important for Katrina. When she picks up her children she says, “The kids are learning so much here. If I went to a normal day care center, it would cost me $300 per week for all three of my children …that’s a whole paycheck.” Child care expenses for families with working mothers can range from 20 to nearly 50% of the mother’s monthly salary. How do you think Katrina would function if her kids weren’t at the Chambliss Center? Do you know anyone who is struggling with childcare needs? What can we as a society do to help? How important is it that the Chambliss Center operates 24/7?

Numerous studies have shown the long-term benefits of high-quality early education for young learners. However, fewer than 30% of American 4-year olds attend high quality preschool programs. President Obama expressed his support for universal high-quality preschool and many states have been developing universal pre-K legislation and programs. What do you think are some of the advantages and disadvantages to government sponsored universal pre-Kindergarten programs?

[snip]

What did you know before about federal programs like Head Start, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit? Has this changed after viewing the film?

What are the social services in your area for families in need of financial assistance? Do you think it’s not enough, or too much? How are they affected by budget decisions at the State and Federal level? Do you think people are aware of what government programs provide? How do you think people feel about receiving assistance? Can you think of other programs that could be helpful to women on the brink?

The study guide ends with a list of resources, the second of which is the hard Left Center for American Progress, which some describe as the “shadow Democrat party,” and which sets the agenda for many of the Obama administration initiatives.  People troubled by the hardships Gilbert faces will quickly learn that Big Government is the only thing that can save her.

After my daughter saw the show, she was pretty sure that we ought to have more free education for the pre-K crowd, more free daycare, more free food, and mandated higher wages.  She was certainly correct that each of these things would have been an immediate benefit to Gilbert.  My task was to get my daughter to see that these are all band-aid remedies that might staunch small individual wounds, but will  not stop the fatal hemorrhaging in the American economy.

The problem I had is that there’s nothing sexy about free market fixes.  They’re abstract and the benefits fall randomly, rather than on specific, targeted people, such as Gilbert.  It’s this last fact that means that market reforms cannot guarantee immediate — or, indeed, any — aid to sympathetic figures such as Gilbert.

People who watch the documentary want Gilbert to be fixed immediately and her personal life becomes an overarching political argument.  When I said that single motherhood is the biggest dividing line between rich and poor, my daughter pointed out that Gilbert had her children within a marriage.  When I said mothers should stay married if at all possible, she pointed out that Gilbert’s husband was a drug addict who destroyed finances, so staying together was not an option.  When I said that education is important, she noted that Gilbert was trying to go back to school, but could do so only with government help.

My prescriptions were a free market (as opposed to the over-regulated market we now have), which has proven repeatedly to provide increased economic opportunities for everyone, not just government cronies; education, marriage, and children, in that order; and sticking with a bad marriage, provided that it’s not violent or otherwise abusive, because that is the best way to avoid poverty for both women and children.  My daughter’s prescriptions after getting a close-up look at Gilbert’s sympathetic struggles were Big Government.

I didn’t increase my sympathy quotient when I explained to her that there will always be poor people, no matter the system.  (In North Korea, outside of government circles, everyone is poor.)  In a strong, free-market, capitalist system, fewer people will be poor and even poor people will do better than in non-capitalist countries.  For example, I said, while Gilbert is struggling by American standards, the reality is that she shares a big house with her boyfriend, complete with a modern kitchen and nice electronics; she has government-subsidized food; she owns a car; and she has a smart phone, as do all the other adults in her low-income world.  It’s almost ludicrous to call her experience “poverty” when one looks at poverty in Brazil or India or Cuba or North Korea or large swathes of Africa.  Yes, she’s struggling, but life is struggle.

ThornsIt would be lovely to give an economic band-aid to the hardworking Gilbert.  But when the Democrats demand 42 million band-aids for all the other single mothers, you’ve got a problem.  If the body politic or body economic really were a body, this would be the scenario:  The American body (we’ll call it Sam) gets entangled in economic brambles, and poor Sam ends up bleeding from millions of scratches on his arms and legs.  He looks at the scratches and thinks, “Yikes, I need some band-aids.”  Fortunately for him, a mobile blood bank rolls by and offers to buy almost all of his blood in exchange for 42 million single-use band-aids.

Sam is delighted with this offer.  He’ll be able to stop the blood flow, even though he’s probably giving to the bank almost as much blood as he’s losing to the cuts.  What Sam ignores is that, when the bandages are applied and the mobile blood bank rolls away, he’ll still be stuck in those brambles.

Economic reality says that, if you’re mired in brambles, you don’t sell all your blood for band-aids, while remaining deep in the thorns.  Instead, you first get out of the brambles Only then do you deal with the worst cuts, ignore the rest, and get down to the business of regaining your health and staying away the brambles that got you into trouble in the first place.

None of the above is sexy.  Advocating a free market capitalist economy so that there will be fewer poor people is not sexy.  Encouraging marriage, even unhappy marriages, for the sake of the children is not sexy.  Acknowledging that there will always be poor people and they will always suffer is not sexy.  And trying to explain that, in a healthy economy, fewer people are poor and fewer people remain poor isn’t sexy.  Appearing to turn your back on the Gilbert’s of the world isn’t only un-sexy, it appears downright sadistic.  And explaining that economic reality means that it’s impossible to be, simultaneously, both a comprehensive welfare state and a thriving free market is un-sexy too.  (Not to mention the fact that you have to explain that Europe managed to have a welfare state with a capitalist gloss only because America paid for Europe’s defense during the long Cold War years.)

I’ve described one show and one child who was moved Left by its message.  However, this close, personal focus is a chronic issue when dealing with the Left.  To gain sympathy for its larger agenda, the Left always focuses on the one child who’s illegal immigrant father is deported (although never the one child whose redneck father goes to jail following drunken revelry); or the one single mother who did all the right things; or the one single Gitmo detainee who was a mere child when the Taliban forced him to kill Americans.  The focus is always tight, obscuring the rest of the message.

I mentioned the other day that Ben Shapiro has written an excellent book about arguing with Leftists, How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them, which you can get free by registering at Truth Revolt. The book presupposes an argument. My question is how does one challenge this type of gooey, emotional propaganda, which gains a wide television audience and promises that the world can be healed, one government band-aid at a time?

Grumble, grumble, overregulated, grumble, grumble

Los-Angeles-building-inspection-manMany years ago, we were contemplating building a separate mother-in-law unit on a back part of our property:  one room, a bathroom, a little kitchenette, etc.  There were several reasons why the plan wasn’t feasible, but the major one proved to be the requirement that we had to make the whole thing wheelchair accessible, something that added tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of the plan.  None of us need wheelchairs. And of course, the unit would never be open to the public, unlike a store, so we had no concern that someone needing wheelchair access would have a right to enter the property.

Even if I knew then what I know now, which is that there are times in your life when you wish you could use a wheelchair in your own home, I still wouldn’t have invested tens of thousands of dollars in a relatively small project because of the off chance that, for a month or two, I might prefer getting around with a wheelchair or a walker.  If it subsequently turned out that I would permanently need wheelchair access, then — and only then — would it make sense for me to invest tens of thousands to upgrade the property.  Likewise, if subsequent buyers wanted to make that mother-in-law wheelchair accessible, let them bear the cost.

But nooooo.  Thanks to the bureaucratic who write regulations, and who have an endless desire to control and perfect everything, I was being forced to spend tens of thousands of extra dollars for something useless to me.  The net result was that we built nothing at all.

I raise this bit of ancient history because I’ve once again learned that, because of some remodeling on our property, I have to spend several thousand dollars to comply with safety regulations that confer no benefit on me, my family, nor those who visit our property.  The regulations are inconvenient, expensive, and, as to me, entirely unnecessary — but the entire project must come to a halt if I don’t comply.

There’s nothing that brings out the libertarian in me like a municipal code.

Having had my grouse, let me say that I’m not entirely opposed to building codes and inspectors.  There are definitely things that can and should be standardized for the greater good.  Having standards for plumbing, electricity, weight-bearing, etc., all makes good sense, especially in earthquake country.   A good building inspector can also help protect a homeowner from a bad contractor, and that’s nothing to be sneezed at.  Having mandatory access laws for politically correct reasons, though, is something entirely different.

Also, for those who are familiar with my community, I feel I should say that, when it comes to dealing with my local building department, they are nothing but pleasant:  from the front desk to the back office, they’re polite,  helpful, and responsive.  My gripe isn’t with the my local building department, which is just doing what the law requires it to do.  It is, instead, with the governing principle that says that this kind of micromanagement is acceptable.

The problem with being on a pedestal is that, when you fall, you fall hard

Destroying Stalin's statueWas it only yesterday that I posted about the young woman who burned her Obama shirt in a frenzy of betrayal?  She isn’t just done with Obama, she’s done with government.  Her ideology, most of it foolishly Leftist, hasn’t altered one iota.  What’s different is her belief that government is an engine of change.

But, but, but, I hear you asking, “How can you be a Leftist without believing in Big Government?  Leftism is predicated on a Big Government doing the right things.”

You’re absolutely correct, of course.  She’s suddenly a young woman with a heart full of anti-government animus, and no functioning ideology to go with it.  My suspicion is that, if she ever votes again, she’ll pull the lever for a libertarian.  Perhaps in 2016, she’ll be another Rand Paul voter.

That inflamed young lady isn’t the only one who’s shattered to discover that her idol had feet of clay, and bad clay at that.  Will Pitt, notorious for years as one of the more rabid anti-Bush haters and one of the utterly fatuous, strung-out Obama worshipers, has also been slapped in the face by ugly Obamacare reality.  At Newsbusters, P.J. Gladnick details Pitt’s disillusionment, which set in very quickly once Obamacare failed to work as promised.

Within months, Pitt went from saying that a few glitches with Obamacare were “No. Big. Deal.” to castigating Obama as a “piece of sh*t used-car salesman.” Needless to say, his friends in the Democratic Underground are not happy with him.

When it comes to these two people and all of the others like them, their sudden epiphanies about Obama, about Democrat policies, and about Big Government can easily be described as too little, too late. They’ve already visited upon us eight years of what will quite possibly be recorded in the books as the worst administration in American history, one that devastated not only America but the whole world.

But here’s the deal: It’s not too little, too late. There are local, state, and federal elections coming up this year and next year and the year after that. Although our ship of state has had eight years to sail this disastrous course, it is still afloat and can be turned around. The process will be laborious, it will go very slowly, and the damage will be significant, but as long as we’re above water it still matters that we get rid of as many loathsome barnacles as possible. These former Obama fanatics were barnacles. It remains to be seen whether, as I once did, they’ll turn around politically or whether they’ll just slink off and leave the body politic alone. No matter what, we’ll be better off without them.

The only way to cut government spending is to cut government

The Cato Institute is putting together a series of videos to identify government agencies that are not merely wasteful, but are also destructive to our country’s well-being.  This video, attacking the horribly misnamed Department of Education, is one of the five videos Cato has already created:

Of course, the above video brings coals to Newcastle.  Those who watch it already agree with its premise, although it’s nice to have hard facts to back up our sometimes inchoate sense of outrage.  What I would love is to see every liberal I know watching the video.  Sadly, though, I know with absolute certainty that none will dare. They are resolute in their desire to avoid contact with any information that might disrupt their New York Times world view.

Hat tip: Power Line

Is there such a thing as “Big Government Done Right” or is that an oxymoron?

Big BrotherOne of the things I’ve noticed tracking my few conservative and my many Progressive friends over at my “real me” Facebook is the difference in their approach to government.  My conservative friends are consistent:  They want to confine the federal government to its traditional constitutional boundaries:  national security, including managing a standing army; preserving interstate commerce, including maintaining America’s roads and airways; economic dealings with foreign powers; etc.  They’re not opposed to a welfare safety net, but believe it should be limited in scope and duration, and that the best safety net is a strong, free-market economy.  They heartily approve of immigration, but want it to be legal immigration, not an illegal free-for-all.  They support law and order, but not a militarized police force.

These conservatives are appalled by Obama’s lawlessness, as seen in his executive orders seeking to undercut the Second Amendment and his almost-daily ukases changing Obamacare so as to minimize the PR fallout from that misbegotten law.  Looking overseas, they support our traditional allies, including beleaguered little Israel, and find shocking Obama’s free-fall into the arms of bad actors such as Iran, Vladimir Putin, the Muslim Brotherhood, Bashir al Assad, the Taliban, etc.  When it comes to “women’s issues,” conservatives believe that the U.S. should stay out of women’s uteruses, in that it should stop telling Americans, nuns included, to pay for other women’s birth control and abortions.

They also believe that “global warming” has always been an anti-capitalist hoax meant to slow down Western development and redirect funds to Third World nations that get the Left’s stamp of approval.  They accept that climate changes; they just don’t think it’s America’s fault.  We are responsible for pollution, and we have a duty to be a good steward for the natural world around us, but our puny efforts are not changing the world.  (In that regard, I’ll note that the heat and drought in the south and the snow and cold in the north are nothing new.  The papers breathlessly report that they’re the worst in 100 or 1000 years, as if that proves anthropogenic climate change.  To me, the comparisons to the same events in the pass simply prove that Mother Nature is fickle and always has been.)

Conservatives support gun rights, not because they’re crazed killers, but because both logic and real world data regularly shows that a free, armed population is the best defense against crime and government overreach.  They believe that there’s a reason for the Second Amendment’s explicit language holding that the federal government cannot touch people’s guns.

My Progressive friends present a mirror image, albeit one that fails to be consistent.  As far as they’re concerned, the bigger government is, the better.  Obamacare is horrible, not because it sees the government take over 1/6 of the economy by trying to control the healthcare market, but because healthcare isn’t fully socialized.  They hate Obama’s border policies, not because he’s stopped enforcing immigration laws, but because he hasn’t successfully done away with immigration laws.  They think our best national security plan is to intervene only in those countries where America gets no benefit from that intervention; anything else is imperialism.

My Progressive friends fear a free market, because it allows corporations to get bigger, and they all know that the greatest threat to each American’s wealth, health, and happiness is corporations.  They think Israel is evil because she refuses to turn her country over to a group of people who make no secret about the fact that their goal is to massacre every Israeli.  They support Obama’s foreign policy in other respects simply because it’s oriented away from traditional Western imperialism.  It’s irrelevant that these nations engage in their own forms of imperialism, and that they routinely trample on the rights Progressives hold most dear:  womyn’s rights, LGBT rights, and, where there are blacks (as in the Sudan) people of color’s rights.  To them, global warming is a revealed truth that cannot be questioned and that appropriately seeks to stop the West’s development because, they believe, it harms the Third World.  They are unmoved by data showing that ethanol development, by diverting food crops to fuel, is starving the Third World.

And of course, when it comes to guns, Progressives know they’re evil.  Data to the contrary is irrelevant.  Guns exist only to kill, and their role in preventing or diminishing violent crime, or in protecting people against their own government, is irrelevant.  Facts must bow down before ideologically driven fear.

The one tie that binds both conservatives and Progressives on my “real me” Facebook is that they’re both horrified by the scope of the NSA’s spying on American people.  Each recognizes that this is a staggering infringement on American freedom.  To all of them, the knowledge that Big Brother has been watching them is almost too terrible to contemplate.

Summed up, Progressives believe that there is such a thing as “Big Government Done Right,” while conservatives believe that this is an oxymoron. I side with the conservative view.  The very nature of Big Government is abhorrent to individual liberty and free markets.

The fact that history repeatedly shows that freedom drives economic progress and individual liberty, however, never shakes a Leftist’s faith in the theory that there is such a thing as “Big Government Done Right.”  My Dad was raised a Communist and eventually ended up as a Reagan Democrat.  To his dying day, though, he believed that Communism was the answer.  The problem was that it had never been done right, no matter where it was applied.  In his heart, the theory lived on.  Americans, with their vague feints to Leftism under Carter weren’t doing it right, so Reagan (who was pro-Israel) was a better bet to deal with the misbegotten American system.  The Soviet Union wasn’t doing it right, because it relied too much on oppression.  Brilliant man though he was, he couldn’t be brought to understand that it’s the nature of the state to oppress.  It’s a “bear hug” that, whether aggressive or loving, still smothers you.

Anyway, that’s what I think.  Would any of you care to make a counter argument, to the extent that Big Government Done Right isn’t invariably an oxymoron?

A little gadget to confuse government spies

SpyingA long time ago, I became friends with a man who worked as an electrical engineer in the aerospace defense industry.  Beginning in the 1980s, he told me that the government was spying on us — and he knew, he said, because he worked on the technology that made it possible.  I assumed that he was (a) paranoid and (b) boasting about a skill set I wasn’t sure even existed back in the day.  Over the years, he continued to tell me that the government was monitoring my land line and my cell phone.  I scoffed.  My attitude changed after 9/11, when it became a reasonable certainty that the DHS was indeed monitoring people’s calls.  With revelations about NSA spying, I’ve finally come full circle and believe everything this guy was telling me thirty years ago.

Let me say here that I don’t think governments should never spy.  If our government thinks that bad actors are planning to do bad things against America, it should be all over the situation, like white on rice.  What I find disturbing is the completely indiscriminate net that the NSA has spread.  It’s spying on everyone.  Since there’s no way it can monitor all that information in real time, the likelihood of the government using this data to stop a terrorist attack is small.

Look at England, for example.  The prevalence of CCTV’s means that England is the most heavily monitored First World country in the world — and yet its crime rates climb higher and higher.  The cameras do nothing to prevent crime.  Their utility, which is limited, is to try to catch criminals after the fact.  They don’t always catch the criminals and, when they do, their multiculturalist, PC values are so warped, they can’t adequately punish them anyway.  The result is that criminals don’t care that they’re being watched, while people of good will are afraid that anything innocent they do today can be used against them tomorrow.

In any event, my understanding is that the best way to stop terrorism is still the old-fashioned way, beginning with human intelligence and common sense.  To the extent our government is indiscriminately collecting everyone’s data, it is doing so not to prevent future crimes, but to prosecute past crimes — including words and activities that weren’t actually criminal at the time people acted or spoke.

This knowledge is why I’m intrigued about something that’s being voted on at Quirky.  If you watch Jay Leno, you know what Quirky is.  People submit ideas for inventions and the public gets to vote on whether they think it’s a good idea or not.  Some of the ideas are brilliant and some are goofy.  If enough people like an idea, Quirky will work with the inventor to bring it into being, from the patent process to the manufacturing to marketing.  Quirky naturally takes a cut, but the Quirky people claim that some people have become millionaires.

The idea at Quirky that intrigues me is one that my friend’s acquaintance came up with.  The Yosemite Box is a device that, when you turn it on, instructs your cell phone to say that your GPS coordinates are in Yosemite:

The Problem

Many governments are spying on peoples’ cellphone metadata, and this makes many people feel that their rights to privacy have been invaded. They object to having their movements and location recorded by the government, 24 hours a day (perhaps from a lovers house?). This device makes their spying incapable of tracking peoples movements through their GPS location on their cellphone – a service which cannot be turned off. If all cellphones sent the same constant address, then no one could be tracked. If you do need the GPS service, turn off the Yosemite Box.

The Solution

The Yosemite Box emits a GPS signal that gives the GPS coordinates of Yosemite National Park, maybe at the top of Half Dome. You simply keep the device near your cell phone when you do not wish to be tracked. If all cellphone metadata had the same address it would make the collection effort worthless. It would be low power so as to get under FCC regulations. Yosemite of course is just a random choice but a nice place for people to think you are visiting and besides you can say that you climbed Half Dome.

What an elegant solution to a 1984-ish government.  If you think it’s a good idea, head on over to Quirky and vote for it.  When it receives 200 votes in this preliminary round, it will go up to the next round.

What should Republicans do to ensure that this serious Democrat crisis doesn’t go to waste?

Epic fail
Rahm Emanuel famous said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”  As of today, Avik Roy explains that the Obama administration is facing a serious crisis when it comes to Obamacare:

It’s hard to come up with new ways to describe the Obama administration’s improvisational approach to the Affordable Care Act’s troubled health insurance exchanges. But last night, the White House made its most consequential announcement yet. The administration will grant a “hardship exemption” from the law’s individual mandate, requiring the purchase of health insurance, to anyone who has had their prior coverage canceled and who “believes” that Obamacare’s offerings “are unaffordable.” These exemptions will substantially alter the architecture of the law’s insurance marketplaces. Insurers are at their wits’ end, trying to make sense of what to do next.

That’s just the intro.  In paragraph after paragraph, Roy details the disaster facing the administration as it makes up rules on the fly.  Like the hydra, every time the administration thinks its lopped off a problem, two or three more pop up in its place.

Presumably, when the dust settles and the private insurance market is destroyed, the Democrats will say, “See, we told you that the private market couldn’t be fixed.  It’s time to socialize our healthcare system.”  That will be their version of not letting a crisis go to waste.  It’s scary to think that Americans have been so brainwashed that it’s entirely possible that, rather than recoiling in horror and saying, “We will never let you brainless, tyrannical incompetents touch our healthcare again,” Americans will instead say, “D’Oh!  You’re right.  You’d better take over the whole thing.”

All of which is to say that Republicans and other conservatives ought to figure out ways to capitalize on this crisis too.  My instinct is that it’s best if Republicans in Congress don’t act.  After all, when your opponent is busy digging a deeper and deeper hole, you don’t throw them a rope ladder.  To the extent that Obamacare can never be made workable, Republicans would do well to keep their fingerprints off this disaster.  But that doesn’t mean they should keep silent.

So, what should Republicans say that will best enable them to capitalize on the Obamacare debacle, not just in the area of healthcare, but regarding Big Government itself?

And if that question is too easy for you, here’s a harder one:  Even though the media is disappointed with Obamacare, that doesn’t mean that its members won’t protect Obama and the Democrats to their dying breath.  They are the living embodiment of that hackneyed saying “Nobody gets to pick on my little brother except for me.”  How, then, should Republicans who are saying the right things make sure that the public hears what they have to say?