Sunday, February 27, 2011

Regulation Watch - 02-27-2011

Two themes this week: States are fighting federal regulations (Alaska vs. TSA, Kentucky vs. EPA) and federal agencies lash back at companies that dared oppose them (NHTSA vs. Toyota, FCC vs. Verizon).

Education: 12-year-old assaulted, loses teeth, gov't and union run school could care less
FCC: FCC questioning Verizon over dropped 911 calls. Angry that Verizon is suing over Net Neutrality?
Transportation: More retaliation. Agency embarrassed over negative investigation, forces Toyota to recall anyway
Transportation: And again. Funny that GM isn't in the headlines...NHTSA probing Toyota Highlander
South Dakota: Senate eases regulation for uranium mine
TSA: Alaska Rep. Cissna, cancer survivor, refuses grope, drives and ferries home
TSA: Alaska Rep. Cissna drives/ferries home, Legislature passes resolution of support
TSA: More on Cissna from JuneauEmpire.com
NLRB: Who knew? religiosity is a valid defense against NLRB coercion. Manhattan College not enough.
DHS: DHS agrees to pay $400k to U.S. citizen, veteran, unlawfully detained by ICE for 7 months
NLRB: Obama's NLRB vs. us
FDA: FDA's small war against cheap safe drugs
FDA: Cigarette makers challenge objectivity of FDA panel deciding on menthol cigarettes
Interior: Because the other climate research centers have been so wonderful, 8 regional centers to open
ATF: MSM on ATFs policy of helping arm Mexican gangs (presumably to create a crisis and excuse for new gun regulation)
California: Superior court decides against AB 32. It is a big deal
South Carolina: SC legislators aim to keep business free of NLRB coercion, exempt from federal rule to post pro-union guidelines
FCC: Obama plans government wi-fi network. Can you say 'nationalization'?.
Kentucky: State threatens to boot federal EPA, create "sanctuary state" free of EPA regulation
Education: Huckabee would abolish Education Department. Didn't Reagan promise that too?
Education: Dept offers Eaerth Day poster contest (due March 7). Have your kids glorify industry!
Colorado: Democrats propose licensing interior designers. Are they a health hazard?
Gov't creates fake identity armies to fight us
Energy: Another green jobs boondoggle, Obama/Biden endorsed Solyndra squanders $535M
NLRB: Coerced 'bargaining' can cut both ways, NFL vs. NFLPA
HHS: Sebelius tries to molify, buy off state governors
USDA: What part of the Constitution says the gov't can advise us about how we salt our food?
Justice: Obama stops defending DOMA constitutionality. Will he defend any Republican law from challenges?
Interior: Wild Lands Policy Meeting coming up. Oppose wilderness designation without representation.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Yaron Brook at Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit

Yaron Brook gave an excellent speech at the TPP Policy Summit. He introduced himself as an immigrant who came to the U.S. to be in the freest, greatest country on earth. He touches on the original Tea Parties, who didn't ask King George for tax breaks or a balanced budget. They demanded that their right to live their own lives be recognized.
my life is mine, your life is yours (applause), and no one can take that away, not a king and not even a majority...This country is not a democracy (applause). This country places the individual and his rights above what 51% of the people think (applause)...The founding fathers founded this country on this simple principle, that we own our own lives. That our lives are ours to do with as we choose...This principle is almost non-existent in the political debate...It's in the Declaration of Independence. It's called individual rights. Now individual rights don't mean that you have the right to somebody else's stuff...Individual rights mean you have the right to be left free of coercion. You have a right to be free to make your own choices. To do what's right for your own life. To pursue, in the words of the Declaration, your own happiness. Its not the right to stuff as the left would interpret it today. There is no right to health care, there is no right to a job, there is no right to a minimum wage, there is no right to a living wage. There's a right to your life, to go out there and live. That's it. (applause) If we are going to defend this country. If we are going to reverse the trend that this country is moving along we have to rediscover this concept of individual rights. It is the key concept this movement should be pushing for. It encapsulates everything that's involved. We talk about limited government. Its in every tea party's list of things its for. And one of the top ones is limited government. Limited by what? How do we decide if this belongs in government or should be done by the private sector? How do we decide? By vote? Are we back to democracy again?...What is the principle that says this is what government should do and this is what government shouldn't do? What were the founders thinking when they formulated the Constitution? The principle was that government was constituted among men to do one thing and one thing only. And that's to protect your inalienable right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. That's it. (applause)
Listen to the rest below. It's a wonderful speech. Yaron is passionate, thoughtful, inspiring, and to the point. And the excitement in the audience about the tea party, freedom, individual rights and principles is heartwarming.



I'm looking forward to more summit updates from the SLOBs.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The TSA Pretense Exposed

If you are one of those who still believe that the Transportation Safety Administration is attempting to make travel safer, pay attention. The following reports a 9-year-old and his family being wanded and patted down in a train station after their train trip.

The only bad thing on our trip was [the] TSA at the Savannah train station. There were about 14 agents pulling people inside the building and coralling everyone in a roped area after you got off the train. This made no sense! Poor family in front of us! 9-year old getting patted down and wanded. They groped our people too and were very unprofessional. I am all about security, but when have you ever been harassed and felt up getting off a plane? Shouldn't they be doing that getting on?



Of course, there's no reason to screen passengers during departure if your goal is travel safety. But if your goal is to create a police state where everyone doubts their right to do anything without permission and to train people early to be submissive, then this exactly the right thing to do. Remember that the TSA has promised to bring their indoctrination to train stations, bus depots and sports events.

H/T Karl Denninger

Monday, February 21, 2011

Altruism Empowers Evil

I've always loved epic stories of good versus evil. I love Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dune--long, multi-generational conflicts. But it wasn't until I read, and re-read, Atlas Shrugged that I learned a crucial fact about evil, a fact not grasped in those other works. Evil is impotent. As Rand explains in Atlas and her non-fiction works, evil is anti-life. Evil is an overbearing state that demands your sacrifices, it is the irrational brute, it is the idea that there are no standards and no reality. Vice is giving up your life, acting from unexamined emotions, refusing to think. The good is life on this earth, it is the rational and the life promoting. Virtue is examining the world around you, thinking, doing things that improve your work, your health, your life. Good versus evil is reality-reason-self-interest versus unreality-irrationality-sacrifice.

Evil is the abandonment of reason, the ability to understand and create. So how can it be powerful? How can evil create wealth, build civilizations, arm itself with high-tech weapons? It can't. Evildoers acquire wealth and weapons from those that are rational. Evil gains the material of its power from the good. Without the support of the good, evil would be powerless.

So why do depictions of the inherent power of evil resonate with so many people? Why is Darth Vadar such an imposing figure in Star Wars and Sauron in the Lord of the Rings? I believe the answer is the morality of altruism.

When I say 'altruism', I'm not talking about giving your neighbor a cup of sugar or letting someone merge in traffic. Altruism is not practicing 'random acts of kindness'. Altruism is the idea that your moral worth derives solely from sacrificing to others. Altruism is the morality that views your normal life, your job, your family vacations, your hobbies, as morally neutral or even contemptible. Altruism only recognizes your acts of giving up values, depriving yourself of joy, of devoting your life to service as virtuous.

Among altruism's contradictions, two are important for this discussion. The first is that it requires you to sacrifice but treats the recipients as virtuous. If you're sacrificing for someone else's benefit, why do they get a moral pass? Why are you morally required to give, but they are allowed to receive?  Because they have less than you? Perhaps, but you can bet there's always someone else in the world worse off than they are. The disgusting implications of this chain of reasoning lead most people to just stop thinking about the recipients too much. And so sacrifice itself becomes the sole virtue regardless of whether it helps anyone.

Altruism's second and related contradiction is that it does not and can not define any standard of benefit for the recipient. If you were to try to define a standard of good for the recipients, you would have to define a morality of life. You would have to declare that the bum on the corner should get an education, a job, take care of himself, save some money, figure out what would make him happy. But that would come dangerously close to bringing down the whole edifice. Because if its good for him to have a job, save money and be happy, then what about you? Why should you be obliged to give the bum money instead of saving it for your own happiness?

The effect of these contradictions is that altruism can tell you to sacrifice but cannot say who to sacrifice to. Since reason cannot answer, practicing altruists just go by what they feel is right.

Enter Evil.

Conventional advocates of altruism and advocates of self-interest can agree that people like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are evil. But the point altruists miss is that it is they, the altruists, who empower creatures such as Hitler and Stalin. Every genocidal dictator in history has risen to power calling for sacrifice. Their followers supported them whole-heartedly and their enemies were speechless. Why? Because who were they to judge that Hitler, or the Volk, or trade-unions weren't worthy recipients of sacrifice? Part and parcel of the morality of altruism is not to examine its recipients too closely or try to impose any standard of benefit. The morality of altruism, of sacrifice, that incentivizes the collectors of sacrifices--welfare mothers, union thugs and powerlusting, murderous politicians. When these politicians arise the dominant morality of altruism gives them the support of laborers, housewives, businessmen, weapons manufacturers. Those few that would speak out against them don't have the words to fight, because their own morality of altruism renders them mute. Altruism empowers evil.

Which brings me back to Star Wars. A big part of evil's aura of power comes from a persons own altruist morality. A person who thinks that it is good and right to sacrifice is morally defenseless against the collector of sacrifices. If a demogogue demands money, technology, weapons factories, there's little the altruist can say to defend himself because he has given up self-interest as a defense. An altruist will feel that such a demogogue is powerful not realizing that it is his own morality that grants the demogogue a moral sanction. It is his own morality that would lead him to work for such a demogogue without objecting, pay taxes, accept the inflated fiat money and say nothing when he hears rumors of concentration camps. After all who is he to judge. His duty is to sacrifice. This is the power the altruist grants evil, complicit support.

The theme of Atlas Shrugged is the role of the mind in production and achievement. But if you read Atlas closely you will notice that the main conflict is between John Galt and the men of the mind who have accepted the role of sacrificial victims. Galt's goal is to either convince them to withdraw their support of the fascist state or destroy their industries. Galt's enemy is any creator who has accepted any part of the morality of sacrifice and continues to support a culture that despised production. His advice? Withdraw your sanction.

If you wish to stop evil in the world, stop sacrificing or giving lip-service to sacrifice, even as a meaningless platitude. Deprived of sacrifices evil is impotent. Evil gains no power from a person who proudly declares their right to exist and pursue their own happiness by the use of their own mind.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Regulation Watch - 02-20-2011

Had a great afternoon with the SLOBs, so I'm a bit late with this one. Enjoy!

California: Water regulation killed the Central Valley but did nothing for the smelt
ATF: NRA, NAGR opposes ATF nominee Trever
ATF: House removes requirement to report multiple assault weapon sales from spending bill
ATF: Grassley investigates potential ATF attempt to manufacture assault weapon crisis (more here)
Health: Workers refusal to act against conscience now firing offenses
Montana: Senate votes to urge Congress to prevent EPA regulation of CO2
Education: House votes to block regulations on college lending
Labor: dept meddles in cinematographers guild, tells them 89-year-old wexler is eligible for board
Justice/HHS: DOJ files "motion to clarify" with judge Vinson of Florida: what do you mean by 'unconstitutional'?
Justice: Hatred of the Good for Being Good - DOJ investigates Apple again for anti-trust 'violations'
Justice: DOJ's shameful handling of the new black panther voter intimidation case
Energy: DOE taxpayers on the hook for more boondoggle energy projects every week
Energy: $150K to filmaker to glorify science pork of oak ridge national labs
California: Contra Costa educationists vote against charter school petitions
FDA: Center for Scams and Panics Inc. asks FDA to ban cola coloring
FDA: Agency stiffling device approvals, J&J objects over post-rejection requests for information
Transportation: Media owe Toyota an apology, acceleration caused by trapped mats and worn pads
DHS: Napolitano won't run for Senate, prefers unelected position and unaccountable power
DHS: ICE confirms DHS and DOJ seizure of thousands of lawfully operating web sites
NLRB: union organizers file unfair labor practices claim vs. hospital for being asked which way they lean and not to post in some areas
NLRB: 60 republicans vote with democrats to stop defunding of NLRB
FCC: FCC 'investigating' Fox (surprise!) television station in New Jersey over local coverage
TSA: politicians pretending to save us from the TSA
TSA: TSA workers stole $40k from baggage at JFK 
TSA: TSA supervisor took bribes to ignore theft of $10-30k in Newark
TSA: Seattle cafe bans TSA workers, police have had to escort TSA agents out the door
NLRB: Becker's best idea EVAR! Microunions of 5 to 10 employees
Nebraska: HHS caseworker told by supervisor to lie in court by supervisor, quits, helping mother to fight HHS abuse
FCC: Net Neutrality supporter Google hires Ex-FCC advisor as lobbyist. 'Don't be evil'? orly?
Fed: Worst endorsement possible, Bernanke says Dodd-Frank is major step forward
EPA: The war on coal in four parts
IRS: 1054 new IRS agents for Obamacare implementation
Education: What a freaking mess. Leftists and Conservatives produce frankenstein education curriculum in Texas. Just privatize it already!

Bizarro news of the Month: NFL complains to NLRB that union not bargaining 'in good faith', union wants to self-decertify so it can attack with antitrust litigation

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Possible San Diego Taxi Jihad

UPDATE (01-15-13): Quite an old story now. The police declined to press charges after a thorough investigation of the video, scene and car. There was mention of a possible civil suit versus Hassan by the victim, but that disappeared. Meanwhile she is now suing the city for more strict enforcement of taxi regulations. In brief there's no evidence that this was in fact a case of "sudden jihad" nor is it likely additional evidence will be made public. 

H/T Atlas Shrugged

Hassan Daly (courtesy of Signon San Diego)
Last Saturday at 2 AM a San Diego taxi driver slowly plowed through a sidewalk crowd in the Gaslamp district at 15mph, injuring 36. One woman's leg was crushed so badly it was initially reported to have been severed. She is expected to walk again but not regain full function or appearance of her leg. Several others were seriously injured.

According to the owner of the Stingaree nightclub, the driver exited his taxi with a pair of scissors in hand and attempted to stab one of his managers. The driver was immediately assaulted by the crowd and eventually hospitalized for a broken nose. (The chaotic aftermath can be viewed on youtube here.)

A couple days after the incident police disclosed that the taxi driver was a 52-year-old Egyptian named Hasan Daly. He has not been arrested.

His roommate was fearful enough of Daly that he carried a knife with him at all times since a confrontation over bringing a date back to their shared apartment. He described Daly as 'devoutly muslim'.

It surprises me that Daly wasn't arrested and that the police tried to write it off as falling asleep at the wheel. Hopefully they aren't being pressured to evade potential religious motivations, i.e. jihad. Daly is clearly guilty of causing serious injury and it needs to be established if he intended to do so. Jumping out of the cab with scissors in hand argues that he did.

Vehicular attacks appear to have become part of the arsonal of jihadis (also being referred to as 'Sudden Jihad'). From Winds of Jihad:
There have been several other suspicious incidents involving Muslim drivers over the last few years. Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar explicitly grounded his hit-and-run in the teachings of the Koran. Munir Muthana told the police who arrested him that “the Muslims will fix this country.” Omeed Aziz Popal, we were told, was suffering from stress from an arranged marriage. Ismail Yassin Mohamed, we were informed, was mentally ill, suffered from depression, and hadn’t being taking his medication. And Muhammad Teshale, according to “law enforcement officials,” “did it to be famous.”
Nor are these attacks likely to go away. Al-Qaeda, in the second edition of its english-language magazine late last year, explicitly calls for these types of attacks:
In separate articles, [Yahya Ibrahim] suggests ideas for terrorist attacks and offers advice on how to wage jihad without generating scrutiny from law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

The graphic for the article "The Ultimate Mowing Machine" is taken from a Ford F-150 advertisement showing a truck splashing through puddles as lightning strikes in the background. With the right tools and a little effort, the truck can be turned into a killing machine from a Wes Craven horror film.

"The idea is to use a pickup truck as a mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah," Ibrahim writes. "Maximum carnage" can be created by adding steel blades to the front grill of the truck and driving it at high speed into a crowd of pedestrians. The attacker can bring a gun to "finish off your work if your vehicle gets grounded during the attack."

Hopefully the police get to the bottom of Daly's case and punish him appropriately. Even if he is innocent of intent, he could well inspire other jihadis thinking they can get away with the 'I fell asleep' defense.

Can a Banana Republic Create Galt's Gultch by Fiat?

Sounds like a stretch but Honduras is about to create 'model cities' wherein free market principles rule. From Honduras's Experiment With Free-Market Cities:

What advocate of free markets hasn't, at one time or another, fantasized about running away to a desert island to start a country where economic liberty would be the law of the land? If things go according to plan, more than one such "island" may soon pop up here.

Honduras calls these visionary islands "model cities," and as the Journal's David Wessel reported from Washington 10 days ago, the Honduran Congress is expected to soon pass an amendment to the constitution that would clear the way to put the concept into action.

The idea is simple: A sizable piece of unpopulated government land is designated for use as a model city. A charter that will govern the city is drafted and the Congress approves it. A development authority is appointed by the national government. The authority signs contracts with the investors who will develop the infrastructure. The city opens for business under rules that act as a magnet for investment.
As Mr. Sánchez, who also worked in the government of President Ricardo Maduro (2002-06), puts it: "For me, for a very long time, it has been obvious that with the current system, we are going nowhere." The young lawyer says that almost a decade ago he began thinking about whether it would be possible to designate a small place where all the pro-market reforms would be law. He had no doubt that such a zone would grow fast and that the ideas behind it would spread.
Former president Ricardo Maduro is also a fan. "If we want to develop we have to find a way to counterbalance the populism that causes us so much harm."

Tempting...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Defund the U.N.

Investor's Business Daily has an excellent piece on the U.N. today. Titled U.N.derserved:
Policy Errors: The administration is embarking on a campaign to promote the U.N. and America's role in the organization. This is exactly the opposite of what it should be doing.

The White House is sending Susan Rice, its ambassador to the United Nations, out to make a series of speeches through the spring. She will reportedly talk about how the world body should be strengthened rather than starved.

This is breathtakingly foolish. It strains the mind to think of even one instance in which the U.N. has made the world a better place.

Has it ever stopped a war? Halted genocide? Eliminated starvation? Wiped out terrorism? Resolved a major conflict before it became violent? Can the U.N. say that it has replaced a tyranny with a representative government? Or liberated oppressed women in Muslim nations?

Since the U.N. was founded in 1945, a million or more have been victims of genocide in Darfur and Rwanda. A war that's not officially over was fought in the Korean peninsula and another raged in Vietnam.

Israelis and Arabs have continued to kill one another as the Palestinian problem festers still. Terrorists have murdered thousands. A mad regime in Iran has been allowed to pursue nuclear arms.

The U.N.'s decision-making is as lousy as its record. This is a group that has chosen a Cuban government functionary to lead its Human Rights Council and placed Libya on the same board.

The oil-for-food scandal was hatched in the U.N.'s halls and its leadership dispatched the peacekeepers who've been cited for abusing and prostituting young girls in Africa and the Balkans.

The U.N. is a corrosive enterprise that habitually rebukes Israel, a nation that consistently votes with the U.S. more than any other country, and has given warm welcomes and friendly forums for despots such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

For all these and many other wonderful services, U.S. taxpayers support the U.N. to the tune of $1.25 billion a year, roughly 25% of the organization's budget. But whatever the price, it's too much for an incompetent, even malignant, assembly of increasingly anti-American diplomats, bureaucrats and fat cats.

The U.N. is a disgrace with problems too deep to be reformed. It should be defunded and its corrupt leaders defenestrated. The better alternative is an alliance of the free nations whose governments and cultures prefer a world of peace and prosperity.

To that I'll add a quotation from Ayn Rand:
Asked in a 1964 interview for Playboy magazine if she would "favor U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations," Ayn Rand answered:

"Yes. I do not sanction the grotesque pretense of an organization allegedly devoted to world peace and human rights, which includes Soviet Russia, the worst aggressor and bloodiest butcher in history, as one of its members. The notion of protecting rights, with Soviet Russia among the protectors, is an insult to the concept of rights and to the intelligence of any man who is asked to endorse or sanction such an organization. I do not believe that an individual should cooperate with criminals, and, for all the same reasons, I do not believe that free countries should cooperate with dictatorships."
Since Rand's death the Islamic nations have formed the most influential bloc in the U.N. and now pretend to speak for free speech, human rights and even women's rights, when at home they stone women for adultery and murder apostates and mere critics of Islam.

Its beyond time to get out of the U.N.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Citizens Oppose Raising the Debt Ceiling

This is some of the best news I've heard in a few months. The American citizenry is opposed to raising the debt ceiling. Republicans, Independents and Democrats! Such a simple idea (leaving the ceiling unchanged) and yet it so dramatically caps the out of control spending of the federal government. This shows that Americans have the courage to face the problems of our welfare state. And by the way, what exactly is a 'ceiling' that you raise every time you reach it?

The popular opposition to raising the ceiling reminds me of the overwhelming nationwide outcry against the financial bailouts, despite the dire warnings of the politicians and bankers. Congress ignored that outcry and bailed anyway. That backfired as it energize the Tea Party movement. No doubt Congress will  defy the voters again and raise the debt ceiling, but that will again energize us and help identify those politicians due for replacement in 2012. Bring it on Washington.

From THE HILL POLL: Voters oppose raising the $14.3T debt ceiling:

Seventy-seven percent of likely GOP voters and 64 percent of independent voters said they don’t want the debt ceiling to be raised. Even among Democrats, more oppose raising the ceiling (46 percent) than support it (42 percent).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Regulation Watch - 02-13-2011

Dominant theme this week: GOP politicians threatening defunding of various agencies or agency policies (EPA, NLRB, Interior, FCC, etc.). Hopefully they have the balls to carry through with it. We will be singing their praises if they do.

Cartoon: The executive's regulatory power dwarfs Congress
FCC: GOP Upton threatens to defund Net Neutrality
FCC: Sleight of hand, power hungry FCC complains about local regulations
FCC: FCC's new trojan horse, rural broadband access. Do they really think they can buy off farmers and ranchers?
FCC: And again bearing gifts, FCC/Olympia Snowe consider free wifi at all govt buildings 
FCC: New emergency alert system so the Pres can talk to us directly, on through our computers too
EPA: EPA's big lie of the week 'Our role is not to stop development'
Energy: DOE announce major spending for offshore wind boondoggle
Energy: wood chip to ethanol boondoggle from Bush era
Marijuana: Just like in LA, marijuana legalized in Montana, major sellers move to regulate out competition
More talk from Congress. Approves measure to review regulations impeding jobs
Energy: Brilliance! Want better power delivery, fewer blackouts? Write more regulations.
Transportation: Govt that owns GM launched fruitless investigation into competitor Toyota
Transportation: Study absolves Toyota, Democrats Waxman and Kaptur uninterested and unapologetic
Transportation: Govt to use fake Toyota problem to require black box recorders in all cars
Transportation: Its really about stopping people from having fun without permission, Feds ban e-cigarette on planes. Sidestream water vapor harmful?
Transportation: New airline regulations coming in April, expect dramatic improvements soon. lol.
Transportation: $53B for trains. 'cause the gov't hates individuals, prefers herds
Interior: Leaked report describes new anti-coal regulations, estimates 7000 lost jobs
Interior: GOP Simpson 'might' defund Interior's wildlands policy
Interior: administration defiance over drilling ban moratorium
FDA: driving jobs offshore
Democrats brazenly breaking or skirting the law to increase power
Obamacare: 2nd whitehouse statement in defiance of unconstitutionality ruling
HHS: College health care plans were exempt, but not anymore. Waver time.
HHS: Wavers Unconstitutional? Can the president simply decide who has to follow the law?
Massachusetts: Romneycare wavers decided by SEIU union thugs
SEC: Pretends to reduce the importance of its ratings cartel, doesn't touch cartel creating NRSRO
New Hampshire: State moves to deregulate homeschooling
TSA: TSA reluctant to release radiation data on its scanners
NLRB: NLRB pushing compulsory pro-union advertisements at work and quick votes to prevent employers from counter-campaigning, GOP threatens to fight back
ATF: GOA call to action on ATF abuse
New York: Apparently mixed martial arts are regulated out of new york
Three provisions of patriot act unextended
Napolitano against the Patriot act
Over 3000 rederal regulations out of 60-plus departments annually
Regulation without representation: 157k pages and counting. cost 1.75T annually
Federal secure ID deadline looms for agencies and contractors, precursor to mandatory internet IDs?
Federal funds support mandatory elementary classes in Arabic (school dist. later backed down).
Rand Paul press release on REINS act, regulation scrutiny
Rand Paul proposal to cut $500B.
Nevada: Campaigning...if it requires an application form, fee and permit, its not a constitutional right

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Leftists Just Now Notice All Their Colleagues Are Leftists

From Social Scientist Sees Bias from Within (H/T Legal Insurrection)

Leftist sociologists are discovering that bias against female academics is overrated...

Universities and the National Science Foundation [spent] tens of millions of dollars on research and programs based on the assumption that female scientists faced discrimination and various forms of unconscious bias. But that assumption has been repeatedly contradicted, most recently in a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by two Cornell psychologists, Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams. After reviewing two decades of research, they report that a woman in academic science typically fares as well as, if not better than, a comparable man when it comes to being interviewed, hired, promoted, financed and published.

but god help you if you're a libertarian or conservative.

It was identified by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who studies the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology. He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

“This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. In his speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

“Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”
 Better 150 years late than never, I guess?

To paraphrase a saying, Privatize 'em all and let the Market sort 'em out!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Worlds Colliding, TSA to Unionize

For different reasons the TSA and unions have been targets of my blogging. Now they're joining forces. So not only will we have the Fourth Amendment violating TSA fondling our genitals, but we'll get to pay them exorbitant salaries and benefits and not be able to fire even the most perverted since they'll be unionized. And if there was ever a chance they could make flying safer, that's now gone. Wonderful.

Feds Grant Limited Union Rights to Airport Screeners:

WASHINGTON -- After nearly a decade of wrangling, the Transportation Security Administration on Friday gave more than 40,000 airport screeners the right to vote on limited collective bargaining rights, strengthening their voice in work conditions but barring them from striking or negotiating over pay or security procedures.

The decision -- though limited -- won praise from government worker unions and many TSA workers, who fought to win the same protections as other federal employees despite claims from Republican lawmakers that union demands could jeopardize national security or slow response times in a crisis.

The agency's administrator, John Pistole, said the decision will allow bargaining on a national level over certain employment issues such as setting work shifts, transfers, vacation time and awards. The deal prohibits negotiating on issues that might affect security, the deployment of security personnel, job qualifications, testing or discipline. It also bars any work slowdowns.

"The safety of the traveling public is our top priority and we will not negotiate on security," Pistole said. "But morale and employee engagement cannot be separated from achieving superior security."

Florida Rep. John Mica, Republican chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called the decision "an Obama union payoff" and said it would hamstring the government's fight against terrorism.

Union officials called such arguments an insult to the hundreds of thousands of public safety officers who already have collective bargaining rights, including Border Patrol agents, firefighters and Capitol police.

"Today marks the recognition of a fundamental human right for 40,000 patriotic federal employees who have been disenfranchised since the inception of the agency," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. His union already has more than 12,000 dues-paying members among the screeners' ranks, but has not been allowed to bargain on their behalf.

Gage called the decision "a big first step" for TSA workers. He said it would help improve employee satisfaction and morale at the agency, which was ranked near the bottom among all federal agencies in a recent survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management.

Pistole had spent months studying the union issue. The decision comes just days after Pistole said the agency would not hire private contractors to screen airline passengers, despite calls to do so from some Republican lawmakers and frustrated passengers.

When the agency was created in 2001, it was excluded from regulations that give other federal workers the right to union protections. The law gave the TSA administrator the authority to decide whether collective bargaining should be allowed, and under the administration of President George W. Bush it was always prohibited.

President Barack Obama had pledged to get the screeners collective bargaining rights during his campaign. But the effort was delayed after Obama's first two choices to run the agency dropped out during their confirmation process.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., urged the Senate to overturn the decision, saying even limited collective bargaining rights could impede security.

"If who shows up for work, when they show up and what assignments they get is not a security issue, then nothing is a security issue," DeMint said.

Indeed, the Senate is expected to vote in the next few weeks on a measure offered by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., that would bar screeners from gaining union rights.

But Independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman said collective bargaining would enhance security by improving the job performance of screening officers.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority has already set union elections at the TSA to begin in early March. TSA employees will choose between Gage's union and the National Treasury Employees Union for representation. They could also choose not to have union representation.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Regulation Watch - 02-06-2011

The big news this week is that the administration is ignoring two court rulings (on offshore drilling and on Obamacare), posing a serious threat to the separation of powers principle that protects our freedom. Conflicts continue to brew between various states and federal agencies.

EPA: Texas has 6 lawsuits vs the EPA clean air actions
EPA: Montana headed for conflict with EPA?
HHS: Obamacare unconstitutional
HHS: Obamacare ruled unconstitutional, administration ignores
HHS: Wavermania expands from Obamacare to EPA
HHS: Regulation corrupts, absolute regulation corrupts absolutely?
FCC: EFF describes Net Neutrality regulation as Trojan Horse
FCC: Net Neutrality will become a boot on your neck
FCC: Companies have to prepare for regulations, but the FCC shouldn't have to defend them until they're active
FCC: Conservative think tanks: abolish Net Neutrality, gut FCC
FCC: Al Sharpton calls for FCC to muzzle conservative talk shows
NLRB: NLRB workers-should-not-be-able-to-choose-against-having-a-union Becker recuses himself
NLRB: Congress should reject workers-should-not-be-able-to-choose-against-having-a-union Becker
NLRB: NLRB backs off on threat to sue states over secret ballots
NLRB: How it works. Union returns to work 'unconditionally', then attacks company through NLRB.
TSA: Little old, but...TSA medical examination?
TSA: Giving up the right to fire the perverts and any shred of security effectiveness, TSA to unionize
DHS: NFL teams up with Napolitano
DHS: no banners, noisemakers or beach balls allowed in groper bowl
Pennsylvania: New regulations are always better than just enforcing laws against murder
Texas: Shocker! State controlled energy leads to blackouts
California: Ed Dept won't attack right to home school
California: AB32, California's carbon cap-and-trade, might have violated other regulations, delay? 
Virginia: Bill to protect a free internet and limit the FCC passes House
New York: reductio ad absurdum, schools paying $100k/yr to educate 'disabled' student in filmmaking
Ohio: Another attack on coal. Coal fired plant threatened for heating river water
Labor: Lawyers pork: DoL launches program to forward employee complaints to private law firms
Labor: Consults mothers on new law to compel accomodations for pumping. How about the mothers talk with their employers instead?
Labor: New regulations for mining
Interior: US in contempt over gulf drill ban
Interior: Interior Depts culture of contempt 
Interior: Salazar surprises states with 'wild lands' designation, politicians and land users object
Interior: new policy to protect 'scientists' (or to protect the department?)
FDA: the FDA is killing drug development
Energy: taxpayers to guarantee $1 billion loan to biorefineries
Energy: new government electric transmission corridors slash through parks and monuments, 13 states file suit
USDA: USDA lifts 4-year ban on gentically modified alfalfa, decides not to regulate. thanks for the quick turnaround!
Transportation: Feds getting into your car under cover of fighting against drunk driving
State regulators with new powers urge congress not to water down Dodd-Frank
Stossel recommends privatizing air traffic control, amtrak; cutting NPR, foreign aid; eliminating Dept. of Education, HUDD, Energy Department.
Education: if education were private, there'd be bankrupt busing companies and schools: parents of 6-year-old sue for sodoomy
Against an Internet Kill Switch and presidential power not subject to judicial review

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Good News: Efforts in Ohio and California to Abolish 'Collective Bargaining'

Like the unemployment, retirement and health care entitlements that are bankrupting our federal government, union salary, benefits and retirement packages are bankrupting states and municipalities. Critics are tackling the union problem around the country. Some are going after union political contributions, some after card check provisions, some after pro-union political appointees, and some after the benefits and salaries. The best are tackling 'collective bargaining' itself.

In Ohio Senator Shannon Jones has introduced a bill 
to prohibit the state and state employees and state institutions of higher education and their employees from collectively bargaining, to abolish salary schedules for public employees and instead require merit pay, and to make various other changes to the Collective Bargaining Law.
(H/T Mike Shedlock who discusses it here.)

Currently the one paragraph bill is a placeholder and the details are yet to be ironed out, but its specific targeting of 'collective bargaining' is significant.

Here in my state, Californians for Public Union Reform have recently filed with the state its intent to back a ballot measure to (according to its Treasurer Lanny Ebenstein) "end collective bargaining for all city, county, regional and state employees in California". According to the linked article Virginia and North Carolina already forbid collective bargaining for state employees and Wisconsin is considering the same (in addition to the effort in Ohio described above).

While many of the anti-union efforts are commendable, abolishing 'collective bargaining' is exactly the right approach. Let me explain.

'Collective bargaining' is not what its name indicates (hence the scare quotes). It is not bargaining. In fact it means exactly the opposite of what you'd guess. Collective bargaining refers to the obligation of an employer to recognize the elected representatives of a group of workers and his further obligation to negotiate with those representatives. This last part is what makes 'collective bargaining' extortion. Under collective bargaining laws, employers have to recognize an elected union and have to negotiate with them, i.e. employers are forbidden from firing their unionized employees. Under threat of fine, confiscation and/or police occupation. But a negotiation that doesn't allow one party to walk away from the table and say 'no' is not bargaining. If this kind of 'bargaining' reigned in normal society, then anyone responding to a craigslist ad would have the 'right' to purchase despite not making an offer the seller likes. If the purchaser insisted, the seller would have to continue 'bargaining' with purchaser until he got tired of it and sold at a personal loss. In the same way employers are obliged to keep on employees who's salaries or benefits they consider a loss to their company. Collective bargaining is in fact union extortion.

Should employees have the right to associate, form unions, strike, quit work? Emphatically Yes! Even state employees. But on their own time, in their own homes using their own computers and phones to communicate. These are individual rights and constitutionally protected. For the same reasons employers should have the right to fire any individual, group or all of their employees. If a group of employees organizes and decides to demand improved work conditions or higher salaries or juicy retirement benefits, they have the right to do so. And the employer has the right to grant their demands or refuse them. The employees can then quit and oblige the employer to replace them. But there's no moral or logical justification to compel the employer to continue negotiating with them if they couldn't arrive at a mutually agreeable resolution voluntarily. He has the moral right to walk away, to fire them all, just like they have the right to quit en mass. It is after all his property and he has the right to dispose of it as he pleases. And that's what 'collective bargaining' laws forbid.

Imagine if the tables were turned and employers had the right to 'employer bargaining' with employees, under which the employer could demand whatever pay reductions or workday increases he wanted, employees had to negotiate with the employer and employees couldn't quit! This could only be classified as slavery. The right to terminate the employer-employee relationship is a fundamental right of both employer and employee. The right to quit is equivalent to the right to fire. If its clear that employees have the right to quit their employment, then it should be clear that employers have the right to fire their employees. Employment should be mutually beneficial to employer and employee and open to termination by either when it becomes non-beneficial (limited of course by any voluntary contractual agreements).

Collective bargaining laws have achieved two things for unions and union members. First the negotiations strongly tend in one direction, to the (short-term) benefit of the unionized workers (until their employer moves his operations offshore). This ratcheting is inevitable given that employers are forbidden their ultimate tool: terminating employment. Second the misnamed 'collective bargaining' has given an aura of moral righteousness to the unions, who pretend to be fighting for true American values like the freedom of association. But they are not, they are fighting for values quite foreign to America, values that come from Marxist collectivism, i.e. the expropriation of the property of employers and the negation of their rights.

Unions deserve neither benefit from 'collective bargaining', neither the salaries and pensions nor the moral high ground. Take it from them. Contact your representatives and urge them to fight collective bargaining. Support the ballot initiatives when they appear.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Obamacare: Judicial Sanity and Presidential Sedition

Earlier this week Florida Federal Judge Vinson declared Obamacare unconstitutional, siding with the 26 states of the U.S. that had filed suit. From Legal Insurrection:
Judge Vinson first found that the mandate was unconstitutional, and then found that the mandate could not be severed from the rest of the law, requiring that the entire law be deemed unconstitutional.
And my favorite quotation from the judgment itself:
It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compel in otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party merely by asserting --- as was done in the Act --- that compelling the actual transaction is itself  “commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce” [see Act § 1501(a)(1)], it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted. It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain ..."
That is an argument readily accessible to most people even if they don't understand the 'subtleties' of the Constitution.

After this decision the administration did something very very significant. It declared that it would ignore the decision and continue to implement Obamacare:
The White House officials said that the ruling would not have an impact on implementation of the law, which is being phased in gradually.
As Karl Denninger points out, the administration had two options, to challenge the decision in court (by filing an appeal) or to comply with the ruling. Simply ignoring the ruling and continuing to implement Obamacare was not a legal option. It is a flagrant violation of law and an abrogation of the checks and balances in our government set up to protect us from dictatorial whim. As Denninger elaborates and Mark Levin discusses, the fact that the administration is hindering the execution of a legal decision and in the process threatening the use of force (as for example in forcing individuals to purchase insurance, or forcing doctors to comply with Obamacare regulations) qualifies as sedition.

This is a serious threat to our Republic. It was bad enough when FDR stacked the Supreme Court in order to build the regulatory state we still live under. But at least he recognized the law in form, in execution, if not in content or Constitutionality. Having a sitting president blatantly and publicly ignore and violate the law on the premise that it will eventually be overturned is a presidency without limits, i.e. a dictatorship.

The states now need to go back to court and file a contempt order against the government.

Lastly I want to comment on a CBS survey connected with the above story. In it readers are asked to choose between 3 options:
  1. OVERTURN IT: The law is bad government at best, unconstitutional at worst.
  2. CHANGE IT: I think parts of the law are a good idea, but other parts concern me. Lawmakers should modify it.
  3. KEEP IT: The law is an important step toward making American health care better and more just.
Notice how the first option addresses the political and legal aspects, the second covers anything, and the third focuses on the medical and moral aspects ('making health care better and more just'). So the descriptions are all over the place and don't describe mutually exclusive or exhaustive choices on the issue.

But that's not the point I want to make. That point is this: the impetus for Obamacare and for health care reforms in general is moral. The leftists want a 'more just' health care system, by which they mean more egalitarian--the wealthy not able to acquire any better health care than the destitute. The other aspect is the 'we are our brothers keeper' premise. Until people reject egalitarianism and altruism, government run health care is inevitable. I-N-E-V-I-T-A-B-L-E. They'll find a way to make it constitutional and to get it passed. In order to fight it you have to fight for the right to pursue your own happiness, purchase your own healthcare, conduct medicine for your own profit and the injustice and evil of sacrifice, especially at the point of the government's gun. Justice is getting what you deserve. In free exchange with doctors and hospitals, what you deserve is what you pay for. Government controlled and doled health care is not deserved, it is plundered and delivered to those unwilling to work or pay for it. It is injustice. Fight Obamacare at its roots. Fight the twin creeds of altruism and egalitarianism.

See Also: ARI's series on government health care in America