The Rise and Fall of Hope and Change

The Rise and Fall of Hope and Change

Alexis de Toqueville

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.
Alexis de Tocqueville

The United States Capitol Building

The United States Capitol Building

The Constitutional Convention

The Constitutional Convention

The Continental Congress

The Continental Congress

George Washington at Valley Forge

George Washington at Valley Forge

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Robert Bales, Trayvon Martin and the Cult of Involuntary Martyrdom

From CFIF:


Robert Bales, Trayvon Martin and the Cult of Involuntary MartyrdomSharePrint
BY TROY SENIK
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28 2012
Despite the many uncertainties and ambiguities the case presents, the media has already come to its conclusion: that Martin’s death represented a racial flashpoint for America. Abject stupidity has been the result.
Over the past few weeks, two stories of untimely deaths – one foreign and one domestic – have dominated the media landscape.
The first is the shocking tale of Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who, seemingly at random, snuck away in the dead of night from his base in Afghanistan to wreak havoc among the local population, ultimately murdering 17 civilians in cold blood, including four women and nine children.
The second is the death of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year old African-American shot to death by a neighborhood watchman in an Orlando suburb. While the fact that Martin was unarmed is not in dispute, almost everything else about the case is – including which of the two men bore responsibility for the physical assault that preceded the shooting.
Superficially, the stories bear little resemblance to one another. But there is a key similarity in the media’s treatment of both cases. Both Bales and Martin have been conscripted into becoming metaphors for broader ideological battles. And in the process, the uncertainty surrounding both cases has been swept away as an impediment to the narrative.
In the case of Bales, the press has labored to find a deeper insight into the war in Afghanistan. Last week, the Christian Science Monitor ran a lengthy piece looking at the Bales incident as a possible representation of the stress of repeated deployments. In a column earlier in the week, the usually discerning Ralph Peters wrote, “It appears that the staff sergeant who murdered those Afghan villagers had cracked under the stresses of a war we won’t allow our troops to fight.” Chris Miller,writing in the New York Daily News, added, “It is true no one made him pull the trigger, so he should bear personal responsibility for his actions…but America shares in the collective responsibility for this incident. If you send young men and women off to war, they will not come back the same.”
Nonsense, one and all. Bales, by all discernible evidence, simply snapped. Even if his rampage was precipitated, in part or in whole, by post-traumatic stress disorder or the head injury he suffered in combat, it tells us nothing about the broader war effort. But the truth is that we simply don’t know whether those factors – or untold others – were even at play. And those armchair analyses do a disservice to the thousands upon thousands of men and women in uniform who, despite repeated deployments and whatever shortcomings may afflict our Afghanistan strategy, have served with the quiet restraint and duty that we rightly recognize as the hallmark of the United States Military. 
Bales’ crimes defy logical dissection. Even if we are someday able to discern an explanation for them, we will never be able to unearth a justification. In the vacuum created by that nihilism, the media has attempted to graft a broader meaning, facts – or the lack thereof – be damned.
A similarly cavalier attitude has characterized coverage of Trayvon Martin’s death. What little we know for sure can be summarized as follows: Martin, returning at night from a local convenience store to the home of his father’s girlfriend, caught the attention of a (by most accounts self-appointed) neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman phoned the police to report a suspicious person, pursued Martin on foot, apparently got into a physical altercation with him, and ended up firing a fatal round into Martin’s chest in what he claims was an act of self-defense.
In this case, as in Bales’, the available details are scant – and the interpretative possibilities are wide-ranging. Zimmerman’s most ferocious critics allege outright racism, to the point of trying to construe an unintelligible remark from his call to the police as a racial slur (the audio is so badly garbled that it’s virtually impossible to hear what he’s saying). His defenders, meanwhile, have suggested that Martin may have initiated the physical confrontation, dropping Zimmerman to the ground with a punch and repeatedly slamming his head against the sidewalk.
Yet despite the many uncertainties and ambiguities the case presents, the media has already come to its conclusion: that Martin’s death represented a racial flashpoint for America. Abject stupidity has been the result. MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell compared the incident to the grisly 1955 murder of 14-year old Emmett Till in Mississippi, a crime that was both premeditated and explicitly driven by racial hate. Barack Obama, never missing a chance to propound the belief that we are all just satellites in his orbit, declared in the White House Rose Garden, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” as if the injustice he intuited was compounded because it befell someone fortunate enough to resemble him. Geraldo Rivera speculated on Fox News that the fact that Martin wore a hoodie was “as much responsible for [his] death as George Zimmerman was,” despite the fact that Zimmerman mentioned the item of clothing in his call to police only once and without editorializing – and then only in response to a direct question from the operator about what Martin was wearing.
It barely merits mentioning that the media has an inherent bias against the quiet, solemn attitudes that these two stories merit. They imagine that by elevating the cases of Robert Bales and Trayvon Martin to metaphors for contentious political issues, they are somehow honoring the dead, and finding meaning where there is otherwise the chaos of ambiguity. In reality, they are diminishing the individual lives lost by subverting them to the needs of an endless news cycle that will forget them as soon as their stories grow stale. The victims of Robert Bales were not metaphors for the futility of the war in Afghanistan and Trayvon Martin was not a martyr for American race relations.  They were simply lives cut short for reasons we don’t yet (and may never) understand. If the media has nothing constructive to say about that fact – which it is becoming increasingly apparent is the case – it would be far better for them to remain silent, leaving the deceased to the peace of the grave.

Health Care Should Be an Ordinary Market

From CFIF:

Health Care Should Be an Ordinary MarketPrint
BY QUIN HILLYER
THURSDAY, MARCH 29 2012
There is no reason, except in relatively rare 'life-or-death' situations, why the same laws governing other contracts can’t govern medical care.
As good a job as ObamaCare’s opponents did in pleading their case before the Supreme Court this week, they failed (except very obliquely) to use one of the best available arguments, of a practical rather than purely legal nature, to refute the administration’s central thesis.
They could have made a stronger case that there is nothing special about the health-care market.
Especially after the oral arguments have been made, it is clear that one assumption underpins the entire case, weak as it is, in favor of the constitutionality of ObamaCare. That argument is the health-care market is unique, and thus uniquely subject to “regulatory” authority of a sort that might otherwise be seen as beyond Congress’ usual powers. To turn the ObamaCare opponents’ argument on its head, the law’s supporters say that the health-care/insurance market is not similar to the markets for broccoli, or cell phones or even burial services – so even if a congressional mandate to purchase those goods or services would be unconstitutional, a mandate to purchase health insurance is perfectly legitimate.
The argument is that there is really no such thing as “inactivity” in the health-care market – there is nochoice to avoid participation in the long run. Therefore, supposedly, it is the same thing to regulate a choice to disdain health insurance as to regulate the action of buying it.
Just to reach that point, the proponents argue in effect that the health-care market is effectively co-extensive with the health-insurance market. The lawyers challenging the law did not strongly enough explain why that contention is completely bogus.
The purported problem is with so-called “free riders” – those who theoretically can afford to purchase health insurance, but don’t, and then accept free care when they do get sick or injured. Paul Clement, representing the 26 states challenging ObamaCare’s “individual mandate,” agreed that one solution would be to require such people to sign up for a “high-risk pool” when and if they do choose to seek medical attention.
Yet even that suggestion gives away part of the argument. Better, he should have explained, no reason exists to require insurance at all, even at the point of purchase; instead, all that is needed is to requirepayment, whether via insurance or by the traditional means of paying for anything else, namely cash or credit card. There is no reason, except in relatively rare “life-or-death” situations, why the same laws governing other contracts can’t govern medical care.
Michael Carvin, lawyer for the National Federation of Independent Business, very briefly touched on this point, but let it go. The problem, he told Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, isn’t necessarily one of people without insurance – because some people without insurance, indeed most, will pay their bills – but of those who just won’t pay. “Those are people who default on their health-care payments,” he said. “That is an entirely different [and smaller] group of people, an entirely different activity than being uninsured.”
It should be noted, first, that the problem is far smaller than advertised. Writing at the online magazine of the American Enterprise Institute on March 28, Duke University/George Mason University scholar Christopher Conover noted that the problem with non-payment which ObamaCare aims to solve has been exaggerated by a factor of 12. He says it amounts to a $70 annual additional burden on those who do pay for insurance and end up unknowingly covering the costs for shirkers. This is just two-fifths of the costs borne by the same insurance holders for the unhealthy habits of people who drive up insurance costs by failing to exercise. (This factoid, by the way, serves precisely to support the absolutely appropriate assertion by Justice Antonin Scalia that there is no relevant distinction, legally or practically, between an argument for compulsory insurance and an argument for compulsory exercise – or, by extension, other health-related behaviors such as eating broccoli.)
The legal argument of the ObamaCare supporters actually is a sleight-of-hand, saying that something which is otherwise unconstitutional becomes allowable due to real-life, practical considerations. The counter-analyses of Mr. Conover and Justice Scalia show even those real-life assumptions to be invalid.
There are numerous other ways, without insurance, to handle the free riders at issue. Ordinary contract law allows plenty of means for providers of any good or service to recover unpaid bills, including access to courts. In other instances, governments have no problem forcing those who can afford to pay to do so – as they do, for instance, by garnishing wages of non-custodial parents who renege on child-support requirements. In fact, Massachusetts then-Gov. Mitt Romney’s original draft of his state’s health-care law actually included a provision (rejected by state lawmakers) allowing wage garnishment from non-impoverished health-care free riders.
“The distinction between ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘individual mandate,’” Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Edmund Haislmaier told me, “is that the former is about ensuring that people who can pay their own bills, do so, while the latter is about forcing people to buy insurance that pays someone else's bills.” ObamaCare does the latter, for no good constitutional reason. Indeed, even apart from constitutional considerations, the individual mandate is a solution in search of a problem.
That the President and Congress would try to solve this rather negligible “problem” by trampling on traditional notions of liberty, and by expanding federal power to an extent never before allowed, is an affront to right reason and to the entire American tradition.

House passes Republican budget, rejects Obama plan 414-0 - HUMAN EVENTS

House passes Republican budget, rejects Obama plan 414-0 - HUMAN EVENTS

House passes Republican budget, rejects Obama plan 414-0 - HUMAN EVENTS

House passes Republican budget, rejects Obama plan 414-0 - HUMAN EVENTS

Highlights Of House GOP Budget

From USJF:


Highlights Of House GOP Budget

March 30, 2012 @  → No Comments
Highlights of the Republican budget passed by the House on Thursday:
—Envisions discretionary and mandatory spending of about $40 trillion over the next decade, $7 trillion less than spending projected in President Barack Obama’s budget proposal. It cuts taxes by $2 trillion from what Obama proposed over that period, and cuts spending by $5.3 trillion from what the president sought.
—Would bring the annual federal deficit, now more than $1 trillion, down to about $287 billion in 2022. The president’s budget sees the deficit falling to about $704 billion in 2022.
—Sets the ceiling for discretionary spending next year at $1.028 trillion. That’s $19 billion under the ceiling set in the budget deal Congress reached with the White House last year.
—Extends the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. It repeals the alternative minimum tax and reduces tax brackets from the current six to two, at 10 percent and 25 percent. The top corporate tax rate is set at 25 percent. The measure calls for ending tax loopholes but does not specify which ones.

Take Obama Off His Teleprompter And He’s Void Of Originality And Honesty

From USJF:


Take Obama Off His Teleprompter And He’s Void Of Originality And Honesty

March 29, 2012 @  → One Comment
When this video was posted by TruthSeeker 2012, he said: “Take this man off his teleprompter and he’s void of originality and honesty!” No truer words have been said. When you watch this video of Obama with various heads of state, you see just how lame and uncreative he is. He is truly the teleprompter king. Without it, he is worse than a zero.

New Developments from Japan Show the Left Is Wrong on Two Big Fiscal Issues

From USJF:


New Developments from Japan Show the Left Is Wrong on Two Big Fiscal Issues

March 30, 2012 @  → 2 Comments
There are several semi-permanent fiscal policy fights in Washington, most of which somehow are related to the big issue of whether government should be bigger or smaller.
Today, I want to focus on two of those battles, and point to developments in Japan to make the case that the left is wrong.
First, let’s look at a couple of sentences from a Wall Street Journal story about Japanese fiscal policy.
Top officials from Japan’s government and ruling party formally endorsed a revised bill to double the country’s sales tax, despite strong objections from other party members, in a sign of their determination to rein in the nation’s soaring public debt. …The legislation will double the current 5% sales tax in two stages by 2015 as a way to help pay for the nation’s growing social welfare costs as the population ages.
I realize I’m a strange person and I look at everything through a libertarian lens, but I think this story provides strong support for my viewpoint on two important issues.
1. Higher taxes lead to higher spending – Just like in the United States, politicians in Japan claim that they have to raise taxes to deal with deficits and debt. Indeed, the excerpt above includes that assertion, reporting that the VAT increase would be “to rein in the nation’s soaring debt.”